Tiger and Tom
Other Stories for Boys
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"WORDS FITLY SPOKEN" Every Story Contains an Important Lesson
The stories in this book were compiled from a four volume set titled, Sabbath Readings. The stories were originally gathered from church papers in the 1870's, Methodists, Lutheran, Presbyterian, etc. We bring to you this 1910 reproduction, which is when the stories were first illustrated. We have found the stories to be truly "a breath of fresh air" in literature for children and youth. May they receive a warm welcome in your home is our prayer.
Tiger and Tom Those Scars Coals of Fire Lyman Dean's Testimonials Bert's Thanksgiving The Boy and His Spare Moments Will Winslow Only This Once The Right Decision The Use of Learning Jamie and His Teacher With a Will, Joe! Effects of Disobedience Stand By the Ship A Faithful Shepherd Boy Dick Harris; or the Boy-Man The Way of Safety Roger's Lesson Bert's Monitors A Morning Thought The Two Clerks Ten Minutes' Delay The Premium Where the Gold Is Taking Him in Hand Overworked Boys The Best Fun Somebody's Mother Waiting for the Grist A Boy's Lesson in Dishonesty A Picture of God If You Are Only Honest Six Things Behind The Old Brown Hand
Frontispiece TIGER AND TOM They Meet Dick The Result of Anger Tom's Sorrow Tiger Comes Back THOSE SCARS Falling from Cherry Tree Picking up Apples TELLING MOTHER Taking a Blow Rescuing Dick's Sister LYMAN DEAN'S TESTIMONIALS Inquiring of the Conductor This Is Harrowtown Allow Me to Assist You Welcome, My Benefactor Is This the Boy? Mr. Randall Pays the Mortgage BERT'S THANKSGIVING Buy a Paper, Sir? In Mr. Crooker's Office The New Home IN THE ACADEMY KITCHEN In My Spare Moments WILL WINSLOW There Was a Heavy Plunge ONLY THIS ONCE The Father's Story The Race THE RIGHT DECISION I Will Pray First THE USE OF LEARNING The Contrast The Chain Carrier JAMIE AND HIS TEACHER It's Me Testament Reading the Testament? WITH A WILL, JOE! I've Managed It, Mother EFFECTS OF DISOBEDIENCE Lock Him in His Room It Was My Sister STAND BY THE SHIP The Drummer Boy in Battle Sweeping the Office On Shipboard The Bracelet A FAITHFUL SHEPHERD BOY His Attendants Came Up THE BOY-MAN He Learned to Drink Dick Harris, the Drunkard THE WAY OF SAFETY The Deceitful Merchant Jacob Leaves His Position The River Steamboat He Called on His Pastor ROGER'S LESSON It Wasn't My Fault The Sprained Ankle BERT'S MONITORS He Opened the Door and Went Down Stairs The Cat The Mocking Bird Bow, Wow, Wow The Family Horse Bert Came Into the Shed The Flogging THE TWO CLERKS Helping the Bookkeeper An Outcast The Fatal Ten Minutes TEN MINUTES' DELAY THE PREMIUM Presenting the Bible Is That a Bible? The Holy Bible The Bible Lamp Rejoice in the Lord WHERE THE GOLD IS Early Morning Reading TAKING HIM IN HAND Isaac Remonstrated Jim at the Door The Unruly Cattle OVERWORKED BOYS Not Afraid of Work Not How Little but How Much The Old Cabin The Best Fun The Wood Pile Carrying in the Wood SOMEBODY'S MOTHER WAITING FOR THE GRIST The Open Gate LESSONS IN DISHONESTY You Simpleton! Half a Dollar too Much Mr. Carman's Letter Arrest of James The Scene in Court The Accusation A PICTURE OF GOD Going Up Stairs IF YOU ARE ONLY HONEST In the Raging Stream
TIGER AND TOM
The day was pleasant, in that particularly pleasant part of summer time, which the boys call "vacation," when Tiger and Tom walked slowly down the street together.
You may think it strange that I mention Tiger first, but I assure you, Tom would not have been in the least offended by the preference. Indeed, he would have told you that Tiger was a most wonderful dog, and knew as much as any two boys, though this might be called extravagant.
Nearly a year ago, on Tom's birthday, Tiger arrived as a present from Tom's uncle, and as the dog leaped with a dignified bound from the wagon in which he made his journey, Tom looked for a moment into his great, wise eyes, and impulsively threw his arms around his shaggy neck.
Tiger was pleased with Tom's bright face, and affectionately licked his smooth cheeks. So the league of friendship was complete in an hour.
Tom had a pleasant, round face, and you might live with him a week, and think him one of the noblest, most generous boys you ever knew. But some day you would probably discover that he had a most violent temper.
You would be frightened to see his face crimson with rage, as he stamped his feet, shook his little sister, spoke improperly to his mother, and above all, displeased his great Father in heaven.
Now I am going to tell you of something which happened to Tom, on this account, which he never forgot to the end of his life.
Tiger and Tom were walking down the street together one pleasant day, when they met Dick Casey, a schoolfellow of Tom's.
"O Dick!" cried Tom, "I'm going to father's grain store a little while. Let's go up in the loft and play."
Dick had just finished his work in his mother's garden, and was ready for a little amusement. So the two went up in the loft together, and enjoyed themselves for a long time.
But at last one of those trifling disputes arose, in which little boys are so apt to indulge. Pretty soon there were angry words, then (Oh, how sorry I am to say it!) Tom's wicked passions got the mastery of him, and he beat little Dick severely.
Tiger, who must have been ashamed of his master, pulled hard at his coat, and whined piteously, but all in vain. At last Tom stopped, from mere exhaustion.
"There, now!" he cried, "which is right, you or I?"
"I am," sobbed Dick, "and you tell a lie."
Tom's face became crimson, and darting upon Dick, he gave him a sudden push. Alas! he was near to the open door. Dick screamed, threw up his arms, and in a moment was gone.
Tom's heart stood still, and an icy chill crept over him from head to foot. At first he could not stir; then—he never knew how he got there, but he found himself standing beside his little friend. Some men were raising him carefully from the hard sidewalk.
"Is he dead?" almost screamed Tom.
"No," replied one, "we hope not. How did he fall out?"
"He didn't fall," groaned Tom, who never could be so mean as to tell a lie, "I pushed him out."
"You pushed him, you wicked boy," cried a rough voice. "Do you know you ought to be sent to jail, and if he dies, maybe you'll be hung."
Tom grew as white as Dick, whom he had followed into the store, and he heard all that passed as if in a dream.
"Is he badly hurt?" cried some one.
"Only his hands," was the answer. "The rope saved him, he caught hold of the rope and slipped down; but his hands are dreadfully torn—he has fainted from pain."
Just then Tom's father came in, and soon understood the case. The look he gave his unhappy son, so full of sorrow, not unmingled with pity, was too much for Tom, and he stole out followed by the faithful Tiger.
He wandered to the woods, and threw himself upon the ground. One hour ago he was a happy boy, and now what a terrible change! What had made the difference?—Nothing but the indulgence of this wicked, violent temper.
His mother had often warned him of the fearful consequences. She had told him that little boys who would not learn to govern themselves, grew up to be very wicked men, and often became murderers in some moment of passion.
And now, Tom shuddered to think he was almost a murderer! Nothing but God's great mercy in putting that rope in Dick's way, had saved him from carrying that load of sorrow and guilt all the rest of his life.
But poor Dick might die yet—how pale he looked—how strange! Tom fell upon his knees, and prayed God to spare Dick's life, and from that time forth, with God's help, he promised that he would strive to conquer his wicked temper.
Then, as he could no longer bear his terrible suspense, he started for Widow Casey's cottage. As he appeared at the humble door, Mrs. Casey angrily ordered him away, saying, "You have made a poor woman trouble enough for one day." But Dick's feeble voice entreated, "O mother, let him come in; I was just as bad as he."
Tom gave a cry of joy at hearing these welcome tones, and sprang hastily in. There sat poor Dick, with his hands bound up, looking very pale, but Tom thanked God that he was alive.
"I should like to know how I am to live now," sighed Mrs. Casey. "Who will weed the garden, and carry my vegetables to market? I am afraid we shall suffer for bread before the summer is over," and she put her apron to her eyes.
"Mrs. Casey," cried Tom, eagerly, "I will do everything that Dick did. I will sell the cabbages, potatoes, and beans, and will drive Mr. Brown's cows to pasture."
Mrs. Casey shook her head incredulously; but Tom bravely kept his word. For the next few weeks Tom was at his post bright and early, and the garden was never kept in better order. Every morning Tiger and Tom stood faithfully in the market place with their baskets, and never gave up, no matter how warm the day, till the last vegetable was sold, and the money placed faithfully in Mrs. Casey's hand.
Tom's father often passed through the market, and gave his little son an encouraging smile, but he did not offer to help him out of his difficulty, for he knew if Tom struggled on alone, it would be a lesson he would never forget. Already he was becoming so gentle and patient that every one noticed the change, and his mother rejoiced over the sweet fruits of his repentance and self-sacrifice.
After a few weeks, the bandages were removed from Dick's hands, but they had been unskillfully treated, and were drawn up in very strange shapes.
Mrs. Casey could not conceal her grief. "He will never be the help he was before," she said to Tom, "he will never be like other boys, and he wrote such a fine hand; now he can no more make a letter than that little chicken in the garden."
"If we only had a great city doctor," said a neighbor, "he might have been all right. Even now his fingers might be helped if you should take him to New York."
"Oh, I am too poor, too poor" said she, and burst into tears.
Tom could not bear it, and again rushed into the woods to think what could be done, for he had already given them all his quarter's allowance. All at once a thought flashed into his head, and he started as if he had been shot. Then he cried in great distress:—
"No, no, anything but that, I can't do that!"
Tiger gently licked his hands, and watched him with great concern.
Now came a terrible struggle. Tom paced back and forth, and although he was a proud boy, he sobbed aloud. Tiger whined, licked Tom's face, rushed off into dark corners, and barked savagely at some imaginary enemy, and then came back, and putting his paws on his young master's knees, wagged his tail in anxious sympathy.
At last Tom took his hands from his pale, tear stained face, and looking into the dog's great, honest eyes, he cried with a queer shake in his voice:—
"Tiger, old fellow! dear old dog, could you ever forgive me if I sold you?"
Then came another burst of sorrow, and Tom rose hastily, as if afraid to trust himself, and almost ran out of the woods. Over the fields he raced, with Tiger close at his heels, nor rested a moment till he stood at Major White's door, nearly two miles away.
"Do you still want Tiger, sir?"
"Why yes," said the old man in great surprise, "but it can't be possible that you want to sell him, do you, my boy?" and the kind old gentleman gave Tom a quick, questioning glance.
"Yes, please," gasped Tom, not daring to look at his old companion.
The exchange was quickly made, and the ten dollars in Tom's hand. Tiger was beguiled into a barn, the door hastily shut, and Tom was hurrying off, when he turned and cried in a choking voice:—
"You will be kind to him, Major White, won't you? Don't whip him, I never did, and he's the best dog—"
"No, no, child," said Major White, kindly; "I'll treat him like a prince, and if you ever want to buy him back, you shall have him."
Tom managed to falter "Thank you," and almost flew out of hearing of Tiger's eager scratching on the barn door.
I am making my story too long, and can only tell you in a few words that Tom's sacrifice was accepted. A friend took little Dick to the city free of expense, and Tom's money paid for the necessary operation.
The poor, crooked fingers were very much improved, and were soon almost as good as ever. And the whole village loved Tom for his brave, self-sacrificing spirit, and the noble atonement he had made for his moment of passion.
A few days after Dick's return came Tom's birthday, but he did not feel in his usual spirits. In spite of his delight in Dick's recovery, he had so mourned over the matter, and had taken Tiger's loss so much to heart, that he had grown quite pale and thin. So as he was allowed to spend the day as he pleased, he took his books and went to his favorite haunt in the woods. He lay down under the shade of a wide-spreading maple, and buried his face in his hands:—
"How different from my last birthday," thought Tom. "Then Tiger had just come, and I was so happy, though I didn't like him half as well as I do now."
Tom sighed heavily; then added more cheerfully, "Well, I hope some things are better than they were last year. I hope I have begun to conquer myself, and with God's help I will never give up trying while I live. But O how much sorrow and misery I have made for myself as well as for others, by only once giving way to my wicked, foolish temper. And not only that, but," added Tom, with a sigh, "I can never forget that I might have been a murderer, had it not been for the mercy of God. Now if I could only earn money enough to buy back dear old Tiger."
While Tom was busied with these thoughts, he heard a hasty, familiar trot, a quick bark of joy, and the brave old dog sprang into Tom's arms.
"Tiger, old fellow," cried Tom, trying to look fierce, though he could scarcely keep down the tears, "how came you to run away, sir?"
Tiger responded by picking up a letter he had dropped in his first joy, and laying it in Tom's hand:—
"MY DEAR CHILD: Tiger is pining, and I must give him a change of air. I wish him to have a good master, and knowing that the best ones are those who have learned to govern themselves, I send him to you. Will you take care of him and oblige
Your old friend, MAJOR WHITE."
Tom then read through a mist of tears—
"P.S. I know the whole story. Dear young friend, be not weary in well doing."
"What are those scars?" questioned Mary Lanman of her father as she sat in his lap, holding his hand in her own little ones.
"Those scars, my dear? If I were to tell you the history of them, it would make a long story."
"But do tell me, papa," said Mary, "I should like to hear a long story."
"These scars, my child, are more than forty years old. For forty years they have every day reminded me of my disobedience to my parents and my violation of the law of God."
"Do tell me all about it, father," pleaded Mary.
"When I was about twelve years old," he began, "my father sent me one pleasant autumn day into the woods to cut a pole to be used in beating apples off the trees. It was wanted immediately to fill the place of one that had been broken.
"I took my little hatchet and hastened to the woods as I had been bidden. I looked in every direction for a tall, slender tree that would answer the purpose; and every time I stopped to examine a young tree, a taller and straighter sapling caught my eye farther on.
"What seemed most surprising to me was that the little trees that looked so trim and upright in the distance, grew deformed and crooked as I approached them. Frequently disappointed, I was led from tree to tree, till I had traversed the entire grove and made no choice.
"My path opened into a clearing, and near the fence stood a young cherry tree loaded with fruit. Here was a strong temptation. I knew very well to whom this tree belonged, and that it bore valuable fruit. I knew, too, that I had no right to touch a single cherry. No house was near, no person was in sight. None but God could see me, and I forgot that His eye looked down upon me.
"I resolved to taste the tempting fruit. I climbed the tree and began to pick the rich, ripe cherries. But I found no pleasure in the taste of them; I was so fearful of surprise and detection. Some one might come and find me in the tree. I therefore resolved to break off some richly-loaded boughs, and feast upon the cherries as I hastened home.
"The top of the tree was bowed with the weight of its fruit. I climbed as high as I could, and bending down the top, attempted to cut it off with my knife. In my eagerness to secure my prize, I did not guard my left hand, which held down the top of the tree. My knife slipped from the yielding wood to my fingers, and passed with unspent force across all the fingers of my left hand, cutting the flesh to the bone.
"I never could look at fresh blood without fainting. My eye caught sight of the red drops that oozed from every finger, and my heart began to die within me. I slipped through the limbs of the tree to the ground. The shock of the fall drove away the faintness, and I soon stood upon my feet.
"I wrapped my handkerchief about my bleeding fingers, and hurried home. My mission was worse than useless; I had not accomplished the purpose for which I was sent, I had committed a crime and disabled myself for work; for how could I pick apples in my present condition.
"I found no sympathy from anybody; my father reproved me, and threatened chastisement when my wounds were healed. My mother, who dressed my aching fingers, looked very sorrowfully upon me, and I knew that I had grieved her deeply by my disobedience.
"I assisted in picking the apples, but I was compelled to work with one hand, while the other hung in a sling. That was a sad day for me.
"It required some weeks to heal the deep gashes made by my knife, and the scars are as bright, after forty years, as they were when the wounds were first closed.
"But if the scars in the flesh were all, it would have been comparatively a trifle. But the soul was wounded as well as the body. The conscience was defiled with guilt. Tears of repentance could not wipe away the stain. Nothing but the blood of Christ could give health to the wounded spirit.
"As wounds leave scars, so, my dear child, youthful sins leave the traces of their existence. Like the scars of the healed wound, they disfigure and weaken the soul. The follies of youth may be overcome, but they are always sure to leave their mark. Every sin of childhood hangs like a weight upon the neck of manhood. The blood of Jesus Christ alone cleanseth from all sin."
COALS OF FIRE
Guy Morgan came in from school with rapid step and impetuous manner. His mother looked up from her work. There was a round, red spot on his cheek, and an ominous glitter in his eyes. She knew the signs. His naturally fierce temper had been stirred in some way to a heat that had kindled his whole nature. He tossed down his cap, threw himself on an ottoman at her feet, and then said, with still a little of the heat of his temper in his tone, "Never say, after this, that I don't love you, mother."
"I think I never did say so," she answered gently, as she passed her hand over the tawny locks, and brushed them away from the flushed brow. "But what special thing have you done to prove your love for me just now?"
"Taken a blow without returning it." She bent over and kissed her boy. He was fifteen years old, a tall fellow with strong muscles; but he had not grown above liking his mother's kisses.
Then she said softly, "Tell me all about it, Guy."
"O, it was Dick Osgood! You know what a mean fellow he is, anyhow. He had been tormenting some of the younger boys till I could not stand it. Every one of them is afraid of him.
"I told him he ought to be ashamed of himself, and tried to make him leave off, till, after a while, he turned from them, and coming to me, he struck me in the face. I believe the mark is there now;" and he turned the other cheek toward his mother. Her heart was filled with sympathy and secret indignation.
"Well," she said, "and you—what did you do?"
"I remembered what I had promised you for this year, and I took it—think of it, mother—took it, and never touched him! I just looked into his eyes, and said, 'If I should strike you back, I should lower myself to your level.'
"He laughed a great, scornful laugh, and said, 'You hear, boys, Morgan's turned preacher. You'd better wait, sir, before you lecture me on my behavior to the little ones, till you have pluck enough to defend them. I've heard about the last impudence I shall from a coward like you.'
"The boys laughed, and some of them said, 'Good for you, Osgood!' and I came home. I had done it for the sake of my promise to you! for I'm stronger than he is, any day; and you know, mother, whether there's a drop of coward's blood in my veins. I thought you were the one to comfort me; though it isn't comfort I want so much, either. I just want you to release me from that promise, and let me go back and thrash him."
Mrs. Morgan's heart thrilled with silent thanksgiving. Her boy's temper had been her greatest grief. His father was dead, and she had brought him up alone, and sometimes she was afraid her too great tenderness had spoiled him.
She had tried in vain to curb his passionate nature. It was a power which no bands could bind. She had concluded at last that the only hope was in enlisting his own powerful will, and making him resolve to conquer himself. Now he had shown himself capable of self-control. In the midst of his anger he had remembered his pledge to her, and had kept it. He would yet be his own master,—this brave boy of hers,—and the kingdom of his own mind would be a goodly sovereignty.
"Better heap coals of fire on his head!" she said quietly.
"Yes, he deserves a good scorching,"—pretending to misunderstand her,—"but I should not have thought you would be so revengeful."
"You know well enough what kind of coals I mean, and who it was that said, 'If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink.' I can not release you from your promise till the year for which you made it is over.
"I think that the Master who told us to render good for evil, understood all the wants and passions of humanity better than any other teacher has ever understood them. I am sure that what He said must be wise and right and best. I want you to try His way first. If that fails, there will be time enough after this year to make a different experiment."
"Well, I promised you," he said, "and I'll show you that, at least, I'm strong enough to keep my word until you release me from it. I think, though, you don't quite know how hard it is."
Mrs. Morgan knew that it was very hard for a true, brave-hearted boy to be called a coward; but she knew, also, that the truest bravery on earth is the bravery of endurance.
"Look out for the coals of fire!" she said smilingly, as her boy started for school the next morning. "Keep a good watch, and I'm pretty sure you'll find them before the summer is over."
But he came home at night depressed and a little gloomy. There had always been a sort of rivalry between him and Dick Osgood, and now the boys seemed to have gone over to the stronger side, and he had that bitter feeling of humiliation and disgrace, which is as bitter to a boy as the sense of defeat ever is to a man.
The weeks went on, and the feeling wore away a little. Still the memory of that blow rankled in Guy's mind, and made him unsocial and ill at ease. His mother watched him with some anxiety, but did not interfere. She had the true wisdom to leave him to learn some of the lessons of life alone.
At length came the last day of school, followed next day by a picnic, in which all the scholars, superintended by their teachers, were to join.
Guy Morgan hesitated a little and then concluded to go. The place selected was a lovely spot, known in all the neighborhood as "the old mill." It was on the banks of the Quassit River, where the stream ran fast, and the grass was green, and great trees with drooping boughs shut away the July sunlight.
Among the rest were Dick Osgood and his little sister Hetty, the one human being whom he seemed really and tenderly to love. The teacher's eyes were on him for this one day, and he did not venture to insult the older scholars or domineer over the little ones. He and Guy kept apart as much as they conveniently could; and Guy entered into the spirit of the day, and really enjoyed it much better than he had anticipated.
Dinner was spread on the grass, and though it was eaten with pewter spoons, and out of crockery of every hue and kind, it was certainly eaten with greater enjoyment and keener appetite than if it had been served in the finest dining room.
They made dinner last as long as they could, and then they scattered here and there, to enjoy themselves as they liked.
On the bridge, just above the falls, stood a little group, fishing. Among them were Dick Osgood and his sister. Guy Morgan, always deeply interested in the study of botany, was a little distance away, with one of the teachers, pulling in pieces a curious flower.
Suddenly a wild cry arose above the sultry stillness of the summer afternoon and the hum of quiet voices round. It was Dick Osgood's cry: "She's in, boys! Hetty's in the river, and I can't swim. O, save her! save her! Will no one try?"
Before the words were out of his lips, they all saw Guy Morgan coming with flying feet,—a race for life. He unbuttoned coat and vest as he ran, and cast them off as he neared the bridge. He kicked off his shoes, and threw himself over.
They heard him strike the water. He went under, rose again, and then struck out toward the golden head, which just then rose for the second time. Every one who stood there lived moments which seemed hours.
Mr. Sharp, the teacher with whom Guy had been talking, and some of the boys, got a strong rope, and running down the stream, threw it out on the water just above the falls, where Guy could reach it if he could get so near the shore—if!
The water was very deep where Hetty had fallen in, and the river ran fast. It was sweeping the poor child on, and Dick Osgood threw himself upon the bridge, and sobbed and screamed. When she rose the third time, she was near the falls. A moment more and she would go over, down on the jagged, cruel rocks beneath.
But that time Guy Morgan caught her—caught her by her long, glistening, golden hair. Mr. Sharp shouted to him. He saw the rope, and swam toward it, his strong right arm beating the water back with hammer-strokes—his left motionless, holding his white burden.
"O God!" Mr. Sharp prayed fervently, "keep him up, spare his strength a little longer, a little longer!" A moment more and he reached the rope and clung to it desperately, while teacher and boys drew the two in over the slippery edge, out of the horrible, seething waters, and took them in their arms. But they were both silent and motionless. Mr. Sharp spoke Guy's name, but he did not answer. Would either of them ever answer again?
Teachers and scholars went to work alike for their restoration. It was well that there was intelligent guidance, or their best efforts might have failed.
Guy, being the stronger, was first to revive. "Is Hetty safe?" he asked.
"Only God knows?" Mr. Sharp answered. "We are doing our best."
It was almost half an hour before Hetty opened her blue eyes. Meantime Dick had been utterly frantic and helpless. He had sobbed and groaned and even prayed, in a wild fashion of his own, which perhaps the pitying Father understood and answered.
When he heard his sister's voice, he was like one beside himself with joy; but Mr. Sharp quieted him by a few low, firm words, which no one else understood.
Some of the larger girls arranged one of the wagons, and received Hetty into it.
Mr. Sharp drove home with Guy Morgan. When he reached his mother's gate, Guy insisted on going in alone. He thought it might alarm her to see some one helping him; besides, he wanted her a few minutes quite to himself. So Mr. Sharp drove away, and Guy went in. His mother saw him coming, and opened the door.
"Where have you been?" she cried, seeing his wet, disordered plight.
"In Quassit River, mother, fishing out Hetty Osgood."
Then, while she was busying herself with preparations for his comfort, he quietly told his story. His mother's eyes were dim, and her heart throbbed chokingly.
"O, if you had been drowned, my boy, my darling!" she cried, hugging him close, wet as he was. "If I had been there, Guy, I couldn't have let you do it."
"I went in after the coals of fire, mother."
Mrs. Morgan knew how to laugh as well as to cry over her boy. "I've heard of people smart enough to set the river on fire," she said, "but you are the first one I ever knew who went in there after the coals."
The next morning came a delegation of the boys, with Dick Osgood at their head. Every one was there who had seen the blow which Dick struck, and heard his taunts afterward. They came into the sitting room, and said their say to Guy before his mother. Dick was spokesman.
"I have come," he said, "to ask you to forgive me. I struck you a mean, unjustifiable blow. You received it with noble contempt. To provoke you into fighting, I called you a coward, meaning to bring you down by some means to my own level. You bore that, too, with a greatness I was not great enough to understand; but I do understand it now.
"I have seen you—all we boys have seen you—face to face with Death, and have seen that you were not afraid of him. You fought with him, and came off ahead; and we all are come to do honor to the bravest boy in town; and I to thank you for a life a great deal dearer and better worth saving than my own."
Dick broke down just there, for the tears choked him.
Guy was as grand in his forgiveness as he had been in his forbearance.
Hetty and her father and mother came afterward, and Guy found himself a hero before he knew it. But none of it all moved him as did his mother's few fond words, and the pride in her joyful eyes. He had kept, with honor and with peace, his pledge to her, and he had his reward. The Master's way of peace had not missed him.
LYMAN DEAN'S TESTIMONIALS
I do not believe two more excellent people could be found than Gideon Randal and his wife. To lift the fallen and to minister to the destitute was their constant habit and delight. They often sacrificed their own comforts for the benefit of others. In vain their friends protested at this course; Gideon Randal's unfailing reply was:—
"I think there's enough left to carry Martha and me through life, and some besides. What we give to the poor, we lend to the Lord, and if a dark day comes, He will provide."
The "dark day" came; but it was not until he had reached the age of three score and ten years. As old age came upon him, and his little farm became less productive, debts accumulated. Being forced to raise money, he had borrowed a thousand dollars of Esquire Harrington, giving him a mortgage on his home for security. But as the interest was regularly paid, his creditor was well satisfied. However, Mr. Harrington died suddenly, and his son, a merciless, grasping man, wrote Mr. Randal, demanding payment of the mortgage.
Vainly did the old man plead for an extension of time. The demand was pressed to such an extent that it even become a threat to deprive him of his home unless payment were made within a given time.
"Martha," he said to his wife, "young Harrington is a hard man. He has me in his power, and he will not scruple to ruin me. I think I would better go and talk with him, telling him how little I have. It may be he will pity two old people, and allow us better terms."
"But husband, you are not used to traveling; Harrowtown is a hundred miles away, and you are old and feeble too."
"True, wife; but I can talk much better than I can write, and besides, Luke Conway lives there, you remember. I took an interest in him when he was a poor boy; perhaps he will advise and help us, now that we are in trouble."
At last, since he felt that he must go, Mrs. Randal reluctantly consented, and fitted him out for the journey with great care.
The next morning was warm and sunny for November, and the old man started for Harrowtown.
"Gideon," called Mrs. Randal as he walked slowly down the road, "be sure to take tight hold of the railing, when you get in and out of the cars."
"I'll be careful, Martha," and with one more "good bye" wave of his hand, the old man hurried on to take the stage, which was to carry him to the station. But misfortune met him at the very outset. The stage was heavily loaded, and on the way, one of the wheels broke down; this caused such a delay that Mr. Randal missed the morning train, and the next did not come for several hours.
It was afternoon when he finally started. He became anxious and weary from long waiting, and after three stations were passed, he became nervous, and worried.
"How long before we reach Harrowtown?" he inquired, stopping the busy conductor.
"At half past eight."
Another question was upon Mr. Randal's lips, but the conductor was gone. "Not reach there until evening!" he exclaimed to himself in dismay, "and pitch dark, for there's no moon now; I shall not know where to go!"
Presently the conductor passed again. "Mr. Conductor, will you kindly tell me when to get out? I've never been to Harrowtown, and I don't want to stop at the wrong place."
"Give yourself no uneasiness," was the polite reply, "I'll let you know; I will not forget you."
Soothed by this assurance, the old man settled back in his seat and finally went to sleep.
In the seat behind him sat a tall, handsome boy. His name was Albert Gregory. He was bright and intelligent, but there was an expression of cruelty about his mouth, and a look about his eyes that was cold and unfeeling. This lad saw the old man fall asleep, and he nudged his companion:—
"See here, John, by and by I'll play a good joke on that old country greeny, and you'll see fun."
On rushed the train; mile after mile was passed. Daylight faded, and the lamps were lighted in the cars, and still the old man slept, watched by his purposed tormentor and the other boy, who wanted to see "the fun."
At last the speed of the train began to slacken. They were nearing a station. Albert sprang up and shook Mr. Randal violently.
"Wake up! wake up!" he called sharply. "This is Harrowtown. You must get off here!"
Thus roughly roused, the old man started from his seat and gazed around in a bewildered way. The change from daylight to darkness, the unaccustomed awakening on a moving train, and the glare of the lights added tenfold to his confusion.
"Wh—what did you say, boy?" he asked helplessly.
"This is Harrowtown. The place where you want to stop. You must get off. Be quick, or you'll be carried by."
The noise of the brakes, and ignorance of the real locality on the part of those near enough to have heard him, prevented any correction of the boy's cruel falsehood.
Mr. Randal knew it was not the conductor who had aroused him; but, supposing Albert to be some employee of the road, he hurried to the car door with tottering steps. The name of the station was called at the other end of the car,—a name quite unlike that of "Harrowtown," but his dull ears did not notice it. He got off upon the platform, and before he could recover himself or knew his error, the train was again in motion.
Albert was in ecstasies over the success of his "joke," and shook all over with laughter, in which, of course, his companion joined. "O dear! that's jolly fun!" he cried, "isn't it, John?"
John assented that it was very funny indeed.
Neither of the boys had noticed that the seat lately occupied by the poor old man had just been taken by a fine-looking gentleman, wrapped in a heavy cloak, who appeared to be absorbed in his own thoughts, but who really heard every word they said.
They kept up a brisk conversation, Albert speaking in a loud tone, for he was feeling very merry. "Ha, ha, ha!—but I did think the old fool would hear the brakeman call the station, though. I didn't suppose I could get him any farther than the door. To think of his clambering clear out on the platform, and getting left! He believed every word I told him. What a delicious old simpleton!"
And having exhausted that edifying subject for the moment, he presently began to boast of his plans and prospects.
"I don't believe you stand much of a chance there; they say Luke Conway's awful particular," the stranger heard John remark.
"Pooh! shut up!" cried Albert. "Particular! That's just it, and that makes my chance all the better. I've brought the kind of recommendations that a particular man wants, you see."
"But there'll be lots of other fellows trying for the place."
"Don't care if there's fifty," said Albert, "I'd come in ahead of 'em all. I've got testimonials of character and qualifications from Prof. Howe, Rev. Joseph Lee, Dr. Henshaw, and Esq. Jenks, the great railroad contractor. His name alone is enough to secure me the situation."
At this, the gentleman on the next seat turned and gave Albert a quick, searching glance. But the conceited boy was too much occupied with himself to notice the movement, and kept on talking. Now and then the thought of the victim whom he had so cruelly deceived seemed to come back and amuse him amazingly.
"Wonder where the old man is now. Ha, ha! Do you suppose he has found out where Harrowtown is? Oh, but wasn't it rich to see how scared he was when I awoke him? And how he jumped and scrambled out of the car! 'Pon my word, I never saw anything so comical."
Here the stranger turned again and shot another quick glance, this time from indignant eyes, and his lips parted as if about to utter a stern reproof. But he did not speak.
We will now leave Albert and his fellow-travelers, and follow good Gideon Randal.
It was quite dark when he stepped from the cars. "Can you tell me where I can find Mr. Aaron Harrington?" he inquired of a man at the station.
"There's no such man living here, to my knowledge," was the reply.
"What, isn't this Harrowtown?" asked Mr. Randal, in great consternation.
"No, it is Whipple Village."
"Then I got out at the wrong station. What shall I do?" in a voice of deep distress.
"Go right to the hotel and stay till the train goes in the morning," said the man, pleasantly.
There was no alternative. Mr. Randal passed a restless night at the hotel, and at an early hour he was again at the station, waiting for the train. His face was pale, and his eye wild and anxious. "The stage broke down, and I missed the first train," thought he, "and then that boy told me to get out here. I've made a bad beginning and I'm afraid this trip will have a bad ending."
There were many passengers walking to and fro on the platform, waiting for the cars to come.
Among them was a plain-featured, honest-looking boy, who had been accompanied to the station by his mother. Just before she bade him "good-bye," she said, "Lyman, look at that pale, sad old man. I don't believe he is used to traveling. Perhaps you can help him along."
As the train came into the station, the lad stepped up to Mr. Randal, and said, respectfully: "Allow me to assist you, sir." Then he took hold of his arm, and guided him into the car to a seat.
"Thank you, my boy. I'm getting old and clumsy, and a little help from a young hand comes timely. Where are you going, if I may ask?"
"To Harrowtown, sir. I saw an advertisement for a boy in a store, and I'm going to try to get the situation. My name is Lyman Dean."
"Ah? I'm sure I wish you success, Lyman, for I believe you're a good boy. You are going to the same place I am. I want to find Aaron Harrington, but I've had two mishaps. I don't know what's coming next."
"I'll show you right where his office is. I've been in Harrowtown a good many times."
Half an hour later, the brakeman shouted the name of the station where they must stop. Lyman assisted Mr. Randal off the train, and walked with him to the principal street. "Here's Mr. Harrington's office," said he.
"Oh, yes, thank you kindly. And now could you tell me where Mr. Luke Conway's place of business is?"
"Why, that's the very gentleman I'm going to see," said Lyman. "His place is just round the corner, only two blocks off."
Mr. Randal was deeply interested. He turned and shook the boy's hand, warmly. "Lyman," he said, "Mr. Conway knows me. I am going to see him by-and-by. I am really obliged to you for your politeness, and wish I could do something for you. I hope Mr. Conway will give you the situation, for you deserve it. If you apply before I get there, tell him Gideon Randal is your friend. Good-by."
Fifteen minutes after found Lyman waiting in the counting-room of Luke Conway's store. Albert Gregory had just preceded him. The merchant was writing, and he had requested the boys to be seated a short time, till he was at leisure. Before he finished his work, a slow, feeble step was heard approaching, and an old man stood in the doorway.
"Luke, don't you remember me?" The merchant looked up at the sound of the voice. Then he sprang from his chair and grasped the old man's hands in both his own.
"Mr. Randal! Welcome, a thousand times welcome, my benefactor!" he exclaimed. Seating his guest, Mr. Conway inquired after his health and comfort, and talked with him as tenderly as a loving son. It was evident to the quick perception of the merchant that the good old man's circumstances had changed, and he soon made it easy for him to unburden his mind.
"Yes, Luke, I am in trouble. Aaron Harrington owns a mortgage on my farm. I can't pay him, and he threatens to take my home," said Mr. Randal, with a quivering lip. "I went to his office, but didn't find him, and I thought may be you'd advise me what to do."
"Mr. Randal," answered the merchant, laying his hand on the old man's shoulder, "almost thirty years ago when I was cold, and hungry, and friendless, you took me in and fed me. Your good wife—God bless her!—made me a suit of clothes with her own hands. You found me work, and you gave me money when I begun the world alone. Much if not all that I am in life I owe to your sympathy and help, my kind old friend. Now I am rich, and you must let me cancel my debt. I shall pay your mortgage to-day. You shall have your home free again."
Mr. Randal wiped great hot tears from his cheeks, and said, in a husky voice, "It is just as I told Martha. I knew, if we lent our money to the Lord, when a dark day came, He would provide."
The reader can imagine the different feelings of the two boys, as they sat witnesses of the scene. The look of derision, that changed to an expression of sickly dismay, on Albert's face, when the old man came in and was so warmly greeted by the merchant, was curiously suggestive. But his usual assurance soon returned. He thought it unlikely that Mr. Randal would recognize him in the daylight, and he determined to put on a bold front.
For a minute the two men continued in conversation. Mr. Conway called up pleasant reminiscences of "Aunt Martha," his boy-life on the farm, and the peace and stillness of the country town. He thought a railway ride of a hundred miles must be quite a hardship for a quiet old man. "It was a long way for you," he said, "Did you have a comfortable journey?"
"Well, I can't quite say that. First, the stage broke down and delayed me. Then I slept in the cars, and a boy played a trick on me, and waked me up, and made me get out at the wrong station, so I had to stay over nigh in Whipple Village. To tell the truth I had a great deal of worriment with one thing and another, getting here; but it's all right now," he added, with a radiant face.
"You shall go with me to my house and rest, as soon as I have dismissed these boys," said Mr. Conway, earnestly; and turning to Albert and Lyman, who anxiously waited, he spoke to them about their errand.
"I suppose you came because you saw my advertisement?"
"Yes, sir," replied both, simultaneously.
"Very well. I believe you came in first," he began, turning to Albert. "What is your name?"
"I am Albert Gregory, sir. I think I can suit you. I've brought testimonials of ability and character from some of the first men—Esq. Jenks, Rev. Joseph Lee, Dr. Henshaw, and others. Here are my letters of recommendation," holding them out for Mr. Conway to take.
"I don't care to see them," returned the merchant, coldly. "I have seen you before. I understand your character well enough for the present."
He then addressed a few words to Lyman Dean.
"I should be very glad of work," said Lyman. "My mother is poor, and I want to earn my living, but I haven't any testimonials."
"Yes, you have," said old Mr. Randal, who was waiting for an opportunity to say that very thing. And then he told the merchant how polite and helpful Lyman had been to him.
Mr. Conway fixed his eyes severely upon the other boy. The contrast between him and young Dean was certainly worth a lesson.
"Albert Gregory," said the merchant, "I occupied the seat in the car in front of you last evening. I heard you exultingly and wickedly boasting how you had deceived a distressed and helpless old man. Mr. Randal, is this the boy who lied to you, and caused you to get out at the wrong station?"
"I declare! Now I do remember him. It is! I'm sure it is," exclaimed the old gentleman, fixing his earnest eyes full upon the crimson face of the young man.
It was useless for Albert to attempt any vindication of himself. His stammered excuses stuck in his throat, and he was glad to hide his mortification by an early escape. Crestfallen, he slunk away, taking all his "testimonials" with him.
"Lyman," said Mr. Conway kindly, "I shall be very glad to employ you in my store. You shall have good pay if you do well, and I am sure you will. You may begin work at once."
Lyman's eyes danced with joy as he left the counting-room to receive his instructions from the head clerk.
Mr. Conway furnished the money to pay the debt due to Mr. Harrington by Mr. Randal, and a heavy load was lifted from the good old farmer's heart. He remained a visitor two or three days in Mr. Conway's house, where he was treated with the utmost deference and attention.
Mr. Conway also purchased for him a suit of warm clothes, and an overcoat, and sent his confidential clerk with him on his return journey to see him safely home. Nor was good Mrs. Randal forgotten. She received a handsome present in money from Mr. Conway, and a message full of grateful affection. Nothing ever after occurred to disturb the lives of the aged and worthy pair.
Albert Gregory secured an excellent situation in New York, but his false character, and his wanton disregard of others' feelings and rights, made him as hateful to his employers as to all his associates, and it soon became necessary for him to seek another place.
He has changed places many times since, and his career has been an unhappy one—another example of the results of frivolous habits and a heartless nature.
Lyman Dean is now a successful merchant, a partner of Mr. Conway, and occupies a high position in society, as an honorable, enterprising man. But best of all, he is a Christian, and finds deep satisfaction and happiness in the service of Him who has said:—
"Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God."
At noon on a dreary November day, a lonesome little fellow stood at the door of a cheap eating house, in Boston, and offered a solitary copy of a morning paper for sale to the people passing.
But there were really not many people passing, for it was Thanksgiving day, and the shops were shut, and everybody who had a home to go to, and a dinner to eat, seemed to have gone home to eat that dinner.
Bert Hampton, the newsboy, stood trying in vain to sell the last Extra left on his hands by the dull business of the morning.
An old man, with a face that looked pinched, and who was dressed in a seedy black coat, stopped at the same doorway, and, with one hand on the latch, he appeared to hesitate between hunger and a sense of poverty, before going in.
It was possible, however, that he was considering whether he could afford himself the indulgence of a morning paper, seeing it was Thanksgiving day; so at least Bert thought, and addressed him accordingly:—
"Buy a paper, sir? All about the fire in East Boston, and arrest of safe-burglars in Springfield. Only two cents."
The little old man looked at the boy, with keen gray eyes which seemed to light up the pinched look of his face, and answered in a shrill voice:—
"You ought to come down in your price, this time of day. You can't expect to sell a morning paper at 12 o'clock for full price."
"Well, give me a cent, then," said Bert. "That's less than cost; but never mind. I'm bound to sell out, anyhow."
"You look cold," said the old man.
"Cold," replied Bert, "I'm nearly froze. And I want my dinner. And I'm going to have a big dinner, too, seeing it's Thanksgiving day."
"Ah! lucky for you, my boy!" said the old man. "You've a home to go to, and friends, too I hope."
"No, sir; no home, and no friend—only my mother." Bert hesitated and grew serious, then suddenly changed his tone—"and Hop Houghton. I told him to meet me here, and we'd have a first-rate Thanksgiving dinner together, for it's no fun to be eating alone Thanksgiving day! It sets a fellow thinking,—if he ever had a home, and then hasn't got a home any more."
"It's more lonesome not to eat at all," said the old man, his gray eyes twinkling. "And what can a boy like you have to think of? Here, I guess I can find one cent for you—though there's nothing in the paper, I know."
The old man spoke with some feeling, his fingers trembled, and somehow he dropped two cents instead of one into Bert's hand.
"Here! you've made a mistake!" cried Bert. "A bargain's a bargain. You've given me a cent too much!"
"No, I didn't,—I never give anybody a cent too much!"
"But—see here!" And Bert showed the two cents, offering to return one.
"No matter," said the old man. "It will be so much less for my dinner—that's all."
Bert had instinctively pocketed the pennies, but his sympathies were excited.
"Poor old man!" he thought; "he's seen better days, I guess. Perhaps he's no home. A boy like me can stand it, but I guess it must be hard for him. He meant to give me the odd cent, all the while; and I don't believe he has had a decent dinner for many a day."
All this, which I have been obliged to write out slowly in words, went through Bert's mind like a flash. He was a generous little fellow, and any kindness shown him, no matter how trifling, made his heart overflow.
"Look here," he cried; "where are you going to get your dinner, to-day?"
"I can get a bite here as well as anywhere—it don't matter much to me," replied the old man.
"Come; eat dinner with me," said Bert, "I'd like to have you."
"I'm afraid I couldn't afford to dine as you are going to," said the man, with a smile, his eyes twinkling again.
"I'll pay for your dinner!" Bert exclaimed. "Come! we don't have a Thanksgiving but once a year, and a fellow wants a good time then."
"But you are waiting for another boy."
"Oh! Hop Houghton. He won't come now, it's too late. He's gone to a place down in North street, I guess,—a place I don't like, there's so much tobacco smoked and so much beer drank there." Bert cast a final glance up the street, but could see nothing of his friend.
"No, he won't come now. So much the worse for him! He likes the men down there; I don't."
"Ah!" said the man, taking off his hat and giving it a brush with his elbow as they entered the restaurant, as if trying to appear as respectable as he could in the eyes of a newsboy of such fastidious tastes.
To make him feel quite comfortable in his mind on that point, Bert hastened to say:—
"I mean rowdies, and such. Poor people, if they behave themselves, are just as respectable to me as rich folks. I ain't at all aristocratic!"
"Ah, indeed!" And the old man smiled again, and seemed to look relieved. "I'm very glad to hear it."
He placed his hat on the floor, and took a seat opposite Bert at a little table which they had all to themselves. Bert offered him the bill of fare.
"I must ask you to choose for me; nothing very extravagant, you know I am used to plain fare."
"So am I. But I'm going to have a dinner, for once in my life, and so are you," cried Bert, generously. "What do you say to chicken soup—and wind up with a big piece of squash pie! How's that for a Thanksgiving dinner?"
"Sumptuous!" said the old man, appearing to glow with the warmth of the room and the prospect of a good dinner. "But won't it cost you too much?"
"Too much? No, sir!" said Bert. "Chicken soup, fifteen cents; pie—they give tremendous big pieces here, thick, I tell you—ten cents. That's twenty-five cents; half a dollar for two. Of course, I don't do this way every day in the year! But mother's glad to have me, once in a while. Here! waiter!" And Bert gave his princely order as if it were no very great thing for a liberal young fellow like him, after all.
"Where is your mother? Why don't you take dinner with her?" the little man asked.
Bert's face grew sober in a moment.
"That's the question! Why don't I? I'll tell you why I don't. I've got the best mother in the world! What I'm trying to do is to make a home for her, so we can live together, and eat our Thanksgiving dinners together, sometime. Some boys want one thing, some another; there's one goes in for good times, another's in such a hurry to get rich, he don't care much how he does it; but what I want most of anything is to be with my mother and my two sisters again, and I am not ashamed to say so."
Bert's eyes grew very tender, and he went on; while his companion across the table watched him with a very gentle, searching look.
"I haven't been with her now for two years—hardly at all since father died. When his business was settled up,—he kept a little hosiery store on Hanover street,—it was found he hadn't left us anything. We had lived pretty well, up to that time, and I and my two sisters had been to school; but then mother had to do something, and her friends got her places to go out nursing; she's a nurse now. Everybody likes her, and she has enough to do. We couldn't be with her, of course. She got us boarded at a good place, but I saw how hard it was going to be for her to support us, so I said, I'm a boy; I can do something for myself; you just pay the board for the girls and keep them to school, and I'll go to work, and maybe help you a little, besides taking care of myself."
"What could you do?" said the little old man.
"That's it; I was only eleven years old; and what could I do? What I should have liked would have been some nice place where I could do light work, and stand a chance of learning a good business. But beggars mustn't be choosers. I couldn't find such a place; and I wasn't going to be loafing about the streets, so I went to selling newspapers. I've sold newspapers ever since, and I shall be twelve years old next month."
"You like it?" said the old man.
"I like to get my own living," replied Bert, proudly. "But what I want is, to learn some trade, or regular business, and settle down and make a home for my mother. But there's no use talking about that.
"Well I've told you about myself," added Bert; "now suppose you tell me something?"
"Yes. I think that would go pretty well with the pie."
But the man shook his head. "I could go back and tell you about many of my plans and high hopes when I was a lad of your age; but it would be too much like your own story over again. Life isn't what we think it will be, when we are young. You'll find that out soon enough. I am all alone in the world now; and I am nearly seventy years old."
"It must be so lonely, at your age! What do you do for a living?"
"I have a little place in Devonshire street. My name is Crooker. You'll find me up two nights of stairs, back room at the right. Come and see me, and I'll tell you all about my business and perhaps help you to such a place as you want, for I know several business men. Now don't fail."
And Mr. Crooker wrote his address, with a little stub of a pencil, on a corner of the newspaper which had led to their acquaintance, tore it off carefully, and gave it to Bert.
Thereupon the latter took a card from his pocket, and handed it across the table to his new friend.
The old man read the card, with his sharp gray eyes, which glowed up funnily at Bert, seeming to say, "Isn't this rather aristocratic for a twelve-year-old news-boy?"
Bert blushed and explained:—
"Got up for me by a printer's boy I know. I had done some favors for him, and so he made me a few cards. Handy to have sometimes, you know."
"Well, Herbert," said the old man, "I'm glad to make your acquaintance, and I hope you'll come and see me. You'll find me in very humble quarters; but you are not aristocratic, you say. Now won't you let me pay for my dinner? I believe I have money enough. Let me see." And he put his hand in his pocket.
Bert would not hear of such a thing; but walked up to the desk, and settled the bill with the air of a person who did not regard a trifling expense.
When he looked around again, the little old man was gone.
"Now mind; I'll go and see him the first chance I have," said Bert, as he looked at the penciled strip of newspaper margin again before putting it into his pocket.
He then went round to his miserable quarters, in the top of a cheap lodging-house, and prepared himself at once to go and see his mother. He could not afford to ride, and it was a long walk,—at least five miles to the place where his mother was nursing.
On the following Monday, Bert, having a leisure hour, went to call on his new acquaintance in Devonshire street.
Having climbed the two nights, he found the door of the back room at the right ajar, and, looking in, saw Mr. Crooker at a desk, in the act of receiving a roll of money from a well-dressed visitor.
Bert entered unnoticed, and waited till the money was counted and a receipt signed. Then, as the visitor departed, Mr. Crooker noticed the lad, offered him a chair, and then turned to place the money in the safe.
"So this is your place of business?" said Bert, glancing about the plain office room. "What do you do here?"
"I buy real estate, sometimes—sell—rent—and so forth."
"Who for?" asked Bert.
"For myself," said the old gentleman, with a smile.
Bert started, perfectly aghast, at this situation. This, then, was the man whom he had invited to dinner and treated so patronizingly the preceding Thursday!
"I—I—I thought—you were a poor man!"
"I am a poor man," said Mr. Crooker, locking his safe. "Money doesn't make a man rich. I've money enough. I own houses in the city. They give me something to think of, and so keep me alive. I had truer riches once, but I lost them long ago."
From the way the old man's voice trembled and eyes glistened, Bert thought he must have meant by these riches, the friends he had lost, wife and children, perhaps.
"To think of me inviting you to dinner!" he said, abashed and ashamed.
"It was odd. But it may turn out to have been a lucky circumstance for both of us. I like you. I believe in you, and I've an offer to make you. I want a trusty, bright boy in this office, somebody I can bring up to my business, and leave it with, as I get too old to attend to it myself. What do you say?"
What could Bert say?
Again that afternoon he walked—or rather ran—to his mother; and, after consulting with her, joyfully accepted Mr. Crooker's offer.
Interviews between his mother and his employer followed. The lonely, childless old man, who owned so many houses, wanted a home; and one of these houses he offered to Mrs. Hampton, with ample support for herself and children if she would also make it a home for him.
Of course this proposition was accepted; and Bert soon had the satisfaction of seeing the great ambition of his life accomplished. He had employment, which promised to become a profitable business, as indeed it did in a few years. The old man and the lad proved useful to each other; and, more than that, he was united once more with his mother and sisters in a happy home, where he has since had many Thanksgiving dinners.
THE BOY AND HIS SPARE MOMENTS.
A lean, awkward boy came one morning to the door of the principal of a celebrated school, and asked to see him.
The servant eyed his mean clothes, and thinking he looked more like a beggar than anything else, told him to go around to the kitchen.
The boy did as he was bidden, and soon appeared at the back door.
"I should like to see Mr. Brown," said he.
"You want a breakfast, more like," said the servant girl, "and I can give you that without troubling him."
"Thank you," said the boy; "I should have no objection to a bit of bread; but I should like to see Mr. Brown, if he can see me."
"Some old clothes, may be, you want," remarked the servant, again eyeing the boy's patched trousers. "I guess he has none to spare; he gives away a sight;" and without minding the boy's request, she set out some food upon the kitchen table and went about her work.
"Can I see Mr. Brown?" again asked the boy, after finishing his meal.
"Well, he's in the library; if he must be disturbed, he must; but he does like to be alone sometimes," said the girl, in a peevish tone. She seemed to think it very foolish to admit such an ill-looking fellow into her master's presence. However, she wiped her hands, and bade him follow. Opening the library door, she said:—
"Here's somebody, sir, who is dreadfully anxious to see you, and so I let him in."
I don't know how the boy introduced himself, or how he opened his business, but I know that after talking awhile, the principal put aside the volume he was studying, took up some Greek books, and began to examine the new-comer. The examination lasted some time. Every question which the principal asked, the boy answered as readily as could be.
"Upon my word," exclaimed the principal, "you certainly do well!" looking at the boy from head to foot, over his spectacles. "Why, my boy, where did you pick up so much?"
"In my spare moments," answered the boy.
Here he was, poor, hard-working, with but few opportunities for schooling, yet almost fitted for college, by simply improving his spare moments. Truly, are not spare moments the "gold dust of time?" How precious they should be! What account can you give of your spare moments? What can you show for them? Look and see.
This boy can tell you how very much can be laid up by improving them; and there are many other boys, I am afraid, in the jail, in the house of correction, in the forecastle of a whale ship, in the gambling house, or in the tippling shop, who, if you should ask them when they began their sinful courses, might answer:—
"In my spare moments."
"In my spare moments I gambled for marbles."
"In my spare moments I began to smoke and drink."
"It was in my spare moments that I began to steal chestnuts from the old woman's stand."
"It was in my spare moments that I gathered with wicked associates."
Oh, be very, very careful how you spend your spare moments! Temptation always hunts you out in small seasons like these when you are not busy; he gets into your hearts, if he possibly can, in just such gaps. There he hides himself, planning all sorts of mischief. Take care of your spare moments. "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do."
Will Winslow was the worst boy in the village; his father's indulgence had spoiled him.
"Don't check the boy," he would say to his mother, "you will crush all the manhood in him."
And so he grew up the terror of his neighbors. The old, the infirm, and the crippled were the especial objects of his vicious merriment.
One poor woman, bent by age and infirmities, he assailed with his ridicule, as she daily went out upon her crutch, to draw water from the well near her house, and just within the playground of the schoolhouse.
"Only look at her," he would say, "isn't she the letter S now, with an extra crook in it?" and his cruel laugh, as he followed closely behind, mocking and mimicking her, called forth from her no rebuke.
One day, however, she turned, and looking at him reproachfully, said:—
"Go home, child, and read the story of Elisha and the two bears out of the wood."
"Shame on you, Will," said Charles Mansfield, "to laugh at her misfortunes! I heard my grandmother say that she became a cripple by lifting her invalid son, and tending him night and day."
"I don't care what made her so," said Will, "but I wouldn't stay among people if I was such a looking thing as that. Do look!"
"Shame!" said Charles; "shame!" echoed each of the boys present. And to show their sympathy, several of them sprang forward to aid the poor woman; but Charles Mansfield, the oldest, and always an example of nobleness and generosity, was the first. "Let me get the water for you, ma'am," and he gently took the bucket from her hand.
Her voice was tremulous and tearful, as she said, "Thank you, my dear boy. God grant that you may never suffer from such infirmities."
"If I should," said Charles, kindly, "it would be the duty, and ought to be the pleasure of young people to assist me. One of us will bring you water every day, and so you need not come for it."
"Yes, so we will," was echoed from lip to lip.
"God bless you! God bless you all." She exclaimed as she wiped away the tears and entered her poor and lonely home.
Will Winslow was reported to the master, and was sentenced to study during the usual recess for a week to come. The punishment was hard, for he loved play better than his book; but how slight in comparison with the retribution which awaited him.
It was the second day of his confinement, and he sat near the open window, watching the sports of the boys in the playground. Suddenly, when the master was absorbed in his occupations, he leaped into the midst of them, with a shout at his achievement.
"Now let him punish me again, if he can," and he ran backward, throwing up his arms, and shouting in defiance, when his voice suddenly ceased; there was a heavy plunge, and a horrible groan broke on the ears of his bewildered companions.
Now it happened that the well, of which we have before spoken, was undergoing repairs, and the workmen were then at a distance collecting their materials. Carelessly the well was left uncovered, and at the very moment of his triumph, Will Winslow was precipitated backward into the opening.
A cry of horror burst from the assembled boys, who rushed to the spot, and Charles Mansfield, the bravest of them all, was the first to seize the well-rope, tie it around his waist, and descend to the rescue.
The well was deep; fortunately, however, the water at that time was mostly exhausted, but Will lay motionless at the bottom. Carefully Charles lifted him, and with one arm around his mutilated and apparently lifeless form, and the other upon the rope, he gave the signal, and was slowly drawn to the top.
The livid face of the wicked boy filled his companions with horror; and in perfect silence they bore him to the house of the poor woman, which was close at hand. She had witnessed the accident from the window, and upon her crutch hastened to meet them.
And now Will Winslow was in the humble home, and upon the lowly bed of her whom he had assailed with cruelty and scorn; and faithfully she obeyed the commandment of Him who said:—
"Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."
Silently her prayers ascended to God for the sufferer. Her little vials of camphor and other restoratives, provided by charitable neighbors, were emptied for his relief. She took from her scanty store, bandages for his head, which was shockingly mangled and bleeding; and she herself, forgetful of all but his sufferings, sat down and tenderly bathed his hands and his forehead, while some of the boys ran for the surgeon, and others for the master.
The injury to the head was supposed to be the only one he had sustained; and after the surgeon had done his work, the poor boy was borne away on a litter to his home, still insensible, and surrounded by his companions, mute with emotion. That day was destined to make an impression upon the school, its master, and all that heard of the awful catastrophe.
A few hours later and a group of boys collected in the playground. Their conversation was in whispers; horror sat upon every face; all were pale and awe stricken. Charles Mansfield approached.
"How is poor Will now, have you heard?"
"Oh, Charlie!" several exclaimed at once as they gathered around him.
"Oh! don't you know? haven't you heard? Why, he opened his eyes and spoke, but they think his back is broken."
Charles clasped his hands, lifted them high in the air, uttered not a word, but burst into tears. For a few minutes he wept in silence, and then, still pale and grief stricken, but with a manly voice, he said to his companions:—
"Boys, shall we ever forget the lesson of this day?"
And poor Will—words would be too feeble to portray his agony of body and mind as he lay for long months upon his bed of suffering; but when he arose therefrom, with a feeble and distorted body, and a scar upon his forehead, he was changed in heart also, crushed in spirit, humble, and contrite.
Repentance had had its perfect work, and when he became convalescent, and his schoolmates came to congratulate him on his recovery, he threw his arms around the necks of each, and burst into tears, but could not speak, except to whisper, "Forgive, forgive."
At his request the poor woman became the tenant, rent free, of a cottage belonging to his father, and his mother constantly ministered to her wants. As soon as he could do so, he wrote to her, humbly pleading her forgiveness, and in return she gave him her blessing.
From this time one half of his ample quarterly allowance was given her; he visited her in her loneliness, and at last made his peace with God, and declared his punishment just—henceforth to be a cripple and a hunchback.
Youthful readers, let the history of Will Winslow impress your hearts. Revere the aged, whether they be in poverty or affluence; and feel it a privilege to minister to them in their infirmities, as they have done to you in the weakness and helplessness of infancy. It is the only recompense which youth can make to age, and God will bless the youthful heart which bows in reverence before the hoary head.
ONLY THIS ONCE
"I'll be in again very soon, mother; I am only going 'round the corner to see the new billiard rooms;" and, cap in hand, Harry was closing the parlor door when his mother called him back.
"I cannot consent to your going there, my dear," she said; "you must know that both your father and myself disapprove of all such places."
"But I don't intend to play, mother; only to look on; the boys say the tables are splendid; and besides, what could I tell Jim Ward after promising to go with him? He is waiting outside for me. Please say 'yes' only this once."
"Tell Jim that we rather you would remain at home; and ask him to walk in and spend the evening," said Harry's father, as he looked up from the paper.
"Oh, I know he'll not do that!" and Harry stood turning the door handle, till, finding that his parents did not intend to say anything more, he walked slowly to the front step.
"Why don't you hurry along," called Jim, "and not keep a fellow standing all night in the cold?"
"I am not going. Won't you come in?" said Harry.
"Not going! Your mother surely doesn't object to your looking at a billiard table!"
"She would prefer I should not go," said Harry, and Jim's only reply was a significant whistle, as he walked off.
"He'll be sure to tell all the boys!" said Harry, half aloud, as he shut the front door with rather more force than was necessary. "I don't see what does make father and mother so particular." Then, entering the parlor, he took the first book that came to hand from the table, and, taking a seat very far from the light, looked exceedingly unamiable.
His father laid aside the paper, and without seeming to notice Harry's mood, said pleasantly, "I wonder if my son feels himself too old for a story; if not I have one to tell him which might well be named, 'Only This Once.'" The book was returned to the table; but Harry still kept thinking of what the boys would say when Jim told an exaggerated story, and his countenance remained unchanged.
"When I was about your age, Harry," began his father, "we lived next door to Mr. Allen, a very wealthy gentleman, who had one son. As Frank was a good-natured, merry boy, and had his two beautiful ponies, several dogs, and a large playground, he soon made friends.
"Many an afternoon did we spend together, riding the ponies, or playing ball on the playground, and one summer afternoon in particular, I never expect to forget, for it seems to me now, looking back upon it, as the turning point of Frank's life; but we little thought of such a thing at the time.
"It was a very warm afternoon; and, becoming tired of playing ball, we had stopped to rest on the piazza, when Frank proposed that we should take the ponies to a plank road a few miles from the house, and race them. I was certain that his father would disapprove of this, and, besides, it would have been most cruel work on such a warm afternoon, so I tried to make Frank think of something else he would like to do instead; but all in vain.
"'I think you might go, Charlie,' he said. 'What's the harm of doing it; only this once? I just want to see if either of my ponies is likely to be a fast trotter.'
"For one moment I hesitated, but in the next came the thought of my father's displeasure, and I shook my head.
"'Very well, just as you please, Mr. Good Boy! I know plenty who will be glad of the chance to ride Jet;' and so saying he walked away.
"Frank did find a boy who was delighted to go with him, and enjoyed the race so much that, notwithstanding his father's reprimand, he managed to pursue the same sport more times than 'only that once.'
"As soon as the summer was ended, Mr. Allen went to Europe for his health, and I did not see his son again for three years, till I left the country and entered the same college with him.
"Frank began studying very earnestly; but before the first year was ended, the earnestness had passed away. Friends would induce him to spend his evenings at their rooms, or at some public place of amusement, and each time Frank would try to satisfy his conscience with, 'It will be only this once.'
"Thus by degrees, his lessons were neglected, and as study became irksome, his love for excitement and gaiety increased, till one day I overheard a gentleman, who knew him well, remark that he feared Frank's 'only this once' would prove his ruin.
"But a few years before, Frank would have been shocked with the thought of spending the afternoons in racing, and evenings in billiard saloons. He had not at first really intended to visit these places more than 'once,' 'just to see for myself;' but there are very few who ever stop in the course of wrong doing at 'only this once.'
"At length his father died. When the sad tidings reached the son, he seemed more thoughtful for a time; but in an hour of temptation he yielded. Before long his old companions surrounded him again, and of them he soon learned how to spend the large fortune left him by his father, in a most reckless manner.
"In vain his true friends tried to check him in his wild career; and, five years ago, Harry, my poor friend Frank died a drunkard."
"Oh, father, how dreadful!" and Harry shuddered.
"Yes, it is dreadful, my son; but there are countless untold stories as dreadful as this one. If we were to visit a prison, and ask the wretched inmates how it was that they were first led into crime, we should find that 'only this once' brought most of them there. One took something which did not belong to him, never intending to do it more than that once; but the crime soon grew into a habit. Another was once tempted to gamble, and only that one game was the foundation of all his crimes. Another fully intended to stop with the first glass; but instead, became a reckless drunkard.
"Learn, my son, to dread those three little words, and when tempted to use them, think of all they may lead to, and ask for strength to resist the temptation; and, Harry, do you wonder now at our refusing to allow you to visit the billiard room even once?"
"No, father; I see now that you were right, and I was wrong in supposing that it could not possibly do me any harm to go only this once; and if Jim does tell the boys some silly story to make them laugh at me, I can tell them about Frank Allen, and that will soon sober them."
My dear boys, do you flatter yourself that it is a trifling thing to do wrong, "only this once?" If so, stop and consider, how often not only the young but those of mature years yield to this deceptive and alluring thought and take the first steps in a career of sin, when, could they but see the end of the path which they are so thoughtlessly entering, they would shudder with horror. They do not realize that sin once indulged in hardens the heart, and that one step in the downward path leads to the broad road.
How many parents yield to the pleadings of their children to be indulged "this once," who find that to deny after once being indulged, costs a greater effort than to have stood with firmness to conviction of conscience and true principle.
THE RIGHT DECISION
It was the beginning of vacation when Mr. Davis, a friend of my father, came to see us, and asked to let me go home with him. I was much pleased with the thought of going out of town.
The journey was delightful, and when we reached Mr. Davis's house everything looked as if I were going to have a fine time. Fred Davis, a boy about my own age, took me cordially by the hand, and all the family soon seemed like old friends.
"This is going to be a vacation worth having," I said to myself several times during the evening, as we all played games, told riddles, and laughed and chatted merrily.
At last Mrs. Davis said it was almost bedtime. Then I expected family prayers, but we were very soon directed to our chambers. How strange it seemed to me, for I had never before been in a household without the family altar.
"Come," said Fred, "mother says you and I are going to be bed fellows," and I followed him up two pair of stairs to a nice little chamber which he called his room. He opened a drawer and showed me a box, and boat, and knives, and powderhorn, and all his treasures, and told me a world of new things about what the boys did there.
Then he undressed first and jumped into bed. I was much longer about it, for a new set of thoughts began to rise in my mind.
When my mother put my purse into my hand, just before the train started, she said tenderly, in a low tone, "Remember, Robert, that you are a Christian boy."
I knew very well what that meant, and I had now just come to a point of time when her words were to be minded.
At home I was taught the duties of a Christian child; abroad I must not neglect them, and one of these was evening prayer. From a very little boy I had been in the habit of kneeling and asking the forgiveness of God, for Jesus' sake, acknowledging His mercies, and seeking His protection and blessing.
"Why don't you come to bed, Robert?" cried Fred. "What are you sitting there for?"
I was afraid to pray, and afraid not to pray. It seemed that I could not kneel down and pray before Fred. What would he say? Would he not laugh? The fear of Fred made me a coward. Yet I could not lie down on a prayerless bed. If I needed the protection of my heavenly Father at home, how much more abroad.
I wished many wishes; that I had slept alone, that Fred would go to sleep, or something else, I hardly knew what. But Fred would not go to sleep.
Perhaps struggles like these take place in the bosom of every boy when he leaves home and begins to act for himself, and on his decision may depend his character for time, and for eternity. With me the struggle was severe.
At last, to Fred's cry, "Come, boy, come to bed," I mustered courage to say, "I will kneel down and pray first; that is always my custom." "Pray?" said Fred, turning himself over on his pillow and saying no more.
His propriety of conduct made me ashamed. Here I had long been afraid of him, and yet when he knew my wishes, he was quiet and left me to myself. How thankful I was that duty and conscience triumphed.
That settled my future course. It gave me strength for time to come. I believe that the decision of the "Christian boy," by God's blessing, made me a Christian man; for in after years I was thrown amid trials and temptations which must have drawn me away from God and from virtue, had it not been for my settled habit of secret prayer.
Let every boy who has pious parents, read and think about this. You have been trained in Christian duties and principles. When you go from home, do not leave them behind.
Carry them with you, and stand by them; then, in weakness and temptation, by the help of God, they will stand by you.
Take your place like a man, on the side of your God and Saviour, of your mother's God and Saviour, and of your father's God.
It is by a failure to do this, that so many boys go astray, and grow up to be young men dishonoring their parents, without hope and without God in the world.
* * * * *
Ashamed of Jesus! that dear friend, On whom my hopes of heaven depend? No; when I blush, be this my shame, That I no more revere His name.
Ashamed of Jesus! yes, I may, When I've no guilt to wash away, No tears to wipe, no good to crave, No fears to quell, no soul to save.
THE USE OF LEARNING
"I am tired of going to school," said Herbert Allen to William Wheeler, the boy who sat next to him. "I don't see any great use, for my part, in studying geometry, and navigation, and surveying, and mensuration, and the dozen other things that I am expected to learn. They will never do me any good. I am not going to get my living as a surveyor, or measurer, or sea captain."
"How are you going to get your living, Herbert?" his young friend asked, in a quiet tone, as he looked up into his face.
"Why, I am going to learn a trade; or, at least, my father says that I am."
"And so am I," replied William; "and yet my father wishes me to learn everything that I can; for he says that it will all be useful some time or other in my life."
"I'm sure I can't see what use I am ever going to make, as a saddler, of algebra or surveying."
"Still, if we can't see it, Herbert, perhaps our fathers can, for they are older and wiser than we are. And we ought to try to learn, simply because they wish us to, even if we do not see clearly the use in everything that we are expected to study."
"I can't feel so," Herbert replied, tossing his head, "and I don't believe that my father sees any more clearly than I do the use of all this."
"You are wrong to talk so," protested his friend, in a serious tone. "I would not think as you do for the world. My father knows what is best for me, and your father knows what is best for you; and if we do not study and improve our time, we will surely go wrong."
"I am not afraid," responded Herbert, closing the book which he had been reluctantly studying for half an hour, in the vain effort to fix a lesson on his unwilling memory. Then taking some marbles from his pocket, he began to amuse himself with them, at the same time concealing them from the teacher.
William said no more, but turned to his lesson with an earnest attention. The difference in the character of the two boys is plainly indicated in this brief conversation. To their teacher it was evident in numerous particulars—in their conduct, their habits, and their manners. William always recited his lessons correctly, while Herbert never learned a lesson well. One was always punctual at school, the other a loiterer by the way. William's books were well taken care of, Herbert's were soiled, torn, disfigured, and broken.
Thus they began life. The one obedient, industrious, attentive to the precepts of those who were older and wiser, and willing to be guided by them; the other indolent, and inclined to follow the leadings of his own will. Now, at the age of thirty-five, Mr. Wheeler is an intelligent merchant, in an active business; while Mr. Allen is a journeyman mechanic, poor, in embarrassed circumstances, and possessing but a small share of general information.
"How do you do, my old friend?" said the merchant to the mechanic, about this time, as the latter entered the counting room of the former. The contrast in their appearance was very great. The merchant was well dressed, and had a cheerful look; while the other was poorly clad, and seemed troubled and dejected.
"I cannot say that I do very well, Mr. Wheeler," the mechanic replied, in a tone of despondency. "Work is very dull, and wages low; and, with so large a family as I have, it is tough enough getting along under the best circumstances."
"I am really sorry to hear you say so," replied the merchant, in a kind tone. "How much can you earn now?"
"If I had steady work, I could make twelve or fifteen dollars a week. But our business is very bad. The consequence is, that I do not average nine dollars a week, the year round."
"How large is your family?"
"I have five children, sir."
"Five children! And only nine dollars a week!"
"That is all, sir; but nine dollars a week will not support them, and I am, in consequence, going behindhand."
"You ought to try to get into some other business."
"But I don't know any other."
The merchant mused awhile, and then said: "Perhaps I can aid you into getting into something better. I am president of a newly-projected railroad, and we are about putting on the line a company of engineers, for the purpose of surveying and locating the route. You studied surveying and engineering at the same time I did, and I suppose have still a correct knowledge of both; if so, I will use my influence to have you appointed surveyor. The engineer is already chosen, and you shall have time to revive your early knowledge of these matters. The salary is one hundred dollars a month."
A shadow, still darker than that which had before rested there, fell upon the face of the mechanic.
"But," he said, "I have not the slightest knowledge of surveying. It is true I studied it, or rather pretended to study it, at school; but it made no permanent impression on my mind. I saw no use in it then, and am now as ignorant of surveying as if I had never taken a lesson on the subject."
"I am sorry, my old friend," replied the merchant. "But you are a good accountant, I suppose, and I might, perhaps, get you into a store. What is your capacity in this respect?"
"I ought to have been a good accountant, for I studied mathematics long enough; but I took little interest in figures, and now, although I was for many months, while at school, pretending to study bookkeeping, I am utterly incapable of taking charge of a set of books."
"Such being the case, Mr. Allen, I really do not know what I can do for you. But stay; I am about sending an assorted cargo to Buenos Ayres, and thence to Callao, and want a man to go as supercargo, who can speak the Spanish language. The captain will direct the sales. I remember that we studied Spanish together. Would you be willing to leave your family and go? The wages will be one hundred dollars a month."
"I have forgotten all my Spanish, sir. I did not see the use of it while at school, and therefore it made no impression upon my mind."
After thinking a moment, the merchant replied:—
"I can think of but one thing that you can do, Mr. Allen, and that will not be much better than your present employment. It is a service for which ordinary laborers are employed, that of chain carrying for the surveyor to the proposed railroad expedition."
"What are the wages, sir?"
"Forty dollars a month."
"I will accept it, sir, thankfully," the man said. "It will be much better than my present employment."
"Then make yourself ready at once, for the company will start in a week."
"I will be ready, sir," the poor man replied, and then withdrew.
In a week the company of engineers started, and Mr. Allen with them as a chain carrier, when, had he, as a boy, taken the advice of his parents and friends, and stored his mind with useful knowledge, he might have filled the surveyor's office at more than double the wages paid to him as chain carrier. Indeed, we cannot tell how high a position of usefulness and profit he might have held, had he improved all the opportunities afforded him in youth. But he perceived the use and value of learning when it was too late.
I hope that none of my young readers will make the same discovery that Mr. Allen did, when it is too late to reap any real benefit. Children and youth cannot possibly know as well as their parents, guardians, and teachers, what is best for them. They should, therefore, be obedient and willing to learn, even if they cannot see of what use learning will be to them.
JAMIE AND HIS TEACHER
Among the scholars in a mission Sabbath school formed in one of our large country villages, was a little Irish boy, whose bright, intelligent face, quickness of mind, and earnest attention to the lessons, had awakened great interest in the mind of his teacher.