The brave are ever
And feel the miseries of suffering virtue.
Hedged about by
such walls of difficulty, Edwin seemed to be shut entirely
away in a little world that was all his own. As he had no one
to help him to understand the every-day happenings about him,
it was not strange that the mysteries of nature were hidden as
well. Shunned and abused as he was, even curiosity was almost
of no avail. But although he knew it not, the all-seeing Eye
was watching over him and angels were rejoicing over the
manner in which he was laying a foundation for a strong and
noble Christian character.
Edwin's holding no
revenge in his heart toward those who had so repeatedly
wronged him made it easier, in a way, for him to endure his
hardships. And by constantly being watchful and on his guard,
he was many times able to improve little opportunities to
assist either his mother or his uncle, and in this way he
sometimes evaded punishments that he would have otherwise
received. His always being on the alert made it easier for him
to become familiar with the names of various things that he
could not have otherwise known. To gain any knowledge at all
was indeed a pleasure, and it enabled him to escape so much
As his love for
doing good increased, so also his admiration for and interest
in the things of nature and that which was strange and
mysterious were deepened. He often wondered about the blue
arch above his head, and, supposing it to be an upper story to
the earth, believed it to be inhabited by a family similar to
St. Nick and his elves. He often tried to imagine what kind of
man this being could be and wondered whether in any way he
resembled St. Nick.
storms he supposed that the man must be very angry and that
the sounds and flashes were the result of throwing or rolling
heavy or combustible articles of furniture as he had so
repeatedly known his mother and uncle to do. As such a view of
life was all that he knew, it was not strange that he could
make no better comparison.
noticed his uncle and Elmer throwing stones high up in the
air, and sometimes when the stones went too high to be
followed by the naked eye, he supposed that they pierced the
arch and lodged on the other side.
The fact that
while he was at the poorhouse a few persons had died and been
buried in the ground was till fresh in his memory, and from
the oaths and unkind language of his mother he had come to the
conclusion that all must die and be buried in the same manner.
What became of them after death he could not fathom, but he
concluded that the frost in the winter-time was a sort of cold
vapor arising from the bodies of those who were dead and that
such things were all governed by the great man above the arch.
In the village
where his mother had lived, very little attention was given to
family quarrels or to the troubles of children, but in this
new neighborhood it was different. A dear old couple by the
name of Hahn, living very close, soon became greatly
interested in the child Edwin. Many times they listened with
deepest sympathy to his cries of agony and terror, knowing
that his cries were caused by cruel blows or kicks. Then when
the little fellow, all bleeding and bruised, would be
discovered hobbling about and endeavoring to comprehend what
was expected of him that he might the more perfectly perform
the task That had been assigned him, their hearts were filled
with indignation and pity.
"I don't see how
it is," said Mrs. Hahn one day to her husband at the close of
the midday meal.
"Now, that Mrs.
Fischer seems in some ways to be a pretty good sort of woman,
but when she speaks to her son, she acts like Satan himself.
Only yesterday I saw her out cleaning up the yard, and she
seemed quite good-natured until she discovered Ed coming out
to help her. Then, without telling him where to get it, she
told him to hustle around and find her a picket, for she
wanted to fix the fence. I saw right away that he didn't know
what a picket was, but I wanted to see what he would do. He
didn't ask. Instead he ran around the house looking in every
direction and came back to tell her that he couldn't find any.
Then, in a tone that she would not have used for the dog she
yelled at him that it was of no use to expect an idiot like
him to find anything. Next she went to a pile of pickets that
was near the barn and easily got herself what she was wanting.
Still she didn't explain anything to Edwin, but I could see
that the boy knew then what a 'picket' looked like.
"Now, Pa, I'll
tell you what I'd like to do. Since his mother acts toward him
as she does, I'd like to ask him over here whenever he can
come, just as though he were coming to help us, you know, and
then we could tell him about many of these things that he
doesn't know. Perhaps if he knew better what they meant, it
would not be so hard for him, and he would escape some of the
"That's a bright
idea, my good little wife," said Mr. Hahn smiling his
approval. "I believe that we ought to help the boy all that we
can, for he's sure having a hard time of it. Do what you think
is best, but be careful not to let Mrs. Fischer think you want
to help her son, or all your plans will be upset. She doesn't
care what becomes of the boy, and I think she would be glad to
see him die, but doesn't dare to be the one to end his life.
But she'll do it if she keeps on as she is going."
"Well, with your
consent I'll do what I can," replied Mrs. Hahn, and with a
relieved expression she hastened to make some plans that were
to amount very much to Edwin.
graciously consented to let her son go to help the old couple
now and then, "but," she added, "you'll soon find that he's no
good to anybody. I find him lots more bother than he's worth."
"I'll risk that
part of it," Mrs. Hahn answered, and from that day a great
change came into the poor boy's life.
In the home of Mr.
and Mrs. Hahn, Edwin was still very timid, but they were so
kind and considerate that his intense fear gradually gave way
to confidence and trust. It seemed that his new friends were
never vexed because of his extreme ignorance. Instead of
reproaching him for what he did not know or understand, they
took extra pains to explain their meaning in the simplest
language possible. To Edwin the explanation of the most
trifling every-day occurrences seemed wonderful, and to the
unenlightened child it opened up many avenues for thought that
had hitherto been closed. Never once while he was with them
did they seem to grow weary of trying to make things more
simple and plain for the inquiring child.
The more Edwin
associated with these friends, the more he began to understand
how he had been wronged; for many questions concerning the
earth, the sky, and himself were corrected. In explaining
about St. Nick, Mr. Hahn said:
terrible creature that treated you so shamefully on Christmas
eve was not St. Nicholas at all. It was your uncle, who had,
with the consent of your mother, dressed himself in the
hideous clothing in which he appeared to you. He must have
wanted to see just how much he could deceive and frighten
"But how about his
home in Blue Mountain?" Edwin asked in amazement. "If Santa
Claus doesn't make the toys up there, where does he make
"Edwin, don't you
believe those stories any longer," Mr. Hahn answered. "Your
uncle bought from a store in the city of M----all those
presents that he gave to his children. The stories that he
told you about the elves visiting the homes to discover who
were bad are untrue. I know it seems very strange to you, but
what is the most difficult for me to understand is how your
mother and uncle could find pleasure in frightening and
deceiving you in such a way.
"Well, if Blue
Mountain isn't the home of St. Nick, what is it?" Edwin asked
in a mystified tone.
Then in very
simple words Edwin heard for the first time the real facts
regarding the great mountain that had until then been as an
awful nightmare to the unenlightened boy. Pointing away toward
the line of blue and white domes and peaks that grew more and
more faint as they faded away in the distance, Mr. Hahn
explained that they were only high parts of the earth. "Blue
Mountain," he said, "is only one part of the range, and those
dark places that you see on its sides are just trees and
bushes such as grow right here in our yard. Then there are
large rocks, some of them the size of this house, and springs
of water where many animals and birds may drink. And in some
places there are large flower-gardens, where the flowers grow
without the use of the spade or the hoe. I would certainly
like to take you to see the mountain, Edwin, if it were not so
far away, but it would take us too long to go and come, for it
is very much farther away than it seems."
Reasons were given
also for the strange noises that Edwin had attributed to the
rolling of heavy articles of furniture, and the names sky,
thunder, and lightning were rightly applied. But with all
their information, Mr. and Mrs. Hahn gave no hint that there
was a great and supreme Being over all, one who had created
all the wonders that they had been describing, for they were
not Christian people and were not acquainted with the love of
God. They were greatly interested in the things that pertain
to this life, but seemed unconcerned about heaven, eternity,
and the Bible. So Edwin continued to believe that some great
man who had died and left the earth was living above the blue
arch and that the electrical storms were in some way the
result of fireside quarrels and confusion.
To Edwin it seemed
that every moment that he from time to time spent with these
kind friends was precious indeed, but the effect upon the
mother was not what Mrs. Hahn had desired. Finding that her
son could understand more about the work, she became more
particular and increased his tasks accordingly until it seemed
that he could do nothing to suit her. Poor nervous child! if
only he could have known the words of the Psalmist, what a
comfort they would have been--"He shall deliver the needy ...
and precious shall their blood be in his sight." (Psa. 72:12,