Dicky Random by E. V. Lucas
or, Good-nature is nothing without Good Conduct
'In festive play this maxim prize
Be always merryalways WISE!'
'Do you know what hour it is when you see a clock?' said Mr. Random
to his little son Richard.
'Yes, father,' said Richard; 'for I can count it all round. When
both hands are at the top of the clock, then I know it is time to leave
'Then go and see what time it is,' said his father.
Away ran Richard, and brought back word in a moment that it was
exactly six o'clock.
In a few minutes after came in a friend with a young lady, the
former of whom asked Mr. Random why he was not ready to go with them to
the concert that evening, as he had promised. Mr. Random replied that
it was but six o'clock, which, however, he was soon convinced was a
mistake of Richard's, who, on being asked what he saw when he looked on
the clock, replied, 'I saw the two hands together close to the six, and
that made me say it was six, for I always call it twelve when they are
'Remember, my dear,' said his father, 'that the long hand never
tells the hour, except on the stroke of twelve. You ought to know that
the minute hand overtakes its fellow somewhat later every hour, till at
noon and midnight they again start exactly even; and when a bigger boy
I shall expect you to tell me how much difference is increased every
time they come into conjunction. You now see, Dicky, that through such
a mistake I must make my friends wait; pray, therefore, mind better
In a few minutes after his father bid him go into the dining-room,
and bring down a bottle of wine, which stood in the hither
corner of the cellaret, that he might help the gentleman and lady to a
'Yes, father,' said little Dick, and up he went. On the stairs he
met puss, and stopped to play with her, during which he forgot what had
been told him. Having gotten a bottle, downstairs he came, and, pouring
out a couple of glasses, he returned with it. But, when on the
landing-place, he naughtily drew out the cork to have a taste himself.
It was not only very vulgar to drink out of the neck of a bottle, but
wrong to make free slily with that which he was merely entrusted to
serve out. However, it rushed so fast into his mouth, and was so hot,
that he was afraid of being strangled. It happened that he had bitten
his cheek that morning, and the liquor bathing the sore place made it
smart so that he put down the bottle on the floor, when, in stamping
about, it rolled downstairs and made a fine clatter. His father ran out
on hearing the noise, but was stopped in the way by seeing the young
lady almost gasping for breath, and it was some minutes before she
could say that he had given her brandy instead of wine.
Mr. Random next proceeded upstairs, where little Dick was picking up
the pieces of broken glass, in doing which he cut a deep gash in his
'Where did you take the bottle from?'
'Out of the farther side of the cellaret,' said Dicky.
'I told you to take it from the hither side,' replied Mr.
Random. 'But, however, you shall smart for your neglect: what remains
of the brandy will serve to bathe your hand, and I hope the pain will
make you reflect that the loss is the same to me, whether you spilt it
from design or inattention.'
He one day made his mother look very simple at table, for which he
deserved to have suffered much more than her good nature required.
Young Random was to have a grand rout in the evening with some of his
little favourites. A few nice tarts, custards, etc., had been made in
the morning for the occasion, and had been most temptingly baked in the
It happened that two gentlemen called on Mr. Random about two
o'clock, and he insisted upon their staying to dinner; in consequence
of which his lady had the pastry removed from the sideboard to the
All children must frequently have heard their mothers say, when they
wish to have anything saved for another occasion, 'My friends, you see
your dinner before you; I hope you will consider yourselves at home and
not spare.' This is always thought to be a sufficient excuse for not
bringing anything of another sort to table.
When the meat was nearly done with, Mrs. Random made the above
remark to her visitors, who declared that nothing more was requisite.
She then bid the servant put the cheese on the table.
'What, mother,' said Richard, 'is there nothing else?'
'No, my love,' said his mother; 'I am sure you want nothing more.'
'Why, yes, mother. Where are the tarts and custards you put into the
'Surely you dream?' said his mother.
'No, I don't, indeed,' replied Dicky. 'You put them away directly
the gentlemen said they would stay to dine, and observed what a deal of
trouble visitors do give.'
Anyone will easily believe that this made Mrs. Random look very
confused. She hardly knew what to reply, but she turned it off in the
best manner she could, and said:
'It is you, Richard, who trouble me more than the visits of my
friends. I am happy to see them always, but on some days more than
others. To-day, you know, we have been preparing for your
company, and therefore the reserve I have kept would not have been made
but on your account. The pastry was intended for your visitors,
and not your father's. However, if you are such a child that you cannot
wait till night, they shall be brought to table now; but, remember, I
will not order any more to be made, and you shall provide for your
playmates out of the money put by to purchase the magic-lantern and the
Richard looked quite down when he heard this sentence, and more so
when he saw the pastry placed on the table.
Dear me, how soon had the tarts and custards disappeared, if one of
each had been served round to the company! But the gentlemen were too
polite even to taste them, and father and mother declined eating any.
Richard's sister said she could very well wait till supper; hence they
were all saved. But Dicky was afterwards very severely taken to task
for speaking out of time, when he was not spoken to.
When evening came, and the little visitors were assembled, Richard,
who had seen some of the sports at a country fair, would show his
dexterity to amuse his young party. He took up the poker, and,
supposing it to be a pole, performed some imitations. But, unable long
to preserve it upright from its weight, the sooty end fell on Master
Snapper's book, who was reading a little work upon 'Affability.' The
blow fairly knocked it out of his hand, and made a great smear on his
frilled shirt, at which a loud laugh ensued. Now Master Snapper could
not bear to be laughed at, and was so much out of humour all the
evening that he would not play.
Little Dick never once, all this time, thought that if it had fallen
on his playfellow's toe, it might have lamed him, and he would at least
have had to carry him a pick-a-back home; nor did he think who was to
have paid the doctor; but, pleased with the mirth he had made, he went
upstairs and fetched down one of the pistols which his father kept in a
private drawer. Then, pulling in his rocking-horse, he fancied he was
one of the Light Horse, and mounted it to show the sword exercise, and
how he could shoot a Frenchman or a Turk at full gallop. He had no
business with a rocking-horse or a pistol among young ladies, but he
never thought if it were proper or not, and much less if the pistol
While he was going on a full canter, he gave the words, 'Present!
fire!' and off it went, knocked him backwards, and shivered a beautiful
mirror into a thousand pieces. Oh, what a sad scene of confusion
ensued! Some of the young ladies screamed out with fright. Miss Timid,
knocked down by Dicky in falling backwards, lay on the ground bleeding
at the nose. Some were employed in picking up the pieces of glass, or
pinning their handkerchiefs over the fracture, to prevent its being
seen while they stayed; but such a hope was vain.
The noise brought Mr. and Mrs. Random and all the servants upstairs,
who too soon found out the havoc that had been made, and demanded how
it happened. All the children would willingly have screened Dicky,
because they knew he had not done it to frighten, but to amuse them.
Master Snapper, however, now thinking it was his turn, in a very
ill-natured speech made the worst of the story. But the spiteful way in
which he spoke did little Dick no harm, as he seemed more rejoiced at
his misfortune than sorry for Mr. Random's loss; hence it had the
effect not to increase the latter's anger.
'Playing with balancing poles and pistols,' said Mr. Random in a
stern accent to his son, 'is very well in a proper place, but quite
inadmissible in a room full of company. Now, sir, what business had you
to take this pistol out of my room?'
'Indeed, father,' said Dicky, crying, 'I did not know it was
'It is but last week,' continued his father, 'that you were told
never to take such a thing without asking, and not even then till
someone had tried if it were loaded. So many accidents have happened
with firearms which have been supposed not to be loaded, that he who
unguardedly shoots another ought to take a similar chance for his own
life; for you know the Scripture says: An eye for an eye, and a tooth
for a tooth. Think, Richard, that if I had been standing before the
mirror, what would have been the consequence. You would have shot your
father! Your mother would have died of grief, and you and Letitia have
[Illustration: Off it went, knocked him backwards, and shivered a
beautiful mirror.Page 5.]
'Ah, then I should have died too!' said Dicky, wiping the tears from
his eyes with the back of his hand. 'But how came you to load the
pistol last night, father?'
'Because,' replied his father, 'I thought I heard something fall in
the parlour, and the passage-door being directly after shut to in a
still manner. I loaded the pistols, thinking that thieves had broken
into the house, and pushed up the sash to shoot the first that came
'Then it was lucky,' said Richard, 'I did not come out again, or you
might have killed me; for I got up in the night to let Juno out of the
shed, where I had tied her up, and she was making a sad howling.
Indeed, before I was aware, she ran into the parlour, and, as it was
quite dark, I tumbled over her.'
'And broke the geranium-tree,' added his father.
'Yes, I did indeed,' said Dicky, 'but I did not go to do it. After
that I turned Juno into the yard, and this I dare say is all the noise
'There is an old saying, my dear little friends,' said Mr. Random,
'which I wish you to attend to, because it has a great deal of truth in
it: The pitcher that goes often safe to the well may come home
broken at last. And so, though the thoughtless and giddy may go on
for a long while without danger, it will overtake them sooner or later.
Here is a strong instance of escape from the consequences which might
have attended Richard's thoughtlessness; besides which, his mother
could get no more sleep all night, and I, after running the risk of
catching cold in searching over the house, have this morning been at
the expense of new fastenings to the doors and windows. The next time,
however, you rise, Richard, to alarm the family, you shall in future
roost with the hens or bed in the stable.'
Dicky now thought that his parent's resentment had subsided, and,
upon the latter's calling to him to come, he sprang across the room
with the greatest alertness; but how suddenly was his smile cast down
when Mr. Random, taking his hand, ordered him to wish his young friends
much mirth and a good appetite, while he was going to be punished for
his misconduct. At once were all their little hands put out to prevent
Mr. Random's resolution of taking him away, but all their petitions
were in vain. Richard was forced into an empty cellar, and left with no
other companion than a glimmering rush-light. Here he was told he might
do as much mischief as he pleased. The iron bars kept him from getting
out on one side, and the door was padlocked on the other. In this
dilemma he marched round and round, crying, with his little candle, and
saw stuck on the walls the following lines:
'Empty caves and commons wild
Best befit a thoughtless child,
A solid wall, an earthen floor,
Prison lights, a padlock'd door,
Where's no plaything which he may
Turn to harm by random play,
For in such sport too oft is found
A penny-toy will cost a pound.
Be wise and merry;play, but think;
For danger stands on folly's brink.'
After having been kept in confinement nearly half an hour, Mr.
Random could no longer resist the pressing solicitations of his son's
guests, who declined partaking of the supper till Richard was returned
Having learned the above lines by heart, he repeated them to his
young company, and, on his promising to remember their contents, he was
permitted to sit down to table.
The rest of the evening was spent in innocent cheerfulness, and for
some time after little Random played with more caution.
We must omit many of the less important neglects of young Random,
such as letting the toast fall in handling it, shooting his arrow
through the window, riding a long stick where it might throw persons
down, leaving things in the way at dark, etc., and proceed to relate a
good-natured fancy of his which tended, more than any of the preceding
events, to show him the folly of taking any step without first looking
to what it might lead.
In Mr. Random's garden was a fine tall pear tree, and that year a
very fine pear grew on the topmost twig. His mother and sister had
several times wished for the luscious fruit, but it seemed to bid
defiance to every attack that was not aided by a tall ladder. 'Oh!'
thought Dicky, 'if I can get it down and present it to my mother, how
pleased she will be!' So, when he was alone, he picked out some large
stones and threw at it, but without any success. The next day he
renewed his attack in the evening, and to insure a better chance
employed several large pieces of brick and tile.
Now all these dangerous weapons went over into a poor man's garden,
where his son and some other boys were weeding it. One of them fell
upon the little fellow's leg, and cut it in so desperate a manner that
he cried out, quite terrified at the blow and sight of the blood. The
other boys directly took the alarm, and picking up some stones as large
as that which had done the mischief, they mounted on a high bench, and
discharged such a well-directed volley at the person of Master Random
that he was most violently struck upon the nose, and knocked backwards
into a glass cucumber-frame.
Here he lay in a most pitiable condition, calling upon his mother,
while the wounded boy on the other side joined in the concert of woe.
'Oh, it served you rightly!' exclaimed the young assailants, who
were looking over the wall, and ran away as soon as they saw Mr. Random
come into the garden to inquire the cause of the uproar.
His first concern was to carry Dicky indoors, and then, having wiped
away the blood and tears, he asked him how it happened.
'I was only trying to get a pear for my mother,' said Richard, 'when
these boys threw stones at me, and hit me!'
'That was very cruel,' said his father, 'to meddle with you when you
were doing nothing to them, and if I can find them out they shall be
punished for it.'
Mr. Random immediately set off to the next house, but was met at his
own door by the father of the wounded boy, who was coming with him in
his arms to demand satisfaction. This brought the whole truth out, and
the artful little fellow was found to have concealed a part of the real
case. Instead of saying 'he was only getting a pear,' he should have
said that he was throwing large stones at the topmost pear on the tree,
and that every stone went over the wall, he could not tell where.
'Ah, Richard,' said his father, 'it is little better than
story-telling to conceal a part of the truth. The affair now wears
quite a new face. It was you that gave the first assault, and will have
to answer for all the bad consequences. It is my duty to see that this
unoffending boy is taken care of; but if his leg be so cut or bruised
that he cannot get so good a living when he comes to be a man as he
might otherwise have done, how would you like to make up the
deficiency? You cannot doubt that he has a demand upon you equal to the
damage you may have done to him. He is poor, and his father must send
him to the hospital, but it would be unjust of me to suffer it. No, on
the contrary, I shall prevent this by taking him home and sending you
there, where Dr. Hardheart makes his patients smart before he cures
them. Come, get ready to go, for delays in wounds of the head are not
to be trifled with.'
Mr. Random then ordered the servant to go for a coach, in which
Dicky most certainly would have been sent off had not word been brought
back that there was not a coach on the stand. During this time Dicky
had fallen on his knees, entreating that he might remain at home, and
offering promises to be less heedless in future; nay, he was willing to
yield up all his toys to the maimed little gardener.
The boy's father, though but a labouring man, had a generous mind;
he wanted nothing of this kind, but only wished him to be more cautious
in future, as the same stones, thrown at random, might have either
blinded his son or fractured his skull, instead of merely hurting his
leg. Mr. Random then insisted on Richard's giving him half-a-crown, and
asking pardon for the misfortune occasioned by his carelessness.
This heavy sum was directly taken out of the hoard which had been
laid by for the purchase of a set of drawing instruments, but he had a
yet heavier account to settle with his father for damaging the
cucumber-frame. He had broken as much of it as would come to fifteen
shillings to mend, and as payment was insisted on, or close confinement
until the whole was settled, he was compelled to transfer to his father
all his receipts for the ensuing five months before he could again
resume his scheme of laying by an adequate sum to purchase the drawing
utensils. Independently of which he always carried a strong memorial of
his folly on his nose, which was so scarred that he endured many a
joke, as it were, to keep alive in his memory the effect of his folly.
Indeed, he never looked in the glass without seeing his reproach in his
face, and thus at length learned never to play without first thinking
if it were at a proper time and in a proper place.