TIP LEWIS AND HIS LAMP
AUTHOR OF "ESTER RIED," "ESTER RIED YET SPEAKING," "MRS. SOLOMON SMITH LOOKING ON," "AN ENDLESS CHAIN," "FOUR GIRLS AT CHAUTAUQUA," ETC. ETC.
TIP LEWIS AND HIS LAMP.
"Cast thy bread upon the waters."
The room was very full. Children, large and small, boys and girls, and some looking almost old enough to be called men and women, filled the seats. The scholars had just finished singing their best-loved hymn, "Happy Land;" and the superintendent was walking up and down the room, spying out classes here and there which were without teachers, and supplying them from the visitors' seat, which was up by the desk.
The long seat near the door was filled this morning by half a dozen dirty, ragged, barefooted boys; their teacher's seat was vacant, and those boys looked, every one, as though they had come thither just to have a grand frolic.
Oh, such bright, cunning, wicked faces as they had!
Their torn pants and jackets, their matted hair, even the very twinkle in their eyes, showed that they were the "Mission Class."
That is, the class which somebody had gathered from the little black, comfortless-looking houses which thronged a narrow back street of that village, and coaxed to come to the Sabbath school,—to this large, light, pleasant room, where the sun shone in upon little girls in white dresses, with blue and pink ribbons fluttering from their shoulders; and upon little boys, whose snowy linen collars and dainty knots of black ribbon had evidently been arranged by careful hands that very morning.
But those boys in the corner kicked their bare heels together, pulled each other's hair, or laughed in each other's faces in the greatest good humour.
The superintendent stopped before them.
"Well, boys, good morning; glad to see you all here. Where's your teacher?"
"Hain't got none!" answered one,
"Gone to Guinea!" said another.
"She was afraid of us," explained a third. "Tip, here, put his foot through one of her lace flounces last Sunday. Tip's the worst boy we've got, anyhow."
The boys all seemed to think this was very funny, for they laughed so loudly that the little girls at their right looked over to see what was the matter.
Tip ran his fingers through his uncombed hair, and laughed with the rest.
"Well," said the superintendent, "I'm going to get you a teacher,—one you will like, I guess. I shall expect you to treat her well."
There was just one person left on the visitors' seat,—a young lady who looked shy and quiet.
"Oh, Mr. Parker," she said, when the superintendent told her what he wanted, "I can't take that class; I've watched those boys ever since they came in,—they look mischievous enough for anything, and act as they look."
"Then shall we leave them with nothing but mischief to take up their attention?"
"No, but—they really ought to have a better teacher than I,—some one who knows how to interest them."
"But, Miss Perry, the choice lies between you and no one."
And, while she still hesitated and looked distressed, Mr. Parker bent forward a little, and said softly,—
"'Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it not to Me.'"
The lady rose quickly, and gathered her mantle about her.
"I will go, Mr. Parker," she said, speaking quickly, as if afraid her courage would fail her. "Since there is no one else, I will do the best I can; but oh, I am afraid!"
Down the long room, past the rows of neatly-dressed, attentive children, Mr. Parker led her to the seat near the door.
"Now, boys," said he, "this is Miss Perry. Suppose you see if you can't all be gentlemen, and treat her well."
Miss Perry sat down in the teacher's chair, her heart all in a flutter. She taught a class in her own Sabbath school hundreds of miles away,—five rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed little girls gathered around her every Sabbath; but they were little girls whose mothers had taught them to love their lessons, to listen respectfully to what their teacher said, to bow their heads reverently in prayer; and more than that, they loved her, and she loved them. But these boys! Still she must say something: six pairs of bright, roguish eyes, brimful of fire and fun, were bent on her.
"Boys," she said gently, "have you any lessons for me?"
"Not much," answered Bob Turner, who always spoke first.
"We don't get lessons mostly. Don't come unless it's too hot to go fishing or berrying."
"Tip comes 'cause he's too lazy to go past the door,"
"I don't!" drawled out the boy they called Tip; "I come to get out of the sun; it's hotter than sixty down home."
"Never mind, boys," said their frightened teacher; for they were all laughing now, as though the funniest thing in the world had happened. "See here, since you have no lessons, shall I tell you a story?"
Oh yes, they were willing enough to hear a story, if it wasn't stupid.
"I'll tell you something that happened to a boy when he was about thirteen years old. His name is Robert; he told me this story himself, so you may be sure it's true.
"He said one evening he was walking slowly down the main street of the village where he lived"—
"Where was that?" asked Bob Turner.
"Oh, it was away out west. He said he felt cross and unhappy; he had nowhere in particular to go, and nothing to do. As he walked, he came to a turn where two roads met. 'Now,' thought he, 'shall I turn to the left and go home, and hang around until bed-time, or shall I turn to the right and go down to the river awhile?'
"You see, Robert hadn't a happy home,—his mother was dead, and his father was a drunkard.
"While he stood thinking, a boy came around the other corner, and called out,—
"Going home, Rob?'
"'Don't know,' said Robert; 'I can't make up my mind.'
"'Suppose you come on down to our house, and we'll have a game of ball?'
"Still Robert waited. He was fond of playing ball,—that was certain,—and he liked company better than to walk alone; why he should think of wandering off down to the river by himself he was sure he didn't know. Still something seemed to keep saying to him, 'Go this way—turn to the right; come, go to the river, 'until he said at last,—
"'No; I guess I'll take a walk this way first.'
"And he turned the corner, then he was but a few steps from the river."
"What came of the other fellow?" asked Bob.
"Why, some more boys came up just then, and he walked along with them.
"There was a large elm-tree on the river bank, and there was one particular spot under it that Robert called his seat; but he found a gentleman seated there this time; he had a book in his hand, partly closed, and he was leaning back against a tree, watching the sunset.
"He looked around as he heard Robert's step, and said, 'Good evening; will you have a seat?'
"He moved along, and Robert sat down on the grass near him; then he said,—
"'I heard a boy call out to another just now, "Going home, Robert?" Are you the boy?'
"'No,' said Robert; 'Hal Carter screamed that out to me just as he came round the corner.'
"'Oh, you are the one he was talking to. Well, I'll ask you the same question. Are you going home?'
"'No,' said Robert again; 'I have just walked straight away from home.'
"'Yes; but are you going up there?' And the gentleman pointed up to the blue sky. 'That's the home I mean; I've just been reading about it; this river made me think of it. Where it says, you know, "And he showed me a pure river of water, clear as crystal." Then it goes on to describe the city with its "gates of pearl" and "streets of gold," the robes and crowns that the people wear, the harps on which they play, and, after this warm day, I couldn't help thinking that one of the pleasantest things about this home was the promise, "Neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat." Aren't you going to that home, my boy?'"
"'I don't know,' Robert said, feeling very much astonished."
At this point the superintendent's bell rang, and Miss Perry had to hasten her story.
"I haven't time, boys, to tell you all the gentleman said, but, after that talk, Robert began to think about these things a great deal, and pretty soon he learned to read the Bible and to pray. That was more than fifty years ago. He is an old minister now; I have heard him preach a great many times; and he told me once he should always believe God put it into his heart to turn to the right that evening, instead of the left."
"Oh!" exclaimed Tip, just here; and Miss Perry stopped.
"Joe pinched me," said Tip, to explain his part of the noise.
But their teacher felt very badly; they had not listened to her story as though they cared to hear it; they had slid up and down the seat, pulled and pinched and pricked each other, and done a great many mischievous things since she commenced; and yet now and then they seemed to hear a few words; so she kept on, because she did not know what else to do.
"Oh, Mr. Parker," she said, when the school was dismissed, and her noisy class had scrambled, some through the window and some through the door, "some man who understands boys ought to have had that class; I haven't done them any good, but I tried;" and there were tears in her eyes as she spoke.
"You did what you could," said the superintendent kindly; "none of us can do more."
Some loving voice ought to have whispered in that teacher's ear, "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."
"But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit."
Tip Lewis yawned and stretched, and finally opened his eyes rather late on Monday morning.
"Oh, bother!" he said, with another yawn, when he saw how the sun was pouring into the room; "I suppose a fellow has got to get up. I wish getting up wasn't such hard work,—spoils all the fun of going to bed; but then the old cat will be to pay, if I don't get around soon."
And with this he rolled out; and when he was dressed, which was in a very few minutes after he tumbled out of his ragged bed, he was the self-same Tip who had been at the bottom of most of the mischief in Miss Perry's class the day before,—the very same, from the curly hair, not yet combed nor likely to be, down to the bare, soiled feet.
The bed which he had just left, so far as neatness was concerned, looked very much like Tip, and the room looked like the bed; and they all looked about as badly as dust and rags and poverty could make them look.
After running his fingers through his hair, by way of finishing his toilet, Tip made his way down the rickety stairs to the kitchen.
It seemed as though that kitchen was just calculated to make a boy feel cross. The table stood against the wall on its three legs, the tablecloth was daubed with molasses and stained with gravy; a plate, with something in it which looked like melted lard, but which Tip's mother called butter, and a half loaf of bread, were the only eatable articles as yet on the table; and around these the flies had gathered in such numbers, that it almost seemed as though they might carry the loaf away entirely, if too many of them didn't drown themselves in the butter. Over all the July sun poured in its rays from the eastern window, the only one in the room.
Tip stumbled over his father's boots, and made his way to the stove, where his mother was bending over a spider of sizzling pork.
"Well," she said, as he came near, "did you get up for all day? I'd be ashamed—great boy like you—to lie in bed till this time of day, and let your mother split wood and bring water to cook your breakfast with."
"You cooked, a little for you, too, didn't you?" asked Tip, in a saucy, good-natured tone. "Where's father?"
"Just where you have been all day so far,—in bed and asleep. Such folks as I've got! I'm sick of living."
And Mrs. Lewis stepped back from the steaming tea-kettle, and wiped great beads of perspiration from her forehead; then fanned herself with her big apron, looking meantime very tired and cross.
Yet Tip's mother was not so cross after all as she seemed; had Tip only known it, her heart was very heavy that morning. She did not blame his father for his morning nap, not a bit of it; she was only glad that the weary frame could rest a little after a night of pain. She had been up since the first grey dawn of morning, bathing his head, straightening the tangled bedclothes, walking the floor with the restless baby, in order that her husband might have quiet. Oh no; there were worse women in the world than Mrs. Lewis; but this morning her life looked very wretched to her. She thought of her idle, mischievous boy; of her naughty, high-tempered little girl; of her fat, healthy baby, who took so much of her time; of her husband, who, though she never said it to him, or even to herself, yet she knew and felt was every day growing weaker; and with these came the remembrance that her own tired hands were all that lay between them and want; and it is hardly a wonder that her voice was sharp and her words ill chosen. For this mother tried to bear all her trials alone; she never went for help to the Redeemer, who said,—
"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden."
"Wah!" said Johnny, from his cradle in the bit of a bedroom near the kitchen,—which kitchen was all the room they had, save two tiny bedrooms and Tip's little den up-stairs.
Mrs. Lewis glanced quickly towards the door of her husband's room; it was closed. Then she called,—
"Kitty, make that baby go to sleep!"
"Oh yes!" muttered Kitty, who sat on the floor lacing her old shoe with a white cord; "it's easy to say that, but I'd just like to see you do it."
"Ah yah!" answered Johnny from the cradle, as though he tried to say, "So should I."
Then, not being noticed, he gave up pretending to cry, and screamed in good earnest, loud, positive yells, which brought his mother in haste from the kitchen.
"Ugly girl!" she said to Kitty, as she lifted the conquering hero from his cradle; "you don't care how soon your father is waked out of the only nap he has had all night. Why didn't you rock the cradle? I've a notion to whip you this minute!"
"I did," answered Kitty sulkily; "and he opened his eyes at me as wide as he could stretch them."
Crash! went something at that moment in the kitchen; and, with Johnny in her arms, Mrs. Lewis ran back to see what new trouble she had to meet. Tip, meantime, had been in business; being hungry, he had cut a slice of bread from the loaf, and, in the act of reaching over to help himself to some butter, hit his arm against a pitcher of water standing on the corner of the table. Over it went and broke, just as pitchers will whenever they get a chance. This was too much for the tired mother's patience; what little she had vanished. She tossed the slice of bread at Tip, and as she did so, said,—
"There! take that and be off. Don't let me see a sight of your face again to-day. March this instant, or you will wish you had!"
And in the midst of the din, while his mother looked after the pork, which had seized this occasion for burning fast to the spider, Tip managed to spread his slice of bread, find his hat, and make good his escape from the comfortless home.
There was an hour yet to school-time; or, for the matter of that, he might have the whole day. Tip went to school, or let it alone, just as he pleased. He made his way straight to his favourite spot, the broad, deep pond, and laid himself down on its grassy bank to chat with the fishes.
"My!" he said; "how nice they look whisking about. It's cool down there, I know; they don't mind the sun. I wish I had my fish-pole here, I'd have one of them shiny big fellows there for my dinner; only it's too hot to fish, and it would seem kind of mean, besides, to get him up here in this blazing sun. Hang me if I make even a fish get out of the water to-day, when it can stay in!"
Of all the scholars in Miss Perry's class, the one who she would have said paid the least attention was this same boy who was lying on his face by the pond, envying the fishes. Yet Tip had heard nearly every word she said; and now, as he looked into the water, which lay cool in the shade of some broad, branching trees, there came into his heart the music of those words again,—
"Neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat."
"I declare," he said, as the meaning of those words dawned upon him, "I'd like that! they'll never be too warm again. It was a pretty nice story she told us about that boy. He couldn't have had a very good time; his father was a drunkard. I wish I knew just about what kind of a fellow he was; he turned right square round after that man talked to him. Now he is a minister; I suppose lots of people like him. It must be kind of nice, the whole of it. I would like to be somebody, as true as I live, I would. I'd like to have the people say, 'There goes Tip Lewis; he's the best boy in town.' Bless me! that would be funny; I don't believe they could ever say it; they are so used to calling me the worst, they couldn't help it. What if I should reform? I declare I don't know but I will."
And Tip rolled over on his back, and looked up into the blue, cloudless sky; lying there, he certainly had some of the most sober thoughts, perhaps the only really sober ones he had ever known in his life. And when at last he slowly picked himself up, turned his back upon the darting fishes, and walked towards the school-house, he had in his mind some vague notion that perhaps he would be different from that time forth. Just what he was going to do, or how to commence doing it, he didn't know; but the story, to which he had seemed not to listen at all, had crept into his heart, had commenced its work; very dimly was it working, very blindly he might grope for a while, but the seed sown had taken root.
"Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it unto Me."
Around the corner, and far up the street from where Tip Lewis lived, there stood a large white house; not another house in the village was so beautiful as this. Many a time had Tip walked slowly by the place, and cast the most admiring glances on the broad green lawns and bubbling fountain, of which he caught; glimpses from the road. Often he had stood outside, at the great gate, and fairly longed for a nearer view of that same fountain; for the truth was, though he was such a rough, mischief-making,—yes, a wicked boy, down in his heart he had a great love for beautiful things.
On this Fourth of July morning, Tip was up and abroad very early. He held a horse, which had been so frightened by fire-crackers that it wouldn't stand still a minute, and the owner of it gave him ten cents, with which he immediately bought fire-crackers for himself, and frightened the very next horse he saw. When the great cannon on the hill was fired, he got in the way, just as much as he knew how, which was a great deal; he contrived to be around when the largest bell was rung, and add his voice to the uproar among the boys who were gathered around the church doors; indeed, wherever there was commotion or confusion, Tip managed very soon to be, and to do his part towards making the most of it.
About ten o'clock he had lived out the most of his pleasures, having been on hand since a little after three. He had no more money to spend, saw no chance of getting any more; he had had no breakfast, and was very much in doubt as to whether he would get any, if he took the trouble to go home; he had some way lost track of all his companions; and, altogether, he was beginning to feel as if the Fourth of July were a humbug. He felt ill-used, angry; it seemed to him that he was being cheated out of a good time that he expected to have. He sat down on the edge of an old sugar-barrel and thought about it a while; then finally, with his hands in his pockets, and whistling "Yankee Doodle" in honour of the day, he sauntered along the street in search of something to take up his time.
Hurrying towards him, with hands not in his pockets, but full of packages, came Mr. Mintum, the owner of the grand white house on the hill.
To Tip's surprise, the gentleman halted suddenly before him, and, eyeing him closely, asked, "Whose boy are you?"
"Where do you live?"
"T'other side of the pond, by the mill."
"Oh, your father is the carpenter, I suppose,—I know him. What's your name?"
"Tip! What kind of a name is that? is it all the one you own?"
"Well," said Tip, "I suppose my name was Edward when I was a little shaver; but nobody knows it now; I don't myself."
"Well, Tip, then, I'll call you that, for I want you to know yourself to-night. What are you going to do?"
"When? to-night? Oh, hang around, I s'pose,—have some fun, if I can find any."
"Fun. Is that what you're after? You come up to my house to-night at dark, and see if you can find it there. We are going to have fireworks, and songs, and all the fun we can."
Tip was not by any means a bashful boy, and it took a great deal to astonish him; but this sudden invitation almost took his breath away. The idea that Mr. Minturn had actually invited him, Tip Lewis, to come to the white house!—to come near to that wonderful fountain, near enough perhaps to feel the dash of its spray! He could have danced for joy; yet, when Mr. Minturn said, "Well, will you come?" for the first time in his life he was known to stammer and hesitate.
"I—I don't—know. I haven't got any clothes."
"Clothes!" repeated Mr. Minturn; "what do you call those things which you have on?"
"I call 'em rags, sir," answered Tip, his embarrassment gone, and the mischief twinkling back into his face again.
Mr. Minturn laughed, and looked down on the torn jacket and pants.
"Not a bad name," he said at last. "But you've got water at your house, haven't you?"
"Lots of it."
"Then put your head into a tub of it, and a clean face up to my house to-night, and we'll try and find that fun you're looking for."
And Mr. Minturn, who had spent a great deal of time for him, was passing on. "See here!" he called, after he had moved forward a few steps; "if you see any boy raggeder than you are yourself, bring him along,—bring every boy and girl you meet who haven't anywhere else to go."
"Ho!" said Tip, as soon as the gentleman was at safe distance; "if this isn't rich, then I don't know,—fireworks in that great yard, pretty near the fountain maybe, and lots of fun. We can take anybody we like. I know what I'll do. I'll hunt up Bob Turner; his jacket has got enough sight more holes in it than mine has. Oh, ho! ain't it grand, though?" And Tip clapped his hands and whistled, and at last, finding that didn't express his feeling, said, "Hurrah!" in a good strong tone.
Yes, hurrah! Tip is right; it is glorious to think that one man out of his abundance is going to open his heart, and gather in God's poor, and, for one evening at least, make them happy.
God bless Mr. Minturn!
Never had the good man's grounds entertained such a group as, from all quarters of the large town, gathered before it was quite dark.
Ragged boys and girls! If those were what be wanted, he had them, sure enough, of almost every age and size. There were some not so ragged,—some in dainty white dresses and shining jackets; but they went down and mingled with the others,—brothers and sisters for that night at least,—and were all, oh, so happy!
How they did dance and laugh and scream around that fountain, and snap torpedoes and fire-crackers, and shout with wild delight when the rockets shot up into the sky, or the burning wheels span round and round, scattering showers of real fire right in among the crowds of children!
Well, the evening hasted away; the very last rocket took its bright, rushing way up into the blue sky; and Mr. Minturn gathered his company around the piazza with the words,—
"Now, children, Mr. Holbrook has a few words to say to you, and after that, as soon as we have sung a hymn, it will be time to go home."
Mr. Holbrook was the minister; many of the children knew him well, and most of them were ready to hear what he had to say, because they knew, by experience, that he was old enough and wise enough not to make a long, dry speech after nine o'clock on the Fourth of July.
Only Tip, as he turned longingly away from the last dying spark of the rocket, muttered, "Bother the preaching!"
Mr. Holbrook came forward to the steps, as the boys and girls gathered around him.
"Children," said he, "we have had a good time, haven't we?"
"Yes, sir!" came in a loud chorus from many voices.
"Yes; I thought you acted as though you felt pretty happy. Now this has been a busy day, and we are all tired, so I'm not going to keep you here to make a speech to you; I just want to tell you, in as few words as I can, what I have been thinking about since I stood here to-night. I have watched you as you frolicked around that fountain,—so many young, bright faces, all looking so happy,—and I said to myself, When the time comes for us to gather around that fountain of living water which is before the throne of God, I wonder if one of these boys and girls will be missing—one of them? Oh, children, I pray God that you may all be there, every one."
Just a little speech it was,—so little that the youngest there might almost remember the whole of it,—yet it meant so much.
Tip Lewis had wedged his way in among the boys until he stood very near the minister, and his face wore a sober, thoughtful look. It was only two days since his long talk with himself at the pond. Fourth of July, with all the merrymaking and mischief that it brought to him, had nearly driven sober thoughts from his mind, but the minister's solemn words brought back the memory of his half-formed resolves, and again he said to himself he believed he would reform; this time he added that if he knew about how to do it, he would begin right away. He felt it more than ever when the sweet voices of many children floated out on the evening air, as they sang,—
"I have read of a world of beauty, Where there is no gloomy night, Where love is the mainspring of duty, And God is the fountain of light. I have read of the flowing river That bursts from beneath the throne, And beautiful flowers that ever Are found on its banks alone. I long—I long—I long to be there!"
If somebody had only known Tip's thoughts as he stood there listening to the beautiful Sabbath school hymn! If somebody had only bent down to him, and whispered a few words, just to set his poor wandering feet into the narrow way, how blessed it would have been: but nobody did.
Ah, never mind! God knew, and took care of him.
"They that seek Me shall find Me."
Mrs. Lewis's room was in order for once; swept, and even dusted; the cook-stove cooled off, and the green paper curtain at the window let down, to shut out the noise and dust; it was quiet there too.
Kitty stood in the open door, her face and hands clean, hair combed, and dress mended; stood quite still, and with a sober face, unmindful, for once, that there were butterflies to chase and flies to kill all around her. In the only comfortable seat in the room, a large old-fashioned arm-chair, sat the worn, wasted frame of Kitty's father. There was a look of hopeless sadness settled on his face. Neither Tip nor his mother were to be seen. One or two women were moving through the house, with quiet steps, bringing in chairs and doing little thoughtful things in and about that wonderfully orderly room.
On the table was that which told the whole story of this unusual stillness and preparation. It was a pine coffin, very small and plain; and in it, with folded hands and brown hair rolled smoothly back from his baby forehead, little Johnny lay, asleep. Somebody, with a touch of tenderness, had placed a just budding rose in the tiny white hand, and baby looked very sweet and beautiful in his narrow bed. Poor little Johnny! his had been a sad, neglected babyhood; many weary hours had he spent in his cradle, receiving only cross looks from Kitty, and neglected by the mother, who, though she loved Johnny, and even because she loved him, must leave him to work for her daily bread. But it was all over now: Johnny's cries would never disturb them again; Johnny's weary little body rested quietly in its coffin; Johnny's precious self was gathered in the Saviour's arms.
Tip came out of the bedroom, and softly approached the coffin; his hair, too, was partly combed, and some attempt had been made to put his ragged clothes in order. His heart swelled, and the tears gathered in his eyes, as they rested on the baby.
Tip loved his little brother, and though he had not had much to do with him, yet he had this much to comfort him,—Johnny had received only kindness and good-natured words from him, which was more than Kitty could say. As she stood there in the door, it seemed to her that every time she had ever said cross, naughty words to the poor baby, or turned away from his pitiful cry for comfort, or shook his little helpless self, came back to her now,—stood all around his coffin, and looked straight at her. Poor Kitty thought if he could only come back to them for a little while, she would hold him in her arms all night, without a murmur.
People began to come in now from the lowly houses about them, and fill the empty chairs. Mrs. Lewis came out from the bedroom, and sat down beside the arm-chair, thankful that her tear-stained face and swollen eyes were hidden, by the thick black veil which some thoughtful neighbour had sent for her use.
In a few minutes a dozen or more people had filled up the vacant spaces in the little room, and Mr. Holbrook arose from his seat at the coffin's head.
Tip turned quickly at the first sound of his voice, and listened eagerly while he read from the book in his hand, "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God," listening until the closing sentence was read, "And there shall be no more death; neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away."
Tip had never paid such close attention to anything in his life as he did to Mr. Holbrook's words; after that they were very simple and plain spoken, so that a child might understand them, and were about heaven, that beautiful city of which Tip had heard and thought more during the last three weeks than he ever had in his life before. His heart had been in a constant Struggle with Satan, ever since that morning in the Sabbath school. He didn't know enough to understand that it was Satan's evil voice which was constantly persuading him that he could not be anybody, that-he was only a poor, miserable, ragged boy, with nobody to help him, nobody to show him what to do; that he might as well not try to be anything but what he was; and he didn't know either that the other voice in his heart which struggled with the evil counsel, which said to him, "Other boys as poor and ignorant as you are have reformed; that Robert did about whom the teacher told you; and then, if you don't, you will never see that river nor the fountain, nor the streets of gold," was the dear, loving voice of his Redeemer.
Now, as he listened to Mr. Holbrook, and heard how Johnny, little Johnny whom he loved, had surely gone up there to be with Christ for ever, and how Jesus, looking down on the father and mother, and the children who were left, said to them, "I want you, too, to give Me your hearts, so that when I gather My jewels I may come for you." The weak, struggling resolves in his heart grew strong, and he said within himself, while the tears fell slowly down his cheeks, "I will; I'll begin to-day."
The coffin-lid was screwed down, and Johnny's baby-face shut out from them for ever. A man came forward and took the light burden in his arms, and bore it out to the waggon; down the narrow street they drove, to the burial-ground, which was not far away. They laid Johnny down to sleep under the shade of a large old tree; and the grass waved softly, and the birds sang low, and the angels surely sang in heaven, because another little form was numbered among the thousands of children who stand "around the Throne."
The people moved slowly from the grave,—all but Tip; he didn't want to leave Johnny; he wanted to follow him, and he didn't know how. Mr. Holbrook glanced back at the boy standing there alone, paused a moment, then, turning back, laid his hand gently on Tip's shoulder.
"You can go up there too, my boy, if you will," he said, in a low, kind tone.
Tip looked up quickly, then down again; he wanted to ask how—what he should do; but his voice choked, he could not speak a word; and with the earnest sentence, "God bless you, my little friend, and lead you to Himself," Mr. Holbrook turned and left him.
Tip wandered away into the woods for a little. When he returned the earth was heaped up fresh and black over the new mound, and Johnny was left underneath it all alone. Tip walked around it slowly, trying to take in the thought that the baby was lying there; that they should never see him again; trying, a moment after, to take in the thought that he was not there at all, but had gone up to the beautiful world which the hymn told about; then he thought of the chorus, and almost felt it.—"I long, I long, I long to be there."
Tip had heard people pray; he had been to Sabbath school often enough to catch and remember most of the words of the Lord's Prayer; he knew enough of God to understand that He could hear prayer, and that His help must be asked if one wanted to get to heaven. He hesitated a moment, glanced half fearfully around him,—no one was there, no one but himself, and Johnny, lying low at his feet, and God looking down upon him. Presently he knelt down before the little grave, and began,—
"Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come"—Then he stopped. Tip was in earnest now; he did not understand that prayer: he felt as though he was not saying what he meant. He commenced again,—
"Oh, Jesus, I want"—Then he waited a minute. What did he want? "I want to be different; I'm a wicked boy. I want to go where Johnny is when I die. Do show me how!"
Did Jesus ever fail to hear such a prayer as that,—simple, earnest, every word of it felt? Never—and He never will.
Tip rose up from that spot feeling that something was different. Ay, and always would be different; the Saviour had reached down and taken hold of the young seeker's hand, and would for ever after lead him up toward God.
"Thy word is a lamp to my feet."
The Sabbath morning sun awoke Tip from a heavy sleep. He lay still a few moments, thinking who he was. Things were different: he was not simply Tip Lewis, a ragged little street boy, any longer; this was the morning when he was going to start out under a new motto, with Jesus for his guide.
He was going to Sabbath school. He had not been since the morning that Miss Perry had taught the class, and told the story which was to be a blessing to him through all his future life. His evil spirit had been strong upon him during the three Sabbath mornings that had passed since then, and persuaded him to stay away from the school, but this morning he was resolved to go. He had a secret hope that he should see Miss Perry again, for he did not know that she was hundreds of miles away from that village, and would probably never be there again; all he knew was, that a gentleman had brought her to the door, and introduced her to the superintendent as Miss Perry; that much he heard as he sat gazing at them.
This morning he judged by the sun that it was pretty late, yet he didn't get on very fast with the business of dressing: he sat down on the foot of the bed, and looked sorrowfully at his jacket; he even turned it inside out to see if it wouldn't improve its appearance, but he shook his head, and speedily turned it back again.
If he "only had a collar," he said to himself,—"a smooth white collar, to turn down over the worn-out edges,—it would make things look so much better." But that was something he had never had in his life, and he put on the old ragged brown jacket with a sigh. Then he put on his shoes, and took them off again: the question was, which looked the best,—shoes which showed every one of his toes peeping out on the top, or no shoes at all? Suddenly a bright idea struck him: if his feet were only white and clean, he thought they would certainly look much better. Down he went to the rickety pump in the back yard, and face, hands, and feet took such a washing as they had never received before; then the old comb had to do duty. Tip had never had such a time getting dressed; but, some way, he felt a great longing this morning to make himself look neatly; he had a feeling that it was ever so much more respectable to be neat and clean than it was to go looking as he had always done. Still, to carry a freshly-washed face and hands and smooth hair was the very best he could do; and, if he had but known it, these things made a great improvement.
He made his way half shyly into the mission seat, for the truth was he did not know just how the boys would receive his attempt at respectability; but he had no trouble, for several of his companions had seen his face when he took his last look into that little coffin the day before, and they felt sorry for him.
No Miss Perry appeared; and it seemed, at first, that the mission boys were to have no teacher. It was a warm morning, and the visitors' seat was vacant.
But there was at last a great nudging of elbows, and whispers of "Look out now!" "We're in a scrape!" "No chance for fun today!" And only Tip's eyes looked glad when Holbrook halted before their class, with "Good morning, boys." Then, "Good morning Edward; I am glad to see you here to-day;" and the minister actually held out his hand to Tip. Mr. Holbrook never called him Tip; he had asked him one morning what his real name was, and since then had spoken it, "Edward," in clear, plain tones.
It was a restless, wearying class. It required all Mr. Holbrook's wits and wisdom to keep them in any sort of order, to gain any part of their attention. Yet it was not as bad as usual; partly because the minister knew how, if anybody did, to teach just such boys, and partly because Tip, hitherto the spirit of all the mischief there, never took his eyes from the teacher's face. Mr. Holbrook watched his close attention, and took courage. When the other scholars passed out, he laid his hand on Tip's arm, with the words, "You have been a good listener to-day, Edward, Did you understand the story I told, of the boy who started on a journey to the Holy Land?"
"Some of it I did: you meant that he started for heaven."
"You understand it, I see. Don't you want to take that journey?"
"I mean to, sir."
"'Help Thou mine unbelief,'" was Mr. Holbrook's prayer just then. He had hoped for, longed for, prayed for these boys, especially for this one since the day before; yet he was astonished when he received the firm, prompt answer, "I mean to, sir,"—astonished, as too many are, that his prayer was heard.
"Have you started, my boy?" he asked, speaking with a little tremble in his voice.
"Yes, sir, I've tried; I told God last night that I would, but I don't much know how."
"You want a lamp, don't you?"
"A what, sir?"
"A lamp. You remember in the story the boy found dark places every little way; then he took out his lamp, so he couldn't lose the road. Don't you need it?"
"I want some help, but I don't know as a lamp would do me any good."
"Ah yes; the one I mean will surely help you, if you give it a chance." Mr. Holbrook took from his pocket a small, red-covered book, and held it up. "Do you know what book this is?" he asked.
"It's a Bible, ain't it?"
"Yes. Have you ever read in the Bible?"
"Some, at school."
"You know, then, that God told men just what to say, and they wrote it here, so you see that makes it God's words; that is what we call it sometimes,—the Word of God. Now, let me show you something." He turned the leaves rapidly, then pointed with his finger to a verse; and Tip read, "Thy word is a lamp to my feet."
"Oh," he said, with a bright look, "that is the kind of lamp you mean!"
"That is it; and, my boy, I want you to take this for your lamp. There is no place on the whole road so dark but that it can light you through, if you try it. When you don't understand it, there is always Jesus to go to, you know." And, taking out his pencil, Mr. Holbrook wrote on the fly-leaf, in plain, round letters, "Edward Lewis." Then, handing the book to him, with a bow and smile, the minister turned away.
Tip walked out of the school and down the road, holding his treasure closely. Such a queer, new feeling possessed him. Things were really to be different, then. The minister had talked with him, had shaken hands with him, and given him a Bible. And here he was walking quietly away from the school, all alone, instead of leading a troop of noisy boys, intent on mischief.
"Oh, Tip Lewis," he said to himself, as he hugged his book, "I don't know but you will be somebody, after all; you mean to try with all your might, don't you? and you've got a lamp now!"
"I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go. I will guide thee with Mine eye."
"Why," said Tip, as he sat on the foot of the bed, turning over the leaves of his Bible,—"why, that is the very thing I want. 'I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go.' Yes, that's exactly it. I want to begin to-day, and do every single thing so different from what I ever did before, that nobody will know me. Now, if He'll help me, I can do it. I'll learn that verse."
The verse was repeated many times over, for Tip was not used to study. While he was busy thus, the Spirit of God put another thought into his heart.
"I must ask Christ to help me now," he said, with reverent face; and, kneeling down, he made known his wants in very simple words, and in that plain, direct way which God loves. Then he went down—stairs, prepared for whatever should befall him that day.
Kitty was up, and rattling the kitchen stove.
"Kitty, what's to pay?" Tip asked, as he appeared in the door.
"What's to pay with you? How did you happen to get up?" Receiving no answer to this, she continued, "The old cat is to pay,—everywhere,—and always is! These nasty shavings are soaked through and through, and the wood is rotten,—and there isn't any wood anyway,—and I can't make this fire burn to save my life. Mother is sick in bed,—can't sit up at all. She told me to make a cup of tea for father, and things look as if it would get made some time next month."
Kitty was only twelve years old, but, like most of those children who have been left to bring themselves up, and pick up wisdom and wickedness wherever they are to be found, she was wonderfully old in mind; and was so used to grumbling and snarling, that she could do it very rapidly.
"Oh," said Tip to himself, drawing a long breath, "what a place for me to commence in!" Then he came bravely to Kitty's aid.
"See here, Kitty, don't make such a rattling; you'll wake father. I can make this fire in a hurry. I have made one out of next to nothing, lots of times; you just put some water in the tea-kettle, and we'll have a cup of tea in a jiff."
Kitty stood still in her astonishment, and watched him while he took out the round green sticks that she had put in, laid in bits of dry paper and bits of sticks,—laid them in such a careless, uneven way, that it seemed to her they would never burn in the world; only he speedily proved that they would, by setting fire to the whole, and they crackled and snapped in a most determined manner, and finally roared outright.
Certainly Kitty had never been so much astonished in her life. First, because that rubbish in the stove had been made to become such a positive fire; secondly, that Tip had actually set to work without being coaxed or scolded, and made a fire!
There was a queer, new feeling about it all to Tip himself; for, strange as it may seem, so entirely selfish had been this boy's life, that this was actually the first time he had ever, of his own free will, done anything to help the family at home. His spirits rose with the effort.
"Come, Kitty," he said briskly, "here's your fire. Now, let's fly round and get father and mother some breakfast. Say, do you know how to make toast?"
"It's likely I do," Kitty answered shortly. "If you had roasted your face and burnt your fingers as often as I have, making it for father, I guess you would know how."
"Well, now, just suppose we make two slices,—one for mother, and one for father,—and two cups of tea. My! you and I will be jolly housekeepers, Kitty."
"Humph!" said Kitty contemptuously.
You see she wasn't in the least used to being good-natured, and it took a great deal of coaxing to make her give other than short, sharp answers to all that was said. But, for all that, she went to work, after Tip had poured some water in the dingy little tea-kettle and set it over the fire, cutting the two slices of bread, and getting them ready to toast when there should be any coals.
Tip, meantime, hunted among the confusion, of all sorts of things in the cupboard, for two clean plates and cups.
"You're taken with an awful clean fit, seems to me," Kitty said, as she stood watching him while he hunted for a cloth, then carefully wiped off the plates.
"Yes," answered Tip good-naturedly; "I'm going to try it for a spell, and find out how things look after they are washed."
Altogether it was a queer morning to both of them; and each felt a touch of triumph when at last the toast lay brown and nice, a slice on each plate, and the hot tea, poured into the cups, smelled fresh and fragrant. The two children went softly to the bedroom door in time to hear their father say,—
"What makes you try to get up, if your head is so bad?"
"Oh, what makes me! What else is there for me to do? The young ones are both up, and if I find the roof left on the house I'll be thankful. I never knew them to stay together five minutes without having a battle."
At almost any other time in her life these words would have made Kitty very angry; but this morning she was intent on not letting her tea spill over on the toast, and so paid very little attention to them.
Tip marched boldly in with his dish, Kitty following.
"Lie still, mother, till you get some of our tea and toast, and I reckon it will cure you."
Mrs. Lewis raised herself on one elbow, saw the beautiful brown slices, caught a whiff of the fragrant tea, then asked wonderingly,—
"Kitty and me," Tip made answer, proudly and promptly.
Something very like a smile gathered on Mrs. Lewis's worn, fretful face.
"Well, now," she said, "if I ain't beat! It's the last thing on earth I ever expected you to do."
What spell had come over Tip? Breakfast was a great success. After it was over he found a great many things to do; the rusty old axe was hunted up, and some hard knots made to become very respectable-looking sticks of wood, which he piled in the wood-box. Kitty, under the influence of his strange behaviour, washed the dishes, and even got out the broom and swept a little.
Altogether, that was a day long to be remembered by Tip, a day in which he began his life afresh. He made some mistakes; for he fancied, in his ignorance, that the struggle was over,—that he had only to go forward joyfully over a pleasant road.
He found out his mistake: he discovered that Satan had not by any means given him up; that he must yet fight many hard, hard battles.
"Fear not, for I have redeemed thee."
"They must have had an earthquake down at Lewis's this morning," Howard Minturn said to the boys who were gathered around the schoolroom door. "The first bell has not rung yet, and there comes Tip up the hill."
Up the hill came Tip, sure enough, with a firm, resolute step. The summer vacation was over. The fall term was to commence this morning, and among the things which Tip had resolved to do was this one, to come steadily and promptly to school during the term, which was something that he had never done in his life. The public school was the best one in the village, so he had the best boys in town for school companions, as well as some of the worst.
"Hallo, Tip!" said Bob Turner, coming partly down the hill to meet him. "How are you, old fellow?"
Bob had been away during most of the vacation, and knew nothing of the changes which there had been in his absence. Tip winced a little at his greeting; shivered a little at the thought of the temptation which Bob would be to him.
The two had been linked together all their lives in every form of mischief and wrong; they seemed almost a part of each other,—at least, they had seemed so until within these few weeks. Now, Tip felt rather than knew how far separated they must be.
The bell rang, and the boys jostled and tumbled against each other to their seats.
Bob Turner, as usual, seated himself beside Tip; but then Bob only came to school about two forenoons in a week, so perhaps they might get along.
When the Bible reading commenced, Tip hesitated, and his face flushed; he had never owned a Bible to read from before, but this morning his new one lay in his pocket. The question was, Had he courage to take it out? What would the boys think? What would they say? How should he answer them?
He began to think he would wait until tomorrow morning; then he grew hot and ashamed as he saw that he was already trying to hide his colours. Suddenly he drew out his Bible, and began very hurriedly to turn the leaves.
Bob heard the rustling, and, glancing around, puckered his lips as if he were going to whistle, and, snatching the book, read the name which Mr. Holbrook had written therein; then he whispered, "You don't say so! When did we steal a Bible, and turn saint?"
The blood growing hotter and redder in Tip's cheeks was his only answer; but he felt that his temptation had begun. The next thing was to read; when he had finally found the place, even though there were more than fifty voices reading those same words, yet poor Tip imagined that his would be louder than all the rest, and he choked and coughed, and made more than one trial before he forced his voice to join, even in a whisper, at the words, "And they clothed Him with purple, and plaited a crown of thorns and put it about His head."
It did not help him in his reading that Bob made his lips move with the rest, but said, loud enough for him to hear,—
"The man in the moon Came down too soon,"
and continued to repeat some senseless or wicked rhymes, through the reading of the beautiful chapter.
How thankfully Tip bowed his head that morning; his heart had taken in some of the sweet words. That sacred head had been crowned with thorns, indeed, but he knew it was crowned with glory now,—and he knew that Christ had suffered and died for him! He joined with his whole heart in Mr. Burrows's prayer; and, though Bob pulled his hair and tickled his foot and stepped on his toes, the bowed head was not lifted, and his spirit gathered strength.
But Tip never forgot the trials of that day, nor the hard work which he had to endure them. Bob was, as usual, overflowing with mischief, and, failing in finding the willing helper which he had expected in his old companion, took revenge in aiming a great many of his pranks at him. Such senseless, silly things as he did to annoy! Tip spread his slate over with a long row of figures which he earnestly tried to add, and, having toiled slowly up the first two columns, Bob's wet finger was slyly drawn across it, and no trace of the answer so hardly earned appeared.
Then, too, he had his own heart to struggle against: he was so used to whispering to this and that boy seated near him, to eating apples when the teacher's back was turned, to making an ugly-looking picture on a piece of paper and pinning it on the back of a small boy before him. He was so unused to sitting still, and trying to study.
What hard work it was to study, any way! It seemed to him that he could never get that spelling-lesson in the world; the harder he tried, the more bewildered he grew. A dozen times he spelled the two words, receive and believe, standing so closely together, each time sure he was right, and each time discovering that the i's and e's must change places; he grew utterly provoked and disheartened, and would have fairly cried, had not Bob been beside him to see the tears, and grow merry over them.
Finally, he lost all patience with Bob, and, turning fiercely to him, after he had for the third time pitched the greasy old spelling-book upside down on the floor, said,—
"Look here, now, if you come that thing again, I'll pitch you out of the window quicker than wink!"
"Edward Lewis marked for whispering," said Mr. Burrows. "Edward, you have commenced the term as usual, I see,—the first one marked for bad conduct."
How Tip's ears burned! How untrue it was! He had not commenced this term as usual; how differently he had tried to commence it, only he and God knew. And now to fail thus early in the day! His head seemed to spin and his brain reel; he bowed himself on the seat again, but Bob's head went down promptly, and he whispered,—
"Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep!"
How often Tip had thought such things as these so very funny that he could not possibly help laughing; how silly and meaningless—yes, and cruel—did they seem to him now! Oh, Satan was struggling for Tip to-day: he was reaping the fruits of long weeks spent in evil company and folly.
He looked over to the back seats, where sat Howard Minturn and Ellis Holbrook, hard at work on their algebra lesson, nobody thinking of such a thing as disturbing them; and, as he looked, sighed heavily. If he had only gained such a place as they had in the school, how easily he could work to-day. They were very little older than he, yet here he was trying to do an example in addition, doing it over four times before it was right,—and they were at the head of the class in algebra. If he could only jump to where they were, and go on with them! And the hopelessness of this thought made his spelling-lesson seem harder; so it was no wonder, when the class formed, and he took his old place at the foot, and he stayed there, and spelled believe ei after all; nobody was surprised, but nobody knew how very, very hard he had tried.
The long day, crowded full of trouble and temptation to poor Tip, wore away. At recess he wandered off by himself, trying hard to get back some of the strong, firm hopes of the morning.
One more sharp trial was in store for him. Towards the close of the afternoon Bob's fun took the form of paper balls, which, at every turn of Mr. Burrows's back, spun through the room in all directions; two or three of the smaller scholars joined him, and a regular fire of balls was kept up. The boys complained—Mr. Burrows scolded.
At last he spoke this short, prompt sentence: "The next boy I catch throwing paper, or anything else, in this room to-day, I shall punish severely; and I shall expect any scholar who sees anything of this kind going on to inform me."
Not five minutes after that Mr. Burrows bent over his desk in search of something within, when—whisk! went the largest paper ball that had been thrown that day, and landed on the teacher's forehead. Some of the scholars laughed, some looked grave and startled, for Mr. Burrows was a man who always meant what he said.
"Does any one know who threw that ball?" he asked, closing his desk and speaking in a calm, steady tone.
No reply,—silence for a minute. Then, "Ellis Holbrook, do you know who threw that ball of paper?"
"Very well; I am waiting to be told."
"Tip Lewis threw it, sir."
This was a little too much for Tip. The first time in his life that he had ever been in school all day without throwing one, to be so accused! He sprang up in his seat with fire in his eyes.
"I didn't!" he almost screamed. "He knows I didn't! It is a mean, wicked lie!"
"Sit down," said Mr. Burrows. "Ellis, did you see him throw it?"
"Yes, sir, I did."
Mr. Burrows turned to Tip. "Edward, come here."
Tip was still standing.
"Say you won't," whispered Bob. "Say you won't stir a step for the old fellow. If he goes to make you, we'll see who'll beat."
But the command was repeated, and Tip went forward, fixing his steady eyes on Mr. Burrows as he spoke.
"Mr. Burrows, as sure as I live, I did not throw that paper ball."
And yet—poor Tip!—he knew he would not be believed; he knew his word could not be trusted; he knew he had often stood there and as boldly declared what was not true, and what had been proved in a few minutes to be false.
No, nobody believed Tip. He had earned, among other things in the school, the name of hardly ever speaking the truth; and now he must suffer for it. So he stood still and received the swift, hard blows of the ruler on his hands; stood without a tear or a promise. Mr. Burrows had not a doubt of his guilt, for had not Ellis Holbrook, whose word was law in the school, said he saw the mischief done? and did not Tip always deny all knowledge of such matters until made to own them?
Still, this time the boy resolutely refused to confess that he had thrown a bit of paper that day, and went back to his seat with smarting hands and the stern words of his teacher ringing in his ears.
What a heavy, bitter heart the poor boy carried out from the schoolroom that afternoon, he felt as though he almost hated every scholar there,—quite hated Ellis Holbrook.
Mr. Burrows, catching a glimpse of his face, said to one of the other teachers, "That boy grows sullen; with all the rest, his good-nature was the only good thing which he had about him, and he is losing that."
Tip heard him, and felt that it was true. He had been punished many a time before, and taken it with the most provoking good humour. But to-day it was different; to-day, for the first time in his life, he had received a punishment which he did not deserve; this day of all others, in which he had tried with all his heart to do right!
"Why didn't you hold on, you simpleton?" Bob asked. "Never saw you get up so much pluck in my life. What made you back out, and be whipped like a baby?"
"Why didn't you own that you threw that plaguy paper ball, and not sit there like a coward, and see me take your whipping?"
"I own it! That's a good one! 'Pon honour, Tip, didn't you throw that ball? I thought you did; I was aiming one at Ellis Holbrook's head just then, and I didn't see what was going on behind me. Didn't you throw it—honour bright?"
"No, I didn't; and I'll throw you if you say so again."
And Tip turned suddenly in the opposite direction, but Satan still walked with him.
"It's no use," said this evil spirit, speaking out boldly,—"it's no use; don't you see it isn't? You might as well give it up first as last; the boys, and the teacher, and every one, think you're nothing in the world but a wicked young scamp, and you never can be anything else. You've been humbugging yourself these four weeks, making believe you had a great Friend to help you: why hasn't He helped you to-day? You've tried your best all day long, and He knows you have; yet you never had such a hard day in your life. If He cares anything at all about you, why didn't He help you to-day? You asked Him to."
Tip sat down on a log by the side of the road, and gave himself up for a little to Satan's guidance, and the wicked voice went on,—
"Now, you see, you've been cheated. You've tried hard for a whole month to be somebody, and no one thinks any more of you than they did before, and never will. Your mother scolds just as much, and your home looks just as dismal, and Kitty is just as hateful, and the respectable boys in the village have nothing to do with you. You might just as well lounge around and have a good time. Nobody expects you to be good, or will let you, when you want to be."
Softly there came another voice knocking at Tip's heart. At first he would not notice it, but it would be heard.
"What of all that?" it said; "suppose nobody cares for you, or helps you here. Jesus died, you know, and He is your friend. You know that is not a humbug; you know He has heard you when you knelt down and prayed. He has helped you. Then there's heaven, where all the beauty is, and He has promised to take you—yes, you—there by and by! Oh, you must not complain because people won't believe that such a bad boy as you have been has grown good so soon. Christ knows about it, so it's all right. Just keep on trying, and one of these days folks will see that you mean it; they will—God has promised. He has given you a lamp to light you. Why have not you looked at it all this day?"
"Oh," said Tip, "I can't; I can't be a Christian! I have not done right nor felt right to-day. I almost hate the boys, and Mr. Burrows too. I don't know what to do."
"Go on home," said Satan. "Let the lamp and these new notions and all go! Christ don't care anything about you; such a miserable, wicked, story-telling boy as you have been, do you expect Him to notice you?"
But Tip's hand was in his pocket, resting on his lamp, as he had learned to call it; and the low, sweet voice in his heart was urging him to let its light shine. He drew it out, and turned the leaves, and the same dear Helper stopped his eyes at the words, "Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine."
Then came hot, thankful tears. Oh, precious words, sinking right into the torn, troubled heart. Christ the Redeemer had called him by his name! He was—yes, he would be His! He glanced around. Nobody was to be seen; he was sitting in the hollow at the foot of the hill, and under the shade of a low branching tree. And there he knelt down to pray; and Satan drew himself away, for the spot around that kneeling boy was holy ground. Tip's soul had gained the victory.
"Freely ye have received, freely give."
Whether Tip felt it or not, there were some changes in his home. Mrs. Lewis, though worried and hurried and cross enough, still was not so much so as she had been.
The house was quieter, there was no cradle to rock, there were no baby footsteps to follow and keep out of danger; she had more time for sewing. Yet this very thing, the missing of the clinging arms about her neck, sometimes made her heavy heart vent itself in short, sharp words.
But Tip had astonished the family at home,—it didn't require wonderful changes to do it,—rather the change which they saw in him seemed wonderful.
The fire which she found ready made in the morning, the full pail of fresh water, the box: filled with wood, were all so many drops of honey to the tired mother's heart. The awkward pat of his father's pillow, which Tip now and then gave as he lingered to ask how he was, seemed so new and delightful to that neglected father's heart, that he lay on his hard bed and thought of it much all day.
Tip got on better at home than anywhere else; he had not so many temptations. He had been such a lawless, reckless boy, that they had all learned to leave him very much to himself, and, as not a great deal of his time was spent there, his trials at home were not many. As for Kitty, she did not cease to wonder what had happened to Tip; she perhaps felt the difference more than any one else, for it had been the delight of his life to tease her.
Now, from the time that he gathered his books, with the first sound of the school-bell, and hurried up the hill, until he returned at night, ready to split wood, hoe in the garden, or do any of the dozen things that he had never been known to do before, he was a never-failing subject of thought and wonderment to her. Watching him closely, the only thing she could finally settle on as the cause of the change which she found in him was, that he now went every Sabbath morning to the Sabbath school. The mystery must be hidden there. Having decided that matter, Kitty speedily resolved that she would go there herself, and see what they did. Many were the kind hearts that had tried to coax her into that same Sabbath school, and had failed. But this Saturday afternoon's gazing out of the window, with a wonderfully sober face, had ended in her exclaiming,—
"I say, mother, I want a needle and thread."
"What do you want with a needle and thread?" asked Mrs. Lewis, stirring away at some gruel in a tin basin, and not even glancing up.
"I want to mend my dress; it's torn this way and that, and looks awful. I want some green thread, the colour of this wide stripe."
Now for a minute the gruel was forgotten, and Mrs. Lewis looked at Kitty in amazement.
"Dear me!" she said at last; "I don't know what will happen next. It can't be possible that you are going to work to mend your own dress without being scolded about it for a week, and then made to do it."
"Yes, I am, too; I ain't going to look like a rag-bag another hour. And I'm going to wash out my sun-bonnet and iron it; then I mean to go over to that Sunday school to-morrow. I ain't heard any singing since I was born, as I know of, and I mean to."
The gruel began to burn, and Mrs. Lewis turned to it again, saying nothing, but thinking a great deal. Once she used to go to Sabbath school herself, when she was Kitty's age; and she didn't have to mend her dress first, either; she used to be dressed freshly and neatly, every Sabbath morning, by her mother's own careful hands.
She poured the gruel into a bowl, and then went over to her workbox.
"Here's a needle and thread," she said at last, drawing out a snarl of green thread from the many snarls in her box. "Mend your dress if you want to, and I'll wash out your bonnet for you towards night, when I get that vest done."
It was Kitty's turn to be astonished now. She had not expected help from her mother.
Tip lingered in the kitchen on Sabbath morning. He looked neat and clean; he had a fresh, clean shirt, thanks to the washing which his mother had done "towards night." He was all ready for school, yet he waited.
Kitty clattered around, making rather more noise even than usual, as she washed up the few poor dishes.
Evidently Tip was thinking about her. The truth was, his lamp had shown him a lesson that morning like this: "Freely ye have received, freely give." He stopped at that verse, reading no further. What did it mean I Surely it spoke to him. Had not God given, oh, so many things to him? Had He not promised to give him heaven for his home? Now, here was the direction: "Freely give." What, and to whom? To God? Surely not. Tip was certain that he had nothing to give to God; nothing but his poor, sinful heart, which he believed the Saviour had taken and made clean.
What could he give to any one? He leaned out of his little window, busy with this thought. Kitty came out to the door, and pumped her pan full of water. He looked down on her. There was Kitty; had he anything which he could give her? He shook his head mournfully; not a thing. But wouldn't it be the same if he could help her to get something? What if he could coax her to go to Sunday school; perhaps it would do for her all that it had done for him. And at this moment the unwearied Satan came with his wicked thoughts.
"Kitty would be a pretty-looking object to go to Sabbath school,—not a decent thing to wear! Everybody would laugh at her and at you. Besides, I don't believe she would go, if you did ask her; she would only make fun of you. Better not try it."
"Oh, Tip Lewis," said his conscience, "what a miserable coward you are! After all you have promised, you won't risk a laugh for the sake of getting Kitty into the Sabbath school!"
"Yes, I will," said Tip, and he ran downstairs.
And this was why he lingered in the kitchen,—not knowing just what to say. Kitty helped him.
"Tip," said she, "I suppose they sing over at that Sunday school, don't they?"
"I guess they do;" and Tip's eyes brightened. "Ever so many of them sing at once, and it sounds grand, I tell you. They play the melodeon, too: don't you want to go and hear it?"
"Humph! I don't know. I don't suppose it will be any stupider than staying at home. I get awful sick of that. If I knew the way, maybe I would go."
"Oh, I'll take you!" said Tip, in a quick, eager way. He wanted to speak before his courage failed.
So Kitty, in her stiff blue sunbonnet and green calico dress, went to Sabbath school. There was no mission class for girls, so Mr. Parker sent her among the gaily-dressed little girls in Miss Haley's class; but Mr. Holbrook detained Tip.
"Edward, you intend to come to Sabbath school regularly, don't you?"
"Then I think we must leave your place in the mission seat to be filled by some other boy, and you may come forward to my class."
It is doubtful whether Tip will ever see a prouder or happier moment than that one in which he followed the minister down the long room to his own class. But when he saw the seat full of boys, his face grew crimson. At the end of the seat was Ellis Holbrook, the minister's son,—the boy who but a few days before had, he believed in his heart, told a wicked story about himself, and gained him a severe punishment. He did not feel as though he could sit beside that boy, even in Sabbath school. But Mr. Holbrook waited, and sit down he must. Ellis moved along to give him room, and disturbed him neither by word nor look during the lesson. But Tip's heart was full of bitterness, and he thought the pleasure of that morning gone. The lesson was of Christ and His death on the cross, and, as he listened, hard thoughts began to die out. The story was too new; it touched too near his heart not to calm the angry feelings and to interest him wonderfully.
As soon as school was dismissed, Mr. Holbrook turned to him. "What disturbs you to-day, Edward?"
Tip's face grew red again. "I—I—nothing much, sir."
"Have you and Ellis been having trouble in school?"
"He has been getting me into trouble," spoke Tip boldly, finding himself caught.
Mr. Holbrook sat down again. "Can you tell me about it, Edward?"
"He said I threw paper balls, and Mr. Burrows whipped me; and I didn't."
"Are you sure you didn't?"
"Did you say so at the time?"
"Over and over again, but he said he saw me."
"Edward, have you always spoken the truth? Is your word to be believed?"
Tip's eyes fell and his lip quivered. "I've told a great many stories," he said at last, in a low, humble tone; "but this truly isn't one. I'm trying to tell the truth after this, and Jesus believes what I have said this time."
"So do I, Edward," answered Mr. Holbrook gently, even tenderly. "Ellis was mistaken. But I see you are angry with him; can't you get over that?"
Tip shook his head. "He got me whipped for nothing, sir."
"Suppose Christ should follow that rule, Edward, and forgive only those who had treated Him well; would you be forgiven to-day?"
This was a new thought to Tip, and made him silent. Mr. Holbrook held out his hand for the little red Bible.
"Let me show you what this lamp of yours says about the matter."
And Tip's eyes presently read where the minister's finger pointed: "If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
"Trespasses mean sins," explained Mr. Holbrook; then he turned away.
All this time Kitty had been standing waiting,—not for Tip, she didn't expect his company,—but for the stylish little girls to get fairly started on their way to church, so she could go home without having any of them look at or make fun of her.
Kitty had not been having a very good time: she had the misfortune to fall into the hands of a teacher who thought if she asked the questions in the question-book, and if one scholar could not answer, passed on to the next, she had done her duty. So the singing was pretty nearly all Kitty had cared for. God was leaving most of the work for Tip to do, after all. He went over to her now, and walked down the road with her. The boys had all gone, as well as the girls, so there was nothing to hinder their walking on quietly together.
"How did you like it, Kitty?" he asked.
"Oh, I didn't think much of it. I sat by the ugliest girl in town, and she made fun of my bonnet and my shoes. I hate her."
Tip had a faint notion in his heart that Kitty also needed the verse which had just been given him; but he had other thoughts about her. God's Spirit was at work. Having taken her to Sabbath school, having begun a good work, he wanted it to go on. It was very hard to speak to Kitty; he didn't know what to say; but all the way down the hill there seemed to ring in his ears the message, "Freely ye have received, freely give."
"Kitty," he said at last, "don't you want to be a Christian?"
"I don't know what a Christian is."
"But wouldn't you like to love Jesus?"
"How do I know?" replied Kitty shortly. "I don't know anything about Jesus."
"Oh, didn't you hear, in the lesson to-day, about how He loves everybody, and wants everybody to love Him, and how He died so we could?"
"I don't know a thing about the lesson. I counted the buttons on Miss Harley's dress most all the time; they went up and down the front, and up and down the sides, and everywhere."
"Oh, but, Kitty, you surely heard the hymn,—
'Jesus loves me, this I know, For the Bible tells me so.'"
"Yes," Kitty said; "the hymn was pretty enough, only nobody gave me a book, and I could just hear a word now and then."
Altogether, Tip didn't feel that he had done Kitty a bit of good. But he knew this much, that, since he had begun to think about and talk to her, he longed—yes, longed—with all his heart to have her come to Christ.
* * * * *
"Ellis, come here a moment," said Mr. Holbrook, turning towards his study door, as the family came in from church. "What is it about this trouble in school with Edward Lewis?"
"No trouble, father; only Tip threw a paper ball, just as he always is doing, and, as Mr. Burrows asked me if I knew who threw it, of course I had to tell him, and that made Tip mad. Why? Has he been complaining to you, father?"
"Ellis, did you see Edward throw paper?"
"Are you positive?"
"Yes—why—that is—I glanced up from my book just in time to see it whiz, and it came from Tip's direction, and his hand was raised, so I supposed of course he threw it. I thought a minute ago that I knew he did."
"But now you would not say positively that some boy near him might not have done it?"
"Why, no, sir. Alex Palmer might have thrown it; but I didn't think of such a thing."
"Well, Ellis, my verdict is that you were mistaken; I don't think Edward told a falsehood this time. I'll tell you why: he is trying to take the Saviour for his pattern. I believe he is a Christian. Now, there is one thing which I want you to think of. Edward Lewis, who has never been taught anything good, who has never had any one to help him, has given his heart to Christ; and my boy, for whom I have prayed with, all my soul every day since he was born, has not."
"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."
"Boys," said Mr. Burrows, one Monday afternoon, "you may lay aside your books; I want to have a talk with you."
Books were hurriedly gathered and piled in their places, and the boys sat up with folded arms, ready for whatever their teacher had to offer.
Mr. Burrows drew out his arm-chair from behind the desk, and sat down for a chat.
"Who will tell me what an acrostic is?"
Several hands were raised.
"Well, Howard, let us hear what you think about it."
"It's a piece of poetry, sir, where the first letter of every line spells another word."
"Do you mean the first letter alone spells a word?"
The boys laughed, and Howard explained promptly. "No, sir; I mean the first letters of each line taken together form a name."
"Must an acrostic always be written in poetry?"
This question called forth several answers, and made a good deal of talk; but it was finally decided that there could be acrostics in prose as well as in rhyme; and Mr. Burrows asked,—
"How many understand now what an acrostic is?"
A few more hands were raised, but many of the boys did not understand yet; it must be made plainer.
"Howard," said Mr. Burrows, "come to the board and give us an acrostic on the word boy."
Howard sprang up. "Must it be a sensible one, sir?"
"Sense or nonsense, just as you please, so as it shows us what an acrostic is."
"I can take my parsing-book and give you one, I think, sir."
And Howard came forward and wrote rapidly,—
"B But you shall hear an odd affair, indeed, O Of which all Europe rings from side to side"—
Then he paused, turning the leaves of his parsing-book eagerly.
"I can't find anything in Y to finish this up with," he said at last.
"Can't you give us a line from your own brain?"
And at this Howard's eye brightened with fun, and, turning to the board after a moment of thought, he dashed off the closing line,—
"Y You who can finish this may have the job;"—
then took his seat amid bursts of laughter from the boys, who all began to understand what an acrostic was.
Ellis Holbrook's hand was up, and his eyes were full of questions.
"Mr. Burrows, why is that called by such a queer name as acrostic?"
His teacher smiled.
"You must study Greek, Ellis. We get it from two words in the Greek, or from one word made up of two others, which mean extreme, or beginning and order. In an acrostic the beginnings of the lines are arranged in order. Do you understand how we get that word now?"
"Well, now, you would all like to know what this talk is for. I want every boy in school who can write, to bring an acrostic on his own name for his next composition."
The boys groaned, and exclaimed, "They couldn't do it, they were sure; they couldn't begin to do it!"
"Yes, you can," said Mr. Burrows; "I don't give my scholars any work that they can't do. You may quote it, or make it original, as you please; but I want every one of you to try."
Johnny Thorpe, the smallest boy in school who could write, now seemed in trouble, and stretched up his arm to its full length.
"Well, Johnny, what will you have?" asked his teacher.
"If you please, sir, I don't know what you mean by quote."
Mr. Burrows laughed pleasantly.
"I must remember, I see, to speak plain English; I mean you may borrow your essay from a book, or a dozen books, if you like, so that you don't try to make us believe the thoughts are your own. You may write in poetry or not, as you please; but I want each to choose a subject, and stick to it better than Howard did just now. I have given you something to do that will keep you hard at work, but you will succeed at last."
Tip went home in a tumult. What could he do? He had never written a composition in his life, having made it a point to run away from school on composition-day; but running away was done with now. It didn't seem possible that he could write anything: certainly not in such a new, queer way as Mr. Burrows wished them to.
Supper and wood-splitting were hurried over for that evening, and Tip took his way very early to the seat under the elm-tree down by the pond. He wanted to think, to see how he should meet this new trouble; it was a real trouble to him, for he had set out to do just right, and he saw no way of getting out of this duty, and thought he saw no way of doing it.
"There is no place on the road so dark but this lamp will light you through, if you give it a chance."
This is what Mr. Holbrook had said when he gave Tip his Bible. And Tip had thought of his words very often, had already proved them true more than once; but he didn't see how it could help him now.
He took it out, and slowly turned the leaves; it couldn't write his composition for him, that was certain. But oh, the bright thought that came to Tip just then! Why not find his acrostic in the Bible, and write it out? among so many, many verses, he would be sure to find what he wanted. But then, how very queer it would be for him, Tip Lewis, to copy anything from the Bible! What would the boys think? What would Bob Turner say? Still, what else could he do? Besides his spelling-book and a worn arithmetic, it was the only book that he had in the world.
"I don't care," he said suddenly, after a few moments of troubled thought. "I guess I ain't ashamed of my Bible,—it's the only thing I've got that I needn't be ashamed of. I'll do it. The boys have got to know that I've turned over a new leaf. I wish they did; the sooner they know it the better. I say, my lamp shall help me out of this scrape, that's as true as can be; it helps me whenever I give it a chance."
He fumbled in his pocket and drew out an old stump of a pencil. The next thing was a piece of paper; he dived his hand down into another pocket, producing a rusty knife, pieces of string, a chestnut or two, and, finally, a crumpled piece of paper on which Bob Turner had scrawled what he called a likeness of Mr. Burrows, and given to Tip for a keepsake. He spread it out on a flat stone which lay near him, and began his work.
A long, slow work it was for Tip. Hours of that day, and the next, and the next, every day, until the fading light drove him home, did he sit under the elm-tree turning the leaves of his Bible, poring over its contents, writing words carefully now and then on his bit of paper. Remember it was new work to him.
At last, one evening, the sun went down in the bright red west, the stars shone out in all their twinkling, sparkling glory, the shadows began to fall thick and fast around the old tree, when Tip, with a little sigh of relief, folded the precious piece of paper, laid it carefully away in his Bible, and turned his steps homeward. His acrostic was finished, and into his heart had crept some of the beauty of those precious words, which he had found for the first time. Words they were which would go with him through all his life, and sweetly comfort some dark and weary hours.
The school-books were all piled neatly on the desks that Friday afternoon; the shades were dropped to shut out the low afternoon sun; and forty boys were still and expectant. The acrostics lay in a great white heap on Mr. Burrows' desk, not a name written on any of them. Mr. Burrows was to read, and the boys were to have the pleasure of spelling out the names of the owners as he read.
A merry time they had of it that afternoon. Some wonderful acrostics were read. Ellis Holbrook had a very clever one, arranged from his lesson in Virgil. Howard Minturn had borrowed from his father's library a copy of Shakespeare, and worked hard over his; the boys and their teacher thought it a success.
Even Bob Turner had written; the idea had happened to strike him as a very funny one, and Bob always did everything that he thought funny. He had found three lines in rhyme which just suited him, and by the time the eager boys had spelled out B O B,—which was the only name the boy saw fit to own,—the schoolroom fairly shook with their laughter.
Next to his lay a paper which Tip knew, and his heart beat so loudly when Mr. Burrows took it up, that he thought every one in the room must notice.
The room had now grown quiet, and Mr. Burrows, after opening the paper, announced the title,—
"WHAT JESUS CHRIST SAYS."
Then read slowly and reverently, while the wondering scholars spelled out the name.
"E Even the night shall lie light about thee. D Depart from evil and do good. W Whosoever cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out. A A new heart will I give you. R Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. D Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to thee.
"L Lo, I am with you always. E Ever follow that which is good. W Whosoever abideth in Him, sinneth not. I I will go before thee, and make the crooked paths straight. S So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper."
What a silent and astonished company listened to this reading, and spelled the name "Edward Lewis!"
"Edward," Mr. Burrows said at last, "who found those verses for you?"
"I found them, sir, in my Bible. I've got them all marked!" speaking eagerly, willing this time to bring proof that he was telling the truth.
Mr. Burrows' voice almost trembled as he answered,—
"It is a beautiful collection of some of the most precious verses in the Bible. It was a fine idea; I am very much surprised and pleased. I wish that you, and every scholar of mine, could feel in your hearts the full meaning of those words of Jesus."
* * * * *
"I can't to-night, Howard," said Ellis Holbrook, in answer to his friend's coaxings to accompany him home; "I've got something else to attend to. Hallo, Tip! Tip Lewis! Hold on a bit! I'm going your way. No, Howard, I'll come up in the morning; I really can't to-night."
Tip waited in wondering silence, while the boy, whom he counted an enemy, hurried towards him.
Ellis was a bold, prompt boy: when he had anything to say, he said it; so he came to the point at once.
"See here, Tip, did I blunder the other day when I told Mr. Burrows you threw paper? I thought I saw you."
"Yes," said Tip, "you did. I didn't throw a bit of paper that day."
"Well, father said he thought I was mistaken. I'm sure I supposed I was telling the truth. I'm sorry. I'll say so to Mr. Burrows and the boys, if you like, and let him find out who did it, and then was mean enough to see you whipped for it."
Tip struggled a little. "No," he said at last, "let it go. The whipping is done, and can't be undone; I don't want to make any more bother about it."
Ellis eyed him curiously.
"You're a queer fellow," he said at last. "I expect you had about the best acrostic, this afternoon, that can be written."
Tip's heart was throbbing with pleasure as he walked on home after Ellis had left him. For the first time in his life he had earnest, warm, hearty praise from his teacher. Ellis had said, "Father told me he thought I was mistaken." Mr. Holbrook, then, did believe and trust him. Besides, there was another thought which seemed delightful to him. Tip Lewis, the worthless, yes, wicked boy that everybody thought him, had walked down the main street side by side, and talking earnestly with Ellis Holbrook, the minister's son.
"Enter not into the path of the wicked."
Kitty hung on the gate and watched them pass by,—the long train of high waggons with grated windows, out of which strange animals peered with their great, fierce eyes; the two elephants in their scarlet and gold blankets; the tiny ponies tossing their shaggy manes; the splendid carriage drawn by eight gaily blanketed, gaily plumed, dancing horses, and every seat filled with splendidly dressed men and women; the bright red band-waggon, with the sun glittering over the wonderful brass instruments and turning them into gold. Kitty watched all this,—watched, and listened to the loud, full bursts of music, until her heart swelled and bounded. She sprang from the gate, and stamped her foot on the ground.
"I wish—oh, I wish I could go!" she almost screamed at last. "I want to—I want to! Oh, I never wanted to go anywhere so bad in my life!"
"I reckon you'll take it out in wanting," said her mother, who had also leaned on the fence and watched the show pass by. "Folks who have to dig as I do, from morning to night, just to get something to eat, don't have any money to spend on circuses."
Kitty shook her head with rage. "I don't go anywhere," she screamed. "Never! I never went to a circus in my life, and all the boys and girls around here go every year. Tip always goes—always; he manages to slip in. Oh, Tip'" and she opened the gate and went out to him on the sidewalk, a new thought having come to her, "can't you do something to get some money, and let me go to the circus with you? Can't you manage some way? Oh, Tip, do! I'll do anything for you, if you only will. I never wanted anything so bad before."
And Tip's face, as he walked towards the village ten minutes after that, was a study, it looked so full of trouble.
Kitty wanted to go to that circus,—wanted to go so very much that she had coaxed and begged him in a way that she had never done before. Besides, if the truth be told, Tip wanted to go himself; every time the wind wafted back to him a swell of the distant music, it made his heart fairly jump. It was true, as Kitty had said, he always managed to slip in some way; and the oftener he went, the oftener he wanted to go.
Well, then, what was the matter with Tip? What he had done so many times before, he could surely find a way to do again. Oh yes! But Tip Lewis to-day was different from any Tip Lewis there had ever been before on circus day. Wasn't he trying to do right? But then, what had circuses to do with that? He tried to think what were his reasons for being troubled! Why did a small voice down in his heart keep telling him that the circus was no place for him now?
Looking at the matter steadily, the only reason Tip knew was, that Ellis Holbrook and Howard Minturn never went; their fathers had taught them differently. Ellis, he knew, rather looked down on people who did go,—called them low. This had never troubled Tip before, because he had always known himself to be low; but now, wasn't he trying to climb? Didn't respectable people generally think that circuses were bad things?
No, poor Tip, they didn't; there was Mr. Bailey, a rich man,—so rich and so respectable that his son wouldn't stoop to lend Tip his spelling-book at school,—yet Mr. Bailey went to the circus last year and took all his children. So did Mr. Anderson and Mr. Stone, and oh! dozens of others, rich, great men. Well, did good people go? and Tip's thoughts strayed back to Mr. Holbrook, and Mr. Parker, and Mr. Minturn, yea, and others, whose voices he had heard on the streets and in stores, condemning the circus.
But then, after all, where was the harm? There was Kitty, how much she wanted to go; if he could manage to take her, how glad she would be! At this point Satan thought there was a chance for him to speak; so he walked along with Tip, talking like this:
"Kitty has never asked you to do anything for her before. You want to help her; you want to get her to go to Sunday school and to read the Bible. Now's your time: if you take her to the circus, very likely she will do what you want her to."
This was a little too absurd, even for Tip, who wanted to believe it all so badly; but who ever heard of taking any one to a circus in order to get them to love Jesus? Tip knew altogether too well for his comfort, that day, that Mr. Holbrook's example was the safe one. At last he drew a little sigh of relief; he needn't think about it any more, for he had no money: he had never owned fifty cents at one time in his life; so the question, after all, would settle itself.
No, it wouldn't. Mr. Dewey stood in the door of his market, looking up and down the street.
"Hallo, Tip!" he called, as Tip turned the corner; "you're the boy I must have been looking for, I guess. If you'll carry home packages for me for an hour, and not steal one of them, I'll give you two tickets for the circus."
Tip's cheeks glowed at the word steal, and he came near telling Mr. Dewey to carry his own packages, if he were afraid to trust him.
But then, those two tickets! Here was a chance for Kitty. The conflict commenced again.
A whole hour in which to decide it, for Tip meant to do the work any way. Up and down the streets, stopping at this house and that with his parcels, back again to the market for more, all the time in a whirl of thought. The question was almost decided when the two green tickets were placed in his hand; it closed over them eagerly. He hurried towards home.
Towards home led him past the brick hotel. In the bar-room sat some of the circus men; he knew them by their heavy beards, which almost covered their faces; knew them also because he knew every man in town, just who were strangers and who were not. Well, these circus men were very busy drinking brandy and playing cards. Tip stopped and looked in at them; and, ignorant boy as he was, the thought that good, respectable people would go to see and hear such men as these, seemed very strange. It couldn't be right, could it? How was it? A great many nice people must have blundered terribly if it were wrong; and, on the other hand, if it were not wrong, how did the minister happen to be so afraid of these things? Why did he himself have so many queer feelings about the matter?
What a trouble he was in! If only he could find somebody or something that would decide it for him! Long before this he had walked away from the hotel; now he had crossed the bridge, gone around behind the mill, and was very near his seat under the elm. Down he sat when he came to it, still holding fast the two green tickets, but with the other hand diving down in his pocket for the little Bible. That was getting to be a habit with him, to hunt for this lamp of his whenever he was in darkness. He turned the leaves now with a perplexed face. If he only knew where to turn for help!
"Let me see," he said. "Where was that verse that I learned for the Sunday school concert? I liked the sound of that; it was somewhere in this book full of short, queer verses. I can find it; yes, I see it. 'For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.'"
It didn't seem to help him; he shook his head slowly, still glancing on over the verses, until suddenly his listless look vanished, and he read aloud;—"Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away."
"That means them," said Tip, "and me. They're wicked men, that's certain: they were drinking and gambling,—swearing too, I guess; and this verse reads about them just as plain as day. It says, 'Don't go near them,'—says it over and over again; and I'll mind it, I will. I'll take these tickets right back to Mr. Dewey, so they won't be here to put me in mind of going."
No sooner said than done; he turned around and fairly galloped up the hill, around the corner, and landed nearly breathless at the market.
"Here, Mr. Dewey," he said promptly, "I've brought back your tickets; I don't want 'em this time."
"What's up now?" asked Mr. Dewey, coming out from behind his desk, and eyeing the panting boy curiously. "Won't the tickets pass?"
"Not if they wait till I pass 'em," answered Tip in his prompt, saucy way. "I ain't going to the circus, not an inch," he added, as if to assure himself that he meant it.
"But why not?"
"Oh, I've got reasons."
"Well, now, Tip," said Mr. Dewey, "that's really astonishing! Suppose you give us a few of your reasons. We don't know what to make of this."
Tip didn't know what to say; he hesitated and thought, and finally did the best thing he could,—spoke out boldly. "I've made up my mind that I won't go to any more circuses, ever! I don't believe in 'em as much as I did."
That wasn't it yet,—he had not owned his Master in the answer. Neither was Mr. Dewey satisfied.
"But, Tip, give us the reasons; this is such a sudden change, you know."
"Well," said Tip, "I've been reading about them just now."
"Why, them circus fellows. They're up here at the tavern; they're drinking and fighting, and I don't know what; and I guess, by the looks of things, they're pretty wicked. The book I was reading said, Don't go near wicked men, turn around and go the other way; and I mean to." And with this Tip whisked out of the house and around the corner.
Mr. Dewey shrugged his shoulders.
"The world turns around, sure enough," he said at last.
"How do you know that?" and Mr. Minturn set his market basket on the step, and fanned himself with his hat. "I'm my own boy to-day, you see; give me something for my dinner. How did you find out that the world turned around?"
"Why, Tip Lewis has taken to preaching against circuses. Will you have a roast to-day, Mr. Minturn? I gave him a ticket, and he just rushed in with it and informed us he wasn't going to circuses any more, because the Bible says they are wicked fellows. What do you think of that?"
"Humph!" said Mr. Minturn. "The Bible says it would be better for a man, sometimes, if a millstone were about his neck, and he were in the bottom of the sea. I'd look out for that, if I were you. Hurry up with your meat; I ought to be at the store."
Tip went home to Kitty. She still swung on the gate; at least she was there when he came up.
"Oh, Tip," she said, "are you going to take me? Oh, Tip, do! I never asked you for anything before."
Tip walked slowly up the yard, with his hands in his pockets, troubled,—not knowing what to say, or how to say it. At last he stopped and wheeled about. "Kitty, I can't; I can't go. I could get tickets if I dared, but I don't mean to go any more. They're bad, wicked men, and I'm trying to be"—
But Kitty twitched herself away from him, and wouldn't hear any more.
"Do go off!" she said. "You're a mean, ugly, hateful boy! I'm sorry you got so awful good, if you can't do that little much for me. Go away and let me alone."
Even in his sore trouble a little flash of joy shot through Tip's heart. He was different, then. Kitty had noticed it; she knew he was trying to be different. There must be a little bit of change in him.
"Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away."
Over and over in his mind did Tip repeat this verse; it seemed to sound all around him, and mixed up with everything he did. And yet he went out of the house that evening, and turned straight down the street in the direction leading to the tented circus grounds, walking along slowly, talking to himself.
"It won't do any harm just to listen to the music. I don't mean to go in—of course I don't! Suppose I'd do that, after all I said to Kitty! Besides, I couldn't if I would; I haven't got any ticket. I'm just going to walk down that way, and see if there's lots of folks going, and if the music sounds nice."
"Avoid it, pass not by it." Oh yes, Tip knew; he heard the voice, yet on he went; beginning to walk swiftly, only saying in answer, "I ain't going in; I couldn't if I wanted to; and I don't want to."
By and by he came within sight of the tents and within sound of the music, which, to his untaught ears, was wonderfully beautiful; came up even to the very door of the large tent, bewitched to go just a step nearer, though he didn't mean to go in, not he.