"Bah," said Will Bailey, "you're fooling, Howard Minturn!"
"As true as I live, I'm not," answered Howard earnestly; "you can ask Mr. Burrows."
"What's up?" inquired Ellis Holbrook, joining the two.
"Why, Howard is telling the biggest yarn you ever heard: he says Tip Lewis went to prayer-meeting last night and made a prayer."
"Tip Lewis!" and Ellis Holbrook's voice was full, not only of surprise, but scorn; "I should like to hear him."
"Well, it's true," repeated Howard. "My father told us about it this morning, and he said it was a good prayer too; he said, Ellis, that your father couldn't keep the tears out of his eyes when he heard him; and Mr. Burrows walked up town with father, and told him that Tip had changed wonderfully, that he was one of the best boys in school."
"Well," said Will Bailey, "if Tip Lewis has turned saint, I'll give up. Why, he's the meanest scamp in town; my father says he's had enough for anything."
"Oh, well now," answered Ellis, "there's no use in being stupid enough not to see that what Mr. Burrows says is true. I never saw any one change as he has in my life, but I'll be hanged if I like him as well as I did before he was so awful good; he's too nice for anything now-a-days."
"Especially when he trips you, the minister's son, up, about twisting the Bible."
Ellis's face glowed, but he was an honest boy. "He was right enough about that," he said promptly; "my father says it's wrong. But, if it will do you any good to know it, I haven't liked Tip so well since."
"Say, Tip," said Will Bailey, hailing him at recess, "come here and give an account of yourself. They say you turned parson last night; did you?"
"No," said Tip, with the greatest good humour, "I didn't."
"Didn't you speak in meeting?"
A quiet gravity spread itself over Tip's face. "I prayed in meeting," he answered soberly.
"Oh, well, what did you pray for? Come, let's know."
"I prayed for you." Tip spoke with quiet dignity.
"Humph! Now, that's clever, certainly. Much obliged."
And Will said no more.
Certainly the boys had never talked so much about any prayer-meeting in their lives as they did about this one. So that was the way it commenced; such a little fire kindled it. Tip didn't know it; he never found it out; probably he never will, until he takes his crown in heaven. From the humble little prayer which Tip had offered sprang the first buddings of the great revival which God sent down to them.
"Say," said Howard Minturn to Ellis on the next Thursday evening, "let's go over to prayer-meeting to-night. I really am dreadfully anxious to hear Tip speak."
"No," answered Ellis, speaking hastily, more hastily than he often did to Howard. "I'm sure I don't care in the least to hear him, and I have enough to do without going there."
Howard was determined to go, and to find company.
"Will, let's go to meeting to-night," he said, the next time he came across Will Bailey.
Will looked at him in amazement. "What for?"
"To hear Tip."
"Oh!" said Will; "good! I'll go. Let's get a lot of the boys and go over; just to encourage him, you know."
And they went. Tip and Kitty were there again; and again, with Tip, the struggle had to be gone through; his coward spirit whispered to him that the boys would only make fun of him if he said a word, and it would do more harm than good. His conscience answered, "Whosoever will deny Me on earth, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven." The solemn words conquered, and again Tip knelt down and prayed.
"My!" said Mr. Minturn, talking with his wife after they reached home; "when I thought of the bringing up which that boy has had,—no bringing up about it, he has just come up, the easiest way he could,—but when I heard him pray to-night, and then thought of our boy, who has been prayed for and watched over every day since he was born, I declare I felt as though I would give all I'm worth to have Howard stand where Tip Lewis does now."
Howard heard this, as he waited in the sitting-room for his father and mother; heard it in great amazement, and at first it made him indignant. The idea of comparing him with Tip Lewis! Then it made him sorrowful: his father's tones were so sad; after all that had been done for him, it was hard that he should disappoint his parents.
He listened to his father's prayer that night very closely, and its earnestness brought the tears to his eyes. Altogether, Howard went to school the next morning with a somewhat sober face, and took no part whatever in the boys' fun over the meeting.
Mr. Burrows' heart had been warmed by the voice of prayer from one of his scholars, and he began to pray and long for others of them to work also; and the great God, who knows the beginning and the end, led his first words of anxiety to Howard Minturn. They stood at the desk, teacher and scholar, Howard bending over his slate.
"Can't you get it?" Mr. Burrows asked,
"Howard, are you working with all your thoughts to-day?"
"No, sir." And a bright flush mounted to his forehead.
"What is it, Howard?"
"I don't know, sir; not much of anything, I guess."
"Are you not quite satisfied with yourself to-day?"
"Satisfied! I—why—I don't know what you mean, sir; I have tried to do the best I could, I believe."
"Do you really think so, Howard?"
"Did you think so last evening, in the prayer-meeting? Can a boy, who is as well taught as you have been, feel that he is doing as well as he can, when he knows that he is every day cheating God?"
Howard's face fairly burned.
"I don't understand you, sir."
"Don't you?" and Mr. Burrows' voice was very kind. "I wish that God's own Spirit might help you to understand it. Didn't your father and mother promise God, when you were born, to try to train you up for Him, because you belonged to Him, and they knew it? Now, haven't they done their duty? is it their fault that you are not a Christian?"
"Then it comes back to you. You belong to God, body and soul: He made you; He has kept you; He would save you, only you will not let Him. You can't help the fact that you belong to Him; all you can do is to refuse to give Him your love, and let Him lead you to heaven, and this you are doing. Is it right?"
Howard was growing haughty.
"I don't feel the need of any such things, Mr. Burrows," he answered coldly.
"Suppose you don't, does that help the matter any? Does it change the fact that you belong to God; that you are cheating Him out of His own property? The question I ask is, Are you doing right?"
Howard stood, with eyes fixed on his slate, saying nothing.
"Won't you answer me, Howard?" Mr. Burrows asked gently; "is it right?"
And, after a long, long silence, the boy's honest, earnest eyes were raised to his teacher's face, and he spoke steadily:
"Are you willing to go on doing wrong?"
"Will you turn now, Howard, and start right?"
Now came another long silence. Howard Minturn, the honest, faithful boy, always getting a little nearer right than any of the others, had been condemned by his own words, and knew not what to say. At last he spoke:
"I can't promise, Mr. Burrows."
"Howard! such an answer from you, to whom I have only needed to point out what was right, in order to have it done!"
"But I can't trust myself, sir; I shall not feel to-morrow as I do now."
"That is, you feel like doing your duty today, but you expect, if you wait until to-morrow, that you will feel less like it; so you mean to wait. Is that right?"
The silence was much longer this time,—so long, that the boys began to look curiously at the two figures over by the desk, and wonder why the bell was not rung. But at last he raised those clear, truthful eyes once more:
"Mr. Burrows, I'll try."
And the next Thursday evening, when in the house of prayer it was very still, because Mr. Holbrook had just said, "Is there not one here to-night who wants us to pray for him, and if there is, will he not let us know it now?" suddenly there was a row of astonished faces in the seat where the schoolboys were sitting, because from among them arose Howard Minturn, and his face was pale and grave, and his voice was steady; they all heard his words:
"I want to be a Christian: will you pray for me?"
Oh, wouldn't they! Was there ever such another prayer as that which Mr. Minturn offered for his son? Did any one who heard it wonder that such prayer was answered, and that in the next meeting, Howard, speaking with a little ring of joy in his voice, said, "I love Jesus to-night. I want every one to love Him. I am very happy"?
From this the work went on. The little lecture-room grew full and overflowed, and the crowd now filled the church; and every night Some new voice was heard, asking for prayer.
Will Bailey seemed filled with the spirit of torment; teased the boys unmercifully; went to the meeting every evening, and made fun of it all day: but the boys were praying for him, and God's pitying eye was on him.
One evening there were two who arose to ask the prayers of Christians: one was Will Bailey, the most hopeless, so the boys thought, of all the boys in town; the other was Will Bailey's grey-haired father, the most hopeless, so the good men feared, of all the strong, self-satisfied men in town.
Yet there were two for whom daily earnest prayer was offered, who, in this blessed time, held themselves aloof,—two boys so far separated, that it seems strange and sad that their names should be coupled just here. Bob Turner and Ellis Holbrook, the lowest and the highest; the worst boy in school and the best! Yet they were united in this one thing, that they would have nothing to do with Christ. Tip had prayed for both, worked for both; but this was his success one afternoon.
"Say, Bob, won't you go to meeting to-night, just to please me?"
"Couldn't, Tip, no way in the world. I'd do most anything to please you, too, for the sake of old times when we used to steal apples together; but I've promised to go with Nick Hunt tonight, and tie old Barlow's cat fast to his frontdoor knob, and that's got to be done while the old man is at meeting, you know. 'Tain't no matter, either, about my going; you just do the praying for you and me too; then it will be all right."
Tip turned away with a sigh and a shudder. Could it be possible that that boy had ever been his only companion? Ellis was round by the ball-ground, and he went thither.
"Ellis, won't you go down to-night with the boys? it's almost the last meeting, you know."
Ellis wheeled around, and spoke in his coldest tone:
"Tip Lewis, you seem to take a wonderful interest in me, and I'm sure I'm much obliged to you; but I'll be a great deal more so if you'll attend to your own affairs after this, and let mine alone."
Poor Tip! how discouraged he felt! Yet that very evening, going home from school, he met Mr. Holbrook; the minister turned and walked up town with him.
"Edward," he said, "are you praying for my boy?"
"Will you never stop praying for him while you live, until he comes to Christ?"
"I never will, sir," answered Tip, with energy.