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Bert Lloyd's Boyhood
Chapter XXX. Home Missionary Work

BERT’S recovery was as rapid as his illness had been sudden and severe. A fortnight after that memorable morning, when with the dawn came deliverance, he was as vigorous and lively as ever. He found the days of his convalescence not at all unpleasant. When the pain had passed, the long hours of suffering seemed like a dreadful dream, and the present, with its sweet relief and increasing strength, a blissful awaking. At his home all was joy and brightness: there were silence and anxiety no longer. Mrs. Lloyd and Mary went singing from room to room, Mr. Lloyd came back from his office whistling merrily, and sure to be ready with something to make Bert laugh. Frank ran in and out, the very type of joyous boyhood, and each day brought its stream of callers, with warm congratulations upon Bert’s happy restoration to health.

It would be a queer boy that would not enjoy this, seeing that it all centred upon him, and Bert fully appreciated the important position he held for the time being. Then what could be more delightful than the sense of returning strength, of enlarging activity?—to find one’s-self with a clearer head, a sharper appetite, and a more vigorous frame, as one glorious summer day succeeded another; while the birds sang blithely in the apple tree, and the blue waters of the ever-beautiful harbour rippled gently before the morning zephyrs, or were stirred into white caps by the afternoon breeze?

Bert’s illness left no trace behind so far as his physical nature was concerned, and yet he was not altogether the same boy as before it laid him low. Deep solemn thoughts had been his as he lay upon his bed, not knowing whether he should ever rise from it again. His life had been in many respects a more than ordinarily blameless one, and yet when he had little else to do save look back upon it, an almost overwhelming sense of his worthlessness came upon him, and he was filled with wonder that God could love him at all.

But that He did love him, and for His Son’s sake had accepted him, he never for a moment doubted. Now that he was restored to health and strength, he did not seek to forget those feelings, nor would he allow his convictions of great obligations Godward to lead him nowhere. He resolved to do some definite work for his Divine Master, and to seize the first opportunity that presented itself.

His friendship with Frank passed into a deeper, stronger phase than ever before. It might with much truth have been said of them as it was of two friends of old, that the soul of Bert was knit with the soul of Frank, and that Bert loved him as his own soul. They had so much in common now, and they found it so delightful to strengthen one another’s hands in the Lord by talking together of His goodness.

There was one matter that troubled Frank deeply, and that formed the subject of many a long and earnest conversation. His father was a man about whose lack of religion there could be no doubt. He was a big, bluff, and rather coarse-grained man, not over-scrupulous in business, but upon the whole as honest and trustworthy as the bulk of humanity. By dint of sheer hard work and shrewdness he had risen to a position of wealth and importance, and, as self made men are apt to do, laid much more stress upon what he owed to himself than upon what he owed to his Creator. In his own rough way, that is to say in somewhat the same fashion as we may suppose a lion loves his whelp, he loved the only child the wife long since dead had left him. He was determined that he should lack nothing that was worth having, and in nothing did Mr. Bowser show his shrewdness more clearly than in fully appreciating the advantage it was to Frank to be the chosen friend and constant companion of Lawyer Lloyd’s son. He had manifested his satisfaction at the intimacy by having Frank make Bert handsome presents at Christmas time, and in other ways. In all this, however, his only thought had been for Frank. He made no attempt to cultivate intimate relations with the Lloyds on his own account. He thought them both too refined, and too religious for him, and accordingly declined so far as he civilly could, Mr. Lloyd’s overtures toward a better acquaintance.

Such a man was Frank’s father; and now that the boy’s heart was full of joy and light, because the peace that passeth understanding was his, he longed that his father should share the same happy experience.

“If father were only a Christian, like your father, Bert, I would be the happiest boy in all the world,” said he, one day. “Oh, Bert, what can I do to make him interested in religion?”

“Why don’t you ask Dr. Chrystal to go and talk with him?” inquired Bert.

“It wouldn’t be a bit of use. He won’t go to church to hear Dr. Chrystal, nor any other minister, and he wouldn’t listen to them if they came to see him. He says he has no faith in parsons, anyway.”

“Well, do you think he would listen to father?” suggested Bert.

Frank’s face lighted up. He had been thinking of this himself.

“Perhaps he would, Bert,” he said, eagerly. “I know he thinks a great deal of your father. I’ve heard him say that he practised better than many of the parsons preached.”

Bert flushed with pleasure at this frank compliment to his father.

“Then suppose we ask him to speak to your father about religion,” he said.

“Oh, yes; let us,” assented Frank. Accordingly, that evening the two boys brought the matter before Mr. Lloyd, who listened to them very attentively. Then he asked a question or two.

“Are you quite sure, Frank, that I am the very best person to speak to your father on this important subject?”

“Yes, Mr. Lloyd; I’m quite sure you are.”

“Well, do you know, Frank, I don’t agree with you. I think I know of somebody that can do it much better than I can,” said Mr. Lloyd, with a meaning smile.

Frank’s face fell. He had set his heart upon having Mr. Lloyd do it, and could not believe that anybody else would do as well. After a little pause, he asked:

“Who is this somebody else, Mr. Lloyd?”

“He’s not very far away from us now, Frank,” answered Mr. Lloyd, still with that curious smile.

“You don’t mean Bert, do you?” cried Frank, looking a little bewildered.

“No; I don’t mean Bert,” responded Mr. Lloyd.

“Then.” He stopped short, a deep blush spread over his features; he caught his breath, and then, as if hoping that the answer would be in the negative, exclaimed:

“Do you mean me?”

“Yes, I do mean just you; and nobody else, Frank.” Frank threw himself back in his chair with a despairing gesture, saying:

“Oh, I could never do it, Mr. Lloyd. I know I never could.”

Mr. Lloyd looked at him with tender sympathy, and laying his hand upon his knee, said, gently:

“Do you remember the motto, Frank: ‘Quit you like men, be strong’?”

Frank heaved a heavy sigh. "But how can I go about it, Mr. Lloyd?” he asked.

Mr. Lloyd thought a moment.

“I have an idea, Frank,” he said, presently. “Suppose you were to start family prayer in the mornings. I believe it would be the means of doing your father good.”

At first Frank could not be persuaded that such a thing was possible as his presuming to conduct family prayer in his father’s presence, but they talked long and earnestly about it, and finally he went away promising to think it over very seriously.

As he turned the matter over in his mind, however, little by little his courage strengthened until at length he felt himself equal to the undertaking. It was a Sunday morning that he chose upon which to make the venture. So soon as breakfast was finished, and his father had moved away from the table, wishing to himself that there was a paper published on Sundays as well as upon other days, for he had time to read it comfortably, Frank took up his Bible, and said, very hesitatingly:

“Father, do you mind if we have family prayers?” “Eh! What’s that? What do you mean?” asked Mr. Bowser, looking up as if he could hardly believe his ears.

“Why, father,” answered Frank, timidly, “you know they have prayers at Mr. Lloyd’s every morning, and I thought perhaps you wouldn’t mind our having them, too.”

Mr. Bowser scanned his son’s face with a hard searching gaze, but Frank looked back at him with so much love and respect in his clear, brown eyes, that all suspicion was banished from his mind, and his heart melted not a little.

“Who’s going to have the prayers? You don’t expect me to, do you?” he asked, gruffly.

“Well, father, if you don’t care to, I’ll try, if you’ve no objection,” replied Frank, modestly.

Mr. Bowser was silent for a moment. He had noted a change in Frank of late, and had been impressed by the increased interest he took in church and Sunday school as proven by the regularity and punctuality of his going off to the services. Had Frank become a Christian like Mr. Lloyd? He would not be sorry if he had, although it was rather a pity that he had not waited until he had had his fling first, sowed a few wild oats, seen something of the world, and then settled down. Here was a good chance to find out. So with some relaxing of his gruffness, Mr. Bowser said:

“All right, my boy. I’ve no objections so long as you’re not too long-winded. Go ahead.”

Thus encouraged, Frank, with beating heart and trembling lips, proceeded to read one of the Psalms; and then, kneeling down, offered up a simple, fervent, faith-filled prayer.

Mr. Bowser did not kneel. He sat sturdily upright in his chair, looking straight before him. But he could not prevent strange emotions awaking within him as he heard his boy, whom he was still inclined to look upon as hardly more than a child, though he was now sixteen years of age, address himself in reverent, earnest tones to the Great Being that he had so utterly neglected himself.

When Frank had finished, his father rose and left the room without saying a word. That evening Frank took tea with Bert, and they went to church together. Shortly after the service began Bert happened to glance about the church, and his eye fell upon somebody that caused him to give a little start of surprise, and then nudge Frank violently. On Frank’s turning round to see what Bert meant, he too started, and an expression of joy that was beautiful to witness came over his countenance, for there, in a pew not far behind him, and evidently trying hard to look entirely at his ease, sat Mr. Bowser, this being his first appearance in church for many long years.

Dr. Chrystal preached one of his very best sermons that night, and all the time he was speaking Frank was praying that his earnest words might go straight home to his father’s heart. That was the beginning of the good work. Thenceforward every Sunday evening found Mr. Bowser an attentive listener; and Frank, continuing the morning prayers faithfully, was surprised and delighted when one day his father brought home the finest family Bible he could find in the city, and handing it to him, said, in his kindest manner:

“Here, my boy, if we ’re going to have family prayers, we may just as well do it in proper style.”

Frank joyfully reported all this to the Lloyds, who rejoiced with him over the prospect there was of his prayers for his father being fully answered ere long, and Mr. Lloyd was therefore not at all surprised when one evening Mr. Bowser called, and in an agitated, confused way begged the favour of an interview with him in the privacy of his study.

It was as Mr. Lloyd anticipated. Frank’s simple, but sincere efforts at home missionary work had been crowned with success. His father’s hard, worldly nature had been stirred to its depths. A longing the world could not appease had been awakened within him, and he had come to Mr. Lloyd as one in whom he placed implicit confidence, that he might guide him toward the light. The conversation, which Mr. Bowser found wonderfully helpful to him in his bewildered, anxious state of mind, was followed by many others, and the result was made evident when, ere that year closed, Mr. Bowser publicly united himself with the Church; and there were few who were familiar with the circumstances that could restrain a tear of sympathetic joy when Dr. Chrystal made the event the occasion for a beautiful and inspiring sermon upon the place of the young in the vineyard of the Lord.

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