Tip Lewis yawned and stretched, and finally opened his eyes rather late on Monday morning.
"Oh, bother!" he said, with another yawn, when he saw how the sun was pouring into the room; "I suppose a fellow has got to get up. I wish getting up wasn't such hard work,—spoils all the fun of going to bed; but then the old cat will be to pay, if I don't get around soon."
And with this he rolled out; and when he was dressed, which was in a very few minutes after he tumbled out of his ragged bed, he was the self-same Tip who had been at the bottom of most of the mischief in Miss Perry's class the day before,—the very same, from the curly hair, not yet combed nor likely to be, down to the bare, soiled feet.
The bed which he had just left, so far as neatness was concerned, looked very much like Tip, and the room looked like the bed; and they all looked about as badly as dust and rags and poverty could make them look.
After running his fingers through his hair, by way of finishing his toilet, Tip made his way down the rickety stairs to the kitchen.
It seemed as though that kitchen was just calculated to make a boy feel cross. The table stood against the wall on its three legs, the tablecloth was daubed with molasses and stained with gravy; a plate, with something in it which looked like melted lard, but which Tip's mother called butter, and a half loaf of bread, were the only eatable articles as yet on the table; and around these the flies had gathered in such numbers, that it almost seemed as though they might carry the loaf away entirely, if too many of them didn't drown themselves in the butter. Over all the July sun poured in its rays from the eastern window, the only one in the room.
Tip stumbled over his father's boots, and made his way to the stove, where his mother was bending over a spider of sizzling pork.
"Well," she said, as he came near, "did you get up for all day? I'd be ashamed—great boy like you—to lie in bed till this time of day, and let your mother split wood and bring water to cook your breakfast with."
"You cooked, a little for you, too, didn't you?" asked Tip, in a saucy, good-natured tone. "Where's father?"
"Just where you have been all day so far,—in bed and asleep. Such folks as I've got! I'm sick of living."
And Mrs. Lewis stepped back from the steaming tea-kettle, and wiped great beads of perspiration from her forehead; then fanned herself with her big apron, looking meantime very tired and cross.
Yet Tip's mother was not so cross after all as she seemed; had Tip only known it, her heart was very heavy that morning. She did not blame his father for his morning nap, not a bit of it; she was only glad that the weary frame could rest a little after a night of pain. She had been up since the first grey dawn of morning, bathing his head, straightening the tangled bedclothes, walking the floor with the restless baby, in order that her husband might have quiet. Oh no; there were worse women in the world than Mrs. Lewis; but this morning her life looked very wretched to her. She thought of her idle, mischievous boy; of her naughty, high-tempered little girl; of her fat, healthy baby, who took so much of her time; of her husband, who, though she never said it to him, or even to herself, yet she knew and felt was every day growing weaker; and with these came the remembrance that her own tired hands were all that lay between them and want; and it is hardly a wonder that her voice was sharp and her words ill chosen. For this mother tried to bear all her trials alone; she never went for help to the Redeemer, who said,—
"Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden."
"Wah!" said Johnny, from his cradle in the bit of a bedroom near the kitchen,—which kitchen was all the room they had, save two tiny bedrooms and Tip's little den up-stairs.
Mrs. Lewis glanced quickly towards the door of her husband's room; it was closed. Then she called,—
"Kitty, make that baby go to sleep!"
"Oh yes!" muttered Kitty, who sat on the floor lacing her old shoe with a white cord; "it's easy to say that, but I'd just like to see you do it."
"Ah yah!" answered Johnny from the cradle, as though he tried to say, "So should I."
Then, not being noticed, he gave up pretending to cry, and screamed in good earnest, loud, positive yells, which brought his mother in haste from the kitchen.
"Ugly girl!" she said to Kitty, as she lifted the conquering hero from his cradle; "you don't care how soon your father is waked out of the only nap he has had all night. Why didn't you rock the cradle? I've a notion to whip you this minute!"
"I did," answered Kitty sulkily; "and he opened his eyes at me as wide as he could stretch them."
Crash! went something at that moment in the kitchen; and, with Johnny in her arms, Mrs. Lewis ran back to see what new trouble she had to meet. Tip, meantime, had been in business; being hungry, he had cut a slice of bread from the loaf, and, in the act of reaching over to help himself to some butter, hit his arm against a pitcher of water standing on the corner of the table. Over it went and broke, just as pitchers will whenever they get a chance. This was too much for the tired mother's patience; what little she had vanished. She tossed the slice of bread at Tip, and as she did so, said,—
"There! take that and be off. Don't let me see a sight of your face again to-day. March this instant, or you will wish you had!"
And in the midst of the din, while his mother looked after the pork, which had seized this occasion for burning fast to the spider, Tip managed to spread his slice of bread, find his hat, and make good his escape from the comfortless home.
There was an hour yet to school-time; or, for the matter of that, he might have the whole day. Tip went to school, or let it alone, just as he pleased. He made his way straight to his favourite spot, the broad, deep pond, and laid himself down on its grassy bank to chat with the fishes.
"My!" he said; "how nice they look whisking about. It's cool down there, I know; they don't mind the sun. I wish I had my fish-pole here, I'd have one of them shiny big fellows there for my dinner; only it's too hot to fish, and it would seem kind of mean, besides, to get him up here in this blazing sun. Hang me if I make even a fish get out of the water to-day, when it can stay in!"
Of all the scholars in Miss Perry's class, the one who she would have said paid the least attention was this same boy who was lying on his face by the pond, envying the fishes. Yet Tip had heard nearly every word she said; and now, as he looked into the water, which lay cool in the shade of some broad, branching trees, there came into his heart the music of those words again,—
"Neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat."
"I declare," he said, as the meaning of those words dawned upon him, "I'd like that! they'll never be too warm again. It was a pretty nice story she told us about that boy. He couldn't have had a very good time; his father was a drunkard. I wish I knew just about what kind of a fellow he was; he turned right square round after that man talked to him. Now he is a minister; I suppose lots of people like him. It must be kind of nice, the whole of it. I would like to be somebody, as true as I live, I would. I'd like to have the people say, 'There goes Tip Lewis; he's the best boy in town.' Bless me! that would be funny; I don't believe they could ever say it; they are so used to calling me the worst, they couldn't help it. What if I should reform? I declare I don't know but I will."
And Tip rolled over on his back, and looked up into the blue, cloudless sky; lying there, he certainly had some of the most sober thoughts, perhaps the only really sober ones he had ever known in his life. And when at last he slowly picked himself up, turned his back upon the darting fishes, and walked towards the school-house, he had in his mind some vague notion that perhaps he would be different from that time forth. Just what he was going to do, or how to commence doing it, he didn't know; but the story, to which he had seemed not to listen at all, had crept into his heart, had commenced its work; very dimly was it working, very blindly he might grope for a while, but the seed sown had taken root.