“My dear boy you little know the pain you are inflicting upon your best friends by thus seeking the company of those wicked boys who will certainly lead you to ruin, if you allow yourself to follow their example.”
He talked long to him of his deceased mother, telling him of her many earnest prayers for the future good of her child.
For some time the boy maintained a sulky, defiant manner, but his heart at length softened, and, covering his face with his hands, he wept aloud. He begged of Mr. Humphrey to forgive his past misconduct, and he certainly would try to reform in the future.
For a time there was a marked change for the better in the conduct of the boy, and his friends began to indulge the hope that the change would prove to be lasting. But his resolutions of amendment soon yielded to the influence of his evil companions, from whom he found it very difficult to keep aloof. He was of a rash, impulsive disposition, and he soon forgot his good resolves, and became even worse than before.
Mr. Humphrey still maintained sufficient control over him to oblige him to attend church regularly, in company with himself and wife, but often, when they supposed him to be attending the Sabbath-School, would he join some party of idle, strolling boys, and spend the day in a very sinful manner. The Superintendent of the school hearing of this, called and acquainted Mr. Humphrey of the matter.
“I am obliged to you for your kindness in calling upon me,” said Mr. Humphrey, “although I fear I can do nothing that will have any good effect upon the boy. I have endeavoured to do my duty by the child, I know not wherein I have failed. I have counselled, persuaded, and even punished him, and you behold the result. I am at a loss what to do with him. I have brought up children of my own, who never caused me a real sorrow in their lives. Why is it, that this poor orphan seems so strongly resolved to follow only evil ways? Would that some one could advise me as to what my duty is, in regard to the boy, for, unless a change for the better soon takes place, he will be ruined for time and eternity.”
Mr. Humphrey sighed deeply as he spoke, and seemed oppressed with sorrow. The gentleman with whom he was conversing, endeavoured, as well as he was able under the circumstances, to comfort him; telling him that they could only give him good counsel, and pray for him, and leave the result to an over-ruling Providence.
Previous to her death, the mother of Earnest had entrusted to the care of Mrs. Humphrey, a closely sealed package directed to Ernest in her own hand-writing. She had left the request that this package should not be given to him until he had reached the age of fourteen years. Many surmises were formed among the few who knew of this package, as to what it might contain. Some were of the opinion that it contained papers which might lead to the possession of wealth. But from what Mrs. Harwood had related to Mrs. Humphrey, concerning her early life, she thought this idea to be highly improbable.