Gateway to the Classics: Rollo at Play by Jacob Abbott
Rollo at Play by  Jacob Abbott

Trouble on the Mountain


"HOW pleasant it is here!" said Rollo to his cousin Lucy, as they were gathering blueberries high up on old Mount Benalgon, the day they went up with Rollo's father and mother, and uncle; "and how thick the blueberries are, Lucy!"

"Yes," said Lucy, "they are very thick, I think; and how far we can see now, we are up here so high! I wish we were up on that great high rock."

Rollo looked where Lucy pointed, and he saw, away above them, a rocky summit projecting out from the mountain. The front of the rock was ragged and precipitous, but it was flat and mossy upon the top, and firs and other evergreen trees grew there, some of them hanging over the edge.

"I wish I could get up there," said Lucy.

"I wish I could too," said Rollo. "I should like to climb up one of those trees which hangs over, and then I could look down."

"O, Rollo," said Lucy, "you would not dare to climb up one of those trees."

"Yes, I should dare to," said Rollo.

Rollo was sometimes a proud, boasting boy, pretending that he could do great things, and talking very largely. This was one of his greatest faults; and whenever he seemed to be in this boasting mood, he almost always got into some difficulty after it. There is a text in the Bible that was proved true, very often, in Rollo's case. It is this—"Pride cometh before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Rollo had a sad fall this day, though it was not from that high rock. It was a different sort of a fall from that, as we shall presently see.

"Lucy," said he again, "I do not believe but that I could get up upon that rock myself. I can climb rocks."

"O no, you could not," said Lucy.

"Why, yes, I see a way."

"Which way?"

"O, round by that great black log. There is a path there through the bushes."

"O no," said Lucy, "you could not get up there. But there are some boys by that log; what boys are they?"

Rollo looked. They were some boys which they had seen coming up the mountain, and Rollo's father had warned him not to go near them. They had wanted Rollo to go with them before, but his father had forbidden it. Rollo wanted to go, and now he was glad to see them again; but Lucy was sorry.

Getting in Trouble

THE blueberries were very thick and large, and the bottoms of the baskets were soon covered with them. Each one picked where he found them most plenty.

Rollo and Lucy kept pretty near together, talking, and gradually strayed away to some distance from the rest of the party. After a little while, Rollo looked up, and saw the three boys pretty near them. As soon as Lucy saw them so near, she moved along towards their parents; and Rollo ought to have done so too, but he remained where he was, and presently one of the boys came up to him.

"Why did you not come up where we were?" said he. "They were thicker out there."

"My father would not let me," said Rollo.

"O, come along," said the boy; "he will not care. Besides, he will not know it. He is busy picking by himself. He does not mind where you are."

Rollo thought this was not exactly the way that a good boy would speak of obeying a father, but he wanted very much to see the place where the berries were so much thicker.

"How far is it?" said he to the boy.

"O, it is only a little way—just around that rock."

By this time the other two boys came up, and they talked with Rollo a little while, and endeavored to persuade him to go. He said finally that he would go and ask his father. So he left his basket, and went and asked his father if he might just go with those boys round the rock. He said the blueberries were much thicker around there, and also that he had been talking with the boys, and he was sure they were good boys.

"No, Rollo," said his father, decidedly, "I cannot think that any boys that use bad language can be good boys, or safe companions for you. I had rather you would keep with us. If they speak to you, answer them civilly; but the less you have to say to them or do with them, the better. In fact, I had rather you would not go back to them at all."

"I must," said Rollo, "to get my basket."

He accordingly returned to his basket, and told the boys that his father preferred that he should stay where he was.

The biggest boy of the three was a ragged and dirty-looking boy; the others called him Jim, and he talked with Rollo a good deal. Rollo's conscience reproved him for not leaving them, and going back to his father; but he wanted to stay and hear their talk, and he quieted his conscience by saying to himself that his father told him to treat them civilly. At first the boys were careful what they said to Rollo; but at length Jim grew more and more bold. He used language which Rollo knew was wrong, and he told Rollo that he was a fool to stick so close to his father; that he was big enough to find his way alone all over the mountain, if he was of a mind to.

All this Rollo was silly enough to believe, and, as his father only required him to keep in sight, he thought he would show the boys that he was not so much afraid as they thought he was; and so he gradually moved off farther and farther from his parents, as he went on gradually filling up his basket. Lucy, in the mean time, went nearer and nearer to them, and in a short time was safely gathering her blueberries by her aunt's side.

Things went on so for an hour. Rollo's mother asked his father whether he had not better call Rollo to them.

"No," said he; "I have told him his duty once, plainly, and now, if he does not do it, he must take the consequences. I believe I shall leave him to himself."

The boys went on talking to one another and to Rollo, telling various stories about their running away from school, stealing apples, and such things. Rollo was much interested in listening to them, though he knew, all the time, that he was doing wrong. But he had not the courage to leave them abruptly, as he ought to have done, and go back to his father.

Rollo took a great deal of pains with the berries he picked; he chose the largest and ripest, and was very careful not to get in any sticks and leaves. His basket was small, and he intended, as soon as he got it full, to carry it carefully to his mother, and pour his berries into her large tin pail. He was succeeding finely in this, but then he had insensibly strayed away so far from his father, that now he was entirely out of his sight.

At length, as Jim was sitting on a log to rest himself, as he said, he saw a little bird alight on the branch of a black stump near.

"Hush," said he; "there is a Bob-a-link. See how I will fix him."

So saying, he picked up a stone, and was going to throw it.

Rollo begged him not to kill that pretty little bird but he paid no attention to what Rollo said. He threw the stone with all his force; but fortunately it did not hit the bird. It struck the limb that the bird was perched upon, and shivered it to fragments, and the bird flew away, terrified.

"Now, what did you do that for?" said Rollo; "you might have hit him."

"Hit him!" said he; "I meant to hit him, to be sure."

"But what good does it do to kill little birds? I found one this morning, and I would not kill him for any thing."

"Where did you find him?" said Jim.

Rollo then told the boys all about his finding a little bird, in its nest floating in the brook, and about their naming him Mosette; as is described in the story called "Blueberrying;" and Jim said, if he had found him, he would have put him on a fence, for a mark to fire stones at. "I would have made him peep, I tell you," said he.

Rollo said he would not have him killed on any account. He was going to carry him home, and feed him, and tame him.

"But where is he now?" said Jim.

"O, we hid him behind a stone, down at the foot of the mountain, where our horses are tied."

"But how can you find him again?" said Jim.

"O," said Rollo, "we know; it was behind the corner of a stone, just in the bushes, where we tied the horse."

Jim winked at the other boys when Rollo said this, though Rollo did not see it. He was vexed with Rollo, because he reproved him for stoning the bird.

"I would set him up for a mark, if I had him," said Jim. "I wish I had been there when you found him; I would have taken him away from you."

"No, you would not have taken him away. Jonas would not let you."

"Jonas! who is Jonas? and what do you think I care for Jonas?" said he.

He then came up to Rollo, and looked into his basket, and saw it nearly full of large ripe blueberries.

"And I believe," said he, "that you have stolen some of my berries out of my basket, while I have been sitting here."

"No, I have not," said Rollo. "I have not touched your basket."

"You have," said Jim, fiercely, "and I will have them back again. Besides, I put some into yours, while you went to your father. So half the berries in your basket are mine."

This was a lie; but bad boys, like Jim, will always lie, when they have any thing to gain by it. He came up to Rollo, and began to pull his basket away from him. Rollo struggled against him, and began to cry. But Jim was too strong for him: he tipped his basket over, poured a great many of the berries into his own basket, and the rest were spilled over on to the ground. Then, angry at Rollo's screams and cries, he trampled on all the berries that were on the ground, and was beginning to run away. Rollo caught hold of the skirt of his coat, screaming all the time for his father. Jim turned round, and struck Rollo with his fist, knocked him down, and then he and the other boys set off, as fast as they could run, through the bushes; and they disappeared just as Rollo's father and Jonas came hastening to his aid.


They raised Rollo up, and his father took him in his arms to carry him away. He saw that there had been some serious difficulty with the bad boys, but he did not ask Rollo any thing about it, then; for he knew that he could not talk intelligibly till he had done crying. Rollo laid his head down on his father's shoulder, as he walked along, and sobbed bitterly.

A Test of Penitence

HIS father carried him back to where his mother and uncle were, who were coming towards him looking anxiously.

They presently got pretty near them, Rollo still continuing to cry. His father then said to him,

"Rollo, be still a moment. I want to speak to you."

When he first took Rollo up, he did not command him to be still, for he knew that it would do no good. He was then so overwhelmed with pain and terror, that he could not help crying; and his father never commanded impossibilities. By this time, however, the pain, and the immediate terror, had so far subsided, that his father knew he could now control himself, and Rollo knew that he must obey. He accordingly stopped crying aloud, and tried to listen to his father.

"Rollo," said his father, "I pity you very much. I warned you against this bad company, and now I perceive you have got into some difficulty with them; but I cannot hear your story about it till we get home. It is your own fault that has brought you into trouble; and now you must not extend your trouble over all our party, and spoil our happiness, as you have your own. I must go and put you by yourself, until you get entirely composed and pleasant, and then you may join us again."

"But, father," said Rollo, beginning to cry afresh at the thoughts of the boys' treatment of him, "they came up to me, and—and—"

"Stop, Rollo," said his father. "Be still. You cannot tell the story intelligibly now, and if you could, I should not be willing to listen to it. You must not say any thing about it, unless you are questioned, until we get home."

By this time they came up pretty near the place where the rest of the party were; but his father did not take him there. He turned aside, and, putting Rollo down, he led him along to a smooth log, which lay among some old trees, close by, and told him to sit there, until he was entirely composed and pleasant again, and then to come to him, or to go to picking berries again, just as he pleased.

Rollo sat on the log, for some time, with his empty basket by his side, mourning over his sorrows. Lucy came to him, and endeavored to console him. She begged him not to cry; and she poured out half of her own berries into his basket, and told him that they could soon fill it full again, if he would come with her to a good thick place she had found. Rollo became gradually quiet and composed, and walked along with Lucy.

Lucy had indeed found a place where the berries were very thick and large, and Rollo determined to be as industrious as possible. They worked away very busily for half an hour, and Rollo gradually recovered his spirits.

His mother watched him from time to time, and when she saw that he was good-humored again, she said to his father,

"Rollo seems to be picking his berries very pleasantly. I rather think he is sorry for his conduct."

"Yes, I see he is getting good-humored  again, but I am afraid he is not truly penitent. It is easier forget  a sin, than to be sorry for it. It is very easy, however, for us to ascertain."

"How can we ascertain?" asked his mother.

"Why, if you should go and ask him about it, if he is really penitent, he will be troubled most to think of his disobedience in going into the bad company; but if he is not penitent, he will not think of that, but only go to scolding about the bad boys."

"That is true," said she. "I have a great mind to go and try him."

Rollo's father thought it would be a good plan, and she, accordingly, walked along towards Rollo slowly, gathering berries as she went.

Rollo saw her coming, and said, "Here is mother, Lucy; let us go and give her our berries."

So saying, he carried his basket up to her very pleasantly, and said, "Here, mother; see, here are all these berries I have been picking for you."

"Ah," said she, "did you pick all these for me?"

"E—h—no," said he; "not all; Lucy gave me some."

"Well, Lucy, I am very much obliged to you, and I am glad to see that you, Rollo, are pleasant again; I am sorry you went and got into difficulty with those boys."

"They came and took away my berries," said he, "and struck me—that great ugly Jim."

The feelings of vexation and anger against the bad boys began to rise again in Rollo's mind, the moment he began to talk about them, and he was just going to cry. His mother stopped him, saying,

"You need not tell me about him any more. I see how it is."

"How what is?" said Rollo.

"How it is about your being sorry. Your father told me that, if you were truly penitent for what happened about those boys, I should find you, when I came to talk with you about it, grieved for your own  fault, and if you were not penitent, you would only be angry at theirs. I see which it is."

Rollo was silent a moment. He felt the truth and justice of the distinction; but, like all boys who are not sorry for the wrong they have done, he could not resist the temptation to try to justify himself by throwing the blame on others. So he began to tell her something more about "that cross old Jim," but she interrupted him, and told him she did not wish to hear any thing about that "cross old Jim." He was not her boy, she said, and she had nothing to do with him or his faults.

She then went to talking about other things, and helped Rollo begin to fill his basket again. He showed her where the berries were thickest, and led her round behind a rock to show her a beautiful wild flower that he had found; he said he did not bring it to her, for his father had told him not to touch any flowers or berries that they did not know, for fear they might be poisonous.

After a little while, Rollo's mother left him and Lucy together, and went back lo where his father and uncle were.

"Well," said they, "how did you find Rollo?"

"Pleasant, but not penitent,"  said she. Lucy and Rollo went on gathering berries some time after Rollo's mother left him, in silence. Rollo felt rather unhappy, but he was not subdued. His heart was still proud and unhumbled, and after a time, he said to Lucy,

"It seems to me very strange that my mother does not think those boys were to blame any for doing so."

"She does think they were to blame, Rollo, I know."

"No, she does not: she will not hear me say any thing about them."

Lucy did not answer, because she knew it would do no good to dispute with Rollo, while he was so unreasonable. Rollo ought to have been willing to have seen his fault, and to have felt truly sorry for it; but he was not, and so Lucy thought it was better not to talk with him about it at all. If he had been truly sorry, and had gone and told his father so, and asked his forgiveness, he would have been happy again.

But as it was, he was not happy. The recollection of his disobedience and sin would remain in his mind, and though he tried to talk, and laugh, and play, as usual, his mind was not much at ease. In fact, he was secretly glad when the time arrived for going home.

The party all gathered together on a smooth piece of ground, about the middle of the afternoon, to make their arrangements for going down the mountain. They put their baskets, filled beautifully with blueberries, together on the grass, while they sat on the stones and logs around, to rest a little before walking down.

Then Rollo's father arranged the order of march. Jonas was to go first, with two of the heaviest baskets of berries. Next came Lucy, with her little basket about two thirds full, and with leaves and some beautiful pieces of moss she had found, put in upon the top. Then came Rollo's mother leaning on his uncle's arm. His uncle had a basket of berries in his other hand. Finally, Rollo and his father walked together behind, with each a basket in his hand.


Coming Down the Mountain.

Thus they walked along down the steep path, until they began to enter the bushes. Rollo's father had made this arrangement so that he might have an opportunity to talk with him about the difficulty with the boys, for he thought, on the whole, it would be better to talk with him now than to wait till they got home.

After they had walked along a little way, Rollo's father asked him whether he had a good time blueberrying?

"Why, yes, sir," said Rollo, "pretty good."

"Have you seen any thing more of those boys?"

"No, sir."

"Your mother went to talk with you, and said you did not seem very sorry for your fault."

"Why, father," said Rollo, "I did not do any thing to the boys at all: it was all their fault, entirely."

"I don't suppose you did do any thing wrong towards them, but you committed a great fault in respect to me."

"What fault?" said Rollo.


"Why, father, how? You did not tell me to stay close by you."

"And is a boy guilty of disobedience only when he does what his father forbids in words?"

"I suppose so," said Rollo.

"What is disobedience?" asked his father.

"Why, it is doing what you tell me not to do; is it not?"

"That is not a sufficient definition of it; for suppose you were out there in the bushes, and I was to beckon you to come here, and you should not come, would not that be disobedience?"

"Why, yes, sir."

"And yet I should not tell  you to come."

"No, sir."

"And so, if I were to shake my head at you when you were doing any thing wrong, and you wore to continue doing it, that would be disobedience."

Rollo admitted that it would.

"So that it is not necessary that I should tell you in words  what my wishes are: if I express them in any way so that you plainly understand it, that is enough. The most important orders that are given by men, are often given without any words."

"How, father?"

"Why, at sea, sometimes, where there is a great fleet of ships, and the admiral, who commands them all, is in one of them. Now, if he wants all the fleet to sail in any way; or if he wishes to have some one, vessel come near to his, or go back home, or go away to any other part of the world; or if he wants any particular person in the fleet to come on board his vessel,—he does not send an order in words;  he only hoists flags of a particular kind upon the masts of his vessel, and they all obey them.

"Now, suppose," continued he, "one of the ships did not sail as he wished, and when he called the captain to account for it, he should say that he was not guilty of disobedience, because he did not tell  him to sail so."

Rollo laughed, and said he thought that would not be a very good excuse.

"Well, it is just such an excuse as yours. I did not positively command you not to go near the boys, or not to have any conversation with them at all, though I expressed my wish that you would not, so that you could not help understanding it."

Rollo could not deny that this was so.

"But that is not the only case of disobedience. For you did one thing which was contrary to my express command in words."

Rollo looked concerned, and said he was sure he did not know it.

"I told you not to go out of my sight."

"Well, but, father," said Rollo eagerly, in reply, "I am sure I did not mean to. I was picking berries so busy, I did not observe where I was."

"I know you were, and that was the disobedience; for when I command you to keep in sight of me, that means that you must take good care that you do  mind where you are. Suppose I were to tell Jonas that he might go and take a walk, but that he must be sure to come back in half an hour, and he should go, and pay no attention to the time, and so not come back until three quarters of an hour; would that be obedience?"

"No, sir; but it would not be so bad as it would be if he should stay away when he knew  that the time was out."

"No, it would not be so wilful an act of disobedience, but it would be disobedience, notwithstanding. You see, Rollo," he continued, "when I tell you or any boy to come back in half an hour, there are two things implied in the command—first, that you should notice the time, and, secondly, that you should come back when the time is out. Now, you may disobey the command by neglecting either of these."

"Yes, sir," said Rollo, "I see we may, but I did not think of it before."

"No, I presume you did not," said his father; "but I want you to understand it, and remember it after this forever. You have disobeyed, to-day, in two ways, in which boys are very apt to disobey, when they do not mean to do it wilfully. I will tell you what the principles are, again, so that you can remember and tell me when I ask you.

"1. Boys must take care to comply with their parents' directions, if they are expressed in any way whatsoever; and,

"2. When directed to do any thing in a particular time or way, they must see to it themselves, that they notice  and keep in mind the circumstances  which they are required to attend to."

Rollo said he would try to remember it, and as he seemed attentive and docile, his father did not talk with him any more about his fault at that time. Besides, they came now to some very rough places in the path, and Rollo's father had to lift Lucy over them.

Lucy spilled some of her berries in one place, and Rollo was going to help her pick them up, but Jonas said they had better leave them for the birds, and walk on.

"So we will, Lucy," said Rollo, "and I rather think that Mosette is hungry by this time."

"Yes," said Jonas, "and what are you going to do with Mosette?"

"O, put him in a cage, and bring him up tame," said Rollo. "I mean to teach him to eat out of my hand. I shall treat him very kindly, though he is my little prisoner."

"I would give him the liberty of the yard, if I were you," said some one behind, laughing.

Rollo looked round. It was his uncle George, walking close behind him.

"What is the liberty of the yard?" said Rollo.

"Why, when men  intend to treat a prisoner kindly, they leave the prison door open, and let him walk about the yard; and this is called letting him have the liberty of the yard; and sometimes they let them go over half the town."

"Do you think I had better do so with Mosette?" said Rollo.

"Yes," said his uncle George; "leave his cage open, and let him go where he pleases."

"O, he would fly entirely away," said Rollo.

"Perhaps not, if you should feed him well, and treat him very kindly. He might like his cage better than any nest."

"I shall treat him as kindly as I can," said Rollo; "only think, Jonas, that Jim  said, if he had found him, he should have set him up upon the fence for a mark to fire stones at!"

"Jim said so?" said Jonas; "how did Jim know any thing about it?"

"Why—e—h—why—I told him," said Rollo.

"What did you tell him for?"

"O, because," said Rollo, "we were talking, and I told him."

"I hope you did not tell him where we hid Mosette, behind the rock."

"Why—yes," said Rollo, "I believe I did."

"Then I am afraid you will never see poor Mosette again," said Jonas.

"Why," said Rollo, "you don't think that he would go and get him."

"I don't know," said Jonas, "what he would do; but I should not have wanted to tell such a boy any thing about him."

Rollo began to be alarmed. He went back to his father, and asked him to let him and Jonas go on before the rest, to see if their bird was safe. His father told him he might go. "But," said he, "I am afraid you have lost your bird; when a boy allows himself to get into bad company, he does not know how many troubles he plunges himself into."

Rollo and Jonas ran on, and soon disappeared among the trees. Rollo found it hard to keep up, as the road was not very smooth, though they had got down the steepest part of the mountain. Jonas kept hold of Rollo's hand, and went on running and walking alternately, until they got down to the end of the trees and bushes, and then they came out in sight of the place where the horses were tied.

It was fortunate for poor Mosette, and for Rollo too, that they did thus run on before, for it happened that Jim, and the boys with him, had come down the mountain by another road, and were just going up to the place as Jonas and Rollo came out of the woods.

"There they are," said Jonas. "You stay here; I must run on." And he let go of Rollo's hand, sprang forward, and ran with all his might. Rollo tried to follow, but soon stopped and looked on.

Jim and his boys did not see Jonas coming, and they went to work looking around the bushes and stones after Mosette. In a few minutes, one smaller boy came out from the bushes, close by the place where Rollo recollected the nest was hid, with something in his hand, and Rollo could distinctly hear him calling out,

"Here he is, Jim—I have got him, Jim."

Just that moment, Jonas came running up among the boys, calling out,

"Let that bird alone!—Let that bird alone!" The boys, terrified at this unexpected onset, started and ran in every direction. The boy who had the nest, dropped it upon the ground, and dodged back into the bushes. Jonas took it up carefully, put little Mosette, who had fallen out, back in the nest, and walked out into the road to meet Rollo, who was coming down as fast as he could come, on the other side.

They saw Jim and his comrades no more, and Rollo said he believed he should never again want to have any thing to do with bad boys.

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