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Lyman Dean's Testimonials - Part 1

March 2009

     I do not believe two more excellent people could be found than Gideon Randal and his wife. To lift the fallen and to minister to the destitute was their constant habit and delight. They often sacrificed their own comforts for the benefit of others. In vain their friends protested at this course; Gideon Randal's unfailing reply was: -
     "I think there's enough left to carry Martha and me through life, and some besides. What we give to the poor, we lend to the Lord, and if a dark day comes, He will provide."
     The "dark day" came; but it was not until he had reached the age of threescore and ten years. As old age came upon him, and his little farm became less productive, debts accumulated. Being forced to raise money, he had borrowed a thousand dollars of Esquire Harrington, giving him a mortgage on his home for security. But as the interest was regularly paid, his creditor was well satisfied. However, Mr. Harrington died suddenly, and his son, a merciless, grasping man, wrote Mr. Randal, demanding payment of the mortgage.
     Vainly did the old man plead for an extension of time. The demand was pressed to such an extent that it even become a threat to deprive him of his home unless payment were made within a given time.
     "Martha," he said to his wife, "young Harrington is a hard man. He has me in his power, and he will not scruple to ruin me. I think I would better go and talk with him, telling him how little I have. It may be he will pity two old people, and allow us better terms."
     "But husband, you are not used to traveling; Harrowtown is a hundred miles away, and you are old and feeble too."
     "True, wife; but I can talk much better than I can write, and besides, Luke Conway lives there, you remember. I took an interest in him when he was a poor boy; perhaps he will advise and help us, now that we are in trouble."
     At last, since he felt that he must go, Mrs. Randal reluctantly consented, and fitted him out for the journey with great care.
     The next morning was warm and sunny for November, and the old man started for Harrowtown.
     "Gideon," called Mrs. Randal as he walked slowly down the road, "be sure to take tight hold of the railing, when you get in and out of the cars."
     "I'll be careful, Martha," and with one more "good bye" wave of his hand, the old man hurried on to take the stage, which was to carry him to the station. But misfortune met him at the very outset. The stage was heavily loaded, and on the way, one of the wheels broke down; this caused such a delay that Mr. Randal missed the morning train, and the next did not come for several hours.
     It was afternoon when he finally started. He became anxious and weary from long waiting, and after three stations were passed, he became nervous, and worried.
     "How long before we reach Harrowtown?" he inquired, stopping the busy conductor.
     "At half past eight."
     Another question was upon Mr. Randal's lips, but the conductor was gone. "Not reach there until evening!" he exclaimed to himself in dismay, "and pitch dark, for there's no moon now; I shall not know where to go!"
     Presently the conductor passed again. "Mr. Conductor, will you kindly tell me when to get out? I've never been to Harrowtown, and I don't want to stop at the wrong place."
     "Give yourself no uneasiness," was the polite reply, "I'll let you know; I will not forget you."
     Soothed by this assurance, the old man settled back in his seat and finally went to sleep.
     In the seat behind him sat a tall, handsome boy. His name was Albert Gregory. He was bright and intelligent, but there was an expression of cruelty about his mouth, and a look about his eyes that was cold and unfeeling. This lad saw the old man fall asleep, and he nudged his companion: -
     "See here, John, by and by I'll play a good joke on that old country greeny, and you'll see fun."
     On rushed the train; mile after mile was passed. Daylight faded, and the lamps were lighted in the cars, and still the old man slept, watched by his purposed tormentor and the other boy, who wanted to see "the fun."
     At last the speed of the train began to slacken. They were nearing a station. Albert sprang up and shook Mr. Randal violently.
     "Wake up! wake up!" he called sharply. "This is Harrowtown. You must get off here!"
     Thus roughly roused, the old man started from his seat and gazed around in a bewildered way. The change from daylight to darkness, the unaccustomed awakening on a moving train, and the glare of the lights added tenfold to his confusion.
     "Wh-what did you say, boy?" he asked helplessly.
     "This is Harrowtown. The place where you want to stop. You must get off. Be quick, or you'll be carried by."
     The noise of the brakes, and ignorance of the real locality on the part of those near enough to have heard him, prevented any correction of the boy's cruel falsehood.
     Mr. Randal knew it was not the conductor who had aroused him; but, supposing Albert to be some employee of the road, he hurried to the car door with tottering steps. The name of the station was called at the other end of the car, - a name quite unlike that of 'Harrowtown,' but his dull ears did not notice it. He got off upon the platform, and before he could recover himself or knew his error, the train was again in motion.
     "This is Harrowtown. Be quick, or you'll be carried
     Albert was in ecstasies over the success of his "joke," and shook all over with laughter, in which his companion joined. "O dear! that's jolly fun!" he cried, "isn't it, John?"
     John assented that it was very funny indeed.
     Neither of the boys had noticed that the seat lately occupied by the poor old man had just been taken by a fine-looking gentleman, wrapped in a heavy cloak, who appeared to be absorbed in his own thoughts, but who really heard every word they said.

- to be continued
The Story "Lyman Dean's Testimonials"
is public domain.
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