« IndietroContinua »
This was said so snappishly, that the little Grahams shrunk back, and molested their brother no more. The dear little things had not complained of their scanty fare—for John had brought home no meat the night before; nor yet of the lack of butter for their breadfor that also he had not brought, as was his wont; and they kept close together during the remainder of the day, seldom speaking above a whisper, and for a long time looking out of the window in silence upon the bright blue sky. At last, after a weary day, teatime came, and little Mary, as was her wont, set about preparing the daily meal. The child set all in order, and produced from the cupboard the scrapings of a plate of butter. These she carefully spread upon two or three pieces of toast which Eddy had made, and set them before her brother John. .“ Where did this butter come from ?" said he, in a tone half of surprise and half of anger; for he had been lying down upon the bed, while little Mary was at her duties as the housekeeper. “I didn't bring home any butter last night: I hope you haven't been borrowing any from any person in the house. Can't you do without butter for once in your lives?
“ 'Tis only the scrapings,” said his sister; “ I saved them for you; for I thought you'd miss a nice tea on Sunday evening."
“Yes, and she prevented my eating them
up last night,” said Eddy, “ because she said we must keep them for you."
John Graham looked at their plates, and he saw that neither of them had any butter, and the tears half started to his eyes; in a moment, however, he dried them up again, and dividing the toast between the little ones, told them he wouldn't forget to bring butter next week; but it was eaten sorrowfully, for his looks were anything but kind.
From this day forward, the little Grahams seemed to live in a new world. John Graham came home much later than he used to do, and on one or two occasions did not come at all, and the children felt themselves more and more dependent on each other for society and support. It is true they never wanted for bread to eat, but the little comforts they had been used to had gradually become less and less; and now when we say that they had bread, we say all. Nor was this falling off to be attributed to John Graham's coat; it was still in the pawnbroker's hands; money had not been saved for its redemption; and in consequence John Graham was shabby, and no place of worship ever saw him within its walls. He did not become a frequent visitor at the “ Golden Robin ” without many compunctions of conscience; often and often he fancied that he heard his mother's gentle voice speaking to him ; often he was reminded by her wedding-ring which he wore tied by
a string round his neck; and even the little children were a daily sermon to him; for they had become pale and careworn before their time, and always advanced to him as though they were not sure as to what kind of reception they were likely to meet. And good reason had the children for approaching him with timidity; for some evenings he was as kind as he could be, and almost devoured them with kisses, while at other times he treated them either with neglect or rudeness, and on one occasion had gone so far as to give little Eddy a very severe blow.
Had John Graham taken the right course at once, when he yielded to temptation, and sought for strength from God to be kept from it for the future, all would have been well, even after that first miserable evening at the “ Golden Robin.” He never, however, humbled himself truly before God, never made any good resolutions in the power of Divine grace, and he fell in consequence from bad to worse, until he became a regular tippler, and was very often drunk.
The heavy consequences of his present course of life soon came upon him; and principally through the coat which he had pawned. This garment had been Mr. Steel's present, and it was to be used when John Graham went to a certain very respectable class of customers, who were very particular about the appearance of the persons coming
to their doors. Scarce a day passed over John Graham's head, but that he was in more or less fear of being ordered to call on one of these gentlemen ; and how could hé go ? for his coat was in pledge. At length what he dreaded so much came; and he was told by Mr. Steel to call upon a Mr. Carson, a wealthy gentleman at the West-end. What to do under the circumstances, the youth could not think; he had nothing to pledge instead of the coat; he must go as he was ; he would take his chance ; perhaps nothing would be heard of it. But suddenly the thought flashed across his mind-he had his mother's wedding-ring, why not pawn that? it was gold, it would be sure to fetch something readily. But he could not bring himself to part with it. It was all that he had left belonging to his mother; besides which, it was not altogether his; he had been charged to give it to another, if that other should be ever found ; come what might he would not part with it. John Graham almost hated himself for ever having had even a thought of parting with so sacred a deposit; and he made up his mind to go at any risk to Mr. Carson's without his decent coat. Off accordingly he went, and knocked at the rich man's door. The house was a splendid one, and as John Graham stood upon the marble step he felt that he was no special ornament to it; but his thoughts were soon broken in upon by the noise of a carriage dashing up to the door, out of which stepped Mr. Carson himself, with two ladies. John Graham could see at a glance that the owner of the fine house and splendid equipage was not very well pleased with his presence on his doorstep; he whispered something to his footman, who ran up the steps, and in a very contemptuous tone of voice told John Graham to get off the step while the ladies were going in. Poor John! he little knew what indignities drink will subject a man to; he had already been refused a little credit; he was now treated as though he were little better than a thief; but he had much yet to undergo.
As to Mr. Carson, who was a proud, overbearing and unchristian man, full of his own consequence and wealth, he cast an angry look upon the poor lad, and passed into the house. Young Graham waited for a few minutes, and then timidly rang the bell, and sent in his message; but Mr. Carson sent out word that he would see Mr. Steel himself, and that the messenger need not wait. And Mr. Carson was as good as his word. That afternoon he drove down to Mr. Steel's, and made a tremendous fuss about the appearance of the person he found standing at his door. It was in vain that Mr. Steel assured him that he considered him one of the most respectable in his employment, that he put great depen