The tempter triumphs.
“Did the lady give you nothing more?” inquired Mr. Walters, as William handed him the money for the shoes and mentioned the new order. He had been pleased with the boy’s ingenuous honesty shown a day or two before, and was now in a more sunny humour than usual. The old watchman, too, had come in for a half-hour’s chat, and was sitting in the back shop, from whence Mr. Walters had come. “What did she give you?” he repeated, as he saw the boy hesitate.
William blushed, stammered something inaudible, and looked at Jem Taylor, who, as master’s back was turned so that he could not see him, made signs to our hero to conceal the truth. “I am sure she gave you something,” cried the master, now growing angry; “tell me the truth this moment.”
The poor boy now recollected that he had spent part of it, and was more embarrassed than at first; the nods, winks, and smiles of the vicious journeyman were aiding in the struggle to conquer the boy’s virtue, and at last triumphed. The anger of Mr. Walters was now fully aroused. He seized his young apprentice by the shoulder, and in a voice of thunder repeated the question; to which, pale and trembling, more from the terrible conflict within than dread of the uplifted arm of his cruel master, he answered, “I did not get any money!”
Dear young reader, the first step on the downward road is the only one that costs, the rest are easy; and our poor hero, the child of Christian parents, the subject of many prayers, had listened to the voice of the charmer, and now he stood on the verge of the dangerous boundary line. Was he to fall, or would God, whom he had been taught to love and honour, shield him in his perilous situation? Ah yes; for is there not One who, loving the wretched and suffering children of the earth—One who, touched with the feeling of man’s infirmities, took on himself the likeness of sinful flesh, and dwelt among them, administering mercy to all? Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For being in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin, he himself having suffered, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
And there were purposes of mercy in store for the orphan boy, when the chastisements with which God sees good to inflict on the children of his love should have passed away. This trial of his power to resist temptation was permitted, in order to show him that a better strength than his own was necessary, and that it is only through the divine Helper that any can be delivered from the power of the great enemy “who goeth about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.”
Mr. Walters at once recognised the falsehood our poor hero was tempted to tell; and although he was in the habit of beating him for almost every offence, the chastisement on this occasion exceeded any that had gone before. Severe indeed were the blows rained down on his back and shoulders; less, indeed, intended as a punishment for the falsehood, than a pouring out of his own wrathful spirit on the child, who for the first time had manifested a spirit of opposition to his will.