Short Stories » Energy of Character

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At the expiration of two months he was obliged to go back. Had it not been for his Christian mother, whose whispers to her poor boy gently sustained him, his heart would have grown hard and wicked; but she had often told him a time for his release would come if he would be patient; that the good Lord would in time answer her daily prayers for him.

When in his fourteenth year, another cave occurred in the mine, and this time his hands were severely bruised, his bare feet also. Every nail upon feet and hands came off; but the severest injury rested on his eyes, which were so filled with fine coal that it was feared he would be forever blind. Many weeks passed, during which only one voice whispered hope to him his mother's. During this period of suffering and suspense, his father declared he would not send him back into the mine if he ever got well. When Joseph was able to walk around, his anxious mother asked him if he did not think it would be wisdom for him to go to his married sister in Long Island, for she feared his father would revoke his promise and send him again to the mine, and she had little confidence that he would again be so fortunate as to escape with his life if similar accidents should again occur.

Joseph dreaded to part from that dear mother who had been his only comfort all these years; he thought of the children she had buried, and that one only be- side him remained at home; but she bade him go into the free, wide world until he became a man, then she would look for him to come home to her once more.

Long they talked and wept together, and that night the mother gathered together his scanty clothing. In the morning she asked his father's permission for Joseph to go to his sister and learn her husband's trade stone-cutting. The father readily agreed and gave him money "to get off as soon as possible." That day Joseph turned with breaking heart from mother and sister and took passage for Long Island, where he found a welcome and began in the new trade. A year later his young sister followed him, and found employment with a dressmaker.

One afternoon Joseph, now eighteen years old, in company with a companion apprentice, was returning from some work, when they noticed an unusual throng going into an institution of learning. By attention they learned that it was a grand examination-day and that visitors were going in. After a brief consultation, in which curiosity was uppermost, they slipped in with the rest and watched proceedings with great interest. At the conclusion of the exercises, they mentally expressed themselves that they did not know before that anyone could learn so much, and each proposed to go to school. They lingered around outside waiting for the principal, at sight of whom Joseph's companion lost courage and hurried off. Joseph, however, was so fascinated that he followed the professor home to his door before daring to speak, when he was discovered by that gentleman, who kindly inquired his errand. Pitying the youth's confusion, he invited him in, soon won his confidence, and asked him a number of questions. Poor Joseph did not know how to write a line although eighteen years old, leaving the matter of correspondence entirely to his brother-in-law; but the Kind old professor talked with him and invited himself to visit Joseph next day. He was so pleased with what he learned that he gave him private lessons during the month's vacation, and when the new term began, Joseph entered the primary department, from which he very soon graduated. For Joseph a new life had opened, and a year passed rapidly away.

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