Here’s the next installment of A Dozen of Them by Isabella Alden. If you missed chapters 1 through 3, you can read them here.
A Dozen of Them
SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS.
FEAR NOT, ABRAM; I AM THY SHIELD AND THY EXCEEDING GREAT REWARD.
IN WRATH REMEMBER MERCY.
ESCAPE FOR THY LIFE.
Poor Joseph covered his head under many bedclothes and said the words with trembling tongue. He was certainly very much afraid. How the verse could help him he could not imagine, yet it was some comfort that it began with those assuring words, “Fear not.” He had been only amused when he made the selection. His name was not Abram, and he declared to himself that he had done nothing to be rewarded for, nevertheless he chose that verse.
Nothing which required any “doing” would he have for this month. He had read over the other verses carefully, but they seemed too serious.
“Seek ye first—” No, not that; he meant to do no seeking.
“Escape—” No; there was something else to do.
“Fear not—” That was just the thing. To be sure he had nothing to be afraid of, and did not believe he ever should have. Now, under the bedclothes, he thought of it and shivered. What was the matter?
The story is quickly told. It was vacation time, and the scholars had all gone home. On the morning of the day just past, the entire Fowler family had gone to spend the day with friends, leaving Joseph in charge of the house. They were to come home on the eight o’clock train; but eight o’clock came, and the train whistled and puffed itself into the depot, and the mail wagon, in the course of another half-hour, rolled by the Fowler gateway. Rolled by, to Joseph’s dismay.
There was no other train until nine o’clock in the morning. After that, for an hour, Joseph sat by the kitchen fire, and did some serious thinking. The day had been lonely enough for a boy who was used to many people about him, but a long night in this great shut-up house all alone, was a good deal of a trial. Still, there was no help for it. Joseph decided that from the first. True there were neighbors a quarter of a mile away where he had once been caught in a storm, and spent the night with the boys. He could scud over there across lots, and he knew they would be glad to see him; but he did not give that matter a second thought. He had been left in charge of the house, and did not intend to desert it.
So, after thinking awhile, he covered the fire, locked all the doors, and whistling a great deal, took his lamp and went up to his room, repeating in his mind, even while he whistled, the verse which began, “Fear not,” and wishing that his name were Abram.
After some trouble he had gone to sleep. But now he was wide enough awake and trembling in every limb. There were people stepping softly around the house, and at least two windows had been tried. Burglars! There was little doubt of it. Listening, he heard their voices, not speaking very low.
“There isn’t a soul at home,” someone said. “I was at the train myself, and I heard the mail driver say, Why, the Fowlers were coming on this train, and there ain’t one of ’em here.”
“They missed it, I s’pose; and they can’t get here now till morning; we’ll have a good haul; the house is well stocked with things easy to move.”
After that, do you wonder that Joseph covered his head with the bedclothes and trembled? He was in the attic chamber, and the door was locked. The thieves would hardly be likely to trouble him; they would find treasures enough all over the great old farmhouse. But how dreadful to lie there and listen to things being stolen! What could he do?
Suddenly his heart began to beat in such great thuds that it seemed to bump against the head-board. He had thought of something to do. What if he should go from room to room and light the bracket lamps all over the house? Might not the burglars think there were people in charge, and run away?
But, on the other hand, might they not think of him, a little boy, and break in, and dispose of him, and have it all their own way?
“Thud! thud! thud!” said his heart; but Joseph was already out of bed. He said it aloud, while he was drawing on his clothes, “Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield.” If ever a boy needed shielding, he did; and what if his name wasn’t Abram? God knew his name, and God could shield him. Joseph did not doubt that.
His hand trembled so much that the first and second matches went out; but the third lighted his lamp. A moment, and the rays from the great hall lamp with the reflector behind it, flamed into the snow-covered street. The noise below had suddenly ceased. From room to room went Joseph, shivering with cold, and with fear, but flaming up the lights until there was certainly an illumination in the Fowler homestead. Now he had done all he could, and might lock himself in the attic room and wait. What would be the result? Would the burglars be frightened away, or would they suspect the true state of things, and only wait to plan a way to get rid of him? With his head under the bedclothes he waited, shivering. For how long? He could not have told. It seemed to him hours and hours!
Every little while he bobbed his head out, and listened; all was still. However, this did not greatly encourage him; of course the burglars would know enough to work quietly now. Suddenly there was a sound outside.
“Whoa!” said a strange voice, loudly, almost under his window. Then a loud thumping at the kitchen door. Oh, what should he do now? They had come back reinforced, and meant to break down the door!
“Joseph!” shouted a voice, “Joseph! Joseph!”
Mr. Fowler’s voice, as sure as the world! Do you need to be told how suddenly Joseph bounded out of bed and rushed down two flights of stairs to the kitchen door?
“What does all this mean?” said the astonished master. And then, when he heard the story, “Well, I do say!” But what he might have said he kept to himself. “We missed the train,” he explained, in turn, as soon as Joseph’s explanations were over. “The others can’t get here until nine o’clock; but I thought you would be a good deal disturbed, so I got the privilege of coming on the three o’clock freight, and caught a ride out with Barnet and his hens. Well, well, well! When I saw the house all ablaze with light, I thought first of fire, and then of lunatics.”
Joseph slept late the next morning; slept, in fact, until the nine o’clock train came in, and all the people were at home, moving softly, so as not to waken him.
“It was a brave, wise thing for a boy of his years,” said Farmer Fowler, after he had told the whole story and answered all the questions poured out on him from the excited family. “In fact, it was about the only thing that could have been done. There’s no telling what he saved us by his quick-wittedness and pluck. The snow tracks show that there was quite a party of them. I’ll tell you what it is, mother, let us write to that sister of his this very day, and spread out our plans. My mind is quite made up that it is the thing to do.”
About this time, Joseph awoke with a start and a smile. He had been dreaming that he was really Abram. “I was carried through it, anyhow,” he said, as he made all speed with his dressing. “I don’t see but I was shielded as well as Abram could have been; and as for the reward, why, I don’t want that.”
And yet it was on its way at that very moment; such a reward as Joseph had not dreamed of.
Chapters 5 and 6 will post on Thursday, January 19, 2017. See you then!