Readers will be unsurprised to learn that a fine source of historical bad children is the 1864 book Frank and Rufus; or, Obedience and Disobedience. (I was hoping for an old-fashioned version of Goofus and Gallant, but alas, it’s not really like that at all.) Its author, Catharine M. Trowbridge, also wrote the 1867 book Charles Norwood; or, Erring and Repenting, which sounds to me like Frank and Rufus was so good that she wrote the same thing again, but with a different main character.
Anyway, one of the stars of this book is the young Rufus Dean. He’s a sweet boy with lots of friends, although his impish constitution sometimes leads him down misguided paths.
Here’s Rufus slyly pocketing a dime and a half-dime that his mother left on the windowsill. Why would such a sweet boy do such a thing, taking what Trowbridge calls “a very formidable step in the downward path”? The author explains that “he had repeatedly yielded, when tempted, to disobedience and deceit; and in this way, had greatly weakened his moral power to resist temptation.”
What happens to a boy with weakened moral power? I didn’t read all 280 pages to find the details, but I can tell you that Rufus becomes a drunk and disgraces his family name, and that his sister, when grown, even refuses to name her first-born son after him, as the name Rufus is “tarnished”. Frank, on the other hand, having learned obedience, becomes someone whose “fellow citizens honored and trusted him” and whose “faithful and judicious mother found in him the support and joy of her old age.”
Take note, dear readers: don’t steal 15 cents, or the situation may snowball until your mother looks wan, your sister hates you, and you’re forced to seek “relief in the stimulus of the wine-cup”.