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Mr. Thompson’s Prodigal
by [?]

We were all at the party. The Smiths, Joneses, Browns, and Robinsons also came, in that fine flow of animal spirits, unchecked by any respect for the entertainer, which most of us are apt to find so fascinating. The proceedings would have been somewhat riotous, but for the social position of the actors. In fact, Mr. Bracy Tibbets, having naturally a fine appreciation of a humorous situation, but further impelled by the bright eyes of the Jones girls, conducted himself so remarkably as to attract the serious regard of Mr. Charles Thompson, who approached him, saying quietly: “You look ill, Mr. Tibbets; let me conduct you to your carriage. Resist, you hound, and I’ll throw you through that window. This way, please; the room is close and distressing.” It is hardly necessary to say that but a part of this speech was audible to the company, and that the rest was not divulged by Mr. Tibbets, who afterward regretted the sudden illness which kept him from witnessing a certain amusing incident, which the fastest Miss Jones characterized as the “richest part of the blow-out,” and which I hasten to record.

It was at supper. It was evident that Mr. Thompson had overlooked much lawlessness in the conduct of the younger people, in his abstract contemplation of some impending event. When the cloth was removed, he rose to his feet, and grimly tapped upon the table. A titter, that broke out among the Jones girls, became epidemic on one side of the board. Charles Thompson, from the foot of the table, looked up in tender perplexity. “He’s going to sing a Doxology,” “He’s going to pray,” “Silence for a speech,” ran round the room.

“It’s one year to-day, Christian brothers and sisters,” said Mr. Thompson, with grim deliberation,–“one year to-day since my son came home from eating of wine-husks and spending of his substance on harlots.” (The tittering suddenly ceased.) “Look at him now. Char-les Thompson, stand up.” (Charles Thompson stood up.) “One year ago to-day,–and look at him now.”

He was certainly a handsome prodigal, standing there in his cheerful evening-dress,–a repentant prodigal, with sad, obedient eyes turned upon the harsh and unsympathetic glance of his father. The youngest Miss Smith, from the pure depths of her foolish little heart, moved unconsciously toward him.

“It’s fifteen years ago since he left my house,” said Mr. Thompson, “a rovier and a prodigal. I was myself a man of sin, O Christian friends,–a man of wrath and bitterness” (“Amen,” from the eldest Miss Smith),–“but praise be God, I’ve fled the wrath to come. It’s five years ago since I got the peace that passeth understanding. Have you got it, friends?” (A general sub-chorus of “No, no,” from the girls, and, “Pass the word for it,” from Midshipman Coxe, of the U. S. sloop Wethersfield.) “Knock, and it shall be opened to you.

“And when I found the error of my ways, and the preciousness of grace,” continued Mr. Thompson, “I came to give it to my son. By sea and land I sought him far, and fainted not. I did not wait for him to come to me, which the same I might have done, and justified myself by the Book of books, but I sought him out among his husks, and–” (the rest of the sentence was lost in the rustling withdrawal of the ladies). “Works, Christian friends, is my motto. By their works shall ye know them, and there is mine.”

The particular and accepted work to which Mr. Thompson was alluding had turned quite pale, and was looking fixedly toward an open door leading to the veranda, lately filled by gaping servants, and now the scene of some vague tumult. As the noise continued, a man, shabbily dressed, and evidently in liquor, broke through the opposing guardians, and staggered into the room. The transition from the fog and darkness without to the glare and heat within evidently dazzled and stupefied him. He removed his battered hat, and passed it once or twice before his eyes, as he steadied himself, but unsuccessfully, by the back of a chair. Suddenly, his wandering glance fell upon the pale face of Charles Thompson; and with a gleam of childlike recognition, and a weak, falsetto laugh, he darted forward, caught at the table, upset the glasses, and literally fell upon the prodigal’s breast.