THE PRODIGAL SON ON THE BOWERY
Here is a picture story of a boy who left home and took his journey to the “far country.” It is a true story.
Away up in northern New York there is a rich man whose family consists of a wife, two sons and a daughter, all good church members. It is of the younger boy I want to speak. He is a little wayward, but good at heart, and would do anything to help any one.
Now, there has lately come back from New York a young man who has started the drink habit. This man is telling all about New York, what a grand place it is, and, if a fellow had a little money, he could make a fortune. He succeeds in arousing the fancies of this young boy, and he believes all the fellow says. People up the State look on a man as sort of a hero because he has been to New York.
Tom thinks he would like to go to the city, and when he gets home he broaches the subject to his mother. He says, “I’ll get a job and make a man of myself.” The mother tells him he had better stay at home and perhaps later on he would have a chance to start a business in the village where he was born. No, nothing but New York will do for him. He teases his father and mother nearly to death, until his father says, “Well, my boy, if you will, you will.” Then he gives him a couple hundred dollars and a letter to a merchant whom he knows.
Tom packs his valise and is all ready to start. I can see the mother putting a Testament into her boy’s hand and telling him to read it once a day and be sure to write home often. Oh, he promises all right, and is anxious to get away in a hurry. I can see them in the railroad station when the mother takes him to her bosom and kisses him. There’s a dry choking in the father’s throat when he bids him good-by—and then the train is off!
Now, Tom has a chum in New York, so at the first station at which they stop he gets off and sends a telegram to his friend, saying: “Ed, I’m coming on the 2.30 train. Meet me at the Grand Central Station.” You may be sure Ed meets him at the station—Ed is not working—and he gives him the hello and the glad hand. He takes Tom’s grip and they start for the hotel. I can see them going into a saloon and having a couple of beers, then going to the hotel, getting a room and supper, and having a good time at the theatre and elsewhere.
Time goes on. Two hundred doesn’t last long. I can see Ed shaking Tom when the money is running low. I can see Tom counting the little he has left and going to a furnished room at $1.50 a week. Tom is beginning to think and worry a bit. He has lost the letter to the merchant his father gave him, and he doesn’t know where to find him. No wonder he is down in the mouth! He looks for work, but can’t get anything to do.
Now, all he has to do is to write home and tell his father the facts, and he will send back a railroad ticket. But Tom is proud, and he hasn’t reached the point where, like the prodigal, he says, “I will arise and go to my father.” No, he has not as yet reached the end of his rope. I can see him pawning the watch and chain given him by his parents. This tides him over for a little while. When that money is gone, his overcoat goes, and, in fact, everything he has is gone.