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Title: The gold thimble

A story for little folks

Author: Oliver Optic

Engraver: John Andrew

Release date: November 26, 2023 [eBook #72229]

Language: English

Original publication: Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1862

Credits: Bob Taylor, Aaron Adrignola and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This book was produced from images made available by the HathiTrust Digital Library.)


The Giant and the Fairy.



Boston, Lee & Shepard.

The Riverdale Books.







Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1862, by


In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.


[Pg 7]




Mr. Lee had a gardener whose name was Long. He lived in a little cottage near the great house of his employer. He was a very good gardener, and Mr. Lee valued him highly for his knowledge[Pg 8] of plants, and for the fidelity with which the man served him.

Mr. Long had a family, but only three of his children remained at home. The others worked in the mills, or had places in the city. Mary, the youngest, was about Flora Lee’s age; and the other two at home were fourteen and sixteen.

Early in the winter Mrs.[Pg 9] Long was taken sick, and for several weeks was confined to her bed. During this illness Susan took care of her mother, and did the house work besides, with the help of her father and her brother John.

Mrs. Lee thought this was too much for a girl of sixteen, and she wanted to send one of her servants down to the cottage to do the hardest of the work; but Susan declared[Pg 10] she could do the whole very well indeed, and did not need any help.

At the same time she said that Mary gave her some trouble, and was a great care to her. Mrs. Lee, finding she could do no more, offered to take the troublesome little girl home with her, and keep her for two or three weeks.

Mrs. Lee did this kind act in a very quiet and pretty[Pg 11] way. She did not tell Susan she would take her sister in order to make less work in the family, for she saw that she took pride in doing it all herself. But she invited Mary to go up to her house and spend two or three weeks with Flora.

I do not think it is wicked to do a kind act in this way, for it can hardly be called deception. Some people do their[Pg 12] good deeds so that every body may see them; and some do all their kind acts so that no person’s feelings shall be hurt.

The New Testament tells us not to let the right hand know what the left hand doeth; that is, we must not parade our deeds of charity and kindness before the world. If you had a little friend who was very poor, but very proud, you might do something for him[Pg 13] in such a way that he would not feel as though he was accepting a gift.

Susan was very glad of this relief, and Mary was very glad to go up to the great house, and walk through its handsome rooms, and over its rich carpets. For the first day she could do nothing but walk through the rooms and look at the fine things she saw. There were a great many[Pg 14] books with pretty pictures in them. The walls of the parlor and sitting room were covered over with fine paintings, and on the mantel-pieces were beautiful statues. There were, indeed, so many nice things to be seen, that one day was scarcely enough to allow her to look at them as much as she wished.

But my story is not about fine pictures, and statues, and[Pg 15] carpets, and sofas. It will be a story within a story which Mr. Lee told to the children, with the reason why he told it; and I hope my young friends will learn the same good lesson from it that poor Mary Long learned.

When Mary had been at Mr. Lee’s a few days, and got used to the fine things there, Flora missed a little gold thimble, which one of her[Pg 16] aunts had given her as a Christmas present.

Flora felt very badly when she found that the thimble was gone; not because it was gold, and worth two or three dollars, but because it was the gift of her aunt.

“Don’t cry, Flora,” said Mrs. Lee. “You will probably find the thimble again. If you do not, crying will not mend the matter.”

[Pg 17]

“But aunt Sarah gave it to me, and I wouldn’t lose it for any thing,” sobbed Flora.

“Where did you leave it, my child?”

“On the table in the parlor. I put it there while I opened the blind; and when I came out I forgot all about it. Then I went to look for it, and couldn’t find it any where.”

“Are you quite sure you[Pg 18] left it there? Think again for a moment.”

“Very sure, mother.”

“Don’t be too sure, Flora,” added her mother, with a smile. “You know you were very positive, the other day, that you left your scissors in the basket; and then you found them in your play room—just where you had put them yourself.”

“I know it, mother; but I[Pg 19] feel pretty sure, this time, that I left the thimble on the table.”

“I think you had better look in every room you have visited since you lost it. How long ago was it?”

“About an hour, I should think. I never thought of it till just now.”

“Well, you look in every place you have been, and if you don’t succeed in finding[Pg 20] it, I will help you search for it then.”

Flora went immediately to the play room, and then to the kitchen, the dining room, and a dozen other places; but the gold thimble was not to be found. Then she tried to think where else she had been, and went over the ground a second time.

“I can’t find it, mother. I have looked every where,” said[Pg 21] she, as she joined her mother in the sitting room.

“It must be in the house somewhere. It cannot have been stolen. None of the servants have been in the parlor; and if they had, I am sure they would not steal any thing that belongs to you, Flora.”

“I don’t think any one stole it, mother. How wicked that would be!”

[Pg 22]

“Have you seen the thimble, Mary?” said Mrs. Lee, as she turned to the gardener’s daughter.

“No, marm. I haven’t seen any thing of it, as true as I live and breathe,” replied Mary, speaking in a very earnest manner.

Mrs. Lee looked at her when she used these strong words, and she was sad, for there was something in Mary’s manner[Pg 23] that did not seem to her just right. But she said no more, and went immediately with Flora to search again for the lost thimble.

If Mary had answered with a simple “No,” perhaps Mrs. Lee would not have suspected her; as it was, she could not help thinking that the child had taken the thimble. Jesus said, “Let your communications be, Yea, yea; nay, nay;[Pg 24] for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”

Those words, “as true as I live and breathe,” children, came of evil.

[Pg 25]

Telling the Story.

[Pg 27]


The search for the gold thimble was long and patient, but it could not be found; and when Mrs. Lee said it was useless to look any more, poor Flora burst into tears again.

“I don’t see what has become of it, mother,” said she. “I am so sorry I took it out[Pg 28] of the work box! Aunt Sarah will think I am careless.”

“Why did you take it out?”

“I wanted to show it to Mary. It was so pretty, I thought it would please her.”

“I do not see that any one is to be blamed,” added her father.

“I don’t blame any one but myself. I was careless to carry it around the house with me. I remember when[Pg 29] I went to open the blind, I was afraid I should scratch it, and so I put it on the table.”

“I will buy you another, Flora, the next time I go to Boston,” said Mr. Lee.

“But that wouldn’t be aunt Sarah’s thimble,” sobbed Flora.

“Perhaps aunt Sarah will give you another when she hears that you have lost it.”

“I would rather find it.”

[Pg 30]

“When you can’t do what you would, you must do the next best thing, my child.”

“What is that, father?”

“Do without it.”

The tea bell rang then, and Flora wiped away her tears, and tried to reconcile herself to the loss of the thimble. She was very sad and unhappy, for she felt that it had been lost by her own carelessness.

[Pg 31]

The feeling that we have done wrong is far more painful than the consequences which follow that wrong. Many good and true men have been happy while their bodies were burning at the stake, or while they were shut up in prison.

All the family sat down at the tea table except Mr. Lee, and he went up stairs. He was absent fifteen or twenty minutes, and when he came[Pg 32] back he looked very sad, as though something unpleasant had happened.

But no one asked him any questions, and he did not say any thing to inform the rest of the party what had occurred during his absence.

After tea, the family gathered around the cheerful fire in the sitting room, as they always did during the long winter evenings. Mary was[Pg 33] busy with a great book, which was full of pictures. Flora had a little story book in her hand, but she did not read it. She felt so badly about the loss of her thimble that she could not read.

Mrs. Lee was sewing, and Mr. Lee was looking over the newspaper which David White had brought in the afternoon.

He did not read all the time, for he kept looking into[Pg 34] the fire, and seemed to be thinking of something besides the contents of the paper.

“What is the matter, Flora?” asked he, at last, as he laid the newspaper on the table. “You are very quiet to-night. You generally laugh and play at this time in the evening.”

“I can’t help thinking about my thimble, father. I would give any thing to know what[Pg 35] has become of it,” replied she, earnestly.

“Perhaps Mary can tell you something about it,” added Mr. Lee, as he fixed his gaze upon the gardener’s daughter.

“I don’t know any thing about it, sir,” replied Mary, her face turning very red, as her eyes met the stern look of Mr. Lee.

“Were you with Flora at the time she lost the thimble?”

[Pg 36]

“Yes, sir; I suppose I was; but I haven’t got the thimble.”

“I know you haven’t got it, Mary. I only asked you if you were with Flora at the time she lost it.”

“I guess I was, sir; I don’t know. But I haven’t seen it, sir; as true as I live and breathe, I haven’t.”

“Didn’t you see it on the table, when Flora left it? Just think a moment.”

[Pg 37]

“No, sir; I didn’t see any thing at all of it.”

“There would have been no harm in seeing it, you know.”

“No, sir; but I didn’t see it. I hope to die if I did.”

“I would not use such expressions, Mary. A simple ‘Yes,’ or a ‘No,’ is a great deal better. It means more. It sounds more like the truth, than, ‘As true as I live and[Pg 38] breathe,’ and, ‘I hope to die if I did,’ or ‘did not.’”

“I won’t say so any more, sir. I did not think it was any harm.”

“Perhaps you did not; but I am always afraid, when a person uses these strong expressions to me, that he is telling me a falsehood.”

“O, I am sure Mary hasn’t got my thimble, father,” said Flora, who could not see why[Pg 39] Mr. Lee should be so sad and stern, and almost accuse poor Mary of taking the thimble.

“I’m sure I haven’t, Flora. As true as I—”

“Do not say that again, Mary,” interrupted Mr. Lee.

“But Mary hasn’t got my thimble, father,” added Flora.

“She has not, my child. Here is your thimble,” said Mr. Lee, handing the lost treasure to her.

[Pg 40]

“Why, father! Where did you get it?” exclaimed Flora, jumping out of her chair, and dancing with pleasure at the sight of the thimble.

“I found it, Flora.”

“Where did you find it, father?”

“I do not wish to tell you at present.”

“Then I was very careless. I will try to do better in future.”

[Pg 41]

“Do not reproach yourself, my child. I do not even know that you have been careless. On the contrary, I think you were very prudent in taking off the thimble before you opened the blind.”

“What do you mean, father? I’m sure I don’t understand you.”

“Perhaps you will understand me another time.”

During this conversation[Pg 42] Mary’s face was very red, and she kept turning the leaves of the great book; though any one might have seen that she hardly looked at the pictures. She did not seem to take any interest in what was going on in the room, and expressed no pleasure at the finding of the thimble.

“I knew Mary hadn’t got it!” said Flora.

“We will say no more about[Pg 43] it just now, my child; and I will tell you a story. It will be a kind of fairy story, and I hope it will be pleasing to you.”

“O, I am so delighted, father!” said Flora, as she seated herself on a cricket at his feet.

“And, Mary, you may put away your book, now, for I think the story will interest you.”

[Pg 44]

The gardener’s daughter at once obeyed, and Mr. Lee commenced the story, which will be found in the next chapter.


[Pg 45]

Seekpeace and Poverty.

[Pg 47]


“‘Once upon a time—’”

“That’s just the way the fairy stories begin,” exclaimed Flora, clapping her hands with delight.

“Well, my child, you must not interrupt me, or I shall not get along very fast. ‘Once upon a time, there was a young man whose name was Seekpeace.[Pg 48] His parents had taken great care in bringing him up, and stored his mind with good lessons to guide and protect him in the hour of temptation.

But the parents of Seekpeace were poor people, and could not afford to support their son in idleness, even if they had wished to do so. They had done all they could for him in teaching him to be[Pg 49] true to God and true to himself.

One day they called Seekpeace to them, and told him they could not afford to take care of him any longer, and that he must go out into the world and make his own fortune. They hoped he would try to be a wise and good man; and told him that nothing but a pure heart could make him happy either in this[Pg 50] world or in the world to come.

Seekpeace was a smart, active young man, and was very willing to go out into the world and take care of himself. So he took a little bundle of clothes, and with staff in hand started off on his journey.

He felt that he was now his own master; and when he started, he wanted to become[Pg 51] a great and good man. He promised himself that he would be faithful to the principles which his father and mother had taught him, and that they should never have cause to be ashamed of him.

Seekpeace had not gone far before he met an old man who was dressed in coarse and homely garments. He seemed to be very poor, but his face beamed with smiles.

[Pg 52]

“What is your name?” inquired Seekpeace.

“My name is Poverty; and I belong to a very large family of that name.”

“Where are you travelling?”

“I am going home to the Valley of Shadows, where I am to meet all my brethren of every name and family.”

“Why don’t you wear better clothes?” asked Seekpeace,[Pg 53] glancing at his coarse garments.

“They are the best I have.”

“Why don’t you buy better?”

“I have no money.”

“What! an old man like you with no money? What have you been doing all your life?”

“I have been serving the Master; and perhaps I have laid up treasures which may[Pg 54] some day be bestowed upon me.”

“Poor man! How I pity you!”

“You need not pity me. I am happy and contented. I shall soon get home, and then I shall enter upon the enjoyment of my treasures.”

“But it is too bad for an old man like you to be without money, and to be dressed in such mean garments.”

[Pg 55]

“When I get home I shall wear brighter garments than these; and in the Valley of Shadows, money will not buy me even a cup of the living water which alone can slake my thirst.”

“You are a very queer old man,” said Seekpeace, as he glanced at the pilgrim’s face, upon which played a sweet smile.

“Perhaps I am. My neighbors[Pg 56] call me Contented Poverty; and I think I am as happy as any of them,” replied the old man, as he resumed his journey.

Seekpeace did not know what to think of the old man. He did not see how he could be so happy, dressed in those coarse clothes, and with no money in his purse. He did not understand who the Master was that he served, nor[Pg 57] why he was not paid for his work at the time he did it.

He noticed that the old man did not complain because he was not paid; and certainly he was a very happy man for one who had not received his wages.

When Seekpeace had gone a little farther, he saw a fine carriage drawn by six beautiful horses, in which was seated another old man. He was[Pg 58] dressed in the richest and most costly garments.

“Who are you, sir?” asked Seekpeace, taking off his hat and bowing low to the old man.

“My name is Wealth; and I live in the great mansion which you see on the hill.”

“Where did you get all the money to enable you to purchase these fine horses, and these very rich garments,[Pg 59] and the great house on the hill?”

“I gave myself up to the business of money-making.”

“You seem to be a very happy man,” said Seekpeace, though there was no smile on the old man’s face.

“I have servants by the score, and my house is full of fine things. My table is covered with dainties, and my beds are of the softest down,”[Pg 60] said the man; but he did not say that he was happy, though Seekpeace thought he must be, in the midst of so many fine things.

The carriage left him, and Seekpeace could not help comparing the condition of the two old men. One had all the fine things of this world, and the other had none.

“I will be a rich man,” said Seekpeace. “I will get money,[Pg 61] and buy me a great mansion, and fine clothes, and handsome horses. I will have servants by the score. I will have my table covered with the richest food of the land, and I will sleep upon beds of down.”

“That’s right, young man,” said a voice near him. “Be a rich man, and then all men will bow their heads to you.”

Seekpeace turned to see[Pg 62] who it was that spoke to him, and beheld the giant whose name is Goldenhand standing by his side. The young man was not afraid of the giant, for though he was very large, there was nothing ugly about him.

He was dressed in rich garments, and he was just the person to please a young man. He was a very skilful and powerful giant; and just[Pg 63] to show Seekpeace what he could do, he pulled down an old house that stood by the road side, and piled up a handsome stone mansion in its place; and he performed a great many other wonderful things, that filled the young man with unbounded astonishment.

“Now, young man, you have seen what I can do, and if you wish to go with me, I[Pg 64] will help you to become rich and great,” said Goldenhand.

“But where must I go, and what must I do?” asked Seekpeace.

“I cannot tell you now. A great many different kinds of people go with me. Some of them will do any thing I ask them to do, and they generally get rich very fast. Others are not so willing to obey me, and prate about[Pg 65] right and justice; and a great many of these I am obliged to discharge from my service. If you go with me, I shall expect you to obey me in all things.”

“I wish to know what I am to do before I go,” said Seekpeace. “I am in search of happiness.”

“Come with me, then, young man, and you will most certainly find it.”

[Pg 66]

“Don’t go with him,” said a sweet voice on the other side of Seekpeace. “At least don’t promise to obey him in all things.”


[Pg 67]

Mary in the Parlor.

[Pg 69]


Seekpeace turned to see who had spoken, and beheld a beautiful little fairy, whose face was so full of loveliness that he wanted to make her his friend at once.

“Who are you, beautiful fairy?” asked Seekpeace.

“My name is Pureheart,” replied the fairy. “Goldenhand[Pg 70] has done a great deal of good in his time, but he often leads young men away from their duty, and makes them very unhappy.”

“Don’t mind her,” said Goldenhand. “She is very pretty, but she can give you no fine houses, no rich food, no soft beds, no willing servants.”

“I can give you what is better than all these; I can[Pg 71] give you a conscience void of offence before God and man.”

“Don’t stop to hear her prate; but come with me, and I will show you the Palace of Luxury, in which you may live and be happy, if you will only serve me faithfully, and not bother your head with Pureheart’s nonsense,” said Goldenhand.

“Be wise, Seekpeace, and[Pg 72] do not take a step which you will regret when it is too late to repent,” urged Pureheart.

Then Seekpeace was sorely perplexed. Goldenhand promised him ever so many fine things; and Pureheart, beautiful as she was, said nothing about great houses, soft clothing, and downy beds.

After thinking a long time, he told the giant he would go with him and see the Palace[Pg 73] of Luxury. Then he saw the tears in the eyes of Pureheart, as she turned to leave him.

Goldenhand took his arm, and presently they reached the Palace of Luxury. The doors were thrown wide open to them, and the giant pointed out the splendid carpets, the rich furniture, the soft beds, the tables loaded with all the good things of every clime,[Pg 74] the spicy gardens, and every thing that could please the senses.

“Now will you come with me?” asked Goldenhand.

“What am I to do?”

“You see that cottage yonder. In it lives a widow, with three small children. She has a hundred pieces of gold in the house. Go and take it from her. You shall have it all for your own.”

[Pg 75]

“What! rob the widow and the orphans of their daily bread? I cannot do that,” replied Seekpeace, with evident horror.

“You are a silly young man. Why, others do just such things, and why should not you?” said Goldenhand, with a sneer.

“Others may do it, but I cannot.”

“Then you and I cannot[Pg 76] be friends,” added the giant, angrily; and he disappeared, leaving Seekpeace standing at the door of the Palace of Luxury.

While the young pilgrim was wondering what had become of the giant, he perceived that Pureheart was again standing by his side.

“You have done well, Seekpeace,” said the fairy, with a sweet smile on her beautiful[Pg 77] face. “But I see you still cast longing looks at the Palace of Luxury. Let us enter, and examine some of the fine things you saw there.”

Pureheart led the way into the palace, and the young man again admired the splendors of the interior, and wished he might possess them.

“What a rich carpet!” exclaimed he.

“It is very pretty, but let[Pg 78] us examine it a little more closely.”

Then Pureheart tore up the rich carpet, and Seekpeace saw that beneath it there were a great many little sharp points; and the fairy told him that by and by the carpet would wear down, and the sharp points would prick the feet of him who owned the palace, if he got into it by robbing the widow and the orphan.

[Pg 79]

Pureheart then led him into a chamber, and showed him that beneath the downy bed there were sharp spikes, which would pierce the flesh of him who slept on the couch, if he entered the palace by such means as the giant had recommended.

In the dishes of rich food the fairy pointed out little grains of poison, as well as at the bottom of the wine[Pg 80] cups. The fine clothes in the wardrobe were found to be filled with nettles. In the splendid apartments of the palace, hid beneath the fine furniture, they found some hideous serpents, which no one could wish to have in the house with him.

“I am sure I don’t want to live in such a place as this,” said Seekpeace.

“I thought you would not,[Pg 81] if you only understood its nature.”

“But can’t I have all these fine things without being wicked?” asked Seekpeace.

“Perhaps you may. I don’t know. I only wanted to teach you that all these fine things are not happiness: Remember what your father and mother told you; be true to God and true to yourself, and you will be happy, whether[Pg 82] you live in a palace or a cottage.”

“You are very beautiful,” said Seekpeace, as he gazed at the shining face of the fairy. “I wish you would go with me on my journey.”

“I will go with you if you wish me to do so; but I am jealous; and when you forget or neglect me, and love Goldenhand better than you love me, I shall leave you.”

[Pg 83]

“You shall be my friend to the end of my journey,” said Seekpeace, as he embraced the fairy. “And if Goldenhand won’t help me without my lying, and cheating, and stealing, why, then I will be like the old man in the coarse garb, whom I met this morning. He was no friend of Goldenhand, I suspect.”

“He was not. The giant[Pg 84] tempted him as he has tempted you; but the old man loved me best.”

“I will love you with all my soul as long as I live; and when I meet the old man in the Valley of Shadows, I hope we shall be happy.”

“You will be, forever and forever,” said the fairy, with a radiant smile.

And Seekpeace most faithfully kept his promise, and[Pg 85] was happy to the end of his journey.’

“Now, how do you like my story, children?” asked Mr. Lee.

“Very much, father,” replied Flora. “I think I know what it means too. Goldenhand wasn’t a real giant, like those in Jack and the Beanstalk.”

“You are right, my child.[Pg 86] What do you think of Pureheart?”

“She was a very nice fairy.”

“What do you think of her, Mary? Did you like her?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then I hope you will love her as Seekpeace did. But, Mary, you did not say ‘no’ to the giant when he asked you to take the thimble, as Goldenhand asked Seekpeace to take the widow’s gold. If you had[Pg 87] said ‘no,’ Pureheart would at once have come to help you resist temptation, and make you happy.”

“I never will do so again,” exclaimed Mary, bursting into tears.

“I hope you never will,” added Mr. Lee. “The giant often tempts boys and girls to take what does not belong to them. Resist him, as Seekpeace did, and Pureheart will[Pg 88] be your friend to the end of your journey.”

Mr. Lee did not tell the children that he had found the gold thimble in Mary’s basket; but he hoped that his story would do her good. And I hope my little readers will understand and profit by it.

[Pg 89]



There was a little fellow,
And his name was Willie Brown;
His mother was a widow,
In a little country town.
One day he was so naughty
That his mother told him not
To leave the house a moment
Till a whipping he had got.
[Pg 90]
If you wish to know how naughty
This Willie Brown had been,
Let me tell you that the wash tub
He had thrown poor kitty in;
And the pretty little creature—
Old pussy’s joy and pride—
Had struggled in the soap-suds
Till in agony she died.
Don’t you think ’twas very wicked
For Willie, in his wrath,
To give the darling kitty
Such a soap and water bath?
[Pg 91]
Don’t you think he needed something
To teach him better—that
Soap-suds was not the element
To drown a pussy-cat?
Willie did not want a whipping,
And the stick he dreaded so,
That he minded not his mother,
Who had told him not to go;
But in terror and in silence
He departed from the house,
Creeping out the door on tiptoe,
Like a thieving little mouse.
[Pg 92]
Behind his mother’s cottage
Was the forest deep and wide;
And the naughty boy kept running
Till he reached its gloomy side;
Then he took the beaten pathway,
Which the cows and sheep had made,
And hour after hour there
Within the forest staid.
Willie wandered in the forest
Till the sun went down at last,
And the darkness, deep and dreary,
Gloomy shadows round him cast;
[Pg 93]
Far more than any whipping
Did he fear the long dark night;
So his steps he home directed,
Guided by the cottage light.
But a little way he travelled
When a scream from overhead
Almost froze his blood with terror
As he homeward swiftly fled.
And the cry above him sounded,
“Whip-poor-will! whip-poor-will!”
And again it was repeated,
“Whip-poor-will! whip-poor-will!”
[Pg 94]
“Don’t whip me; O, don’t whip me!”
Cried the trembling little lad;
“And I’ll never drown a kitty,
And I never will be bad.”
But the voice above kept screaming,
“Whip-poor-will! whip-poor-will!”
Though poor Willie begged for mercy,
It kept crying, “Whip-poor-will!”
“Don’t let them whip me, mother!”
Cried poor trembling Willie Brown,
As he rushed into the cottage,
Where poor kitty he did drown.
[Pg 95]
“The monsters in the forest
Want to whip me, mother, still;
And they chased me, ever crying,
‘Whip-poor-will! whip-poor-will!’”
“You are foolish, boy, as naughty;
It was nothing but a bird;
Of the whip-poor-will that says so,
Pray, have you never heard?
It was your conscience, Willie,
Made you feel so very bad,
For you did not mind your mother,
And you are a wicked lad.
[Pg 96]
“And boys who are so naughty,
Must always cowards be,
Who sometimes in their shadows
Can such awful monsters see.
But since you were so wicked
As the kitty dear to kill,
And the bird did only scare you,
Why, then, I must whip poor Will!”