“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 hold. 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 hi 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.
“Hash,” said he; “there is a Bob-a-link. See how I will fix him.”