Part 3 out of 3
speak, Mr. Brunton, as if I were your nephew's keeper. If George Weston
liked to live beyond his means, he was at liberty to do it for me. I am
sorry he made such a smash at last, but it is all that could be
expected. If ever you see George again, sir, you will oblige me by
conveying one message. I did not think when he came to me, two nights
ago, to try and borrow a hundred pounds, that he intended to mix me up
in any disgraceful business like that of this morning. Had I known it,
instead of fretting myself about his welfare, he should have--"
"Made the discovery," interrupted Mr. Brunton, "that he never had a
friend in you. My idea of a friend is one who seeks the well-being of
another; speaks to him as a second conscience in temptation; loves with
a strength of attachment which cannot be broken; and, though sorrowing
over error, can still hope and pray for and seek to restore the erring.
Mr. Ashton, I do not wish to say more upon this matter; it is painful
for me to think how my nephew has been led downward, step after step, by
those whom he thought friends, and how sinfully he has yielded. When
you think of him, recollect him as the boy you knew at school, and try
to trace his course down to this day. You know his history, his
companionships, his whole life. Think whether _you_ have influenced it,
and how; and if your conscience should say, 'I have not been his
friend,' may you be led by the remembrance to consider that no man
liveth to himself: and that for those talents and attractions with which
you are endowed, you will have hereafter to give account, together with
the good or evil which has resulted from them."
To Ashton's relief the door opened, and Mr. Compton entered. Hastily
taking up his hat, he bade adieu to Mr. Brunton, glad of this
opportunity to beat a retreat.
"Confound those Methodists!" he uttered to himself, as he walked up
Fleet-street; "speak to them, they talk sermons; strike them, and they
defend themselves with sermons; cut them to the quick, and I believe
they would bleed sermons. But why should he pounce upon me? What have I
done? A pretty life George would have led if it hadn't been for me, and
this is all the thanks I get. I wish to goodness he had not made such a
fool of himself; I shall have to answer all inquiries about him, and it
is no honour to be linked in such associations."
The meeting between Mr. Compton and Mr. Brunton was one of mingled
feelings of pain and mortification. One had lost a valuable clerk, for
whom he cherished more than ordinary feelings of regard, and upon whom
he had hoped some day the whole management of the business would
devolve; the other had lost almost all that was dear to him on earth,
one whom he had watched, and loved, and worked for, and to whose bright
future he had looked forward with increasing pleasure, until it had
become a dream of life. Both were aggrieved, both were injured; but both
felt, in their degree, such strong feelings in favour of George, despite
his disgrace and crime, that they could look with more sorrow than anger
on the offender, and deal more in kindness than in wrath.
Mr. Compton could not but agree with Mr. Brunton that he must be
discovered, if possible; and although he could never receive him under
any circumstances into his office again, nor could ever have for him the
feelings he once entertained, still he felt free to adhere to his first
determination not to prosecute or take any steps in the case, nor allow
it to have more publicity than could be helped.
"He is still young," said he; "let him try to redeem the past. But it
is right he should feel the consequences of his actions, and no doubt he
will, as he has to encounter the difficulties which will meet him in
seeking to retrieve the position he has lost. You know me too well,
Brunton, to imagine that I do not estimate aright the extent of his
guilt; and you will give me credit for possessing a desire to do as I
would be done by in this case. I believe many a young man has been
ruined through time and eternity, by having been dealt with too
harshly--though in a legal sense quite justly; at the same time it has
been the only course to check a growing habit of crime in others. I know
well that in some instances it would be a duty to prosecute, if only as
a protection from suspicion of upright persons. But there are
exceptional cases, and I consider this to be one of them, although
perhaps many of our leading citizens might think me culpable in my
clemency; but I think I know your nephew sufficiently well to be
warranted in the belief that he feels his criminality, and will take a
lasting warning from this circumstance. And now, what do you intend to
do, since you know my determination?"
Mr. Brunton explained the plans he had formed, and the valuable
assistance which Hardy had rendered him. He was pleased to hear from his
injured friend the heartily expressed wish that the end in view might be
accomplished. Mr. Brunton had surmounted one great difficulty, and he
could not feel sufficiently thankful at the issue. Although he had known
Mr. Compton for many years, and had seen innumerable evidences of his
benevolence and good nature, he knew, too, that he was the very
personification of honesty and uprightness; and he dreaded lest,
incensed against George for his ingratitude, and fearing the influence
of his conduct might spread in the office, he would take measures
against him which, although perfectly just, would, by their severity,
prove deeply injurious in such a case, and reduce George, who was
naturally sensitive of shame, to a position from which he might never be
At the very earliest opportunity Mr. Brunton went down to Plymouth.
Business of the greatest importance, which he could not set aside, had
detained him in London until Friday, and his uneasiness had been
increased during that time by two notes he had received--one from Mrs.
Weston, and the other from Hardy--telling him of the unsuccessful issue
of their search. With an anxious heart he alighted at the station at
Plymouth, and walked to the hotel, where his sister and Hardy were
staying. The look of despair he read in Mrs. Weston's countenance, as
they met, told him that no favourable result had been obtained.
"We have been everywhere, and tried every possible plan to find poor
George," she said, when Mr. Brunton sat down beside her and Hardy to
hear the recital of their efforts. "I should have broken down long ago,
had it not been for our dear friend here, who has been night and day at
work, plotting schemes and working them out, and buoying me up with
hopes in their result. But I feel sure George cannot be in Plymouth, and
our search is vain."
"So Mrs. Weston has said all along," said Hardy; "but I cannot agree
with her; at all events, I will not believe it until we find out where
he has gone. He has not taken a passage in any of the vessels, as far as
we can ascertain; he is not in any of the inns in the town, I think, for
we have made the most searching inquiries at all of them; but in this
large place it is difficult to find any one without some positive clue."
"Have you been able to find out whether he really arrived here?" asked
"I think I have. One of the porters rather singularly recollected a
person, answering to the description, arriving by the train in which
George left London. It seems he was hastening away from the station
without giving up his ticket No doubt he was nervous and absent in mind;
and when the porter called to him, he started and seemed as if he were
alarmed: but in a minute he produced his ticket and went out The porter
looked suspiciously, I suppose, at the ticket, and evidently so at
George, for he was able to give a full description of him."
"That is so far satisfactory," said Mr. Brunton; "but have you made any
more discoveries to render you tolerably sure he is still in Plymouth."
"Yes, I have been to every shop where they fit out passengers for a sea
voyage, and have found out one where he purchased some articles of
clothing. But the clearest trace I have of him is from the shipping
agents. He was certainly looking over vessels on the morning after his
arrival here, for one or two captains have described him to me. I have
been a great many times down among the shipping, but have not made more
discoveries, and I cannot get any information from the shipping offices;
but in this you will probably meet with more success, sir, than I have,
for a young man is not of sufficient importance to command attention
from business men."
Mr. Brunton was fully conscious of the difficulties which were in the
way of finding George, even supposing he was still in Plymouth: but he
was not without hope. He could not find words enough to express his
strong approbation of all that Hardy had done, and he felt sure that he
could have no better assistant in the undertaking than he. A series of
plans were soon formed: Hardy was to keep watch upon those vessels which
he thought it probable George might choose, and offer rewards to sailors
and others for information. Mr. Brunton was to try and discover the
names and descriptions of passengers booked at the shipping offices; and
Mrs. Weston was to keep a general lookout on outfitters' warehouses, and
other places where it might be probable George would visit.
But every plan failed. Saturday night came, and, worn out with fatigue,
the anxious trio sat together to discuss the incidents of the day, and
propose fresh arrangements for the morrow. Sunday was not a day of rest
to them; from early morning they were all engaged in different
directions in prosecuting their search, and not until the curtain of
night was spread over the town, and the hum of traffic and din of bustle
had ceased, did they return to the hotel.
After supper, Mr. Brunton took out his pocket Bible, and read aloud some
favourite passages. They seemed to speak with a voice of hope and
comfort, and inspired fresh faith in the unerring providence of Him who
doeth all things well.
Very earnest were the prayers offered by that little party, as they
knelt together and commended the wanderer, wherever he might be, to the
care and guidance of the good providence of God. They felt how useless
were all plans and purposes unless directed by a higher source than
their own; and while they prayed for success upon the efforts put forth,
if in accordance with His will, they asked for strength and resignation
to bear disappointment Nor were their prayers merely that he whom they
were seeking might be found, but that he might find pardon and
acceptance with God, and that the evil which they lamented might, in the
infinitely wise purposes of Providence, be controlled for good.
With fresh zeal and renewed hope the three set forth on the following
morning to prosecute their several plans. Hardy had learned that one or
two vessels would sail that day, and he was full of expectation that he
might meet with some tidings.
Mr. Brunton felt rather unwell that morning--the press of business which
had detained him in London, the excitement of the journey, and the
fatigue of the previous days, had told upon his health. As he was
passing through a quiet part of the town, he called in at an
apothecary's to get a draught, which he hoped might ward off any serious
attack of sickness. While the draught was being prepared, Mr. Brunton,
who was intent upon his object and never left a stone unturned,
interrogated the apothecary, a gentlemanly and agreeable man, upon the
neighbourhood, the number of visitors in that locality, and other
subjects, ending by saying he was trying to discover the residence of a
relative, but without any knowledge of his address.
In the midst of the conversation, a servant-girl, without bonnet or
shawl, came hurriedly into the shop, out of breath with running.
"Oh, sir, if you please, sir, missus says, will you come at once to see
the young gentleman as stays at our house?--he's taken bad."
"Who is your mistress, my girl?" asked the chemist.
"Oh, sir, it's Mrs. Murdoch, of ---- Street; and the young gentleman is
a lodger from London, and he's going away to-morrow to the Indies or
somewheres; but do come, sir, please--missus'll be frightened to death,
all by herself, and him so dreadful bad."
Mr. Brunton had been an anxious listener. Was it possible that the young
gentleman from London could be George?
"How long has your lodger been with you?" he asked the girl.
"A week come Wednesday--leastways, come Tuesday night,"--was the
Mr. Brunton, with eyes flashing with excitement, turned to the medical
man. "Will you allow me to accompany you on this visit?" he asked; "I
have reason to believe that your patient may be the relative for whom I
"Then come, by all means," answered the doctor; and, preceded by the
girl, who was all impatience to get home, and kept up a pace which made
Mr. Brunton puff lustily, they reached the house of Mrs. Murdoch.
THE SICK CHAMBER.
The sun had gone down, and the twilight was fast losing itself in night.
The pale moon was struggling to look out upon the world through the
dark, heavy clouds which had collected around, as if expressly to
prevent this purpose. The hum of traffic in the street had ceased, and
the only sounds that came in at the open window were strains of music,
and the confused clamour of voices from a neighbouring tavern. The room
was a picture of neatness. The bed was draped in snowy furniture, and
the coverlid bore evidence of good taste and the ingenuity of
industrious hands. The mantlepiece was adorned with a few photographs
and a vase of fresh-gathered flowers.
Upon a table in the corner of the room stood a lamp, with a green shade
over it to screen the light from the bed. Beside it were bottles,
phials, and other appliances of a sick chamber.
A group stood round the bed, watching, with thrilling anxiety, the face
of the doctor as he held the inanimate hand of George Weston.
You might have heard the ticking of his watch as he stood there and
gazed in the face of the patient, while Mrs. Weston and Mr. Brunton and
Charles Hardy waited motionless, almost breathless, to hear his verdict.
"It is a more serious case than I imagined at first," said the doctor;
"I do not wish unnecessarily to alarm you, but it is my duty to say that
the condition of the patient is one of great danger, but I trust not
"What is the nature of the illness--tell me candidly?" asked Mr.
Brunton, when he could command speech.
"Brain fever," was the laconic answer.
For a long time George Weston lay in that awful state which is neither
death nor life--when the spirit seems to be hovering round the body,
uncertain whether to wing its flight for ever from the tenement of
earth, or return to sojourn still longer in its old familiar
dwelling-house. Sometimes he would rave in the frenzy of madness, and
then sink in exhaustion with scarcely the power to draw a breath.
Never was a sick-bed tended with greater care than his. Night after
night Mrs. Weston sat beside him, bathing the fevered head and cooling
the parched lips. Nor would she leave that post for a moment, until Mr.
Brunton was obliged to insist upon her taking rest.
"Reserve your strength," he said; "we know not what is before us; it may
be--but we have nothing to do with the future," he added, interrupting
himself; "that must be left in His hands."
Hardy was not able to remain in Plymouth longer than Wednesday. Mr.
Compton had written to him to say that, being short of hands, he was
very much pressed in business, and now that the main object of his
journey had been attained--for Mr. Brunton communicated with him almost
immediately--he should be glad if he would return as soon as possible.
As he stood beside the bed of George Weston on the morning of his
departure, and gazed into those pale and haggard features, which had
always beamed with a friendly smile for him, but which he might never
see again, he could not restrain the impulse of clasping his hand, and
uttering solemnly the prayerful wish, "God preserve and bless you,
The words were not heard by George--his ears were closed in dull
insensibility--but they were caught by Mr. Brunton and Mrs. Weston, who
that moment entered the room, and Hardy was startled to hear the earnest
response to his prayer in their united "Amen!"
"And that prayer shall ever be offered for you, Charles," said Mrs.
Weston; "I owe you a debt of gratitude which can never be repaid. I
shudder to think of what would have happened, had it not been for your
kind, noble, manly friendship. Poor George would have suffered in this
lonely place, away from all who loved him, and without proper care,
perhaps have died--died afoot."
"You do not know how thankful I feel, Mrs. Weston, that our efforts have
not been in vain. Pray write to me every day, to say how he is going
on--if it is only just one line; and should there be any change for
the--for the better, do let me know at once, that I may come down again,
if only for a day, just to congratulate him."
"And if there is another change--a change for the worse?" asked Mrs.
"Write, telegraph--pray let me know somehow," answered Hardy. "I could
not bear to part with him without telling and showing him there was one
of his old friends who loved him to the last. Good-bye, dear Mrs.
Weston; do not over-tax your strength, and keep up a good heart; depend
upon it, there are yet happy days for you and for George."
Mrs. Weston sadly missed her young friend after his departure. His
hopeful spirits had helped to buoy up her expectations and assuage the
sorrows of the present. It seemed as if the sun had hidden itself and
the stars had refused their light during those long days when the mother
sat watching at the bedside of her son. Mr. Brunton tried in every way
to relieve her, but his own heart was heavy, and the two felt more at
home in talking dolefully over the bad symptoms of the patient than in
looking forward to the future.
But a day came when the strength of the fever abated, and reason
returned to her long vacant throne.
It was toward evening: Mrs. Weston was sitting beside the bed, busily
stitching away at her work, and Mr. Brunton was resting his head upon
his hands as he turned over the pages of a book which he was trying to
deceive himself into the belief he was reading, when a deep sigh caused
them both to suspend their occupation.
George raised himself up in bed, and gazed round the room. The
furniture screened the two watchers, and he fancied himself alone. He
raised a pillow at his back, and reclining upon it in the placid calm of
exhaustion, with his face turned toward the open window, watched the
clouds as they crossed the blue expanse, and indulged in a half
conscious reverie. Where had he been? Where was he? Had he passed the
dark valley of the shadow of death, and were there angel forms in those
snow-white clouds beckoning him away? What was that confused sound which
rang in his ears? Was it the murmuring of the dark stream as it washed
upon the untrodden shore?
No: there was the little room where he had taken his lodgings; there was
the green paper on the wall with the large grape clusters; there was the
sound of human voices in the street And the consciousness that he was
alive, restored, flashed upon him with something of the bewildering
astonishment and joy which Lazarus must have felt when he heard the
words, "Come forth."
Too weak to rise, he was not too weak to pray. Clasping his hands
together, and gazing up into the clear blue sky, from whence all clouds
were now dispersing, he poured out his overflowing heart in
He spoke with God. The tremulous voice gained strength, the power of
faith and hope grew intensified, and he prayed with that love and
fervour which the grateful child of a heavenly Parent can only feel.
Mrs. Weston and Mr. Brunton were paralyzed with astonishment;
instinctively they shrank from disturbing that solemn time by coming
forward to speak with George and letting him recognise them; but with a
united impulse, both quietly and solemnly knelt down and joined in the
song of thanksgiving.
Theirs was joy unspeakable; tears poured down both faces, and hushed
sobs of rejoicing burst from their hearts. All their prayers and earnest
longings had been answered; all their sorrow was turned into joy; and
that Friend of friends, whose delights are with the children of men, had
ordered, according to the tender mercy of His loving heart, all the evil
into overwhelming good.
Presently the voice ceased; and, exhausted with the effort, George lay
down in calm and blissful tranquillity to sleep.
As Mrs. Weston rose from her knees, her dress touched a book on the
table, which fell to the ground. George was roused by the sound, and,
trying to draw aside the curtain, said,--
"Is that you, Mrs. Murdoch?"
Mrs. Weston, although dreading the consequences of excitement, could
restrain no longer the yearning of her motherly heart to embrace her
"No, George, my dearest boy, it is your mother."
"Mother! mother!" cried George, with the old former-day voice of love
and joy, passionately kissing the face of beaming happiness bent over
him, "Thank God you are here!"
From that day George began rapidly to improve. The excitement produced
by the discovery that he had been sought and found, instead of doing him
injury, relieved his already-oppressed mind from a weight of care. Every
day brought fresh strength, and as he sat up in bed, carefully propped
up by pillows, with his uncle on one hand and his mother on the other,
he told them all the sorrowful and joyful details of his strange
experiences until the eventful morning when his strength gave way.
"This is beginning life afresh, in every sense," he said; "here am I, a
poor mortal, almost helpless, just strong enough to know how weak I am;
and before me--if my life is spared--lies an untrodden path. But I begin
my restored life, through God's infinite mercy, with a new inner life;
and He who has given me that, will, I know, freely give me all things
that shall be for my good."
Mrs. Weston never knew the fulness of joy before those days. Her only
son, in whom all her brightest earthly hopes were centred, had ever been
a source of deep anxiety to her. Her never-ceasing prayer had been that
he might be what he now was--a child of her Father; and in the
realization of her heart's desire she found such joy unspeakable, that
all the cares and troubles of long, weary years seemed as though they
had not been.
George was soon sufficiently restored to be able to leave his bed and
sit up for a few hours on the sofa. The day for this trial of strength
having been definitely fixed by the doctor, Mrs. Weston wrote at once to
Hardy, inviting him, if he could manage to get away, to come down and
celebrate the event.
The meeting between the two friends was as joyful as their parting had
"George, my dear old boy," said Hardy, as he shook him by the hand, "it
does my eyesight good to see you again."
"And it does my heart good to see you, old fellow," replied George, as
he returned the pressure. "You don't know how I have longed for your
coming, that I might tell you how deeply grateful I am to you for all
your brotherly love--"
"Good-bye, George," said Hardy, taking up his hat and buttoning his
coat; "I won't stay another minute unless you give over talking such
stuff What I've done! Why, if my pup, Gip, were to run away, I should do
for him what I have done for you--no more, no less. So let us drop the
subject, that's a good fellow, and then I'll sit down and chat with
Never was there a pleasanter chat by any little party than by that which
assembled in Mrs. Murdoch's best parlour that evening. All hearts were
full of thankfulness, and though there were some painful subjects
discussed, yet the joyful ones far more than counterbalanced them.
Mr. Brunton found out, in the course of the evening, that he had
something very important to do, and probably Mrs. Weston discovered her
assistance was needed as well, for the friends found themselves, after a
while, alone, which was what they both wanted.
"You have heard, Hardy, of all the strange things that have happened to
me?" George began, hesitatingly. "I should like to be able to tell you
all about them; but, somehow, I don't know how to put such matters into
"You mean, George, that one great, solemn, joyful event which has made
your life now something worth living for," said Hardy, relieving him of
a difficulty. "I cannot tell you how glad I am to know it. The past two
years have been funny ones to both of us. Religion has been ground on
which we have not been able to tread together, as you know: but, thank
goodness, that has all gone by. Now, I must tell you my mind, George,"
he continued, in that frank, manly way which was so natural to him; "I
never gave you credit for sincerity when you took up with those strange
notions which were so dangerous to you. I believed then that they were
convenient principles, which might be stretched and made to agree with
the dictates of your inclination. I do not say you did not believe what
you professed, but I always thought that you forced yourself into that
belief by self-deception. Now, wait, don't interrupt me. I know what you
are going to say; but whatever harm you did to others--God only knows
that--I do not think your change in sentiment did any harm to me! For
this reason--I saw you were not straightforward with your own heart, and
I felt sure you slighted that pure and holy religion in which we had
been instructed from childhood, not because in your heart of hearts you
disbelieved it, but because it condemned that course of conduct which
you were pursuing. Now, was it not so?"
"Yes, Hardy, you are right. I can trace out now the processes of thought
through which I passed, to lead me to think and act as I did; and I
never knew before what a wretchedly poor thing a morally endowed,
intelligent human being is in his own strength. I did not know how weak
I was. I did feel sometimes oppressed with the idea that I was willingly
blindfolding myself--but, somehow, an argument was always at hand to
weigh down this feeling. But tell me why you think my endeavours to make
you believe as I did never did you injury? God grant they may not to
"Why, when I observed you, as I tell you I did, it was impossible for me
not to be on my guard. Nay, more, this question tormented me daily, 'You
believe George disregards religion, because it condemns him; if you
regard that religion, but do not practise it, does it not condemn you?'
Now this was a home-thrust, George, which I could not parry off. I tried
to determine not to be such a cowardly, mean-spirited creature as to try
and cheat God by pretending to believe Him, and yet fight under false
colours against Him; and so I gave up many of my old habits, and tried
to start afresh. And now, George, you don't know how thankful I am that
you are different to what you were. We have studied many things
together, joined in many plans and purposes; and now I hope we shall be
able to study the highest and best thing in earth or heaven--what God's
will is, and how to do it."
* * * * *
That desire became the watchword of their lives.