Tip Lewis and His Lamp


"He honoureth them that fear the Lord."

Slowly, but surely, as the late autumn days came on, Tip was growing into a better place in the schoolroom, in the opinion of his teachers and his schoolmates. In Mr. Burrows' school, ten was the perfect mark, and x was the very lowest grade a boy could reach. It had once been an everyday joke with Tip, that, being x, he must be perfect, because it said in the spelling-book that x was ten.

But it had been a good many days since Tip had said "x;" the boys had ceased to be amazed when he answered "ten" in prompt, proud tone.

They were growing, many of them, to be surprised and sorry for him, when, in his days of failures, he answered, with drooped eyes and very red, ashamed face, "seven," or, it might be, "six."

Though he was still anything but a good reader, no one could fail to see that he blundered less and less every day, and Mr. Burrows was growing patient with his blunders, growing helpful in his troubles.

The boys saw him working hard over his spelling-book, and few of them now had the meanness to laugh when a word passed him.

Mr. Burrows' tones were not so harsh to him as they used to be; and now-a-days, when he was accused of breaking rules, instead of being called up and unhesitatingly punished, his teacher, who grew every day less and less sure that he was at the bottom of all the mischief done, always gave him a chance to speak for himself, and was learning to believe him.

Oh yes! things were different, and were all the time growing more so. Bob Turner saw this plainly: he began to find Tip a very stupid companion, and stayed away from school more afternoons than ever.

But poor Tip noticed the change less,—yes, much less than any of the others. You don't know how hard it was for him. Do you think Satan was willing to leave him, and let him grow quietly into a good boy? Not a bit of it. You see he had been born bubbling over with fun and frolic; he had never learned to have them come in at the right place or the right time.

Sometimes he felt willing to give up all trying to do right, for the sake of having a grand frolic just when and where he wanted it,—no matter what might be going on just then. Sometimes, when he failed, he felt fierce and sullen, and told himself it was all humbug, this trying to be good. Sometimes he felt so utterly sad and discouraged, that it seemed to him he never could try again; yet through it all he did try heartily.

His arithmetic was the hardest. He was still in the dunce class,—so the boys called it, because it was made up of the drones from several classes, and was constantly being put back to addition.

It was a sharp winter's morning. No more make-believe winter for a while,—the snow lay white and crisp on the ground, and the frosty air stung every nose and every finger it could reach.

Tip's study, at the foot of the hill under the elm, had been quite broken up, and he found it very hard to study at home,—especially this morning. His father's cough had been bad all night, and this made his mother troubled and cross.

Kitty, these days, seemed trying to see just how cross and disagreeable she could be; and the kitchen—at best a dismal place—was just now at the worst. The wet wood in the stove sizzled and stewed and made a smoke; and in the midst of Tip's fifth trial on an example which was puzzling him terribly, he was called on to split some kindlings.

"This instant!—I won't wait a minute!" Kitty said in a provokingly commanding tone; and Tip went at it sullenly, saying, with every spiteful drive of his axe through the pine board which he had picked up, "It's no use; I cant do that sum, and I ain't going to try. I don't know anything, and never will. I've done it over fifty times, and twisted it every way I can think of. There's no sense to it, any way,—sixteen sheep stood him in two dollars apiece. What does that mean, I'd like to know? He had forty sheep and twenty-five cows. I know it all by heart; but I can't do it, and that's the whole of it. I wish his sheep had choked to death, and his old cows run away, before I ever heard of them. I'll go over it just once more." (Tip was back by the kitchen window now, with his slate and book.) "Let's see: twenty-five cows at thirty-four dollars apiece;" and he worked away in nervous haste, until he came to "stood him in." If he only could find out what that meant, he felt sure he could do it. If he had somebody to help him; but he hadn't. There would be no time after he went to school before the class was called.

Just then he thought of his father; he used to be a carpenter before he was sick, and he used to make a great many figures sometimes on smooth boards. Tip remembered it was just possible that he might know something about the sum. Suppose he should ask him?

He started up suddenly, and went towards the bedroom door.

"Father," he said softly, "can't you tell me what 'stood him in' means?"

The sick man turned himself on his pillow, and looked wonderingly at Tip.

"What do you mean?" he asked at last.

"Why," said Tip, in a despairing tone, "it says 'stood him in' in the arithmetic,—the sheep stood him in two dollars apiece,—and I don't see any sense to it."

"Oh!" said Mr. Lewis; "I see what you mean;" then he went back to his long-ago deserted carpenter's shop.

"Why, Tip, if I had ten pounds of nails, and they were worth eight cents a pound, they would stand me just so much,—that is, they would be worth that to me; and if I should sell them I'd get so much for them. Don't you see?"

Light began to dawn on Tip's mind.

"Then it means," he said, "that the man didn't sell his sixteen sheep; he just counted them worth two dollars apiece. Yes, I see; if that's it, I'll try it." And he rushed to his work again.

And Tip will never forget the eagerness with which he presently turned to the answer in his arithmetic, and from that back to the one on the slate, nor the way in which the blood bounded through his veins when he found that they agreed perfectly.

"It's exactly it," he called out to his father, in a hearty, grateful voice. "I've got it, and I've been at work on it this whole morning."

Ellis Holbrook, about that time, conquered a most puzzling example in algebra; but he felt not prouder than did Tip.

"Thomas," said Mr. Burrows to the head boy in Tip's arithmetic class, "you may take the twenty-third example to the board."

"Can't do it," answered Thomas promptly.

"Henry may do it, then."

"I couldn't get it either," was Henry's answer. So on down the class; Tip's heart meantime beating eagerly, for the twenty-third example was about his troublesome, but by this time very much-beloved sheep.

"Robert?" said Mr. Burrows, more for form's sake than because he had the slightest doubt about Robert's reply.

"My!" said Bob Turner good-naturedly; "I can't do it."

Tip sat next, and something in his face made Mr. Burrows put the question to him, though he had nearly resolved to waste no more time in the matter.

"Can you do this, Edward?"

"Yes, sir," said Tip promptly and proudly, "I can."

And no nobler figures or firmer lines did chalk ever make on a blackboard than was made while that troublesome example was being done.

He was roused from his flutter of satisfaction by hearing Mr. Burrows' voice.

"Do you know anything about the lesson, any of you?"

"I'm sure I don't," answered Bob, still good-naturedly.

Mr. Burrows was growing utterly out of patience; this same scene had been acted too often to be endured longer. He turned back to the first pages in the book.

"Very well," he said at last; "you may take the first page in addition to-morrow morning, and we'll see if you can be made to know anything about that."

Tip's hopes fell; his heart was as heavy as lead. Not one of the others cared; they were used to it; so indeed was he, only now he was trying, he did so long to go on; just when he was working so hard, to be put away back to the beginning again made him feel utterly disgraced.

"Wait a minute, Tip." Mr. Burrows' eye fell first on him, then on the neatly and correctly worked example; then he turned, and asked, "Charlie Wilcox, on what page is your arithmetic lesson for to-morrow?"

"We commence multiplication, sir," answered Charlie, a bright little boy, who belonged to a bright class, that did not idle over any pages in their work.

"Edward," said Mr. Burrows, turning back to Tip, "you have done well to-day. You mean to study, after this, I think; I have been watching you for some time. The third arithmetic class take the first page in multiplication for their next lesson to-morrow; you may take your place in that class, and remain there as long as you can keep up with it."

Now Tip was too much astonished to speak or move; his wildest dreams had not taken in promotion, at least not for a long, long time.

Bob Turner leaned over and looked at him in actual sober wonder, that Tip was to be in a higher class.

Not a word did Tip say. He did not even raise his eyes to his teacher's face; and that teacher had not the least idea how the boy before him felt. He did not know how Tip's heart was throbbing, nor how he was saying over and over to himself, "Things are different; they're surely different." He did not know how those few words of his, spoken that winter morning, were going to help to make the boy a man.

It was that very morning, standing in that room before the blackboard, with his toe on the third crack from the wall, that Tip resolved to have an education.





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