DICK WAS UPSET AGAIN. In fact, it seemed that he was always getting upset about something. If he did not get his own way all the time, he would carry on in the most hateful manner. And if anyone corrected him, he would either snarl an angry reply or else wander off into some corner and sulk.
When in these very bad moods he would mutter threats about running away from home. Although he was only 10 years old, he had a very big opinion of himself and was quite sure that he was well able to look after himself anywhere. That he owed his father and mother anything for all their loving care for him never seemed to enter his mind. He only wanted to get away from all control, away to someplace where he would be able to do just as he pleased.
He was thinking these thoughts now. Daddy had asked him to mow the lawn just as he had planned to go out and play ball with the boy next door. How he hated mowing the lawn! Why should he mow the lawn? He wished there was no lawn to cut. He would give anything to get away from the sight of it. But he did mow it, seething with rebellion.
That afternoon his wishes were crossed again. Several times, in fact. As a result, he became rude and cross, and finished up with a good spanking and was sent early to bed. He did not say his prayers, and instead of going to sleep, he planned what seemed an exciting dash for liberty. He would get up when everyone else had gone to bed, creep out of the house, and run far, far away. He was not quite sure where he would go, or what he would do when he got there.
He had only one desire—to get away where there would be no lawn to mow and where he wouldn’t have to give up things for his brothers and sisters, nor be expected to do what he was told. At last, when all was still, and he felt sure that everyone must be fast asleep, he decided to put his plan into action. So he crawled softly out of bed, put on his clothes very quietly, took his billfold out of the drawer—he was very proud of this billfold, for it contained a whole dollar—and crept silently out of his room. As he passed the bed where his baby brother was lying
asleep, it occurred to him that he would never see little Tiny again, so he bent over and kissed him. A strange lump came into his throat, and he couldn’t swallow very well. He kissed Tiny twice, and then went out of the room. Going past the room where Daddy and Mother were asleep, he thought he would like to say good-by to Mother anyway. He wasn’t quite sure about Daddy, because he had made him mow the lawn. But he wouldn’t like it if he couldn’t see Mother again. He began to wonder whether he should run away after all.
Then the old, hard spirit came back, and he went downstairs. Very quietly he unlocked the front door, and went out into the cool night air. He stopped on the doorstep. This was hardly what he had dreamed about. It was too dark for one thing, and too chilly for another. Bed began to seem very nice. Perhaps, after all,
it would be better to go back. But no, he wouldn’t. He closed the door. There was a snap! and he realized that he couldn’t go back now even if he wanted to. That wasn’t a nice feeling at all. He wished he hadn’t let the door close quite so tightly.
It was done now, however, and he must go. He went down to the front gate and out into the street. There was nobody about. All was very quiet and still. The sky was black, and the only light came from the street lights. It was all rather frightening. Dick didn’t like it a bit. If the door weren’t locked, he told himself, he would go back to bed.
He walked some distance down the street, and as the cold night air cooled his fevered mind, he began to realize more and more what a foolish enterprise he had started on. “If the boys at school get to hear about this,” he said to himself,
“they’ll tease me for the rest of the year.” The very thought of such a thing made him turn around suddenly and make for home as fast as he could. He had not gone far, however, when he nearly jumped out of his skin as a heavy hand was laid on his shoulder and a strange voice spoke to him. “What are you doing out at this time of night?” asked the policeman.
Dick was paralyzed with fright. He had not expected this. Words would not come. He merely struggled to get free. “You’d better come along with rne,” said the policeman. “You’ve been up to some mischief, it seems.” “I haven’t, I haven’t,” gasped Dick. “I’ve made a mistake, that’s all, please, sir.”
“I should think you have made a mistake, being out here at one o’clock in the morning. You can tell me all about it when we get down to the station.”
“You’re not going to take me to the police station, are you?” cried Dick, more frightened still. “Let me go home! I want to go home.”
“You’ll go home, all right,” said the policeman, “after we have had a little chat.”
And so poor Dick found himself for the first time in his life on his way to the police station!
There he was asked more questions in ten minutes than any teacher had ever asked him at school. He was frightened, wondering what the policeman was going to do with him and what his daddy would say. How he wished he had never started out on such a foolish venture! Finally, the policeman took him home. How very small poor Dick felt! What a homecoming! What would the others say? Daddy, in his pajamas, opened the door. It startled him to see Dick there, and with a policeman!
“What in the world!” he began.
The policeman explained and departed, smiling. Dick jumped into Daddy’s arms and hugged him, pajamas and all. They didn’t say much to each other but just walked up the stairs like that to tell Mother all about it. When Dick got up for breakfast that morning he found his favorite food—crispy waffles, with delicious applesauce
—waiting for him. Mother had it ready because, she said, her little prodigal had returned, so she surely had to kill the fatted calf.
And as for Dick, he said very earnestly that he had run away for the last time in his life, and that he certainly wouldn’t even think about doing so again.