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place, and we don't know where we shall stop when we begin to go down."
"Let us build a wharf; that will get rid of the quagmire," suggested Benjamin. "It won't be a long job, if all take hold."
"Where will you get your lumber ?” inquired John.
We don't want any lumber; stones are
"That is worse yet, to bring stones so far, and enough of them," said John. You must like to lift better than I do, and strain your gizzard in tugging stones here."
"Look there," continued Benjamin, pointing to a heap of stones only a few rods distant, "there are stones enough for our purpose, and one or two hours is all the time we want to build a wharf with them."
"Those stones belong to the man who is preparing to build a house there," said Fred. "The workmen are busy there now."
"That may all be, but they can afford to lend them to us for a little while; they will be just as good for their use after we have done with them." There was the rogue's sly look in Benjamin's eye when he made the last remark.
"Then you expect they will loan them to you; but I guess you will be mistaken," responded Fred.
"I will borrow them in this way: we will go this evening, after the workmen have gone home, and tug them over here, and make the wharf before bedtime." Benjamin made this proposition for the purpose of adding to their sport.
"And get ourselves into trouble thereby," answered a third boy. "I will agree to do it if you will bear all the blame of stealing them."
"Stealing," exclaimed Benjamin, who was so bent on sport that he had no thought of stealing. "It is not stealing to take stones. A man couldn't sell a million tons of them for a copper."
"Well, anyhow, the man who has borne the expense of drawing them there won't thank you for taking them."
"I don't ask them to thank me. I don't think the act deserves any thanks." And a roguish twinkle of the eye showed that Benjamin knew he was doing wrong for the sake of getting a little sport. "Wouldn't it be a joke on those fellows if they should find their pile of stones missing in the morning?"
"Let us do it," said John, who was taken with the idea of playing off a joke. "I will do my part to put it through."
"And I will do mine."
"And so will I."
"And I, too."
By this time all were willing to follow Benjamin, their leader. Perhaps some of them were afraid to say "No," as their consciences suggested, now that the enterprise was endorsed by one or two of their number. Both boys and men are quite disposed to "go with the multitude to do evil." They are too cowardly to do what they know is right. The salt marsh bounding a part of the mill-pond where their boat lay was tramped into a quagmire. The boys were wont to fish there at high water, and so many feet treading on the spot reduced it to a very soft condition. It was over this miry marsh that they proposed to build a wharf. The evening was soon there, and the boys, too, upon their rogues' errand. They surveyed the pile of stones, and found it ample for their purpose, though it appeared to be a formidable piece of work to remove them.
"Two of us can't lift and carry some of them," said Fred. "Then three of us will hitch on and carry them,” replied Benjamin. "They must all be worked into a wharf this evening. Let us begin-there is no time to lose."
"The largest must go first," suggested John. "They are capital stones for the foundation. Come, boys, let us make quick work of it."
So they went to work with a will, and "where there's a will there's a way," in evil as well as good. It was unfortunate for Benjamin that he did not hate such an enterprise as much as he did candle-making. If he had, he would have given a wide berth to the salt marsh and the wharf project. But neither he nor his companions disliked the evil work in which there was sport. We say that they worked with a will; and their perseverance was the only commendable thing about the affair. Sometimes three or four of them worked away at a stone, rolling it along or lifting, as necessity required. Then one alone would catch up a smaller one, and convey it to the wharf at doublequick. Half their zeal, tact, and industry, in doing this wrong, would have made the candle-trade, or any other business, a success.
The evening was not quite spent when the last stone was carried away, and the wharf finished,—a work of art that answered their purpose very well, though it was not quite as imposing as Commercial Wharf is now, and was not calculated to receive the cargo of a very large Liverpool packet.
"A capital place now for fishing!" exclaimed Fred. "It is worth all it cost for that."
"It may cost more than you think for before we get through with it," suggested John. "We sha'n't know the real cost of it until the owner finds his stones among the missing."
"I should like to hear his remarks to-morrow morning, when he discovers his loss," remarked Benjamin; "they will not be very complimentary, I think."
"I am more anxious to know what he will do about it," responded John.
"We shall find out before long, no doubt," said Benjamin. "But I must hurry home, or I shall have more trouble there than anywhere else. Come, boys, let us go.”
They hastened to their homes, not designing to divulge
the labours of the evening, if they could possibly avoid interrogation. They knew that their parents would disapprove of the deed, and that no excuse could shield them from merited censure. Not one of their consciences was at ease. Their love of sport had got the better of their love of right-doing. And yet they were both afraid and ashamed to tell of what they had done. They were at home and in bed and asleep about as early as usual.
Twenty-four hours passed away, during which Benjamin's fears had increased rather than diminished. He was all the while thinking about the stones-what the owner would say and do-whether he would learn who took his stones away. His conscience was on duty.
It was evening, and Mr. Franklin took his seat at the fireside. Benjamin was reading, the unattractive tallow candle furnishing him light.
"Benjamin," said Mr. Franklin, after a little, "where were you last evening?"
If his father had fired off a pistol he could not have been more disturbed. His heart leaped into his throat. He thought of the stones. He knew something was up about them—that trouble was ahead.
"I was down to the water," Benjamin replied, with as much coolness as he could muster.
"What were you doing there?
"Fixing up a place for the boat." He suspected, from his father's appearance, that he would have to tell the whole story.
Benjamin, see that you tell me the truth, and withhold nothing. I wish to know exactly what you did
66 We built a wharf."
"What did you build it with?”
"We built it of stones."
"Where did you get your stones?"
"There was a pile of them close by."
"Did they belong to you?"
"6 Then you stole them, did you?"
"It isn't stealing to take stones."
"Why, then, did you take them in the evening, after the workmen had gone home? Why did you not go after them when the workmen were all there? It looks very much as if you thought taking them was stealing them." Benjamin saw that he was fairly cornered. Such a catechetical exercise was somewhat new to him. The Westminster Assembly's Catechism never put him into so tight a place as that. Bright as he was, he could not discover the smallest hole out of which to crawl. It was a bad scrape, and he could see no way out of it except by telling the truth. We dislike very much to say it, but, judging from all the circumstances, he would have told. a lie, could he have seen a place to put one in. But there was no chance for a falsehood. He was completely shut up to the truth. He saw that the wharf cost more than he estimated—that stealing stones violated a principle as really as stealing money. He was so completely cornered, that he made no reply. His father continued :
"I see plainly how it is. It is the consequence of going out in the evening with the boys, which I must hereafter forbid. I have been willing that you should go out occasionally in the evening, because I thought it might be better for you than so much reading. But you have now betrayed my confidence, and I am more than ever satisfied that boys should spend their evenings at home, trying to improve their minds. You are guilty of an act that is quite flagrant, although it may have been done thoughtlessly. You should have known better after having received so much instruction at home."
"I did know better," was Benjamin's frank confession, determined to make a clean breast of it.
"And that makes your guilt so much the greater. Will