“On me life, it is cold,” said the tinker, opening a small stove and beginning to whittle shavings, “‘Cold as a dead man’s nose.’ Be seated, an’ try—try to be happy.”
There was an old rocker and two small chairs in the room.
“I do not feel the cold,” said Trove, taking one of them.
“Belike, good youth, thou hast the rose of summer in thy cheeks,” said the old man.
“And no need of an overcoat,” the boy answered, removing the one he wore and passing it to the tinker. “I wish you to keep it, sir.”
“Wherefore, boy? ’Twould best serve me on thy back.”
“Please take it,” said Trove. “I cannot bear to think of you shivering in the cold. Take it, and make me happy.”
“Well, if it keep me warm, an’ thee happy, it will be a wonderful coat,” said the old man, wiping his gray eyes.
Then he rose and filled the stove with wood and sat down, peering at Trove between the upper rim of his spectacles and the feathery arches of silvered hair upon his brows.
“Thy coat hath warmed me heart already—thanks to the good God!” said he, fervently. “Why so kind?”
“If I am kind, it is because I must be,” said the boy. “Who were my father and mother, I never knew. If I meet a man who is in need, I say to myself, ’He may be my father or my brother, I must be good to him;’ and if it is a woman, I cannot help thinking that, maybe, she is my mother or my sister. So I should have to be kind to all the people in the world if I were to meet them.”
“Noble suspicion! by the faith o’ me fathers!” said the old man, thoughtfully, rubbing his long nose. “An’ have ye thought further in the matter? Have ye seen whither it goes?”
“I fear not.”
“Well, sor, under the ancient law, ye reap as ye have sown, but more abundantly. I gave me coat to one that needed it more, an’ by the goodness o’ God I have reaped another an’ two friends. Hold to thy course, boy, thou shalt have friends an’ know their value. An’ then thou shalt say, ’I’ll be kind to this man because he may be a friend;’ an’ love shall increase in thee, an’ around thee, an’ bring happiness. Ah, boy! in the business o’ the soul, men pay thee better than they owe. Kindness shall bring friendship, an’ friendship shall bring love, an’ love shall bring happiness, an’ that, sor, that is the approval o’ God. What speculation hath such profit? Hast thou learned to think?”
“I hope I have,” said the boy.
“Prithee—think a thought for me. What is the first law o’ life?”
There was a moment of silence.
“Thy pardon, boy,” said the venerable tinker, filling a clay pipe and stretching himself on a lounge. “Thou art not long out o’ thy clouts. It is, ‘Thou shalt learn to think an’ obey.’ Consider how man and beast are bound by it. Very well—think thy way up. Hast thou any fear?”
The old man was feeling his gray hair, thoughtfully.