Three years have passed, and Ralph Gilpin is on the road to fortune, while Jacob Peters remains a clerk. And why? The one was careful of his good name; the other was not.
My young reader, take the lesson to heart. Guard well your good name; and as name signifies quality, by all means guard your spirit, so that no evil thing enter there; and your good name shall be only the expression of your good quality.
“If they wouldn’t let him have it!” said Mrs. Leslie, weeping. “O, if they wouldn’t sell him liquor, there’d be no trouble! He’s one of the best of men when he doesn’t drink. He never brings liquor into the house; and he tries hard enough, I know, to keep sober, but he cannot pass Jenks’s tavern.”
Mrs. Leslie was talking with a sympathizing neighbor, who responded, by saying, that she wished the tavern would burn down, and that, for her part, she didn’t feel any too good to apply fire to the place herself. Mrs. Leslie sighed, and wiped away the tears with her checked apron.
“It’s hard, indeed, it is,” she murmured, “to see a man like Jenks growing richer and richer every day out of the earnings of poor working-men, whose families are in want of bread. For every sixpence that goes over his counter some one is made poorer—to some heart is given a throb of pain.”
“It’s a downright shame!” exclaimed the neighbor, immediately. “If I had my way with the lazy, good-for-nothing fellow, I’d see that he did something useful, if it was to break stone on the road. Were it my husband, instead of yours, that he enticed into his bar, depend on’t he’d get himself into trouble.”
While this conversation was going on, a little girl, not over ten years of age, sat listening attentively. After a while she went quietly from the room, and throwing her apron over head, took her way, unobserved by her mother, down the road.
Where was little Lizzie going? There was a purpose in her mind: She had started on a mission. “O, if they wouldn’t sell him liquor!” These earnest, tearful words of her, mother had filled her thoughts. If Mr. Jenks wouldn’t sell her father anything to drink, “there would be no more trouble.” How simple, how direct the remedy! She would go to Mr. Jenks, and ask him not to let her father have any more liquor, and then all would be well again. Artless, innocent child! And this was her mission.
The tavern kept by Jenks, the laziest man in Milanville,—he was too lazy to work, and therefore went to tavern-keeping,—stood nearly a quarter of a mile from the poor tenement occupied by the Leslies. Towards this point, under a hot, sultry sun, little Lizzie made her way, her mind so filled with its purpose that she was unconscious of heat of fatigue.
Not long before a traveller alighted at the tavern. After giving directions to have his horses fed, he entered the bar-room, and went to where Jenks stood, behind the counter.