But there were some pleasures for the poor boy even here, although deprived of home comforts. How kindly has God appointed that the elastic spirit of childhood cannot be crushed! and to one of the fanciful and enthusiastic temperament of our hero it was indeed a great blessing. The objects met with in a great and populous city are always striking; and our little shoemaker, as he walked through the streets, felt himself elevated, not lowered, by the grandeur around him. It showed him what man was enabled to do by energy and industry, and he determined that, although obliged to cobble at old boots and shoes for the present, it should not be so for ever. As he was made errand boy, he was obliged to be often in the streets; and then the pleasure he enjoyed in standing before the windows of the picture-shops, made him forget the tears which he so often shed under his master’s caning, his mistress’s continual fault-finding, and his meagre fare. Sometimes, while gazing on the works of art, so entrancing to a child with the soul of a painter, he also forgot how the time passed, and, having far exceeded that demanded by his errand, was on his return accused of playing the idler, and received an idler’s reward.
Even this could not cure him of his love of pictures. Like one who had found a treasure in a desert, he was not to be deterred by the difficulties in the way to its enjoyment. He did not persist in the course which would have provoked Mr. Walters’ anger, but started off on a full run from the time he left the house, not stopping until he had delivered his freight of boots and shoes; and feeling that the remainder of the time was conscientiously his own, he spent it, without compunction, in the contemplation of the art he so much loved.
A time of trial.
A time of trial was approaching, a trial that was to decide whether the good seed sown by the pious parents had taken root in good soil, and was able to endure the ordeal of strong temptation.
Jem Taylor, the only one who ever showed poor Will any kindness, knowing of his great love for painting,—for to him only had he shown his little charcoal sketches—had no regard for truth, and, on account of his naturally kind and liberal disposition, was only the more dangerous as a companion for our hitherto differently trained hero. Seeing him one day returning exhausted and out of breath, his hands trembling so that he could scarcely hold his work, he began to administer the palatable poison which every human heart is only too ready to receive. “I tell you, Bill,” said he, “you are the biggest blockhead I ever saw. If you like to look at the pictures, stand at the windows as long as you please, and do not run yourself to death. Just look at the other shoemakers’ boys; they hang their string of boots and shoes over their shoulders, and go whistling and singing along