Watch–Work–Wait Part 6

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Watch–Work–Wait is a Webnovel created by Sarah A. Myers.
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“Ah, yes; shoes,” said the gentleman; “I do not know anything about them; my wife is not at home, but you can come again to-morrow, and see what she says. You look tired; there is a shilling for you.”

William took the money, but as he did so blushed deeply, and seemed about to return it.

“Why, what is the matter, boy?” asked the gentleman; “do not you think it enough?”

“O no, sir; indeed not that; indeed it is more than enough; but–“

“But what?” inquired the gentleman.

“I do not want to take it now, so I will send somebody–a little boy–for it to-morrow.”

The gentleman, who now began to suspect that all was not right, looked very grave, as he repeated the words, “You will send for it to-morrow.

Boy, tell me what this means. It is certainly very strange behaviour.

Nay, you cannot go until you tell me.”

William saw it was best to tell the truth, and he did so in as straightforward a way as possible; and stating at the close that as he believed he should be questioned whether or not he had received money, he preferred the gentleman should give it to a boy whom he would send, so that he might be able to say with truth he had not received any money.

“Your motive is a good one,” said the gentleman; “but you must be very careful, lest, while you are serving your fellow-creatures, you offend G.o.d. Truth in all things, my boy; let the truth always be spoken, and leave the issue to One who is himself the Truth. No matter under how amiable a pretext any one violates the divine law; it is no less a violation of that pure and holy law; and although there are many who consider that only the falsely spoken word which pa.s.ses over the lips is a lie, there are many other ways of outraging the truth. The acted lie, perhaps more common than the spoken, is not less hateful in the sight of Him who is of purer eyes than to behold sin without abhorrence; and all deception, however skilfully veiled from human perception, is falsehood in his sight.”

“I am sorry, sir,” said William; “but I did not know how else to do; I did not know that would be lying.”

“It would be a shifting of the truth, an evasion,” said Mr. Stewart.

“If you hope to run your earthly career with safety or success, let truth be the foundation on which you build it. Falsehood _must_ have an end, but truth will triumph. Then why distort, or seek to disguise it, since the Scriptures tell us that ‘obeying the truth purifies the soul?’ ‘Who shall abide in G.o.d’s holy hill? who shall dwell in his tabernacle? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.’ Here is your money, to do with as you please: you can send the boy, however, to me; if he is as poor as you say, he must be looked after.”

“He was at the door just now,” said William, as he looked up and down the street; “but he must have gone home with his chips, as I do not see him.”

“Very well,” was the answer, “send him to-morrow.”

A person entering now interrupted the conversation, and our hero departed on his way. As he turned the corner he found little Ned, who, not yet tired of gathering sticks, was adding to the weight of his basket by some spoils from a lumber-yard. He delivered the message from Professor Stewart, and having given him the shilling just received, he bade him buy bread for his grandmother, and once more set off at a round pace for home.

His steps were, however, not so rapid as to banish thought, and although he dreaded the reproach he would meet, when, if questioned, he should tell how he had disposed of the money, he never for a moment swerved from his determination to tell _the whole truth_, let the consequences be what they might. He was not, however, so much taken up with his own affairs that he had no sympathy for others. The figure of little Ned Graham, in his thin clothing, thankful for the slight warmth afforded by the worn linen trousers which left his meager limbs bare more than half way from the knee, came still between him and the dark shadows which his own trials cast upon his naturally bright and hoping spirit. “I am wrong to be so depressed,” he said to himself; “we may see blessings in every lot, if we are willing to do so; and poor little Ned is as bright as a lark because he can get wood for the carrying, although he was shivering with cold, and his face looked pinched as if he were only half fed. Stay; let me see; I wonder if I cannot make some sort of shoes for him! There is a pile of old boots and shoes in the back shop, which Mr. Walters said were not worth mending, and he would have carted away. I will ask him about them, and if he has no use for the things, I will make a pair out of the best of them.”

There is no better cure for our selfish sorrow than to plan or execute something to alleviate the sufferings of others, and now the impulsive and naturally energetic spirit of our little shoemaker experienced a sudden rebound at the prospect of what he could do, which beguiled him back to at least comparative happiness, and lightened for a time his bondage of depression.

Smile not, dear young reader, that the task was so easily accomplished. It costs but little to bestow happiness or comfort on another; but small as is the outlay, nothing brings better interest, as our poor hero experienced in the sunshine poured in so suddenly on his lately clouded spirit.

He returned to his home with a lighter heart and more buoyant step than had accompanied his going forth; and felt not only resolute, but fully armed to bear whatever reproach or violence he might meet, when he should be questioned about the money, and declare the truth. His fears on this occasion were without foundation. Mr. Walters was satisfied with his reasons for having left the shoes, and asked no further questions; and Mrs. Walters, not wanting “change,” said nothing about borrowing; so William, truly thankful that all had pa.s.sed over so quietly, retired to rest, wearied indeed in body, but happier in mind than he had been for many days, dreaming not only of the pleasure he should have in making the shoes, but in seeing little Ned’s black eyes dance for joy in receiving them.

CHAPTER XI.

A LABOUR OF LOVE.

In the morning, William did not wait for Mrs. Walters’ usual shrill call of “Bill, get up and make the fire;” for, filled with the project of pursuing a labour of love, he was up with the dawn, and having performed all his allotted tasks, he had time to turn over the whole heap of worn-out shoes, which lay piled up in readiness for the scavengers. Was it not a little surprising that one who so cordially disliked shoemaking should voluntarily undertake a task so repugnant as this! Was it not a proof that he was achieving that moral heroism so beautifully lauded in the Scripture? “He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city,” does not only apply to the restraining of the temper; other discipline is included in its meaning. Does the “charity which, seeking not her own,” but denying self, and sacrificing inclination at the shrine of duty, or in the endeavour to bestow comfort upon the needy, require no effort in its practice? It does indeed; perhaps stronger than to rule the tongue and temper; and although we must admire the moral hero who sets himself firm as a rock to bear reproach in silence, there is more calm grandeur in steady sacrifice of self when performing a repugnant task from a true spirit of benevolence.

It was not, indeed, without some effort, or many temptations to turn away and leave his project unaccomplished, that William persisted in his search. Sad to tell, he could not find what he sought, and he was turning away discouraged, when Jem Taylor came in.

He inquired what Bill had in hand now; and our little shoemaker having told him, he burst into a loud laugh, and declared he could do better for him than that. “I have a pair of shoes,” said he, “of which the upper leather is pretty good, but the soles are all gone; you may have them to cut up for your bare-legged friend. But what are you to do for soles?”

“I never once thought of that!” replied William, and his countenance expressed how great was his disappointment.

“Don’t look so down in the mouth, Bill,” said Jem, good-naturedly. “I suppose. I need not tell you to slice a piece off from old Walters’

leather, for you would consider it stealing, which I don’t; but your cake shall not be all dough, for all that. I’ll buy you a piece of sole, and bring all together to-morrow.”

William thanked the journeyman again and again, and was more than ever grieved that one who knew so well how to be kind should be so resolute in his practice of evil, and pursue a path which he had often confessed he knew to be a wrong one.

There was an unusual press of work, so that for several days he could not go for the shoes left at Professor Stewart’s. No message concerning them having been sent, William was a second time despatched to No. 200 —- street.

Once more he rang the bell at the bas.e.m.e.nt door; the same voice bade him enter; and, seated behind a pile of books, with a pair of gold spectacles on his nose, was the same gentleman who had given him the shilling and the lecture on falsehood. He was writing so busily that our hero was obliged to stand for a moment or two unquestioned; but at last he looked up, and in seeming amazement at the presence of a stranger. “How long have you been here, and what do you want?” was the abrupt salutation.

“I brought a pair of shoes here some days ago,” was the reply; “Mr.

Walters sent me to-day to see if they would suit, as he did not receive any message from the lady.”

“Shoes, shoes,” said the gentleman, musingly; “I have some recollection about them; yes, and your face too; you told me about the little boy to whom you gave the shilling. Well, the little ragam.u.f.fin came, and I believe he is not unworthy. But whether he is or not, he is very poor; and if we try to serve none but the worthy, I am afraid a great many would suffer. He is too young to do much, so I told him to come here once every week, and we will give him something.”

“The shoes, sir,” asked William; “what answer am I to take about the shoes?”

“They were for a lady, I have some indistinct recollection,” rejoined the gentleman smiling. “They are lying just where you put them down; only see what a memory I have; I have not once thought of them since.

Pull that bell, if you please; somebody will come and tell you all about it.”

Our little shoemaker did as he was desired, and an elderly serving-woman almost immediately answered the summons.

“Is Mrs. Stewart at home, Katie?” asked the gentleman, dipping his pen in the ink in order to resume his writing.

“No, sir; she has gone up to your son’s. One of the children is sick, and she said it was likely she would have to stay all night,” was the reply.

“I think, boy, your best plan will be to go there with the shoes,”

said the professor; “it is not far: just keep on up this street until you find yourself almost to the country; you will there see a house built in cottage style, standing back from the street in an enclosure: my son, Mr. Stewart, lives there; ask for Mrs. Stewart and tell her of the shoes; she will decide whether or not to keep them.”

He turned once more to his writing and William was obliged to depart.

Although the day was dark and gloomy, he was too glad to have an excuse for extending his walk; and caring neither for the cold wind that rushed by at intervals, and sent the few leaves that until now had clung to the lindens whirling in the air, nor that the short day was approaching to its close, he walked on rapidly, and was soon at the point of destination.

The description of the house had been too accurately given for its features to be mistaken; plain but elegant, its exterior bespoke the pure taste of its possessors.

There were several steps leading up to the entrance door, which, retreating into a kind of recess, occupied the middle of the building, and opened into a hall with parlours on each side.

William ascended the steps and rung the bell. More than one summons was necessary, and while he waited for somebody to come he had time to look round; and he did gaze into one of the bas.e.m.e.nt rooms, in which were several children. It seemed to be used partly for school purposes, and partly for play; it was not certainly the regular study hours, for there was too much inattention, although a governess was present and giving directions. A girl of twelve years old was practising a music lesson; and a younger one, seated at a table, was writing–all three of the inmates too much occupied to observe the young intruder, who was now so near the window that he could hear part of what was said.

“You play too fast, Clara,” said the teacher; “if you do not count your time, you will never excel in music.”

“Agnes, do not sit so crooked at your writing; it is ruinous to your health. Be careful to spell every word properly; for those who do not learn to spell well while they are young, can never acquire a correct knowledge of it.”

Our little shoemaker stood looking through the window with a pleasure nearly allied to that which had once enchained him before the picture-shops. What was it that so fettered his attention that he did not remark the presence of the servant, who had at last answered the summons of the door-bell? Was it the quiet and beautiful specimen of home instruction he was witnessing? Was it the neat and tasteful furnishing of the apartment,–the handsome but now unoccupied writing-desk, which was provided with every thing necessary, from a pen-knife down to a pen-wiper? Or did something in the shape of an old-fashioned sofa in the corner, on which sat three large dolls, claim the observation which was so intense as to amount to absolute rudeness? Yes, it was one of the leathern ladies that awakened such an extraordinary interest in the boy; for on its feet were the red morocco boots, bound and tied with light blue ribbon–very untasteful was the contrast–which he had made out of grat.i.tude for the kindness shown him on the day in which he dropped the shoes in the gutter.

“What are you staring in there for, boy?” said a broad-faced Irish girl, giving him a pull. “Sure don’t you know it’s not civil to do the likes of that? tell us what it is ye want, and then take yourself off.”

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