"I should like to see you do it," replied Harry, fixing his eyes on the poker that lay on the floor near the stove.
"Should you, you impertinent puppy?"
The major sprang forward, as if to grasp the boy by the collar; but Harry, with his eyes still fixed on the poker, retreated a pace or two, ready to act promptly when the decisive moment should come. Forgetting for the time that he had run away from one duty to attend to another, he felt indignant that he should be thus rudely treated for being absent a short time on an errand of love and charity. He gave himself too much credit for the good deed, and felt that he was a martyr to his philanthropic spirit. He was willing to bear all and brave all in a good cause; and it seemed to him, just then, as though he was being punished for assisting Joe Flint's family, instead of for leaving his place without permission. A great many persons who mean well are apt to think themselves martyrs for any good cause in which they may be engaged, when, in reality, their own want of tact, or the offensive manner in which they present their truth, is the stake at which they are burned.
"Keep off!" said Harry, his eyes flashing fire.
The major was so angry that he could do nothing; and while they were thus confronting each other, Joe Flint staggered into the counting room. Intoxicated as he was, he readily discovered the position of affairs between the belligerents.
"Look here—hic—Major Phillips," said he, reeling up to his employer, "I love you—hic—Major Phillips, like a—hic—like a brother, Major Phillips; but if you touch that boy, Major Phillips, I'll—hic—you touch me, Major Phillips. That's all."
"Go home, Joe," replied the stable keeper, his attention diverted from Harry to the new combatant. "You are drunk."
"I know I'm drunk, Major Phillips. I'm as drunk as a beast; but I ain't—hic—dead drunk. I know what I'm about."
"No, you don't. Go home."
"Yes, I dzoo. I'm a brute; I'm a hog; I'm a—dzwhat you call it? I'm a villain."
Joe tried to straighten himself up, and look at his employer; but he could not, and suddenly bursting into tears, he threw himself heavily into a chair, weeping bitterly in his inebriate paroxysm. He sobbed, and groaned, and talked incoherently. He acted strangely, and Major Phillips's attention was excited.
"What is the matter, Joe?" he asked; and his anger towards Harry seemed to have subsided.
"I tell you I am a villain, Major Phillips," blubbered Joe.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Haven't I been on a drunk, and left my family to starve and freeze?" groaned Joe, interlarding his speech with violent ebullitions of weeping. "Wouldn't my poor wife, and my poor children—O my God," and the poor drunkard covered his face with his hands, and sobbed like an infant.
"What is the matter? What do you mean, Joe?" asked Major Phillips, who had never seen him in this frame before.
"Wouldn't they all have died if Harry hadn't gone and fed 'em, and split up wood to warm 'em?"
As he spoke, Joe sprang up, and rushed towards Harry, and in his drunken frenzy attempted to embrace him.
"What does this mean, Harry?" said the stable keeper, turning to our hero, who, while Joe was telling his story, had been thinking of something else.
"What a fool I was to get mad!" thought he. "What would she say if she had seen me just now? Poor Julia! perhaps she is dead, even now."
"My folks would have died if it hadn't been for him," hiccoughed Joe.
"Explain it, Harry," added the major.
"The lame girl, Katy, came down here after her father early in the evening. She seemed to be in trouble and I thought I would go up and see what the matter was. I found them in rather a bad condition, without any wood or anything to eat. I did what I could for them, and came away," replied Harry.
"Give me your hand, Harry!" and the major grasped his hand like a vise. "You are a good fellow," he added, with an oath.
"Forgive me, Mr. Phillips, for saying what I did; I was mad," pleaded Harry.
"So was I, my boy; but we won't mind that. You are a good fellow, and I like your spunk. So you have really been taking care of Joe's family while he was off on a drunk?"
"I didn't do much, sir."
"Look here, Harry, and you, Major Phillips. When I get this rum out of me I'll never take another drop again," said Joe, throwing himself into a chair.
"Bah, Joe! You have said that twenty times before," added Major Phillips.
"You dzee!" exclaimed Joe, doubling his fist, and bringing it down with the intention of hitting the table by his side to emphasize his resolution; but, unfortunately, he missed the table—a circumstance which seemed to fore-shadow the fate of his resolve.
Joe proceeded to declare in his broken speech what a shock he had received when he went home, half an hour before—the first time for several days—and heard the reproaches of his suffering wife; how grateful he was to Harry, and what a villain he considered himself. Either the sufferings of his family, or the rum he had drunk, melted his heart, and he was as eloquent as his half-paralyzed tongue would permit. He was a pitiable object; and having assured himself that Joe's family were comfortable for the night, Major Phillips put him to bed in his own house.
Harry was not satisfied with himself; he had permitted his temper to get the better of him. He thought of Julia on her bed of suffering, wept for her, and repented for himself. That night he heard the clock on the Boylston market strike twelve before he closed his eyes to sleep.
The next day, while he was at work in the stable, a boy of about fifteen called to see him, and desired to speak with him alone. Harry, much wondering who his visitor was, and what he wanted, conducted him to the ostlers' chamber.
"You are Harry West?" the boy began.
"That is my name, for the want of a better," replied Harry.
"Then there is a little matter to be settled between you and me. You helped my folks out last night, and I want to pay you for it."
"My name is Edward Flint."
"Then you are Joe's son."
"I am," replied Edward, who did not seem to feel much honored by the relationship.
"Your folks were in a bad condition last night."
"That's a fact; they were."
"But I didn't know Joe had a son as old as you are."
"I am the oldest; but I don't live at home, and have not for three years. How much did you pay out for them last night?"
"One dollar and twenty cents."
"As much as that?"
Edward Flint manifested some uneasiness at the announcement. He had evidently come with a purpose, but had found things different from what he had expected.
"I didn't think it was so much."
"What matters how much?" asked Harry.
"Why, I want to pay you."
"You needn't mind that."
"The fact is, I have only three dollars just now; and I promised to go out to ride with a fellow next Sunday. So, you see, if I pay you, I shall not have enough left to foot the bills."
Harry looked at his visitor with astonishment; he did not know what to make of him. Was he in earnest? Would a son of Joseph Flint go out to ride—on Sunday, too—while his mother and his brothers and sisters were on the very brink of starvation? Our hero had some strange, old-fashioned notions of his own. For instance, he considered it a son's duty to take care of his mother, even if he were obliged to forego the Sunday ride; that he ought to do all he could for his brothers and sisters, even if he had to go without stewed oysters, stay away from the theatre, and perhaps wear a little coarser cloth on his back. If Harry was unreasonable in his views, my young reader will remember that he was brought up in the country, where young America is not quite so "fast" as in the city.
"I didn't ask you to pay me," continued Harry.
"I know that; but, you see, I suppose I ought to pay you. The old man don't take much care of the family."
Harry wanted to say that the young man did not appear to do much better; but he was disposed to be as civil as the circumstances would permit.
"You needn't pay me."
"Oh, yes, I shall pay you; but if you can wait till the first of next month, I should like it."
"I can wait. Do you live out?"
"Live out? What do you mean by that? I am a clerk in a store downtown," replied Edward, with offended dignity.
"Oh, are you? Do they pay you well?"
"Pretty fair; I get five dollars a week."
"Five dollars a week! Thunder! I should think you did get paid pretty well!" exclaimed Harry, astonished at the vastness of the sum for a week's work.
"Fair salary," added Edward, complacently. "What are you doing here?"
"I work in the stable and about the house."
"That's mean business," said Mr. Flint, turning up his nose.
"It does very well."
"How much do you get?"
"Six dollars a month and perquisites."
"How much are the perquisites?"
"From one to two dollars a month."
"Humph! I wonder you stay here."
"It is as well as I can do."
"No, it isn't; why don't you go into a store? We want a boy in our store."
"How much do you pay?"
"We pay from two to four dollars a week."
"Can't you get me the place?" asked Harry, now much interested in his companion.
"Well, yes; perhaps I can."
"What should I have to do?"
"Make the fires, sweep out in the morning, go on errands, and such work. Boys must begin at the foot of the ladder. I began at the foot of the ladder," answered Mr. Flint, with an immense self-sufficiency, which Harry, however, failed to notice.
"I should like to get into a store."
"You will have a good chance to rise."
"I am willing to do anything, so that I can have a chance to get ahead."
"We always give boys a good chance."
Harry wanted that mysterious "we" defined. As it was, he was left to infer that Mr. Flint was a partner in the concern, unless the five dollars per week was an argument to the contrary; but he didn't like to ask strange questions, and desired to know whom "he worked for."
Edward Flint did not "work for" anybody. He was a clerk in the extensive dry goods establishment of the Messrs. Wake & Wade, which, he declared, was the largest concern in Boston; and one might further have concluded that Mr. Flint was the most important personage in the said concern.
Mr. Flint was obliged to descend from his lofty dignity, and compound the dollar and twenty cents with the stable boy by promising to get him the vacant place in the establishment of Wake & Wade, if his influence was sufficient to procure it. Harry was satisfied, and begged him not to distress himself about the debt. The visitor took his leave, promising to see him again the next day.
About noon Joe Flint appeared at the stable again, perfectly sober. Major Phillips had lent him ten dollars, in anticipation of his month's wages, and he had been home to attend to the comfort of his suffering family. After dinner he had a long talk with Harry, in which, after paying him the money disbursed on the previous evening, he repeated his solemn resolution to drink no more. He was very grateful to Harry, and hoped he should be able to do as much for him.
"Don't drink any more, Joe, and it will be the best day's work I ever did," added Harry.
"I never will, Harry—never!" protested Joe.
IN WHICH HARRY GOES INTO THE DRYGOODS BUSINESS
Mr. Edward Flint's reputation as a gentleman of honor and a man of his word suffered somewhat in Harry's estimation; for he waited all day, and all evening, without hearing a word from the firm of Wake & Wade. He had actually begun to doubt whether the accomplished young man had as much influence with the firm as he had led him to suppose. But his ambition would not permit him longer to be satisfied with the humble sphere of a stable boy; and he determined, if he did not hear from Edward, to apply for the situation himself.
The next day, having procured two hours' leave of absence from the stable, he called at the home of Joe Flint to obtain further particulars concerning Edward and his situation. He found the family in much better circumstances than at his previous visit. Mrs. Flint was sitting up, and was rapidly convalescing; Katy was busy and cheerful; and it seemed a different place from that to which he had been the messenger of hope and comfort two nights before.
They were very glad to see him, and poured forth their gratitude to him so eloquently that he was obliged to change the topic. Mrs. Flint was sure that her husband was an altered man. She had never before known him to be so earnest and solemn in his resolutions to amend and lead a new life.
But when Harry alluded to Edward, both Katy and her mother suddenly grew red. They acknowledged that they had sent for him in their extremity, but that he did not come till the next morning, when the bounty of the stable boy had relieved them from the bitterness of want. The mother dropped a tear as she spoke of the wayward son; and Harry had not the heart to press the inquiries he had come to make.
After speaking as well as he dared to speak of Edward, he took his leave, and hastened to the establishment of Wake & Wade, to apply for the vacant place. He had put on his best clothes, and his appearance this time was very creditable.
Entering the store, he inquired for Edward Flint; and that gentleman was summoned to receive him.
"Hallo, Harry West!" said Edward, when he recognized his visitor. "I declare I forgot all about you."
"I thought likely," replied Harry, willing to be very charitable to the delinquent.
"The fact is, we have been so busy in the store I haven't had time to call on you, as I promised."
"Never mind, now. Is the place filled?"
"I am glad to hear that. Do you think there is any chance for me?"
"Well, I don't know. I will do what I can for you."
"Thank you, Edward."
"Wait here a moment till I speak with one of the partners."
The clerk left him, and was absent but a moment, when Harry was summoned to the private room of Mr. Wake. The gentleman questioned him for a few moments, and seemed to be pleased with his address and his frankness. The result of the interview was that our hero was engaged at a salary of three dollars a week, though it was objected to him that he had no parents residing in the city.
"I thought I could fix it," said Edward, complacently, as they left the counting room.
"I am much obliged to you, Edward," replied Harry, willing to humor his new friend. "Now I want to get a place to board."
"That is easy enough."
"Where do you board?"
"In Green Street."
"How much do you pay a week?"
"Two dollars and a half."
"I can't pay that."
"Well, I suppose you can't."
"I was thinking of something just now. Suppose we should both board with your mother."
"What, in a ten-footer!" exclaimed Edward, starting back with astonishment and indignation at the proposal.
"Why not? If it is good enough for your mother, isn't it good enough for you?"
"Humph! I'll bet it won't suit me."
"We can fix up a room to suit ourselves, you know. And it will be much cheaper for both of us."
"That, indeed; but the idea of boarding with the old man is not to be thought of."
"I should think you would like to be with your mother and your brothers and sisters."
"Not particular about it."
"Better think of it, Edward."
The clerk promised to think about it, but did not consider it very probable that he should agree to the proposition.
Harry returned to the stable, and immediately notified Major Phillips of his intention to leave his service. As may be supposed, the stable keeper was sorry to lose him; but he did not wish to stand in the way of his advancement. He paid him his wages, adding a gift of five dollars, and kindly permitted him to leave at once, as he desired to procure a place to board, and to acquaint himself with the localities of the city, so that he could discharge his duty the more acceptably to his new employers.
The ostlers, too, were sorry to part with him—particularly Joe Flint, whose admiration of our hero was unbounded. In their rough and honest hearts they wished him well. They had often made fun of his good principles; often laughed at him for refusing to pitch cents in the back yard on Sunday, and for going to church instead; often ridiculed him under the name of "Little Pious"; still they had a great respect for him. They who are "persecuted for righteousness' sake"—who are made fun of because they strive to do right—are always sure of victory in the end. They may be often tried, but sooner or later they shall triumph.
After dinner, he paid another visit to Mrs. Flint, in Avery Street. He opened his proposition to board in her family, to which she raised several objections, chief of which was that she had no room. The plan was more favorably received by Katy; and she suggested that they could hire the little apartment upstairs, which was used as a kind of lumber room by the family in the other part of the house.
Her mother finally consented to the arrangement, and it became necessary to decide upon the terms, for Harry was a prudent manager, and left nothing to be settled afterwards. He then introduced the project he had mentioned to Edward; and Mrs. Flint thought she could board them both for three dollars a week, if they could put up with humble fare. Harry declared that he was not "difficult," though he could not speak for Edward.
Our hero was delighted with the success of his scheme, and only wished that Edward had consented to the arrangement; but the next time he saw him, somewhat to his surprise, the clerk withdrew his objections, and entered heartily into the scheme.
"You see, Harry, I shall make a dollar a week—fifty-two dollars a year—by the arrangement," said Edward, after he had consented.
He evidently considered that some apology was due from him for condescending from the social dignity of his position in the Green Street boarding house to the humble place beneath his mother's roof.
"Certainly you will; and that is a great deal of money," replied Harry.
"It will pay my theatre tickets, and for a ride once a month besides."
"For what?" asked Harry, astonished at his companion's theory of economy.
Edward repeated his statement.
"Why don't you save your money?"
"Save it? What is the use of that? I mean to have a good time while I can."
"You never will be a rich man."
"I'll bet I will."
"You could give your mother and Katy a great many nice things with that money."
"Humph! The old man must take care of them. It is all I can do to take care of myself."
"If I had a mother, and brothers and sisters, I should be glad to spend all I got in making them happy," sighed Harry.
On the following Monday morning, Harry went to his new place. He was in a strange position. All was untried and unfamiliar. Even the language of the clerks and salesmen was strange to him; and he was painfully conscious of the deficiencies of his education and of his knowledge of business. He was prompt, active and zealous; yet his awkwardness could not be concealed. The transition from the stable to the store was as great as from a hovel to a palace. He made a great many blunders. Mr. Wake laughed at him; Mr. Wade swore at him; and all the clerks made him the butt of their mirth or their ill nature, just as they happened to feel.
What seemed to him worse than all, Edward Flint joined the popular side, and laughed and swore with the rest. Poor Harry was almost discouraged before dinner time, and began very seriously to consider whether he had not entirely mistaken his calling. Dinner, however, seemed to inspire him with new courage and new energy; and he hastened back to the store, resolved to try again.
The shop was crowded with customers; and partners and clerks hallooed "Harry" till he was so confused that he hardly knew whether he stood on his head or his heels. It was, Come here, Go there, Bring this, Bring that; but in spite of laugh and curse, of push and kick, he persevered, suiting nobody, least of all himself.
It was a long day, a very long day; but it came to an end at last. Our hero had hardly strength enough left to put up the shutters. His legs ached, his head ached, and, worst of all, his heart ached at the manifest failure of his best intentions. He thought of going to the partners, and asking them whether they thought he was fit for the place; but he finally decided to try again for another day, and dragged himself home to rest his weary limbs.
He and Edward had taken possession of their room at Joe Flint's house that morning; and on their arrival they found that Katy had put everything in excellent order for their reception. Harry was too much fatigued and disheartened to have a very lively appreciation of the comforts of his new home; but Edward, notwithstanding the descent he had made, was in high spirits. He even declared that the room they were to occupy was better than his late apartments in Green Street.
"Do you think I shall get along with my work, Edward?" asked Harry, gloomily, after they had gone to bed.
"Everybody in the store has kicked and cuffed me, swore at and abused me, till I feel like a jelly."
"Oh, never mind that; they always do so with a green one. They served me just so when I first went into business."
"Fact. One must live and learn."
"It seemed to me just as though I never could suit them."
"Pooh! Don't be blue about it."
"I can't help it, I know I did not suit them."
"Yes, you did."
"What made them laugh at me and swear at me, then?"
"That is the fashion; you must talk right up to them. If they swear at you, swear at them back again—that is, the clerks and salesmen. If they give you any 'lip,' let 'em have as good as they send."
"I don't want to do that."
"Must do it, Harry. 'Live and learn' is my motto. When you go among the Romans, do as the Romans do."
Harry did not like this advice; for he who, among the Romans, would do as the Romans do, among hogs would do as the hogs do.
"If I only suit them, I don't care."
"You do; I heard Wake tell Wade that you were a first-rate boy."
"Did you?" And Harry's heart swelled with joy to think that, in spite of his trials, he had actually triumphed in the midst of them.
So he dropped the subject, with the resolution to redouble his exertions to please his employers the next day, and turned his thoughts to Julia Bryant, to wonder if she were still living, or had become an angel indeed.
IN WHICH HARRY REVISITS ROCKVILLE, AND MEETS WITH A SERIOUS LOSS
The next evening Harry was conscious of having gained a little in the ability to discharge his novel duties. Either the partners and the clerks had become tired of swearing and laughing at him, or he had made a decided improvement, for less fault was found with him, and his position was much more satisfactory. With a light heart he put up the shutters; for though he was very much fatigued, the prestige of future success was so cheering that he scarcely heeded his weary, aching limbs.
Every day was an improvement on the preceding day, and before the week was out Harry found himself quite at home in his new occupation. He was never a moment behind the time at which he was required to be at the store in the morning. This promptness was specially noted by the partners; for when they came to their business in the morning they found the store well warmed, the floor nicely swept, and everything put in order.
When he was sent out with bundles he did not stop to look at the pictures in the shop windows, to play marbles or tell long stories to other boys in the streets. If his employers had even been very unreasonable, they could not have helped being pleased with the new boy, and Wake confidentially assured Wade that they had got a treasure.
Our hero was wholly devoted to his business. He intended to make a man of himself, and he could only accomplish his purpose by constant exertion, by constant study and constant "trying again." He was obliged to keep a close watch over himself, for often he was tempted to be idle and negligent, to be careless and indifferent.
After supper, on Thursday evening of his second week at Wake & Wade's, he hastened to Major Phillips' stable to see John Lane, and obtain the news from Rockville. His heart beat violently when he saw John's great wagon, for he dreaded some fearful announcement from his sick friend. He had not before been so deeply conscious of his indebtedness to the little angel as now, when she lay upon the bed of pain, perhaps of death. She had kindled in his soul a love for the good and the beautiful. She had inspired him with a knowledge of the difference between the right and the wrong. In a word, she was the guiding star of his existence. Her approbation was the bright guerdon of fidelity to truth and principle.
"How is Julia?" asked Harry, without giving John time to inquire why he had left the stable.
"They think she is a little grain better."
"Then she is still living?" continued Harry, a great load of anxiety removed from his soul.
"She is; but it is very doubtful how it will turn. I went in to see her yesterday, and she spoke of you."
"Spoke of me?"
"She said she should like to see you."
"I should like to see her very much."
"Her father told me, if you was a mind to go up to Rockville, he would pay your expenses."
"I don't mind the expenses. I will go, if I can get away."
"Her father feels very bad about it. Julia is an only child, and he would do anything in the world to please her."
"I will go and see the gentlemen I work for, and if they will let me, I will go with you to-morrow morning."
"Better take the stage; you will get there so much quicker."
"I will do so, then."
Harry returned home to ascertain of Edward where Mr. Wake lived, and hastened to see him. That gentleman, however, coldly assured him if he went to Rockville he must lose his place—they could not get along without a boy. In vain Harry urged that he should be gone but two days; the senior was inflexible.
"What shall I do?" said he to himself, when he got into the street again. "Mr. Wake says she is no relation of mine, and he don't see why I should go. Poor Julia! She may die, and I shall never see her again. I must go."
It did not require a great deal of deliberation to convince himself that it was his duty to visit the sick girl. She had been a true friend to him, and he could afford to sacrifice his place to procure her even a slight gratification. Affection and duty called him one way, self-interest the other. If he did not go, he should regret it as long as he lived. Perhaps Mr. Wake would take him again on his return; if not, he could at least go to work in the stable again.
"Edward, I am going to Rockville to-morrow," he remarked to his "chum," on his return to Mrs. Flint's.
"The old man agreed to it, then? I thought he wouldn't. He never will let a fellow off even for a day."
"He did not; but I must go."
"Better not, then. He will discharge you, for he is a hard nut."
"I must go," repeated Harry, taking a candle, and going up to their chamber.
"You have got more spunk than I gave you credit for; but you are sure of losing your place," replied Edward, following him upstairs.
"I can't help it."
Harry opened a drawer in the old broken bureau in the room, and from beneath his clothes took out the great pill box which served him for a savings bank.
"You have got lots of money," remarked Edward, as he glanced at the contents of the box.
"Not much; only twelve dollars," replied Harry, taking out three of them to pay his expenses to Rockville.
"You won't leave that box there, will you, while you are gone?"
"Somebody may steal it."
"I guess not. I can hide it, though, before I go."
"Better do so."
Harry took his money and went to a bookstore in Washington Street, where he purchased an appropriate present for Julia, for which he gave half a dollar. On his return, he wrote her name in it, with his own as the giver. Then the safety of his money came up for consideration; and this matter was settled by raising a loose board in the floor and depositing the pill box in a secure place. He had scarcely done so before Edward joined him.
Our hero did not sleep much that night. He was not altogether satisfied with the step he was about to take. It was not doing right by his employers; but he compromised the matter in part by engaging Edward, "for a consideration," to make the fires and sweep out the next morning.
At noon, on the following day, he reached Rockville, and hastened to the house of Mr. Bryant.
"How is she?" he asked, breathless with interest, of the girl who answered his knock.
"She is better to-day. Are you the boy from Boston?"
"Yes. Do they think she will get well?"
"The doctor has more hope of her."
"I am very glad to hear it."
Harry was conducted into the house, and Mr. Bryant was informed of his presence.
"I am glad you have come, Harry. Julia is much better to-day," said her father, taking him by the hand. "She has frequently spoken of you during her illness, and feels a very strong interest in your welfare."
"She was very good to me. I don't know what would have become of me if she had not been a friend to me."
"That is the secret of her interest in you. We love those best whom we serve most. She is asleep now; but you shall see her as soon as she wakes. In the meantime you had better have your dinner."
Mr. Bryant looked very pale, and his eyes were reddened with weeping. Harry saw how much he had suffered during the last fortnight; but it seemed natural to him that he should suffer terribly at the thought of losing one so beautiful and precious as the little angel.
He dined alone with Mr. Bryant, for Mrs. Bryant could not leave the couch of the little sufferer. The fond father could speak of nothing but Julia, and more than once the tears flooded his eyes, as he told Harry how meek and patient she had been through the fever, how loving she was, and how resigned even to leave her parents, and go to the heavenly Parent, to dwell with Him forever.
Harry wept, too; and after dinner he almost feared to enter the chamber, and behold the wreck which disease had made of this bright and beautiful form. Removing the wrapper from the book he had brought—a volume of sweet poems, entitled "Angel Songs"—he followed Mr. Bryant into the sick girl's chamber.
"Ah, Harry, I am delighted to see you!" exclaimed she, in a whisper, for her diseased throat rendered articulation difficult and painful.
"I am sorry to see you so sick, Julia," replied Harry, taking the wasted hand she extended to him.
"I am better, Harry. I feel as though I should get well now."
"I hope you will."
"You don't know how much I have thought of you while I lay here; how I wished you were my brother, and could come in every day and see me," she continued, with a faint smile.
"I wish I could."
"Now tell me how you get along in Boston."
"Very well; but your father says I must not talk much with you now. I have brought you a little book," and he placed it in her hand.
"How good you are, Harry! 'Angel Songs.' How pretty! Now, Harry, you must read me one of the angel songs."
"I will; but I can't read very well," said he, as he opened the volume.
But he did read exceedingly well. The piece he selected was a very pretty and a very touching little song; and Harry's feelings were so deeply moved by the pathetic sentiments of the poem and their adaptation to the circumstances of the case, that he was quite eloquent.
When he had finished, Mrs. Bryant interfered to prevent further conversation; and Julia, though she had a great deal to say to her young friend, cheerfully yielded to her mother's wishes, and Harry reluctantly left the room.
Towards night he was permitted to see her again, when he read several of the angel songs to her, and gave her a brief account of the events of his residence in Boston. She was pleased with his earnestness, and smiled approvingly upon him for the moral triumphs he had achieved. The reward of all his struggles with trial and temptation was lavishly bestowed in her commendation, and if fidelity had not been its own reward, he could have accepted her approval as abundant compensation for all he had endured. There was no silly sentiment in Harry's composition; he had read no novels, seen no plays, knew nothing of romance even "in real life." The homage he yielded to the fair and loving girl was an unaffected reverence for simple purity and goodness; that which the True Heart and the True Life never fail to call forth whenever they exert their power.
On the following morning, Julia's condition was very much improved, and the physician spoke confidently of a favorable issue. Harry was permitted to spend an hour by her bedside, inhaling the pure spirit that pervaded the soul of the sick one. She was so much better that her father proposed to visit the city, to attend to some urgent business, which had been long deferred by her illness; and an opportunity was thus afforded for Harry to return.
Mr. Bryant drove furiously in his haste, changing horses twice on the journey, so that they reached the city at one o'clock. On their arrival, Harry's attention naturally turned to the reception he expected to receive from his employers. He had not spoken of his relations with them at Rockville, preferring not to pain them, on the one hand, and not to take too much credit to himself for his devotion to Julia, on the other. After the horse was disposed of at Major Phillips's stable, Mr. Bryant walked down town with Harry; and when they reached the store of Wake & Wade, he entered with him.
"What have you come back for?" asked the senior partner, rather coldly, when he saw the delinquent. "We don't want you."
Harry was confused at this reception, though it was not unexpected.
"I didn't know but that you might be willing to take me again."
"No, we don't want you. Ah, Mr. Bryant! Happy to see you," continued Mr. Wake, recognizing Harry's friend.
"Did I understand you aright? Did you say that you did not want my young friend, here?" replied Mr. Bryant, taking the offered hand of Mr. Wake.
"I did say so," said the senior. "I was not aware that he was your friend, though," and he proceeded to inform Mr. Bryant that Harry had left them against their wish.
"A few words with you, if you please."
Mr. Wake conducted him to the private office, where they remained for half an hour.
"It is all right, Harry," continued Mr. Wake, on their return. "I did not understand the matter."
"Thank you, sir!" ejaculated our hero, rejoiced to find his place was still secure. "I would not have gone if I could possibly have helped it."
"You did right, my boy, and I honor you for your courage and constancy."
Mr. Bryant bade him an affectionate adieu, promising to write to him often until Julia recovered, and then departed.
With a grateful heart Harry immediately resumed his duties, and the partners were probably as glad to retain him as he was to remain.
At night, when he went to his chamber, he raised the loose board to get the pill box, containing his savings, in order to return the money he had not expended. To his consternation, he discovered that it was gone!
IN WHICH HARRY MEETS WITH AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE AND GETS A HARD KNOCK ON THE HEAD
It was in vain that Harry searched beneath the broken floor for his lost treasure; it could not be found. He raised the boards up, and satisfied himself that it had not slipped away into any crevice, or fallen through into the room below; and the conclusion was inevitable that the box had been stolen.
Who could have done it? The mystery confused Harry, for he was certain that no one had seen him deposit the box beneath the floor. No one except Edward even knew that he had any money. He was sure that neither Mrs. Flint nor Katy would have stolen it; and he was not willing to believe that his room-mate would be guilty of such a mean and contemptible act.
He tried to assure himself that it had not been stolen—that it was still somewhere beneath the floor; and he pulled up another board, to resume the search. He had scarcely done so before Edward joined him.
"What are you about, Harry?" he asked, apparently very much astonished at his chum's occupation. "Are you going to pull the house down?"
"Not exactly. You know my pill box?" replied Harry, suspending operations to watch Edward's expression when he told him of his loss.
"The one you kept your money in?"
"Yes. Well, it is gone."
"Gone!" exclaimed Edward, starting back with surprise.
"It is either lost or stolen."
"What did you do with it?"
"Put it here, under this loose board."
"It must be there now, then. I will help you find it."
Edward manifested a great deal of enthusiasm in the search. He was sure it must be where Harry had put it, or that it had rolled back out of sight; and he began tearing up the floor with a zeal that threatened the destruction of the building. But the box could not be found, and they were obliged to abandon the search.
"Too bad, Harry."
"That is a fact; I can't spare that money, anyhow. I have been a good while earning it, and it is too thundering bad to lose it."
"I don't understand it," continued Edward.
"Nor I either," replied Harry, looking his companion sharp in the eye. "No one knew I had it but you."
"Do you mean to say I stole it?" exclaimed Edward, doubling his fist, while his cheek reddened with anger.
"I don't say so."
"Humph! Well, you better not!"
"Don't get mad, Edward. I didn't mean to lay it to you."
"Didn't you?" And Edward was very glad to have the matter compromised.
"I did not; perhaps I spoke hastily. You know how hard I worked for this money; and it seems hard to lose it. But no matter; I will try again."
Mrs. Flint and Katy were much grieved when Harry told of his loss. They looked as though they suspected Edward, but said nothing, for it was very hard to accuse a son or a brother of such a crime.
Mrs. Flint advised Harry to put his money in the savings bank in future, promising to take care of his spare funds till they amounted to five dollars, which was then the smallest sum that would be received. It was a long time before our hero became reconciled to his loss. He had made up his mind to be a rich man; and he had carefully hoarded every cent he could spare, thus closely imitating the man who got rich by saving his fourpences.
A few days after the loss he was reading in one of Katy's Sunday school books about a miser. The wretch was held up as a warning to young folks by showing them how he starved his body and soul for the sake of gold.
"That's why I lost my money!" exclaimed Harry, as he laid the book upon the window.
"What do you mean, Harry?" asked Katy, who sat near him.
"I have been hoarding up my money just like this old man in the book."
"You are not a miser, Harry. You couldn't be mean and stingy if you tried."
"Yes, I could. I love money."
"So does everybody."
"A miser wouldn't do what you did for us, Harry," added Mrs. Flint. "We ought to be careful and saving."
"I have been thinking too much of money. After all, perhaps it was just as well that I lost that money."
"I am sorry you lost it; for I don't think there is any danger of your becoming a miser," said Katy.
"Perhaps not; at any rate, it has set me to thinking."
Harry finished the book; and it was, fortunately, just such a work as he required to give him right and proper views in regard to the value of wealth. His dream of being a rich man was essentially modified by these views; and he renewedly resolved that it was better to be a good man than a rich man, if he could not be both. It seemed to him a little remarkable that the minister should preach upon this very topic on the following Sunday, taking for his text the words, "Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all these things shall be added unto you." He was deeply impressed by the sermon, probably because it was on a subject to which he had given some attention.
A few days after his return from Rockville, Harry received a very cheerful letter from Mr. Bryant, to which Julia had added a few lines in a postscript. The little angel was rapidly recovering, and our hero was rejoiced beyond expression. The favorable termination of her illness was a joy which far outbalanced the loss of his money, and he was as cheerful and contented as ever. As he expressed it, in rather homely terms, he had got "the streak of fat and the streak of lean." Julia was alive; was to smile upon him again; was still to inspire him with that love of goodness which had given her such an influence over him.
Week after week passed by, and Harry heard nothing of his lost treasure; but Julia had fully recovered, and for the treasure lost an incomparably greater treasure had been gained. Edward and himself continued to occupy the same room, though ever since the loss of the money box Harry's chum had treated him coldly. There had never been much sympathy between them; for while Edward was at the theatre, or perhaps at worse places, Harry was at home, reading some good book, writing a letter to Rockville, or employed in some other worthy occupation. While Harry was at church or at the Sunday school, Edward, in company with some dissolute companion, was riding about the adjacent country.
Mrs. Flint often remonstrated with her son upon the life he led, and the dissipated habits he was contracting; and several times Harry ventured to introduce the subject. Edward, however, would not hear a word from either. It is true that we either grow better or worse, as we advance in life; and Edward Flint's path was down a headlong steep. His mother wept and begged him to be a better boy. He only laughed at her.
Harry often wondered how he could afford to ride out and visit the theatre and other places of amusement so frequently. His salary was only five dollars a week now; it was only four when he had said it was five. He seemed to have money at all times, and to spend it very freely. He could not help believing that the contents of his pill box had paid for some of the "stews" and "Tom and Jerrys" which his reckless chum consumed. But the nine dollars he had lost would have been but a drop in the bucket compared with his extravagant outlays.
One day, about six months after Harry's return from Rockville, as he was engaged behind the counter, a young man entered the store and accosted him.
"Halloo, Harry! How are you?"
It was a familiar voice; and, to Harry's surprise, but not much to his satisfaction, he recognized his old companion, Ben Smart, who, he had learned from Mr. Bryant, had been sent to the house of correction for burning Squire Walker's barn.
"How do you do, Ben?" returned Harry, not very cordially.
"So you are here—are you?"
"Yes, I have been here six months."
"Any chance for me?"
"No, I guess not."
"You have got a sign out for a boy, I see."
It was true they had. There were more errands to run than one boy could attend to; besides, Harry had proved himself so faithful and so intelligent, that Mr. Wake wished to retain him in the store, to fit him for a salesman.
"You can speak a good word for me, Harry; for I should like to work here," continued Ben.
"I thought you were in—in the—"
Harry did not like to use the offensive expression, and Ben's face darkened when he discovered what the other was going to say.
"Not a word about that," said he. "If you ever mention that little matter, I'll take your life."
"But how was it?"
"My father got me out, and then I ran away. Not a word more, for I had as lief be hung for an old sheep as a lamb."
"There is Mr. Wake; you can apply to him," continued Harry.
Ben walked boldly up to Mr. Wake, and asked for the place. The senior talked with him a few moments, and then retired to his private office, calling Harry as he entered.
"If you say anything, I will be the death of you," whispered Ben, as Harry passed him on his way to the office.
Our hero was not particularly pleased with these threats; he certainly was not frightened by them.
"Do you know that boy, Harry?" asked Mr. Wake, as he presented himself before the senior.
"I do, sir."
"Who is he, and what is he?"
"His name is Benjamin Smart. He belongs to Redfield."
"To Redfield? He said he came from Worcester."
"I believe Mr. Bryant told you the story about my leaving Redfield," said Harry.
"That is the boy that run away with me."
"And the one that set the barn afire?"
"That is enough." And Harry returned to his work at the counter.
"What did he say to you?" asked Ben.
Before Harry had time to make any reply, Mr. Wake joined them.
"We don't want you, young man," said he.
With a glance of hatred at Harry, the applicant left the store. Since leaving Redfield, our hero's views of duty had undergone a change; and he now realized that to screen a wicked person was to plot with him against the good order of society. He knew Ben's character; he had no reason, after their interview, to suppose it was changed; and he could not wrong his employers by permitting them ignorantly to engage a bad boy, especially when he had been questioned directly on the point.
Towards evening Harry was sent with a bundle to a place in Boylston Street, which required him to cross the Common. On his return, when he reached the corner of the burying ground, Ben Smart, who had evidently followed him, and lay in wait at this spot for him, sprang from his covert upon him. The young villain struck him a heavy blow in the eye before Harry realized his purpose. The blow, however, was vigorously returned; but Ben, besides being larger and stronger than his victim, had a large stone in his hand, with which he struck him a blow on the side of his head, knocking him insensible to the ground.
The wretch, seeing that he had done his work, fled along the side of the walk of the burying ground, pursued by several persons who had witnessed the assault. Ben was a fleet runner this time, and succeeded in making his escape.
IN WHICH HARRY FINDS THAT EVEN A BROKEN HEAD MAY BE OF SOME USE TO A PERSON
When Harry recovered his consciousness, he found himself in an elegantly furnished chamber, with several persons standing around the bed upon which he had been laid. A physician was standing over him, engaged in dressing the severe wound he had received in the side of his head.
"There, young man, you have had a narrow escape," said the doctor, as he saw his patient's eyes open.
"Where am I?" asked Harry, faintly, as he tried to concentrate his wandering senses.
"You are in good hands, my boy. What is your name?"
"Harry West. Can't I go home now?" replied the sufferer, trying to rise on the bed.
"Do you feel as though you could walk home?"
"I don't know; I feel kind of faint."
"Does your head pain you?"
"No, sir; it feels numb, and everything seems to be flying round."
"I dare say."
Harry expressed an earnest desire to go home, and the physician consented to accompany him in a carriage to Mrs. Flint's residence. He had been conveyed in his insensible condition to a house in Boylston Street, the people of which were very kind to him, and used every effort to make him comfortable.
A carriage was procured, and Harry was assisted to enter it; for he was so weak and confused that he could not stand alone. Ben had struck him a terrible blow; and, as the physician declared, it was almost a miracle that he had not been killed.
Mrs. Flint and Katy were shocked and alarmed when they saw the helpless boy borne into the house; but everything that the circumstances required was done for him.
"Has Edward come home?" he asked, when they had placed him on the bed.
"No, not yet."
"They will wonder what has become of me at the store," continued the sufferer, whose thoughts reverted to his post of duty.
"I will go down to the store and tell them what has happened," said Mr. Callender, the kind gentleman to whose house Harry had been carried, and who had attended him to his home.
"Thank you, sir; you are very good. I don't want them to think that I have run away, or anything of that sort."
"They will not think so, I am sure," returned Mr. Callender, as he departed upon his mission.
"Do you think I can go to the store to-morrow?" asked Harry, turning to the physician.
"I am afraid not; you must keep very quiet for a time."
Harry did not like this announcement. He had never been sick a day in his life; and it seemed to him just then as though the world could not possibly move on without him to help the thing along. A great many persons cherish similar notions, and cannot afford to be sick a single day.
I should like to tell my readers at some length what blessings come to us while we are sick; what angels with healing ministrations for the soul visit the couch of pain; what holy thoughts are sometimes kindled in the darkened chamber; what noble resolutions have their birth in the heart when the head is pillowed on the bed of sickness. But my remaining space will not permit it; and I content myself with remarking that sickness in its place is just as great a blessing as health; that it is a part of our needed discipline. When any of my young friends are sick, therefore, let them yield uncomplainingly to their lot, assured that He who hath them in his keeping "doeth all things well."
Harry was obliged to learn this lesson; and when the pain in his head began to be almost intolerable, he fretted and vexed himself about things at the store. He was not half as patient as he might have been; and, during the evening, he said a great many hard things about Ben Smart, the author of his misfortune. I am sorry to say he cherished some malignant, revengeful feelings towards him, and looked forward with a great deal of satisfaction to the time when he should be arrested and punished for his crime.
Both Mr. Wake and Mr. Wade called upon him as soon as they heard of his misfortune. They were very indignant when they learned that Harry was suffering for telling the truth. They assured him that they should miss him very much at the store, but they would do the best they could—which, of course, was very pleasant to him. But they told him they could get along without him, bade him not fret, and said his salary should be paid just the same as though he did his work.
"Thank you! thank you! You are very good," exclaimed Harry.
"Yes," Mr. Wade continued; "and, as it will cost you more to be sick, we will raise your wages to four dollars a week. What do you say, Wade?"
"Certainly," replied the junior, warmly.
There was no possible excuse for fretting now. With so many kind friends around him, he had no excuse for fretting; but his human nature rebelled at his lot, and he made himself more miserable than the pain of his wound could possibly have made him. Mrs. Flint, who sat all night by his bedside, labored in vain to make him resigned to his situation. It seemed as though the great trial of his lifetime had come—that which he was least prepared to meet and conquer.
The next day he was very feverish. His head ached, and the pain of his wound was very severe. His moral condition was, if possible, worse than on the preceding night. He was fretful, morose, and unreasonable towards those kind friends who kept vigil around his bedside. Strange as it may seem, and strange as it did seem to himself, his thoughts seldom reverted to the little angel. Once, when he thought of her extended on the bed of pain as he was then, her example seemed to reproach him. She had been meek and patient through all her sufferings—had been content to die, even, if it was the will of the Father in heaven. With a peevish exclamation, he drove her—his guardian angel, as she often seemed to him—from his mind, with the reflection that she could not have been as sick as he was, that she did not endure as much pain as he did. For several days he remained in pretty much the same state. His head ached, and the fever burned in his veins. His moral symptoms were not improved, and he continued to snarl and growl at those who took care of him.
"Give me some cold water, marm; I don't want your slops," fretted he, when Mrs. Flint brought him his drink.
"But the doctor says you mustn't have cold water." It was twenty-five years ago.
"Confound the doctor! Give me a glass of cold water, and I will—"
The door opened then, causing him to suspend the petulant words; for one stood there whose good opinion he valued more than that of any other person.
"Oh, Harry! I am so sorry to see you so sick!" exclaimed Julia Bryant, rushing to his bedside.
She was followed by her father and mother; and Katy had admitted them unannounced to the chamber.
"Julia! is it you?" replied Harry, smiling for the first time since the assault.
"Yes, Harry; I hope you are better. When I heard about it last night, I would not give father any peace till he promised to bring me to Boston."
"Don't be so wild, Julia," interposed her mother. "You forget that he is very sick."
"Forgive me, Harry; I was so glad and so sorry. I hope I didn't make your head ache," she added, in a very gentle tone.
"No, Julia. It was very good of you to come and see me."
Harry felt a change come over him the moment she entered the room. The rebellious thoughts in his bosom seemed to be banished by her presence; and though his head ached and his flesh burned as much as ever, he somehow had more courage to endure them.
After Mr. and Mrs. Bryant had asked him a few questions, and expressed their sympathy in proper terms, they departed, leaving Julia to remain with the invalid for a couple of hours.
"I did not expect to see you, Julia," said Harry, when they had gone.
"Didn't you think I would do as much for you as you did for me?"
"It was rather different with you. I am only a poor boy, and you are a rich man's child."
"Pooh, Harry! Our souls are all of a color. You can't think how bad I felt when father got Mr. Wake's letter."
"It's a hard case to be knocked down in that way, and laid up in the house for a week or two."
"I know it; but we must be patient."
"Can't be patient. I haven't any patience—not a bit. If I could get hold of Ben Smart, I would choke him. I hope they will catch him and send him to the state prison for life."
Julia looked sad. These malignant words did not sound like those of the Harry West she had known and loved. They were so bitter that they curdled the warm blood in her veins, and the heart of Harry seemed less tender than before.
"Harry," said she, in soft tones, and so sad that he could not but observe the change which had come over her.
"You don't mean what you said."
"Don't mean it?"
"No, I am sure you don't. Do you remember what the Bible says?"
"What does it say?" asked he, deeply impressed by the sad and solemn tones of the little angel.
"'Forgive your enemies,' Harry."
"Forgive Ben Smart, after he has almost killed me?" Julia took up the Bible, which lay on the table by the bedside—it was the one she had given him—and read several passages upon the topic she had introduced.
Harry was ashamed of himself. The gentle rebuke she administered touched his soul, and he thought how peevish and ill-natured he had been.
"You have been badly hurt, Harry, and you are very sick. Now, let me ask you one question: Which would you rather be, Harry West, sick as you are, or Ben Smart, who struck the blow?"
"I had rather be myself," replied he, promptly.
"You ought to be glad that you are Harry West, instead of Ben Smart. Sick as you are, I am sure you are a great deal happier than he can be, even if he is not punished for striking you."
"You are right, Julia. I have been very wicked. Here I have been grumbling and growling all the time for four days. I have learned better. It is lucky for me that I am Harry, instead of Ben."
"I am sure I have been a great deal better since I was sick than before. When I lay on the bed, hardly able to move, I kept thinking all the time; and my thoughts did me a great deal of good."
Harry had learned his lesson, and Julia's presence was indeed an angel's visit. For an hour longer she sat by his bed, and her words were full of inspiration; and when her father called for her he could hardly repress a tear as she bade him good night.
After she had gone Harry begged Mrs. Flint and Katy to forgive him for being so cross, promising to be patient in the future. And he kept his promise. The next day Julia came again. She read to him, conversed with him about the scenes of the preceding autumn in the woods, and told him again about her own illness. In the afternoon she bade him a final adieu, as she was to return that day to her home.
The patience and resignation which he had learned gave a favorable turn to his sickness, and he began to improve. It was a month, however, before he was able to take his place in the store again. Without the assistance of Julia, perhaps, he had not learned the moral of sickness so well. As it was, he came forth from his chamber with truer and loftier motives, and with a more earnest desire to lead the true life.
Ben Smart had been arrested; and, shortly after his recovery, Harry was summoned as a witness at his trial. It was a plain case, and Ben was sent to the house of correction for a long term.
IN WHICH HARRY PASSES THROUGH HIS SEVEREST TRIAL, AND ACHIEVES HIS GREATEST TRIUMPH
Three years may appear to be a great while to the little pilgrim through life's vicissitudes; but they soon pass away and are as "a tale that is told." To note all the events of Harry's experience through this period would require another volume; therefore I can only tell the reader what he was, and what results he had achieved in that time. It was filled with trials and temptations, not all of which were overcome without care and privation. Often he failed, was often disappointed, and often was pained to see how feebly the Spirit warred against the Flesh.
He loved money, and avarice frequently prompted him to do those things which would have wrecked his bright hopes. That vision of the grandeur and influence of the rich man's position sometimes deluded him, causing him to forget at times that the soul would live forever, while the body and its treasures would perish in the grave. As he grew older, he reasoned more; his principles became more firmly fixed; and the object of existence assumed a more definite character. He was an attentive student, and every year not only made him wiser, but better. I do not mean to say that Harry was a remarkably good boy, that his character was perfect, or anything of the kind. He meant well, and tried to do well, and he did not struggle in vain against the trials and temptations that beset him. I dare say those with whom he associated did not consider him much better than themselves. It is true, he did not swear, did not frequent the haunts of vice and dissipation, did not spend his Sundays riding about the country; yet he had his faults, and captious people did not fail to see them.
He was still with Wake & Wade, though he was a salesman now, on a salary of five dollars a week. He still boarded with Mrs. Flint, though Edward was no longer his room-mate. A year had been sufficient to disgust his "fast" companion with the homely fare and homely quarters of his father's house; and, as his salary was now eight dollars a week, he occupied a room in the attic of a first-class hotel.
Harry was sixteen years old, and he had three hundred dollars in the Savings Bank. He might have had more if he had not so carefully watched and guarded against the sin of avarice. He gave some very handsome sums to the various public charities, as well as expended them in relieving distress wherever it presented itself. It is true, it was sometimes very hard work to give of his earnings to relieve the poor; and if he had acted in conformity with the nature he had inherited, he might never have known that it was "more blessed to give than to receive." As he grew older, and the worth of money was more apparent, he was tempted to let the poor and the unfortunate take care of themselves; but the struggle of duty with parsimony rendered his gifts all the more worthy.
Joe Flint had several times violated his solemn resolution to drink no more ardent spirits; but Harry, who was his friend and confidant, encouraged him, when he failed, to try again; and it was now nearly a year since he had been on a "spree."
Our hero occasionally heard from Rockville; and a few months before the event we are about to narrate he had spent the pleasantest week of his life with Julia Bryant, amid those scenes which were so full of interest to both of them. As he walked through the woods where he had first met the "little angel"—she had now grown to be a tall girl—he could not but recall the events of that meeting. It was there that he first began to live, in the true sense of the word. It was there that he had been born into a new sphere of moral existence.
Julia was still his friend, still his guiding star. Though the freedom of childish intimacy had been diminished, the same heart resided in each, and each felt the same interest in the other. The correspondence between them had been almost wholly suspended, perhaps by the interference of the "powers" at Rockville, and perhaps by the growing sense of the "fitness of things" in the parties. But they occasionally met, which amply compensated for the deprivations which propriety demanded.
But I must pass on to the closing event of my story—it was Harry's severest trial, yet it resulted in his most signal triumph.
Edward Flint was always short of money. He lived extravagantly, and his increased salary was insufficient to meet his wants. When Harry saw him drive a fast horse through the streets on Sundays, and heard him say how often he went to the theatre, what balls and parties he attended—when he observed how elegantly he dressed, and that he wore a gold chain, a costly breastpin and several rings—he did not wonder that he was "short." He lived like a prince, and it seemed as though eight dollars a week would be but a drop in the bucket in meeting his expenses.
One day, in his extremity, he applied to Harry for the loan of five dollars. Our hero did not like to encourage his extravagance, but he was good-natured, and could not well avoid doing the favor, especially as Edward wanted the money to pay his board. However, he made it the occasion for a friendly remonstrance, and gave the spendthrift youth some excellent advice. Edward was vexed at the lecture; but, as he obtained the loan, he did not resent the kindly act.
About a fortnight after, Edward paid him the money. It consisted of a two-dollar bill and six half dollars. Harry was about to make a further application of his views of duty to his friend's case, when Edward impatiently interrupted him, telling him that, as he had got his money, he need not preach. This was just before Harry went home to dinner.
On his return Mr. Wake called him into the private office, and when they had entered he closed and locked the door. Harry regarded this as rather a singular proceeding; but, possessing the entire confidence of his employers, it gave him no uneasiness.
"Harry," Mr. Wake began, "we have been losing money from the store for the last year or more. I have missed small sums a great many times."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Harry, not knowing whether he was regarded as a confidant or as the suspected person.
"To-day I gave a friend of mine several marked coins, with which he purchased some goods. These coins have all been stolen."
"Is it possible, sir!"
"Now, we have four salesmen besides yourself. Which stole it?"
"I can form no idea, sir," returned Harry. "I can only speak for myself."
"Oh, well, I had no suspicion it was you," added Mr. Wade, with a smile. "I am going to try the same experiment again; and I want you to keep your eyes on the money drawer all the rest of the afternoon."
"I will do so, sir."
Mr. Wade took several silver coins from his pocket and scratched them in such a way that they could be readily identified, and then dismissed Harry, with the injunction to be very vigilant.
When he came out of the office he perceived that Edward and Charles Wallis were in close conversation.
"I say, Harry, what's in the wind?" asked the former, as our hero returned to his position behind the counter.
Harry evaded answering the question, and the other two salesmen, who were very intimate and whose tastes and amusements were very much alike, continued their conversation. They were evidently aware that something unusual had occurred, or was about to occur.
Soon after, a person appeared at the counter and purchased a dozen spools of cotton, offering two half dollars in payment. Harry kept his eye upon the money drawer, but nothing was discovered. From what he knew of Edward's mode of life, he was prepared to believe that he was the guilty person.
The experiment was tried for three days in succession before any result was obtained. The coins were always found in the drawer; but on the fourth day, when they were very busy, and there was a great deal of money in the drawer, Harry distinctly observed Edward, while making change, take several coins from the till. The act appalled him; he forgot the customer to whose wants he was attending, and hastened to inform Mr. Wake of the discovery.
"Where are you going, Harry?" asked Edward, as he passed him.
"Only to the office," replied he; and his appearance and manner might have attracted the attention of any skillful rogue.
"Come, Harry, don't leave your place," added Edward, playfully grasping him by the collar, on his return.
"Don't stop to fool, Edward," answered Harry, as he shook him off and took his place at the counter again.
He was very absent-minded the rest of the forenoon, and his frame shook with agitation as he heard Mr. Wake call Edward shortly after. But he trembled still more when he was summoned also, for it was very unpleasant business.
"Of course, you will not object to letting me see the contents of your pockets, Edward," said Mr. Wake, as Harry entered the office.
"Certainly not, sir;" and he turned every one of his pockets inside out.
Not one of the decoy pieces was found upon him, or any other coins, for that matter; he had no money. Mr. Wake was confused, for he fully expected to convict the culprit on the spot.
"I suppose I am indebted to this young man for this," continued Edward, with a sneer. "I'll bet five dollars he stole the money himself, if any has been stolen. Why don't you search him?"
"Search me, sir, by all means," added Harry; and he began to turn his pockets out.
From his vest pocket he took out a little parcel wrapped in a shop bill.
"What's that?" said Edward.
"I don't know. I wasn't aware that there was any such thing in my pocket."
"I suppose not," sneered Edward.
"But you seem to know more about it than Edward," remarked Mr. Wade, as he took the parcel.
"I know nothing about it."
The senior opened the wrapper, and to his surprise and sorrow found it contained two of the marked coins. But he was not disposed hastily to condemn Harry. He could not believe him capable of stealing; besides, there was something in Edward's manner which seemed to indicate that our hero was the victim of a conspiracy.
"As he has been so very generous towards me, Mr. Wake," interposed Edward, "I will suggest a means by which you may satisfy yourself. My mother keeps Harry's money for him, and perhaps, if you look it over, you will find more marked pieces."
"Mr. Wake, I'm innocent," protested Harry, when he had in some measure recovered from the first shock of the heavy blow. "I never stole a cent from anybody."
"I don't believe you ever did, Harry. But can you explain how this money happened to be in your pocket?"
"I cannot, sir. If you wish to look at my money, Mrs. Flint will show it to you."
"Perhaps I had better."
"Don't let him go with you, though," said Edward, maliciously.
Mr. Wake wrote an order to Mrs. Flint, requesting her to exhibit the money, and Harry signed it. The senior then hastened to Avery Street.
"Now, Master Spy!" sneered Edward, when he had gone. "So you have been watching me, I thought as much."
"I only did what Mr. Wade told me to do," replied Harry, exceedingly mortified at the turn the investigation had taken.
"Humph! That is the way with you psalm-singers. Steal yourself, and lay it to me!"
"I did not steal. I never stole in my life."
"Wait and see."
In about half an hour Mr. Wake returned.
"I am sorry, Harry, to find that I have been mistaken in you. Is it possible that one who is outwardly so correct in his habits should be a thief? But your career is finished," said he, very sternly, as he entered the office.
"Nothing strange to the rest of us," added Edward. "I never knew one yet who pretended to be so pious that did not turn out a rascal."
"And such a hypocrite!"
"Mr. Wake, I am neither a thief nor a hypocrite," replied Harry, with spirit.
"I found four of the coins—four half dollars—which I marked first, at Mrs. Flint's," said the senior, severely.
Harry was astounded. Those half dollars were part of the money paid him by Edward, and he so explained how they came in his possession.
"Got them from me!" exclaimed Edward, with well-feigned surprise. "I never borrowed a cent of him in my life; and, of course, never paid him a cent."
Harry looked at Edward, amazed at the coolness with which he uttered the monstrous lie. He questioned him in regard to the transaction, but the young reprobate reiterated his declaration with so much force and art that Mr. Wake was effectually deceived.
Our hero, conscious of his innocence, however strong appearances were against him, behaved with considerable spirit, which so irritated Mr. Wake that he sent for a constable, and Harry soon found himself in Leverett Street Jail. Strange as it may seem to my young friends, he was not very miserable there. He was innocent, and he depended upon that special Providence which had before befriended him to extricate him from the difficulty. It is true, he wondered what Julia would say when she heard of his misfortune. She would weep and grieve; and he was sad when he thought of her. But she would be the more rejoiced when she learned that he was innocent. The triumph would be in proportion to the trial.
On the following day he was brought up for examination. As his name was called, the propriety of the court was suddenly disturbed by an exclamation of surprise from an elderly man, with sun-browned face and monstrous whiskers.
"Who is he?" almost shouted the elderly man, regardless of the dignity of the court.
An officer was on the point of turning him out; but his earnest manner saved him. Pushing his way forward to Mr. Wake, he questioned him in regard to the youthful prisoner.
"Strange! I thought he was dead!" muttered the elderly man, in the most intense excitement.
The examination proceeded. Harry had a friend who had not been idle, as the sequel will show.
Mr. Wake first testified to the facts we have already related, and the lawyer, whom Harry's friends had provided, questioned him in regard to the prisoner's character and antecedents. Edward Flint was then called. He was subjected to a severe cross-examination by Harry's counsel, in which he repeatedly denied that he had ever borrowed or paid any money to the accused.
Mr. Wade was the next witness. While the events preceding Harry's arrest were transpiring, he had been absent from the city, but had returned early in the afternoon. He disagreed with his partner in relation to our hero's guilt, and immediately set himself to work to unmask the conspiracy, for such he was persuaded it was.
He testified that, a short time before, Edward had requested him to pay him his salary two days before it was due, assigning as a reason the fact that he owed Harry five dollars, which he wished to pay. He produced two of the marked half dollars, which he had received from Edward's landlady.
Of course, Edward was utterly confounded; and, to add to his confusion, he was immediately called to the stand again. This time his coolness was gone; he crossed himself a dozen times, and finally acknowledged, under the pressure of the skillful lawyer's close questioning, that Harry was innocent. He had paid him the money found in Mrs. Flint's possession, and had slipped the coins wrapped in the shop bills into his pocket when he took him by the collar on his return from the office.
He had known for some time that the partners were on the watch for the thief. He had heard them talking about the matter; but he supposed he had managed the case so well as to exonerate himself and implicate Harry, whom he hated for being a good boy.
Harry was discharged. His heart swelled with gratitude for the kindly interposition of Providence. The trial was past—the triumph had come.
Mr. Wake, Mr. Wade, and other friends, congratulated him on the happy termination of the affair; and while they were so engaged the elderly man elbowed his way through the crowd to the place where Harry stood.
"Young man, what is your father's name?" he asked, in tones tremulous with emotion.
"I have no father," replied Harry.
"You had a father—what was his name?"
"Franklin West; a carpenter by trade. He went from Redfield to Valparaiso when I was very young, and we never heard anything from him."
"My son!" exclaimed the stranger, grasping our hero by the hand, while the tears rolled down his brown visage.
Harry did not know what to make of this announcement.
"Is it possible that you are my father?" asked he.
"I am, Harry; but I was sure you were dead. I got a letter, informing me that your mother and the baby had gone; and about a year after I met a man from Rockville who told me that you had died also."
"It was a mistake."
They continued the conversation as they walked from the court room to the store. There was a long story for each to tell. Mr. West confessed that, for two years after his arrival at Valparaiso, he had accomplished very little. He drank hard, and brought on a fever, which had nearly carried him off. But that fever was a blessing in disguise; and since his recovery he had been entirely temperate. He had nothing to send to his family, and shame prevented him from even writing to his wife. He received the letter which conveyed the intelligence of the death of his wife and child, and soon after learned that his remaining little one was also gone.
Carpenters were then in great demand in Valparaiso. He was soon in a condition to take contracts, and fortune smiled upon him. He had rendered himself independent, and had now returned to spend his remaining days in his native land. He had been in Boston a week, and happened to stray into the Police Court, where he had found the son who, he supposed, had long ago been laid in the grave.
Edward Flint finished his career of "fashionable dissipation" by being sentenced to the house of correction. Just before he was sent over, he confessed to Mr. Wade that it was he who had stolen Harry's money, three years before.
The next day Harry obtained leave of absence, for the purpose of accompanying his father on a visit to Redfield. He was in exuberant spirits. It seemed as though his cup of joy was full. He could hardly realize that he had a father—a kind, affectionate father—who shared the joy of his heart.
They went to Redfield; but I cannot stop to tell my readers how astonished Squire Walker, and Mr. Nason, and the paupers were, to see the spruce young clerk come to his early home, attended by his father—a rich father, too.
We can follow our hero no farther through the highways and byways of his life-pilgrimage. We have seen him struggle like a hero through trial and temptation, and come off conqueror in the end. He has found a rich father, who crowns his lot with plenty; but his true wealth is in those good principles which the trials, no less than the triumphs, of his career have planted in his soul.
IN WHICH HARRY IS VERY PLEASANTLY SITUATED, AND THE STORY COMES TO AN END
Perhaps my young readers will desire to know something of Harry's subsequent life; and we will "drop in" upon him at his pleasant residence in Rockville, without the formality of an introduction. The years have elapsed since we parted with him, after his triumphant discharge from arrest. His father did not live long after his return to his native land, and when he was twenty-one, Harry came into possession of a handsome fortune. But even wealth could not tempt him to choose a life of idleness; and he went into partnership with Mr. Wade, the senior retiring at the same time. The firm of Wade and West is quite as respectable as any in the city.
Harry is not a slave to business; and he spends a portion of his time at his beautiful place in Rockville; for the cars pass through the village, which is only a ride of an hour and a half from the city.
Mr. West's house is situated on a gentle eminence not far distant from the turnpike road. It is built upon the very spot where the cabin of the charcoal burners stood, in which Harry, the fugitive, passed two nights. The aspect of the place is entirely changed, though the very rock upon which our hero ate the sumptuous repast the little angel brought him may be seen in the centre of the beautiful garden, by the side of the house. Mr. West often seats himself there to think of the events of the past, and to treasure up the pleasant memories connected with the vicinity.
The house is elegant and spacious, though there is nothing gaudy or gay about it. Let us walk in. It is plainly furnished, though the articles are rich and tasteful. This is the sitting room. Who is that beautiful lady sitting at the piano-forte? Do you not recognize her, gentle reader? Of course you do. It is Mrs. West, and an old acquaintance. She is no longer the little angel, though I cannot tell her height or her weight; but her husband thinks she is just as much of an angel now as when she fed him on doughnuts upon the flat rock in the garden.
Ah, here comes Harry! He is a fine-looking man, rather tall; and though he does not wear a mustache, I have no doubt Mrs. West thinks he is handsome—which is all very well, provided he does not think so himself.
"This is a capital day, Julia; suppose we ride over to Redfield, and see friend Nason," said Mr. West.
"I shall be delighted," replied Julia.
The horse is ordered; and as they ride along, the gentleman amuses his wife with the oft-repeated story of his flight from Jacob Wire's.
"Do you see that high rock, Julia?" he asked, pointing over the fence.
"That is the very one where I dodged Leman, and took the back track; and there is where I knocked the bull-dog over."
They arrived at the house of Mr. Nason. It is a pleasant little cottage, for he is no longer in the service of the town. It was built by Mr. West expressly for him. Connected with it is a fine farm of twenty acres. This little property was sold to Mr. Nason by his protege, though no money was paid. Harry would have made it a free gift, if the pride of his friend would have permitted; but it amounts to the same thing.
Mr. West and his lady are warmly welcomed by Mr. Nason and his family. The ex-keeper is an old man now. He is a member of the church, and considered an excellent and useful citizen. He still calls Mr. West his "boy," and regards him with mingled pride and admiration.
Our friends dine at the cottage; and, after dinner, Mr. Nason and Mr. West talk over old times, ride down to Pine Pleasant, and visit the poorhouse. Great changes have come over Redfield. Squire Walker, Jacob Wire, and most of the paupers who were the companions of our hero, are dead and gone, and the living speak gently of the departed.
At Pine Pleasant, they fasten the horse to a tree, and cross over to the rock which was Harry's favorite resort in childhood.
"By the way, Harry, have you heard anything of Ben Smart lately?" asks Mr. Nason.
"After his discharge from the state prison, I heard that he went to sea."
"He was a bad boy."
"And a bad man."
"I believed he killed his mother. They say she never smiled after she gave him up as a hopeless case."
"Poor woman! I pity a mother whose son turns out badly. What a wreck of fond hopes!"
"Just so," added Mr. Nason.
After visiting various interesting localities, Mr. West and his lady returned home. In their absence, a letter for Julia from Katy Flint has arrived. The Flint family are now in good circumstances. Joe is a steady man, and, with Harry's assistance, has purchased an interest in the stable formerly kept by Major Phillips, who has retired on a competency.
"What does she say, Julia?" asked Harry, as she broke the seal.
"They have heard from Edward."
"Bad news, I am afraid. He was a hard boy."
"Yes; he has just been sent to the Maryland penitentiary for housebreaking."
"I am sorry for him."
"Katy says her mother feels very badly about it."
"No doubt of it. Mrs. Flint is an excellent woman; she was a mother to me."
"She says they are coming up to Rockville next week."
"Glad of that; they will always be welcome beneath my roof. I must call upon them to-morrow when I go to the city."
"Do; and give my love to them."
And, here, reader, I must leave them—not without regret, I confess, for it is always sad to part with warm and true-hearted friends; but if one must leave them, it is pleasant to know that they are happy, and are surrounded by all the blessings which make life desirable, and filled with that bright hope which reaches beyond the perishable things of this world. It is cheering to know that one's friends, after they have fought a hard battle with foes without and foes within, have won the victory, and are receiving their reward.
If my young friends think well of Harry, let me admonish them to imitate his virtues, especially his perseverance in trying to do well; and when they fail to be as good and true as they wish to be, to TRY AGAIN.
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