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The Poorhouse Waif And His Divine Teacher by Isabel C. Byrum


Who is it that will doubt
The care of Heaven, or think the immortal
Pow'rs are slow?

-- Davenaut.

When Edwin entered the barn on the morning following his Sunday afternoon visit, he found that Mr. Miller was there ahead of him and that the large forkfuls of fresh hay for the horses' breakfasts were already tumbling rapidly from the large mow above.

|As soon as he comes down,| thought Edwin, |I'll ask him about my going to that meeting, for it'll be as good a chance as I'll have.| Then as he went about among the feed-bins, measuring grain for the stock, he rehearsed in his mind the little speech that he had planned, to see if it could be improved; but he decided that it was just what he should say, and with all his heart he hoped that his generous offer would be accepted. If possible, he wanted to go without causing any hard feelings on the part of his employer. Still he felt that he must go, and was resolved to go even if Mr. Miller should be stubborn.

It was really but a few minutes until Mr. Miller was descending the stairway that led from the loft above, but to Edwin in his anxious state of mind it seemed a long, long time. It was a little hard at first to break the silence, but finally he said:

|Mr. Miller, Mr. Kunz was telling me that the camp-meeting that is to be held on the camp-ground before long is for the purpose of getting people converted and that the work can be done in a week's time. I should like to go to that meeting, but I hate to leave you, for I know how much work there is to be done just now. But I feel that I must get converted as soon as I can, for I don't know how soon I may die. Now, I'll work for you as hard as I can before I go, and when I serve the time that I've agreed to stay, I'll work two weeks longer for you for nothing if you will only let me go to that meeting!|

Edwin had spoken excitedly, and every nerve in his body was on a tension when Mr. Miller said slowly:

|Why, yes, I guess you can go. To me this matter of getting converted doesn't seem so important, but I think I can manage the work all right if you want to go.|

Edwin could scarcely believe his ears, and when he found that no second offer was necessary, it was as though a great and heavy burden had been rolled from his heart. During the days that followed he endeavored to live up to the agreement that he had made to work faithfully for his master. Many times he thought of the meeting, and as often he asked himself: |Is there anything special that I can do to help in this matter? Is there anything that I ought to do so as to be better able to go through the operation?|

He even asked Mrs. Miller if she could think of anything more that he could do, but she, failing to understand his meaning, said: |No, there isn't much that you can do. The things about the camp-ground are pretty handy, and it's only a few miles away, and I will see to it that your clothes are clean and mended.| But still Edwin was not satisfied. Every day he reviewed his conduct to see if there was any possible way that he could improve himself.

One evening his divine Teacher again came to his assistance. It was after supper, and Edwin was still in the summer-kitchen. The smoking-hour, too, was over, and his pipe and tobacco were on the shelf. Mrs. Miller had retired to her room in the large house for the night, and her husband was making his usual rounds about the place to see that all the pasture-fences were secure.

Sometimes when the horses and cows were trying to rid themselves of the tormenting flies and mosquitoes, they would loosen the rails of the fences by rubbing their itching sides against them. Thus an opening would often be made, through which, if not repaired, the entire herd might find their way and do much damage both to themselves and to the large fields of waving corn that were growing all around the pasture-land. For this reason it was necessary after the animals had quieted down for the night to see that everything was in good condition, and Mr. Miller would trust no one to do this chore but himself.

Seated in his accustomed place on the bench near the end of the long dining-table, Edwin, with both elbows upon the table, was resting his face upon his hands. Again he was thinking of the one great subject about which he was so seriously concerned. Suddenly he seemed not to be alone. Looking about him as though expecting to see some person standing near, he heard a voice seemingly from above his head, and he was told to listen.

When the voice of the tempter had spoken discouragingly on the way from Mr. Kunz's, Edwin had felt no fear, but now a fear that caused him to tremble crept over him. But when the voice in tender, loving tones said softly, |Do not be afraid, for I am your friend,| he turned with eagerness to listen.

|You want to be prepared for heaven,| the voice continued. |Now, tobacco-using is unbecoming and unclean in my eyes, and before you can get on the highway that leads to heaven, you must stop using tobacco.|

Until then Edwin had not been told by a living creature that tobacco was not a food, or that it was unfit for the use of mankind, or unclean in the sight of God; but as he listened to the words of his divine Guide and Teacher, the great truth of the matter sank deep within his heart, and he had no thought or desire to dispute them. Neither did he stop to think or reason that his best friends Mr. and Mrs. Miller, Frank Kauffman, and Mr. Kunz were all using tobacco. Instead he arose and, going to the mantel, selected all his smoking-materials there, opened the grate, and dumped them one and all upon the few living coals that were still smoldering among the ashes. He also brought from his room in the large house a box of cigars, some pipes and cigar-holders, and threw them in upon the other things.

When Edwin, all unconscious of the dense smoke and the strong odor that were beginning to arise from the old-fashioned chimney, returned to his place by the table, he resumed his former position on the bench and endeavored to continue his meditation as it was before the revelation.

Outside the night was perfect. A bright moon looked down from its lofty height among the stars and revealed the farmer repairing a place in the fence-corner where the rails had been loosened. Scarcely had he finished the task, when a glance from the hollow in which he was busy toward the hill upon which his home was located, caused him to gasp and shudder with fear. Then with his nose in the air he began to inhale and said, |Why, that smells like tobacco-smoke.| The time of night and the fact that the smoke was coming in great volumes from the chimney of the summer-kitchen made him think that the kitchen was on fire and that the tobacco on the mantel-shelf was causing the smoke.

With anxious haste the excited old gentleman turned his steps toward the house and hurried forward in that direction. A few minutes later Edwin's surprize was no less than his employer's had been; for the latter, breathing heavily and nearly exhausted from the exertion of climbing the hill in such haste, threw open the door and rushed in. For the moment neither spoke, and then after a curious glance first toward the mantel and then at Edwin, who was still sitting calmly beside the table, Mr. Miller hastened to the grate and, lifting the lid, gazed in wonder upon the heap of burning tobacco.

That the old farmer was displeased and even vexed at what he saw could be easily detected in his features. Seeing that only Edwin's belongings were in the fire, he hastily demanded an explanation. Edwin replied that he had destroyed the tobacco and cigars because he did not feel that they were fit for him to use, but he said nothing about the manner in which he had discovered the fact. |I put them in the fire,| Edwin continued, |because I did not want any one else to defile himself with what I could not use myself.| Then seeing that Mr. Miller was taking a few of the cigars from the grate, he said, |If you take them out of the fire and use them, I shall not be to blame, but I have no more use for tobacco, and I will not give to any one else what I consider unfit to use myself.|

To Edwin the use of tobacco had been a great source of comfort in his lonely hours, and he had endeavored to secure for himself every little convenience that would make its use more pleasant and cleanly. Aside from his pipes and cigar-holders, he had provided himself with a self-lighting match-safe for his vest-pocket, a self-closing rubber chewing-tobacco pouch that kept the tobacco clean and moist, and other things that appealed to his sense of cleanliness. His efforts had always been to do away with the filthy part connected with its use. In fact, he had often been commended for his neatness in regard to his tobacco; but when God said that it was unclean and unfit for the use of any one who was seeking to be on the highway to Heaven, he did not care for it at all. It was no trial to give it up, and he was glad to part with everything connected with its use.

Edwin's example should have been a real rebuke to Mr. and Mrs. Miller, but instead, they attributed his conduct to his ignorance and even made almost unkind remarks about his unnecessary waste. But this couple should not receive too much blame; for they, like Edwin, had never been taught that the use of tobacco was anything that should be avoided. In their home life they had all respect for Edwin, and in their efforts to help him in his ignorance to understand their views of the Christian life they had been honest and earnest.

Their displeasure at his destruction of his tobacco-supplies was due to the fact that they had never heard that tobacco was injurious to their bodies and not a food. In their minds Edwin's conduct was justly worthy of criticism. Had they known that the pleasure derived from the use of tobacco is like the sensation produced by scratching and rubbing the skin when one has a skin-disease, they might have understood. If it were not for the disease, no pleasure would result from the friction. Likewise, were it not for the disease of the tobacco-appetite, the use of tobacco would sicken instead of give pleasure. Tobacco contains a deadly poison. Its constant use will in time injure both body and mind past repair. In many cases it has been the direct cause of various diseases and insanity, and it may land the soul in hell.

|The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust... to be punished: but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness| (2 Pet.2:9, 10).

|Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.| (Rom.6:12, 13).

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