It was a pleasant day in that particularly pleasant part of the summer time, which the boys call “vacation,” when Tiger and Tom walked slowly down the street together. You may think it strange that I mention Tiger first, but I assure you Tom would not have been in the least offended by the preference. Indeed he would have assured you that Tiger was a most wonderful dog, and knew as much as any two boys, though this might be called extravagant.
Nearly a year ago, on Tom’s birthday, Tiger arrived as a present from Tom’s uncle, and as he leaped with a dignified bound from the wagon in which he made his journey, Tom looked into his great, wise eyes, and impulsively threw his arms around his shaggy neck. Tiger, on his part was pleased with Tom’s bright face, and most affectionately licked his smooth cheeks. So the league of friendship was complete in an hour.
Tom had a pleasant, round face, and you might live with him a week, and think him one of the noblest, and most generous boys you ever knew. But someday you would probably discover that he had a most violent temper. You would be frightened to see his face crimson with rage, as he stamped his feet, shook his little sister, spoke improperly to his mother, and above all, displeased his great father in heaven.
Now I am going to tell you of one great trial on this account, which Tom never forgot to the end of his life. Tiger and Tom were walking down the street together, when they met Dick Casey, a school-fellow of Tom’s.
”O Dick!” cried Tom, “I’m going to father’s grain store a little while. Let’s go up in the loft and play.”
Dick had just finished his work in his mother’s garden, and was all ready for a little amusement. So the two went up together, and enjoyed themselves highly for a long time. But at last arose one of those trifling disputes, in which little boys are apt to indulge. Pretty soon there were angry words, then (Oh how sorry I am to say it!), Tom’s wicked passions got the mastery of him, and he beat little Dick severely. Tiger, who must have been ashamed of his master, pulled hard at his coat, and whined piteously, but all in vain. At last Tom stopped, from mere exhaustion.
“There now!” he cried, “which is right, you or I?”
“I am.” sobbed Dick, and you tell a lie.”
Tom’s face flushed crimson, and darting upon Dick, he gave him a sudden push. Alas! he was near to the open door. Dick screamed, threw up his arms, and in a moment he was gone. Tom’s heart stood still, and an icy chill crept over him from head to foot. At first he could not stir; then—he never knew how he got there, but he found himself standing beside his little friend. Some men were raising him carefully from the hard sidewalk.
“Is he dead?” almost screamed Tom.
“No,” replied one, “we hope not. How did he fall out?”
“He didn’t fall,” groaned Tom, who never could be so mean as to tell a lie, “I pushed him out.”
“You pushed him, you wicked boy,” cried a rough voice. “Do you know you ought to be sent to jail, and if he dies, maybe you’ll be hung.”
Tom grew as white as Dick, whom he had followed into the store, and he heard all that passed as if in a dream.
“Is he badly hurt?” cried some one.
“Only his hands.” Was the answer. “The rope saved him; he caught hold of the rope and slipped down; but his hands are dreadfully torn—he has fainted from pain.”
Just then Tom’s father came in, and soon understood the case. The look he gave at his unhappy son, so full of sorrow, not unmingled with pity, was too much for Tom, and he stole out, followed by faithful Tiger. He wandered to the woods, and threw himself upon the ground. One hour ago he was a happy boy, and now what a terrible change! What has made the difference. Nothing but the indulgence of this wicked, violent temper. His mother had often warned him of the fearful consequences. She had told him that little boys who would not learn to govern themselves, grew up to be very wicked men, and often became murderers in some moment of passion. And now, Tom shuddered to think he was almost a murderer! Nothing but God’s great mercy in putting that rope in Dick’s way, had saved him from carrying that load of sorrow and guilt all the rest of his life. But poor Dick, he might die yet—how pale he looked—how strange! Tom fell upon his knees, and prayed God to “spare Dick’s life,” and from that time forth, with God’s help, he promised that he would strive to conquer his wicked passion.
Then, as he could no longer bear the terrible suspense, he started for widow Casey’s cottage. As he appeared at the humble door, Mrs. Casey angrily ordered him away, saying: “you have made a poor woman trouble enough for one day.” But Dick’s feeble voice entreated, “O mother, let him come in; I was just as bad as he.”
Tom gave a cry of joy at hearing these welcome tones, and sprang hastily in. There sat poor Dick with his hands bound up, looking very pale, but Tom thanked God that he was alive.
“I should like to know how I am to live now,” sighed Mrs. Casey. “Who will weed my garden, and carry my vegetables to the market? I am afraid we shall suffer for bread before the summer is over,” and she put her apron to her eyes.
“Mrs. Casey,” cried Tom, eagerly, “I will do everything that Dick did. I will sell the potatoes and beans, and drive Mr. Brown’s cows to pasture.”
Mrs. Casey shook her head incredulously, but Tom bravely kept his word. For the next few weeks Tom was at his post bright and early, and the garden was never kept in better order. And every morning Tiger and Tom stood faithfully in the market-place with their baskets, and never gave up, no matter how warm the day, till the last vegetable was sold. And the money placed faithfully in Mrs. Casey’s hand.
Tom’s father often passed through the market, and gave his little son an encouraging smile, but he did not offer to help him out of his difficulty, for if he knew if Tom struggled on alone, it would be a lesson he would never forget. Already he was becoming so gentle and patient, that everyone noticed the change, and his mother rejoiced over the sweet fruits of his repentance and self-sacrifice.
After a few weeks the bandages were removed from Dick’s hands, but they had been unskillfully treated, and were drawn up in very strange shapes. Mrs. Casey could not conceal her grief. “He will never be the help he was before,” she said to Tom, he will never be like other boys, and he wrote such a fine hand, now he can no more make a letter than that little chicken in the garden.”
“If only we had a great city doctor,” said a neighbor, “he might have been all right. Even now his fingers might be helped if you should take him to New York.”
“Oh, I am too poor, too poor,” said she, and burst into tears.
“Tom could not bear it, and again rushed into the woods to think what could be done, for he had already given them all his quarter’s allowance. All at once a thought flashed into his head, and he started as if he had been shot. Then he cried in great distress:--
“No, no, anything but that, I can’t do that!”
Tiger gently licked his hands, and watched him with great concern. Now came a great struggle. Tom stroked him backward and forward, and although he was a proud boy, he sobbed aloud. Tiger whined, licked his face, rushed into dark corners, and barked savagely at some imaginary enemy, and then came back, and putting his paws on Tom’s knees, wagged his tail in anxious sympathy. At last Tom took his hands from his pale, tear-stained face, and looking into the great dog’s honest eyes, he cried with a queer shake of his voice:--
“Tiger, old fellow! Dear old dog, could you ever forgive me if I sold you?”
Then came another burst of sorrow, and Tom rose hastily, as if afraid to trust himself, and almost ran out of the woods. Over the fields he raced, with Tiger close at his heels, nor rested a moment till he stood at Major White’s door, nearly two miles away.
“Do you still want Tiger, sir?”
“Why yes,” said the old man in great surprise, “but do you want to sell him?”
“Yes, please,” gasped Tom, not daring to look at his old companion. The exchange was quickly made, and the ten dollars in Tom’s hand. Tiger was beguiled into a barn, and the door hastily shut, and Tom was hurrying off, when he turned and cried in a choking voice—
“You will be kind to him, Major White, won’t you? Don’t whip him, I never did, and he’s the best dog---“
“No, no, child,” said Major White kindly; “I’ll treat him like a prince, and if you ever want to buy him back, you shall have him.” Tom managed to falter, “Thank you,” and almost flew out of hearing of Tiger’s eager scratching on the barn door.
I am making my story too long, and can only tell you in a few words that Tom’s sacrifice was accepted. A friend took little Dick to the city free of expense, and Tom’s money paid for the necessary operation. The poor crooked fingers were very much improved, and were soon almost as good as ever. And the whole village loved Tom for his brave, self-sacrificing spirit, and the noble atonement he had made for his moment of passion.
A few days after Dick’s return came Tom’s birthday, but he did not feel in his usual spirits. In spite of his great delight in Dick’s recovery, he had so mourned over the matter, and had taken Tiger’s loss so much to heart, that he had grown quite pale and thin. So, as he was permitted to spend the day as he pleased, he took his books and went to his favorite haunt in the woods.
“How different from my last birthday,” thought Tom. Then Tiger had just come, and I was so happy, though I didn’t like him half so well as I do now.” Tom sighed heavily; then added more cheerfully, “Well, I hope some things are better than they were last year. I hope I have begun to conquer myself, and with God’s help I will never give up trying while I live. Now if only I could earn money enough to buy back dear old Tiger,” While Tom was busied with these thoughts he heard a hasty, familiar trot, a quick bark of joy, and the brave old dog sprang into Tom’s arms.
“Tiger, old fellow,” cried Tom, trying to look fierce, though he could scarcely keep down the tears, “how came you to run away. Sir?”
Tiger responded by picking up a letter he had dropped in his first joy, and laying it in Tom’s hand:---
“MY DEAR CHILD: Tiger is pining, and I must give him a change of air. I wish him to have a good master, and knowing that the best ones are those who have learned to govern themselves, I send him to you. Will you take care of him and greatly oblige.
“Your old friend, Major White.”
Tom then read through a mist of tears---
P. S. I know the whole story. Dear young friend, “Be not weary in well-doing.”
Did you tackle the trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven face and fearful.
O, a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce
A trouble is what you make it
It isn’t the fact that you’re that counts
But only, HOW DID YOU TAKE IT?
You are beaten to the earth? Well, what of that?
Come up with a smiling face
It’s nothing against you to fall down flat
But to LIE THERE—that’s disgrace.
The harder you’re thrown, the higher you’ll bounce
Be proud of your blackened eye
It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts
But, HOW did you fight, and WHY?
And though you be down to death, what then?
If you battled the best that you could
If you played your part in the world of men
The critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce
And whether he slow or spry
It isn’t the fact that you’re DEAD that counts
But only HOW DID YOU DIE?