“I would be knave or fool to need further incentive,” said Hoffman, with much bitterness. “At the rate I am going on, debt, humiliation, and disgrace are before me. I may live up to my income without actually wronging others—but not beyond it. As things are now going, I am two hundred dollars worse off at the end of each year when than I began, and, worse still, weaker as to moral purpose, while the animal and sensual natures, from constant indulgence, have grown stronger. I must break this thraldom now; for, a year hence, it may be too late! Thank, you, my friend, for your plain talk. Thank you for teaching me anew the multiplication table, I shall, assuredly, not forget it again.”
What can I do?
He was a poor cripple—with fingers twisted out of all useful shape, and lower limbs paralyzed so that he had to drag them after him wearily when he moved through the short distances that limited his sphere of locomotion—a poor, unhappy, murmuring, and, at times, ill-natured cripple, eating the bread which a mother’s hard labor procured for him. For hours every fair day, during spring, summer, and autumn, he might be seen in front of the little house where he lived leaning upon the gate, or sitting on an old bench looking with a sober face at the romping village children, or dreamily regarding the passengers who moved with such strong limbs up and down the street. How often, bitter envy stung the poor cripple’s heart! How often, as the thoughtless village children taunted him cruelly with his misfortune, would he fling harsh maledictions after them. Many pitied the poor cripple; many looked upon him with feelings of disgust and repulsion; but few, if any, sought to do him good.
Not far from where the cripple lived was a man who had been bedridden for years, and who was likely to remain so to the end of his days. He was supported by the patient industry of a wife.