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Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 11094

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

The meeting with the family of Mr. Gracewood was none the less pleasant because it was entirely unexpected. I had been expecting and hoping to see them, till I was afraid the winter would set in and compel them to remain where they were till spring, for Mrs. Gracewood was too ill to bear the fatigues of the long journey by land. I thought that Ella looked prettier than ever, and the welcome she gave me was worth all the patient waiting I had bestowed upon it.

The lady looked very pale and sick; indeed, a great change had come over her since we parted, only a few weeks before. I saw that she had been very sick, and that she was still very far from being in her usual health. Though she had been brought up tenderly and delicately, she had done the house-work, with the assistance of Ella and myself, at the settlement during the summer. For my own part, I felt quite alarmed about her, she looked so pale and sick. She was reclining upon the lounge when I entered, but she rose to greet me.

"I am glad to see you, Phil Farringford, for I have thought a great deal about you since we parted so strangely," said Mr. Gracewood. "Your letter afforded me a great deal of satisfaction."

"I have worried a great deal about you and your family, sir," I replied; "and it gives me new life to see you again. When did you arrive?"

"We did not get ashore till after nine o'clock, too late to go out to Glencoe, where my brother lives at the present time."

I wanted to tell him that his brother was in the very next room; but I did not think that I had the right to complicate the affairs of others, and I said nothing.

"What have you been doing, Phil?" asked Mr. Gracewood.

"I am a carpenter now; I work at the Plane and Plank, and am doing first rate," I replied.

"I have a long story to tell you, but I suppose it is rather late to begin it to-night."

"I am afraid it would be rather trying to the nerves of Mrs. Gracewood, and we will postpone it," he replied, glancing at his wife.

"Do let me hear it, Phil," interposed Ella.

"I shall be very glad to tell you all about it, Ella; but it is too late to-night; I must go home now."

"Where is your home, Phil?"

"I board with a widow lady, who is one of the best women in the world. She has acted like a mother to me. I will come in the morning and see you again."

I took my leave of the family; but as Mr. Gracewood followed me down stairs, I had no opportunity to see Mr. Rockwood, as I had intended, to inform him of the new arrival. I hastened home, and found my father and Mrs. Greenough very much worried at my prolonged absence: but I had a story that was worth telling to relate, and it was midnight before we retired.

After breakfast the next morning I dressed myself in my best clothes; and I could not help thinking that Ella would be willing to believe I was not a bad-looking young fellow. My father was very feeble, but it was a satisfaction to know that he was improving. Mrs. Greenough was unwearied in her efforts to restore him to moral and physical health. Probably his illness in a measure spared him from the cravings of his appetite for drink. He sat in his easy chair a large portion of the day reading the Bible, and such good books as our kind landlady provided for his needs.

I hastened to the hotel to see my friends as soon as I could get away from home. I called upon Mr. Rockwood first, and he assured me that his patient was doing very well, but had not yet left his bed.

"I am afraid things are getting a little tangled here, sir," I suggested.

"What do you mean, Phil? Does anything go wrong?" asked Mr. Rockwood.

"There was an arrival last night at this hotel," I continued, in a low tone.


"Mr. Gracewood, from the upper Missouri," I replied, in a whisper.

"Is it possible!"

At this moment the invalid tottered through the open door, and stood before us.

"I knew it!" said he; "I knew it!"

"What?" inquired Mr. Rockwood.

"That my brother had come. You need not attempt to conceal it from me. I heard his voice all night long. He is in the next room."

The planter looked at me, and I looked at him. It was not probable that the invalid had heard his brother's voice all night long; and it was possible that, whatever the fact might be, he was laboring under a delusion.

"Be calm, Mr. Gracewood," said the planter.

"Calm? I am as calm as the surface of a summer lake. Don't you see that I am calm? I fear nothing now. I will not be a knave, and I will not be a hypocrite. I heard my brother's voice last evening before I went to sleep, and the sound of it haunted me all night. I will tell him the whole story, for I will not let him believe that I am better than I am. If God will forgive me, I know my brother will."

Mr. Gracewood explained the course of his thoughts during the long and weary night he had passed. It was but the old story, that he who sins must suffer; and his experience made me resolve anew to be always true and faithful to the truth and the right; for if the conscience can sting here, in the midst of the allurements of the world, what will it not do in the hereafter?

Reunion of Phil and his Friends. Page 292.

Mr. Gracewood declared that he was ready to see his brother, and the sooner the better. I was sent to prepare my excellent friend for the interview. I found the family in their parlor, and was cordially greeted by all of them. I told Mr. Gracewood that I had made the acquaintance of old Matt's brother, and that he was a planter.

I then asked him to go with me and see him. He consented, but in the entry I paused to tell him more.

"There is another brother here," I added, as he closed the door of the parlor behind him.

"Another of Matt's brothers?"

"No, your brother."

"My brother!"

"Yes, sir; I am sorry to say he is in rather poor health."

"Where is he?"

"In the next room to yours. He is with Mr. Rockwood, who owns this hotel."

"Let me see him at once. I hope he is not dangerously sick."

"No; but he is more troubled in mind than in body."

"Is he insane?"

"No, sir; he blames himself very much for something he has done."

"What has he done?" asked my friend, very much troubled.

"He has been gambling; but he regrets it so sincerely, that I am sure he will be a better man than he ever was before. You shall see him now, and I know you will be very gentle with him."

"It is not for me to condemn him; I can only condemn my own errors," said my Christian friend, as I led him into Mr. Rockwood's rooms.

The invalid rose as he entered, and extended his hand to his brother, while the great tears rolled down his pale, wan cheek.

"I am glad to see you, Robert," said Henry. "I am sorry you are sick."

"I am sick at heart."

But I did not stay to hear the confession of the penitent. Ella went to church and to Sunday school with me; and after the latter I conducted her back to the hotel; for, besides the pleasure her company afforded me, I wished to know the condition of affairs between the brothers. As I had expected, they were easily reconciled. My excellent friend had no malice in his heart; and though his brother's error must have given him a severe shock, he was willing to cover the past with the repentance that succeeded.

I dined with the family, and went to church in the afternoon; but I spent the evening with my father. He was more cheerful than he had been for several days, and assured me he had found a peace in the truths of the gospel which he had never realized before. He was really happy; and if there was ever a changed man in the world, he was the one.

"Philip, I am well enough to think of the future," said he. "It worries me, too."

"It need not."

"I may not be able to do anything for some time, for I am very weak. I suppose I must be made over anew."

"Don't disturb yourself at all about that," I replied. "I am getting six dollars a week, and that will pay our board."

"I cannot live on your hard earnings, Philip," he added, shaking his head. "I feel guilty even now; and I should not have come here to be a burden to you, if I had not been a wreck of what I was once."

"I assure you, father, it will be the greatest pleasure on earth for me to do what I can for you. I may not get a dollar a day all the time, but I have fifteen hundred dollars, sure, now."

"I hope I shall soon be able to do something for myself, Philip. For the last week I have dared to hope that your mother might come back, and that we might be as happy as we were before I dashed down all my earthly hopes."

"I hope so, father; nothing could make me so happy as to live with my father and mother."

"Perhaps I may get a situation as a clerk, and earn enough to support me; though it is hard, at my time of life, to go back and commence where I began twenty years ago. But I deserve all that can befall me, and I will be as humble as my circumstances are. God has been merciful to me; he has spared and redeemed me."

"Do you know where my mother is?" I asked, burning with the old desire to see and know her.

"I do not. They have taken pains to keep all knowledge of her from me. I was told that she was in Europe, and I have no doubt such is the case. I should like to let her know that our lost little one has been mercifully restored, but I cannot do even that; and I will not ask her to live with me again until I have made myself worthy to do so."

Somehow God always sends good angels to those who, in trust and faith, are trying to help themselves. The door bell rang, and Mrs. Greenough admitted Mr. Rockwood.

"I am glad to see you again, Phil," said he. "I wished to see your father, and I wanted to tell you to be at the police station to-morrow forenoon at ten o'clock."

"I will be there, sir, if Mr. Clinch will let me off."

"He must let you off. If he won't, I shall send an officer to summon you."

"I have no doubt he will let me go."

"Your evidence is necessary to convict Lynch. I am told that the young fellow wants to make a confession."

"I should like very much to hear it, for I don't know even yet why those fellows followed me up so closely."

"We shall know to-morrow.-How do you feel, Mr. Farringford?" added Mr. Rockwood, turning to my father.

"Better, sir; I hope to be out in a few days."

"You were once a very able business man, and I have no doubt you know as much now as you ever did. I have been looking for a man who is competent to take charge of my property in St. Louis. You are the right man, if-"

"If I keep sober," added my father, when the planter paused. "I have no claim whatever upon your confidence; but I assure you I believe it is quite impossible for me ever to drink another drop of liquor."

This important matter was discussed for some time, but it ended in the appointment of my father as agent of the planter. When our visitor had departed, the future looked bright and pleasant; and it seemed to me that the day was drawing nearer when our family should be reunited under one roof.

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