Today’s Bad Child of History gets himself into a fine mess due to a nest of blackbird chicks. His name is Henry, and he hails from a tiny 1812 volume published in Philadelphia.
(That second photo isn’t blurry; the printing is slightly off and the text itself is fuzzy.)
As for Henry’s troubles: he and his closest friend, George, discover a nest of blackbirds, which they check on frequently. One day, overcome by a sudden terrible urge, Henry picks up the nest for himself and carries it out of the woods, a move which elicits a dire warning from the author:
Evil thoughts insinuate themselves so easily into the hearts of men, that they have need to be always on their guard against their approaches. Children, especially, should be watchful of the first impulse to do wrong, as from their weakness they are prone to error. This attention to themselves is an easy task, because they have their parents, or teachers, at hand, to assist them with their advice. Neither are they sufficiently aware, that a small fault in the beginning, may increase to an odious vice, which will corrupt their hearts, and debase their characters as long as they live.
I’m not certain that Henry’s theft increased to an odious vice, but it did escalate into a fine mess.
Uncertain what to do with the nest, and afraid that his friend George will find out that he took it for himself, Henry hastily trades the nest for a bag of marbles carried by a passing boy. Phew! He meets up with George and tells him that he found the bag of marbles.
While they’re playing marbles, another passing boy says, “Hey, you found my lost marbles!” Henry insists that he bought them. Whoops! As the author warns, “however cautious you may be, you will betray yourselves, for you will not be able to invent so many falsehoods as will be requisite to hide your dissimulation from your companions.”
In an effort to defend his dissimulation, Henry refuses to turn over the marbles, resulting in a melee between some Bad Children of History and an unfortunate bloodied nose:
The following twists and turns are too complex to relate here, but the book ends with Henry burning up with fever, sobbing on his knees and begging for forgiveness from George and from his father, the latter of whom is now in possession of the nest of birds. How dramatic!
In a slight deviation from most moral tales, Henry doesn’t die of fever; instead, his big-hearted companions forgive him, and he learns an important lesson about telling the truth. He also grows into a man of “noble and generous sentiments”, which is really the best future scenario we could ask for.