Edward and Charles – Elizabeth Semple

MR. SPENCER sent for his two sons, Edward and Charles, into his closet; he took each of them by the hand, and, drawing them affectionately towards him, told them he was going to undertake a long journey; that he hoped they would be very good boys during his absence, obedient, and dutiful to their Mother, and never vex nor tease her, but do every thing she wished them to do: he also desired them to be kind to poor Ben, and to recollect, that, though his face was black, he was a very good boy, and that God would love him, whilst he continued to behave well, just as much as if his skin were as white as theirs, and much more than He would either of them, unless they were equally deserving of His love, as black Ben had rendered himself by his good-natured and amiable disposition.

Edward and Charles both promised their Father that they would do every thing he desired; but they were not both equally sincere. Edward could with difficulty hide his joy when his Father told him he was going from home; for he was a very naughty boy, and had no inclination
to obey any body; but to be his own master, and do as he liked; to get into all kinds of mischief, and kick and cuff poor Ben whenever he pleased.

Thinking, however, it would be proper to appear sorry for what he was, in reality, extremely glad of, and seeing poor Charles take out his handkerchief to wipe away his tears, when he was taking leave of his Father, he pulled out his also: but it was not to wipe his eyes, but to hide his smiles; for he was so happy at the thought of all the tricks he could play, without having any one to control him, that he was afraid his joy would be perceived, and his hypocrisy detected.

Mrs. Spencer’s health was so indifferent, that she seldom quitted her apartment; so that she knew very little of the behavior of her sons. Edward, as soon as he had breakfasted, usually took his hat and went out without telling any one whither he was going, or when he should return.

One day, when he was gone away in this manner, and Charles was left quite alone, he went up stairs to his Mother, and asked her leave to take a walk in the fields; and away he went, with his favorite dog, for he had no other company, and he said, “Come along, Trimbush, let us take a ramble together; my brother always quarrels and fights with me, but I know you will not, my poor Trimbush: hero, my poor old fellow, here is a piece of bread, which I saved from my breakfast, on purpose for you.”

Charles had not walked very far, before he thought he heard Ben crying; and, thinking it very probable that his brother was beating him, he went as fast as he possibly could towards the place whence the sound came. There he found poor black Ben with a load of faggots upon his back, almost enough to break it, and Edward whipping him because he cried and said they were too heavy.

Charles began immediately to unload the poor boy; but Edward said, if he attempted to do so, he would break every bone in his skin. He was, however, not to be frightened from his good-natured and humane intention, and therefore continued to take off the faggots; telling his brother, that if he came near to prevent him, he would try which had most strength; and, as Edward was a great coward, and never attempted to strike any body but the poor black boy who dared not return the blow, he thought proper to walk away, and leave his brother to do as he liked. When they met afterwards, and Charles offered to shake hands with him, saying he was sorry for what he had said to him, and begged they might be good friends, he appeared very willing to forget what had passed, and assured him he forgave him with all his heart; but his whole thoughts were employed on finding out some way to be avenged on his brother, and he had soon an opportunity of doing what might have cost him his life, though it is to be hoped he was not quite wicked enough to desire it.

Walking, one morning, by the side of the river, he begged Charles to get into a little boat, which lay close to the shore, to look for a sixpence, which he pretended to have left in it; and began to sob and cry, because he was afraid he had lost his money. Charles, who was always glad to oblige his brother, jumped into the boat with the utmost readiness; but, in an instant, the wicked Edward having cut the rope by which it was fastened, away it went into the middle of the river, and no one can tell whither it might have been driven, or what terrible accident might have happened, if the wind had been high, and had not the good, affectionate Ben stripped off his clothes, and plunged into the river to go to Charles’s assistance. Ben could swim like a fish, and was soon within reach of the boat, which, by getting hold of the rope, he brought near enough to shore for Charles to jump on the bank.

Edward fancied, that, as his Mother knew nothing of his tricks, and as he was certain Charles was too good-natured to tell tales, his Father would never hear of them: but he was very much mistaken. Old Nicholls, the butler, had observed his behavior; and, as soon as his master returned, took the first opportunity of telling him of every thing which had passed in his absence.

Mr Spencer now recollected that he had been much to blame in keeping his sons at home, and determined to send them both to school immediately. He observed, however, that they were not equally deserving of kindness and indulgence, and that it would be proper and just to make Edward feel how much he was displeased by the accounts he had received of his conduct. He was therefore sent to a school at a considerable distance from home, so far off that he came home neither at Christmas nor Midsummer, nor saw any of his friends from one year to the other; he was not allowed to have any pocket-money, for his father said he would only make an ill use of it; nor had he ever any presents sent him of any kind.

Charles was only twenty miles from his father’s house, and was always at home in the holidays; he had a great many things given to him on New-Year’s Day, and his Father bought him a little pony, that he might ride about the park; and he always let poor Ben have a ride with him, for he loved him very much. And Ben, who was a grateful, kind-hearted boy, did not forget how many times Charles had saved him from his wicked brother, and would have done any thing in the world, to give him pleasure.