Watch–Work–Wait Part 2

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Watch–Work–Wait is a Webnovel created by Sarah A. Myers.
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The stranger continued to gaze on the boy with much emotion. It was evident, from the expression of his whole face, that his heart had been subject to the transforming operation of divine grace; and he possessed the true Christian spirit, which leads to the practice of that Christian charity which “never faileth.” He laid his hand upon the boy’s head, and said, in a solemn tone, “May G.o.d bless and care for thee, poor orphan; may it be with thee as with the good seed sown in good ground; where it taketh root, by the blessing of G.o.d it groweth and bringeth forth fruit, even to a hundred-fold.”

William looked up into the stranger’s face in grateful astonishment; just so had his mother often laid her hand upon his head and blessed him; and now the stranger’s caress did him good, although he did not comprehend the meaning of his words.

“You do not understand me,” said he; “I will explain. When you plant a seed or little twig in the earth, It forms a root: you water it when it is dry; the sunshine, the dew, and the rain, all refresh and promote it’s growth; so that at length it becomes a large and beautiful tree. So when any one receives the word of G.o.d Into his heart in faith, it will strike deep root, spring up, grow and ripen with a rich increase, bringing forth abundantly those good fruits of the Spirit ‘which are through Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of G.o.d.’ But as, without proper attention, your tree would wither or grow into wildness, so also is it necessary to nourish the good seed sown in our hearts; and this can only be done by constant and fervent prayer.”

The stranger went on to explain, in such terms as a child could understand, the operations of the Spirit of grace and the exercise of faith. He told him of One who was mighty to save, who had said, “Suffer little children to come unto me,” and was ever near to those Who trust in him; who would hear their prayer in distress, and aid them In the hour of temptation. “But remember,” he added, “there is no true happiness except in the service of G.o.d; and to do this acceptably it is necessary to ‘watch and pray.’ Watch that you may pray, and pray that you may be safe.”

William listened to the words of the stranger with an emotion altogether new to him; he had heard such words before, but now they were invested with a new meaning. Was it not the quickening influence of the Spirit of grace that was now operating upon his saddened heart, like the silent but refreshing dew on the arid earth? Our tale must show whether the seed thus down by the way-side was to spring up, perish, or bring forth fruit a hundred-fold.

The stranger saw the impression he had made. He would not interrupt the workings of the child’s soul by further words, and turning away toward another part of the graveyard, he left the boy to his self-communion.

After a while he returned, and found him still sitting on the grave where all his treasure of love was buried; but he had ceased weeping, and his countenance no longer wore the expression of despairing sorrow; trust in G.o.d and faith in the promise of heavenly protection, had strengthened his soul, and instead of the heart-breaking sense of loneliness that had rested on him since the loss of his mother, he felt the blessedness of a.s.sured protection from Him who has promised to be the orphan’s Father. He was holding the little rude sketch he had made, to be treasured as a memorial of the spot so sacred, when far away, and was gazing on it attentively when the stranger returned.

“Are you going to colour your sketch?” he asked in a kindly tone; “it would make it more lively and natural.”

“I have no colours, sir,” replied William; “and do not know how to paint. My father could paint, but he never wished me to learn; but when I look on this little drawing, I can think of the bright roses and the green gra.s.s here, and that will do.”

“Give me your picture, my child; I will colour it for you,” said the stranger. “I am a painter, and have been staying for some days in the village; come this evening to my room, No. 24, at the hotel, and I will return your picture, and then you can tell me more of yourself and your parents.”

And now they parted, each one taking opposite paths, for their present homes lay quite apart from each other. It was late before William found time to go to the hotel, but when he asked the landlord to show him to the painter’s room, No. 24, instead of ushering him into the presence of his unknown friend, the old man handed him a small packet, telling him, at the same time, that the stranger had received intelligence which had demanded his sudden departure, but that he had left the packet to be delivered by his own hand.

These tidings fell like a weight of lead on the boy’s heart; he would gladly have seen that benevolent face again; but, unable to utter a word or repress the tears that would force themselves into his eyes, he took the folded package and went home.

The stranger had taken a hasty departure, but he had not forgotten or neglected his promise; for, on opening the letter, there was his picture coloured,–and on the back of it was written, “Watch, that you may pray; and pray, that you may be safe.” The boy’s heart was touched with even deeper emotion than before, and as he knelt down that night, the last he was to spend in his native village, he prayed that G.o.d would help him to nourish the good seed sown in his heart, and be his Father and Guide in the new life on which he was entering.

CHAPTER V.

WILLIAM’S NEW HOME.

Great was the change our poor boy experienced between living in the country and in the city. Instead of the brightly flashing river, with its sail-boats and schooners, the pleasant village environed by verdant meadows and flower-filled gardens, there was nothing but long rows of tall, stately houses, looking coldly grand, or narrow streets and dark lanes, where mud and filth mixed together were suggestive of cheerlessness and poverty. His heart sunk within him as he walked along the busy streets, where many people were pa.s.sing to and fro, bent on their various errands of duty or pleasure, and felt that in that hurrying crowd there was not one to care for him, and among that wilderness of houses he had no home.

The shoemaker to whom he was apprenticed had once been a different man from what he was at present. During Raymond’s life, and while on terms of intimacy with him, he had borne the reputation of a pious, and certainly was an industrious and thrifty man; but failure and the loss of an excellent wife had wrought a sad change in his character and temper; and having married a second wife, who turned out a virago and a shrew, there was little hope of his improving. He was still industrious, and owing to his former reputation for honesty and doing good work, he still retained many of his old customers. He had a small shop in a public part of the city, where he took the measures for shoes or sold those on hand; but he lived in a low-roofed, comfortless-looking house, far down the city, where he had also a shop, in which he kept a journeyman or two to do the mending, which was all sent there.

There were no children to gladden this sullen household by their mirth, and there was no piety to send its gleams of sunlight to lessen the gloom that dwelt within its precincts; there was no one there who loved G.o.d and honoured his laws, neither did the words of prayer or praise ever ascend from the family altar. They were contented to live for this world alone, caring nothing for that heavenly inheritance promised to those who love G.o.d and keep his commandments. Poor William! this was a dreadful place for him to be, with every inducement, from bad example, to stray from the true path in which he had until now been trained to walk; how great was the danger that he would now follow the leading of those to whose guardianship he had been thus mistakenly committed. A letter which he wrote to his friend, George Herman, will, perhaps, explain something of his condition and feelings:–

Dear George,

I should have written to you long ago, as I promised; but I am kept all the time so busy, and now I am afraid Mr. Walters will scold me for wasting time. I call him Mr. Walters (the others call him master), and not uncle, for he is not my uncle, although his first wife was my aunt. I do not like this big city of New York, everything is so different from my own home when my dear mother was alive. You never saw anything so grand as the houses here; but I would rather be back, living in the smallest house there, than have to stay in this great city, where there are so many rich people, and, yes, George, a great many more poor folks than I thought were in the whole world. I have cried so much since I have been here; Mr. Walters is almost always in a bad humour, and I cannot bear to mend shoes; I would almost rather do without wearing them. There is always a great pile of torn boots and shoes lying in the corner, and I have to help to mend them.

Oh, how much pleasanter it was to work for the farmers round M—- all the week, and then go to church on Sunday! They have the grandest churches here, and I have heard beautiful music from the organ when I pa.s.sed or stood at the door; but I have never been inside of a church since I left M—-, for none of our people ever go, nor do we have any family prayer.

There is one thing, however, in New York that I do like; you ought to see the beautiful picture-shops in Broadway. I cannot help drawing a little, although I resolve every time shall be the last. I did a very wrong thing two days ago, which I must tell you of. I do not love Mrs. Walters, for she is always scolding me, and she has a very sharp nose and chin. I had a piece of chalk in my pocket, and I drew her likeness on the end of the work-bench. Jem Taylor, our journeyman, laughed so, that Mr. Walters would know what amused him so. When he saw it, he beat me with a last, and hurt me greatly. I cried, not for the beating, but because I felt I had done wrong. I remembered what my dear mother said about caricaturing, and I was so sorry I had done it. I begged Mrs. Walters’ pardon, and told her I never would do it again; and, indeed, I never will. I am afraid I shall become a bad boy here. Jem Taylor swears dreadfully, and tells so many falsehoods. He is the only one here who is kind to me; but when I hear his oaths, and know that he is saying what is not true, I cannot like him. My mother always warned me so against saying the least thing that was not true. Ah, if she had known what kind of people these were, she would never have placed me with them. But I will try to please them, and try to be content; and I do pray every day that I may not be tempted to lie and swear like those with whom I am obliged to live. There is a good old man, a tailor, who lives next door to us. He is going to M—-, and will give you this letter; so good-bye, dear George, and do not forget your friend,

William Raymond.

He sealed the letter and sent it by the tailor, and he felt somewhat happier, for he had some faint hope that his kind friend, the baker, would interfere in his behalf. He had not, however, magnified the misery of his condition; for not only did he feel keenly the want of such comforts as he had enjoyed in his humble home, but his life was rendered miserable by the injustice and severity with which he was treated. His master was a man of violent temper, who, finding he possessed little apt.i.tude for shoemaking, tried to make him love it, first by flogging, and afterwards by half-starvation; following in the last-named measure the advice of his miserly help-mate, who believed it the best way of developing genius. In vain did William try by gentleness and zeal to soften their harshness; he had no one to interfere in his behalf, and he was made boy of all work, and scolded and blamed from morning till night. None loved him, and while he pined for the loss of the affection he once enjoyed, he found no one to love. No one treated him kindly, and gladness became a stranger to his heart.

In the midst of Sabbath privileges, he was in danger of becoming a heathen. He could not go to church or Sabbath school, because he was wanted to a.s.sist in the regular Sunday cooking; he heard no word of prayer or psalm of praise, and he might well have exclaimed with the Psalmist, “I looked on my right hand, but there was no man that would know me; refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.”

Still, he could not at once forget the teachings of his early childhood. He prayed that he might be kept from the power of the wicked, and the great and mighty Hearer of prayer was indeed his guard. His eye fell kindly on the desolate boy, and was only preparing him by present trials for future good. Still our young hero was not without faults. There was a little spice of pride in his composition, and, as we have learned from his letter, he hated the humble trade to which he was apprenticed. This was wrong: there is no occupation, however lowly, which cannot be made respectable by the proper discharge of the duties belonging to it; and if our young readers will remember that all their needs and changes are known unto Him who bountifully supplieth all, they will also recognise how possible it is to honour Him, whose servants they are, by an upright walk and conscientious advance in the allotted path.

But there were some pleasures for the poor boy even here, although deprived of home comforts. How kindly has G.o.d appointed that the elastic spirit of childhood cannot be crushed! and to one of the fanciful and enthusiastic temperament of our hero it was indeed a great blessing. The objects met with in a great and populous city are always striking; and our little shoemaker, as he walked through the streets, felt himself elevated, not lowered, by the grandeur around him. It showed him what man was enabled to do by energy and industry, and he determined that, although obliged to cobble at old boots and shoes for the present, it should not be so for ever. As he was made errand boy, he was obliged to be often in the streets; and then the pleasure he enjoyed in standing before the windows of the picture-shops, made him forget the tears which he so often shed under his master’s caning, his mistress’s continual fault-finding, and his meagre fare. Sometimes, while gazing on the works of art, so entrancing to a child with the soul of a painter, he also forgot how the time pa.s.sed, and, having far exceeded that demanded by his errand, was on his return accused of playing the idler, and received an idler’s reward.

Even this could not cure him of his love of pictures. Like one who had found a treasure in a desert, he was not to be deterred by the difficulties in the way to its enjoyment. He did not persist in the course which would have provoked Mr. Walters’ anger, but started off on a full run from the time he left the house, not stopping until he had delivered his freight of boots and shoes; and feeling that the remainder of the time was conscientiously his own, he spent it, without compunction, in the contemplation of the art he so much loved.

CHAPTER VI.

A TIME OF TRIAL.

A time of trial was approaching, a trial that was to decide whether the good seed sown by the pious parents had taken root in good soil, and was able to endure the ordeal of strong temptation.

Jem Taylor, the only one who ever showed poor Will any kindness, knowing of his great love for painting,–for to him only had he shown his little charcoal sketches–had no regard for truth, and, on account of his naturally kind and liberal disposition, was only the more dangerous as a companion for our hitherto differently trained hero.

Seeing him one day returning exhausted and out of breath, his hands trembling so that he could scarcely hold his work, he began to administer the palatable poison which every human heart is only too ready to receive. “I tell you, Bill,” said he, “you are the biggest blockhead I ever saw. If you like to look at the pictures, stand at the windows as long as you please, and do not run yourself to death.

Just look at the other shoemakers’ boys; they hang their string of boots and shoes over their shoulders, and go whistling and singing along the streets quite at their ease, playing marbles at the corners for pennies with the newspaper boys;–they know how to lie it out so as to escape beating, and have always some coppers in their pockets.

When old Walters rates you for staying, cannot you say that Mr.

So-and-So made you wait so long before he would give you the money; or that Mrs. Somebody was not at home, and the cook told you to stay, for she would be back in a minute, and you could not be paid until they were tried on?”

Will was startled. He let the shoe he was mending fall from his hands, and gazed with terror and astonishment on his reckless companion.

“Why, that would be–lying!” said he slowly and in a low voice, as if he dreaded to utter the hateful word.

“To be sure it is lying, and nothing else,” answered Jem, laughing; “everybody lies, cannot you do so too?”

The blood mounted to the temples of the indignant boy, spreading its glow over his fair forehead, and causing his usually gentle eyes to flush with righteous anger.

“I a liar! I tell a lie?” he cried. “No! not to escape a beating every day will I tell a falsehood!”

“And why not, you silly jackanapes?” asked his unG.o.dly comrade, in a tone of derision.

“Because my parents taught me it was sinful, and G.o.d has forbidden it,” said William. “My mother always told me that lying was the first step in the road to ruin; and I read in my Bible that no one ‘that loveth and maketh a lie’ can enter into that Holy City of which G.o.d himself is the glory and the light.”

Dear young reader, how glorious is the majesty of truth! The dissipated and sin-loving journeyman, long since made familiar with vice, could not listen unmoved as the boy uttered the scriptural denunciation in the solemn and reverential manner he had been taught was proper, it was long since Jem Taylor had heard any word from that holy book, and now, awed by the dignity of the truth, that great principle of Christian life and conduct, he made no answer, but continued to work in silence. Perhaps he might have resumed the subject; but Mr. Walters came in and commenced the usual fault-finding, and Jem answering reproach with reproach, there was nothing more said.

One day soon after, William was directed to go to the upper shop for a pair of white satin shoes, which he was to carry to a wealthy lady who lived during the summer months in a handsome cottage in the suburbs.

How happy he was at thought of seeing something like the country once more! and he started off at full speed, his elastic spirit happy and hopeful as if it had never known a sorrow. The sunshine was so cheering, and rested so brightly on the spires as it bathed them in its golden radiance, that his whole mood partook of the genial glow.

He had reached the upper part of the city, and was quite in the neighbourhood of the house where the shoes were to be left, when a large dog coming round the corner at a speed as rapid as his own, ran directly in his way, and threw him over. There had been a heavy shower in the early part of the afternoon, the gutters were still full of water, and although he was not hurt by his fall, yet in the shock the shoes were dashed from his hand, and fell into the muddy bath.

With feelings of terror not to be described, our poor hero saw the black fluid streaming over the beautiful shoes; and after having stood for a moment as if paralyzed, he plunged his hand into the filthy pool and drew them out.

He might have served as a study for a painter as he stood surveying the consequences of the mishap; his countenance expressed almost every emotion of the human mind, as he held up the shoes and tried to wipe away the black mud which dyed them, until at length, finding all his efforts ineffectual, he burst into a fit of pa.s.sionate weeping.

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