Will Winslow by Unknown

Will Winslow was the worst boy in the village; his father's indulgence had spoiled him.

"Don't check 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 neighbors. The old, the infirm, and the crippled were the especial objects of his vicious merriment.

One poor woman, bent by age and infirmities, he assailed with his ridicule, as she daily went out upon her crutch, to draw water from the well near her house, and just within the playground of the schoolhouse.

"Only look at her," he would say, "isn't she the letter S now, with an extra crook in it?" and his cruel laugh, as he followed closely behind, mocking and mimicking her, called forth from her no rebuke.

One day, however, she turned, and looking at him reproachfully, said:—

"Go home, child, and read the story of Elisha and the two bears out of the wood."

"Shame on you, Will," said Charles Mansfield, "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 Will, "but I wouldn't stay among people if I was such a looking thing as that. Do look!"

"Shame!" said Charles; "shame!" echoed each of the boys present. And to show their sympathy, several of them sprang forward to aid the poor woman; but Charles Mansfield, 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."

"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, and so you need not come for it."

"Yes, so we will," was echoed from lip to lip.

"God bless you! God bless you all." She exclaimed as she wiped away the tears and entered her poor and lonely home.

Will Winslow was reported to the master, and was sentenced to study during the usual recess for a week to come. The punishment was hard, for he loved play better than his book; but how slight in comparison with the retribution which awaited him.

It was the second day of his confinement, and he sat near the open window, watching the sports of the boys in the playground. Suddenly, when the master was absorbed in his occupations, he leaped into the midst of them, with a shout at his achievement.

[Illustration: <i>"There was a heavy plunge, and a groan."</i>]

"Now let him punish me again, if he can," and he ran backward, throwing up his arms, and shouting in defiance, when his voice suddenly ceased; there was a heavy plunge, and a horrible groan broke on the ears of his bewildered companions.

Now it happened that the well, of which we have before spoken, was undergoing repairs, and the workmen were then at a distance collecting their materials. Carelessly the well was left uncovered, and at the very moment of his triumph, Will Winslow was precipitated backward into the opening.

A cry of horror burst from the assembled boys, who rushed to the spot, and Charles Mansfield, the bravest of them all, was the first to seize the well-rope, tie it around his waist, and descend to the rescue.

The well was deep; fortunately, however, the water at that time was mostly exhausted, but Will 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.

The livid face of the wicked boy filled his companions with horror; and in perfect silence they bore him to the house of the poor woman, which was close at hand. She had witnessed the accident from the window, and upon her crutch hastened to meet them.

And now Will Winslow was in the humble home, and upon the lowly bed of her whom he had assailed with cruelty and scorn; and 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 neighbors, were emptied for his relief. 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 surgeon, and others for the master.

The injury to the head was supposed to be the only one he had sustained; and after the surgeon had done his work, the poor boy was borne away on a litter to his home, still insensible, and surrounded by his companions, mute with emotion. That day was destined to make an impression upon the school, its master, and all that heard of the awful catastrophe.

A few hours later and a group of boys collected in the playground. Their conversation was in whispers; horror sat upon every face; all were pale and awe stricken. Charles Mansfield approached.

"How is poor Will now, have you heard?"

"Oh, Charlie!" several exclaimed at once as they gathered around him.

"Oh! don't you know? haven't you heard? Why, he opened his eyes and spoke, but they think his back is broken."

Charles clasped his hands, lifted them high in the air, uttered not a word, but burst into tears. For a few minutes he wept in silence, and then, still pale and grief stricken, but with a manly voice, he said to his companions:—

"Boys, shall we ever forget the lesson of this day?"

And poor Will—words would be too feeble to portray his agony of body and mind as he lay for long months upon his bed of suffering; but when he arose therefrom, with a feeble and distorted body, and a scar upon his forehead, he was changed in heart also, crushed in spirit, humble, and contrite.

Repentance had had its perfect work, and when he became convalescent, and his schoolmates came to congratulate him on his recovery, he threw his arms around the necks of each, and burst into tears, but could not speak, except to whisper, "Forgive, forgive."

At his request the poor woman became the tenant, rent free, of 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, humbly pleading her forgiveness, and in return she gave him her blessing.

From this time one half of his ample 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.

Youthful readers, let the history of Will Winslow impress your hearts. Revere 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 of infancy. It is the only recompense which youth can make to age, and God will bless the youthful heart which bows in reverence before the hoary head.