[Illustration: A Noon shop meeting addressed by Mr. Ranney.]
FIRST STEPS IN CRIME
I was getting tired of school and wanted to go to work. I had a good Christian man for my Sunday-school teacher, Mr. M., a fairly rich man, and I did think a good deal of him. I liked to go to Sunday-school and was often the first in my class. The teacher would put up a prize for the one that was there first. Sometimes it would be a baseball bat, skates, book, or knife. I would let myself out then and would be first and get the prize.
I asked Mr. M. to get me work in an office. After a few weeks he called and told my mother he had got me a job in Jersey City, in the office of a civil engineer, at $3 a week. I was a happy boy as I started in on my first day’s work. It was easy; all I had to do was to open up and dust the office at 8 A. M., and close at 5 P. M. I used to run errands and draw a little. But after a few weeks the newness of work wore off and I wished I was back at school again, where I could play hookey and have fun with the other fellows.
I had lots of time on my hands, and you know the saying, “Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.” He certainly found plenty for me. The boss was a great smoker and bought his cigars by the box. He asked me if I smoked, and I said no, for I had not begun to smoke as yet. Well, he left the box of cigars around, always open, so I thought I would try one, and I took a couple out of the box. See how the Devil works with a fellow. He seemed to say, “Now if you take them from the top he will miss them,” so he showed me how to take them from the bottom. I took out the cigars that were on top, and when I got to the bottom of the box I crossed a couple and took the cigars, and you could not tell that any had been taken out. That was the beginning of my stealing. The cigars were not missed, and I thought how easy it was, but this beginning proved to be just a stepping-stone to what followed.
I did not smoke the cigars then, but waited until I got home. After supper I went out and met Mike ——, and gave him one of them, and I started in to smoke my first cigar. Mike could smoke and not get sick, but there never was a sicker boy than I was. I thought I was going to die then and there and I said, “No more cigars for me.” I recovered, however, and as usual forgot my good resolutions. That turned out to be the beginning of my smoking habit, and I was a good judge of a cigar when I was but fourteen years of age. I went on stealing them until the boss tumbled that some one was taking them and locked them up for safe keeping. I never smoked a cigarette in all my life. I know it takes away a young fellow’s brains and I really class cigarettes next to drink and would warn boys never to smoke them.