Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

prevent their feeling lonely; and then he went to his business again. His master was very sympathising and kind, and on his hearing that he had the two children entirely on his hands—for the uncle now withdrew the allowance altogether-made him a small advance in his wages. “Never desert them, my boy," was his last injunction, as John left for the night. “No, never," was his answer; “I promised my mother, and that promise is as sacred as an oath.”

For a long time John Graham manfully fulfilled the obligations which had fallen upon him. Day by day he went out to his work, with the feeling that he had others dependent upon him, and that he must not flag in his exertions on their behalf; and night by night he returned home, to enjoy the company of the little pair who owed him so much. None but himself could tell his feelings of happiness, as he took the two children, one on each knee, and heard them repeat their evening hymn; or the joy that he felt when he brought them home whatever little article of clothing they stood most in need of; he had a thousandfold more real happiness than if he had spent everything upon himself. And thus, dear reader, it must ever be, for it is in every sense“ more blessed to give than to receive." There was not in Mr. Steel's employment a happier boy than John Graham; others were what the world

calls gayer, they had apparently more outward pleasures, they were better dressed, and made a greater show; but John had a pleasure which surpassed all that the others enjoyed ; the little while that he spent every evening with the twins was more than a compensation for all that he had to forego; and although he felt conscious that there was a solemnity over his existence which was not over that of others, he would not have changed with them. As to the twins, they were good children, and never gave him any uneasiness, except from their having to be so much alone. Mrs. Curtis had been obliged to remove, and there was now no one in the house to whom he could entrust them when he was away. So long as this good woman had been at hand, he knew that they never wanted a friendly eye to see after them; but she and her family had removed to the country, and the little Grahams did not get very agreeable neighbours in their place. It is true, that all day long they were at school; their brother paid sixpence a week to the charwoman of the school to fetch them, and see them home every afternoon; as to dinner, the poor little things took whatever they had to eat with them, and remained there quietly with two or three other children, who lived too far away to return home to dinner. As soon, however, as school was over, the little ones had no one to look after them, and they

spent from that time until their brother came home entirely by themselves. At times when he was late they felt lonely, but in general they found plenty to do. Young as they were, they swept the room, they boiled the water, they made the bed, and there were few rooms sweeter and nicer than the little one where these tiny hands did all the work. To such as are reared in affluence and luxury, this will perhaps seem strange; but the children of the poor are old before their time, and necessity makes them think and act beyond their years. This was now the case with the little Grahams; although so young, they had already done much for which they seemed little fitted. Their mother's illness had made them think, and often for days together scarce anything was done in her room except by their feeble hands. And they had a kind of pride in having John's supper ready for him when he came home, and in being good; for they had promised their mother that they would try and ever be so, before she died; and now they felt, they knew not why, as though not only God, but she were looking at them, and seeing whether they kept their word.

CHAPTER III.

ALL would have been very well had the little family continued thus. Mr. Steel was so pleased with John Graham, that he had advanced his wages considerably; partly because he was now worth much more in the business, and partly because of the little ones under his care. Mr. Steel was a man that loved and feared God, and what he thus gave to John Graham, he gave as a contribution to the orphan. It was astonishing how well little Eddy and Mary got on with their lessons, and how very nicely they were able to read their Bibles. They gave promise of becoming pious and useful young people, and repaying their brother for his devotion, and self-denial, and care. A curse, however, was impending over this little family, and soon a terrible change came over their humble home. The “Golden Robin," which had already been the ruin of many a young man, extended its snares to John Graham, and he soon became an altered youth. He was first led to it by some business of his master's,-he had to receive some money there, and he was offered a drop by the landlord. At first he refused, and left the house the moment his business was settled; but as he had occasion to go there again

and again, he became more familiarised to the appearance of the place and people; and his ruin first commenced by stopping to read the papers which lay upon the table of the taproom, the door of which was open, and quite close to the counter where he was standing. It would never have entered into his head to have bought liquor; but one dreadfully wet day the landlord put a small, a very small glass of hot brandy-and-water before him, well sugared and well flavoured, and not withal too strong; and that commenced his ruin. Dear reader, you are in all probability just entering on life; shun the first drop, the first acquaintance with the public-house, the first tampering with drink. It is easy to say, “I will go just thus far, but no farther. I will take what I want and begone." You little know into what a snare you are rushing; what dangers are at hand, though unseen; where this beginning will end. The first drop has proved the ruin of many, both in body and in soul.

At first John Graham did not become an habitual frequenter of the public-house; he merely accepted the landlord's hospitality; but every time he came, his drop of brandyand-water was made stronger, until at last his portion became, even according to the landlord's testimony, “pretty stiff.”

After this had been going on for some time, John Graham called one Saturday later

« IndietroContinua »