Watch–Work–Wait Part 5

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Watch–Work–Wait is a Webnovel created by Sarah A. Myers.
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She inquired who Ned Graham was, and having heard, declared that “n.o.body should starve in her neighbourhood; she would not only give the little boy the pennies, but see after the old woman.”

It was only when sent on some errand to the neighbourhood he could look in on old Mrs. Graham and her grandson; but when he did, his heart was filled with such joy as made him forget that he had ever suffered or been sad. The “cup of cold water,” given in the spirit of Him who went about doing good, insures its own reward; he had extended the sympathy and kindness due by the bond of human brotherhood to those more dest.i.tute than himself, and he found himself blessed. The cold looks and cheerless meal that awaited him on his return home, had now no power to dim the cheerful light of his soul; and when he lay down on his hard pallet, and slept as only childhood can sleep, dreams, born of the holy duty which had that day been performed, hovered around his pillow, shedding an influence not less bright than had been his waking joy.

Although, the prevailing temper of his mind was peace, its rule was by no means steady; many a cloud alternated with his sunshine, many a trial awoke the natural spirit, and many a temptation enticed him to sin. But in his Bible, now never neglected, he found not only a buckler that made him proof against every besetment, but experienced that each promise there will be found a staff to lean upon, able to bear our whole weight of sin, of sorrow, and of trial. By the glorious example of sinless purity, yet of lowly meekness and complete submission to a Father’s will, as exhibited by our blessed Saviour, he learned to practise the “charity” which “suffereth long,” and “beareth all things;” so that even Mrs. Walters was obliged to acknowledge that really “Bill was not a bad kind of a boy.”

None are, however, free from sin, and the boy had many struggles against the natural inclination to do evil; he was also often sorely tempted; but sufficient grace was given by Him who hath promised that none shall be tempted above what he is able to bear, to make a way of escape.

The summer of the second year had pa.s.sed away, and the advance of autumn had somewhat shortened the days, not, however, yet so much so as to make it necessary to light up the shop. Jem Taylor always went away at the close of working hours, and as William was the only one who boarded with the Walters, he was constantly left alone.

One evening Mr. and Mrs. Walters went out together to a place of public amus.e.m.e.nt, and having great confidence in “Bill,” although they treated him most unkindly, they left him in charge of the house.

Taking a seat in the unlighted shop, the lad looked through the open door on the pa.s.sers-by, and his heart grew sad at the thought, that among them all there was no one who cared for him. Naturally of a gentle and loving spirit, he longed for suitable companionship on which he might lavish his wealth; but, except the Burtons, with whom he could spend but little time, there was no one from whose influence gleams of sunshine could steal in upon his heart and cheer its desolation. “I have always heard it said,” was his musing thought, “that if one were kind and affectionate, he would be sure to receive love in return. I do all I can to please Mr. and Mrs. Walters, but I am certain I shall never be able to win their love, and I am _so_ lonesome.”

By this time the twilight had deepened almost into night, rendering objects nearly indistinct. The pa.s.sing crowd had gradually grown less, but our hero neither noticed the increasing gloom nor the comparative quiet of the street, until aroused by the sound of music. Some German street musicians still abroad were playing the sweet and touching air, “Why, O why, my heart, this sadness?” and the sounds awoke a different train of meditation. How often had he heard that strain at home, and now, how vividly the happy scenes of the once happy times enjoyed there came up before him! The poverty, privation, toil, and sorrow borne there, lost half their magnitude; every joy was reflected back ten-fold. He felt as does some sailor on a stormy sea, and looked back to its shelter from the jealousies, trials, and turmoils of the world, as the storm-tossed mariner would have regarded the quiet haven he had left for ever; the recollection of all that had once been his within those humble walls was too much for his lately acquired heroism; the long-sealed fountain was opened, and he wept as he had not done for many months.

It was not until the music died faintly down the long street that he recovered his calmness. The tears, however, had proved salutary; and when he wiped them away he felt but the more resolute in his determination to do right, let the sacrifice cost what it might, than ever. “I will be contented,” was his mental resolve, “I will endeavour to grow up good and useful, trying to fulfil worthily the duties required by my heavenly Father. I have murmured much; a good, faithful servant does his master’s will _cheerfully_, but I have not done so.”

Something rubbing against his feet disturbed his train of thought.

What could it be? He looked down to discover, and in the dim and uncertain light saw a small object moving about on the floor. Again it came near: first a gentle mewing, then a low purring sound was heard; and next, something, which he knew at once was a kitten, jumped up into his lap, and, as if glad to have found a resting-place, nestled down to take a comfortable nap.

This movement, however, was not at once permitted; for gently removing the little intruder, he lighted the gas in order to see what kind of feline specimen had thus come voluntarily to seek his acquaintance.

The little animal’s appearance was greatly in its favour; there were many cats in the neighbourhood, some of them frightened-looking and half-starved creatures, but this was a beautiful little grey and white kitten, which had evidently been some one’s favourite, for it was very tame, and had a blue ribbon tied round its neck. But what was he to do with it? Mrs. Walters, he knew, was a sworn enemy to cats and dogs, and, had opportunity been allowed, would have waged a war of extermination against both races. He dared not keep it, and yet how could he resolve to drive it out into the street, where it would be sure to be killed? “The poor thing has strayed from home,” said he to himself; “I wish I knew what I ought to do; stay–if I keep and feed it with the milk I get every day for Mrs. Walters, that will be no better than stealing; and if I tell her it is here, she will drown it.

I wonder if Mrs. Burton would like to have it; but, indeed, I would like to keep it myself, I am often so lonesome. But I will get Thomas to try and find out who it belongs to, and tell them–“

He could not finish the sentence, for he was still hesitating as to what was the line of duty. The little creature, however, pleaded its own cause. As he took it up and petted it, it nestled up close to his cheek, and mewed gently, as if uttering a pet.i.tion for mercy. William could not resist the appeal. Right or wrong he must keep it; so he carried it up to his garret, and covered it up in his bed, after which he returned to the shop to resume his watch, and think how his kitten was to be cared for–and, far more important, how he was to coax Mrs.

Walters into a cessation of hostilities against the feline tribe, at least so far as to tolerate the little wanderer.

His uncle and aunt arrived in due time,–the lady in high good humour, which our hero thought it a pity to disturb by mentioning the presence of an unwelcome guest. He would tell her in the morning; but when the morning came, she was in such an angry mood that, as he was well aware, no benevolence was to be expected from her then. However, the kitten must be fed, and to do this he was prepared. He found an old bowl, which had been put in the garret with some cracked crockery.

This he took along when sent on his daily errand for milk for the family, and, having a penny or two in his pocket, he told Mrs. Burton about his kitten, and asked if she would not sell him some every day.

Pleased with the conscientiousness which prompted the boy to buy food for his favourite rather than take a crumb from his employers without their permission, she told him he might keep his pennies, for she would give him a little milk every day for his cat. “But, Billy dear,”

she added, “you had better tell Mrs. Walters all about it. Do everything open and above-board. Don’t be ashamed or afraid of anything but sin. She must find it out at last, and will be more angry with you for hiding the matter. Always come straight out with the truth; you will find it the right way in the end.”

The old watchman promised to try to find the owner of the kitten, at the same time advising our hero either to tell Mrs. Walters the truth, or bring the little animal to his house, as his wife, he said, “had quite a fancy for four-footed pets.”

William, however, could not at once decide to part with his new acquaintance, since he felt certain that in either case parting must be the consequence. His indecision, however, was attended with a more speedy result than he antic.i.p.ated, and not less painful than sudden.

He had kept the kitten a few days, but in those few days he had learned to love the little thing dearly. Its graceful gambols amused him; and whatever might have been the kind of home from which it had strayed, it certainly showed itself as happy in the boy’s rude garret-room as it could have been anywhere. As every day increased his attachment for the playful creature, so every day made the duty of telling Mrs. Walters of its presence or giving it to Mrs. Burton the harder. He had at length nearly resolved to do the latter, when an incident occurred which showed him how necessary it was always to be prompt in the discharge of duty.

One day Mrs. Walters had occasion to search for something in an old chest which stood in William’s room; and the poor kitten, never dreaming what an enemy was near, crept forth from its hiding-place in the bed, and began fearlessly to gambol around one who had no kindly sympathies to awaken. As she looked round to see if she could discover from whence the intruder came, she espied, in a corner, the old bowl still half full of milk, and a few crumbs of bread beside it, and was at once a.s.sured that William had brought the cat from some place–thus outraging her authority and braving her prejudices.

There was but one course for a nature like hers to pursue. She saw no beauty in the graceful limbs, neither had she any respect for the mysterious principle of life–that gift which none but the great Creator can bestow, and cared not how recklessly she destroyed it.

Burning with anger against our hero, she s.n.a.t.c.hed up the unconscious kitten and descended to the shop, where, finding no one but Taylor and the object of her present wrath, she poured out a volley of reproaches with a rapidity which excluded all possibility of being answered.

Both were too much startled to attempt to speak; indeed there was but little time allowed, for, even during the first ebullition of fury, she advanced to the open door and flung the unhappy kitten as far as she could into the street. This seemed to satisfy her, for she at once left the shop, and very soon after was seen going down the street.

William, by this sudden movement, was thrown completely off his guard, and anger, fierce and violent anger at such an outrage, took possession of his soul. Well was it for him that time was not allowed him to speak, for he would have uttered words afterwards greatly to be regretted. A few moments, however, were sufficient to quell the tempest. “Doest thou well to be angry?” were the words that arose first to his mind; and with them came also thoughts of One who taught, “Resist not evil,” nor render railing for railing. But why should such cruelty have been shown to the poor kitten? and the thought that perhaps he had done wrong in keeping it without Mrs. Walters’

permission gave him great pain. If so, he was content to bear any outpouring of her wrath without endeavouring to excuse himself; but still, he was determined to tell her how he had procured the milk for his kitten, lest she should think him a thief.

As he sat bending over his work, one tear after another fell upon the leather he was hammering, and his evident distress awoke the compa.s.sion of Jem Taylor, who, as we have already said, was not hard-hearted, and was always ready to pity the poor boy, who suffered daily under the iron rule of those who cared not for the happiness or misery which were in their keeping. We cannot follow the journeyman very far through life, but let us hope that the mercy which is extended unto all reached unto him, and taught him how evil were his ways. The time, however, was not now. The law of G.o.d had not been impressed on his heart in childhood; he looked upon lying as a venial offence, and had never learned that “no one who worketh abomination or maketh a lie shall dwell in the city of which G.o.d is the glory and the light.” Happy was it for our poor hero that the good seed had been sown early and prayerfully by his humble but pious parents; but for this he must have fallen before the tempter.

Mr. Walters had gone out to purchase leather, and the time was favourable for the thoughtless journeyman to pour in the poison so well calculated to destroy the soul. “That’s a terrible tempered woman, Bill,” said he, “and if I was in your place I would run away.

How she did pitch your poor cat into the street! If it had been mine, I tell you, I would teach her better in future: instead of sitting there and crying like a great baby, I would plan how I could help myself. Why could not you have told her you did not know anything about the cat? Cats run about everywhere; and where people are so hard as old Walters and his wife, a little lying is no harm. It is very silly in you always to tell the truth. The old man, indeed, does not ask you for your money now; but when she wants to borrow it, you never tell her you have none, although any one can see you do not like to give it. Now, quit being such a fool, and take care of number one. I can tell you of a variety of ways in which you can cheat her.”

William sat opposite to the tempter, but did not once raise his eyes to meet those he felt were resting upon him. He trembled. It was almost beyond the power of childish resolution to resist the dark power that was ready to impose a bond which would have sealed his ruin; but he had learned too much of the true wisdom taught in the Bible to surrender willingly to the influence of evil. He felt the weakness of his own heart, but knew also from whence only help could come. He continued to work in silence at the shoe he was making, but at the same time he lifted up his heart in prayer: “Heavenly Father, suffer me not to be led into temptation,” was the fervent pet.i.tion which issued from the secret chamber of the inner shrine; and He who seeth in secret heard and answered.

Jem Taylor, mistaking his silence for a.s.sent, went on: “You have it harder than any ‘prentice boy I ever saw. Not a chap in all New York would put up with such victuals as you get; and then to be rated and called a thief because you stole a drop of milk for the poor kitten, was too outrageous! Such people as these deserve nothing better than to have lies told them every hour in the day; and, besides, I would help myself to whatever I could find in the cupboard,–pay yourself, boy, for the money the old woman borrows.”

“O my dear mother!” thought William, “when you so often told me of the temptations I should meet with in the world, I could hardly believe it; but now I know what it is to be tempted, and that if left to myself I must fall.”

Finding he still did not answer, Jem, nowise discouraged, went on: “A day or two since, when the old woman went to market, she forgot the key of the cupboard and left it in the lock, and the door swung most invitingly open. There was a cut pie and a plate of cakes. I told you to go quickly and help yourself, for no one would see you, and I would not tell. It was but fair you should take the worth of your money; but you were too great a blockhead. You looked at the good things there, and came away empty-handed. Strange, you would steal milk for the cat, and scruple to take a cake (which, I am sure, you earn hardly enough) for yourself.”

William now raised his eyes, and as he looked straight into the face of Jem Taylor, the latter could not bear the bright and radiant holy expression lent them by the influence of truth, with which his soul was filled. It was now his turn to look down and work in silence, while the boy was speaking.

“Jem,” said he, “I did not steal the milk; I told Mrs. Burton about the kitten, and she gave it to me. And when you wanted me to take the cakes, you did say that no one would see me, and that you would not tell. I steal, Jem! No, I could not steal if I were starving; for although a.s.sured that no man saw me, where could I go to escape the searching eye of G.o.d? I saw the closet open, and the way clear, but I felt no wish to take what was not my own; I was hungry, and the pie tempting, but my conscience, like a strong man, held me back. No, Jem, my mother told me that our heavenly Father numbers every hair of our heads, and I will never run away, lie, nor steal; and no distress shall make me willingly wander from the right path; living or dying, I will try to keep all his commandments, and leave all my affairs to Him who cannot do wrong.”

Oh, glorious and holy majesty of truth! who can resist its power? and now the journeyman, although ashamed to meet the glance of a child whose principles were based upon the law of Him who is the Truth, recognised its beauty and its force. He was addicted to low and base pursuits and pleasures, but the signature impressed originally on the heart of man, although half effaced, was not entirely obliterated, and he shrank back as from a superior power; for he felt as if a child had been commissioned to judge and condemn him.

A certain eloquent writer has said, “Every one is a missionary for good or evil, whether he designs it or not; he may be a blot, radiating a dark influence over the society to which he belongs; or he may be a blessing, spreading light and benediction over his own circle,–but a blank no one can be!” And the two we have been describing belonged to these cla.s.ses; one was the leaven that sours or corrupts, the other the salt that silently operates; each was performing a mission for eternity. Which one, dear young reader, was to meet approval or endure judgment in that great day when all shall stand before the judgment-seat? How long the better emotion which had been created in the heart of Jem Taylor lasted, we cannot tell; he began to talk on other matters, and for a long time there was no more temptation from that quarter.

Mr. Walters came in soon afterward, and having heard of the affair, was ready to renew the strife with our poor hero; but as Thomas Burton, making a most opportune visit, bore testimony to the truth of our hero’s story, no further punishment than the loss of the cat was deemed necessary.

CHAPTER X.

MAKING OTHERS HAPPY.

William had always been a delicate boy, although, while in the country, his health was good; but now the confined air of the shop, and the odour of the leather, and the stooping posture consequent on his trade, began to tell painfully upon him. He wondered what was the matter that he did not now ever feel bright and hopeful. He went about his work mechanically, was listless and silent. His features a.s.sumed a cast of anxiety unnatural in a child, and painful to notice. Still, no duty was neglected, nor did the Walters notice the change in his looks, since all allotted services were duly rendered. The young spirit was gradually yielding to the oppressive yoke, although patiently borne. But although cast down and perplexed, it was not in despair. The light commanded by “G.o.d to shine out of darkness” still illumined his heart and gave him comfort, and at the source ever open to the broken-hearted he could still appeal. Without the support of that “arm” which is never “shortened that it cannot save,” he could not have borne up under the hardships of his present lot.

He was not sent quite so much into the street as at first; for he could now make shoes, and his work was valuable to his master. He did not often see little Ned Graham, as it was only on Sat.u.r.day evenings that he carried home the week’s work; but he always saw Mrs. Bradley at her place in the market, and through her sent the pennies he was able from time to time to gather.

One day Mr. Walters came in from the upper shop with a pair of shoes in his hand, which he told our hero to carry to Professor Stewart’s, No. 200 —- street. He obeyed at once, for he was glad to breathe the open air; but the walk was not productive of the same pleasure as formerly. His mood was sad and his step feeble; although the air was only clear and bracing, it sent a chill through his weakened frame, turning what had once been his favourite recreation into positive pain. The variety met with in the streets had no power to attract his attention; the pictures in the windows had lost their charms; the flashing waters of the n.o.ble bay covered with vessels, from whose mast-heads floated the flags of many nations, failed to awaken his admiration; it requires lightness of heart to enjoy the beauty spread around us.

Thus, depressed in body and spirit, he wandered on, mechanically, noticing nothing until he had nearly reached No. 200. Some one called him. It was little Ned Graham, who, as usual, was getting pieces of boards and chips at a new building which was going up. Very thin indeed was his clothing, and far from healthy were his looks; but the natural buoyancy, which even the hard hand of poverty could not entirely crush, remained, and his whole countenance lighted up at the sight of his friend William.

“What now, Ned?” said the latter as a ray of cheerfulness shot over his sad heart, on seeing the happiness meeting with himself gave to the boy; “where are you going so far from home, bare-footed and half bare-legged, on such a cold day as this?”

“My feet are a little red,” said Ned, looking down at his red-hued supporters; “but I don’t mind it much, when I can get such heaps of wood for the carrying. There was a fire up our way not long ago, and I got ever so much. We have a great pile now, and grandmother can keep the fire going. I want to carry all I can before the snow comes, for I don’t expect to have any shoes. But why have you stayed away so long?

Mrs. Bradley gave us the pennies you sent, but grandmother said she ‘wanted to see yourself to thank you.'”

“I have done nothing worth thanks, Ned,” said William. “I only wish I could.”

“Grandmother said you had been a good friend to us, although you are but a boy, and only a shoemaker’s ”prentice,'” rejoined Ned; “for you did not only send us the pennies, but Mrs. Bradley too. She has been so good to us; and when we thank her, she says we ought rather to thank you. She gave me these trousers; and although they are too short, I do not care for that, or that the street boys call me ‘duck legs.'”

“It is our heavenly Father whom you ought to thank, rather than either of us,” added William, not noticing the last part of the speech; “but here is No. 200; stay; let me see. I do believe it is the very house in front of which I dropped the shoes; that is certainly the window where the old gentleman stood.”

He rung the bell at the bas.e.m.e.nt door as he spoke. A voice from within bade him enter. He did so, and found himself in a neat room, furnished with many books. A middle-aged gentleman sat at a table writing, but laid down his pen in order to see what the intruder wanted. William stated his errand.

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