The Gold Coin
"Matches! matches! who'll buy my matches?" rang out clearly on the morning air from the lips of a little boy of not more than eight summers. But the cry was unheeded by the fashionable Mrs. Allen, as she drew her rustling silks aside that they might not come in contact with the coarse garments of the little match-boy. The little girl, at the woman's side, was not so careful of her costly apparel, but drawing near enough to peep into the little boy's basket she accidentally stumbled, and reaching out her hand to save herself from falling hit the basket of matches scattering them freely over the pavement. "Oh auntie," cried the little girl, "see what I have done! do wait and let me help this poor little boy pick up his matches." The aunt, sharply reproving the little girl for her carelessness, told her to come along and let the little "beggar" pick up his own matches. The child lingered a moment, then a bright thought lighted up her face, and she drew from her pocket a shining gold piece and dropped it into the little boy's hand saying: "Papa said I might do just what I pleased with this, and I will give it to you, to pay you for the trouble I have made you," and the little girl was gone in a moment, before the match-boy had time to hardly realize what had happened. When he looked at the shining gold piece how rich he felt, and his first thought was to run home and show it to his auntie, then came the thought that he ought not to keep it, for she who gave it to him was only a very little girl and her parents might not want her to give it away, so he decided to return it to the giver; but upon looking around she was nowhere to be seen and though he hurried on in the direction she went, looking in at every store and around every corner he could find no trace of her, and finally gave up the search and went home to ask his aunt's advice; yet his head was filled with all sorts of plans and projects in which the shining gold coin was playing a magical part.
Guy's aunt, from whom he had never yet kept any secrets, listened attentively while he eagerly told his story and what he had planned to do with the shining coin. He proposed to invest it in something that he could take into the country to sell, and ask the man of whom he should buy his goods to keep it a week or two and give him a chance to redeem it, then, if he should ever meet the one who gave it to him, he would return it to her, bright and shining as when he received it from her hand. There would have been no drop of sorrow in the little boy's heart for that day's events had it not been for the taunting words of that proud woman who had called him a "beggar" for he knew he was not one, and never would be, he thought, so long as he had strength to work; and some day if she should ever know him she would take back that ugly word and apply to him in its place, one of honor and respect.
It was a happy group of children that gathered around the table in Mr. Martin's home that evening, discussing how best to invest that gold piece so as to make it yield the greatest profit. At last Annie suggested that he buy pictures with it and go out into the beautiful country to sell them, where he could walk on the green grass, smell the sweet clover blossoms, hear the birds sing and see the lovely fields and flowers. " O, yes! buy bright pretty pictures," said little four year old Susie, "and give me one," and they all laughed to see how happy she had suddenly become over her anticipated prize. Guy and his aunt thought Annie's suggestion a good one; though it must be admitted that aunt Alice was not quite as sanguine of success as were the children; for she had not for-gotten the bright dreams of her own childhood which had faded away like the dew of the morning; but she did not cast a shadow over their fond hopes by telling them how her own had been blasted. The next day the children were permitted to select the pictures, themselves Mrs. Martin standing by and suggesting now and then what she thought would sell best the gold piece was paid over, but the man who took it was to keep it a few weeks till Guy should realize enough from his sales to redeem it.
Guy started out in his new business with a buoyant heart, and, surely, his brightest hopes were more than realized, and he was obliged to return for a fresh supply of goods much sooner than he anticipated. The gold coin was soon redeemed, and whenever Guy walked the streets of the city he scanned closely the face of every woman and little girl he met, hoping to see again the fair giver of that shining piece of gold that had opened to his vision such a beautiful life. But he saw neither aunt or child there again; yet he hoped on and still thought the time would come when he should.
Guy Emery's . parents came from England and settled in one of the far western States of America, when he was but a little babe in his mother's arms. They had but little means with which to commence their new life, so it was a constant struggle with poverty and want from the first; yet they managed, by dint of hard labor and patient perseverance, to get through the first year without any serious difficulty. But the second year brought greater sorrow than they had ever dreamed of. Mr. Emery was taken sick with a painful, lingering disease, which for months kept him confined to the bed and took nearly all his wife's time and attention to care for him, so their means of support were entirely cut off, and starvation seemed staring them in the face. At this critical time help came from a sister of Mrs. Emery's, living in the East, she also sent them money to bring them to her home where she could help her sister care for her invalid husband and thus put her in a way to earn something for their support. But it was too late, and but a few days passed before husband and father was lying in the grave-yard, and the mother, with her little two year old boy clasped in her arms, was on her way to her sister's home. Weary, worn, and almost broken-hearted, she met this sister, the only relative she had in America who gladly welcomed her to her home. But nights of watching, poverty, care and sorrow had made sad inroads on a constitution naturally delicate and but a few weeks passed be-fore she had gone to meet her husband in the "Better Land," and little Guy Emery was left fatherless and motherless.
Though Mr. and Mrs. Martin, Guy's uncle and aunt, were very poor, and could hardly get enough to supply the needs of their own three little children, they decided to keep this little orphan and let him share their home as long as they had a morsel for their own little ones, believing that the Lord, in whom they trusted, would not let them suffer more for an act of charity.
Guy was a very bright, active, little boy, and, as he grew older and began to realize what his aunt Alice was doing for him, his little brain began to plan ways by which he could repay her kindness. He was ever ready to help her about the house, run of. errands or take care of the younger children. At a very early age he re-solved to do something toward defraying the expenses of the family that had been so kind to him, so, with his aunt's permission, he had commenced his business life by selling matches. Every penny of his match money was carefully saved to buy something necessary for the family; and though it was but little that he could earn, it was, really, quite a help. Mr. Martin did not always have work, and when he did wages were low, and there was a general depression in all kinds of business which affected the poor even more than the rich. But this family worked on, uncomplainingly, feeling that they had much to be thankful for now, and hoping for better and brighter days in the future.
One day as Guy, while selling his pictures, was traveling through a lonely strip of woods, whistling a merry tune, he heard faintly the cry of a little child; but the sound came from such a distance that he listened long before he could decide in what direction it was ; but as soon as he knew, he plunged into the brush, which was so thick and tangled there, that he could hardly make his way through, and hurried to the place from whence the cries seemed to come, almost sure that some little child was lost in the woods. For several minutes he listened and looked in vain, and the sound had died down to a low, sobbing moan ere he found the object of his search, which proved to be a little girl, about three years old, who had strayed away from her home. She had wandered through the brush till her clothes were nearly torn from her body and her arms and feet were scratched and bleeding. One little shoe was gone, and the blood was oozing from a wound, evidently made by stepping on a thorn, while the other shoe was worn through in several places. The little one, weary, and nearly exhausted, had crouched down close to a log, as if that would be a sort of guard after everything else had failed her. Though Guy could not understand what the child said, as she reached her little hands up to him for protection, he gently took her in his arms and bore her through the crackling brush to the roadside, while she, clinging closely to him, kept moaning piteously, "I want my mamma! oh, I want my mamma!" Guy knew not which way to go to find the child's home but thought it would be best to go on, the way he was traveling, as there was no house very near, on the other side of the woods, on the road he had just passed over. It seemed a long distance to both children before they came out of the woods in sight of the first dwelling, and it was a glad moment when they reached the house and Guy could lay his burden down; for the little girl's feet were so swollen, he was obliged to carry her every step of the way. The little one knew her home and just as Guy put her down upon the steps the mother of the child came around the corner of the house from the barn where she had been to look for her. And what was her surprise as she clasped her in her arms to find her in this sad plight. The little boy was called in and as soon as the girl's wounds were dressed and she was comfortably tucked in her little crib Guy was called upon to explain how and where he had found her.
Mr. and Mrs. Arnold the parents of little Minnie, the lost child had been to the city to do some trading, leaving the child in care of the hired girl. Minnie's brother, a young man who was working in a field near by, coming to the house soon after the parents started for town, took his little sister back to the field with him; but. when, in a little while, she wanted to return to the house he started her on the way and supposed she would go directly home, but instead of doing so she had run away in another direction and, perhaps, thinking she was following her parents had kept wandering on till she was finally lost in the woods, and might have died there, but for Guy Emery's timely help.
Mr. and Mrs. Arnold felt very grateful to the boy, who had rescued their child, and would not listen to his leaving their home that night; and the next morning when he was going, Mr. Arnold slipped a five dollar bill into his hand, saying, "my little man, if you ever need a home or friends come to us and you shall find both."
Though Guy objected to taking the money, insisting that it was not right for him to take such a reward for merely doing his duty, Mr. Arnold would not take it back, and said it was but a slight token of the gratitude he owed him, and some day he would call at his uncle's and see if he could not render his uncle's family some service which might, in part, pay for what Guy had done for him.
Mr. Arnold was a wealthy farmer and land specula-tor. He owned several large tracts of land in the county where he lived, also in other states farther west, and for a long time he had been looking for a faithful man in whose care he could leave the place where he was now living, and move, himself, on another farm which he owned nearer the city.
Mr. Arnold did not forget his promise to look after Guy's uncle when he again drove into town. He told Mr. Martin of the service his nephew had rendered him and how he had inquired of him about his home and relatives, hoping there might be some chance of repaying his kindness in a way that might be a lasting benefit to all.
Mr. Arnold proposed that Mr. Martin take the home where he was then living with the eighty acres of land which belonged to it, a team and farming utensils, with the stock on the place and pay for it in yearly payments from the salary he would give him for superintending other farms in that vicinity; and if he proved to be as good a manger as he thought him to be he could support his family from his own farm and save something each year besides. Mr. Martin was not slow in accepting this generous offer and all necessary arrangements were quickly made for Mr. Martin to take possession of his new home and enter upon other and more responsible duties which he had long hoped for and felt himself capable of performing. When Guy returned home and learned what the plans were his joy knew no bounds. He painted in glowing colors the scenery around the home which was so soon to be theirs. Mr. Martin said they owed all this good fortune to Guy, but he, not willing to accept so much, traced it back to the shining gold piece.
Mr. Arnold was very wealthy. He owned large tracts of land and employed many hands, but no other was so faithful to the trust reposed in him as Mr. Martin. Everything under his skillful management seemed to thrive, and but a few years had elapsed before this home was his own and paid for. The children were well dressed and all provided with employment at home, attending school in their own district till they were advanced enough to enter upon a higher course of study, when, with economy of time and means, they were enabled one after an-other to enter upon a collegiate course. The golden dream of Guy's boyish days had been to become a graduate of some good institution of learning: though not merely for the sake of a diploma, but because he felt that then he could be prepared for a useful and prosperous life; and for the accomplishment of this, he had worked early and late, making a wise improvement of time, studying hard, and economizing closely, till the long-wished-for day at last arrived. The large hall was beautifully decorated with evergreens and flowers; every preparation had been made that could be to make the occasion a grand and joyful one both for the graduating class and their many friends, who were expected to be present to rejoice with them in this happy hour.
A prize was offered for the best oration of the day, and each member of the class intended to do his best to secure it. Each one acquitted himself nobly, but it was left for Guy Emery to win the prize and carry off the victor's palm. As Guy descended from the platform he came face to face with a young lady in whose glance their seemed a magnetism which made him look again and again, till it seemed to him that she was some dear friend of other days, and he was sure that he had met her and looked into those beautiful eyes before, yet he could not tell then when or where. The exercises were nearly at a close when a cry of "fire!" rang through the building, louder than the pealing organ's notes, and it was repeated from mouth to mouth that the building was on fire. Immediately all was excitement and confusion, and such a rush was made for the doors that many of the women and children were almost crushed and smothered in the throng. Strong men lifted their wives or children above the crowd and pushed by the weaker ones to the open doors. Guy saw the lady who had so attracted him was being borne down by the excited multitude, he caught her in his arms and bore her safely through a side door into the open air.
The building was consumed, and it was only with the greatest efforts that all the people escaped the flames. Many were seriously injured, but more were injured from the rush of the crowd than from the fire.
Guy Emery received a pressing invitation from Mary Allen, the young lady whom he had rescued from the burning building, and her father, to accompany them to their home in Philadelphia an invitation which he gladly accepted, as he had business in that direction, and was glad of the opportunity of becoming acquainted with the family. The trip proved a very pleasant one to all parties, and when Guy left their home it was with a promise that the visit should often be repeated. Many places of business and usefulness were open to Guy, but he chose to return to the college from which he was graduated, where he labored successfully as one of its professors, winning the good will and respect of all who knew him .
During one of Guy's visits at Mr. Allen's he took up a morning paper which contained this notice: "Mary and Alice Newman, or their heirs, will learn something greatly to their advantage by calling at No. 10 Franklin street, Philadelphia. Western papers please copy." He read the notice several times over before he seemed fully to comprehend it; then he said to himself, "Surely, I am one of the heirs of that family, for Mary Newman was my mother's maiden name, and Alice is the name of my aunt, why may I not apply?" and suiting the action to the thought, he was soon on his way to Franklin street, and calling at No.10, was met by a man somewhat past the middle age of life, who had been pointed out to him in the street as a Mr. Acker, an eminent lawyer just returned from the East Indies. Guy immediately showed him the notice, telling him who he was and asking if he was the gentleman that had advertised. Mr. Acker said he was and requested him to enter the library, as he wished to have some further conversation with him.
Guy was well informed in regard to his mother's relatives, having always lived with her only sister, and re-membered the deep interest he felt when a boy in a brother of hers who went when quite young with an East India merchantman, who had taken a fancy to the lad, to the Indies, contrary to the wishes of his father, who was anxious to have his only son remain with him and be his sup-port in his declining years. His mother had died several years previous, and his father, naturally stern, was so vexed at his son's disobedience that he objected even to the sisters corresponding with him; yet a message would sometimes find its way to the wanderer, but as year after year passed by, the communications became less frequent till finally they were dropped entirely. After their father died the girls wrote several letters, but as they received no reply and he did not return they gave him up as dead.
Mr. Acker listened with the greatest attention while Guy related this circumstance, and what he knew of his mother's relatives, and after asking a few questions, which seemed satisfactorily answered, he said: "Your mother's wandering brother was a very dear friend of mine. He has recently died in the East Indies, leaving an immense fortune to his sisters or their heirs, which I faithfully promised to put them in possession of if they were to be found. He had heard that after his father's death his sisters had married and moved to America, but to what part, or what were their husbands' names he could not ascertain; but I returned to America, determined to find them if possible, and the power of the press was called to the work, and lo! how quickly it is done."
The heirs had no difficulty in proving their right to the property left by Robert Newman, a part of which Mr. Acker put them in immediate possession of. But it was necessary for him to return to the Indies to dispose of some there, and he proposed that Guy should accompany him and make such arrangements in regard to the real estate as he thought best.
Last evening there was a gay wedding party at the house of Mr. Allen, and the parties most interested were Mary Allen and Guy Emery, who this morning are waiting for the carriage to convey them to the wharf where they are to take passage in a vessel bound for the East Indies.
" You said, Guy, this was a present from your first love, and there was a story connected with it which I should know sometime," said the bride as she toyed with a gold piece attached to her husband's watch chain.
"So you shall, now, if you wish," and he related the circumstance connected with the gold piece that our readers already know, beautifully describing the little girl and telling how that sweet face and those kind words had cheered him all along through his struggles with poverty, and for the sake of that one whom he felt sure he should meet again he determined to do something and to be some-body in the world. His wife opened her eyes with sur-prise at first, but as he went on they sparkled with mer-riment, for she thought now she had a surprise for him, and when he had finished she said: " Guy, you have at last married that little girl."
" I know it," he replied as he gently drew her nearer to him, "else I should not have been here; and to this gold coin I trace all my success in life."
( Originally Published 1887 )
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