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MR. ACTON AND HIS SON
 Mr. Acton was a clever and highly respected merchant
who owed much of
his success in life to the system and exactness with
which he carried on
his business. Then, too, he was so reliable, so honest,
and sold his
goods so cheaply, that everyone preferred to trade with
His home, which he could have furnished luxuriously,
was the model of
The only surviving member of his family was his son
George, who was now
twenty years of age. He was a sturdy, manly, upright
youth; willing and
obliging to his friends and kind-hearted to the poor.
He reverenced God
and everything which should be held sacred in life. He
was the joy of
his father's heart.
Partly on account of his father's business and partly
to increase his
own knowledge and ability, George had journeyed to
England, and Mr.
Acton daily awaited his return.
Late one afternoon, after a day of strenuous work, Mr.
dreamily near the fireside, smoking his pipe. Mr.
 who had been one of his school-mates,
and who on account of
his loyalty and honesty was classed as his nearest and
sat beside him. Together they were planning for a
banquet which they
would give in honor of George's return.
A knock at the door interrupted their conversation, and
in response to
the pleasant "Come," the servant entered and delivered
a package of
letters. Mr. Acton broke the seals and hurriedly
glanced over them, in
turn. As he took one which seemed to please him, his
changed color, and the hand which held the letter began
to tremble. Mr.
Richmond became startled, for he well knew that
business losses, which
Mr. Acton had often experienced and borne calmly, could
not be the cause
of this agitation. He touched him lightly on the
shoulder and said, with
deep concern: "Do tell me what has happened."
"There, read it," said Mr. Acton, with a deep sigh, as
he handed him the
letter. Then, sinking back in his arm-chair and folding
his hands, he
stared blankly into the distance, his grief too deep
Mr. Richmond read the letter which a fellow merchant in
a distant city
had written, and which referred incidentally to the
sinking of a ship in
the English Channel. Unknown to the merchant, this ship
had been the one
on which George Acton was to have taken passage.
This sad news stunned Mr. Richmond, but he
to reassure his friend,
and said: "Perhaps your son is among the saved, or
possibly he may not
have embarked, owing to some business delay."
"You certainly do kindle a faint spark of hope in my
heart, my dear
Richmond, but I fear it will be extinguished. Let us
lose no time in
getting all the information we can." He rang, and said
to the servant
who answered: "Go at once and send this telegram." Then
taking up the
evening newspaper his eye glanced hurriedly over column
and finally he read that the ship Neptune had been
sunk, and that eleven
persons had been rescued, but no names had been
Between hope and fear, the next day passed. He summoned
all his courage
and waited anxiously for an answer to his telegram.
All the neighbors, in fact all the people of the town,
held Mr. Acton
and his son in the highest esteem, and they awaited the
news of George
Acton's fate in dread suspense. At last the answer
arrived: "George was
numbered among the passengers on board, but not among
Poor Mr. Acton was so overcome that his eyes held no
tears. With dumb
grief he shut himself up in his room to find his
comfort in God, alone.
Several days later, there came to Mr. Acton's house an
old sailor, who
had been on the ill-fated
 vessel, and who could
give an accurate account
of the calamity.
"We encountered a storm," said the sailor, "such as I,
an old sea-dog,
have never experienced. It broke shortly before
midnight, and in less
than two hours it had driven us out of our course and
our ship. Suddenly, we felt a great thud, which threw
us off our feet,
and a dreadful crash told us that the ship had
foundered. The water
poured into the vessel from all sides, and the ship was
"The helmsman, seven sailors, two passengers and myself
swam through the
tempestuous sea toward the cliffs which had shattered
our ship. The
brave captain and all the other passengers went to
their watery grave.
"The loss of young George Acton," continued the sailor,
as he dried his
eyes, "was deeply lamented by us all. The sailors loved
him very much,
for he was always so helpful and friendly. I know
positively that every
one of us would willingly have sacrificed his life, in
order to save
that of your son. But there was no moment to wait; the
ship went under,
and we were obliged to sink or swim.
"I last saw him near the bow of the vessel, just as the
threatening to break. From that time on, I saw no more
of him; but I
 find this wallet, as I descended from
the rigging;" and he
passed it over to Mr. Acton.
"It contains several letters from you to your son, and
a bank note of
value. That is why I wished to deliver it myself."
Mr. Acton took the wallet, and opened it with trembling
found the letters there which he had sent his son. "My
good boy," said
the father, "kept all my letters so carefully, carried
them with him,
and as I would have wished, read them often!"
The affectionate father whose grief had been dumb and
dry, for the first
time shed the tears that would give relief to his
The sailor continued: "On the morning following the
disaster, we found
ourselves on the bare rocks, with nothing about us but
sea. We found a stick and a piece of sail which had
been cast upon the
rocks, and this we hoisted. We were taken up by the
sailors of another
ship and landed at Havre."
Mr. Acton had listened attentively to each word.
Then, taking the money
from the wallet, he presented it to the sailor, saying:
"Take this for
your love to my son and for your honesty in returning
the wallet to me.
Lay the money by for your old age."
The sailor was astonished at this rich gift. He thanked
Mr. Acton for
his generosity and then departed.
 Mr. Acton felt the loss of his son more and more each
day, and soon his
health began to fail. One Sunday morning, as he
returned from church, he
suddenly became very ill. He hadn't the strength to
remove his clothing,
but sank into the nearest chair.
Mr. Richmond, who had accompanied him, hoped that the
illness would be
slight, and buoyed his spirits with the thought that he
"My dear Richmond," the merchant said, "my hopes in
this world are over,
and I must now set all my affairs in order. Come, seat
yourself at this
table. There is pen, ink and paper. I wish to dictate
to you my last
wishes. The notary can then sign and seal the
"The great wealth with which God has blessed me would,
in the natural
course, all fall to my relations. But, as I know them,
this would not be
the best thing for them, but rather unfortunate. They
shall each receive
a suitable portion, with the understanding that the
money be not wasted,
but invested and bequeathed to their children. If the
children do not
wish to study and learn some trade, they shall not get
a penny of mine.
"For you, my dear Richmond, and for all my faithful
helped me amass my fortune, I shall provide generously.
The worthy poor
and the afflicted, I shall not forget. Come now, write
quickly; I fear
the time is short."
 Mr. Acton began to dictate, but suddenly he
stopped and cried: "I hear
my summons. I must go. God, who has not permitted me to
deed, will in His wisdom fulfill it, and let it reach
my heirs to their
He paused, prayed silently and passed away.
All the members of the household were grieved at their
Richmond spoke gently to them and said: "Our good,
helpful, pious friend
sleeps in peace. Richly did he sow good deeds while
here on earth, and
now he has gone to the land beyond where richly he will
THE UNINVITED GUEST
 The death of Mr. Acton cast a gloom over all the
people, with the
exception of his relatives, who felt such unbounded joy
unexpected inheritance, that it gave them much trouble
to mask their
"The inheritance is enormous!" was all they could say
and think. When
the time came to make the division, and it was found
that the value of the estate to be divided was only
about a million, the
heirs were heard to grumble at the amount. They
reprimanded the worthy
bookkeeper, Mr. Richmond, and all the other able
assistants, as if they
had embezzled some of the money. These good, faithful
men, instead of
receiving what Mr. Acton had fully intended they
should, were obliged to
accept reproaches and immediate dismissal.
Soon the heirs began to quarrel among themselves, and
for a time it
seemed as if they would have to settle their affairs in
However, their eagerness to possess the money soon
brought them into
accord, and each one accepted his portion.
Then, one began to build; another bought a
 country estate; another gave
up his business, and rode about in his carriage. Not
one of them ever
thought of Mr. Acton, much less of erecting a monument
on his grave.
Mr. Acton's house, besides a large share of his money,
fell to the lot
of a man named Mr. Bond. He immediately had the house
furnished magnificently, and when it was completed to
he invited all his relatives to celebrate the event. On
night, hundreds of lights illumined the house and
gleamed in the
crystal, like so many colors of the rainbow. They were
the mirrors and shone upon the highly polished silver.
All the heirs of the departed Mr. Acton had responded
to the invitation,
and were dressed to honor the occasion. Especially
happy were the wives
and daughters, whose elaborate gowns were works of art.
daughter resembled a princess in the elegance of her
strutted about, in order to display her beautiful
After supper had been served, the guests retired to the
grand salon. The
entrancing tones of the music soon led couple after
couple to dance to
its rhythm, and the revelry ran high.
It struck twelve by the big church clock. Suddenly
there flashed over
the faces of the assembled guests, consternation and
horror. The music
stopped—the dancers seemed rooted to the floor. A
broken only by the echoing
 tones of the clock, or
here and there a gasp
of fear or an exclamation of surprise, hovered over
all. In one instant
the doors had been thrown open, and there on the
threshold, clad in
black, and with a countenance pale as death, stood
If he had really returned from the grave, the fear and
shock that his
appearance caused could not have been greater.
All present felt a shudder pass over them, as they
certainty of his return. However courteous it would
have been for them
to have hidden their displeasure and to have extended
their greetings to
him, not one came forward. The loss of their fortune
was too distasteful
to them; the awakening from a happy dream, from a life
forgetfulness of right and duty, to a life of hard work
revolting for them. Mr. Bond had been obliged to seat
himself to recover
his strength. Some swooned and had to be carried out.
The noble George Acton had not for one moment thought
that his entrance
would have caused his relations such a shock. So he
withdrew to another
room. Then the questions were heard: "Do we sleep or
dream? Was it
really he, or was it an apparition?"
The heirs could not understand how George Acton, who
was considered as
dead by everyone, even by the courts, could have the
audacity to live,
 and by his unexpected return to give them such a
blow; but it came about
in a very natural way.
George Acton had, on the night of the shipwreck, swung
himself from the
fast sinking vessel to a plank. Wind and waves soon
carried him many
miles. Then the storm had subsided and a gentle wind
had arisen. He
found himself very much exhausted, for it had taken all
his strength to
cling to the plank.
After a while he managed to seat himself upon the
board. At dawn, all he
could see on every side was water and sky. Completely
faint from hunger and cold, he passed the day.
As the sun was beginning to sink, he felt that there
was nothing for him
but death. He raised his eyes to heaven and prayed
in the distance he saw the smoke-stacks of a ship,
lighted by the rays
of the declining sun. The ship came nearer and nearer.
At last, he was
spied by the captain and saved. His thanks to God and
man for his rescue
were as hearty as his prayers had been fervent. When
George had been
warmed and nourished, he begged the captain to land him
at the nearest
The captain expressed his willingness to do all that
lay in his power;
but, said he, "This is an English warship. I dare not
deviate one hair's
breadth from my appointed course. You will be obliged,
unless we meet
another vessel, to continue with us on the journey to
 The ship reached its destination, and after a
weary wait of several
months, George was advised to take passage on board a
then in port, and bound for Lisbon. "From there you can
easily get to
London," said the captain.
George accepted this good advice, but found himself in
a very great
dilemma. He, the son of a rich merchant, was, what he
had never thought
possible, without one penny. As he sat lost in thought,
aroused him and said: "What is it that troubles you?"
George looked up at him abashed, and said: "How can I
make this trip
when I am entirely penniless?"
"Is that all?" said the captain. "Well, I have provided
Whereupon he counted out to the astonished George a
good round sum of
money. "Now all I want is a receipt."
"What?" cried George. "You intend to trust me, a person
of whom you know
so little, with this large amount of money! You know
nothing of my
circumstances, but what I have told you."
"I know your sentiments, your thoughts," said the
captain, "and that is
sufficient. I would willingly give you more, if I had
it to give. But
the amount will be sufficient to carry you to your
destination. Were I
not able to trust a boy like you, I should not want to
deal with anyone.
Now perhaps you would not mind doing a little favor for
me. When you
arrive in London, please deliver
 this money to my
old mother, who needs
my help." George promised faithfully to carry out the
On the morning of departure, George bade the captain
and his crew
farewell, and after a devious journey, he at last
arrived in London. He
hurried to the home of his father's friend, at whose
house he had so
The merchant was speechless with astonishment when he
whom he had reckoned among the dead. But greater still
grief and despair when he learned that his kind, loving
Without further delay, he transacted the business which
the captain had
deputed to him, bought some clothing for himself, and
sailed with the
next steamer to Havre. From there he took the train to
his native town,
arriving late at night.
With a heavy heart, he walked through the streets to
his father's house.
He expected to find it quiet and gloomy, but the
windows were a painful sight. The joyous laughter and
the music all
wounded his saddened heart. He could not resist the
present himself, unannounced, and end this wild
revelry, this dreadful
disrespect for the dead. So, it happened that he
appeared on the
threshold of the grand ball-room—an uninvited guest.
THE FLOWERING PLANT
 On the following morning, George wended his way to the
cemetery to visit
his father's grave. After wandering about for some
time, he thought:
"How strange it is that I can not find it." At last he
met a worker
there, to whom he said: "Friend, would you be so kind,
as to direct me
to the tomb-stone that marks the grave of the late Mr.
The old grave-digger thrust his spade into the newly,
upturned sod, and
said to George, whom he did not recognize, "Yes, I can
show you the
grave, but the tomb-stone is still missing. His heirs
have set up no
stone, and probably will never erect one. They have
forgotten the good,
noble old soul."
By this time, they had reached the grave, which was
graced by a
beautiful hydrangea, handsomer than any plant of its
kind that George
had ever seen. A mass of beautiful flowers crowded
forward between the
dark-green leaves and thousands of dew-drops hung on
the plant and
sparkled in the morning sun.
"By this time, they had reached the grave, which was
graced by a flowering plant."
George stood there silent, with his hands clasped
tightly before him,
and his head bowed
 in grief, while the tears fell
on the grave. The
beauty of the plant was a little comfort to him.
After he had spent some moments thinking of his
departed father, he
turned to the grave-digger, and said: "Who planted this
"Oh, that good child, Lucy, the oldest daughter of Mr.
Richmond who was
the book-keeper for the late Mr. Acton, she planted it.
She was very
much concerned because it seemed as if the good man
were never to have a
" 'Oh, that we were rich' said she, 'then he certainly
should have the
finest monument here in the church-yard. However, I
will do what I can.
I will plant this bush and, though it be not costly
like a monument, yet
it represents no less in good intentions.'
"She bought the bush last April and brought it here;
and with the spade
I loaned her, she dug the earth with her tender hands
and set it here.
You see it is a long distance from yonder stream and
yet, she brought
the water that distance, to wet this plant whenever she
grave. She really felt grateful to Mr. Acton for his
kindness to her
father. All her people, too, loved him."
While George listened with interest to the
grave-digger's recital, a
young man from the village happened along. He joined
the group and
admired the bush. After a pause, he added; "I, too,
remember Mr. Acton,
everyone speaks of his
 goodness. It would have
been better for the old,
honest Mr. Richmond and his children had Mr. Acton
lived a little
longer, for then, they would have suffered no want. Nor
Richmond have been thrust out of business so
"As one misfortune seldom comes alone," continued the
stranger, "so it
happened that Mr. Richmond had put all his savings into
business, where he thought it would be well invested.
The heirs accused
him of falsifying the accounts and brought him to
court. But the case
was deferred, and put on the calendar
for some distant
date. In the
meantime Mr. Richmond lost his all.
"His daughter's needle is now his only support, as Mr.
failing sight keeps him unemployed. The other members
of the family are
too young to earn anything."
George had been deeply touched by these revelations. He
picked a flower
from the bush, and put it into his button-hole. Then he
slipped a golden
coin into the old man's hand, asked for the street and
number of the
humble house where the Richmonds now resided, and
turned his steps in
THE TWO FAMILIES
 The report that George Acton had returned was the talk
of the town and
had reached the ears of the Richmond family in their
home. Mr. Richmond had gone forth in search of more
facts on the
subject. He returned highly elated, with the good news
stood in the midst of his family relating it to them.
sewing and her hands dropped in her lap, for the news
was such a
wonderful surprise to her. Mr. Richmond closed his
remarks by saying
that he regretted his inability to find George Acton
nobody seemed to know what had become of him. To search
for him in the
cemetery had not occurred to anyone.
Just then a knock at the door announced a visitor. The
door was opened,
and George stepped into their midst. Everyone was
dumbfounded. The old
Mr. Richmond ran forward and pressed him to his breast.
Lucy and her
brothers kissed his hands and wet them with their
tears. "Oh, that your
father were with us," was all Mr. Richmond could say.
George then seated himself and learned the history of
his father's last
days. Mr. Richmond
 told everything as he
remembered, and every eye was
moist. He told, too, how rough, mean and cruel the
heirs had been,
particularly Mr. Bond.
Hours passed like seconds to George, who listened
assured them of his good will and promised them soon to
better their condition. He then left to make a few
visits and to attend
to some important business.
In the meantime, the affairs in Mr. Bond's household
were not very
agreeable. Following the unfortunate feast and revelry,
Mr. Bond and his
wife and daughter had passed the remainder of the night
they would do next.
"Nothing worse could have befallen me," said Mr. Bond,
"than the return
of this boy. I would rather that this house had tumbled
in on us, and
killed us all as we stood there. When I return my
inheritance to George
Acton, I become a beggar. What we have wasted, is twice
as much as we
ever had, and nothing will be left for us."
"Oh," said his wife, "then we must sell our jewels and
and I must again walk to the theatres, like other
ordinary people. I
shall never survive it!"
"You will, most likely, never get to a place of
amusement," said Mr.
Bond. "What we have spent in one night for pleasure
alone, will have to
support us for almost a year."
His daughter, who had been admiring her
then said: "Must I
return my diamonds, too?"
"Yes," said her father, "jewels, gold, silver, house,
garden, money must
be returned and all luxury is at an end."
Suddenly the Bonds resolved upon a plan to flatter
George Acton, beg his
pardon for their seeming disrespect, and invite him to
a celebration in
honor of his return. As they were still devising how
best to carry out
the plot, George Acton entered. They jumped to their
feet, hastened to
greet him and assure him that his return gave them the
greatest joy and
happiness, and informed him of the feast with which
they proposed to
George hesitated a moment. Then, as if it had suggested
some new idea to
him, he agreed, with the understanding that he would be
the host on that
occasion, and that he would reserve the rights to
invite a few of his
old friends. He also requested that the feast be
postponed for two
weeks, as he wished to pass that time quietly, out of
respect to his
 The day that was to be crowned by a night of joy at
last arrived. Late
that afternoon, George Acton called upon his friends,
the Richmonds and
invited them for a walk. Lucy begged for a few moments
in which to
change her dress, but George dissuaded her, saying that
her simple frock
of beautiful white linen could not be improved upon.
After strolling leisurely for some time, they came to
the cemetery. "Let
us go in," said George, "and visit my father's grave."
Lucy felt awkward, for she feared that he would
consider the planting of
the bush as audacious on her part, but she said
nothing. He stepped
toward the grave and held his hat in his hand. All were
silent. Only the
breeze sighed through the trees, and scattered here and
there a leaf or
flower upon the grave. Every eye was wet with tears.
"Lucy," said George, turning toward her, "the first bit
of comfort that
came to my heart after I learned of my father's death,
was the sight of
this bush, planted here by your hands. I always
respected your high and
worthy thoughts and I have
 learned now to respect
them even more. Were
my dear father living, I would lead you to him, and say
that next to him
I cared most for you, and ask him to give us his
benediction. But, now I
lead you to his grave, which to you as well as to me,
is holy ground,
and here I ask you to give me your hand, that I may
care for you and
protect you while I live; and I will ask your parents
Mr. Richmond, quickly recovering himself from his
surprise, said: "My
boy, remember that you have millions and that my
daughter is penniless."
"Your daughter's kind heart is worth more than
millions." He then broke
a flower, and placing it in Lucy's hair, said: "This
flower with which
Lucy decorated my father's grave, represents her dower.
My dear Mr.
Richmond, add your blessings."
Recognizing George's earnestness, then Mr. Richmond
said: "God bless
you, my children, and may He keep you as happy, as He
has made us all
Silent and engrossed in deep thought, they approached
house. "Here," said he, "I am expected. It grieves me
that I must spend
this night in the company of relatives who have dealt
so cruelly with
you, my good people, whom I love so dearly. But I must
remain, for I
have given my word; and you must all accompany me."
 With Lucy at his side, followed by the Richmond
family, George Acton
stepped into the brilliantly illuminated room, which
decked with flowers. They were greeted by soft strains
of sweet music.
The Bonds were all prepared with flattering speeches,
but the sight of
the Richmond family surprised them as greatly as George
had done, and words failed them.
"They have complained to him," whispered Mr. Bond, "and
so he has
dragged them here in their shabby clothes. Such
impertinence on their
George stepped forward into the ball-room and beckoned
to the musicians
to stop. The guests had risen by this time, and stood
about him in a
Mr. Bond then addressed George saying: "I know why you
come with these
good people. Probably, it is on account of the law-suit which I have
brought. It gives me great pain to think that any
ill-feeling exists between Mr. Richmond and myself, but
I shall certainly
call off the law-suit and I will pay him the money
which belongs to him,
this very night." Turning to his servant, he said:
book-keeper, at once."
"Don't bother any further about it," said George, "for
it is no longer a
con-  cerns you, but me. I will see to
it that Mr. Richmond's
rights are restored to him. It was not for that purpose
that I brought
him here. I have an entirely different object in view.
Where do you
think we have been? We come, just as we are, from the
grave of my
Mr. Bond felt embarrassed and said: "Oh, I feel very
much disturbed that
the idea of giving your father a tomb-stone has never
been carried out,
but the stone-cutter disappointed me so often."
Then his daughter took up the thread of the
conversation and said: "Yes,
we regret so much that this delay has arisen, for only
two days ago I
visited your father's grave, and thought how beautiful
a monument would
look there, if it were chiseled from Carrara marble."
"If you were there but two days ago," said George,
"then you must have
noticed that it has a tombstone, though not of marble.
How did it please
She paled and began to stammer: "I was—I don't
know—it must have—"
Then followed a painful silence which was broken by
George saying: "It
is evident that you never visited the grave. However,
that monument has
stood there several months.
"It pains me deeply, Mr. Bond, that you did
consider my father, who
so generously enriched you, worthy of a slight token of
your thanks. Let
me tell you that this night my relationship to you
Turning to the other members of the party, George said:
"I notice in
this gathering many true friends of my father who loved
me and esteemed
me as a boy. I feel gratified that you have come to
celebrate my return.
But I must tell you that this celebration has a double
purpose; for this
is the night on which I present to you my future
She it was who planted the flowering bush on the grave
of my father,
never dreaming that it would be recognized by any one.
But I think more
of that flower, than of all the riches of the world."
His friends came forward and with hearty cheers cried:
"Long live George
Acton and his bride."
"Now," said he, "as this house and all the fortune of
which Mr. Bond
still holds the greatest share, falls again to me, I
take upon myself
the rights of host, and heartily invite all those who
are my friends, to
spend the rest of the night in celebration of this
threefold event: My
return, the restoration of my fortune and Lucy to share
One by one, the Bond family quietly slipped out of the
 Later in the evening, during the feast, Mr.
Richmond offered a toast to
the health and happiness of George and his daughter,
and ended by
saying: "Noble purposes and noble thoughts are the only
happiness; and yield at all times buds and blossoms