Tip Lewis and His Lamp


"I will lead them in paths that they have not known."

"See here, Tip," called Mr. Minturn, appearing in his store door one morning not long after the examination; "I want to talk to you."

Tip swung his basket off his shoulder, and went into the store. He was at work for Mr. Dewey, and every piece of meat which he carried home took the form, in his eyes, of a Latin grammar and a dictionary; for these two books were what he was at present aiming after.

"I'm in a great hurry, Mr. Minturn," he said; "I've got a piece of meat for your folks in my basket, and I expect they want it."

"They'll have to wait till they get it," answered Mr. Minturn; "but I never hinder folks long. What are you going to do with yourself, now school's out?"

"Oh, work; anything I can find to do while vacation lasts."

"So you're going to keep on at school, are you? I thought likely, since your father was laid up, you'd he hunting for steady work, so you could help the family along. There's a hard winter coming, you know."

There was no mistaking Mr. Minturn's tone. It said, as plainly as words could have done, "That's what I think you ought to do, anyhow."

Tip looked troubled. "There's nothing for me to do," he said at last; "I don't know of a place in this town where I could get steady work that I could do; and besides, if there was, I'm after an education now."

"My brother is here from Albany," Mr. Minturn made answer to this. "He is a merchant, has a large store there, and keeps a great many clerks. He's been plagued to death lately with one of his boys,—when he sent him home with bundles, he'd open them and help himself; and my brother told me last night, if I could warrant him a boy who was perfectly honest, he'd take him home with him, pay his fare down, and do well by him. I thought of you right away, and I told my brother that you were just the boy for him,—you'd be as true as steel; but then, if you're going to keep on at school, it's all up."

Mr. Minium did not add, that he had kept his brother until eleven o'clock the night before, telling him Tip's history,—what a boy he had been, how he had changed, how he was struggling upward; and, finally, the whole story of the examination,—the failure, the downfall, the public confession; nor how his brother had listened eagerly, and had said, with energy, after the story was finished,—

"Such a boy as that ought to be helped; and I'm ready to help him."

None of this did Tip hear, but he stooped down for his basket when Mr. Minturn had finished speaking, with a bright blush on his cheek. It was something for a boy like him to be called "as true as steel."

"Yes," he said decidedly; "I'm going to keep on at school, that's certain. Thank you all the same."

And out he went; yet all the way up and down the streets his thoughts were busy over what he had just heard. It was time, certainly, as poor as they were, that he began to work; his mother's sewing supported the family now, and hard and late into the nights she had to work to keep them from hunger. Tip had thought of this question before, but had always comforted himself with the thought that work was not by any means an easy thing to get in the village; the odd jobs which he could find, out of school hours, being really the only things he could get to do. But no such comfort came to him to-day: here was a chance, and a splendid one, for getting steady work, and by and by good wages probably; why wasn't he glad?

Oh, ever since he gave himself to Christ, there had been in his heart a longing to get an education, and not only that, but to become a minister. Very small, faint hopes he had, and even those were frightened sometimes at their own boldness; but every day the desire grew stronger, and it did not seem as though he could possibly give up school now. It was out of the question, he told himself, just as he was beginning to enjoy his books so much, and was doing well. Mr. Burrows would be disappointed in him; he had encouraged him to study. No, it couldn't be done. He would consider the matter settled. And yet there was his mother, working day and night, and he, her only son, not helping. There was his father, growing weaker every day, coughing harder every night; long ago they had given up the hope that the cough would ever leave him. There was Kitty, who ought to be in school, but could not because her mother must have the little help which she could give. Tip was half distracted with thinking about it; he felt provoked at Mr. Minturn, and Mr. Minturn's brother, and the store in Albany, and the boy who helped himself out of other people's bundles; they were all trying to cheat him out of his education. A dozen times he said it was settled, and as many times began at the beginning to think it all over again. He went home finally, after the meat was carried around; but this didn't help him any. Home hadn't gone back to its old state of dirt and disorder: Kitty's first attempt had been too successful, and she had liked the looks of things too well to give up; so there was a great change for the better in the housekeeping, which both Kitty and her mother enjoyed. Still, there was no denying that, though a clean, it was a very forlorn little room, with very few things for comfort or convenience. Tip had never seen this with such wide-open eyes as he did today; so coming home did not quiet the vexing thoughts.

He split wood and pumped water without whistling a note, growing more sober every minute. At last, after supper, when the work was all done that he could do, he drew a sigh of relief; it was so nice to have time for thought. He could go up to his attic, and he would not come down, no, not if it wasn't in three days, until this thing was decided finally and for ever.

Kitty sewed steadily on the seam which her mother had fixed for her, and wondered why Tip didn't come down and hear her lesson, which had been ready for him this hour. It was another hour before he came; then his mother said,—

"Tip, if you've a cent in the world, do take it, and go and get your father some of that cough-candy. I do believe he hasn't stopped coughing since supper."

Tip took his hat and started for the store; as he went he whistled a little. The cough-candy was found at a store away up town, and, getting a paper of it, Tip dashed on around the corner and opened Mr. Minturn's store door.

"When is your brother going home?" he asked, without ceremony, seeing Mr. Minturn behind the counter.

"Next Monday."

"Well, I'm going to talk to father, and I think likely I'll want to go along with him."

"All right."

So Tip slammed to the door and ran away and Mr. Minturn never knew what a downfall that decision had been to the boy's dear hopes and plans.

It was all settled in the course of a day or two. Mr. Minturn from Albany was very kind. Tip was to have wages that seemed a small fortune to him, and enough had been advanced to get him a new suit of clothes, which his mother made.

One would have supposed that the future would look bright to him; yet it was with a very sad heart that he took his seat in prayer-meeting that Thursday evening, the last time he expected to be in that room for—he didn't know how long. He had a feeling that he ought to be very glad and thankful, and wasn't at all.

Through the opening hymns and prayers his heart kept growing heavier every moment, and it was not until Mr. Holbrook arose, and repeated the text which he had chosen for the evening, that Tip could arouse himself to listen. It was a queer text, so he thought,—"Who shall roll away the stone?" What could Mr. Holbrook be going to say on that? He found out, and had reason to remember it for ever after. As he went out from that meeting, his thoughts, had he spoken them, would have been like these:

"That's true,—I don't believe any man but Mr. Holbrook would ever have thought of it: they worried at a great rate about that stone, how they would get it rolled away, and when they got there it was gone. I'll remember that. I'll do just as he said: when I see a stone ahead of me, I won't stop and fret about it; I'll walk straight up to it, and when I get there maybe it will roll out of my way."





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