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Jane Marcet

The Naughty Boy

The next morning, when Willy got up, he saw the sun shine brightly. "Ah!" thought he, as he was dressing, "the thaw will go on now faster than ever: I am sure those hot sunbeams will melt the snow."

After breakfast, his Papa said to him, "If you would like to go and slide once more on the ice, there is no time to be lost, for the ice must be melting so fast, that, very soon, it will be too thin to slide upon without danger of its breaking."

"Oh, let us go, then, directly," cried Willy; and he ran to put on his things, and was back again in a minute, crying out, "Papa, I am ready! make haste!"

But his Mamma stopped him, saying, "I think, my dear, now that it thaws, you will be too hot in that great-coat, especially if you slide on the ice."

"Oh no, Mamma," cried Willy, impatiently; "I am sure I shall not."

"I believe that I know best," replied his Mother; "so go and ask Ann to take it off, and put on your warm shawl."

"I don't know where Ann is," said Willy.

"Well, then, go and look for her."

"Oh dear, it will take up so much time, we shall be too late, and the ice will be melted."

"I do not think it will," replied his Mother, looking a little grave; "but, whether it is or not, you must be obedient, Willy: so go directly, and do as you are bid."

Willy was so vexed not to set off immediately, that he felt quite cross and angry. Cross and angry with his Mamma, who loved him so dearly! that was worse than being naughty with Ann. He had very nearly, in his passion, said, "I'll not;" but he recollected himself in time, and he stopped just as he was going to say the words: the colour rushed into his cheeks, and the tears swam in his eyes, but he stopped them, and they did not fall. His Mamma took him up on her knees, and gave him a kiss, which surprised him very much. "I thought, Mamma, you would be angry with me."

"I was going to be angry when you were going to be naughty, my dear; but I saw how much pains you took to command yourself, and that pleased me more than your beginning to be out of temper displeased me. So now, my love, run and put on your shawl, and go with Papa."

Willy was so glad that his Mamma was pleased, and that he had got the better of his ill temper, that he felt quite happy.

When they drew near to the pond, they saw there were a great many children sliding upon it.

"Oh, Papa, we are in time," cried Willy; "the ice is not melted: look what a number of boys are sliding upon it."

His Father observed that there were no skaters. "I suppose," said he, "that the ice is not strong enough to bear the weight of men; but that it will still support children, who are not half so heavy as men."

They went on the pond, and Willy amused himself very much, sliding. At last a man came and said that the ice began to crack. All the little boys were called to come away; and you heard nothing but voices of the fathers and mothers, calling their children: "Come away, Sam;"  "Come away, John;"  "Come away, Tom;" and I don't know how many more: and they all came away as they were bid, except one little boy, whose name was Dickey, and he said to himself, "There is no need to be in such a hurry. I should like to stay and take one slide more when they are all gone, and I shall show that I am braver than any of them, staying the last." So though his Father and Mother, who were both there, called and called again, Dickey would not come away.

"I wonder his Father does not go and fetch him away," said Willy, who had come back one of the first.

"The ice is too thin to bear the weight of a man," said his Papa; "so he would perhaps fall in himself, without doing any good."

At length every body called after Dickey so loudly, that he began to think he must leave the pond. "But," said he, "I will have one more slide back," and off he set. Just as he was in the middle of his slide the ice broke, and down he fell into the water underneath. Nothing was heard but screams from every one around, for they thought poor Dickey would be drowned. His Mother cried as if she would break her heart, but his Father ran as fast as he could go, and fetched a long rope, which he coiled round at one end, and then taking aim very carefully, flung it into the hole in the ice, into which Dickey had fallen. Poor Dickey was almost drowned: the water covered him all over, and got into his mouth, and nose, and eyes, and ears, so that he was nearly choked; and he was just sinking to the bottom, when he saw the end of a rope dangling over his head. He seized hold of it, and then his Father, who held the other end, pulled him up, just as you would pull a fish out of the water.

Willy, who had all this time been sobbing for grief, thinking that poor Dickey must be drowned, was quite rejoiced to see him pulled out, though he looked more dead than alive. His hair and clothes were dripping with wet, his eyes were shut, and he could neither speak nor hear what was said to him. They then set him upright, and his Mother took off all his wet clothes, and wrapped him up in a warm blanket. Dickey, who all this while seemed as if he was asleep or dead, began to feel again, and he opened his eyes; then his Father and Mother were overjoyed, and said, "He is not dead; he is come to life again; and he will get well." They gave him some warm wine to drink, and he got better, and began to speak. And he said, "Where am I? What is the matter?"

"He cannot remember what has happened to him," said his Father.—"Why, you have been half drowned at the bottom of the pond, and frightened us all out of our senses; that you have."

"Well, do not scold him now," said the Mother. "I am sure he has been punished enough."

Then Dickey remembered what had happened, and he fell crying, and said, "He had deserved it all; and he would never be so naughty again."

His Mother carried him home in her arms, and put him into a warm bed, and sent for the doctor; and Dickey was obliged to lie in bed a long time, and take medicines to make him well.

"I dare say he will never disobey his Papa and Mamma any more," said Willy, when he had reached home, and had told the sad story to his Mamma.

"I hope not, indeed," replied Mamma; "he has had a severe lesson."

A few days after, they went to enquire how he was, and they found him a great deal better; but he was very much ashamed of what he had done; and his Mother said he had promised so well for the future, that she really believed he would not be disobedient any more.

"You see," said Willy's Mamma, "how foolish it was of you, Dickey, to think that you knew better than your Father and Mother; and how much you have suffered for it."

"Were you sadly afraid," said Willy, "when you were in the water?"

"Yes, indeed I was," replied Dickey. "I thought I should be drowned; for the water got into my mouth and choked me, and I could not breathe; I don't think I shall ever like to go near a pond again."

"There is no need to be a coward," said Willy's Mamma: "it is foolish to be too bold, as you were when you staid sliding on the pond by yourself; and it is as foolish to be afraid of a pond, if you are prudent, and do not run into danger."

They then took leave of Dickey and his Mother, and returned home.