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Slow and painful indeed was the old man's recovery; and when he was able to go out again, he was but the broken, fragmentary part of a human being; old, care-broken, decrepit. His simple wants were provided for by the church of which I was rector.
His mind grew very dim. It was rather a confirmed weakness - inadequacy to take in more than one thought at a time, and that one must be very simple indeed. His little grand-daughter became his idol.
There were times when he seemed to be hardly able to distinguish her from the ideal visitors which surrounded his bedside; for there were bright beings moving around his pathway, and this little grand-daughter was one of them.
As he grew physically stronger his mind assumed a more even tone, and he soon began to become clesirous of doing something for himself. Experience soon teaches us that the best charity in the world is that which enables the object of charity to provide for his wants by his own industry and labor. His friends thought his desire should be gratified, and bought a stock of twentyfive dollars' worth of candies, nuts, etc., and rented him a little room near a public-school. The genial, kindly disposition of the old man gained the good-will of the children, and his little store became quite a rendezvous for them. The parents too joined in with helping hand, and his business was prosperous and thriving. Gradually he became ambitious in his business. One day a gentleman, in order to assist him, gave him an order for five boxes of apples. Soon after, a lady about to put up her canned vegetables, gave an order for several boxes of vegetables. The old man saw visions of wealth before him. He began to dream of his business. It made him restless and dissatisfied. He felt that he must launch out. The speculative mania seized him. His brain was not able to hold and organise his conceptions, and he did what many other merchants, on a grander scale to be sure, do - began to push his business beyond its legitimate channels. His little shop was packed with boxes of apples and vegetables. The old man grew active in housing and exhibiting them, but his business operations stopped. He had stock on hand, but the customers came not. Soon the perishable articles on hand were destroyed, and the poor old man not only saw his stock go, but the money he had saved went also, and he was in debt. It was a financial crash with him. Joined to this was another event, common in business, yet one for which old Mr. Weil had not provided — I mean competition. A well-to-do butcher who kept his stall near this humble store, saw the apparent signs of prosperity in the increase of stock, and grudging the few cents which were between the old man and starvation, commenced opposition. With a malignity worthy of a millionaire, this butcher grew passionate at the few cents earned by his humbler neighbor, and determined to crush him out of business. He and circumstances were successful. If it is any gratification to know that you have crowded out of business those poorer than yourself, taken from them the means of subsistence for their families, and reduced men, women and children to wretchedness, then some men will be greatly gratified when they meet their victims before the great white throne. “But excuse me," said the Doctor, “I don't mean to preach you a sermon."
When old Weil was sent the bill for his fruit and vegetables, he went to his till and found but a few cents there. He looked in his pocketbook; found but little more. He looked at his boxes of fruit; their contents had decayed. He was perplexed. He did not understand the nature of his position, and, as he always did, he came to me for advice in his perplexity. I visited his little shop, compared his bills, and satisfied myself that his head could not contain his business. At last the old man comprehended one thing: he was, to use his own expression, “a ruined bankrupt.” He sat and gazed in bewildered surprise at the boxes around him. He would carefully examine his till, fumble and fumble his pocket-book, stare for hours at his bills, and then with a sigh turn to his little grand-daughter, who with a wisdom far beyond her age would get him to take a walk and endeavor to divert his mind.
He never recovered from that failure. His feeble mind sank under it almost entirely, and it was a year or two after that before we could get him to take any interest in anything. His grand-daughter was the only one who could arouse bim to exertion of any kind. She would very often visit the house in which he was living with some kind people who for a slight compensation took care of him, and together they would wander hand in hand in the spring out to the green hills and flowery valleys that lie around San Francisco. It was his delight to gather the beautiful flowers and adorn the bonnet of his little companion, and that not without taste, and bring her in with childish glee to exhibit his handiwork.
It was about three years after his failure that his little granddaughter came to me one day and said she thought her grandfather was better; and in reply to my question "How?” she pointed to her head and said: “In his head.” He visited me a day or so after, and I found that really his mind seemed to have broken through its entanglement, and there was reason to hope for the better. It was still confused and dim, however. He had been during all this time a constant visitor at church. He had lately heard a sermon on the talents: that God required the holder of even one poor talent to make use of it. It impressed him so greatly that he visited the preacher often in order to tell him how much it had taught him. He began to grow cheerful again. He was seen with books in his hand, seemingly engaged in profound study of their contents. He visited every church in the city, and on his return was seen busy with pencil and paper.
If he heard of any elocutionist in the city, he was sure to be on hand. His form became more upright; he began to pay more attention to his dress. His grand-daughter told me he often in their rambles “made speeches”; yet there was a calm quietness about him which was far removed from any symptom of mania.
He continued thus for over a year, when one evening he made his appearance at my house, and leaving a note in the hands of the servant who answered the bell, suddenly left. The note was simply a request that the next evening I would meet him at the church at a certain hour, or give him a private interview at my house ; his granddaughter would come for an answer during the day. I asked him to the house. At the hour appointed there was a timid ring at the
bell; I answered it myself. Mr. Weil was there, but evidently disguised. He entered the house on tiptoe, shut the door carefully behind him, and examining the room, satisfied himself that no one could hear him. Then he came to me with a look of such intense satisfaction, and smiling so pleasantly, that notwithstanding his mysteriousness I found his smile infectious, and we shook hands heartily before he had said a word. "Doctor," he began, “I have got a talent. Yes, a talent, Doctor;
. and that talent I want to bring to the Lord's service. I have been a long time finding out what my talent is; but I have found it out at last, and I am going to devote it to the Lord.”
I remained quiet that he might proceed. He expected me to say something, but as I did not, he continued :
"I have a talent for oratory”— then raising his hands and eyes toward heaven, he exclaimed with a most touching fervor: “I thank thee, O Lord of heaven and earth, I am an orator! And now I am going to deliver lectures on oratory ; I am going to establish a school of oratory for young men ; and the whole of the proceeds, except what is absolutely necessary for me to live on — and see,” said he drawing out some paper from his pocket, “I have carefully computed my expenses, travelling and otherwise, and the remainder I will devote to God's people — first of all to the Old Women's Home.”
There was an eager excitement about the old man, a hopefulness in his voice, and a genial pleasure in the way he announced himself, together with a disposition for such perfect self-sacrifice if his desires and hopes were successful, that I was silent, hardly knowing what to
do or say.
Now, Doctor,” he continued, “ all I want is enough to hire Platt's Hall the first night, which I will instantly repay, and then my talent is God's."
I felt that I must be cautious ; I knew the man's whole physical and mental being was wrapped up in this project. A false move or step might plunge him into hopeless mental imbecility, deprive him of the very help on which I relied to bring him back to an interest in life.
“Mr. Weil, you know it would require at least seventy-five dollars to get Platt's Hall for one night,” I said ; "you are not known as a lecturer, and you know it is hard at the best to get an audience in San Francisco. If you get in debt you may not be able to repay it, and I know you do not want to involve your friends ”
There was a shade of disappointment passed over his face as he replied : “But if not here, why not in Santa Clara ? I have friends there, and I could get a hall for ten dollars."
“ That is true ; but then the audiences in our country towns are worse in proportion than in the city."
A half sob broke from the old man: my sympathies were deeply moved, and I said: "However, Mr. Weil, I think it will do you good anyhow to go to the country for a little while. I will give you enough to go to Santa Clara and rent your hall; and if you fail, remember that any earnest will to work for God is just as acceptable as the act itself, if only true and earnest. Often our strength lies in failures.” The old man thought a moment or so and replied: “Doctor, won't you hear me? Two lectures oniy, each not more than two hours long. I can give you them any time at the church. Do please, dear Doctor. Only four hours to-morrow afternoon. Do, please — please, dear, dear Doctor!”
I shuddered at the thought — four hours ! But if the man had been pleading for his life he could not have been more importunate. His face was the picture of eager expectation, his hands held out imploringly to me, his whole frame trembling with excitement. I felt it would be more cruel to him to refuse than to myself to listen ; and a half reproachful feeling sprang against myself for the many hours, but by instalments of half an hour at a time, I had held my congregation listening, when as tedious as Mr. Weil might prove to me; so I consented.
At two o'clock the next day we went to the church. I was audience. Mr. Weil suggested that a church was an improper place to applaud in; so we agreed that when I observed anything striking, I was to bring my hands softly together, so that he might gather the encouragement of applause. The preliminaries were arranged - a table placed in the proper place, with a pitcher of water and a glass. The audience took his seat at the lower end of the room so as to judge of the volume of sound.
The orator appeared. He was evidently somewhat nervous, and sipped the water
frequently. At length he began : “Ladies and Gentlemen : My object is to revive the oratory of ncient times. Oratory has decayed. What is oratory? Oratory is - is — oratory is a power. It is heard in the peal of thunder as it reverberates from crag to crag. It flashes like lightning over a sea of upturned faces, and strikes with conviction each individual head. It comes silently like the dew, and falls unconsciously on God's creation. It walks abroad in the splendor of the nocturnal sky, and in the beauty of the day as its light plays among the flowers. I will give you specimens of true oratory.” Then followed a hodge-podge, a salmagundi, and jumbling together of things that for a quarter of an hour made my head ache.
His voice, at first round, full, and sonorous, began to crack. He had wrought himself up, and his voice was on its highest note, when suddenly without warning it wavered, cracked, and was hushed in silence. The old man was the picture of despair. His face turned deadly pale. In the effort to speak his eyes protruded, and great drops of perspiration started and ran down his face. Again and again he tried, it was of no avail ; and sitting down he threw his head in his hands and burst into tears. I was deeply moved and approached him to say some word of comfort ; but before I did so he raised his head from his hands, and in a broken voice exclaimed: “ It is God's will, it is God's will! I submit. I am useless; I am heart-broken-heart-broken! Oh God, forgive me!"
From that moment his health failed rapidly, and as he was drawing near the close of life, his thoughts turned toward his first home in California. He was supplied with money to go to Santa Clara, and when it was exhausted he was to write and let me know. From
some cause his letter was delayed on the way up, and he was a week without the means of returning. Too proud to beg, sick and weary, he had crawled into an old hovel to die, where Dr. M. found him. When I went he was fast asleep. On awakening he recognised me, and with a sweet smile said : «God will have some use for me in heaven," and soon found out the cause of life's failures. A tender little maiden's hands keep the grave and memory of her grandfather green and beautiful still.
NOME on the swan-down plumes of the storm,
Wrapping the strength of the oak's old form,
And walls defend,
Come with the sun, in thy diamond mail,
In scarf of gold
Thy brown limbs fold;
Come when the night is still and grand,
When the lake below
Reflects the bow
Come when the sleepless moon grows round,
When the phantom night
Is ghostly white,