Diligent David,” by Francis Forrester, provided readers of Woodworth’s Youth’s Cabinet with a paragon of studious virtue — and gives 20th-century readers a glimpse of what the 19th-century wild bunch did on its nights out.

“Diligent David: or, Evenings At Home,” by F[rancis] F[orrester] (from Woodworth’s Youth’s Cabinet, February 1856, pp. 41-43)

“Come, Davie, do promise me that you will come out this evening. We are going to have a first rate time to-night. Engine Company No. 5 has engaged the brass Band, and is going to march round the city with torches. Jack Ring, Bob Bluster, Tom Tweedle and Will Wontdoright are all coming out; and you must come too.”

“No, Mark, I can’t come out to-night; I’m engaged to be at home,” replied David, a blue-eyed boy with a lithe, genteel form, and very intellectual expression.

“That’s what you always say, Davie. But I should think you might come out for once. The boys won’t like you if you don’t;” answered Mark, who was a short boy, with keen, dark eyes, and a well rounded form.

p. 42

“I don’t see what right the boys have to dislike me for staying in the house, Mark. Suppose I were to say I should dislike them for going out. Wouldn’t they tell me it is none of my business?”

“I suppose they would, Davie. They ought not to dislike you for doing what you prefer. But you know they like your company very much, and they can’t see why you should be so very strict in staying in every night. If you would only join us once in a while, they would be satisfied.”

“Ah, Mark, I’m afraid of that once in a while. If I begin to spend my evenings in the street, I shall break up my present habit of spending them at home, which is a good one, and I should soon form the habit of spending them in the street, which is a very bad one. You know if I don’t begin, I can’t go on.”

“That’s true, Davie. But I don’t ask you to come out every night; but only to-night. Come, Davie, now; do come, there’s a good fellow. We shall have a nice time, and no mistake about it.” This was said in a very coaxing tone and manner.

“No, Mark, I cannot consent. I read the other day about a thorn which grows in Africa. It has very sharp points. If a man gets caught by it, he finds it hard work to get away with the clothes on his back. For when he tries to unhook one part of his dress, he is caught in another. Every new attempt to get clear, only hooks him more firmly; until, scratched and ragged, he escapes in a pitiful plight. The people call this thorn, “Stop awhile.” Now I fear, if I begin to come out at night, I shall get hooked by one pleasing game or another, until my habit of spending my evenings at home will be torn off my back. So, dear Mark, you must excuse me. Good-bye.”

“Good-bye, Davie.”

Davie ran home after this interview, with a light step and a merry heart. He had resisted a temptation. He had conquered himself, for he really desired to see the engine company’s procession. But he knew the danger of beginning to do evil, and therefore he had said “No,” to the very earnest entreaties of his friend Mark.

Davie eat his supper at dusk with a good appetite, and then taking his lamp, he retired to a little room at the end of the parlor, which his kind and thoughtful father had fitted up as a study. Seating himself at the table, he took up a volume of history which he had been reading, and soon forgot all about Mark, engine company, processions, and everything of that kind. In fact, the hours sped so rapidly, that when the bell rung at nine o’clock, he started up with surprise, and exclaimed:

p. 43

“What! nine o’clock already? Dear me, how swiftly the evening has gone!”

This was not the first time that Davie learned that busy hours are short, and that happy moments fly swiftly away.

The next morning, Davie was at school at an early hour and with a cheerful face. Mark was there too. But his looks were downcast, and his manner sad. School had not begun, so Davie said to him:

“Mark, what is the matter? Did you have that good time last night?”

Mark looked up at Davie with a frowning brow. He was in very ill humor, and bore marks of rough usage in his face.

“No,” he said, “we didn’t have a good time. Jack Ring and Bob Bluster got into a wrangle. Tom Tweedle and I interfered, and then Jack Ring hit me and gave me this black eye. Bob Bluster gave Tom Tweedle such a kick that he’s sick this morning, and can’t come to school.”

“Then you didn’t see the torch light procession after all, did you?”

“Oh! yes; we walked all round town with it, and I expect we got so tired, we were ready to quarrel with anybody; and that’s why the boys got so mad with each other.”

“Well, Mark, I hope you will take my advice, and not go out evenings. I enjoyed myself at home finely. I quarreled with no one; I neither suffered harm myself, nor did harm to any one else. And what is better still, I added several new facts to my stock of knowledge. I don’t see that I could have done better, had I followed your advice.”

Mark admitted that Davie’s way was better than his. He said he would adopt it himself, but I believe he never did. His habit was too strong to be easily broken off. It was too much like Davie’s thorn to be readily escaped. He soon forgot his black eye, and was seen, and heard too, night after night, with a gang of idlers at the corners of the street.

I hope my boy readers will all take my friend David for their model. The practice of street roaming at night is one of the very worst habits a boy can fall into. It teaches him to waste his time, to neglect his studies, to form evil associations, and to corrupt his heart. While he who, like David, improves his evenings by pleasant studies at home, escapes much evil, grows wiser, better, and happier. All honor, then, to the lads who tread in the steps of diligent David.

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