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- Barriers Burned Away - 10/81 -
"Yes, before I would take a cent of charity from any living soul."
"Give us yer hand again. You're the kind of critter I like to invest in; for you'd improve on a feller's hands. No fear about you; the only thing is to get you in harness before a load that will pay to haul."
Suddenly he got up, strode to the bar-room door, looked out into the night, and came back again.
"I think I know of a way in which you can make two or three dollars to-morrow."
"How?" exclaimed Dennis, his whole face lighting up with hope.
"Go to a hardware store, invest in a big wooden snow-shovel, and clean off sidewalks before stores. You can pick up a good many quarters before night, like enough."
"I will do it," said Dennis, heartily, "and thank you warmly for the suggestion, and for your kindly interest generally," and he looked up and felt himself another man.
"Gosh! but it takes mighty few oats to set you up! But come, and let us have a little plain, substantial fodder. I will drink nothing but coffee, to-night, out of compliment to you."
Cheered, comforted, and hopeful, Dennis sat down with his good Samaritan, and made a hearty supper, after which they parted with a strong friendly grip, and sincere good wishes, Cronk, the drover, going on further west, and Dennis to the rest he so sorely needed.
Before retiring, Dennis as usual took his Bible from his trunk to read a chapter. He was now in a very different mood from that of a few hours ago. The suggestion of his bar-room acquaintance was a light upon his way. And with one of Dennis's age and temperament, even a small hope is potent. He was eager for the coming day, in order to try the experiment of wringing bread and opportunity for further search out of the wintry snows.
But that which had done him the most good--more than he realized--was the kindness he had received, rough though it was--the sympathy and companionship of another human being; for if he had been cast away on a desert island he could not have been more isolated than in the great city, with its indifferent multitudes.
Moreover the generous supper was not without its decided influence; and with it he had drunk a cup of good coffee, that nectar of the gods, whose subtile, delicate influence is felt in body and brain, in every fibre of the nature not deadened and blunted by stronger and coarser stimulants. He who leaves out physical causes in accounting for mental and moral states, will usually come wide of the mark. But while giving the influences above referred to their due force, so far from ignoring, we would acknowledge with emphasis, the chief cause of man's ability to receive and appreciate all the highest phases of truth and good, namely, God's help asked for and given. Prayer was a habit with Dennis. He asked God with childlike faith for the bestowment of every Christian grace, and those who knew him best saw that he had no reason to complain that his prayers were unanswered.
But now, at a time when he would most appreciate it, God was about to reveal to him a truth that would be a rich source of help and comfort through life, and a sudden burst of sunshine upon his dark way at the present hour. He was to be shown how he might look to heaven for help and guidance in respect to his present and earthly interests, as truly as in his spiritual life.
As he opened his Bible his eyes caught the words of our Lord--"Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught."
Then Peter's answer--"Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing: nevertheless, at Thy word I will let down the net."
The result--"They inclosed a great multitude of fishes."
With these words light broke in upon his mind. "If our Lord," he mused, "helped His first disciples catch fish, why should He not help me find a good place?" Then unbelief suggested, "It was not for the sake of the fish; they were only means to a higher end."
But Dennis, who had plenty of good common-sense, at once answered this objection: "Neither do I want position and money for low, selfish purposes. My ends are the best and purest, for I am seeking my own honest living and the support of my mother and sisters--the very imperative duties that God is now imposing on me. Would God reveal a duty and no way of performing it?"
Then came the thought: "Have I asked Him to help me? Have I not been seeking in my own wisdom, and trusting in my own strength? and this too when my ignorance of business, the dull season of the year, and everything was against me, when I specially needed help. Little wonder that I have fared as I have."
Turning the leaves of his Bible rapidly, he began searching for instances of God's interference in behalf of the temporal interests of His servants--for passages where earthly prosperity was promised or given. After an hour he closed the Bible with a long breath of wonder, and said to himself "Why, God seems to care as much for the well-being and happiness of his children here as He will when He has us all about Him in the home above. I've been blind for twenty-one years to one of the grandest truths of this Book."
Then, as the thought grew upon him, he exclaimed, joyously, "Take heart, Dennis Fleet: God is on your side in the struggle for an honest success in this life as truly as in your fight against sin and the devil."
It was long before he slept that night, but a truth had been revealed that rested and strengthened him more than the heavy slumbers after the weary days that had preceded.
The dawn of the winter morning was cold and faint when Dennis appeared in the bar-room the next day. The jolly-faced Teuton was making the fire, stopping often to blow his cold fingers, and wasting enough good breath to have kindled a furnace. His rubicund visage, surrounded by shaggy hair and beard of yellow, here appeared in the dust and smoke he was making like the sun rising in a fog.
"Hillo!" he said, on seeing Dennis; "vat you oop dis early for? Don't vant anoder dinner yet, I hope?"
"I will take that in good time," said Dennis; "and shall want a bigger one than that which so astonished you at first."
"Oh, my eyes!" said the German; "den I go and tell de cook to pegin to get him right avay."
Laughing good-naturedly, Dennis went to the door and looked out. On sidewalk and street the snow lay six or eight inches deep, untrodden, white and spotless, even in the heart of the great city. "How different this snow will look by night," thought he; "how soiled and black! Perhaps very many come to this city in the morning of life like this snow, pure and unstained; but after being here awhile they become like this snow when it has been tossed about and trodden under every careless foot. God grant that, however poor and unsuccessful I may remain, such pollution may never be my fate."
But feeling that he had no time for moralizing if he would secure bread for the coming day of rest, he turned and said to the factotum of the bar-room, "How much will you give to have the snow cleared off the sidewalk in front of your house?"
"Then I will earn my breakfast before I eat it, if you will lend me a shovel."
"I dought you vas a shentlemans," said the German, staring at him.
"So I am; just the shentlemans that will clean off your sidewalk for zwei shillen, if you will let him."
"You vant to do him for exercise?"
"No; for zwei shillings."
"I dought you vas a shentlemans," said the man, still staring in stolid wonder at Dennis.
"Didn't you ever know of a gentleman who came from Germany to this country and was glad to do anything for an honest living?"
"Often and often I haf. You see von here," said the man, with a grin. "Well, I am just that kind of a gentleman. Now if you will lend me a shovel I will clean off your sidewalk for two shillings, and be a great deal more thankful than if you had given me the money for nothing." "Little fear of dot," said the man, with another grin. "Vel, you are der queerest Yankee in Chicago, you are; I dink you are 'bout haf Sherman. I tells you vat--here, vat's your name?--if you glean off dot sidewalk goot, you shall haf preakfast and dinner, much as you eat, vidout von shent to pay. I don't care if der cook is cooking all day. I like your--vat you call him?--shpunk."
"It's a bargain," said Dennis; "and if I can make a few more like it to-day, I shall be rich."
"You may vel say dot. I vill go into der market and see if dere's enough for me to keep my bart of der bargain goot."
For half an hour Dennis worked away lustily, and then called his task-master and said, "Will you accept the job?"
Surveying with surprise the large space cleared, and looking in vain for reason to find fault, he said: "I say nothin' agin him. I hope you vill eat your dinner as quick. Now come in to your preakfast."
He pretended to be perfectly aghast at Dennis's onslaught on the buckwheat cakes, and rolled up his eyes despairingly as each new plate was emptied.
Having finished, Dennis gave him a nod, and said, "Wait till dinner-time."
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