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so he found the foreman and Mr. Newsome waiting for him. He was confounded when he heard what had happened; but, of course, he denied having ever touched the articles which had been found in his box. Moreover he was quite certain that when he left the shop in the morning his box was securely locked.
With some difficulty the foreman prevailed upon Mr. Newsome to let the thing stand over; and Morton was told that for the present at least, he might return to his bench. His first impulse was to ask that he might be allowed to depart; but on reflection he rightly considered that to do so would be an acknowledgment of guilt, and he thankfully availed himself of the permission to remain; but it was a hard trial to go into the shop the next morning.
He was pleased and surprised, however, to find that nearly everybody received him kindly. Wayland, of course, was an exception. He said little; but there was on his face a look of ill-concealed triumph.
"My notion is," said John Evans, "that that fellow Wayland knows more about this business than he cares to tell."
From that hour he watched him closely; and in a quiet sort of way he made some inquiries in other directions, the result of which will appear by-and-by.
One afternoon, as the men were leaving the shop, Evans saw Wayland drop something, and at the same time he saw one of the men pick it up. The man called out after Wayland, but he was out of hearing, and the article remained in his hand. Evans went up to him and asked what it was. It was a key somewhat roughly made, and evidently a new one.
He looked at it for a minute or two, and then he said, a grim smile lighting up his rugged countenance, "I shouldn't wonder if this turns out to be a little bit of daylight. Come back with me."
Followed by his companion, he went straight to Morton's bench; and there, applying the key to the lock, he found that the bolt flew back in an instant.
"The scoundrel!" he said. "Didn't I think so?" The man readily promised strict secrecy for the present, and Evans laid his plans for the following day.
About the middle of the forenoon Evans stood up in the shop and called out, loudly enough to be heard by everybody, "I say, will you all come here for a minute or two?"
It was no unusual thing for the men to be summoned in that way when anything of common interest needed consideration; and accordingly in a few minutes they were all assembled wondering what Evans wanted.
"Does anybody own this key?" he asked.
The key was passed round, but everybody, Wayland included, denied all knowledge of it.
"Now come with me," said Evans.
"What foolery is this?" asked Wayland, looking ill at
Evans made no reply, except by a look, which Wayland's conscience told him portended him trouble. Followed by all the men, he went straight to Morton's box, and putting the key into the lock, he opened it.
Morton put his hand instinctively into his pocket, to see if his key were there.
"Aye, lad," said Evans, "it's all right. It isn't thy key. But Wayland knows whose it is."
"I-I-I know nothing about it," stammered Wayland. "Thou liar!" said Evans, with rough stern directness, "it dropped out of thy pocket yesterday, and Morris picked it up; and I saw him pick it up.”
"And if it is mine, what then?" Wayland asked, recovering his effrontery.
"What then?' said Evans. "Thou knowest well enough 'what then.' Thou put those things into Morton's box. Harry Potter, tell us what thou saw."
"Well," said Harry, one of the lads, "I looked into the shop last Tuesday at dinner-time, and I saw Wayland there, and he had that box open. But he did not see me, for I went away directly."
Just then the foreman came in, and he was told what had happened.
"Pack up your tools this instant," he said to Wayland, very sternly. "We can't have a fellow here who would do a mean thing like that."
In a few minutes more Wayland disappeared; and in the course of a day or two it was reported that he had left the city; but nobody knew where he had gone.
"Three cheers for Morton !" said one of the men. And ringing cheers they were.
"I never believed it," said the foreman, as he grasped Morton's hand, "I could not make it out, but I was certain there was some trick about it."
Mr. Newsome sent for him, as soon as he heard what had taken place; and whilst congratulating him on his vindication, he had the manliness to express his regret that he had ever suspected him at all. To which Morton replied, very modestly, "Thank you, sir; but you know appearances were sadly against me."
Morton remained about a twelvemonth after the events we have narrated with Messrs. Potter and Newsome; and then, desirous of improvement, much to the regret alike of his employers and his fellow-workmen, he went to London; where, through the strong recommendation of Mr. Newsome, he had obtained a situation in one of the best houses in the trade, that of Hallstead and Winter.
Twelve years more passed away, and Mr. Morton, having first risen to the position of general manager, was now one of the firm, and the acting partner; but his name did not appear, it having been thought well to retain the old title. As manager, it had been his duty to consider all applications for employment, and now that he was partner he still retained the thing in his own hands.
One day he was informed that a man was waiting in the outer office who wanted work, and he gave orders that he should be admitted.
It was Wayland, evidently in very low water and looking
extremely haggard. He was so much altered that at first Mr. Morton did not recognise him; but he knew Mr. Morton
“You don't know me, sir,” he said.
Mr. Morton scanned him more closely, and then said, at the same time extending his hand, “Why, Wayland, is it you? Sit down."
Wayland took the proffered seat, and then said: "I did not know I was coming to you, sir, or I should scarcely have ventured to come."
"You are thinking of what took place thirteen years ago at Gloucester," said Mr. Morton. “Don't let that trouble you it is long since I forgave it all."
“Thank you, thank you," said Wayland; "it is far more than I had any right to expect, and far more than I deserve.”
“Well now,” said Mr. Morton, "tell me what you have been doing since we parted?"
It was a sad story. He had wandered hither and thither; he had crossed and re-crossed the seas; he had passed through great trouble, and he frankly confessed that his life had not been what it should have been. But he really did want to do better, and if he could only get a chance he would try his utmost to do right. Yet he scarcely ventured to hope, after what had passed, that Mr. Morton would do much, if anything, for him.
It was Mr. Morton's habit never to do anything of importance without consideration, when consideration was possible; so he said to Wayland
“I am very sorry to hear of all this trouble. Here is a trifle to help you for the present; and if you don't find work before next Monday, come to me again, and I will see what I can do for you.”
So saying, he took out his purse and gave Wayland a sovereign.
On inquiry, Mr. Morton found that they had quite as many men in their employ as they needed; but he resolved,
notwithstanding, that if Wayland found nothing elsewhere, he would give him work.
The poor man returned at the time appointed, but he had found no employment. Trade was bad, and masters were sending men away rather than taking fresh ones on.
"Well," Mr. Morton said, "I'll give you a trial."
Wayland was quite overwhelmed, and had no words with which to express his thanks.
Poor fellow he was of very little use. His reformation had come too late, for the seeds of consumption were sown in his frame. Within six months he was completely laid aside. He lingered long, but Mr. Morton never suffered him to want. He often visited him; and he did not fail, whilst ministering to his bodily necessities, to point him to the "friend of sinners."
"Ah, sir!" the dying sinner said feebly, only the day before his death, grasping the hand of his benefactor, and his cheeks wet with tears; "to think of your showing all this goodness to me !"
He had "heaped coals of fire on his enemy's head."
No one in Mr. Morton's establishment knew from his lips what had taken place aforetime; and for a long time it was taken for granted that he and Wayland must have been early and fast friends. It will be readily imagined how surprised everybody was, when a man who had gone up from Gloucester told them the truth.
The Dark and Cloudy Day.
"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."
HE morning dawn was faint and dim,
The morning twilight gray;
And dull the light of eastern skies
That heralded the day.