Short Stories » Energy of Character

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MANY young persons are apt to feel as though the future held nothing special in store for them, to inspire their present energies of thought and labor, and so pass idly and indifferently through precious years of time.

Some are checked by obstacles seemingly insurmountable, but if I may relate to such a true story, perhaps a few might gather encouragement there from and start with fresh ardor in the pursuit of some fondly-cherished object in life, for surely no one among our young people in this favored country can be found in so discouraging a condition of circumstances as was my hero, Joseph H. Whitmore.

Somewhere in Novia Scotia (I have forgotten the name of the place) was a vast field of coal mines where many men, women, and children were employed.

A person of good education and considerable experience, having traveled much abroad, became at one time superintendent of a large force of these miners.

He had met and heard the Mormon elders and opposed them, not only in public gatherings, but also by printed letters and pamphlets. When he later became superintendent of this large mine, although abundantly able to keep his children at school, he preferred to rear them in ignorance and servitude, and one by one they left him and emigrated to Long Island to earn their own living away from him. Joseph was one of his youngest children, but when he was only six years of age his father one morning announced that he, too, must go to work in the coal mines. Little readers, look at your little brothers or playmates of that age and try to imagine a Utah-born child condemned to such a life. Would not our enemies make a great commotion over such cruelty ?

Early one morning, before daylight, he was aroused from his sweet sleep to dress, eat, and go to work.

I cannot help thinking that he must have rubbed his blue eyes very hard to keep them open, that he did not eat much breakfast at that hour, that he went out into the darkness with timid step, and that his loving mother must have been very sad at heart, and missed all day long his cheerful voice, happy face, and quick footsteps.

Entering the mine beside his father, he was shown his work, which was to load up a little box on wheels with small, loose lumps of coal in corners too low for larger persons to enter. Another little boy drew the box by a short chain fastened to a leather belt around his waist, as he crept along on his hands and knees, like a little animal, for the way Was too low for him to stand upright until he reached one of the larger passages, where he emptied his load upon a large pile, where, in turn, men and women loaded wheelbarrows and took the coal farther along.

In one of these places stood a large pail or keg of beer, with a dipper in it, and both sexes, old and young, helped themselves. Little Joseph was sadly frightened at his dark and wicked surroundings, but dared not complain. He thought how much rather he would prefer to work for his gentle mother all day long and never murmur, but such could not be his lot. At nine years he was considered old enough and large enough to draw a little wagon instead of loading one. At twelve years he was set to shoveling coal, and one day a large amount became loosened from the side wall and fell upon him in such a shape as to cover him like a large lid, without breaking any of his limbs, although several of his finger nails were completely scraped away. Through the huge mass he could hear men striking with picks and swearing, while his father seemed greatly excited, fearing to find only the mangled remains of his son. Joseph was taken out and carried home to a bed of long and severe sickness, but for which he felt thankful, for in all the precious six years he had never seen the outside world by the light of day ; he had gone to his work before daylight and returned after dark, Sundays included.

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