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   Chapter 16 IN WHICH PHIL STRUGGLES EARNESTLY TO REFORM HIS FATHER.

Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 11151

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The skilful ministrations of Mrs. Greenough soon restored my father to himself. He had probably eaten nothing since he took his breakfast with me early in the morning, and his frame was not in condition to bear the pressure of the strong emotions which had agitated him.

"My son!" exclaimed he, as the incidents which had just transpired came back to his mind.

"My father!" I replied.

He extended his trembling hand to me, and I took it. It would have been a blessed moment to me if I could have forgotten what he was, or if I could have lifted him up from the abyss of disgrace and shame into which he had sunk. I hoped, with the blessing of God, that I should be able to do this in some measure. I determined to labor without ceasing, with zeal and prayer, to accomplish this end.

"I pity you, my son," said my father, covering his eyes with his hands. It can be no joy to you to find such a father."

"I should not be sincere, father, if I did not say I wished you were different."

"Philip,-if that is really your name,-I will reform, or I will die," said he, with new emotion. "I have something to hope for now. The good God, who, I believed, had deserted me years ago, has been kinder to me than I deserved."

"He is that to all of us, father."

"Where did you get this locket, young man?" asked Mr. Lamar, who evidently believed there was still a possibility that a mistake had been made.

I replied that I had found it in the chest of Matt Rockwood, who had taken me from the door in the river; and I repeated that part of my narrative which I had omitted before.

"You need not cavil, gentlemen," interposed my father. "I am satisfied. I can distinguish the features of my lost son. If you knew my wife, you can see that he resembles her. Look at the portrait, and then look at him."

"I have seen Mrs. Farringford, but I do not exactly remember her looks," added Mr. Lamar.

"Matt Rockwood is dead; but there is a living witness who saw the child he found only a day or two after it was picked up," I continued.

"Who is he?"

"Kit Cruncher; he is at the settlement now, and has known me for eleven years. Mr. Gracewood, whom I expect in St. Louis soon, has known me for six years, and has heard Matt Rockwood tell the story of finding the child."

"If I am satisfied, no one else need complain," said my father. "There are no estates, no property, nor a dollar left, to which any claim is to be established. I am a beggar and a wretch, and an inheritance of shame and misery is all I have for him."

"But you forget that your wife is still living, Farringford," added Mr. Lamar. "Her father is a wealthy man, and his large property, at no very distant day, will be divided among his three children."

"Very true; I did not think of that. I have so long been accustomed to regard her as lost to me that I did not think my boy still had a mother," answered my father, bitterly. "But when she sees him, she will not ask that any one should swear to his identity. She will know him, though eleven years have elapsed since she saw him."

"But where is she?" I asked, anxiously.

"I do not know, Philip."

"When did you see her last?"

"It is four or five years since we met."

"But haven't you heard from her?"

"Once, and only once. After she left me, and went back to her father, I tried to see her occasionally, for I have never lost my affection and respect for her. I annoyed Mr. Collingsby, her father, trying to obtain money of him. Three years ago the family moved away from St. Louis, partly, if not wholly, I know, to avoid me, and to take my wife away from the scene of all her misery."

"Where did they go?"

"To Chicago, where Mr. Collingsby was largely interested in railroad enterprises."

"Is the family still there?"

"I do not know."

"They are," added Mr. Gray.

"But my wife is not there," said my father. "Some one told me, a year ago, he had met her in Europe, where she intended to travel for three years with her brother and his wife. Really, Philip, I know nothing more about her. I wish I could lead you to her."

I was indeed very sad when I thought that years might elapse before I could see her who had given me being.

"I will make some inquiries, Phil, in regard to the Collingsbys," said Mr. Lamar.

"Are you satisfied, sir, that I am what I say I am?" I asked.

"I have no doubt you are, though perhaps your case is not absolutely beyond cavil. The old man who died might have found the body of the child, and taken the clothes and trinkets from it; but that is not probable."

"But I can produce a man who has known me from my childhood," I replied.

"You can, but you have not," added he, with a smile.

"I will produce him if necessary. I hope you will see Mr. Gracewood when he arrives."

"I will, if possible. But, Farringford, was there no mark or scar of any kind on the child which will enable you to identify him?"

"I know of none. Perhaps his mother does," answered my father. "But I tell you I am satisfied. I ask for no proof. I know his face now. It all comes back to me like a forgotten dream."

"Very well; but, Farringford, you have something to live for now," added Mr. Lamar.

"I have, indeed," replied the trembling sufferer, as he glanced fondly at me. "I will try to do better."

"When you feel able to do anything, we shall be glad to help you to a situation where you can do something to support your boy," said Mr. Gray.

"I can take care of myself, gentlemen. I am getting three dollars a week now, and I hope soon to obtai

n more," I interposed.

"Three dollars a week will hardly support you."

"I shall be able to get along upon that sum for the present. Mrs. Greenough is very kind to me."

The two gentleman said all they could to inspire my poor father with hope and strength, and then departed. I was very much obliged to them for the interest and sympathy they had manifested, and promised to call upon them when I needed any assistance.

"I am amazed, Philip," said my father, when our friends had gone.

"I knew that you were my father when we met in the evening at the Planters' Hotel," I replied. "You remember that you told me you had lost a child on the upper Missouri."

"I did; I was thinking then what a terrible curse whiskey had been to me. You looked like a bright, active boy, and I desired to warn you, by my own sad experience, never to follow in the path I had trodden. I did not suspect that I was talking to my own son; but all the more would I warn you now."

"You thrilled my very soul, father, with your words, and I shall never forget them. I shall pray to God to save both you and me from the horrors of intemperance."

"Philip, I have resolved most solemnly, a hundred times, to drink no more; but I did not keep my promise even twenty-four hours."

"Is your mind so weak as that?"

"Mind! I have no mind, my son. I haven't a particle of strength, either of body or mind."

"You must look to God for strength," said Mrs. Greenough, who had listened in silence to our conversation.

"I have, madam; but he does not hear the prayer of such a wretch as I am."

"You wrong him, Mr. Farringford," replied the widow, solemnly. "He hears the prayers of the weakest and the humblest. You have no strength of your own; seek strength of him. My husband was reduced as low as you are. For ten years of his life he was a miserable drunkard; but he was always kind to me. Hundreds of times he promised to drink no more, but as often broke his promise. I became interested in religion, and then I understood why he had always failed. I prayed with my husband, and for him. He was moved, and wept like a child. Then he prayed with me, and the strength of purpose he needed came from God. He was saved, but he never ceased to pray. He redeemed himself, and never drank another drop. Before he died, he had paid for this house, besides supporting us very handsomely for ten years."

"That is hopeful, madam; but I am afraid I am too far gone. I have no wife to pray with me," said my father, gloomily.

"I will pray with you."

Throwing herself upon her knees before a chair, she poured forth her petition for the salvation of the drunkard with an unction that moved both him and me. I heard my father sob, in his weakness and imbecility. He was as a little child, and was moved and influenced like one.

"You must pray yourself, Mr. Farringford," said she, when she had finished. "You must feel the need of help, and then seek it earnestly and devoutly."

"I thank you, madam, for all your kindness. I will try to do better. I will try to pray," said he. "Could you give me some more of the medicine I took last night and this morning? It helped me very much."

"Certainly I can. I will do everything in the world for you, if you will only stay here and try to get well."

She left the room, and went into the kitchen to prepare the soothing drinks which the excited nerves of the patient demanded.

"I will reform, Philip. I will follow this good lady's advice. Give me your hand, my son," said my father.

"O, if you only would, father! This world would be full of happiness for us then. We could find my mother, and be reunited forever."

"God helping me, I will never drink another drop of liquor," said he, solemnly lifting up his eyes, as I held his trembling hand.

Mrs. Greenough opportunely returned with the medicines, and with a folded paper in her hand. As my father took his potion, she opened the paper, which was a temperance pledge, on which was subscribed the name of "Amos Greenough."

"This is the pledge my husband signed, with trembling hand, ten years before his death. It was salvation to him here-and hereafter. Will you add your name to it, Mr. Farringford?" said Mrs. Greenough.

"I will."

"Not unless you are solemnly resolved, with the help of God, to keep your promise," she added. "Not unless you are willing to work, and struggle, and pray for your own salvation."

Phils Father signs the Pledge. Page 193.

"I am willing; and I feel a hope, even now, madam, that God has heard your prayer for a poor wretch like me."

"Sign, then; and God bless you, and enable you to keep this solemn covenant with him."

She took the writing materials from the bureau, and my father, with trembling hand, wrote his name upon the pledge.

"May God enable me to keep it!" said he, fervently, as he completed the flourish beneath the signature.

"Amen!" ejaculated Mrs. Greenough. "May you be as faithful as he was whose name is on the paper with you."

"Stimulated by his example, and by your kindness, I trust I shall be," said my father.

Mrs. Greenough then provided a light supper for him, of which he partook, and very soon retired. I told my kind landlady that I had recovered my money, and should now be able to pay my father's board for a time. She had not thought of that matter, and would be glad to take care of him for nothing if she could only save him. As I went to bed I could not but congratulate myself upon finding such a kind and devoted friend as she had proved to be.

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