He was such a little fellow, but he was desperately in earnest when he marched into the store that snowy morning. Straight up to the first clerk he went. “I want to see the ‘prietor,” he said.
The clerk wanted to smile, but the little face before her was so grave that she answered solemnly, “He is sitting at his desk.”
The little fellow walked up to the man at the desk. Mr. Martin, the proprietor, turned around. “Good morning, little man. Did you want to see me?” he asked.
“Yes, sir. I want a wrap for my mama. I can make fires and pay for it.”
“What is your name, my boy?”
“Is your father living?”
“No, sir; he died when we lived in Louisville.”
“How long have you lived here?”
“We haven’t been here long. Mama was sick in Louisville, and the doctor told her to go away, and she would get well.”
“Is she better?”
“Yes, sir. Last Sunday she wanted to go to church, but she didn’t have any wrap, and she cried. She didn’t think I saw her, but I did. She says I’m her little p’tector since papa died. I can make fires and pay for a wrap.”
“But, little man, the store is steam-heated. I wonder if you could clean the snow off the walk.”
“Yes, sir,” Paul answered, quickly.
“Very well. I’ll write your mama a note and explain our bargain.”
When the note was written, Mr. Martin arose.
“Come, Paul, I will get the wrap,” he said. At the counter he paused. “How large is your mother Paul?” he asked.
Paul glanced about him. “‘Bout as large as her.” he said, pointing toward a lady clerk.
“Miss Smith, please see if this fits you,” requested Mr. Martin. Paul’s eyes were shining.
Miss Smith put on the wrap and turned about for Paul to see it. “Do you like it?” she asked him.
“Yes, I do,” he answered very emphatically.
The wrap was marked twelve dollars, but kind-hearted Mr. Martin said: “You may have it for five dollars, Paul. Take it to Pauline and have her take the price tag off,” he added to Miss Smith. When she brought the bundle back to him, he put it in Paul’s arms. “Take it to your mama, Paul. When the snow stops falling, come and sweep off the walk. I will pay you a dollar each time you clean it. We shall soon have enough to pay for the wrap.”
“Yes, sir,” answered Paul, gravely. He took the bundle and trudged out into the snow.
When he reached home, his mother looked in surprise at his bundle. “Where have you been, dear?”
“I went to town, mama,” Paul answered. He put the note into her hand. She opened it and read:—
“MRS. MAY: This little man has bought a wrap for you. He says he is your protector. For his sake keep the wrap and let him work to pay for it. It will be a great pleasure to him. He has the making of a fine man in him. WILLIAM MARTIN.”
Paul was astonished to see tears in his mothers eyes; he had thought she would be so happy, and she was crying. She put her arm about him and kissed him. Then she put on the wrap and told how pretty she thought it.
When the snow stopped falling, Paul went down to the store and cleaned the snow from the front walk. He did not know that Mr. Martin’s hired man swept it again, for the little arms were not strong enough to sweep it quite clean.
The days passed, and one morning Paul had a very sore throat.
“You mustn’t get up today, dear,” his mother said. When she brought his breakfast, she found him crying. “What is making you cry? Is your throat hurting much?”
“No, mama. Don’t you see it is snowing, and I can’t go and clean the walk?” cried Paul.
“Shall I write a note to Mr. Martin and explain why you are not there?”
“Yes, please, mama. Who will take it?”
“I’ll ask Bennie to leave it as he goes to school.”
The note was written, and Bennie, a neighbor boy, promised to deliver it.
While Paul was eating his dinner, there was a knock at the door. Mrs. May answered it, and ushered in Mr. Martin.
“How is the sick boy?” he asked. He crossed the room and sat by Paul. He patted the boy’s cheek, and then turned to the mother. “Mrs. May,” he said, “my wife’s mother is very old, but will not give up her home and live with us. She says she wants a home for her children to visit. She has recently lost a good housekeeper, and needs another. Since I met Paul the other day, I have been wondering if you would take the housekeeper’s place. Mother would be glad to have you and Paul with her, and would make things easy for you, and pay you liberally.”
“I shall be very glad to accept your offer, Mr. Martin. I am sorely in need of work. I taught in the public school in Louisville until my health failed. Since then I have had a hard struggle to get along,” answered Mrs. May.
“I will give you mother’s address. You can go out and arrange matters. Make haste and get well little protector,” said Mr. Martin, as he rose to go.
When he had gone, the mother put her arms about her boy. “You are my protector,” she said. “You brought me a wrap, and now you have helped me to get work to do.”
—Mrs. P. Binford, in the Visitor.
If I Ought To
There’s a voice that’s ever sounding.
With an echo oft rebounding,
In my heart a word propounding,
Loudly speaking, never still;
Till at last, my duty viewing,
Heart replies to charge renewing,
Let my willing change to doing,—
If I ought to, then I will.