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approaching night and storm.
Not the chilling blasts of October, the dread of darkness, nor the cold world could depress the spirits of Charles Stevens, the merry lad of Salem. In fact, he was so merry that, by the straight-laced Puritans, he was thought ungodly. He had a predisposition to whistling and singing, and was of “a light and frivolous carriage.” He laughed at the sanctity of some people, and was known to smile even on the Lord's Day. When, in the exuberance of his spirits, his feet kept time to his whistling, the good Salemites were horrified by the ungodly dance.
Charles Stevens, however, had a better heart, and was a truer Christian than
of those sanctimonious critics, who sought to restrain the joy and gladness with which God filled his soul. It was this good Samaritan who came upon the suffering stranger whom the three Puritans had condemned in their own minds as an emissary of the devil.
“Why do you sit here, sir?" Charles asked, leaving off his whistle. “Night is coming on, and it is growing so chill and cold, you must keep moving, or surely you will perish.”
“I cannot rise,” was the answer. “Cannot rise! prythee, what ails you, friend ?” “I am sick, sore and wounded.” “Wounded!” cried Charles, "and sick, too!”
His sharp young eyes were enabled to penetrate the deepening shades of twilight, and he saw a ghastly pallor overspreading the man's face, who,
pressing his hand upon his side, gave vent to gasps of keen agony.
His left side was stained with blood
“You are wounded!” Charles Stevens at last declared. “Pray, how came it about?”
“I was fired upon by an unseen foe, for what cause I know not, as, being a stranger in these parts, I have had no quarrel.”
“Come, let me help you to rise.”
“No, it is useless. I am tired and too faint to go further.
Let me lie here. I will soon be dead, and all this agony will be over."
At this, the cheerful mind of Charles Stevens asserted itself by inspiring hope in the heart of the fainting stranger.
“No, no, my friend, never give up. Don't say die, so long as you live. It is but a few rods further to the home where I live with my mother. I can help you walk so far, and there you can get rested and warmed, and mother will dress your wound.”
“Can I go?" the traveller asked.
The boy threw his strong arm around the man and raised him to his feet; but his limbs no longer obeyed his will, and he sank again upon the ground.
“It is of no avail, my good boy. I cannot go. Leave me to die.”
Charles turned his eyes about to look for the
stranger's horse; but it had strayed off in the darkness. To search for him would be useless, and for a moment the good Samaritan stood as if in thought; then, stripping off his coat and wrapping it around the wounded man, he said hopefully:
“I will be back soon, don't move," and he hurried away swiftly toward home. On reaching the threshold, he thanked God that he was not a wanderer on such a night.
The New England kitchen, with its pewter-filled dresser, reflecting and multiplying the genial blaze of the log-heaped fire-place, its high-backed, rushbottomed chairs, grating as they were moved over the neatly sanded floor, its massive beam running midway of the ceiling across the room, and its many doors, leading to other rooms and attics, was a picture of comfort two hundred years ago. The widowed mother, with her honest, beautiful face surrounded by a neat, dark cap border, met her son as he entered the kitchen and, glancing at him proudly, said:
“The wind gives you good color, Charles."
“Yes, mother,” rubbing his cheeks, “they do burn some;-mother.”
“I heard you tell Mr. Bly, the other day, that you could trust me with all you had. Will you trust me with old Moll and the cart to-night?”
“What do you want with Moll and the cart?”
“To go to the big spring under the hill for a poor man who is sick and wounded.”
And alone?" “Yes, mother.” “It is a freezing night.”
“Yes, mother, and he may die. He is unable to walk. Remember the story of the good Samaritan.”
After a long pause, the widow said, “Yes, you may have old Moll and the cart. Bring him here, and we will care for him; but remember that tomorrow's work must be done."
“If you have any fault to find to-morrow night, don't trust me again!" and the boy, turning to the cupboard beneath the dressers, buttered a generous slice of bread, then left the room with a small pitcher, and returned with it brimming full of cider, his mother closely noting all, while she busied herself making things to rights in her culinary department. Charles next went out and harnessed the mare to the cart, then returned to the kitchen for his bread and cider.
“Why not eat that before you go?” queried the mother. “I am not hungry, I have had some supper,
Good night, mother. I will be back soon; so have the bed ready for the wounded stranger."