Ellis Holbrook's pride rose high.
"There's your wonderful boy," he said, "who was so changed, and has taken it upon himself to preach so many sermons to me. I'm sure I never finished any of my angry speeches with an oath, if I am so far below him."
What an afternoon that was to Tip! he will never forget it. He went no farther than the great tree, which was budding out in spring green. Down he sat on a stone, and once more covered his face with his hands, and such a storm of rage and pain swept over him as he had never known before.
How could he, how could he have said that word?
Ever since he had learned to pray, he had been afraid of that sin,—afraid he might forget, and go back to his old habits, and he had watched and guarded his lips with such care and prayer. But lately he had given up all fear; it had been such a long time, and he had never once fallen, he felt sure that he never would again.
He had felt so sure and proud and strong, that he had asked no help from God that day; he had been so eager to spend every moment on his arithmetic, that he had found no time to go to his Bible for strength. No wonder—oh, no wonder that he fell! He had been standing too firmly, feeling no need of help. Now, what should he do? How low he felt, how mean! Could God forgive him? Yes, He could.
Tip felt in his soul that there was nothing which God could not do, and yet he felt too mean and fallen to dare to ask Him for anything more; he forgot for the moment that Jesus Christ died to save sinners.
The sun went on over his head, and commenced his afternoon work; then there came up the hill the sound of the school-bell, but Tip took no notice of that; he didn't want to think of school, much less even go. He began to fumble presently for his Bible,—he must have some help. It opened of itself at the Psalms, and he read the first line which he saw: "Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks "—No, not that, and he turned back a couple of leaves. "Make a joyful noise "—No, no! he didn't want to hear anything about joy; his heart was as heavy as lead. So he turned over several leaves at once: he must find something that would read as if it meant him. "O Lord, rebuke me not in Thy wrath, neither chasten me in Thy sore displeasure." Oh, that was it! God was very angry with him,—-had a right to be,—this was just what he ought to say. He read on through the psalm; almost every verse seemed for him, and when he read the one next to the last,—"Forsake me not, O Lord; O my God, be not far from me,"—he said it over and over, and finally, in a great burst of tears, got down and said it on his knees.
The short spring day was over, and the chilly night was setting in. Tip had reached home finally, had split the wood for the next day, done whatever he could find to do about the house, and then carried the vests which his mother had just finished to the clothing-store,—going away around behind the mill so as to avoid passing the schoolhouse, lest he might chance to see some of the boys. Then he came home, ate his supper in silence, and went up to his attic. He felt better than he had at noon, but his heart was still heavy, and he dreaded the next day, not knowing what he ought to do, or how to do it. This was Thursday evening, but he didn't mean to go to prayer-meeting. Kitty had asked him, had even coaxed a little, but he said, "No, not to-night." He felt stiff and sore from his long sitting under the great tree in the early spring dampness. He told himself that this was the reason why he was not going to prayer-meeting; but the real one was, he felt as if he could not possibly face Mr. Burrows that evening, and certainly not Mr. Holbrook,—of course, Ellis had told him all about it. He felt very tired, and his head and limbs ached; he was going to read a chapter in his Bible and go to bed. He chose the same psalm which had come to him with so much power that afternoon, read it slowly and carefully, then knelt down to pray, and as he did so a new trouble loomed up before him. What should he do? He had prayed for Ellis Holbrook and Bob Turner ever since he began to pray for himself, but he felt as though he could not possibly pray for either of them to-night. Both had tried to injure him; both had succeeded. He wished them no harm: he didn't want to choke or drown them, as he had felt like doing at noon, but clearly he didn't want to pray for them. He had arisen from his knees, and was sitting on the edge of the box which was his table and chair, with a very troubled face. The more he thought about it, the more he felt that he could not pray for those boys just then. At last he thought he had found a way out of the difficulty. He said to himself that he was very tired, almost sick; he would just repeat the Lord's Prayer and go to bed. In the morning, very likely, he should feel differently; he almost knew he should. So he knelt down once more.
"Our Father which art in heaven," slowly reverently, through the sweet petition, until he came to "forgive us our debts as we"—There he stopped. He understood that prayer; they had been taking it up in Sunday school, a sentence at a time, and talking about it, and only the Sunday before last that sentence had been explained. To-night Tip could not finish it; there was no getting around the fact that he had not forgiven either Ellis or Bob. Once more he got up, and took a seat on the edge of his bed to think. He was never so perplexed in his life. What ought he to do? Couldn't he pray at all? Mr. Holbrook had said he must never mock God by asking for what he did not mean, and to say those words, "as we forgive our debtors," feeling as he did to-night, would be mocking God. He ought not to feel so, but how could he help it? Suddenly, with a little sigh of relief, he went down on his knees again: he had thought of something which he could say. "Oh, Jesus, make me feel like praying for Bob and Ellis; make me want them to be Christians as hard as I did last night; make me feel like forgiving them." Then there was silence in the lonely attic, while Tip, still on his knees, struggled with the evil spirit within him, and came off conqueror, for presently he added, "Oh, dear Jesus, I'll forgive them both!" and then he finished the prayer—"forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." While he went around after that, making ready for rest and sleep, the "peace of God which passeth understanding" came down and settled in his heart. Presently he seemed to come to another difficulty, for he sat down with one boot in his hand and one still on his foot. This question, however, was settled promptly: he pulled the boot on again in a hurry, then picked up his jacket and put that on, seized his hat, and ran down-stairs.
"Kitty," he said, putting his head in at the kitchen door, "I'm going, after all; come on."
And Kitty joyfully ran for her hood and shawl.
But Tip did not open his lips in prayer-meeting that evening; he felt bowed down to the very ground with shame; he did not once raise his eyes to the seat where Howard Minturn, Will Bailey, and others of the schoolboys were sitting; and, when the short hour was gone, he made haste to get out from Mr. Holbrook's sight and the sound of his voice. But he had much reason, after that, to thank God that he did not succeed. He had just got from under the gaze of the hall-lamp, and stood a minute in the darkness waiting for Kitty, when he felt Mr. Holbrook's hand on his arm, and heard his kind, quiet voice:
"Edward, Mrs. Holbrook has some little business to transact' with Kitty to-night; shall I walk with you?" And, as Tip saw there was no help for it, and walked by his side, he said, "I didn't see you at school this afternoon: how was that?"
"Mr. Holbrook, didn't Ellis tell you about it this noon?"
"Ellis has told me nothing. I heard, from one of the smaller boys, a very sad story. Have you anything to tell me?"
"No, sir, I have not; it's all true. I got awful mad, and I said mad things. I—I did worse than that."
Tip's voice sank to a solemn whisper. Mr. Holbrook, too, was silent and sad; at last he said,—
"What, Edward! do you mean to give up, and go back to the old life?"
And he remembered, years after, just how painfully his heart throbbed while he waited for Tip's answer; it was prompt and plain: "No, sir; God wouldn't even let me do that."
And then for a minute Mr. Holbrook did not speak for very thankfulness, that, through all this maze of sin, God was leading Tip into the light again.
"Do you feel that you have God's forgiveness?" he asked, speaking gently.
"Yes, sir." Tip could not give very long answers that evening.
"Why were you so quiet to-night in prayer-meeting?"
"Because," said Tip, speaking low, "I was ashamed to say anything before you or Mr. Burrows or the boys, after what happened today."
"More ashamed with us than you were with God?"
"Yes, sir, I was; because God knows all about it,—just how sorry I am, and how He has forgiven me, and is going to help me; and you didn't know that."
Again Mr. Holbrook was thankful.
"How about to-morrow, Edward?" he asked at last.
And this time Tip's answer was very low: I don't know; I don't know what to do."
"If you knew what was right to do, would you do it?"
"I'm pretty sure I'd try to, sir."
"Well, did you honour or dishonour Christ to-day?"
Tip's answer was in a more timid tone than he often spoke:
"I dishonoured Him."
"Do the boys know that you are very sorry, and have asked God to forgive you?"
"No, sir; they don't know anything about it."
"Don't you think, for the honour of Christ, they ought to?"
"I suppose so."
"Who ought to tell them?"
No immediate answer came to this; then, after a little,—
"Mr. Holbrook, how could I tell them—to each one—about it?"
"See if you cannot answer your own question. Will not all the boys be likely to hear about it?"
"Yes, sir; they'll be sure to."
"And would they all be likely to hear what you have to say, unless you spoke to all at once?"
"But, Mr. Holbrook, if I did that, it would have to be in school."
"But to-morrow is the last day, and it's examination."
That short word seemed to have a good deal of power over Tip, for he only answered it by saying, after a long silence,—
"Mr. Holbrook, I wonder if you can think how very hard that would be?"
"Edward, I wonder if you can think how very hard it was for your Saviour to listen to your words this noon?"
And Mr. Holbrook heard no more from Tip, save, when they reached the corner, a very low, very grave "Good-night."
"He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble: I will deliver him, and honour him."
There were not many visitors in the next morning; it was too early, as yet, for any but the examining committee, and a few very fond, very anxious mothers. Mr. Burrows' hand was on the bell; in a few moments the algebra class would be in full tide of recitation. Ellis and Howard had their slates in their hands, ready to start at the first sound, when Tip Lewis left his seat and made his way towards the stage. Mr. Burrows looked surprised; this was entirely out of order; but a look at Tip's face made him change his mind about sending him back to his seat, and bend his head to listen to the few words that were hurriedly whispered in his ear. Then he looked more surprised, hesitated a minute, then asked,—
"Hadn't you better wait until noon, and I can detain the scholars a few moments?"
"No," said Tip, shaking his head, and speaking earnestly; "I'm afraid, if I wait till noon, I shan't do it at all."
"Very well," Mr. Burrows answered finally. "Scholars, one of your number tells me that he has something of importance to say to you; we will wait and hear him."
It was well for Tip that he was a bold boy, that every day of his life had been such as to teach him a lesson of boldness, else his courage would surely have failed him, when he felt the many curious eyes resting on him. As it was, his face was scarlet, when he turned it away from the desk and towards the boys. Yet he spoke promptly, as he always did when he spoke at all:
"I want to tell the boys that I am sorry for yesterday. I suppose they all know what I did. I got awful mad, and I—I said a dreadful word. I didn't think I would ever be so wicked again; I feel awful about it. But I don't want the boys to think that I don't love Jesus any more, because I do; and He is going to help me try Such a silence as was in that schoolroom then, the boys had never felt before! Mr. Burrows' face was shaded with his hand; he let the silence rest upon them for a moment, after Tip had taken his seat; then he spoke, low and solemnly,—
"Boys, what God has forgiven, I feel sure that no scholar of mine will be mean enough ever to mention again."
Then the bell sounded, and the business of the day went on. Tip had laid his head down on the desk the minute he took his seat, and he kept it there throughout the recitation. He had been through a fearful struggle; it was hard work for a boy like him to stand up before the school and tell them how he had fallen. But it was over now, and from his very soul he felt that he had done right.
Bob Turner, sitting beside him, was quiet and sober; and when Tip raised his arm with such a sudden jerk that he knocked his arithmetic to the floor, Bob leaned over and quietly picked it up and laid it back in its place; which was a wonderful thing for Bob Turner to do.
At noon the boys gathered around Tip, quiet and kind; no one spoke of what had been the important event of the morning; all were on good behaviour.
Ellis Holbrook came into their midst.
"Tip," he said, speaking gravely, yet very coldly, "perhaps it would be as well for you to know that you made quite a blunder yesterday, when you said I told you wrong; I hadn't the slightest notion of telling you, right or wrong. But I know how you came to think so. I was looking out a word in Mr. Burrows' dictionary, and stood just behind you, when Mr. Bailey leaned over and asked me how many there were in your class when all were present, and I answered him, seven."
Tip looked perfectly astonished.
"Why didn't you say so yesterday?" he asked at last.
"Because you didn't give me a chance," Ellis answered coolly. "I'm not in the habit of cheating, nor of being told that I do, so I was not prepared with an answer."
"That's true," said Tip, after a minute, answering the first part of Ellis's sentence; "that's true, I didn't. I was mad, and I just banged off before anybody could say anything. I might have known you didn't do any such thing; it ain't like you."
And Tip walked away, leaving Ellis to think that the boy who was so far below him had shown much the better spirit of the two.
The busy day was drawing to a close; the last recitation was over, and the boys were in a state of grand excitement, waiting to hear the report of the committee; waiting to know whose names were to stand on the Roll of Honour, having passed through the entire examination without a mistake. Poor Tip was sad; yesterday morning he had felt so sure that his name would have an honourable place, and to him it was so much more exciting, because it would be for the first time. How hard he had worked; and now it was all lost! Stupidly lost, too, he said to himself, over an example that he had done a dozen times; and he drew a heavy sigh, and roused himself to listen to the report. Mr. Burrows had already called for it, and Mr. Holbrook, as chairman of the committee, had arisen; but, instead of reading the report, said,—
"Mr. Burrows, if there is time, I should like to say a few words to the scholars. Boys, you were all listeners to Edward Lewis's examination yesterday, and I presume you know better than I do how hard he has worked. Now, I think any one who watched him yesterday could not have failed to see that, had he not grown excited and nervous, he could have worked that example. Mr. Burrows, may I put a question to vote?"
And Mr. Burrows giving a hearty consent, he continued, "Very well. Now I want every boy here, who is willing to allow Edward Lewis to go to the board now and try that example, and, if he succeeds, give him the place which would have been his yesterday, to stand up."
Ellis Holbrook was the first to spring to his feet, and every single boy in the room followed his example; Tip alone sitting still, with burning cheeks.
"Well done," said Mr. Holbrook "Now it only remains to get your teacher's consent to our plan."
Which Mr. Burrows gave by wheeling his table from before the blackboard and picking up an arithmetic. "You may come forward, Edward. I will dictate the example; which one is it?"
"The thirty-ninth, sir; fifty-first page."
By this time Tip was at the board. How they watched him! how fearful his teacher was for him! how he longed to have him succeed! Tip worked fast and boldly; his hand did not tremble; chalk and fingers and brain did their duty; the terrible "nine in thirty-one, how many times," as a test for the larger number, was reached, and an unusually large and bold figure three was placed in the quotient; a few more rapid dashes, and, with a grand flourish after the "seventeen remainder," Tip threw down the chalk, pushed back the hair from his hot temples, and walked to his seat. The boys could not keep quiet any longer: a very soft tapping was heard at first, then, finding they were not silenced, it rose to a loud, decided stamping of many feet. But Mr. Holbrook was on his feet again, and they were quiet directly, for the report was finally to be read.
"My son," said Mr. Holbrook, not long after, laying his hand kindly on Ellis's shoulder, as he was hurrying from the room, "what do you think of Edward's religion to-night?"
"I think it is honest, sir," Ellis answered quickly. "Excuse me, father, if you please; I must see Howard a minute before he goes;" and so he ran away from his father's longing look.
As for Tip, he borrowed from Howard Minturn a copy of the village paper, which came out a few days after, and read the report of the examination; read this sentence: "And, among all the pupils, perhaps no one of them has made more rapid or astonishing progress than has Edward Lewis."
Then, while the twilight deepened, he turned eagerly to the next column, which read in this way:—
"ROLL OF HONOUR;
"Being an alphabetically arranged List of those who passed the entire Examination without making an error:
WILLARD BAILEY. ELLIS HOLBROOK. HARVEY JENNINGS. EDWARD LEWIS."
"I will lead them in paths that they have not known."
"See here, Tip," called Mr. Minturn, appearing in his store door one morning not long after the examination; "I want to talk to you."
Tip swung his basket off his shoulder, and went into the store. He was at work for Mr. Dewey, and every piece of meat which he carried home took the form, in his eyes, of a Latin grammar and a dictionary; for these two books were what he was at present aiming after.
"I'm in a great hurry, Mr. Minturn," he said; "I've got a piece of meat for your folks in my basket, and I expect they want it."
"They'll have to wait till they get it," answered Mr. Minturn; "but I never hinder folks long. What are you going to do with yourself, now school's out?"
"Oh, work; anything I can find to do while vacation lasts."
"So you're going to keep on at school, are you? I thought likely, since your father was laid up, you'd he hunting for steady work, so you could help the family along. There's a hard winter coming, you know."
There was no mistaking Mr. Minturn's tone. It said, as plainly as words could have done, "That's what I think you ought to do, anyhow."
Tip looked troubled. "There's nothing for me to do," he said at last; "I don't know of a place in this town where I could get steady work that I could do; and besides, if there was, I'm after an education now."
"My brother is here from Albany," Mr. Minturn made answer to this. "He is a merchant, has a large store there, and keeps a great many clerks. He's been plagued to death lately with one of his boys,—when he sent him home with bundles, he'd open them and help himself; and my brother told me last night, if I could warrant him a boy who was perfectly honest, he'd take him home with him, pay his fare down, and do well by him. I thought of you right away, and I told my brother that you were just the boy for him,—you'd be as true as steel; but then, if you're going to keep on at school, it's all up."
Mr. Minium did not add, that he had kept his brother until eleven o'clock the night before, telling him Tip's history,—what a boy he had been, how he had changed, how he was struggling upward; and, finally, the whole story of the examination,—the failure, the downfall, the public confession; nor how his brother had listened eagerly, and had said, with energy, after the story was finished,—
"Such a boy as that ought to be helped; and I'm ready to help him."
None of this did Tip hear, but he stooped down for his basket when Mr. Minturn had finished speaking, with a bright blush on his cheek. It was something for a boy like him to be called "as true as steel."
"Yes," he said decidedly; "I'm going to keep on at school, that's certain. Thank you all the same."
And out he went; yet all the way up and down the streets his thoughts were busy over what he had just heard. It was time, certainly, as poor as they were, that he began to work; his mother's sewing supported the family now, and hard and late into the nights she had to work to keep them from hunger. Tip had thought of this question before, but had always comforted himself with the thought that work was not by any means an easy thing to get in the village; the odd jobs which he could find, out of school hours, being really the only things he could get to do. But no such comfort came to him to-day: here was a chance, and a splendid one, for getting steady work, and by and by good wages probably; why wasn't he glad?
Oh, ever since he gave himself to Christ, there had been in his heart a longing to get an education, and not only that, but to become a minister. Very small, faint hopes he had, and even those were frightened sometimes at their own boldness; but every day the desire grew stronger, and it did not seem as though he could possibly give up school now. It was out of the question, he told himself, just as he was beginning to enjoy his books so much, and was doing well. Mr. Burrows would be disappointed in him; he had encouraged him to study. No, it couldn't be done. He would consider the matter settled. And yet there was his mother, working day and night, and he, her only son, not helping. There was his father, growing weaker every day, coughing harder every night; long ago they had given up the hope that the cough would ever leave him. There was Kitty, who ought to be in school, but could not because her mother must have the little help which she could give. Tip was half distracted with thinking about it; he felt provoked at Mr. Minturn, and Mr. Minturn's brother, and the store in Albany, and the boy who helped himself out of other people's bundles; they were all trying to cheat him out of his education. A dozen times he said it was settled, and as many times began at the beginning to think it all over again. He went home finally, after the meat was carried around; but this didn't help him any. Home hadn't gone back to its old state of dirt and disorder: Kitty's first attempt had been too successful, and she had liked the looks of things too well to give up; so there was a great change for the better in the housekeeping, which both Kitty and her mother enjoyed. Still, there was no denying that, though a clean, it was a very forlorn little room, with very few things for comfort or convenience. Tip had never seen this with such wide-open eyes as he did today; so coming home did not quiet the vexing thoughts.
He split wood and pumped water without whistling a note, growing more sober every minute. At last, after supper, when the work was all done that he could do, he drew a sigh of relief; it was so nice to have time for thought. He could go up to his attic, and he would not come down, no, not if it wasn't in three days, until this thing was decided finally and for ever.
Kitty sewed steadily on the seam which her mother had fixed for her, and wondered why Tip didn't come down and hear her lesson, which had been ready for him this hour. It was another hour before he came; then his mother said,—
"Tip, if you've a cent in the world, do take it, and go and get your father some of that cough-candy. I do believe he hasn't stopped coughing since supper."
Tip took his hat and started for the store; as he went he whistled a little. The cough-candy was found at a store away up town, and, getting a paper of it, Tip dashed on around the corner and opened Mr. Minturn's store door.
"When is your brother going home?" he asked, without ceremony, seeing Mr. Minturn behind the counter.
"Well, I'm going to talk to father, and I think likely I'll want to go along with him."
So Tip slammed to the door and ran away and Mr. Minturn never knew what a downfall that decision had been to the boy's dear hopes and plans.
It was all settled in the course of a day or two. Mr. Minturn from Albany was very kind. Tip was to have wages that seemed a small fortune to him, and enough had been advanced to get him a new suit of clothes, which his mother made.
One would have supposed that the future would look bright to him; yet it was with a very sad heart that he took his seat in prayer-meeting that Thursday evening, the last time he expected to be in that room for—he didn't know how long. He had a feeling that he ought to be very glad and thankful, and wasn't at all.
Through the opening hymns and prayers his heart kept growing heavier every moment, and it was not until Mr. Holbrook arose, and repeated the text which he had chosen for the evening, that Tip could arouse himself to listen. It was a queer text, so he thought,—"Who shall roll away the stone?" What could Mr. Holbrook be going to say on that? He found out, and had reason to remember it for ever after. As he went out from that meeting, his thoughts, had he spoken them, would have been like these:
"That's true,—I don't believe any man but Mr. Holbrook would ever have thought of it: they worried at a great rate about that stone, how they would get it rolled away, and when they got there it was gone. I'll remember that. I'll do just as he said: when I see a stone ahead of me, I won't stop and fret about it; I'll walk straight up to it, and when I get there maybe it will roll out of my way."
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
Behold Tip, now in Albany, far away from home and friends, from every one that he had ever seen before, save Mr. Howard Minturn, young Howard's uncle. But he had been there some time, and was growing into a settled-at-home feeling. It had been a wonderful change to him. Mr. Minturn did not board his clerks; but for some reason, best known to himself, he had taken Tip home with him. For a few days the boy felt as though the roses on the carpets were made of glass, and would smash if he stepped on them. But he was getting used to it all; he could sit squarely on his chair at the table instead of on the edge, spread his napkin over his lap as the others did, and eat his pie with a silver fork under the light of the sparkling gas.
"Mother," said little Alice Minturn, "why does father have Edward board here, and sit at the table with us?"
"Because, Alice, your father wants to help him in every way; your uncle Minturn thinks he is an unusually good, smart boy."
"I think so too," said Alice, and was satisfied.
And Tip Lewis was Tip no longer; no one knew him by that name; every one there said "Edward," save the store clerks, and they called him "Ed."
He had a queer feeling sometimes that he was somebody else, and that Tip Lewis, whom he used to know so well, would be very much astonished if he could see him now.
He went into Sabbath school, and became a member of Mr. Minturn's Bible class; but teachers were scarce, and before he had been there three weeks Mr. Minturn sent him to take charge of a class of very little boys, who called him "Mr. Lewis," and made him feel strange and tall. He began to realize that he was almost sixteen years old, and growing very fast.
He was leading a very busy life now-a-days; at work all day, in and for the store, and in the evening doing all he could with his books. Those books and his love for them were a great safeguard to him, kept him away from many a temptation to go astray; and yet it was hard work to accomplish much in the little time he had, and with no helper. Sometimes he sighed wearily, and felt as though the road was full of stones.
"I pity you, old fellow," one of the younger clerks said to him one evening, as they were leaving the store.
"I don't know for what," was the good-natured answer.
"Why, Mr. Minturn's pink of a perfect and wonderful and altogether amazing son Ray has just got home from the University; saw him pass the store not an hour ago, leaning back in the carriage like a prince."
"What's he?" asked Edward.
"He's a prig; that's what he is."
"What's a prig?"
"Ho! you're a greeney, if you don't know what a prig is. Wait till he snubs you and lords it over you awhile; then I guess you'll know. He'll have a good chance, seeing you're right there at the house all the while. I wouldn't be in your shoes for a penny."
Spite of its making him a great greeney, Edward did not know what a prig was; but, judging from his companion's tone, he decided that it must be something very disagreeable. He went home feeling cross and uncomfortable, wishing that Ray were anybody in the world rather than Mr. Minturn's son, or anywhere else rather than at home. He was beginning to have such a nice time there; they were all so kind to him, and really seemed to like him. It was too bad to have it all spoiled.
"I know what kind of a fellow he is," he muttered to himself; "he's like that Mr. Symonds who comes to the store twice a week or so after kid gloves, and acts as if he thought he was a great deal too good to ask me a decent question. My! I wish he was in Texas."
The dining-room was a blaze of light when he peeped in, soon after the family were gathered waiting for Mr. Minturn. The newcomer sat on the sofa, one arm a-round little Alice, and the other resting gently on his mother's lap. Edward guessed, by his mother's face, that she did not wish he was in Texas. Mr. Minturn came in presently, and Edward stole into the room just behind him; but Alice called him eagerly:
"Edward, Ray has come! Come over here and see him."
"Go ahead," said Mr. Minturn, as Edward stood still, with very red cheeks; and Ray sat up and held out his hand.
"How do you do, Edward? Alice has been making me acquainted with you this afternoon, so you're not a stranger."
How very clear and kind his tones were! Edward was astonished. That same evening he was more astonished. He was in the library, at work over his books; Mr. Minturn had to go to a committee meeting, expecting to be detained late; as he arose from the dinner-table, he said,—
"How am I to get in to-night? Here's my night-key in two pieces."
"I'll be night-key, sir," said Edward promptly.
"Well, you may; you can take your books to the library, and have a long evening to pore over them."
So he was there, poring over them with all his might, when the door opened gently, and Ray Minturn came in.
"Are you hard at work?" he asked kindly.
"Yes, sir," said Edward, wishing he would go out again. But he didn't seem in a hurry to do so; he took a book from the case, and glanced over it a moment, then came towards Edward.
"What are you studying?"
"Fractions," answered Edward briefly.
"Do you have any trouble?"
"Yes, lots," speaking a little crossly, for he wanted to go on with his work; "I can't get this one I'm at, to save my head."
"Suppose I see what is the matter." And Bay drew a chair to the table and sat down, glancing his eye over the slate.
"Rather, suppose you see for yourself," he said in a few moments. "Just run over that multiplication at the top of the slate."
"Oh, bother!" Edward said, after he had obeyed orders; "that figure three has made me all this trouble."
"Smaller things than figure threes make trouble. Have you been to school lately?"
"Always, till I came here; but I might just as well have been out until last winter."
"What happened last winter?"
"Lots of things," answered Edward, with brightening eyes. But he didn't seem disposed to state any of them; so, after waiting a little, Ray asked,—
"Wouldn't you get on faster with your books if you had a teacher?"
"Think likely I should; but I haven't got any, so I'll have to get on as fast as I can."
"How would it do if I should play teacher while I am at home, and give you the hour from nine till ten?"
Edward laid down his pencil, turned his eyes for the first time full upon Kay, and looked at him in silent astonishment.
"Do you mean it?" he asked at last.
"Certainly I do; I shouldn't say so if I didn't. Don't you think you would like it?"
"Like it! I guess I would. But I don't know—What do you do it for?"
"Because I am glad to help a boy who seems to be trying to help himself. We will consider it settled, then. It is ten o'clock; will you come out to prayers now?"
And at this the astonished look on Edward's face deepened.
"Is Mr. Minturn here?" he asked.
"No; but his son is. Are you so surprised that I should have prayers in my father's absence?"
"Yes," said Edward; "I didn't know—I mean I didn't think"—
"You didn't think I had learned to pray, perhaps. Thank God, I have." Then he laid his hand kindly on Edward's shoulder. "Have you learned that precious lesson yet, my friend?"
"Yes," said Edward softly; "a good while ago."
"I am very glad; you will never learn anything else that is quite so important. What is all the study for, by the way? Have you any plans.'"
"Yes," said Edward, astonished at what he was about to tell to a stranger; "I want to get an education, and then, if I possibly can do that, I want to be a minister."
Ray's hand fell from his shoulder, and when he answered this, his voice was low and a little sad:
"God bless you, and help you. I hope you will never have to give it up."
Edward made up his mind that night that a prig meant the best and kindest,—yes, and the wisest young man in the world.
"Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
The long, bright summer days and the glowing autumn days were gone; mid-winter was upon them. During all this time Edward was hard at work; there was plenty of business to be done at the store. He had been promoted; very rarely, now-a-days, was he called on to carry home purchases, or to do errands. He had his counter and his favourite customers. There had been another change, too, which Edward felt sure Ray had had a hand in; Ray had a hand in everything that was good and thoughtful. He had long evenings for study now; he came up to dinner with Mr. Minturn at six o'clock, and had no further work to do until the next day. Oh, those long evenings! What rapid progress he made! what a teacher Ray was! Could a boy help getting on who was so carefully and kindly led?
What was not Ray to him?—teacher, friend, brother; constant, unfailing, loving guide. Edward was learning to love him with an almost worship.
Meantime, every one saw better than did Edward himself how he had changed. He had not been in constant intercourse with a Christian family, who lived their religion every day and every hour, for nothing; his improvement had been constant and rapid.
He came home from the post office one evening with his hands full of letters, among them a very queer-looking one for himself. He carried the others to the library, and his own to his room. Such an odd letter as it was! He was glad it was his business to get the mail, and that none of the other clerks had seen this, with his name written at the very top of the envelope, and written "Tip" at that. How oddly it looked, and how queerly it sounded when he said it over! It was so long since he heard that name, he never wanted to again. He was glad that Ray Minturn had never called him Tip, nor heard him called so.
Who could it be from? Nobody wrote to him except Kitty, and once in a long while his mother; but this was no home-letter. At last he broke the seal, and read:—
"DEER TIP,—Mother's dead, I feel bad, you kno that, so what's the use? I've got to go to work. I like you better than any of the other felows, always did. Can't I com out there to your store and work, I'll behave myself reel wel; I will, honour bright, if you'll git me a place. I've got money enuff to get there. I dug potatoes for old Williams and earned it. Rite to me rite off that's a good fellow. I want to com awful. BOB TURNER."
Edward was thunderstruck! he dropped the letter on the floor in disgust. What was to be done now? The idea of having Bob Turner there was perfectly dreadful; besides, thank fortune! it was impossible. They wanted more help, to be sure, had been looking out for a boy that very day, but not such a one as Bob,—that was out of the question; and yet—Bob's mother was dead! In his rude, careless way, Bob had loved his mother rather better than he had any one else, and Edward did not doubt that he felt badly. He was without friends now; surely he needed one if he ever did. But it was so disagreeable to think of having him there,—he was so different from any of the others, and he would call him Tip, and be always around in his way; would seem to lead him back to the old life from which he thought he had escaped altogether. It was not to be thought of for a moment. But then—and now came a startling thought. How long he had been praying for Bob! Perhaps this was the way in which God meant to answer, by giving him a chance to work as well as pray. Perhaps he ought to be willing to have him come. No matter how much the clerks might make fun of him for having such a friend; no matter how much pain and annoyance it might cause him; if this was God speaking to him to help his brother, how dreadful it would be to make no answer!
He sat down to think about it; his algebra lay open before him; he was not quite ready for Kay, but he could not attend to algebra now.
"Let me see," he said; "if there should be such a thing as that Bob could come, what would I do for him? One of two things is certain, either he'll lead me or I shall him; we always did when we were together much. Which will it be? If he leads me, he'll lead me into mischief, just as sure as the world; if I lead him, I'll try to keep him out of mischief. It's clear that I ought to be the leader. Now, how would I do it, I wonder? Bob ought to be a Christian; he won't be safe two minutes at a time until he is. If God says anything, He says He'll hear prayer. If I believe that, why don't I pray for Bob, so that he'll be converted? I do pray for him always, but it's kind of half-way praying—kind of as if I thought it was a pretty hard thing for God to do after all. That's wrong. God wants him safe, and He knows he isn't safe now, and He's willing to help him; it must be my fault that He don't. My business and lessons, and all that sort of thing, are putting Bob and Ellis, and even father, pretty much out of my thoughts. That's wrong too, and must be stopped. Mr. Minturn says a thing is never half done that hasn't a corner in the day belonging to itself. I'll try that rule. After this, every evening at half-past eight, I'll come up here to my room and lock the door, and I'll pray for Bob; I'll pray as though I expected an answer, and was going to be on the look-out for it. I won't let anything hinder me from coming at just that time, unless it's something that I can't help. Meantime, I'll get him a place if I can."
Edward was as straightforward as Tip had been; this point decided, he went down-stairs to the library door, and knocked.
Mr. Minturn was alone, and busy; but he looked up as Edward entered in answer to his "Come in."
"Well, sir, what is it?"
"Have you time for a little piece of business?"
"Always time for business; sit down. What is it about?"
"Have you found a boy yet?"
"No. Have you?"
"Yes, sir; there's a boy out home who wants to come; I've just had a letter from him. His name is Turner—Bob Turner."
"Is he a good boy?"
"Well, that's plain! What are you talking about, then?"
"I want you to make him a good boy, sir."
"Humph! that's an idea. I can't make boys over new. Is he honest?"
"No, sir, I don't think he is very,—not what you mean by honest; but his mother is dead, and he hasn't any friends; he goes with a miserable set of fellows, and he'll get worse than he is in no time if he stays there."
"And the whole of it is, you think it's my duty to let him come, and try to save, him! Suppose I should, what would you do for your share?"
"I'd try, too."
"Why, I'd try to get him to do right."
"Suppose he should try to get you to do wrong?"
"He couldn't!" said Edward positively.
"How did you find that out?"
"Because I should pray for myself every day, and for Bob too; and God hears prayer."
"Yes, but God's people sometimes get very far away from Him; if this Bob should lead you astray, I'd be sorry I ever heard of him."
"I don't feel much afraid," Edward said, speaking this time in a more quiet, less positive tone, "for I never go wrong when I pray often; pray about everything that comes up, you know, and mean what I pray for."
"Humph!" said Mr. Minturn; "that's a good idea; I guess you're pretty safe under that rule."
"Besides," said Edward, reserving one of his best arguments till the last, "I know somebody who would help Bob ever so much,—Mr. Ray would find him out."
Mr. Minturn's eyes grew bright, and he smiled a half sad smile.
"Yes," he said, "that's true enough; Ray can't come near anybody without helping him. Well, write to the boy to come on; we'll try him. Has he anything to come with?"
"Yes, sir, he says he has money enough to get here." And Edward went away glad, for he had begun to be very willing to have Bob there.
"If ye abide in Me, and My word abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
Edward got up one morning feeling years older than he had only the morning before,—older and graver, feeling a great responsibility resting on his shoulders; for he was The weary frame, racked with so many pains, was at last at rest. Kitty had written just a line, telling the sad story, but it did not reach him until nearly a week after; and with it came Mr. Holbrook's,—a long letter, full of tender sympathy, telling all about how, in the afternoon of an early spring day, they had laid his father by Johnny's side.
Edward read on eagerly, until he came to this sentence: "My dear boy, I have a most precious message for you. I was with him only an hour before he died, and at that time he said to me, 'I want you to tell Tip that God has heard his prayer, and saved his father; and that I shall watch for him to come to heaven, and bring all the rest.' And, Edward, I haven't a shade of doubt but that your father is with his Redeemer; you must let me quote again a verse which I once gave you: 'I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplications.'"
And at this point the letter dropped from his hand, and Edward shed his first tears for his father.
It was curious, the different ways that Mr. Minturn and his son had of expressing sympathy.
"Oh," Mr. Minturn said, when he was told, "why in the world didn't they send for you?"
"Because, sir, my father died very suddenly, and my mother thought I could not afford to come so far for the funeral."
"Afford! as if that would have made any difference. Did they think I would let it cost you anything?"
Edward showed Mr. Holbrook's letter to Ray after that; and when it had been read, expressed the feeling which had been much in his heart ever since the news came, and which had been strengthened by Mr. Monturn's words:
"I shall always be sorry that I could not have gone to the funeral."
And Bay answered, resting his arm, as he spoke, lightly on Edward's shoulder, to express the tenderness which he felt, "No you won't, my dear fellow; when you get up there, in the glory of the Redeemer's presence, and meet your father face to face, you will not remember to be sorry that you did not see him buried."
Meantime Bob had come, and been set at work. He did not board at Mr. Minturn's. Edward had heard that matter arranged with a little sigh of relief; his precious hour with Ray, then, would be undisturbed.
Bob was doing very much better than anybody who knew him would have imagined he could do; he seemed to have made up his mind to behave himself, sure enough. Yet his being there was a trial to Edward in several ways: he had a great horror of being called "Tip;" that name belonged to the miserable, ragged, friendless, hopeless boy who used to wander around the streets in search of mischief, not to the young man who was a faithful clerk in one of the finest stores in Albany, besides being a teacher in Sabbath school, and a very fair scholar in Latin and algebra. But Bob Turner could not be made to understand all this; and though he stared at the neat black suit which Edward wore, and opened his eyes wide when Mr. Minturn went and came in company with his old companion, and honoured him in many ways, he still called him "Tip," in clear, round tones, that rang through the store a dozen times a day. But there was nothing which Ray could not smooth over, so Edward thought, when one evening he flounced into the library with a very much disturbed face.
"I wish that fellow knew anything," he said angrily.
"What is the matter now?" Bay asked, meeting the bright, angry eyes with a quiet smile.
Edward laughed a little. "Well, I can't help feeling vexed; Bob screeches that hateful little name after me wherever I go. I despise that name, and I wish he could be made to understand it."
"How did you happen to be called Tip at first?"
"Why," said Edward, turning over the leaves of his dictionary, "my little sister Kitty made it up before she could talk plain. How she ever got that name out of Edward, I don't know; I'm sure I wish she had been asleep when she did it; but that's what she called me, and that's what I've been ever since."
"And did Johnny, the little boy that died, ever call you so?"
Edward's eyes began to grow soft.
"Often," he said gently; "and it was about the only name he could speak; he was a little fellow."
"Well, Edward, I should not think it would be such a very disagreeable name to you, when your father, who is gone, always used it, and always in kindness, you told me; and it is the only name by which little Johnny can remember you. There are two things to be thought of in this matter," Ray continued, after a moment, finding Edward not disposed to speak: "one is, if you hope to do anything with this old companion of yours, you must be ready to take worse things from him than a quiet, inoffensive little name like that; he will learn your right name, perhaps, in time. And the other is—What is Bob Turner's right name, my friend?"
Edward's face flushed, his lips quivered into a little smile, then he laughed outright.
"It would be ridiculous to call him Robert!" he said, still laughing. "Ray, here's my exercise, if you want it now."
And Ray heard no more complaints about the offending little name.
"Say, Tip, just go home with me to-night," Bob coaxed one evening, as Edward, having been detained late at the store, was leaving just as Bob was closing the shutters. "Mr. Ray's head is so bad you won't have any plaguy lessons to-night to hinder you. Every single fellow in the store but me is going to the theatre, and I am awful lonesome up there alone."
"It is a wonder you are not going too," said Edward.
"No, it ain't. I can keep a promise once in a while, I reckon. That Ray Minturn can do anything with a fellow, and I was fool enough to promise him that I wouldn't go. Come, go up home with me; do, that's a good fellow!"
"No," said Edward decidedly, "I can't."
"Now, Tip Lewis, I think you're real mean; you don't never come to see me no more than if I was in Guinea. You act as if you were ashamed of me, and I keep my word and behave myself, too; and you're a mean, chicken-hearted fellow, if you're ashamed to notice me now-a-days, just because you board in a big house and dress like a dandy."
"Poh!" said Edward; "what nonsense that is! I'd look well being ashamed of any one that Minturn talked with. But, Bob, I can't go to-night, nor any other night just about this time; because I made a promise that I'd do something else, at exactly half-past eight, and that nothing in the world should hinder me if I could help it; and it can't be far from half-past eight now."
Bob eyed him curiously. "Tip, you're the oddest fellow born, I do believe," he said at last "Is it lessons?"
"No, it's nothing about lessons."
"Couldn't I help you to do it?"
"Yes," said Edward, after a thoughtful silence; "you could help me better than any one else, only you won't."
"Well, now," Bob answered earnestly, "as sure as I'm alive, I will, if you'll tell me what it is; I'll help you this very night."
"Do you promise?" asked Edward.
"Yes, I do, out and out; and when I promise a thing through and through, why, you know, Tip Lewis, that I do it."
"Well," said Edward, as he tried the door to see that all was safe before leaving, "then I'll tell you. Every night, at exactly half-past eight, I go to my room and ask God over and over again to make you want to be a Christian."
Not a single word did Bob answer to this; he took long strides up the street by the side of Edward in the direction of Mr. Mintern's, never once speaking until they had reached the door, and stood waiting to be let in; then he said, "Tip, that's mean."
"To get a fellow to promise what he can't do."
"I have not. Don't you want to be a Christian?"
"No; I can't say that I'm particular about it."
"But that's too silly to believe. You need a friend to help you about as badly as any one I know of, and when you can have one for the asking, why shouldn't you want Him? Besides, I didn't say make you a Christian, anyhow; I said make you want to be one. You can pray, that I'm sure; any way, you promised, and I trusted you."
Bob followed him through the hall, up the stairs, to his neat little room, and whistled "Hail, Columbia," while he lighted a match and turned on the gas.
"My! you have things in style here, don't you?" he said, looking around, while the bright light gleamed over the pretty carpet and shining furniture.
"Yes," said Edward; "everything in this house is in style. Bob, it's half-past eight."
"Well," Bob said good-naturedly, "I'd like to know what I'm to do; this is new business to me, you see."
"I'm going to kneel down here and pray for you, and you promised to do the same."
Edward knelt at his bedside, and Bob, half laughing, followed his example. But Christ must have been praying too, and putting words into Edward's heart to say. By and by, in spite of himself, Bob had to put up his hand and dash away a tear or two. He had never heard himself prayed for before.
That evening was one to be remembered by Bob Turner, for more than one reason. Bay sent for both of the boys to come to his room; he was sick, but not too sick to see and talk with Bob whenever he could get a chance. He made the half-hour spent with him so pleasant, that Bob gave an eager assent to the request that he would come often. More than that, he kept his word; and as often as he passed Edward's door, towards nine o'clock, he stepped lightly, for he knew that he was being prayed for, and there began to come into his heart a strange longing to pray for himself. One evening he discovered that Ray, too, prayed every night for him, and the vague notion grew into a certainty, that what they two were so anxious about for him, he ought to desire for himself.
"Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
Edward had taken this promise into his heart; he was trying to live up to the condition to abide in Christ, and in due season God made His promise sure.
"I wish," Bob said to Ray one evening when the weary head was full of pain,—"I do wish I could do something for you."
"You can," Ray answered quickly,—"something that I would like better than almost anything else in the world."
"What is it?" Bob's question was sincere and eager.
"Give yourself to Christ."
Bob heard this in grave, earnest silence.
"I would," he said after a minute, "if I knew how."
"Do you mean that?"
"Yes, I do; I'm sick of waiting, and I'm sick of myself."
"If I should tell you how, would you do it?"
"Yes, I would," spoken evidently with honest meaning.
"Kneel down, then, here beside me, and say to God that you want to be a Christian; that you are willing to give yourself up to Him now and for ever, to do just as He tells you."
Bob hesitated, struggling a little, and at last knelt down. There was silence in the room, while three sincere hearts were lifted up in prayer; and surely Christ bent low to listen. When Bob would have risen, Bay laid one hand on his arm, and, steadying his throbbing head with the other, said solemnly,—
"Blessed Redeemer, here is a soul given up to Thee. Do Thou take it, and wash it in Thy precious blood, and make it fit for heaven. We ask boldly, because Thou hast promised, and we know that Thy promises are sure."
"Edward," Ray said the next evening, as they sat alone, and were silent for a little, after Bob had left them, and gone home rejoicing in the hope of sins washed away, "what was that verse that your minister at home quoted for you in his letter?"
"I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplication," Edward repeated it with brightening eyes.
"And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away."
Onward sped the busy days, until at last there came an evening which made it exactly three years since Edward had first set foot in Albany. They had been years of wonderful progress to him. He had gone on steadily with his evening studies; he had been an eager pupil, and Ray had been a faithful teacher. This evening he sat in the library waiting for Ray, but he had a very troubled face. Once more he took Kitty's long letter out of his pocket. Kitty wrote long letters once in two weeks, but it was a rare thing to have a postscript added by his mother. He turned to this and read it again; it was a very kind one. They were doing well now, so she wrote. Her health was very good, now that she slept quietly at night; and just here Edward knew there had come in a heavy sigh, because there was no constant coughing to disturb her rest. She had steady work, and could support Kitty and herself nicely without his help; he must keep what he earned for himself after this. "Kitty says you want to go to school," so the letter ran; "if you do, save up your money for that. Your poor father had a notion that you would make a scholar; I think it would please him if you did."
Surely he could not wish for a kinder, more thoughtful letter than this; coming from his mother, too! she must have changed much, as well as himself. But this very letter had greatly unsettled his quiet life; the old longing to give himself up to study, to prepare for the ministry, had broken loose, and well-nigh overwhelmed him with its power. He wanted it, oh, so much! it had grown strong, instead of weak, during these three years. But what to do, and how to do it? That was the question. Certainly he was not prepared to answer it. If he stayed where he was, led his busy life all day in the store, how was he ever to go through with the necessary course of study, which it was high time he commenced in earnest? If he left them, these dear friends, who had taken him into their home and hearts, and made him feel like one of thorn, how was he to live while he studied? How, indeed, could he study at all? The truth was, Edward, calling to mind Mr. Holbrook's lecture that last evening in the home prayer-meeting, and his resolution taken then, thought that the stone was ahead of him no longer, but that he had walked close up to it, and could not take another step because of it, and very large and impossible to move did it look to his shortsighted eyes.
Just as he was growing hopelessly moody, Lay came in, and settled himself among the cushions, rather wearily.
"Ray," said Edward anxiously, "you are not well enough for lessons to-night."
"No," answered Ray, smiling, however, as he spoke; "I think I am not, because I want to talk instead. I am full of a scheme which needs your help; for once we'll let the lessons go. It is an age since I have heard anything concerning your plans; you have not given up your desire for the ministry, I hope?"
"No, Ray; I shall never give that up."
"I thought not; it would not be like you. That being the case, isn't it time to do something definite?"
"Time, certainly," Edward answered gloomily; "but what's to do?"
"That brings me to the unfolding of my scheme. Edward, do you know that it was my lifelong desire to reach the point towards which you are looking?"
"No," said Edward, with pitying interest; "I never thought of it."
"Well," and Ray smiled sadly, "it is so; and I hope you may never know how hard it is to have to give up such a wish. I cannot say that I did actually give it up entirely until very lately. I gave up all study three years ago, and came home to regain strength! you know how well I have succeeded in that." And Ray pressed his thin, wasting hand across his damp forehead. "It is all over now, utterly." The hand did duty now for a moment, shading his eyes from the light. Presently he spoke more cheerily. "All over for myself, but not for you; so, Edward, what I want to say to-night, in brief, is this: You have talents, perseverance, and health; I have money,—the four combined cannot fail to speed you in your work. What say you?"
"I—I don't understand you," Edward spoke, in complete bewilderment.
"Let me speak more plainly. I want you to go now, immediately, to some good preparatory school, thence to college, thence to the seminary, and the means wherewith to do these three important things shall be at your disposal. Isn't that plain?"
"Why," said Edward, "I don't know what to say; I am too much astonished, and—and thankful."
"Then you will do it?"
"Isn't there a right kind of pride, about being helped in these things?"
"There is a great deal of wrong kind of pride. Let me show you;" and he sat up and spoke eagerly. "It is right and honourable for people to help themselves in this world, but very vain and foolish to refuse help which would greatly aid the cause that they profess to have at heart. You see how it is: God has given me money; I am ready and waiting to give it back to Him. I would gladly give myself to Him in the ministry; I have longed and prayed for this; but He has seen fit not to answer as I wished. I have no strength to give; you have, and are ready to give it. Do you think God would be less pleased with the offering if we united it, thus giving me a chance to do something?"
"No," said Edward, speaking very slowly; "only, I had hoped to accomplish my plans without help from any one but God."
Ray leaned back again among the cushions, and spoke wearily,—
"That is, you prefer to be a great many years longer in preparation than you need be, and have about half as much strength finally as you would have, had you not overworked, rather than give me a chance to do what I could, since I cannot do what I would."
"But, Ray, there are plenty of people to help, even if you do no more for me. The world is full of poor young men, struggling to get an education."
"Yes, that is so; and I suppose you would enjoy helping some young man out in Oregon, of whom you had never heard, quite as well as you would me."
Edward came quickly to the sofa where Ray was lying, and laid his hand tenderly over the closed eyes.
"Ray, there is nothing in the world I would not do for you."
"Will you let me help you into the ministry, as rapidly as money can help?"
"I will be glad to; it is a great, noble offer, and I thank you from my heart. You mustn't think that I don't; only I thought—perhaps"
"I know," said Ray, for Edward had stopped doubtfully; "I understand just how you feel; but I do think the feeling, in this case at least, is wrong; and, my dear brother, you will be glad when you know how thankful you have made me."
"Yes; and after all you will not be doing any more for me—you can't—than you have done. I think money is very little, compared with that. Ray," and Edward sank down among the cushions in front of him, "I do believe you are more to me than any other human being ever will be."
Ray smiled, quite as if he did not think so, but would not unsay it for anything.
"It is all right," he said gently, after a little silence. "I think you will do so much more than I ever could have done. God bless you, my dear brother!"
After that Edward went up to his room, got out his little red Bible, his precious lamp, and, opening at the history of the rock-bound grave, read on until he came to the verse, "And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away." Around this he made heavy marks with his pencil, thinking, meantime, that the angel of the Lord was still at work on earth.
"Bob," said Edward, stopping before Bob's counter, two days after this matter was settled, "I am going to start for home in the morning."
"Are you, though?" Bob answered eagerly, stopping his work to take the sentence in fully. "My! I wish I was going along, just to see what folks would say."
"About you, do you mean?" said Edward, laughing, and thinking wonderingly, as well as joyfully, of the change which there had been in Bob Turner.
Bob had a counter too, and was no longer an errand-boy; there had very rarely been known such a rapid promotion in that store; but the truth was, Mr. Minturn had early learned that Bob Turner was destined to be, not a minister, nor a lawyer, not even a scholar, but a thorough, energetic, successful merchant. He had no sooner made this discovery than he determined to give the boy a chance.
So Bob had earned a name and a place in the store, and was a general favourite with the other clerks, and was beginning to have customers who sought him out, and liked to make purchases of him. More than all, Bob was an earnest Christian; his loving tenderness for, and almost worship of, Ray Minturn, kept him from being much led into temptation, and his influence over the younger clerks was growing to be for good. He was destined to be more popular than Edward had been; for Edward had risen too rapidly, and was too much at home with the entire Minturn family, not to be looked upon with some degree of envy.
"Well, Tip,"—Bob had never learned not to say Tip, and probably never would, but Edward had long since forgotten to care,—"tell every one at home that I'm well and happy, and never want to see one of them again. I don't believe I have a friend there: anyhow, I know I don't deserve to have."
"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto, according to Thy word."
Kitty Lewis shook out the folds of her new bright pink calico dress, walked to the little looking-glass, for about the tenth time, to see if the dainty white ruffle around her neck was in order; then took a survey of the room, lest there might possibly be something else to do which would improve its appearance.
It was the same little room in which Kitty had spent her childhood, from which Johnny first, and then long afterwards the husband and father, had been carried out to return no more. And yet it was not the same,—there was a neat rag carpet on the floor, a Christmas gift from Mrs. Minturn; the round table in the corner was covered with a bright red cloth, and strewn with a few books and papers; the full white curtain was looped away from the window, and the light of a clear sunset glimmered in the room; everything was neat and bright and cheery. The table was set for tea, the white cloth showing just the folds in which it was ironed; there were three plates and three cups and saucers, instead of two, while Kitty, in her restless wanderings around the room, and Mrs. Lewis, in her frequent glances out of the window, both showed that somebody was being watched and waited for.
"The eastern train is in," Kitty said finally "Now, if he comes to-night, he'll be here in three minutes." And it could not have been much more than that when a quick, crushing step was heard on the gravel outside, then on the plank before the door, then the door swung open, and Edward Lewis walked into the little room out of which he had gone three years before.
Kitty was all ready to spring forward, say, "Oh, Tip!" and throw her arms right around his neck. Instead, she stood still. Some way, in spite of the long letters which had passed between them during these years, Kitty had fully expected to see a stout, tanned boy, in a strong, coarse suit of grey, with thick boots and a new straw hat. Of, at least,—why, of course, she knew he must have changed some; hadn't she? But then she did not think he would be so tall, and have a face and hands without tan or freckle, or that his clothes would be so very black and fine, and fit as though they had grown on him, or that his collar would be so white and glossy, or his boots so small and shiny. So Kitty stood still in embarrassed silence. But the mother,—oh, she saw in him the picture of the dear, dead father, as he used to come to her long, long ago; the husband who, through all change and poverty and pain, she had always loved! And all the tenderness that had ever been in her heart took form, and spoke in those words with which she came forward to greet her son,—"Oh, my dear boy!"
There was happiness in the little home that night; only the bedroom door was closed, and Edward knew that his father's bed was vacant.
Such a queer feeling as possessed him all the next day, while he went around the village! He went everywhere. He felt like walking through every street, and stepping on every stone on which his feet had trod in the old life, now utterly gone from him. He wandered down to the river-bank, where he had lain that summer morning and envied the fishes; and, standing there, thanked God for the mission class in Mr. Holbrook's Sabbath school. Thence to the cemetery, where by the side of little Johnny's grave the new life had been commenced. There was a long grave beside the short one now; and, standing there, he thanked God for the hope which he had of meeting the father and the baby in heaven. Thence to the great elm-tree at the foot of the hill; and, standing there, he took out once more the little red Bible, and turned the leaves lovingly; lingered over the name written by Mr. Holbrook's hand, turned again to the first verse which he had ever read from its pages: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Time and again had he proved the truth of that verse. There, under that very tree, it had helped him to fight battles with Satan and come off conqueror. And he thanked God for the Bible. After that he went directly to the village; just looked in at the meat market for the sake of the old days.
Somebody told Mr. Dewey who was coming, and he was just ready to say, "Hallo, Tip!" but instead, he came around from behind the counter, and, holding out his hand, said, "How do you do, Lewis? Glad to see you." Something, either in the city-made clothes or the quiet air of dignity with which they were worn, made him dislike to say "Hallo, Tip!" to the tall young man before him.
Mr. Minturn shook him heartily by the hand. "Never rejoiced over any one's luck more in my life!" he said; then, in the same breath, "How's Ray? Oh yes, I see how it is, poor fellow! And you love him too; of course, every one does."
There was still the schoolroom to visit, and as Edward went up the familiar walk he wished Bob Turner could have been with him to make this call. But Bob was probably rushing like a top through the city store, without a thought of the old schoolhouse or the miserable days which he had spent there.
Mr. Burrows himself answered the knock, and gave him a hearty greeting. Three years had made changes there. Edward found himself looking eagerly towards the back row of seats fur the old faces,—Will, Howard, Ellis, and half a dozen others,—before he remembered that they had long since entered higher schools. The boys whom he hid left plodding through long division were filling those back seats now, and leading their classes in algebra and Latin. He sat down near the blackboard to watch the progress of Joe Bartlett through an example in division. And behold, he was doing that old never-to-be-forgotten example about the cows and sheep! He picked up an arithmetic eagerly.
"Mr. Burrows, do you remember that example?'
"I remember that it has puzzled some forty or more of my boys in the course of time," said Mr. Burrows, laughing; "but nothing very special about it."
"I do; it was the cause of my first promotion."
"Was it, indeed! I'm afraid it will never be the cause of poor Joseph's; it seems to be mastering him."
Mr. Burrows was engaged with a grammar class, and Edward offered to assist the bewildered Joseph.
"I remember those sheep of old," he said kindly, as he turned to the board. "Isn't it the 'stood him in' that troubles you?"
"Yes, it is," Joe answered grumbly. "I don't see no sense to it."
"Let me show you. Suppose"—And he went through with the well—remembered explanation. It was successful, Joe understood it, and went on briskly with the figures.
Edward turned towards Mr. Burrows. "It was the way my father explained it to me," he said, with eyes that glistened a little.
Some one brought Mr. Burrows a note, and, as he read and laid it down, he said, "Now, Edward, if you had continued at school instead of running away from us, I should get you to hear this recitation in algebra, and take leave of absence for a few minutes. There is a friend in town whom I would give much to see before the next train leaves."
"Suppose you set me at it as it is."
Mr. Burrows looked surprised.
"Have you been studying algebra, Edward?"
"How far have you been?"
"Do you feel positive that you could do examples over here?" turning to "Evolution."
"Entirely," Edward answered, smiling at Mr. Burrows' doubts. Ray had been a thorough teacher.
So Mr. Burrows went away, and Edward took his seat on the stage and commenced the recitation. At first the boys were disposed to be wise, and display their knowledge; when they had known him last, he was in division. But he was in algebra now, or rather through it, and they speedily discovered that he seemed to have every example in the lesson committed to memory.
Meantime, Mr. Burrows returned, and listened with astonishment and delight.
"Thank you heartily," he said afterwards. "You ought to fit yourself for teaching. But, Edward, you did not get through algebra alone?"
"No," said Edward, flushing at the thought of Ray; "I had the best and wisest teacher on earth."
Well, he sat down in what had been his seat, and tried to imagine that it was his seat still; that Bob would be in pretty soon, and plague him while he studied his spelling-lesson. But he could not do it. "Things were different,"—very different. First and foremost, there was Ray: he had not known him in those days; if he had, he said to himself, things would have been different long before they were.
Going back up town he met Mr. Holbrook, who turned and walked with him.
"And so," he said, after the long talk was concluded, "you go next week, do you?"
"Next Tuesday, sir."
"Well, God bless you, my friend, as He has, and will." Then, after a minute, "Edward, my son is a wanderer yet: do you still remember him?"
"Always, sir," Edward answered, in firm, steady tones; "and, Mr. Holbrook, God never forgets!"
As he went on past Mr. Minturn's store, could he have heard the remarks that were made there, very likely he might have remembered a certain statement which he made to the little fishes that summer morning.
Mr. Minturn, looking out after him, said to Mr. Dewey,—
"There goes one of the finest and most promising young men in this town."
"Yes," answered Mr. Dewey, laughing a little; "I used to notice that he improved every day after he brought back those circus tickets."
"For them shalt find it after many days."
"Come in;" and the Rev. Edward Lewis laid down his book, pushed back his study chair, and was ready to receive whoever was knocking at his study door.
"Mr. Lewis," said the little girl who came in in answer to his invitation, "father has just come from the post office, and he brought you some letters, and here they are."
Mr. Lewis thanked his little next-door neighbour, took his letters, and, when the room was quiet again, settled back in his chair to enjoy them.
The first one was from a brother minister, begging an exchange. The next brought a look of surprise and delight to his face, for he recognised Ellis Holbrook's handwriting. And the delight spread and deepened as he read; especially when he came to one sentence: "I asked father what message he had for you, and he replied, Send him this verse, and tell him that again it is peculiarly his, 'I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplication.'" That, you see, would have told me the whole story, without this long letter. "I thank God that He put it into your heart to pray for me, as also that He has heard your prayers. God bless you. By the way, father wants you to assist him on the first Sabbath in July. I earnestly hope you can do so; he thinks you will be coming east about that time."
Was there ever a more thankful heart than was that minister's as he laid down his old schoolfellow's letter? How constantly, how sometimes almost hopelessly, had he prayed for Ellis Holbrook! How many times had he been obliged to reassure himself with the promise, "In due season we shall reap, if we faint not." And now again had God's word been verified to him. He took the letter up once more, to look lovingly at that closing, never before written by Ellis,—"Your brother in Christ."
There was still another letter to read. That writing, too, was familiar; he had received many reminders of it during the past years. He laughed as he read, it sounded so like the writer:—
ALBANY, June—, 18—.
"DEAR TIP,—Do you have Fourth of July out your way this year? We do here in Albany; rather, I'm going to have one in my yard. Perhaps you remember a Fourth of July which you took me to once, when we were ragged little wretches at home? I do, anyhow, and this is to be twin-brother to that time. All the ugly, dingy little urchins that I know have been invited. We're to have fine fireworks and fine singing and fine eating. My wife added that last item,—thought it a great improvement. I'm not sure but it is; most things are that she has a hand in. Now, to come to the point of this letter,—you're to make the speech on that occasion. No getting out of it now! I planned this thing one day in the old schoolhouse. Oh, did you know Mr. Burrows had given up teaching? Grown too old. Queer, isn't it? Don't seem as if anybody was growing old except me. At first I wasn't going to have my feast on the Fourth, because, you remember, it was on that day that our blessed Ray left us; but, talking with Mr. Minturn about it, he said Ray would have been delighted with it all,—and so he would, you know. Don't think we are going to gather in all Albany; it's only the younger scholars of the mission school, in which my wife and I are interested.
"Tell Howard and Kitty to be sure and come; they can put their visit a few weeks earlier as well as not.
"Oh, by the way, if you have heard from Ellis Holbrook lately, you are singing 'Glory Hallelujah' by this time!
"I am writing this in the counting-room, and am in a great hurry, though you wouldn't think it. Shall expect you by the third, certainly.—
These letters came on Saturday evening. The next morning, in Sabbath school, when the superintendent's bell rang, the minister left his class of mission scholars, and went up the aisle towards the altar, pausing first to speak with a bright-eyed little lady, who sat before her class of bright-eyed little girls.
"Kitty, where is Howard?"
"At home, coaxing a fit of sick headache."
"Well, here are letters that will interest you both,—came last evening; one contains an invitation. Tell Howard I think we must try to go. Mother bade me tell you she wanted to see you at the parsonage in the morning; she is not out to-day."
Then he went on. The scholars began to sit up straight, and fold their arms; they knew they must listen if they wanted Mr. Lewis to talk to them. When every eye was fixed on him, he began,—
"Children, I have a very short story to tell you to-day about myself. Years ago, when I was a little boy, my Sabbath school teacher told us a story, one morning, which was the means of bringing me to Jesus. I have to thank that lady, next to God, that I am standing here to-day a minister of Christ. She was not our regular teacher, but was a stranger; I never saw her after that Sabbath. Perhaps you can imagine how I have longed, since I became a man and a minister, to find that lady, and tell her what one hour of faithful teaching did for me. I thought it would help her, encourage her. I thought she would be likely to tell it to other teachers, and it would help them. But though I had it always in mind, and made very earnest efforts to find her, I never succeeded until last week. You know, children, it is ten years since I came here to be your pastor, and last week I learned that during all this time I have been living within twenty miles of the lady whom I have so long been seeking. And what else do you think I heard of her? Why, that two weeks ago she died. Scholars, my first thought was a sad one, that I never could thank her now. But you know I can; I expect to one of these days. Why, when I get to heaven, one of the first things I shall do will be to seek her out and tell her about it. So, you see, she will know it, even if some of the watching angels up there have not told her already.
"Just here, I want to say one word to the teachers. This incident should come with wonderful encouragement to your hearts, reminding you that you may often speak words which spring up and bear fruit that reaches up to God, though you do not know it, and will not, until in heaven you take your crowns, and question why there are so many stars.
"Children, next Sabbath I will tell you the story which led me to Christ; and all this week I am going to pray that it may have the same effect on some of my scholars.
"It is time now for your verse. If any of you can find out why what I have been telling you to-day made me think of this verse, you may tell me next Sabbath. Now repeat,—'Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days.'"