"Now for my circle," said Tode, seizing upon the piece of pasteboard which had been cut off. A large plate from the pantry did duty in the absence of sufficient geometrical knowledge, and the circle was quickly produced. Then did Tode's skill at making figures shine forth. In the bright red chalks did he quickly produce a circle of the nine figures around his pasteboard circle.
"Now what is all that for, I should like to know?" Winny asked, looking on half interestedly, half contemptuously.
"I'm just going to show you. You see, the lesson you gave me to-day is the addition table, and that addition table is a tough, ugly job, I can tell you. Well, I pelted away at it till dinner time, and I guess by that time I knew almost as much as I did before I begun it; and I went to Jones' after my dinner, and Mr. Jones he wanted me to take a note for him to a man at the bank, just around the corner from there, you know. Well I went, and the man I took the note to was busy counting money. He wouldn't look at me, but just counted away like lightning. I never see anything like it in my life, the way he did fly off them bills. It wasn't a quarter of a minute when he said to a man who stood waiting, 'Nine hundred and seventy-eight dollars, sir. All right.' Now just think of counting such a pile of money as that in about the time it would take me to count seventy-eight cents? Well, I come back, and I pitched into the addition table harder than ever, because, I thinks to myself, there's no telling but that I may have some money to count one of these days, and I guess I'll get ready to count it. But it was tough work. All at once, while I was looking at my pasteboard, and wondering what I should do with this end, it came to me. Now I'll explain. You see them nine figures around there? Well, thinks I, now there ain't but nine figures in this world, 'cause Pliny Hastings he told me that once, and I've noticed it lots of times since, that you may talk about just as many things as you're a mind to, and you'll just be using them same nine figures over and over again, with a nothing thrown in now and then, you know. Now, then, s'pose I begin at this one, and I say, 'one and two is three, and three is six, and four is ten.'"
"For pity's sake say 'are ten,'" interposed Winny.
"Because it's right. Go on."
"Well, now, I could remember just as quick again if you'd give a fellow a reason for it. Well, and four are ten, and so all around to the nine. Well, I say that, and say it, and say it, till it goes itself, and then I begin at two, and say two and three is—no, are five, and on round to the nine, only this time I take in the one at the other end. Understand? Well, after I've learned that I begin with the three, and go around to the two, and so on with them all; and then I mix them up and say them every which way, and after I've put them a few different ways, let's see you give me a line of figures that I can't add!"
"That is so," said Winny, at last, speaking slowly and admiringly. "It is a very good way indeed. Tode, I shouldn't wonder if you would know a great deal after awhile."
"Well now," answered Tode, gleefully, "I call this a pretty good evening's work, painted a sign and made a new arithmetic, enough sight easier than the other, so far as it goes; and you've helped me, so now I'll help you, turn about is fair play. Bring out your grammar, and let's see what it looks like, and to-morrow I'll go into the second-hand bookstore and hunt one up. Then I'll pitch in and learn everything I come to."
He was true to his word, and thereafter grammar was added to the numerous studies to which he gave all his leisure time. Perhaps no motto could have been given Tode that would have helped him so much in this matter of study as did the one which he had overheard and adopted for his own: "Learn everything I possibly can about everything that can be learned." He was obeying its instructions to the very letter.
Sunday morning dawned brightly upon him. The first Sunday in his new business. The air was balmy with the breath of spring.
"Oh, oh," said Tode, drawing long breaths and inhaling the perfume of swelling buds and springing blades, "I just wish I could go to church to-day, I do. Wouldn't it be nice now to put on my clean shirt, and make myself look nice and spry, and step around there to Mr. Birge's church and hear another preach? I'd like that first-rate; but now there's no use in talking. 'Do everything exactly in its time,' that's one of my rules, and I'm bound to live up to them; and it's time now for me to go to my business. I'll go to church this evening, I will. I ought to be glad that folks don't want coffee and cakes much of evening, instead of grumbling about having to give 'em some this morning."
Now it so happened, in the multiplicity of things which the new acquaintances had to talk over, that Sunday and church-going had not been discussed; and owing to the fact that Tode did not breakfast with the family, no knowledge of his intentions came to them, and no knowledge of that old command, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy," came to him. True, he knew that stores and shops were closed quite generally on the Sabbath, but hotels were not, the Euclid House had never been, and Tode, without reasoning about it at all, had imbibed the idea that it was because they kept things to eat and drink. Now these were the very things which he kept, and people must eat and drink on Sundays as well as on any other days, so of course it was his duty to supply them.
So he put a clean white cloth on the dry-goods box in honor of this new bright day, arranged everything in the most tempting manner possible, and waited for customers. They came thick and fast. The Sabbath proved fair to be as busy a day at the dry-goods box as it used to be at the Euclid House. One disappointment Tode had. When he trudged down to the little house to have his great empty coffee-pot replenished, it was closed and locked.
"Course," he said, nodding approvingly, "they've gone to church. I might a known they wouldn't wash and iron and go to school Sunday. I ought to remembered and took away my coffee. Well, never mind, I'll just run around to the Coffee House and get my dish filled, and that will make it all right."
So many customers came just at tea time that he found it impossible to go home to tea, but took a cup of his own coffee and a few of his cakes, and chuckled meantime over the fact that he was the only individual who could take his supper from that dry-goods box without paying for it.
It was just as the bells were ringing for evening service that he joyfully packed his nearly emptied dishes into the basket, shook the crumbs from his little table-cloth, folded it carefully, and rejoiced over the thought that he had done an excellent day's work, and could afford to go to church. The brown house was closed again, so he left his basket under a woodpile in the alley-way, and made all possible speed for Mr. Birge's church. Even then the opening services were nearly concluded, but he was in time for the Bible text, and that text Tode never forgot in his life. The words were, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."
I can not describe to you the poor boy's bewildered astonishment as he listened and thought, and gradually began to take in something of the true meaning of those earnest words. Mr. Birge was very decided in his opinions, very plain in his utterances. Milk wagons, ice wagons, meat wagons, and the whole long catalogue of Sabbath-breaking wagons, to say nothing of row-boats and steamboats, and trains of cars, were dwelt upon with unsparing tongue—nay, he went farther than that, and expressed his unmistakable opinion of Sabbath-breaking ice-cream saloons and coffee saloons; then down to the little apple children, and candy children, and shoestring children, who haunt the Sabbath streets. Tode listened, and ran his fingers through his hair in perplexity.
"It must come in somewhere," he said to himself in some bewilderment. "I don't quite keep a coffee house, and I don't—why, yes I do, sell apples every now and then; and as to that, I suppose I keep a coffee box. What if it ain't a house? I wonder now if it ain't right? I wonder if there's lots of things that look right before you think about them, that ain't right after you've turned 'em over a spell? And I wonder how a fellow is going to know?"
Then he gave his undivided attention to the sermon again; and went home after the service was concluded, with a very thoughtful face. Jim was there making a visit, but Tode only nodded to him, and went abruptly to the little shelf behind the stove in the corner, and took down the old Bible.
"Grandma, where are the commandments put?" he asked eagerly, addressing the old lady by the title which he had bestowed on her very early in their acquaintance.
"Why they're in Exodus, in the twentieth chapter."
"And where's Exodus?"
"Ho!" said Jim. "You know a heap, Tode, don't you?"
Tode turned on him a grave anxious face.
"Do you know about them? Well, just you come and find them for me, that's a good fellow. I'm in a powerful hurry."
Thus appealed to, Jim, nothing loth to display his wisdom, sauntered toward the table, and speedily found and patronizingly pointed out the commandments. Tode read eagerly until he came to those words, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." Then he read slowly and carefully, "Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates."
Three times did Tode's astonished eyes go over this commandment in all its length and breadth; then he looked up and spoke with deliberate emphasis,
"This beats all creation! And the strangest part of it is that you didn't tell me anything about it, grandma."
"Whatever is the boy talking about?" said grandma, wheeling her rocker around to get a full view of his excited face; and then Tode gave a synopsis of the evening sermon, and the history of his amazement, culminating with this first reading of the fourth commandment.
"And so you've been at your business all day!" exclaimed the astonished old lady. "Why, for the land's sake, I thought you had gone off to some meeting away at the other end of the city."
"I never once knew the first thing about this in the Bible. How was I going to know it was a mean thing to do?" questioned Tode, with increasing excitement. "And it was the best day I've had, too, and that makes it all the meaner."
And his voice choked a little, and his head went suddenly down on his arm.
"Well, now, I wouldn't mind, deary," spoke the old lady in soothing tones, after a few moments of silence. "If you didn't know anything about it, of course you wasn't to blame. 'Tisn't as if you had learned it in Sunday-school, and all that, and I wouldn't mind about the business. Like enough you'll have more days just as brisk as Sunday."
"It isn't that," Tode answered, disconsolately, lifting his head. "It's all them Sundays that I've been and wasted, when I might have gone to meeting. Been righter to go than to stay away, it seems; and it's thinking about lots of other things that's wrong maybe, just like this, and a fellow not knowing it."
And as he spoke he listlessly turned over the leaves of the old Bible, until his eye was arrested by the words, "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel."
"That's exactly it," he told himself. "I've got to have a Bible. I'll get one little enough to go into my jacket pocket, and then, says I, we'll see if I can't find out about things. And after this I'm to shut up box and go to church, am I? Well, that's one good thing, anyhow."
Presently he and Jim climbed up to the little room over the kitchen. No sooner were they alone than Tode commenced on a subject that had puzzled him.
"I say, Jim, how comes it that you knew all about those things and never told me? That's treating a fellow pretty mean, I think. I always shared the peanuts and things I got with you."
"See here," answered Jim, in open-eyed wonder; "what are you driving at?"
"Why, things that you know and never told me. Here your mother has got a Bible, and you know verses in it, and know about heaven, and all, and you never told me a word."
Jim sat down on the foot of the bed and laughed, long and loud and merrily.
"I don't know, Tode, whether you're cracked, or what is the matter with you," he said at last, when he could speak, "but I never heard a fellow mixing up peanuts and heaven before."
Tode was someway not in a mood to be laughed at, so he gave vent somewhat loftily to a solemn truth.
"Oh well, if you're a mind to think that the peanuts is of the most consequence after all, why I don't know as I object."
And then the boy deliberately knelt down and began his evening prayer. He was too ignorant to know that there were boys who thought it unmanly to pray. It never occurred to him to omit his kneeling. As for Jim he felt himself in a very strange position. He kicked his heels against the bedpost for awhile, but presently he grew ashamed of that, and contented himself with very noisily making ready for bed. Tode, when he rose, was in a softened mood, and as he blew out the light said:
"I wish you knew how to pray, Jim. I do, honestly, it's so nice."
"Praying and brandy bottles don't go together," answered his companion, shortly.
"No more they don't," said Tode, emphatically. "I had to quit that business myself."
If some of our respectable brandy-drinking, brandy-selling deacons could have heard those two ignorant boys talk!
EXIT TODE MALL.
On went the brisk and busy days; the soft air of summer was upon them, and still the business at the dry-goods box flourished, and was taking on fresh importance with every passing day. The people were almost numberless who grew into the habit of stopping at the little box, to be waited on by the briskest and sharpest of boys to delicious coffee and cookies, or as the days grew warmer to a glass of iced lemonade, or a saucer of glowing strawberries. The matter was putting on the semblance of a partnership concern, for the old lady rivaled the bakery with her cookies, both as regarded taste and economy; and in due course of time Winny caught the infection, studied half a leaf of an old receipt-book which came wrapped around an ounce of alum, and finally took to compounding a mixture, which being duly baked and carefully watched by the mother's practiced eye, developed into distracting little cream cakes, which met with most astonishing sales.
Meantime there were many spare half hours in the course of the long days, which were devoted to the puzzling grammar and arithmetic, and gradually light was beginning to dawn over not only the addition but the subtraction table; or, more properly speaking, the addition circle. Tode nightly chuckled over his invention as he started from a new figure and raced glibly around to the climax, thereby calling forth the unqualified approbation of Winny, not unmixed now and then with a certain curious air of admiration at his rapid strides around the mystic circle. In fact, things were progressing. Tode began to pride himself on making change correctly and rapidly; began to wonder, supposing he had a one hundred dollar bill to change, could he do it as rapidly almost as that man at the bank? Began to grow very ambitious, and in looking through his arithmetic in search of nouns and verbs, chanced to alight on the word "interest;" read about it, plied Winny with questions, some of which she could answer and some not, went for further information to the older brother who was at work at the livery stable. The result of all of which was that our rising young street vagrant opened an account at the savings bank, and had money at interest! By the way, his trip to the livery stable revived his slumbering ambition in regard to horses, and thenceforth he spent his regular "nooning" in that vicinity, or mounted on one of the coach boxes with the "brother," who chanced to be one of the finest drivers on the list. Not a very commendable locality in which to spend his leisure, you think? That depends——. Tode's happened, fortunately, to be much the stronger mind of the two; and besides, you remember the guide which mounted guard in his jacket pocket. He found it in accordance not only with one of the famous rules, viz: "Learn everything that is to be learned about everything that I possibly can," but also in accordance with his inclination to learn to drive; so learn he did, although his desire to become Mr. Hastings' coachman had merged itself into a desire to own a complete little coffee house like the one around the corner from him, with veritable shelves and drawers, and a till to lock his money in.
You think it a wonder that Tode never fell back into his old wretched street vagrant rum-cellar life. Well, I don't know. What was there to fall back to? I can't think it so charming a thing to be kicked around like a football, to be half the time nearly frozen, and all the time nearly starved, that people should tumble lovingly back into the gutter from which they have once emerged, unless indeed one resigns his will to the keeping of that demon who peoples the most of our gutters, which thing, you remember, Tode did not do. Besides, be it also remembered that the loving Lord had called this boy, and made ready a mansion in the Eternal City for him, and is it so strange a thing that the Lord can keep his own?
It chanced one day that two coffee drinkers at his stand lingered and talked freely about a certain lecture that was to be delivered before the——. Tode didn't catch what society, and didn't care; but he did learn the fact that Mr. Birge was to be the speaker. Now there had come into this boy's heart a strong love for Mr. Birge; he had never spoken to him in his life, but for all that Tode knew him well, nodded complacently to himself whenever he chanced to meet Mr. Birge on the street, and always pointed him out as his minister. Very speedily was his resolution taken to attend this lecture. He didn't know the subject, and indeed that was a matter of very slight moment to him. Whatever was the subject he felt sure of its being a fine one, since Mr. Birge had chosen it. Well he went, and as the lecture was delivered before one of the benevolent societies of the city, the subject was the broad and strong one, "Christian Giving." Tode came home with some new and startling ideas. He burst into the little kitchen where the mother sat placidly knitting her stockings, and the daughter sat knitting her brows over her arithmetic lesson, and pronounced his important query:
"Winny, what's tenths?"
"Tenths. In counting money, you know, or anything. How much is tenths?"
"Oh, you haven't got to that yet; it is away over in the arithmetic."
"But, I tell you, I've got to get at it right away—it's necessary. I don't want it in the arithmetic; I want to do it."
Which was and always would be the marked difference between this boy's and girl's education. She learned a thing because it was in the book; he learned a thing in order to use it.
"What do you want of tenths, anyhow? Why can't you wait until you get there?"
"'Cause things that they ought to be helping to do can't wait till I've got there. I need to use one of them right away. Come, tell me about them."
"Well," said Winny, "where's your slate? Here are six-tenths, made so—6/10."
Tode looked with eager yet bewildered eyes. What had that figure six on top of that figure ten, to do with Mr. Birge's earnest appeal to all who called themselves by the name of Christian to make one-tenth of their money holy to the Lord?
"What's one-tenth then?" he said at last, hoping that this was something which would look less puzzling.
"Why, this is one tenth." And Winny made a very graceful one, and a neat ten, and drew a prim bewildering little line between them.
"That is the way to write it. Ten-tenths make a whole, and one-tenth is written just as I've shown you."
"But, Winny," said Tode, in desperation, "never mind writing it. I don't care how they write it; tell me how they do it."
"How to do it! I don't know what you mean. Ten-tenths make a whole, I tell you, and one-tenth is just one-tenth of it, and that's all there is about it."
"The whole of what, Winny?"
"The whole of anything. It takes ten-tenths to make a whole one."
Poor puzzled Tode! What strange language was this that Winny talked? Suppose he hadn't a whole one after all, since it took ten-tenths to make it, and he couldn't even find out what one of them was. Suppose he should never have a whole one in his life, ought he not then to give anything to help on all those grand doings which Mr. Birge told about?
"I don't understand a bit about it," he said at last, in a despairing tone.
"Well, I knew you wouldn't," Winny answered, touches of triumph and complaisance sounding in her voice. "You musn't expect to understand such hard things until you get to them."
And now the dear old mother, who had never studied fractions out of a book in her life, came suddenly to the rescue.
"Have you been reading about the tenths in your Bible, deary?" she asked, with winning sympathy.
"No, I didn't know they were there till to-night, but I've been hearing about them, how the folks always used to give one-tenth, and Mr. Birge made it out that we ought to now, but I don't know what it is."
The old lady dived down into her work-basket and produced a little blue bag full of buttons, of all shapes and sizes.
"Let's you and me see if we can't study it out," she said, encouragingly. "You just count out ten of the nicest looking of them white buttons, and lay them along in a row."
Tode swiftly and silently did as directed, and waited for light to dawn on this dark subject. The old lady bent with thoughtful face over the table, and looked fixedly at the innocent buttons before she commenced.
"Now suppose," she said, impressively, "that every single one of them buttons was a five dollar bill."
"My!" said Tode, chuckling, in spite of himself, at the magnitude of the conception, but growing deeply interested as his teacher proceeded.
"And suppose the money was all yours. Well, now, it's in ten piles, ain't it? Well, suppose you take one of them piles away, and make up your mind to give it all to the Lord. Now, deary, I've studied over this a good deal to see what I ought to give, and it's my opinion that if you did that you'd be giving your tenth. Now, Winny, haven't we got at it—ain't that so?"
"Of course," said Winny, leaving her book and coming around to attend to the buttons. "Isn't that exactly what I said? One, two, three, four. You have got ten-tenths here to make the whole, and one of them is one-tenth."
"Humph!" said Tode, "You might have said it, but it didn't sound like it one mite, and don't yet. I don't see as there's any ten-tenths there at all; there's ten buttons, leastways five dollar bills."
"That's because you are not far enough advanced to understand," answered Winny, going loftily back to her seat.
"But see here," said Tode. "Suppose I had a lot of money, say—well, a hundred dollars, all in ones and twos, you know—then how could I manage?"
"Make ten piles of it, deary, don't you see? Put just as much in one pile as another, and then you'd have it."
Tode gave the subject a moment's earnest thought; then he gave a quick clear whistle.
"Yes, I see—all I've got to do is to keep my money in exactly ten piles; no matter how much I get never make another, but pile it on to them ten, serve each one alike, and then just understand that one of 'em ain't mine at all, but belongs to the Lord, and that's all."
"That's all," said the little old lady, with trembling eagerness. "And don't it look reasonable, like?"
"I should think it did," Tode answered, in a tone which said he had settled a very puzzling question for all time.
When he went to his room that evening he took out from the mass in his pocket a crumpled bit of paper, and looked at some writing on it. It read: "Genesis xxviii. 22." Mr. Birge had spoken of that verse, and Tode had marked it down. Now he carefully sought out the verse and carefully read it over several times; then he got down on his knees and prayed it aloud: "And of all that thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto thee."
It was later in the season, quite midsummer, when the Rev. Mr. Birge, rushing eagerly down town past Tode's place of business, suddenly came to a halt. The place was unique and inviting enough, graceful awning floating out over the box, covered with its white cloth, fresh fruits on tins of ice, fresh cakes covered with snowy napkins, dainty bouquets of flowers, gleaming here and there, iced lemonade waiting to be poured into sparkling glasses—everything faultlessly pure and clean; but it was none of these things that halted Mr. Birge, nor yet the "No Bottles" which still spoke eloquently of the owner's principles, but the name—TODE MALL! The Rev. Mr. Birge had heard that singular combination of names but once in his life, and then under circumstances he had never forgotten. He stood irresolute a moment, then turned back and came under the little awning. Tode's face glowed with pleasure as he flung aside his grammar and came briskly forward to wait on his distinguished guest.
"I'll take a glass of lemonade, if you please," began Mr. Birge, preparing to feel his way cautiously into the heart of this bright eyed boy, and find if he was indeed the one whose mother had prayed for him but once in her life, and that on her dying bed.
"Yes, sir," answered Tode, promptly, giving the glasses little gleeful chinks as he singled out the clearest.
"I see you keep a temperance establishment. I'm glad of that. I didn't expect to find a place in this quarter of the city where a temperance man could get any refreshment."
"Yes, sir, that's why I came down here to do business, 'cause there was nothing but rum all around here, and I thought it was time they had the other side of the story; and things are improving some. The man that kept the saloon right next to me drank himself to death, and broke down, and the man that moved in is going to keep Yankee notions instead of whisky."
By a few skillfully put questions Mr. Birge satisfied himself that the brisk young person who talked about "doing business" and his small acquaintance of the Albany cellar were one and the same; and by this time, drink as slowly as he could, the lemonade was exhausted. So, bound to be a valuable customer, he tried again.
"What nice things do you keep hidden under that dainty napkin? Cakes, eh? Suppose I take one. Do they go well with lemonade?"
"First-rate, sir." And Tode's face was radiant with pleasure as he saw not only one but three of Winny's delicious cream cakes disappear.
Then Mr. Birge took out his pocket-book. It was no part of his intention just then and there to betray any previous knowledge of the boy's history; the little scene in that life drama which he had helped enact was too solemn and sacred, too fraught with what might be made into tender memories, to be given by a stranger into the hands of a rough and probably hardened boy; he could keep it to tell gently to this poor fellow in the quiet of some softly-lighted room, when he should have gained an influence over him for good, for he was a fisher of boys as well as men, this good man; and he told himself that the Lord had thrown this self-same boy into his path again, to give him a chance to do the work which a few hours' delay had robbed him of years ago; and Mr. Birge knew very well that opportunities to do the work which had been let slip, nine years before, came rarely to any man. And he was glad, and he was going to be very wary and wise, therefore he drew forth his pocket-book.
"Now what am I to pay you for this excellent lunch?"
"Nothing, sir." And Tode's cheeks fairly blazed with joy.
"Nothing!" answered the astonished customer.
"Yes, sir, nothing. I don't charge my minister anything for lunch. Like to have you come every day, sir."
"Yes, sir. Didn't you know you was my minister?" chuckled Tode. "Bless me, I know it, I tell you—known it this long time."
And then ensued a lively conversation, question and answer following each other in quick succession; and Mr. Birge went through a great many phases of feeling in a brief space of time. First came a great throb of joy. The boy is safe the mother's prayer is answered—good measure, pressed down, running over—not only a temperance boy to the very core, but a Christian; then a quick little thrill of pain—oh, his work was done, but his duty had been left undone; the Lord had gathered in this stray waif, but he was not the servant. Then, first great astonishment, and afterward humble, very humble thanksgiving. So then he was the servant after all; the Lord had called him in to help, and the work was begun on that stormy night, that night over which he had grumbled, and had doubting, questioning thoughts. Oh, there were a great many lessons to learn during that long conversation, and the minister smiled presently to himself over the memory of how he took it for granted that because the little yellow-haired boy had run away from his intended care nine years before, he had therefore run away from God; smiled to remember how carefully he was going to approach this rough, hardened boy. "Oh well," he said to himself, as he turned from the shade of the awning, compelled by the press of customers to defer further conversation, "I shall learn after a time that although the Lord is gracious and forbearing, and kindly gives me the work to do here and there for him, he can when he chooses get along entirely without the help of John Birge."
Nevertheless he did not yet make known the fact of his early acquaintance with Tode—not so much now that he wanted to keep it to help in melting the boy's heart, as that he had come to realize that Tode's mother was already his one tender memory, and that everything about that death-bed scene, if remembered at all, must be fraught with pain; so he still kept the story until some quiet time when they should be in a pleasant room alone. But this meeting was a great thing for Tode. From that day forth Mr. Birge realized fully that he was the boy's minister. He began at once to work carefully for him. Thursday evening Tode learned to close business at an early hour, and betake himself to the Young People's Meeting. He was toled into the Sabbath-school—more than that, he coaxed Winny in, a feat which her mother had never succeeded in performing.
It was some time in September that a new duty and a new privilege dawned upon him, that of publicly uniting himself with the people of God. Tode never forgot the solemn joy which thrilled his soul at that time, when it was made known to him that this privilege was actually his. There came a wondrously beautiful October Saturday, and Tode stood by the window in Mr. Birge's study. It was just at the close of a long conversation. On the morrow the boy was to stand up in the church and take the solemn vows upon him, and his face was grave yet glad.
"By the way," said Mr. Birge, "yours is a very singular name. Fortunate that it is, or I never would have found you again; but it must be a contraction of something."
"Why yes," answered Tode, hesitatingly. He didn't know what contraction meant. "My name was once, when I was a very little youngster, Theodore; but I never knew myself in that way."
"Theodore! A grand name—it belonged to a brother of mine once before he was called to receive 'the new name.' I like it; and Theodore the name goes down on my record. How do you spell the other? Are you sure that's all right?"
"M-a—" began our friend, then stopped to laugh. "Why no—I'll be bound that ain't my name, either. It's Mallery, that's what it is; no Mall about it."
Mr. Birge turned and surveyed his caller leisurely, with a quiet smile on his face.
"It seems to me, Master Theodore Mallery, that you are sailing under false colors," he said at last. "What have you to do with Tode Mall?"
"Well they nicknamed me so, and I suppose it stuck, and it seems like me; but my name truly is Theodore S. Mallery."
"Then of course I shall write it so." And after he had written it Mr. Birge came over and took the boy's hand.
"It is a pleasant idea," he said. "Let us take the new name, a picture of the new life which begins to-morrow, when you say before the world, as for me I will serve the Lord. Be very careful of the new name, dear brother; don't stain it with any shadow of evil."
Tode walked home slowly and thoughtfully in the gathering twilight, strange new thoughts stirring in his heart. He felt older and graver and wiser. He went round by his business stand; he took his knife from his pocket and carefully pried out the tacks which held his pasteboard sign; then he held it up in the waning light, and looked earnestly at the letters, his face working with new thoughts. But the only outward expression which he gave to these thoughts was to say as he rolled up the pasteboard:
"I must have a new sign. Good-by, Tode Mall, I'm done with you forever. After this I'm Theodore S. Mallery."
PLEDGES AND PARTNERSHIPS.
There was a little bit of a white house, cunning and cozy, nestled in among the larger ones, on a quiet, pleasant street of the city. It was a warm June day, and the side door was open, which gave one a peep into a dainty little dining-room. There was a bright carpet on the floor, a green-covered table between the windows, with books and papers scattered about on it in the way which betokens use and familiarity instead of show. The round table was set for three, and ever and anon a dear little old woman bustled in from the bit of a kitchen and added another touch to the arrangements for dinner. A young miss of perhaps sixteen was curled in a corner of the lounge, working rapidly and a little nervously with slate, and pencil, and brain. The side gate clicked, and a young man came with quick decided tread up the flower-bordered walk. The student raised her eyes and found her voice:
"Oh, Theodore! for pity's sake see what is the matter with this example? I've worked it over so many times that the figures all dance together, and don't seem to mean anything."
"What is it? Algebra?" And the young man laid his cap on the table, tossed the curls back from his forehead, and sat down beside her.
"Yes, it's algebra, and I'm thoroughly bewildered. Do you believe I ever will know much about it, Theodore?"
"Why, certainly you will. You're a good scholar now, if you wouldn't get into such a flurry, and try to add and multiply and divide all at once. See here, you've used the wrong terms twice, and that is the sum and substance of your entire trouble."
Winny looked a little perplexed and a little annoyed, and then laughed.
"Have patience with your bundle of stupidity, Theodore," she said, half deprecatingly. "I may do you credit yet some day, improbable as it looks."
And then the dear old lady, who had been trotting back and forth at intervals, now ushered in a teapot and called them to dinner; and they three sat down, and heads were reverently bowed while the young man reverently said: "Our Father, we return thee thanks for these, and all the unnumbered blessings of this day. May we use the strength which thou dost give us to thine honor and thy praise." And the old lady softly said, "Amen."
I do not know that you have ever heard the dear old lady's name, but it was McPherson—Mrs. McPherson. Of course you remember Winny, and the young man was the person who used to be familiarly known by the name of Tode Mall, but it was long since it had occurred even to him that he was ever other than Theodore Mallery, the enterprising young proprietor of that favorite refreshment-room down by the depot; for the dry-goods box had disappeared, so also had the cellar rum-hole. There was a neat building down there, the name, "Temperance House," gleamed in large letters from the glass of both windows, and "Theodore S. Mallery" shone over the door. Within all was as neat and complete as care and skill and grace could make it; and that it was a favorite resort could be seen by standing for a few moments to watch the comers and goers at almost any hour in the day.
Theodore came down the street with his peculiar rapid tread, glanced in to see if his brisk little assistant was in attendance, then went across the street and around the corner to a grocery near at hand.
"Mr. Parks," he said, speaking as one in the habit of being full of business and in haste, "can you cash this note for me? Good afternoon, Mr. Stephens," to that gentleman, who stood in a waiting attitude.
"Yes," said Mr. Parks, promptly, "if you will count this roll of bills for me. I'm one of those folks that I've read about who 'count for confusion,' I guess. Anyhow, these come different every time."
"With pleasure, sir," answered Theodore, seizing upon the bills with alacrity, and fluttering them through his fingers with the rapidity of thought. "Ninety-eight—seventy-three," he announced after a few seconds of flutter and rustle.
"Are you sure?"
"Quite." And again he ran over the notes, and announced the same result.
"Thank you," said Mr. Parks, with a relieved air. And as Theodore gathered up his bills and vanished, the old gentleman looking after him said:
"That's a smart chap, Mr. Stephens. I don't know his match anywhere around this city. True as steel every time, and just as sharp as steel any day."
"Yes," answered Mr. Stephens, quietly. "I have heard of the young man before, and know something of his character."
Two hours afterward Theodore was reading a letter. It commenced:
"PRIVATE OFFICE, } "June 16, 18—.}
"My Dear Young Friend:
"It is something over four years since you came to me one night with my ten-dollar bill, since which time my eyes have been on you. I did not present you with the bill then and there, as I was tempted to do. I am not one of the croakers who think it sinful to reward honesty. God rewards every day our efforts toward the right; but I think the reward can come too suddenly when man takes it into his own hands. I stayed my hand. I determined instead to keep you in view, and keep the helping hand stretched out, unseen by you; but ready to come to your aid in time of need. No such a time has come to you. The Lord evidently took you for his own, and gave his angels charge concerning you. I have watched and waited. I know all about your character, young man, and more about your education than you think.
"As I said, your time of need, for which I have been waiting, has not come, but mine has. I need just such a young man as you—one who will be prompt, active and efficient. You know my place of business, and that I make few changes. I do not like the business you have chosen. Keeping an eating saloon is a respectable employment, always provided that the business is respectably conducted, which yours has been. I do not doubt that you have done much good. You have fought the giant enemy of this present time nobly and well. But the business is not suited to your capacity, by which I mean that your capacity overruns the business. Your pet enemy needs fighting, not only with strong principles but with money, and a certain kind of business power, both of which I can put you in the way to gain more rapidly.
"In short, if you choose to come to me as one of my confidential clerks, on a salary which I will name when I see you, and which shall rise as you rise, I shall be glad to talk with you this evening at eight o'clock. If you have no idea of making a change in business; if your present occupation suits you, I will not trouble you to make me any reply other than to return this communication to me through the post-office, and we will quietly let the matter drop.
"Yours truly, "JOHN S. S. STEPHENS."
Our young man caught his breath and held it in for a moment after reading this remarkable epistle. Yes, he knew Mr. Stephens' place of business very well indeed; it was the largest and finest mercantile house in the city; and to be fairly launched forth in his employ, with a reasonable prospect of suiting him, was to be a possible millionaire. And to think that that fearful ten-dollar bill, which had made his cheeks burn so many, many times, was the means that had brought him such a letter as this. "All things work together for good to them—" Oh yes, he knew that verse, and believed it, too. But what a strange idea that Mr. Stephens should have been watching him, should have known so much about his affairs, and instinctively he ran over his life to see what things he could have done differently had he known that Mr. Stephens was watching. Then his face flushed as he thought of the All-seeing Eye that had been fixed on him night and day; then he held his head erect, and reminded himself that whatever Mr. Stephens might have seen to condemn, God knew his heart, knew that through many failures and constant blunders he had been honestly trying to follow his guide. But how strange that Mr. Stephens should suppose him fitted for a clerkship in his store. He tried to decide what would be expected of him, what he ought to know in order to be fitted for the position. Prices and positions of goods? About these he knew nothing, nor did his want of knowledge in this respect particularly disturb him; he knew perfectly well that he had a quick eye and a quick memory, and a remarkably convenient determination to learn everything that could be learned in as short a space of time as possible. Book-keeping? How fortunate it was that he should have happened into Joe Brower's father's store just as Joe's father was giving his son a lesson in book-keeping, and that then and there had arisen his determination to study book-keeping, and that he had commenced it; and at first with a little of Joe's help, and then with a good deal of his father's, and finally with no help at all, he conquered it. Then what an extraordinary thing it was that he should have gone home to tea a little earlier than usual that evening three years ago, and so surprised Winny in the act of wiping away two tears, and found that they were shed because the dear mother couldn't possibly pay for the desire of Winny's heart, namely: French lessons; and that after much discussion and ex-postulation he should have been allowed to consecrate one of the ten piles, in which he always kept his money, to French lessons, and that he had begun at first for pure fun, and ended by working hard over the lessons, Winny, on her part, laboring earnestly to repeat in the evening just what she had learned during the day, until now after the lapse of three years he knew perfectly well that while he would undoubtedly make a Frenchman wild with his attempts at pronunciation, yet the French letter would have to be very queerly written that he could not translate, and the message an exceedingly crooked one that he could not render into smoothly written French. But how did Mr. Stephens know all these things? Well, never mind. Only, he said with energy, there are some more things that I will know if I have the good fortune to get near that German clerk of his, and Winny shall have her chance at German yet.
Callers found their usually brisk host almost inattentive during the remainder of that afternoon. About five o'clock he dispatched a note, addressed "J. H. McPherson, Euclid House," and astonished and delighted his young waiter by an unusually early putting up of shutters, and of putting things generally to rights for the night. In fact, it was not more than seven o'clock when Jim McPherson arrived and found his old-time companion alone and in waiting.
"Halloo! What's up?" was his greeting.
"You received my note?"
"Yes, and have been dying of curiosity ever since to know what the 'important business intimately connected with' myself, could be about I thought at one time though, that I wasn't going to get away. All creation appeared to want to take supper with us to-night. What are you all shut up so early for?"
"Business. Jim, I have just the chance for you to get away from there."
"Well," and then his companion launched forth in an account of his afternoon letter, and the prospects which were opening before him, and also his idea of the prospects which were opening before Jim. When he ceased, the said Jim gazed at him in silence for a moment, and then said:
"And you offer me an out-and-out partnership?"
"Out-and-out. You can come right in here and take the business just as it is, furniture and fixtures of all sorts, and from this time forth until we change our minds I'll pay half the expenses and share the profits. That is—well, there's only one proviso."
"I thought there must be something somewhere. What is it?"
"You know, Jim, this is a temperance business."
"Of course. What's your proviso?"
"You must sign the pledge."
"Stuff and nonsense."
"Very well, if that's your final answer we will drop the subject."
"But, Tode, that's perfectly silly. Can't you trust a fellow unless he puts his name to a piece of paper like a baby? I don't drink, and I won't sell rum here. What more do you want?"
"Want you to say so on paper."
"To gratify me perhaps. It isn't a great deal to do. If you mean what you say you can have no serious objection to doing so."
"Yes, but I have. I don't approve of signing away my liberty in that style."
"Who has been saying that to you?" asked Theodore, gravely.
"Perhaps I said it myself."
"I think not. I believe you, personally, have more sense."
Whereat Jim laughed and looked a little ashamed.
"No matter," he said at last, "I ain't going to sign a pledge for anybody, but I'm willing to get out of that business. I don't like making drunkards any better than you do, and I should have quit before if I could have seen any chance just on mother's account, but I never expected an offer like this."
To all of which Theodore made answer only by setting himself comfortably back in his arm-chair, pushing a fruit-basket toward his companion, and saying:
"Have a pear, Jim?"
Then the talk drifted on to pears and peaches, and divers other fruits, until Jim said:
"Come, let's talk business."
Theodore opened his eyes large, and looked inquiring.
"I thought we were done with business," he said, innocently.
"Do you really mean that you withdraw your offer unless I will sign the pledge?"
"Why certainly. I thought you understood that to be my proviso."
"But, Tode, don't you think that is forcing a fellow?"
"Not at all. You are perfectly free, of course, to do as you please. If you please to decline a good offer, merely because you won't promise not to drink what you say you don't drink, and not to sell what you say you don't want to sell, why that is your own matter, of course, and I can not help myself."
Jim mused a little.
"Well, you see," he said presently, "I do now and then take a drop of wine, not enough to amount to much, and I'm in no danger of doing it very often, for I honestly don't care much for it."
"No. What then?"
"Why, I'd have to stop that, of course, if I signed your pledge."
"Of course. What then?"
"Why, then," and here Jim broke down and laughed, and finally added: "Tode, I wish you were not such an awful fanatic about this."
"But since I am, what is to be done?"
Silence fell between the two for a time, until Jim said with a little touch of disgust:
"Tode, you're as set in your way as a stone wall."
"All right. What is the conclusion of the whole matter?"
"Oh fudge! bring on your pledge and give us a pen."
Instantly a drawer from a side table was drawn energetically out, and pen, ink, and a veritable pledge were placed before the young man. A few quick dashes of the pen, and "James H. McPherson" stood out in plain relief under the strongly worded total abstinence pledge.
His companion waited with flushing cheek and eager eyes until the last letter was written; then he sprang up with an energy that set the arm-chair upside down, and uttered a vehement:
"Good! Jim, oh Jim, I could shout for joy. I have fairly held my breath for fear you would not reach the point."
"What a fanatic you are!" he said in a tone of assumed carelessness. "How do you know I won't break it to-morrow?"
"I know perfectly well. If I had not I should not have been so anxious to have you sign to-night. You happen to be as set in your way as an acre of stone fences."
More talk ensued—eager, future plannings. Those two young men, very unlike in many respects, yet assimilated on a few strong points. Theodore had constantly kept a hold on his early friend—at first because of the dear old mother, and finally because his stronger nature drawing out and in a measure toning Jim's, the two had grown less apart than seemed at first probable.
It wanted but twenty minutes to eight when the young men left the room where important business not only for time, but, as it came to pass, for eternity, had been settled, and hurried, the one to the Euclid House, and the other around the corner toward the great dry-goods house on the main business street. He stopped first though at the cozy little white house, moved with eager steps up the walk, flung open the side door, and spoke in tones full of suppressed excitement to the old lady, who was nodding over her large print Testament, Jim's birthday gift.
"Grandma, I have a present for you." And a crisp paper was produced and laid on the page of the open Bible. A glance showed it to be a temperance pledge—another look, a start, a filling of the dim old eyes with tears as the beloved name, James H. McPherson, swam before her vision, and true to her faith her loving voice gave utterance to her full heart:
"'While they are yet speaking I will hear.' I was just speaking to him again, don't you think, about that very thing. Oh the Lord bless him and help him. Now, deary, we won't be content with this, will we?"
Theodore shook his head emphatically.
"He must come over entirely to the Lord's side," he said, smiling, "now that he has come half way."
The city clock was giving the last stroke of eight as Theodore was ushered into the private office of Mr. Stephens. That gentleman arose to greet him with a smile of satisfaction, and then ensued another business talk, and the drift of it can be drawn from these concluding sentences:
"Well, sir," from Mr. Stephens to Theodore, as the latter arose to go, "how soon may I expect you? How long is it going to take you to get your business in shape to leave? We need help as soon as possible."
"I will be on hand to-morrow morning, sir."
"What! ready for work? How is it possible that you have dispatched matters so rapidly?"
"Why," said Theodore, "from two o'clock until eight gives one six good hours in which to dispatch business."
And Mr. Stephens, as they went down the great store together, smiled again and said to himself:
"I don't believe I have mistaken my man."
There was an evening party at the house of the Rev. John Birge. Not one of those grand crushes, where every body is cross and warm and uncomfortable generally, but a cozy little gathering of young ladies and gentlemen, people whom the minister desired to see come into more social contact with each other. Among the number was Miss Dora Hastings. Dora still continued to come to Sunday-school, although she had arrived at that mysterious age when young ladies are apt to be too old for anything reasonable; but Dora, for some unaccountable reason, so at least her mother thought, clung to her little girl habits, and went to Sunday-school; so she chanced to be numbered among the guests at Mr. Birge's party. Pliny was also invited but had chosen not to come, so Ben Phillips had supplied his place as escort, and stood now chatting with her when a new arrival was announced.
Mrs. Birge came to the end of the room where Dora stood, and with her a young gentleman.
"Dora," she said, "permit me to introduce a young friend of mine—Mr. Mallery, Miss Hastings."
Now it so happened that although Theodore had been for years a member of the same Sabbath-school with this young lady, and had seen her sitting in the Hastings' pew in church on every Sabbath day, still this was the first time that he had met her face to face, near enough to speak to her, since that evening so long ago when they conversed together on a momentous subject. Theodore's knowledge of the world and social distinctions had increased sufficiently to make him extremely doubtful concerning the young lady's reception, but Dora was cordial and frank, and said, "Good evening, Mr. Mallery," as she would have greeted any stranger, and set him at once at his ease.
Ben Phillips good-naturedly held out his hand, and said, "How d'ye do, Tode?" and made room for him to enter the circle. It was a curious evening to the young man, the first in that mysterious place called "society." Probably the young ladies and gentlemen fluttering through the rooms had not the faintest idea how closely they were being watched and studied by one pair of earnest eyes.
Theodore's ambition for a yellow cravat had long since given place to more important things—given place so utterly that the subject of dress had been almost entirely passed over. Before this evening waned he was thoroughly conscious of his position. He discovered that his clothes were oddly fitted and oddly made; that his boots were rough and coarse; that his hands were gloveless; that even his hair was as curiously arranged as possible. He discovered more than this—to many of the gay company he was evidently a laughing-stock; a few of the more reckless ones deliberately and openly made sport of him. Ben Phillips, who had been cordial enough at first, found himself on the unpopular side, and ignored the almost stranger for the remainder of the evening. In vain did Mr. Birge try quietly to bring him inside the circle. Those of his guests who were too cultured to make merry at the expense of this foreign element which had come among them, yet seemed not to have sufficient courage to welcome him to their midst; those with whom he sat down frequently at the table of their common Lord seemed neither to know nor to desire to know him here; and Mr. Birge's effort to assimilate the different elements of his congregation seemed likely to prove a disastrous failure. A merry company were gathered around Dora Hastings. She held a book in her hand, and was struggling with the translation of a sentiment written therein in French, and judging from the bursts of laughter echoing from the group the attempt was either a real or pretended failure. Theodore stood at a little distance from them, perfectly able to hear what was said, yet as utterly alone as he would have been out in the silent street.
"What terrible stuff she is reading," he said to himself. "I wonder if she really can not read it, or if she has any idea of what it is." As if to answer his wondering, Dora turned suddenly toward him.
"We'll appeal for help," she said, gaily. "Mr. Mallery, do come to the rescue. My French is defective or the translation is incorrect, probably the latter."
Another burst of laughter followed this appeal; but Theodore, taking a sudden resolution, stepped promptly forward.
"I conclude," he said, glancing at the book, and then looking steadily around him, "that you really do not take in the meaning of this sentence, any of you?"
"I am sure I do not," answered Dora, gaily. "It is about 'everlasting eyes,' I think, or some such nonsense; but what little I once knew about French, and little enough it was, I assure you, has utterly gone from me, so have compassion on our ignorance if you can."
Without further comment Theodore, with quiet dignity, read the sentence: "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." As he finished his eye caught Dora's; her face was flushed and eager.
"You are right," she said, promptly. "We none of us understood the sentence, or we could never have indulged in foolish jesting over so solemn a truth."
Ben Phillips gave vent to his astonishment in words:
"Tode, how on earth did you learn French?"
Dora laughed lightly.
"He studied, I presume," she said, merrily. "And that you know is what you never would do, Ben. Mr. Mallery, suppose you come and decipher for me the motto underneath the French scene in the further parlor."
And taking Tode's offered arm the daughter of the millionaire moved down the long parlor by his side. Mr. Birge, coming at that moment from the dining-room, passed the two, then turning back sought his wife to say:
"The experiment has succeeded. Theodore is promenading with Dora Hastings."
"The splendid girl!" said Mrs. Birge, energetically. "I knew she would."
Meantime Theodore had resolved on a bold stroke for the Master.
"Do you remember anything connected with that verse, Miss Hastings?" he asked, as the two entered the almost deserted back parlor.
"Indeed I do," Dora answered, eagerly. "I never forgot it, and your earnest questions about it, and I could tell you so little."
"I found out a great deal about it, though, taking the information that you gave me for a starting point, and I have reason to thank God that you ever showed me your little card. But do you know anything more of the matter now, experimentally I mean?"
Dora's voice trembled a little as she answered:
"I think—I—sometimes I hope I do. I am trying to learn a little, stumbling along slowly, with oh so many drawbacks; and do you know I think my interest in these things dates back to that stormy evening in prayer-meeting, when you asked me such queer questions? At least I thought them queer then."
No more standing aloof during that evening for Theodore Mallery. It mattered little how his clothes were cut or of what material they were made; so long as Dora Hastings walked through the rooms and chatted familiarly with him, not a girl present but stood ready to follow her example.
Later in the evening Dora said to him, hesitatingly and almost timidly:
"Mr. Mallery, I don't like you to think that I was making sport of that Bible verse. I truly know almost nothing about French, and I didn't take, the sense of it in the least until you read it."
There was another thing that the young man was very anxious to know, and that was whether her motive was mischief or kind intent when she called on him; and like the straightforward individual that he was, he asked her:
"What possessed you to suppose I could read it?"
"Oh," said Dora, innocently, "I knew you were a French scholar, because Mr. Birge told me so."
Someway it was an immense satisfaction to Theodore to know that Dora's intention had not been to make light of his supposed ignorance. As he went home in the moonlight he laughed a little, and indulged himself in his old habit of soliloquizing.
"It's just the matter of fine boots and gloves, and a few things of that sort. I did decide once this evening to push the thing through, and make my way up in spite of gloves and boots and broadcloth, and I would now but for one thing. In fact I have; we braved it through together. That one girl is worth all the rest of them, and she came to the rescue fairly and squarely. If she had failed me I would have showed the whole of them a few things, but she didn't, and there's no occasion for making it such a martyrdom for any of them hereafter. On the whole, I believe I'll manage to get dear old Grandma McPherson other work besides tailoring after this. There is no earthly reason why I shouldn't dress as respectable as any body. I don't know but I owe it to Mr. Stephens to do so. Yes, sir, I've changed my mind—boots and broadcloth shall be my servants hereafter."
Keeping in mind this new resolution, Theodore secured the first leisure moment, and inquired of Mr. Stephens what route to take.
"Going to have a new suit of clothes?" questioned that gentleman in a tone of polite indifference, not at all as though he had watched and waited for the development of that very idea. "Well, let me see. I think Barnes & Houghton will serve you quite as well as any. They are on—wait, I will give you their address."
The hour which Theodore had chosen was not a fashionable one at the great establishment of Barnes & Houghton, and he found some half dozen clerks lounging about, with no more important occupation than to coax some fun out of any material which chanced to fall in their way.
"I want to look at some business suits," began Theodore, addressing the foremost of them, with a slight touch of hesitancy and embarrassment. It was new business to him.
"Then I'd advise you to look at them by all means; always do as you want to when you can as well as not, my boy," was the answer which he received, spoken in a tone of good-humored insolence, and not a clerk moved.
"Would you like a white vest pattern, or perhaps you would prefer velvet?" queried a foppish little fellow. And Theodore, who was sharper at that style of talk than any of them, and was rapidly losing his embarrassment, replied in a tone of great good humor:
"I never pick out my goods until I see them; but then perhaps the vest you have on is for sale? Are you the show-block?"
This question, put with great apparent innocence, produced a peal of laughter, for the vest in question was rather too stylish to be in keeping with the wearer's surroundings and business.
An older clerk now interposed.
"Show him something, Charlie—that's a good fellow."
"Can't," said Charlie, from his seat on the counter, "I'm too busy; besides I don't believe we could suit him. We haven't anything in the style his clothes are cut. There's a man right around the corner whose father made coats for Noah's grandsons; hadn't you better go to him?"
"I say," put in he of the stylish vest, "can't you call in some other time, when business isn't quite so pressing? You see we're just about driven to death this morning."
Just how far this style of treatment would have been carried, or just how long Theodore would have borne it, can not be known, for with the conclusion of the last sentence every clerk came suddenly to a standing posture, and two of them advanced courteously to meet a new-comer, at the same moment that a gentleman with iron gray hair, and whom Theodore took to be one of the proprietors, emerged from a private office, and came forward on the same errand, and the young man nearly laughed outright when he recognized in the new-comer Mr. Stephens. The two gentlemen were shaking hands.
"Glad to see you again, Mr. Stephens," said he of the iron gray hair. "How can we serve you this morning?"
"Nothing for me personally, thank you." And then Mr. Stephens turned to Theodore.
"Do you find what you wish, Mallery? Mr. Houghton, let me make you acquainted with this young friend of mine—Mr. Mallery, Mr. Houghton. This young man, Mr. Houghton, is one of my confidential clerks, a very highly valued one, and any kindness that you can show him will be esteemed as a personal favor to me."
Mr. Houghton bowed his iron gray head very low.
"Very happy to have Mr. Mallery's patronage; trusted they could suit him. Had he looked at goods? What should they have the pleasure of showing him this morning? Cummings, show Mr. Mallery into the other room, and serve him to the best of your ability."
And what shall be said of the half dozen clerks? Amazement, confusion and consternation were each and all vividly depicted on their faces. Mr. Stephens' clerk! a highly valued clerk! Mr. Stephens, of all men in the city, the last to be offended! Disgrace and dismissal stared them in the face. For a little minute Theodore was tempted—half a dozen dignified words now, and he understood Mr. Stephens' position well enough to know that these same clerks would not be likely to offend in the same place again. One little moment, the next he turned on his heel and followed Cummings, the aforesaid Charlie, whose face was blazing, into the next room. A word, though, of private exhortation could not be amiss.
"You blundered, you see, this time," he said to Cummings, still good-naturedly. "Wouldn't it be well not to judge a fellow always by the cut of his coat?"
"You're a brick!" burst forth the amazed Cummings. "I expected to be blown higher than a kite, and get my walking ticket besides. You're the best-natured fellow I ever saw."
"You're mistaken again, my friend. I lost my good nature almost entirely, and came within a word of telling the whole story; only one little thing hindered me."
"What was it?"
"Why I was reading in a very old book, just before I came out this morning, and one sentence read: 'Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,' and I thought to try it."
"Humph!" said Cummings.
But no descendant of the royal line could have been served more royally than was our friend Mallery at that house, by that young man, then and thereafter.
"WINE IS A MOCKER."
Theodore, or "Mallery," which was the name grown most familiar to him, was rushing down town belated and in haste. The business which had called him out had taken longer than the time which had been assigned to it, and in consequence the next appointment was likely to suffer. At the corner he paused and considered. "Let me see—if I go down this block, and up the track to the next corner, I shall save—one, two, three, four blocks. Yes, it will pay; I'll do it." On he went, struck the track presently, and moved rapidly along the iron walk. An unusual sight suddenly presented itself to his eyes, that of a carriage and two powerful horses coming around the curve, and making a carriage drive of the railway track. It took but a moment of time to discover three things, viz: that it was the Hastings' carriage, that the coachman was beyond a doubt too much intoxicated to know what he was about, and that the Buffalo Express was due at the distant depot in just two minutes, and must pass over the very track on which that carriage was trundling along. The perspiration came and stood in beads on the young man's pale face; but there was time for no other show of emotion—he must think and work rapidly if at all. "Could he possibly get those horses across to the other track in time?" No, for there was a perfect network of tracks just here, no place for a carriage at all, and a puffing engine directly ahead, liable to start at any instant, and ready to frighten the horses, who would probably rear, plunge, back, do anything but what he wished of them. There was a wretched gully on this side and a fence, but the fence was low, and the gully wide enough to receive the carriage if it could be forced down the embankment. During this planning Mallery was running with all speed toward the carriage, and then the depot bell began to ring, and the roar and puff of the coming train could be distinctly heard. The horses began to plunge, and make ready to break into a fierce run right into the jaws of the coming monster, when a firm hand grasped their bridles. Jonas had just sense enough left to try to resist this proceeding, and Mallery saw, with a throb of thankfulness, the whip drop from his unsteady hand, thus preventing the horses from being lashed into greater fury; then he applied all the strength of his arms and his knowledge of horses to the dangerous experiment of backing them down into the gully. They snorted and plunged, and were bent on going forward, and were steadily, and as it seemed with super-human strength, forced backward; and as the carriage crashed down the hill the very rearing of the horses drew Theodore's feet from the outer rail, and the train came thundering by. And now the affrighted horses seemed more than ever bent on rushing forward to destruction, while the long train shot onward. Mallery, while he battled with them, became conscious that from the raised window of the carriage a young face, deathly in pallor, was bent forward watching the conflict, and he renewed the determination to save that life thus resting, so far as human help was concerned, in his hands. Jonas had dropped the reins, and sat aghast, and sobered with terror. Now the long train had vanished, the puffing engine on the other track had gathered up its forces and followed after, and Theodore, by a dint of coaxing, soothing and commanding the terror-stricken animals, had succeeded in subduing them in part, and guiding the carriage up the bank and quite across the network of tracks; then gathering the reins in his hand he came to the carriage window and spoke, using in his excitement the name familiar to him in the days when she had given him his first lessons in writing.
"There is no cause for further alarm, Dora. I will see that you reach home in safety."
Not one word to him did Dora utter; but she clasped her trembling hands, and said with white lips:
And the young man added reverently and meaningly: "Amen."
Then he sprang to the driver's seat, and uttered two short firm words to the cowed and sober driver.
Never was a command more promptly obeyed. There were five minutes yet before the next train would be due, time enough to make his way carefully along the uncertain road built only for iron horses; but the peril had been too recent for the young man not to make eager haste, nor did he draw a long full breath of relief until the last hated rail had been crossed and the corner turned on the broad smooth avenue. It was a nervous sort of a drive even then, for the horses had a torrent of pent-up strength, and had not so entirely recovered from their terror but that they were listening to every sound, looking right and left for suspicious objects, and apparently on the qui vive for an excuse for running away. How Theodore blessed Rick, and the livery stable, and the man who fifty years before had taken for his motto: "Learn everything you possibly can about everything that can be learned," as with skillful hand he guided the fidgety span carefully and safely through the maze of cart and carriage and omnibus wheels that lined the streets. And even then and there he laughed a half-nervous, half-amused laugh, as he passed the Euclid House, and saw one of the waiters looking out at him from a dining-room window; at the thought that that first burning ambition of his life was at last gratified, and he was actually occupying the coveted position of driver for the Hastings' carriage. The contrasts which his life presented again struck him oddly, a few moments after, when Mr. Hall, waiting to cross the street, recognized and touched his hat to him, with a wondering, curious glance. Mr. Hall was an elder in their church and superintendent of their Sabbath-school, and Theodore had himself cashed a draft for him in Mr. Stephens' private office not two hours before. He laughed a little now at the thought of Mr. Hall's bewilderment over his sudden change of business; and then presently laughed again at the thought that there should be anything incongruous in his, Tode Mall that was, turning coachman. At last the carriage turned into the beautiful elm-lined carriage drive that led to the Hastings' mansion, and drew up presently with a skillful flourish at the side door. The same John for whom Theodore used occasionally to run of errands for two cents a trip came forward, and stared furiously as the young man threw him the reins and opened the carriage door.
Dora's composure had lost itself in a fit of trembling, and her teeth chattered so that she could not speak as he led her up the broad flight of steps. They were all in the hall—Mr. Hastings, hat in hand, just departing for the stables; Mrs. Hastings, in a state of transit from dining-room to drawing-room; and Pliny lounging on a sofa, his head done up in wet bandages. He sprang to his feet, however, when Theodore advanced still supporting his companion, and questioned eagerly:
"What the dickens is to pay?"
That gentleman chose to make things more comfortable before he answered. He unceremoniously appropriated sofa and cushions for the almost fainting girl, and said, peremptorily:
"Bring a glass of water. Mr. Hastings, that fan if you please. Don't be alarmed, Mrs. Hastings, she will be all right in a few moments."
Then there was no resisting the storm of questions that followed, and he told the story as briefly as possible, only trying to impress one thought, that liquor was at the bottom of what had so nearly been a tragedy. Dora revived sufficiently to impress the fact that but for him she would not have been there to speak; and Mr. Hastings, in his excitement and exasperation against poor Jonas, whose quarter paid for the liquor which had almost brought death into their home, and would help to swell Mr. Hastings' own cash account on this Saturday evening, recognized in this deliverer of his child poor, ignorant, degraded Tode Mall, and forgot the lapse of time and possible changes of position, and seeking to do him honor, and do a safe thing for his family at the same time, spoke hurriedly:
"Where is that villain of a coachman? I'll discharge him this very hour. You must be a good driver, Tode, or you never could have got here alive with those horses after such a time. Don't you want the position of coachman?"
"Papa," said Dora, sitting erect, and with scarlet cheeks, "Mr. Mallery is Mr. S. S. Stephens' confidential clerk!"
Then the great man turned and looked on his ex-waiter at the Euclid House—the erect, well-built, well-dressed young man, standing hat in hand, with a curious blending of dignity and amusement on his face, and actually stammered, and muttered something about "not noticing, not thinking, not meaning, and everlasting obligations," in the midst of which the ex-coachman glanced at his watch, noticed the lateness of the hour in some dismay, signaled from the window a passing car, and hurriedly made his escape.
This lengthy and unexpected interruption made a grievous tangle in his day's work. Arrived at the store he flew about in eager haste, and then rushed with more than usual speed to the bank. Just five minutes too late; the last shutter was being closed as he reached the steps. "The first failure!" he said to himself in a disappointed tone. "But it can hardly be said to be my fault this time." His next engagement was an appointment to dine with Mr. Stephens at four o'clock, and with that, too, he was a little behind time.
"Well, sir," said Mr. Stephens, meeting him in the hall, "as sure as I'm alive you are five minutes behind time! I begin to be encouraged. It seems that you are a compound of flesh and blood after all."
Theodore smiled faintly; his peril was too recent for him to have regained his usual demeanor.
"Here is your mail," he said, passing over a handful of letters and papers. "By being ten minutes late I was enabled to get the latest news, and I see there is a Lyons letter among them."
"Ah," said Mr. Stephens, "that is fortunate for Lyons. Suppose we step into the library, Mallery, and see what they say for themselves."
So the two passed into the business room and ran over the contents of the letter in question, as well as several others, conversing together in a manner which showed that the younger man had a marked knowledge of the other's business affairs, and that his opinions were listened to as if they carried weight with them.
"But the mail was not what detained me," said Theodore, presently. "And Mr. Stephens, I was too late for the bank."
"Well, it will do to-morrow, will it not?" queried the elder gentleman, composedly.
"Oh yes, sir, it will do; but then you know it is not the way in which we do business."
Mr. Stephens laughed.
"I used to consider myself the most prompt and particular man living," he said, gaily; "but I believe you are going to make one several notches above me. I am really curious to know what has thrown you out of your orbit this afternoon."
Theodore's face flushed.
"I have been permitted to prevent a murder this afternoon, even after a father had furnished the weapons for his daughter's destruction," he said, speaking sharply. He was very savage on that question of intemperance.
"Horrible!" said Mr. Stephens, looking aghast. "Mallery, what do you mean?"
And then followed a recital of the afternoon's adventures. Had Theodore Mallery been the hero of a first-class novel he would have remained modestly and obstinately silent about a matter in which he had taken so prominent a part, but being very like a flesh and blood young man, it did not occur to him to hesitate or stammer—in fact he thought he had succeeded in doing a good brave deed, and he was very glad and thankful. Presently they left the library and went toward the parlor.
"Do you know I have another guest to-day?" asked Mr. Stephens, as they went down the hall together. "A Mr. Ryan, a lawyer. I think you are not acquainted with him."
"Ryan!" said Theodore, looking puzzled and racking his memory. "The name sounds familiar, but—oh!" and then he laughed, "Edgar Ryan?"
"The same. Do you know him?"
"Why, yes, sir. I used to know him very well; served him every day at the Euclid House."
"Did you indeed! Well, I know very little about him, save that his father was a good friend to me once."
When Mr. Stephens presented his confidential clerk to Mr. Ryan there was a start, a look of bewilderment and confused recollection, accompanied by a sudden roguish twinkle of recognition, and then the polished lawyer became oblivious to the existence of "Tode Mall," and "Habakkuk," and "bottles," and greeted "Mr. Mallery" in a manner that became a guest of Mr. Stephens, toward Mr. Stephens' honored clerk. Then they all went out to dinner. And the dinner progressed finely until the coffee and dessert were served, and Mr. Stephens had dismissed the waiters and prepared for a half-way business talk; then suddenly his clerk gave a quick nervous push from him of the plate on which quivered a tiny mound of jelly, its symmetry destroyed by just one mouthful, and the crimson blood rolled to his very forehead. His confusion was too apparent and continued to admit of being overlooked, and Mr. Stephens asked, with a mixture of curiosity and anxiety:
"What is the trouble, Mallery?"
"Mr. Stephens," said Theodore, earnestly with just a little tremble of pain in his voice, "you have made me disregard for the first time in my life the only prayer that my mother ever prayed for me."
Mr. Stephens, who knew the story of his life, looked bewildered and troubled, and said gently; "I don't understand, Theodore;" while Mr. Ryan's eyes had the roguish twinkle in them again, because he did understand.
Theodore silently inclined his head toward the rejected plate.
"Oh," said Mr. Stephens, looking relieved, "do you object to the wine jelly? Why, my dear boy, isn't that almost straining a point? I don't understand the art of interfering with cookery."
"This is an excellent opportunity for me," began Mr. Ryan. "I've been wishing enlightenment for a long time on an abstruse question connected with the temperance theory. Mr. Mallery, you are a stanch upholder of the cause, I believe. May I question you?"
Theodore had regained his composure, and was quietly sipping his coffee.
"You may, sir, certainly," he said, playfully. "I believe nothing is easier than to ask questions. Whether I can answer them or not is, of course, another matter."
Mr. Ryan laughed.
"But you used to be, or that is—well, something leads me to think that you are one of the Bible temperance men. Are you not?"
Theodore fixed a pair of full, earnest, unashamed eyes on the questioner's face before he said:
"Yes, sir, I entirely agree with Habakkuk on that subject to-day as in the past."
"Well then," said Mr. Ryan, dashing into the subject, "I'm in need of enlightenment. Isn't there a story in the Bible about a certain wedding, at which our Savior countenanced the use of wine not only by his presence, but by actually furnishing the wine itself by his own miraculous power?"
"There is such a story," said Theodore, continuing to quietly sip his coffee.
"Well, how do you account for it?"
"I suppose, sir, you know how great and good men account for it?" questioned Theodore.
"Oh yes, I know the story by heart, about two kinds of wine—one intoxicating, the other not, and that this wine at the marriage feast was of the non-intoxicating sort; but that at best is only supposition, not argument. I have as good a right to suppose it was intoxicating as you have to suppose it was not."
"Have you?" said Theodore, with elevated eyebrows. "In that we should differ."
"Then that is the very point upon which I need enlightenment," answered Mr. Ryan, with a good-humored laugh. "Won't you please proceed?"
"I presume you grant, sir, that it is not superstition but certainty that there were two kinds of wine in those days," said Theodore.
"Oh yes. I'll accept that as fact."
"Well, then, as I am not a Greek nor Hebrew scholar, and I understand that you are, I will simply remind you of the very satisfactory and generally accepted statements of learned men concerning the two words used in those languages to express two distinct kinds of liquid, which words were not, I am told, used interchangeably. Then I should like to pass at once to simpler, and, for unlearned people like myself, more practical arguments. Do you lawyers allow your authors to interpret themselves, sir?"
"Which is precisely what we do with the Bible. In a sense, the same Jesus who made wine of water at the marriage feast, is the author of the Bible, and if he is divine there must be no discrepancy in its pages. Now I find that this same Bible says, 'Wine is a mocker,' 'Look not upon the wine when it is red,' 'Woe to him that giveth his neighbor drink,' and a long array of similar and more emphatic expressions. Now how am I to avoid thinking either that Jesus of Nazareth was a mere man, and a very inconsistent one at that, or else that the wine at the marriage supper was not the wine with which we are acquainted, and which we will not use at all until 'it giveth its color in the cup and moveth itself aright?'"
Mr. Ryan laughed still good-humoredly, and said:
"Have you committed to memory the entire Bible as well as Habakkuk, Mallery? But I can quote Scripture, too. Doesn't your Bible read, 'Give wine to those that be of heavy hearts?'"
"Yes, sir; and, according to our translation, the same article is used as a symbol of God's wrath: 'For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Take the wine cup of this fury at my hand.' Does that look probable or reasonable? It talks, moreover, about 'wine that maketh glad the heart of man,' and I leave it to your judgment whether we know anything about any such wine as that?"
"But, Mallery," interposed Mr. Stephens, "I want to question you now myself. I am a genuine temperance man I have always supposed. I accord with everything that you have said on the subject, and still I don't believe I see the connection between wine drinking and using the article as a condiment, or in my cakes and jellies."
"Well, sir," said Theodore, turning toward him brightly, "the same Bible reads: 'If meat maketh my brother to offend, I will eat no more meat while the world stands;' and if we are to interpret the Bible according to its spirit, why doesn't it read with equal plainness; 'If wine maketh my brother to offend—'"
"But you surely do not think that an appetite for wine drinking can be cultivated from an innocent jelly?"
Theodore looked in grave surprise at his questioner as he said:
"That remark proves, sir, that you were not brought up in the atmosphere which surrounded my younger days, and also that you were never one of the waiters at the Euclid House; but that it takes much less than that to cultivate, or worse, to arouse an already cultivated appetite, I believe all trustworthy statements that have ever been made on the subject will bear me witness. Mr. Ryan, if you were a reformed drunkard, seated at this table, would you dare to eat that wine jelly?"
Mr. Ryan spoke dryly, laconically, but distinctly:
Theodore turned to Mr. Stephens again.
"'And the second is like unto it,'" he said, speaking low and gently. "'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.'"
"But my neighbor isn't here," answered Mr. Stephens, playfully. "At least not the reformed drunkard of whom you speak; if he were I would be careful."
"But if you meet him on the street to-night," answered Theodore, in the same manner, "don't, I beg of you, say anything to him about his evil habits, because he may ask you if you neither touch, taste nor handle the accursed stuff; and while you are trying to stammer out some excuse for your condiments, he might suggest to you that you use the poison in your way and he uses it in his, and there is many a brain that can not see the difference between the two; in which case it seems to me to become the old story, 'If meat maketh my brother to offend.'"
Mr. Stephens laughed.
"He ought to have been a lawyer instead of a merchant. Don't you think so, Ryan?" he asked, glancing admiringly at the flushed young face.
"I told him so several years ago," said Mr. Ryan.
Theodore was roused and excited; he could not let the subject drop.
"I can conceive of another reason why a good man should not harbor such serpents in disguise," he said, in the pleasant, half-playful tone which the conversation had latterly assumed.
"Let us have it by all means," answered Mr. Stephens. "I am court-martialed, I perceive and may as well have all the shots at once."
"Why, sir, what possible right can you have to beguile an innocent youth like myself to your table, and tempt his unsuspecting ignorance with a quivering bit of jelly which, had he known its ingredients, such are his principles and his resolves, and I may add such is his horror of the fiend, that he would almost rather have had his tongue plucked out by the roots than to have touched it?"
The sentence, began playfully, was finished in terrible earnestness, with trembling voice and quivering lip. There was no concealing the fact that this subject in all its details was a solemn one to him. Mr. Stephens watched for a moment the flushed earnest face. This man without wife or children, without home other than his wealth and his housekeeper furnished him, was fast taking his confidential clerk into his inner heart. He looked at him a moment, then glanced down at the table. Mr. Ryan's dish of jelly and his own still remained untouched. He spoke impulsively:
"Ryan, are you partial to that ill-fated dish beside you?"
"Not at all," answered that gentleman, laughingly. "I have conceived quite a horror for the quivering, suspicious-looking lump."
Then Mr. Stephens' hand was on the bell.
"Thompson," he said to the servant who answered his summons, "you may remove the jellies." And the brisk waiter looked startled and confused as he proceeded to obey the order.
"They are all right," explained Mr. Stephens, kindly, "only we have decided to dispense with them." And as the door closed upon the retreating servant the host added, turning to Theodore:
"I will dispense with them as regards my table from this time forth. This is my concession to your beloved cause."
Such a bright glad look of thanks and admiration and love as his young clerk bestowed upon him in answer to this Mr. Stephens never forgot.
THE "THREE PEOPLE" MEET AGAIN.
It is not to be supposed, because nothing has been said of intervening days, that the events recorded in the last two chapters followed each other in quick succession. In reality, when Theodore Mallery bought his first suit of ready-made clothing he had been but a very short time in his new place of business, but when the perilous railroad carriage drive was taken with the Hastings' carriage he had been Mr. Stephens' confidential clerk for three years, and was as much trusted and as promptly obeyed as was Mr. Stephens himself. He allowed a reasonable length of time to elapse after that momentous drive, and then one evening availed himself of Dora Hastings' cordial invitation to call. This was an attempt which he had never made before. Although he had gone somewhat into society since that memorable first evening at his pastor's house, yet the society in which he had grown most familiar, namely: that connected with his beloved church and Sabbath-school, was not the society in which Miss Hastings more generally mingled. This and her frequent and prolonged absences from the city, combined, perhaps, with other and minor causes, were the reasons why they had not again met socially; and, beyond an occasional bow as they passed each other in the church aisle, they had been as strangers to each other; this until the dangerous ride taken together. Then, as I said, after a little Theodore rang at the Hastings' mansion, had a peep of Dora sitting at the window, a peep of Mr. Hastings composedly pacing the length of the room, and after waiting what seemed to him an unreasonably long time for answer to his card, was courteously informed that the family were "not at home!" This was the great man's gratitude for the preservation of his daughter's life! He was grateful—was willing to make the young man his coachman, and to pay him in money; but he was not willing to receive him in his parlor on an equal social footing, for who knew better than he from what depths of poverty and degradation the young upstart had sprung! Theodore did not look very grave; he even laughed as he turned and ran lightly down the granite steps; and he was pleased but not surprised when a few days thereafter he met Dora on the square, and she stopped and frankly and distinctly disclaimed any complicity in her father's uncourteous act, or sympathy with his feelings. And there once more the matter dropped.