On a cold, dreary evening in autumn, a small boy, poorly clad, yet cleanly and tidy, with a pack upon his back, knocked at the door of an old Quaker and inquired, “Is Mr. Lanman at home?”
The boy wished to see him, and was speedily ushered into the host’s presence.
Friend Lanman was one of the wealthiest men in the country, and President of the railroad. The boy had come to see if he could obtain a situation [job] on the road. He said that he was an orphan—his mother had been dead only two months, and he was now a homeless wanderer. But the lad was too small for the filling of any place within the Quaker’s gift [employment], and he was forced to deny him. Still he liked the looks of the boy, and said to him:
“You may stop in my house tonight, and tomorrow I will give the names of two or three good men of Philadelphia, to whom you may apply with assurance of kind reception at least. I am sorry that I have no employment for you.”
Later in the evening the old Quaker went the rounds of his spacious mansion, lantern in hand, as was his custom, to see that all was safe, before retiring for the night. As he passed the door of the little chamber where the poor, wandering orphan had been placed to sleep, he heard a voice. He stopped and listened, and distinguished the tones of a simple, earnest prayer. He bent his ear nearer, and heard these words from the boy’s lips:
“Oh, good Father in heaven! help me to help myself. Watch over me as I watch over my own conduct, and care for me as my deeds merit! Bless the good man in whose house I am sheltered for the night, and spare him long, that he may continue sharing his bounty to the suffering ones. Amen.”
And the Quaker responded another amen as he moved on; and as he went, he meditated. The boy has a true idea of the duties of life. I verily think that the lad will be a treasure to his employer, he concluded.
When the morning came, the old Quaker changed his mind concerning his answer to the boy’s application.
“Who taught you to pray?” inquired Friend Lanman.
“My mother, sir,” was the soft reply. And the rich brown eyes grew moist.
“And you will not forget your mother’s counsels?”
“I cannot, for I know that my success in life is dependent upon them.”
“My boy, you may stay here in my house, and very soon I will take you to my office.”
Friend Lanman lived to see the poor boy he had adopted rise step by step until he finally assumed the responsible office which the failing guardian could no longer hold. And today there is no man more honored and respected by his friends, and none more feared by gamblers and spectators in irresponsible stock, than is the once poor wanderer—now president of the best managed and most productive railway in the United States.
Choice Stories for Children, selected by Earnest Lloyd, ©1993, 132, 133.