From the Children’s Friend, January 1924 –
By Elsie Chamberlain Carroll
“Mother – it’s – it’s still – just seven dollars. I thought – O, I thought sure it would be ten this week. They raised Jim’s wages and Harry Patterson’s and I do try Mother to do my best.” Davie Graham held out the brown envelope apologetically – his serious blue eyes full of disappointment and chagrin blurred with the tears his sixteen years forbade him to let fall.
Molly Graham gathered his lanky form into her arms. Her thirty-five years were not enough to hold back the tears that rained over the boy’s brown head.
“Davie, darling, don’t you dare to get discouraged. Seven dollars a week is wonderful. You don’t know how it helps – nor how secure it makes me feel to know you are taking Daddy’s place just as much as you can. I’m proud of you, Davie, and thankful – O, I’m so thankful God gave me a boy like you when – when he was going to need Daddy so soon.”
“But ten dollars would seem a lot more,” insisted Davie huskily. “I figured that in five weeks the extra three dollars would buy you that pretty dress down in Drake’s that I wanted to get you for Christmas and couldn’t, or it would buy a pair of shoes for Doris or Buddy or be a little on the mortgage.”
“Now don’t you worry, son. Your raise will come. I know it will, and when it does we’ll put every cent above the seven dollars into your college fund.”
Davie’s eyes instinctively lighted at the mention of college, but he only said:
“All I want is to help you, Mother, and Doris and Buddy. Haven’t I told you I’ve given up college?”
“Yes, you have told me. But I haven’t given it up, and neither have you deep down in your heart – and you mustn’t give it up. We are both going to keep on having faith and keep on praying and working to that end.”
“But it’s hard to keep on having faith when the other fellows get a raise and I don’t. I – I can’t understand it, Mother. I work harder than either Jim or Harry. They sluff every once in a while when the foreman is not around and laugh at me because I won’t. I’m more interested in Mr. Dalton’s side of the business than they are. Why, just the other day a man came to the shop to see Mr. Dalton – said the boss was supposed to be there and he had to see him. Harry and Jim both told him there was no telling when the boss would be back and they didn’t act very concerned over it, either. I could see that the man was worried about something important; so, when he said he couldn’t wait any longer and started to go, I followed him and told him if he would leave a message I’d see that Mr. Dalton got it.
“He said it wouldn’t do any good unless Mr. Dalton got it that afternoon; but he sat down and wrote a letter, and told me if I could deliver it to the boss within three hours, it would mean a lot to them both. He had already telephoned to the main office and Mr. Dalton’s home and couldn’t locate him anywhere.
“Well, after he had gone I tried telephoning; but all I could find out was that Mr. Dalton had been called suddenly home, and when I tried to get his home, no one answered. I felt responsible for that message, so I decided to ride on my wheel out to his home to see if I could find out anything. I disliked to leave the piece of work I was doing because I was told to finish it that night; but I thought, maybe, the message was more important, so I went. The other boys called me a fool and told me I’d get into trouble for leaving my job, but I went anyhow.
“When I arrived at the house I couldn’t raise anyone at the door but found a gardener who told me Mr. Dalton had gone to take his wife over to Dalby – that they had word of the sickness of some relative. Well, I didn’t know what to do and I suppose the gardener could see that I was worried for he said he was quite sure that Mrs. Dalton’s sister, who lived two blocks down the street, was going over and might not have left yet. I hurried down there and found them all ready to leave. I gave them the message and explained all I knew about it.
“I meant to stay at the shop overtime to finish the job, but I was away longer than I intended to be and when I returned the shop was closed.
“The next morning the boys told me that Robinson had been around on an inspection trip and that they thought I was in for it. They said he was provoked because my piece wasn’t finished. He’s an old bear anyway – all the fellows dread to have anything to do with him.
“I think that’s the reason I didn’t get a raise, but it’s the only time I haven’t been on the job all the hours and I’ve put in a lot after hours, and Robinson knows it, and I thought I was doing the right thing. The fellows say it wouldn’t do any good to go to Robinson to explain; he’d just think I was whimpering.
“I’ve always tried to remember what I heard Daddy say once: ‘If a fellow keeps faith in himself and faith in his job and his fellow men he’s bound to succeed.’”
“And he will!” Davie’s mother promised solemnly, marveling at the revelation of staunch young character her son’s words had revealed. She could hardly realize that this was Davie talking – her little Davie who had seemed a mere child ten months ago when his father died.
“O, but I wanted to succeed by the new year,” the boy lamented. “If a fellow is going to get a raise at Dalton’s, he always gets it the last week of the old year. That’s a sign he’s made good and is on for the next year. You don’t know, Mother, how I’ve been looking forward to that sign. I’ve had faith in myself and in my job and in everybody else – but I haven’t succeeded.”
“O, but you will, Davie. I’m sure you will. You just keep on having that wonderful faith, for – Daddy’s words were true.”
But the next night Davie came home more troubled than ever.
“Mother – I’ve – I’ve had a summons to Robinson’s office – he’s the superintendent for Dalton, you know. I must go next Friday morning at ten o’clock. The fellows say that means a good raking over the coals, maybe discharge. It must be over that last inspection trip he made – for I’ve always been on the job before. Mother – Friday is the first – it’s New Year’s day. Here I’ve been counting on promotion for the new year and instead I may lose my job. Seven dollars a week would be better than that.”
“Now, son, you must stop your fretting. If you lose your job when you are trying to do the best you know, you shouldn’t blame yourself too much. You can find another job I’m sure. Besides a few weeks rest would do you good. You’ve been working too hard – taking too much responsibility.
“Come and eat your supper now and forget your worries. Remember Daddy’s words. You must have faith. Things will come out all right, of course they will.”
Davie outwardly obeyed his mother and talked no more of his trouble, but he was remembering another phrase he had often heard his father quote: “Faith without works is dead”; and all the time he was eating he was casting about in his mind for possible places he might find another job. Before the meal was finished he had decided to see Mr. Blair of the new Machine Shops and find it there would be an opening there. Without confiding his intentions to his mother he said: “I think I’ll go down town for a little walk.”
“Do,” she urged him. “Call for one of the boys and go to a movie. It will do you good – you’ve been keeping your nose too closely to the grind-stone.”
Davie had no intention of going to the show. He could not enjoy such pastimes now that he knew his mother had to count every penny so carefully.
Mr. Blair was not at home.
Davie was walking disconsolately back up the street when Jim and Harry called to him.
“Hello, Davie. Been up to see the old grouch yet?” Jim asked. Davie shook his head. “Don’t go till Friday,” he replied glumly.
“Well, remind the old boy that it was your first slip. Gee, if he came around often he’d catch Harry and me. It’s funny how you – old faithful – were caught the first time you ever went off the job. That shows it doesn’t pay to be so doggoned conscientious. Here Harry and I sluff every once in a while – just plain sluff – and you thought you were doing a favor of the old man – and it was we who received the raise. It’s a funny world, Isn’t it? And it pays not to take it too seriously. Go to the show with us and forget the old bird. You look like a grave yard. I honestly don’t think he’ll do anymore than roast you. Come on and forget it.”
“No, I must go home.” Davie knew the boys meant kindly, but he was in no mood for pleasure.
Friday morning came and Davie was ready to go to his dreaded interview.
When Molly Graham kissed him good-bye she tried to cheer him.
“It will come out all right, son. I’m sure it will. And even if you lose your job you must not lose faith in yourself nor in humanity. You can’t afford to do that.”
“I know it, Mother. I feel that Daddy is watching to see if I make good. I’ll try not to forget.”
He went briskly down the path whistling a gay tune – more for his mother’s sake than that he felt like whistling.
Molly waited anxiously for his return. She had seriously pondered going herself to the superintendent to explain the lad’s seeming lapse in duty. It was of so much importance that the boy should not lose confidence in himself nor in the business men of the world, but she had finally decided that Davie would get more development out of facing his ordeal alone.
As it was a holiday, he would be back immediately after the interview. An hour passed. The mother kept going to the window to look down the street for the boy. Another hour went by. It was noon, and she had their special New Year dinner all ready. It was a dully winter day, she had a hard time fighting off a feeling of depression.
If Davie did lose his job, she must not only keep up his spirits for the sake of his future; but she must find some way herself to make that extra seven dollars a week he had been bringing in. As it was, with her sewing and Davie’s pay check they were just managing to make ends meet. She did so want him to go on with his education. He had finished the high school the year before and he had always had dreams of college. It made her throat ache when she recalled how manfully he had given up his dreams and shouldered a burden too heavy for his young years. O, it didn’t seem just. There were so many boys whose parents were lavishing money upon them and they didn’t appreciate their opportunity – and– Davie could make such a splendid man of himself if only he had a chance.
As she felt bitterness creeping into her heart she hurried to her bedroom and knelt down.
“O Father, take away this hardness and bitterness I feel coming over me,” she prayed, “help me to be brave – for the children’s sake – for Davie’s sake. We must not lose faith, Father, in Thee, in Thy goodness, in ourselves. Help us dear Father. Amen.”
She arose as always from prayer, with a feeling of calm – and went out again to watch for Davie. She heard his step upon the porch. Her heart beat quickly. It would require all her tact and strength to comfort him. The door opened. Her heart took another leap. Davie’s face was shining. He threw his long arms about her.
“Mother – Mother – I have lost my job – but, O, I’m going to college. I’ve been talking for two hours with Mr. Dalton. Robinson reported me all right, and he was raking me over the coals when Mr. Dalton came in and told him to find the boy who sent him that message from Ferber a week ago. I’d just been explaining to Robinson why I was gone that day, but he didn’t seem to believe me.
“Well, he couldn’t do anything else but tell the boss I was the boy. Mr. Dalton sent Robinson out and has been talking to me ever since. He said he wouldn’t have missed that message for thousands of dollars and that a boy who had interest enough in his employer’s business to take a chance such as I did was the kind of boy he needed. He asked me all about myself and you and Doris and Buddy and said he wanted to send me to college so I could come back in a few years and take a responsible position in the firm. Of course I told him I couldn’t go to college because I need to help you, but he said it could be arranged for me to work on Saturdays and two hours after school at piece work in the big shop and he thinks I can earn as much that way as I am doing now. He says I’m exceptionally adapted for piece work.
“Then I remembered what Father used to say about how important it was to keep one’s independence and I knew that no matter how much tempted I might be it would not be a good thing to become too much obligated even to Mr. Dalton, for I might find something I’d like better for my life’s work than his business.”
The mother listened approvingly at the unexpected wisdom of the boy.
“So what did you tell him, Davie?”
“I told him that I’d have to come and talk it over with you, but that I thought we might decide to borrow the money from him to put me through college on terms that I can pay back later. What do you think of it, Mother?”
“I think it is an answer to prayer, Davie,” she answered solemnly. “I can’t tell you how thankful I am that you are going to have your chance.”
“O, Mother, it does pay to keep faith in yourself and do what your conscience tells you is right, doesn’t it?”
“Of course it does, son,” Molly Graham answered fervently while grateful tears rained over the boy’s brown head.
There was a pulsing pause.
“Mother,” Davie’s voice was almost a whisper. “You believe Daddy can see, don’t you? He knows, doesn’t he?”
“Of course he does, dear, and he’s just as happy as we are.”