Short Stories » Energy of Character
Energy of Character - Page 3 of 3
One evening his young sister regarded him so pensively he asked her what she was thinking of. " Joe, dear, you are getting ahead of me," and she broke down and cried. It did not take him more than a minute to decide that they should go to school six months each, alternately. Not wishing to impose on their kind relatives, they agreed to hire two small rooms and to keep house, he to work at his trade for their support while she attended school, and then she to sew in an establishment while he resumed his studies. This devoted brother and sister passed two happy years in this manner, each enlivening and assisting the other in their cozy evenings. At last this beautiful arrangement was broken up by one of the teachers in the academy wishing the good and gentle girl to adorn his own comfortable and elegant home.
When Joseph was twenty-one years of age, he returned to visit his dear old mother for a few months; but she told him her labors were finished, her soul was satisfied, and she was soon going to her little ones, where sorrow could never reach her spirit any more. A few weeks longer beside her, days of tenderest peace and love, nights of gentlest, patient watching, listening for feeble whispers, lifting the weary head to rest upon his bosom, as she had once done for him, and then at last to bow in lowliness and prayer as she, too, had done beside her precious babes. His own hand chiseled the pure white tablet that bore the record of her sainted life, and when he left his childhood's home, there was nothing in face, or voice, or scene, to call him back again.
Joseph returned to Long Island and became imbued with the spirit of a missionary, to teach the ignorant and indifferent. The ragged, the truant, the street idlers, he would talk with and lure within the school-room walls, and interest them so that they would soon desire to come. If one were absent, that night he would visit and inquire if sickness, or what cause, had prevented attendance, and always with a bunch of flowers, an orange, or some pretty card for the absentee. Saturdays, in fine weather, there was often a short stroll, when a brief lesson in botany, sketching, or some other study, was brought up in connection with the surroundings. He became to them more than a teacher a dear friend. Many les- sons not in their books were learned, and by example he taught refinement, religion, nobility, and love When one of his little pupils died, it was the teacher who carved the white monument that marks the resting-place of Frankie; a scroll enwreathed with rose-buds, a lasting monument of the love between master and pupil; those days of patient labor, the token of a pure bond between soul and soul.
This teacher became my instructor also, and later I was his assistant. For a year he boarded with my parents, and it was from his own life the facts of this little story were gathered. While he was with us he received a large album filled with the photographs of one hundred former pupils, children he had gathered in from the alleys and haunts of idleness and evil, but now reclaimed, industrious, and honorable.
We could not but join in his happiness, so sincere and genuine that tears mingled with his laughter as he read the accompanying letter and compared the autographs and portraits. "Shoe Black Jim," "Limpy Dick," " Match-box Maggie," and many others how glad he was to see them! " I'm an office-boy now," " I'm a telegraph messenger," " I'm going to be a stone- cutter, where you began" such were the little messages that came to him.
When we left home for Utah, this gentleman traveled with us one day's journey and turned back in the morning. We were of one faith and he of another, but, with true courtesy, he never became unpleasant in his discussions upon Mormonism, during all our acquaintance. He wished my parents "Godspeed, and every good in this life and hereafter."
Often I compared in my own mind his boyhood, so bleak and devoid of promise, then his manhood, so useful and exemplary, with so great a prospect before him, and thought, None need despair, God can deliver and lift up from the depths, into light and into his service. Children of the saints, strive to write your names upon the hearts of the tried, the sorrowful, and tempted.