“Dick,” said Jem Watson to his elder brother, as they were shooting squirrels that afternoon in the woods, about three miles from home, “did you hear that whistle just now?”
“A whistle! No; whereabouts?”
“It seemed to come from the Fall; but who should be there! father’s at home, isn’t he?”
“Yes, father’s at home. But, hark! I hear it now! Who can it be?—let’s go see!”
The young man ran off, followed by Jem, and they were soon on the cliff above poor Tom, who sat wearily looking upwards. “Tom Lee!” they both cried in a breath, as his pale face met their eyes.
“Why, Tom! how came you there?” called Jem.
“Don’t stand bawling, Jem,” said his brother; “he’d rather tell you up here than where he is, I’ll be bound! Cut off home as fast as you can, and tell father to come and bring a rope—that one hanging over my tool chest. Now be off—that poor fellow looks almost at death’s door already.”
Jem needed no second telling, but was out of sight in a moment, while Dick stayed near the cliff, that Tom might be encouraged by the sight of a friend. He had not to wait long; in little more than an hour Mr. Watson and Jem arrived with the rope, and after some trouble they contrived to pull the wet and shivering boy up in safety. They hastened with him to the farm, where Mrs. Watson made him change his dripping clothes for a suit of Jem’s, and take some very welcome refreshment, after which she hurried his return home, knowing from her own mother’s heart how dreadful must be the anxiety of Mr. and Mrs. Lee, ignorant as they were as to what had become of their son.
It was near sunset when Dick started on horseback, with Tom behind him, for the ten mile journey through the forest. They had proceeded about two-thirds of the distance, and had lighted one of the splinters of turpentine pine they had brought for torches, when they heard a shot. Dick answered it by another, and a loud halloo! and presently a light appeared through the trees approaching them. As it came near, Tom recognised his father and uncle, who had scoured the woods around the log-house in search of him, and were now on their way to Mr. Watson’s, hoping almost against hope to find him there.
It would be vain to attempt to describe the tenderness lavished on the truant that night by the happy family, or repeat the many grateful words spoken to Dick. All the pain that the thoughtless boy had caused was forgotten in joy for his safety. “You should have remembered, Tom, how unhappy your absence without our permission would make your mother and me. How often, my son, have I said to you that—
“Evil is wrought from want
As well as want of heart.”
These were the only reproving words his father’s full heart could utter, but Tom felt them; and when all knelt together before retiring to rest, to give humble and hearty thanks for the blessings of the past day—while each heart poured forth its gratitude for the especial mercy that had been granted—his prayed also for power to resist temptation.