Bill was the worst boy in the village; his father’s indulgence had spoiled him.
“Don’t discipline and restrain the boy,” he would say to his mother, “you will crush all the manhood in him.” And so he grew up the terror of his neighbours. The old, the infirm, and the crippled were the special objects of his vicious attacks.
There was one poor woman, bent by age and infirmities, that he loved to ridicule, as she daily went out upon her crutch, to draw water from the well near her house, which was right across the road from the school playground.
“Oh look at her,” he would say, “isn’t she the letter S now, with an extra crook in it?” His cruel laugh, as he followed closely behind, mocking and mimicking her, called forth from her no rebuke. She quietly went on her way.
One day, however, she turned, and looking at him reproachfully, said:–
“Go home, child, and read the story of Elisha and the two bears that came out of the woods.”
“Shame on you, Bill,” said Charles, “to laugh at her misfortunes! I heard my grandmother say that she became a cripple by lifting her invalid son, and tending him night and day.”
“I don’t care what made her so,” said Bill, “but I wouldn’t dare to go out in pubic around people if I was such a funny looking thing like that!”
“Shame on you!” said Charles; “shame!” echoed each of the boys present. And to show their sympathy, several of the boys sprang forward to help the poor woman; but Charles, the oldest, and always an example of nobleness and generosity, was the first. “Let me get the water for you, ma’am,” and he gently took the bucket from her hand.
Her voice was tremulous and tearful, as she said, “Thank you, my dear boy. God grant that you may never suffer from such infirmities as I do”
“If I should,” said Charles, kindly, “it would be the duty, and ought to be the pleasure of young people to assist me. One of us will bring you water every day so that you do not need to come for it.”
“Yes, so we will,” the other boys agreed.
“God bless you! God bless you all.” She exclaimed as she wiped away the tears and entered her poor and lonely home.
One day after school, Bill was sent to the principal’s office because of his misbehaviour at school. His punishment was that he had to study during recess for a week. The punishment was hard, because he loved play better than to study; but this was only small compared to the retribution from the Lord which was soon to come.
It was the second day of his punishment, and he sat near the open window, watching the sports of the boys in the playground. Suddenly, when the principal was absorbed in his work, he snuck out and ran into the middle of the boys, with a shout triumph at his achievement.
“Now let him punish me again, if he can,” he said as he ran backward, throwing up his arms, and shouting in defiance. Suddenly his voice became silent briefly; there was the sound of something heavy falling and landing on the ground. Then a horrible groan was heard by his bewildered companions.
Now so it happened that the water well was being repaired, and the workmen had gone briefly to collect the materials they needed. Carelessly they had left the well uncovered, and it was at the very moment of his triumph that Bill fell backwards into the well.
A cry of horror burst from the assembled boys, who rushed to the spot. Charles, the bravest of them all, was the first to seize the rope, tie it around his waist, and descend into the well to rescue Bill.
The well was deep; fortunately, however, there was no water at the moment, but Bill lay motionless at the bottom. Carefully Charles lifted him, and with one arm around his mutilated and apparently lifeless form, and the other upon the rope, he gave the signal, and was slowly drawn to the top by the other boys.
The pale face of the wicked boy filled his companions with horror; and in perfect silence they carried him to the house of the poor woman, across the road. She had witnessed the accident from the window, and upon her crutch quickly went out to meet them.
Bill was now in the humble home, and upon the lowly bed of the whom he had mocked with cruelty and scorn. Faithfully she obeyed the commandment of Him who said:—
“Do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
Silently her prayers ascended to God for the sufferer. Her little vials of camphor and other restoratives, provided by charitable neighbours for her to use, were now used for the relief of this boy who had mistreated her miserably. She took from her scanty store, bandages for his head, which was shockingly mangled and bleeding; and she herself, forgetful of all but his sufferings, sat down and tenderly bathed his hands and his forehead, while some of the boys ran for the doctor, and others for the school principal.
The injury to the head seemed to be the only one he had sustained; and after the doctor had done his work, the poor boy was carried home on a stretcher. He was still quite confused and emotional. That day made quite an impression on the students of the school, the principal and all that heard of the awful catastrophe—including Bill’s father.
A few hours later and a group of boys gathered in the playground. Their conversation was in whispers; a look of shock was on every face. The boys were pale and awe stricken. It was then that Charles returned from Bill’s home.
“How is poor Bill now?” they asked.
“Well there is good and bad news,” Charlie answered. “He opened his eyes and spoke, but they think his back is broken.”
Charles clasped his hands, lifted them high in the air and said a silent prayer and then burst into tears. For a few minutes he wept in silence, and then, still pale and grief stricken, but with manly voice, he said to his companions:—
“Boys, we have learned a very important lesson today that we will never forget.”
Poor Bill—words cannot describe the agony of body and mind as he lay for long months upon his bed of suffering; but when he finally started to get ou of bed, he had a feeble and distorted body, with a large scar on his forehead. He also had a change in his heart. His spirit had been crushed and he was now humble, and contrite.
Repentance had done its perfect work, and when he began to get a little better his schoolmates came to congratulate him on his recovery. He threw his arms around the necks of each of them, and burst into tears, but could not speak, except to whisper, “Forgive me, forgive me.”
At his request the poor woman was given a place to live rent free, in a cottage belonging to his father, and his mother constantly ministered to her wants. As soon as he could do so, he wrote to her a letter, humbly pleading her forgiveness, and in return she gave him her blessing.
From this time one half of his quarterly allowance was given her; he visited her in her loneliness, and at last made his peace with God, and declared his punishment just—henceforth to be a cripple and a hunchback.
Young readers, let the story of Bill impress your hearts. Respect the aged, whether they be in poverty or affluence; and feel it a privilege to minister to them in their infirmities, as they have done to you in the weakness and helplessness when you were a child. It is the only recompense which youth can make to the elderly, and God will bless the youthful heart which bows in reverence before the hoary head.
“The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” Proverbs 16:31
“Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:32
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7