Thus Martin escaped from his dangerous entanglement, but never againto hold the unwavering confidence of his employer. Mr. Phillipspitied, but could not trust him fully. A year afterwards cametroublesome times, losses in business, and depression in trade.Every man had to retrench. Thousands of clerks lost their places,and anxiety and distress were on every hand. Mr. Phillips, likeothers, had to reduce expenses, and, in reducing, the lot to go fellupon Martin Green. He had been very circumspect, had kept away fromthe old places where danger lurked, had devoted himself with renewedassiduity to his employer's interests; but, for all this, doubtswere forever arising in the mind of Mr. Phillips, and when thequestion, "Who shall go?" came up, the decision was against Martin.We pity him, but cannot blame his employer.
"I don't know what you may think about it, Sally; but my mind's madeup." And Andy squared round, and looked steadily into his wife'sface. "There's just one thing we've got to do; and it's no usetrying to run away from it. That letter didn't come for nothing. Thefact is, Sally, them children mustn't be separated. I've beenthinking about it all night, and it hurts me dreadfully."
Two or three weeks passed, and then the long silent dwelling of AndyLovell was filled with the voices of children. Two or three yearshave passed since then. How is it with Andy? There is not a morecheerful man in all the village, though he is in his shop early andlate. No more complaints from customers. Every one is promptly andcheerfully served. He has the largest run of work, as of old; andhis income is sufficient not only to meet increased expenses, but toleave a surplus at the end of every year. He is the bright, sharpknife, always in use; not the idle blade, which had so narrowlyescaped, falling from the window, rusting to utter worthlessness inthe dew and rain.
Poor Tom was seen less frequently than before hanging on the gate,or sitting idly on the bench before his mother's dwelling; and whenyou did find him there, as of old, you saw a different expression onhis face. Soon the children, who had only looked at him, half infear, from a distance, or come closer to the gate where he stoodgazing with his strange eyes out into the street, in order to worryhim, began to have a different feelings for the cripple, and one andanother stopped occasionally to speak with him; for Tom no longermade queer faces, or looked at them wickedly, as if he would harmthem if in his power, nor retorted angrily if they said things toworry him. And now it often happened that a little boy or girl, whohad pitied the poor cripple, and feared him at the same time, wouldoffer him a flower, or an apple, or at handful of nuts in passing toschool; and he would take these gifts thankfully, and feel betterall day in remembrance of the kindness with which they had beenbestowed. Sometimes he would risk to see their books, and his eyeswould run eagerly over the pages so far in advance of hiscomprehension, yet with the hope in his heart of one day masteringthem; for he had grown all athirst for knowledge.
Closely the doctor observed his patient. He saw how erectly shecontinued to sit; how the color deepened in her face, which actuallyseemed rounder and fuller; how the sense of enjoyment fairly dancedin her eyes.
The years passed on; and Ralph continued as careful as in thebeginning to preserve a good name. He was not content simply withdoing right; but felt that it was a duty to himself, and to all whomight, in any way be dependent on him, to appear right also. He was,therefore, particular in regard to the company he kept and theplaces he visited. Jacob, on the contrary, continued to letinclination rather than prudence govern him in these matters. Hishabits were probably as good as those of Ralph, and his businesscapacity fully equal. But he was not regarded with the same favor,for he was often seen in company with young men known to be of loosemorals, and would occasionally, visit billiard-saloons,tenpin-alleys, and other places where men of disreputable characterare found. His father, who observed Jacob closely, remonstrated withhim occasionally as the boy advanced towards manhood; but Jacob puton an independent air, and replied that he went on the principle ofbeing right with himself. "You can't," he would say, "keep free frommisjudgment, do what you will. Men are always more inclined to thinkevil of each other than good. I do nothing that I'm ashamed of."
What an oppressive stillness pervaded that room! Jenks stood subduedand bewildered, his state of mental confusion scarcely enabling himto comprehend the full import of the scene. The stranger looked onwonderingly, yet deeply affected. Quietly, and with moist eyes, thetwo or three drinking customers who had been lounging in the bar,went stealthily out; and the landlord, the stranger and the fatherand his child, were left the only inmates of the room.
A year afterwards a stranger came again that way, and stopped at the"Stag and Hounds." As before, Jenks was behind his well-filled bar,and drinking customers came and went in numbers. Jenks did notrecognize him until he called for water, and drank a full tumbler ofthe pure liquor with a hearty zest. Then he knew him, but feigned tobe ignorant of his identity. The stranger made no reference to thescene he had witnessed there a twelvemonth before, but lingered inthe bar for most of the day, closely observing every one that cameto drink. Leslie was not among the number.
Alice threw open the window, and then ran into the kitchen for somecrumbs of bread. When she came back, pigeon was still on the fence.Then she called to him, holding out her her hand scattering a fewcrumbs on the window-sill. The bird was hungry and had sharp eyes,and when he saw Alice he no doubt remembered the nice meal she hadgiven him in the morning, in a few moments he flew to the window,but seemed half afraid. So Alice stood a little back in the room,when he began to pick up the crumbs. Then she came nearer andnearer, holding out her hand that was full of crumbs, and as soon aspigeon had picked up all that was on the sill, he took the rest ofhis evening meal from the dear little girl's hand. Every now andthen he would stop and look up at his kind friend, as much as tosay, "Thank you for my nice supper. You are so good!" When he hadeaten enough, he cooed a little, bobbed his pretty head, and thenlifted his wings and flew away.
Alice withdrew, silent, almost hurt, though not offended, and morethan half resolved to give up the party. But certainly recollectionschecked this forming resolve before it reached a state of fulldecision.
"How will this do?" She pushed open the door of her aunt's room halfan hour afterwards with this sentence on her lips. Her cheeks wereglowing, and her eyes full of sparkles. So complete was the change,that for a brief space the aunt gazed at her wonderingly. She wore ahandsome fawn-colored silk, made high in the neck, around which wasa narrow lace collar of exceeding fineness, pinned with a singlediamond. A linked band of gold, partly hidden by the laceundersleeve, clasped one of her wrists. A small spray of pearls andsilver formed the only ornament for her hair, and nestled,beautifully contrasted among its dark and glossy braids.
"By odds the most charming I have met to-night. And then she has hadthe good taste to dress in a modest, womanly manner. How beautifullyshe contrasts with a dozen I could name, all radiant with colors asa bed of tulips."
"O, but mother," spoke out the boy, quickly, "if it hurts people todrink, it must be wrong to give them liquor. Now I've been thinkinghow much better it would be to have a nice cup of coffee. I am surethat four out of five would like it a great deal better than wine orbrandy. And nobody could possibly receive any harm. Didn't you hearwhat father said about Mr. Lewis? That he had been rather wild? I amsure I shall never forget seeing him stagger in the street once. Isuppose he has reformed. But just think, if the taste should berevived again and at our house, and he should become intoxicated atthis wedding party! O, mother! It makes me feel dreadfully to thinkabout it. And dear Cousin Fanny! What sorrow it would bring to her!"
With what strong throbs of pleasure did the boy's heart beat whenthese words came to his ears! He had scarcely hoped for success whenhe pleaded briefly, but earnestly, with his mother. Yet he felt thathe must speak, for to his mind, what she proposed doing was a greatevil. Since it had been resolved to banish liquor from theentertainment, he had heard his father and mother speak severaltimes doubtfully as to the result; and more than once his fatherexpressed result that any such "foolish" attempt to run in the faceof people's prejudices had been thought of. Naturally, he had feltanxious about the result; but now that the affair had gone off sotriumphantly, his heart was outgushing with pleasure.
So much for what a boy may do, by only a few right words spoken atthe right time, and in the right manner. Henry Eldridge wasthoughtful, modest, and earnest-minded. His attachment to the causeof temperance was not a mere boyish enthusiasm, but the result of aconviction that intemperance was a vice destructive, to both souland body, and one that lay like a curse and a plague-spot onsociety, He could understand how, if the boys rejected, entirely,the cup of confusion, the next, generation of men would be sober;and this had led him to join the Cadets, and do all in his power toget other lads to join also. In drawing other lads into the order,he had been very successful; and now, in a few respectfully uttered,but earnest words, he had checked the progress of intemperance in acircle far beyond the ordinary reach of his influence.
Mrs. Grove called from the door that opened towards the garden. Butno answer came. The sun had set half an hour before, and hisparting, rays, were faintly tinging with gold and purple few cloudsthat lay just alone the edge of the western sky. In the east, thefull moon was rising in all her beauty, making pale the stars thatwere sparking in the firmament. 2b1af7f3a8