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MAKING THE BEST OF IT.
You would have tad to go a day's journey and more to find two friends so thoroughly unlike as John Spoor and Peter Kendall; and yet they were friends as fast as fast could be.
As a rule it will perhaps be found that if two men are very close friends, whilst they have a great deal in common, there are also some things in which they are widely different; but the differences between John Spoor and Peter Kendall were so marked, that everybody who knew them wondered at their friendship.
They lived in the same court when they were lads, and they went to the same school. All the boys in the neighbourhood liked Spoor, and he deserved his popularity, for a more cheerful, hearty, good-tempered fellow never lived. It did you good to hear his ringing, merry laugh; and nobody ever saw him with a cloud on his brow. He could "stick up for himself," if it was necessary, and that was pretty well understood; but somehow or other, he scarcely ever had to do so. He had the art of getting on so well with everybody, that it was the rarest thing in the world for him to be involved in anything like a quarrel.
Peter Kendall was the very reverse of all this. He was "touchy," and far too ready to think himself slighted.
"There's no getting on with him," said one of their companions. "What a way he has," said another, "of sticking his elbows into everybody's ribs!" He would have been left out of many a game, and out of many a fishing and walking party on a holiday afternoon but for Spoor, who, whilst, in a quiet way, he remonstrated with him, pleaded for him with the others. So he was tolerated for the sake of his friend.
Yet there were some good points about him. He was thoroughly kind at heart, and he was truthful and genuine; and Spoor liked him on these accounts. He was not very happy at home, for his mother was dead; his father had married again, and his stepmother was not so kind as she might have been; and Spoor, who knew all this, was the more disposed because of it to show him kindness than he might otherwise have been. Then, too, he saw that Kendall looked up to him, and sought his friendship; and he found that he could get on very well with him— better, in fact, than could any body else of their set. In one way Kendall could render some return; he was a good deal quicker than Spoor about his lessons, and many a time he had helped him considerably.
They went early to work, and they went to the same place. Their master was a cabinet-maker, and they were now, though about six-and-thirty years of age, journeymen in the shop in which they had served their apprenticeship. In the case of Kendall, however, there was a long break; for when he was about five-andtwenty, work being somewhat scarce, and other circumstances having also arisen, which made him think a change would be advantageous, he had sought and obtained employment in a large town at some distance; but a year before the time of which we have now to speak, he had gone back again to Bolton. His wife, who had not enjoyed very good health, and who had, besides, been a good deal tried by the sickness of several of her children, and by the loss of one of them, wished to be near her relatives. And Kendall himself, who had not made many friends in the place to which they had gone, was quite willing to return, and even desirous to do so. Hearing, therefore, from his friend Spoor that there was a vacancy in his old shop, he wrote to the master, and was once more at work on the very bench he had left.
Meanwhile a great change had taken place in the views and character of Spoor. Not that he was a bit less frank and cheerful and open-hearted than before. He was just as well liked by his fellow-workmen in the shop as he had been by his companions when he was a lad, and he had a kind word for everybody. The man was in all these respects everything that might have been expected from the boy. But the great difference was this—he had become a true Christian. His genial nature had exposed him to some danger, and his company had been greatly sought by those who were fond of a Sunday stroll, and of what they called "a friendly glass," in the evenings; but one Sunday he was induced by a fellow-workman, who saw whither things were tending, and who was very anxious to do him good, to go with him to hear a young minister who had recently settled in Bolton. "What he heard that night made a deep impression on his heart, and he went again, and again, till by and by his place was never vacant. He had never felt himself to be a sinner before; but he did so now, and for a little time he was very serious and downcast. Then it began to be whispered in the shop that he was becoming religious; and some of his old companions mourned bitterly that "such a regular good fellow should be spoiled in that fashion." But the sunlight soon came back again to his spirit, and he was brighter than ever.
"And why should I not be happy?" he replied to one of his fellow-workmen who had ventured to speak to him on the subject. '' Thank God I never was so happy in my life. It is true I was downcast for a bit, when I thought what a sinner I had been; but as soon as I learned to trust in the Lord Jesus, and knew that my sins were pardoned, all that passed away. Ah, Ned, if you would only try it!"
By God's blessing he persuaded his wife—for he was already married—to "try it;" and glad he was beyond the power of all words to describe, when she too gave her heart to the Lord Jesus. It made their house a very happy one. Indeed, though they had been really very comfortable, he sometimes said that he hardly felt as if it had been thoroughly home till then.
It was a favourite saying of John's, " Let us make the best of it." Indeed it became so well-known as his, that it was often said, jokingly, "But, as John Spoor says, 'Let us make the best of it.'"
Sometimes he would enlarge on this maxim of his, and say, " There are some things so good that we can hardly see how they could be better; and there are some things so bad that we can hardly see any 'best' that can be made out of them; but things are very bad indeed when something can't be done."
Already he had had more opportunity of putting his principle into practice than falls to the lot of men who have as yet scarcely reached middle life. He had saved a little money, and put it into the savings' bank. It happens very rarely indeed that depositors in savings banks sustain any loss—never in those which are established by government; but it did happen that the manager of the savings bank in which John had invested his money had knavishly applied the deposits to his own purposes, and there was every reason to fear that John's savings were all gone.
"It's a great pity, Nelly," said he, when he took the news home to his wife; "and, of course, if we had known we would not have put it in; but it's no use crying over spilt milk. Let us mate the best of it. We are young and healthy, and I have plenty of work and good wages. May be God did not see it good for us we should have so much beforehand."
Things did not turn out so badly after all; for some gentlemen, resolving that the deserving poor should not lose their savings, subscribed to make up the deficiency.
But their greatest trial was this: their second child was taken ill, when he was about two years old, and for a long time there seemed no hope of his recovery. He did recover; but they noticed that their medical attendant expressed no gladness about it; and at length he told them candidly he feared that there was small prospect for their dear little one save that of hopeless imbecility.
"It's a sore trial," said John, "one of the heaviest, I think, that could have happened to us. However, we must make the best of it."
"Ay, that's what you always say, John," replied his wife; "but it's hard to see what 'best' can be made out of this."
They acted, however, on John's maxim. They devoted themselves with special care to their afflicted child, got what information they could as to the best modes of training him, and they were rewarded by finding that the wreck was not so great as might have been anticipated. After a few years they obtained for him admission into an asylum, and as the combined result of their own training and of that which he received there, though he never recovered his intellect fully, he recovered it in so far as to be able to earn his own livelihood.
Kendall had not improved during his absence from Bolton. He was a steady man, indeed, and he never spent his evenings in the public-house, but he was very prone to be discontented and to take gloomy views of things. He looked much more at the blackness of the cloud, when any trouble befell him, than at the bright fringe which told of the silver lining which was on the other side of it. If he had ever heard of the old proverb, "Always take things by the smooth handle," he never practised it. Indeed, one reason which weighed strongly with him in returning to Bolton was, that he had become involved in misunderstandings more or less serious with several of his fellow workmen in the place where he was.
"We must try to do what we can for him," said Spoor to
his wife, who, with a sharp-witted woman's insight, had soon found out what sort of man Kendall was. "He always had a queerish temper; and he has not improved much whilst he has been away. But if only the Lord would change his heart, I believe he would brighten up wonderfully."'
There was an old foreman placed over the men in the shop, a clever workman, most conscientiously devoted to his master's interests, and wishful also to do everything that was right to the men, but resolute, even to a fault, in having everything done in the precise way which he thought the best. He had, besides, a keen, biting way of speaking to any one who crossed him, which was the harder to bear because what he said was said so quietly, and in so few words, as almost entirely to preclude reply. These were both things under which a man of Kendall's disposition was especially likely to chafe.
It so happened that a piece of work, which required more than usual delicacy and skill, had been entrusted to Kendall by the foreman, with explicit directions as to the way in which it should be done. As he proceeded, he thought that it would be a considerable improvement on the plan which had been laid down if he made a certain deviation from it; and instead of mentioning it to the foreman beforehand, he carried out his idea without consulting him. When the work was completed, he presented it with something like a feeling of pride, assured that it would be approved and praised. Not so, however. It was certainly an improvement; but the foreman, who was both jealous of his authority and a little old-fashioned in his notions, looked at the work for a minute or two, and then said—
"Humph! and so you've been trying some of your Liverpool fancies, have you? Clever, I dare say; but the rule of this shop is, that we do things as we are ordered. I don't think I can pass it."
Kendall coloured; his countenance fell, and he was just about to make a reply which would have broken the peace between himself and the foreman for ever, when, glancing aside, he caught a view of Spoor, who gave him a warning look, which he rightly interpreted to mean that he had better be silent. He had the good sense to take the hint, and, without saying a word, he returned to his bench.
"I'll tell you what," he said, when Spoor and he left the shop, " I can't stand old Eobinson. It's vexing enough to