When Tom left the office he walked into Mr. Kitely’s shop, for he was
afraid lest Mr. Stopper should see him turn up to Guild Court. He had
almost forgotten Mr. Kitely’s behavior about the book he would not keep
for him, and his resentment was gone quite. There was nobody in the
shop but Mattie.
“Well, chick,” said Thomas, kindly, but more condescendingly than
suited Miss Matilda’s tastes.
“Neither chick nor child,” she answered promptly; though where she got
the phrase is a mystery, as indeed is the case with almost all the
sayings of such children.
“What are you, then? A fairy?”
“If I was, I know what I would do. Oh, wouldn’t I just! I should think
“Well, what would you do, little Miss What’s-your-name?”
“My name is Miss Kitely; but that’s neither here nor there. Oh, no!
it’s not me! Wouldn’t I just!”
“Well, Miss Kitely, I want to know what you would do if you were a
“I would turn your eyes into gooseberries, and your tongue into a bit
of leather a foot long; and every time you tried to speak your long
tongue would slap your blind eyes and make you cry.”
“What a terrible doom!” returned Thomas, offended at the child’s
dislike to him, but willing to carry it off. “Why?”
“Because you’ve made Miss Burton’s eyes red, you naughty man! _I_ know
you. It must be you. Nobody else could make her eyes red but you, and
you go and do it.”
Thomas’s first movement was of anger; for he felt, as all who have
concealments are ready to feel, that he was being uncomfortably
exposed. He turned his back on the child, and proceeded to examine the
books on a level with his face. While he was thus engaged, Mr. Kitely
“How do you do, Mr. Worboise?” he said. “I’ve got another copy of that
book you and I fell out about some time ago. I can let you have this
one at half the price.”
It was evident that the bookseller wanted to be conciliatory. Thomas,
in his present mood was inclined to repel his advances, but he shrank
from contention, and said:
“Thank you. I shall be glad to have it. How much is it?”
Mr. Kitely named the amount, and, ashamed to appear again unable,
even at the reduced price, to pay for it, Thomas pulled out the last
farthing of the money in his pocket, which came to the exact sum
required, and pocketed the volume.
“If you would excuse a man who has seen something of the world–more
than was good for him at one time of his life–Mr. Worboise,” said Mr.
Kitely, as he pocketed the money, “I would give you a hint about that
German up the court. He’s a clever fellow enough, I dare say–perhaps
too clever. Don’t you have anything to do with him beyond the German.
Take my advice. I don’t sit here all day at the mouth of the court for
nothing. I can see what comes in my way as well as another man.”
“What is there to say against him, Mr. Kitely? I haven’t seen any harm
“I’m not going to commit myself in warning you, Mr. Worboise. But I do
warn you. Look out, and don’t let him lead you into mischief.”
“I hope I am able to take care of myself, Mr. Kitely,” said Thomas,
with a touch of offense.
“I hope you are, Mr. Worboise,” returned the bookseller, dryly; “but
there’s no offense meant in giving you the hint.”
At this moment Mr. Stopper passed the window. Thomas listened for the
echo of his steps up the archway, and as none came, he knew that he
had gone along the street. He waited, therefore, till he thought he
must be out of sight, and then sped uneasily from the shop, round the
corner, and up to Mrs. Boxall’s door, which the old lady herself opened
for him, not looking so pleased as usual to see him. Mr. Molken was
watching from the opposite ground-floor window. A few minutes after,
Mr. Stopper re-passed the window of Mr. Kitely’s shop, and went into
the counting-house with a pass-key.
Thomas left Mrs. Boxall to shut the door, and rushed eagerly up the
stairs, and into the sitting-room. There he found the red eyes of which
Mattie had spoken. Lucy rose and held out her hand, but her manner was
constrained, and her lips trembled as if she were going to cry. Thomas
would have put his arm round her and drawn her to him, but she gently
pushed his arm away, and he felt as many a man has felt, and every man,
perhaps, ought to feel, that in the gentlest repulse of the woman he
loves there is something terribly imperative and absolute.
“Why, Lucy!” he said, in a tone of hurt; “what have I done?”
“If you can forget so soon, Thomas,” answered Lucy, “I cannot. Since
yesterday I see things in a different light altogether. I cannot, for
your sake any more than my own, allow things to go on in this doubtful
“Oh I but, Lucy, I was taken unawares yesterday; and to-day, now I have
slept upon it, I don’t see there is any such danger. I ought to be a
match for that brute Stopper, anyhow.”
Yet the brute Stopper had outreached him, or, at least, “served
him out,” three or four times that very day, and he had refused to
acknowledge it to himself, which was all his defense, poor wretch.
“But that is not all the question, Thomas. It is not right. At least,
it seems to me that it is not right to go on like this. People’s
friends ought to know. I would not have done it if grannie hadn’t been
to know. But then I ought to have thought of your friends as well as my
“But there would be no difficulty if I had only a grandmother,” urged
Thomas, “and one as good as yours. I shouldn’t have thought of not
“I don’t think the difficulty of doing right makes it unnecessary to do
it,” said Lucy.
“I think you might trust that to me, Lucy,” said Thomas, falling back
upon his old attempted relation of religious instructor to his friend.
Lucy was silent for a moment; but after what she had gone through in
the night, she knew that the time had come for altering their relative
position if not the relation itself.
“No, Thomas,” said she; “I must take my own duty into my own hands. I
_will_ not go on this way.”
“Do you think then, Lucy, that in affairs of this kind a fellow ought
to do just what his parents want?”
“No, Thomas. But I do think he ought not to keep such things secret
“Not even if they are unreasonable and tyrannical?”
“No. A man who will not take the consequences of loving cannot be much
of a lover.”
“Lucy!” cried Thomas, now stung to the heart.
“I can’t help it, Thomas,” said Lucy, bursting into tears; “I _must_
speak the truth, and if you cannot bear it, the worse for me–and for
you, too, Thomas.”
“Then you mean to give me up?” said Thomas, pathetically, without,
however, any real fear of such an unthinkable catastrophe.
“If it be giving you up to say I will not marry a man who is too much
afraid of his father and mother to let them know what he is about, then
I do give you up. But it will be you who give me up if you refuse to
acknowledge me as you ought.”
Lucy could not have talked like this ever before in her life. She had
gone through an eternity of suffering in the night. She was a woman
now. She had been but a girl before. Now she stood high above Thomas.
He was but a boy still, and not beautiful as such. She was all at once
old enough to be his mother. There was no escape from the course she
took; no _dodging_ was possible. This must be. But she was and would be
gentle with poor Thomas.
“You do not love me, Lucy,” he cried.
“My poor Thomas, I do love you; love you so dearly that I trust and
pray you may be worthy of my love. Go and do as you ought, and come
back to me–like one of the old knights you talk about,” she added,
with the glimmer of a hopeful smile, “bringing victory to his lady.”
“I will, I will,” said Thomas, overcome by her solemn beauty and
dignified words. It was as if she had cast the husk of the girl, and
had come out a saving angel. But the perception of this was little more
to him yet than a poetic sense of painful pleasure.
“I will, I will,” he said. “But I cannot to-night, for my father and
mother are both at Folkestone. But I will write to them–that will be
“Any way you like, Thomas. I don’t care how you do it, so it is done.”
All this time the old lady, having seen that something was wrong,
had discreetly kept out of the way, for she knew that the quarrels of
lovers at least are most easily settled between themselves. Thomas
now considered it all over and done with, and Lucy, overjoyed at her
victory, leaned into his arms, and let him kiss her ten times. Such
a man, she ought not, perhaps–only she did not know better–to have
allowed to touch her till he had done what he had promised. To some
people the promise is the difficult part, to others the performance. To
Thomas, unhappily, the promising was easy.
They did not hear the door open. It was now getting dark, but the two
were full in the light of the window, and visible enough to the person
who entered. He stood still for one moment, during which the lovers
unwound their arms. Only when parting, they became aware that a man was
in the room. He came forward with hasty step. It was Richard Boxall.
Thomas looked about for his hat. Lucy stood firm and quiet, waiting.
“Lucy, where is your grandmother?”
“Up stairs, uncle, I believe.”
“Is she aware of that fellow’s presence?”
“You are not very polite, uncle,” said Lucy, with dignity. “This is
my friend, Mr. Worboise, whom I believe you know. Of course I do not
receive visitors without my grandmother’s knowledge.”
Mr. Boxall choked an oath in his throat, or rather the oath nearly
choked him. He turned and went down the stair again; but neither of
them heard the outer door close. Thomas and Lucy stared at each other
The facts of the case were these, as near as I can guess. The _Ningpo_
had dropped down to Gravesend, and the Boxalls had joined her there.
But some delay had arisen, and she was not to sail till the next
morning. Mr. Boxall had resolved to make use of the time thus gained or
lost, and had come up to town. I cannot help believing that it was by
contrivance of Mr. Stopper, who had watched Tom and seen him go up the
court, that he went through the door from his private room, instead of
going round, which would have given warning to the lovers. Possibly he
returned intending to see his mother; but after the discovery he made,
avoided her, partly because he was angry and would not quarrel with her
the last thing before his voyage. Upon maturer consideration, he must
have seen that he had no ground for quarreling with her at all, for she
could have known nothing about Tom in relation to Mary, except Tom
had told her, which was not at all likely. But before he had had time
to see this, he was on his way to Gravesend again. He was so touchy as
well as obstinate about everything wherein his family was concerned,
that the sight of Tom with his Mary’s cousin was enough to drive all
reflection out of him for an hour at least.
Thomas and Lucy stood and stared at each other. Thomas stared from
consternation; Lucy only stared at Tom.
“Well, Thomas,” she said at last, with a sweet, watery smile; for
she had her lover, and she had lost her idol. She had got behind
the scenes, and could worship no more; but Dagon was a fine idea,
notwithstanding his fall, and if she could not set him up on his
pedestal again, she would at least try to give him an arm-chair.
Fish-tailed Dagon is an unfortunate choice for the simile, I know,
critical reader; but let it pass, and the idea that it illustrates
being by no means original, let the figure at least have some claim to
“Now he’ll go and tell my father,” said Tom; “and I wish you knew what
a row my mother and he will make between them.”
“But why, Tom? Have they any prejudice against me? Do they know there
is such a person?”
“I don’t know. They may have heard of you at your uncle’s.”
“My father because you have no money, and my mother because you have no
“No grace, Tom? Am I so very clumsy?”
Thomas burst out laughing.
“I forgot,” he said. “You were not brought up to my mother’s slang. She
and her set use Bible words till they make you hate them.”
“But you shouldn’t hate them. They are good in themselves, though they
be wrong used.”
“That’s all very well. Only if you had been tried with them as I have
been, I am afraid you would have had to give in to hating them, as well
as me, Lucy. I never did like that kind of slang. But what am I to do
with old Boxall–I beg your pardon–with your uncle Richard? He’ll be
sure to write to my father before he sails. They’re friends, you know.”
“Well, but you will be beforehand with him, and then it won’t matter.
You were going to do it at any rate, and the thing now is to have the
start of him,” said Lucy, perhaps not sorry to have in the occurrence
an additional spur to prick the sides of Thomas’s intent.
“Yes, yes; that’s all very well,” returned Thomas, dubiously, as if
there was a whole world behind it.
“Now, dear Tom, do go home at once, and write. You will save the last
post if you do,” said Lucy, decidedly; for she saw more and more the
necessity, for Thomas’s own sake, of urging him to action.
“So, instead of giving me a happy evening, you are going to send me
home to an empty house!”
“You see the thing must be done, or my uncle will be before you,” said
Lucy, beginning to be vexed with him for his utter want of decision,
and with herself for pushing him toward such an act. Indeed, she felt
all at once that perhaps she had been unmaidenly. But there was no
choice except to do it, or break off the engagement.
Now, whether it was that her irritation influenced her tone and
infected Tom with like irritation, or that he could not bear being thus
driven to do what he so much disliked, while on the whole he would have
preferred that Mr. Boxall should tell his father and so save him from
the immediate difficulty, the evil spirit in him arose once more in
rebellion, and, like the mule that he was, he made an effort to unseat
the gentle power that would have urged him along the only safe path on
“Lucy, I will not be badgered in this way. If you can’t trust me, you
won’t get anything that way.”
Lucy drew back a step and looked at him for one moment; then turned and
left the room. Thomas waited for a minute; then, choosing to arouse a
great sense of injury in his bosom, took his hat, and went out, banging
the door behind him.
Just as he banged Lucy’s door, out came Mr. Molken from his. It was as
if the devil had told a hawk to wait, and he would fetch him a pigeon.
“Coming to have your lesson after all?” he asked, as Thomas, from very
indecision, made a step or two toward him.
“No; I don’t feel inclined for a lesson to-night.”
“Where are you going, then?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” answered Tom; trying to look nohow in particular.
“Come along with me, then. I’ll show you something of life after dark.”
“But where are you going?”
“You’ll see that when we get there. You’re not afraid, are you?”
“Not I,” answered Tom; “only a fellow likes to know where he’s going.
“Well, where would you like to go? A young fellow like you really ought
to know something of the world he lives in. You are clever enough, in
all conscience, if you only knew a little more.”
“Go on, then. I don’t care. It’s nothing to me where I go. Only,” Tom
added, “I have no money in my pocket. I spent my last shilling on this
copy of Goethe’s poems.”
“Ah, you never spent your money better! There was a man, now, that
never contented himself with hearsay! He would know all the ways of
life for himself–else how was he to judge of them all? He would taste
of everything, that he might know the taste of it. Why should a man be
ignorant of anything that can be known. Come along. I will take care of
you. See if I don’t!”
“But you can’t be going anywhere in London for nothing. And I tell you
I haven’t got a farthing in my purse.”
“Never mind that. It shan’t cost you anything. Now I am going to make a
clean breast of it, as you English call it; though why there should be
anything dirty in keeping your own secrets I don’t know. I want to make
an experiment with you.”
“Give me chloroform, and cut me up?” said Tom, reviving as his quarrel
with Lucy withdrew a little into the background.
“Not quite that. You shall neither take chloroform, nor have your eyes
bandaged, nor be tied to the table. You can go the moment you have
had enough of it. It is merely for the sake of my theory. Entirely an
“Perhaps, if you told me your theory, I might judge of the nature of
“I told you all about it the other day. You are one of those fortunate
mortals doomed to be lucky. Why, I knew one–not a gambler, I don’t
mean that–whose friends at last would have nothing to do with him
where any chance was concerned. If it was only sixpenny points, they
wouldn’t play a single rubber of whist with him except he was their
partner. In fact, the poor wretch was reduced to play only with
strangers,–comparative strangers I mean, of course. He won everything.”
“Then what do you want with me? Out with it.”
“I only want to back you. You don’t understand the thing. You shan’t
spend a farthing. I have plenty.” Here Molken pulled a few sovereigns
from his pocket as he went on, and it never occurred to Tom to ask how
he had them, seeing he was so hard-up at dinner-time. “It’s all for my
theory of luck, I assure you. I have given up practical gambling, as
I told you, long ago. It’s not right. I _have_ known enough about it,
I confess to you–you know _we_ understand each other; but I confess
too–my theory–I _am_ anxious about that.”
All this time they had been walking along, Thomas paying no heed to the
way they went. He would have known little about it, however, well as he
thought he knew London, for they had entered a region entirely unknown
“But you haven’t told me, after all,” he said, “where you are going.”
“Here,” answered Molken, pushing open the swing-door of a public-house.
* * * * *
The next morning Thomas made his appearance in the office at the usual
hour, but his face was pale and his eyes were red. His shirt-front was
tumbled and dirty, and he had nearly forty shillings in his pocket. He
never looked up from his work, and now and then pressed his hand to his
head. This Mr. Stopper saw and enjoyed.
When Lucy left the room, with her lover–if lover he could be
called–alone in it, her throat felt as if it would burst with the
swelling of something like bodily grief. She did not know what it was,
for she had never felt anything like it before. She thought she was
going to die. Her grandmother could have told her that she would be a
happy woman if she did not have such a swelling in her throat a good
many times without dying of it; but Lucy strove desperately to hide it
from her. She went to her own room and threw herself on her bed, but
started up again when she heard the door bang, flew to the window, and
saw all that passed between Molken and Thomas till they left the court
together. She had never seen Molken so full in the face before; and
whether it was from this full view, or that his face wore more of the
spider expression upon this occasion, I do not know–I incline to the
latter, for I think that an on-looker can read the expression of two
countenances better, sometimes, than those engaged in conversation can
read each other’s–however it was, she felt a dreadful repugnance to
Molken from that moment, and became certain that he was trying in some
way or other to make his own out of Thomas. With this new distress was
mingled the kind but mistaken self-reproach that she had driven him to
it. Why should she not have borne with the poor boy, who was worried
to death between his father and mother and Mr. Stopper and that demon
down there? He would be all right if they would only leave him alone.
He was but a poor boy, and, alas! she had driven him away from his only
friend–for such she was sure she was. She threw herself on her bed,
but she could not rest. All the things in the room seemed pressing upon
her, as if they had staring eyes in their heads; and there was no heart
Her grandmother heard the door bang, and came in search of her.
“What’s the matter, my pet?” she asked, as she entered the room and
found her lying on the bed.
“Oh, nothing, grannie,” answered Lucy, hardly knowing what she said.
“You’ve quarrelled with that shilly-shally beau of yours, I suppose.
Well, let him go–_he’s_ not much.”
Lucy made no reply, but turned her face toward the wall, as mourners
did ages before the birth of King Hezekiah. Grannie had learned a
little wisdom in her long life, and left her. She would get a cup of
tea ready, for she had great faith in bodily cures for mental aches.
But before the tea was well in the tea-pot Lucy came down in her bonnet
She could not rest. She tossed and turned. What could Thomas be about
with that man? What mischief might he not take him into? Good women,
in their supposed ignorance of men’s wickedness, are not unfrequently
like the angels, in that they understand it perfectly, without the
knowledge soiling one feather of their wings. They see it clearly–even
from afar. Now, although Lucy could not know so much of it as many are
compelled to know, she had some acquaintance with the lowest castes of
humanity, and the vice of the highest is much the same as the vice of
the lowest, only in general worse–more refined, and more detestable.
So, by a natural process, without knowing how, she understood something
of the kind of gulf into which a man like Molken might lead Thomas, and
she could not bear the thoughts that sprung out of this understanding.
Hardly knowing what she did, she got up and put on her bonnet and
shawl, and went down stairs.
“Where on earth are you going, Lucy?” asked her grandmother, in some
Lucy did not know in the least what she meant to do. She had had a
vague notion of setting out to find Thomas somewhere, and rescue him
from the grasp of Moloch, but, save for the restlessness with which
her misery filled her, she could never have entertained the fancy.
The moment her grandmother asked her the question, she saw how absurd
it would be. Still she could not rest. So she invented an answer, and
ordered her way according to her word.
“I’m going to see little Mattie,” she said. “The child is lonely, and
so am I. I will take her out for a walk.”
“Do then, my dear. It will do you both good,” said the grandmother.
“Only you must have a cup of tea first.”
Lucy drank her cup of tea, then rose, and went to the book-shop. Mr.
Kitely was there alone.
“How’s Mattie to-night, Mr. Kitely? Is she any better, do you think?”
“She’s in the back room there. I’ll call her,” said the bookseller,
without answering either of Lucy’s questions.
“Oh! I’ll just go in to her. You wouldn’t mind me taking her out for a
little walk, would you?”
“Much obliged to you, miss,” returned the bookseller, heartily. “It’s
not much amusement the poor child has. I’m always meaning to do better
for her, but I’m so tied with the shop that–_I_ don’t know hardly how
it is, but somehow we go on the same old way. She’ll be delighted.”
Lucy went into the back parlor, and there sat Mattie, with her legs
curled up beneath her on the window-sill, reading a little book,
thumbed and worn at the edges, and brown with dust and use.
“Well, Miss Burton,” she cried, before Lucy had time to speak, “I’ve
found something here. I think it’s what people call poetry. I’m not
sure; but I’m sure it’s good, whatever it is. Only I can’t read it very
well. Will you read it to me, please, miss? I do like to be read to.”
“I want you to come out for a walk with me, Mattie,” said Lucy, who was
in no humor for reading.
Wise Mattie glanced up in her face. She had recognized the sadness in
“Read this first, please, Miss Burton,” she said. “I think it will do
you good. Things _will_ go wrong. I’m sure it’s very sad. And I don’t
know what’s to be done with the world. It’s always going wrong. It’s
just like father’s watch. He’s always saying there’s something out of
order in its inside, and he’s always a-taking of it to the doctor, as
he calls the watchmaker to amuse me. Only I’m not very easy to amuse,”
reflected Mattie, with a sigh. “But,” she resumed, “I wish I knew the
doctor to set the world right. The clock o’ St. Jacob’s goes all right,
but I’m sure Mr. Potter ain’t the doctor to set the world right, any
more than Mr. Deny is for Mr. Kitely’s watch.”
The associations in Mattie’s mind were not always very clear either to
herself or other people; they were generally just, notwithstanding.
“But you have never been to Mr. Potter’s church to know, Mattie.”
“Oh! haven’t I, just? Times and times. Mr. Spelt has been a-taking of
me. I do believe mother thinks I am going to die, and wants to get me
ready. I wonder what it all means?”
“Nonsense, Mattie!” said Lucy, already tamed a little aside from her
own sorrow by the words of the child. “You must put on your hat and
come out with me.”
“My bonnet, miss. Hats are only fit for very little girls. And I won’t
go till you read this poetry to me–if it be poetry.”
Lucy took the book, and read. The verses were as follows:
As Christ went into Jericho town,
‘Twas darkness all, from toe to crown,
About blind Bartimeus.
He said, Our eyes are more than dim,
And so, of course, we don’t see Him,
But David’s Son can see us.
Cry out, cry out, blind brother, cry;
Let not salvation dear go by;
Have mercy, Son of David.
Though they were blind, they both could hear–
They heard, and cried, and he drew near;
And so the blind were saved.
O Jesus Christ! I’m deaf and blind,
Nothing comes through into my mind,
I only am not dumb.
Although I see thee not, nor hear,
I cry because thou may’st be near;
O Son of David, come.
A finger comes into my ear;
A voice comes through the deafness drear;
Poor eyes, no more be dim.
A hand is laid upon mine eyes;
I hear, I feel, I see, I rise–
‘Tis He, I follow Him.
Before Lucy had finished reading the not very poetic lines, they had
somehow or other reached her heart. For they had one quality belonging
to most good poetry–that of directness or simplicity; and never does a
mind like hers–like hers, I mean, in truthfulness–turn more readily
toward the unseen, the region out of which even that which is seen
comes, than when a rain-cloud enwraps and hides the world around it,
leaving thus, as it were, only the passage upward open. She closed the
little book gently, laid it down, got Mattie’s bonnet, and, heedless of
the remarks of the child upon the poem, put it on her, and led her out.
Her heart was too full to speak. As they went through the shop–
“A pleasant walk to you, ladies,” said the bookseller.
“Thank you, Mr. Kitely,” returned his daughter, for Lucy could not yet
They had left Bagot Street, and were in one of the principal
thoroughfares, before Lucy had got the lump in her throat sufficiently
swallowed to be able to speak. She had not yet begun to consider where
they should go. When they came out into the wider street, the sun,
now near the going down, was shining golden through a rosy fog. Long
shadows lay or flitted about over the level street. Lucy had never
before taken any notice of the long shadows of evening. Although she
was a town girl, and had therefore had comparatively few chances,
yet in such wide streets as she had sometimes to traverse they were
not a rare sight. In the city, to be sure, they are much rarer. But
the reason she saw them now was that her sorrowful heart saw the
sorrowfulness of the long shadows out of the rosy mist, and made her
mind observe them. The sight brought the tears again into her eyes, and
yet soothed her. They looked so strange upon that wood-paved street,
that they seemed to have wandered from some heathy moor and lost
themselves in the labyrinth of the city. Even more than the scent of
the hay in the early morning, floating into the silent streets from the
fields round London, are these long shadows to the lover of nature,
convincing him that what seems the unnatural Babylon of artifice and
untruth, is yet at least within the region of nature, contained in her
bosom and subjected to her lovely laws; is on the earth as truly as the
grassy field upon which the child sees with delighted awe his very own
shadow stretch out to such important, yea, portentous, length. Even
hither come the marvels of Nature’s magic. Not all the commonplaces of
ugly dwellings, and cheating shops that look churches in the face and
are not ashamed, can shut out that which gives mystery to the glen far
withdrawn, and loveliness to the mountain-side. From this moment Lucy
began to see and feel things as she had never seen or felt them before.
Her weeping had made way for a deeper spring in her nature to flow–a
gain far more than sufficient to repay the loss of such a lover as
Thomas, if indeed she must lose him.
But Mattie saw the shadows too.
“Well, miss, who’d have thought of such a place as this! I declare it
bewilders my poor head. I feel every time a horse puts his foot on my
shadow as if I must cry out. Isn’t it silly? It’s all my big head–it’s
not me; you know, miss.”
Lucy could not yet make the remark, and therefore I make it for
her–how often we cry out when something steps on our shadow, passing
yards away from ourselves! There is not a phenomenon of disease–not
even of insanity–that has not its counterpart in our moral miseries,
all springing from want of faith in God. At least, so it seems to me.
That will account for it all, or looks as if it would; and nothing else
It seems to me, too, that in thinking of the miseries and wretchedness
in the world we seldom think of the other side. We hear of an event in
association with some certain individual, and we say–“How dreadful!
How miserable!” And perhaps we say–“Is there–can there be a God in
the earth when such a thing can take place?” But we do not see into
the region of actual suffering or conflict. We do not see the heart
where the shock falls. We neither see the proud bracing of energies
to meet the ruin that threatens, nor the gracious faint in which the
weak escape from writhing. We do not see the abatement of pain which
is Paradise to the tortured; we do not see the gentle upholding in
sorrow that comes even from the ministrations of nature–not to speak
of human nature–to delicate souls. In a word, we do not see, and the
sufferer himself does not understand, how God is present every moment,
comforting, upholding, heeding that the pain shall not be more than can
be borne, making the thing possible and not hideous. I say nothing of
the peaceable fruits that are to spring therefrom; and who shall dare
to say where they shall not follow upon such tearing up of the soil?
Even those long shadows gave Lucy some unknown comfort, flowing from
Nature’s recognition of the loss of her lover; and she clasped the
little hand more tenderly, as if she would thus return her thanks to
Nature for the kindness received.
To get out of the crowd on the pavement Lucy turned aside into a
lane. She had got half way down it before she discovered that it was
one of those through which she had passed the night before, when she
went with Thomas to the river. She turned at once to leave it. As she
turned, right before her stood an open church door. It was one of those
sepulchral city churches, where the voice of the clergyman sounds
ghostly, and it seems as if the dead below were more real in their
presence than the half dozen worshipers scattered among the pews.
On this occasion, however, there were seven present when Lucy and
Mattie entered and changed the mystical number to the magical.
It was a church named outlandishly after a Scandinavian saint. Some
worthy had endowed a week-evening sermon there after better fashion
than another had endowed the poor of the parish. The name of the latter
was recorded in golden letters upon a black tablet in the vestibule, as
the donor of £200, with the addition in letters equally golden, _None
of which was ever paid by his trustees_.
I will tell you who the worshipers were. There was the housekeeper in
a neighboring warehouse, who had been in a tumult all the day, and at
night-fall thought of the kine-browsed fields of her childhood, and
went to church. There was an old man who had once been manager of a
bank, and had managed it ill both for himself and his company; and
having been dismissed in consequence, had first got weak in the brain,
and then begun to lay up treasure in heaven. Then came a brother and
two sisters, none of them under seventy. The former kept shifting his
brown wig and taking snuff the whole of the service, and the latter
two wiping, with yellow silk handkerchiefs, brown faces inlaid with
coal-dust. They could not agree well enough to live together, for
their fathers will was the subject of constant quarrel. They therefore
lived in three lodgings at considerable distances apart. But every
night in the week they met at this or that church similarly endowed,
sat or knelt or stood in holy silence or sacred speech for an hour and
a half, walked together to the end of the lane discussing the sermon,
and then separated till the following evening. Thus the better parts
in them made a refuge of the house of God, where they came near to
each other, and the destroyer kept a little aloof for the season.
These, with the beadle and his wife, and Lucy and Mattie, made up the
Now, when they left the lane there was no sun to be seen; but when they
entered the church, there he was–his last rays pouring in through a
richly stained window, the only beauty of the building. This window–a
memorial one–was placed in the northern side of the chancel, whence
a passage through houses, chimneys, and churches led straight to the
sunset, down which the last rays I speak of came speeding for one brief
moment ere all was gone, and the memorial as faded and gray as the
memory of the man to whom it was dedicated.
This change from the dark lane to the sun-lighted church laid hold of
Lucy’s feelings. She did not know what it made her feel, but it aroused
her with some vague sense of that sphere of glory which enwraps all
our lower spheres, and she bowed her knees and her head, and her being
worshiped, if her thoughts were too troubled to go upward. The prayers
had commenced, and she kneeled, the words “He pardoneth and absolveth,”
were the first that found luminous entrance into her soul; and with
them came the picture of Thomas as he left the court with the man of
the bad countenance. Of him, and what he might be about, her mind was
full; but every now and then a flash of light, in the shape of words,
broke through the mist of her troubled thoughts, and testified of the
glory-sphere beyond; till at length her mind was so far calmed that she
became capable of listening a little to the discourse of the preacher.
He was not a man of the type of Mr. Potter of St. Jacob’s, who
considered himself possessed of worldly privileges in virtue of a
heavenly office not one of whose duties he fulfilled in a heavenly
fashion. Some people considered Mr. Fuller very silly for believing
that he might do good in a church like this, with a congregation like
this, by speaking that which he knew, and testifying that which he
had seen. But he did actually believe it. Somehow or other–I think
because he was so much in the habit of looking up to the Father–the
prayers took a hold of him once more every time he read them; and he so
delighted in the truths he saw that he rejoiced to set them forth–was
actually glad to _talk_ about them to any one who would listen. When he
confessed his feeling about congregations, he said that he preferred
twelve people to a thousand. This he considered a weakness, however;
except that he could more easily let his heart out to the twelve.
He took for his text the words of our Lord, “Come unto me, all ye that
labor and are heavy laden.” He could not see the strangers, for they
sat behind a pillar, and therefore he had no means for discovering that
each of them had a heavy-laden heart; Lucy was not alone in trouble,
for Syne had been hard upon Mattie that day. He addressed himself
especially to the two old women before him, of whose story he knew
nothing, though their faces were as well known to him as the pillars of
the church. But the basin into which the fountain of his speech flowed
was the heart of those girls.
No doubt presented itself as to the truth of what the preacher was
saying; nor could either of them have given a single argument from
history or criticism for the reality of the message upon which the
preacher founded his exhortation. The truth is not dependent upon proof
for its working. Its relation to the human being is essential, is in
the nature of things; so that if it be but received in faith–that
is, acted upon–it works its own work, and needs the buttressing of
no arguments any more than the true operation of a healing plant
is dependent upon a knowledge of Dioscorides. My reader must not,
therefore, suppose that I consider doubt an unholy thing; on the
contrary, I consider spiritual doubt a far more precious thing than
intellectual conviction, for it springs from the awaking of a deeper
necessity than any that can be satisfied from the region of logic. But
when the truth has begun to work its own influence in any heart, that
heart has begun to rise out of the region of doubt.
When they came from the church, Lucy and Mattie walked hand in hand
after the sisters and brother, and heard them talk.
“He’s a young one, that!” said the old man. “He’ll know a little better
by the time he’s as old as I am.”
“Well, I did think he went a little too far when he said a body might
be as happy in the work’us as with thousands of pounds in the Bank of
“I don’t know,” interposed the other sister. “He said it depended on
what you’d got inside you. Now, if you’ve got a bad temper inside you,
all you’ve got won’t make you happy.”
“Thank you, sister. You’re very polite, _as usual_. But, after all,
where should we have been but for the trifle we’ve got in the bank?”
“You two might ha’ been living together like sisters, instead of
quarreling like two cats, if the money had gone as it ought to,” said
the old man, who considered that the whole property belonged of right
By this time they had reached the end of the lane, and, without a word
to each other, they separated.
“Syne,” said Mattie, significantly. Syne was evidently her evil
incarnation. Lucy did not reply, but hastened home with her, anxious to
be alone. She did not leave the child, however, before she had put her
to bed, and read again the hymn that had taken her fancy before they
I will now show my reader how much of the sermon remained upon Lucy’s
mind. She sat a few minutes with her grandmother, and then told her
that she felt better, but would like to go to bed. So she took her
candle and went. As soon as she had closed the door, she knelt down by
her bedside, and said something like this–more broken, and with long
pauses between–but like this:
“O Jesus Christ, I come. I don’t know any other way to come. I speak to
thee. Oh, hear me. I am weary and heavy laden. Give me rest. Help me to
put on the yoke of thy meekness and thy lowliness of heart, which thou
sayest will give rest to our souls. I cannot do it without thy help.
Thou couldst do it without help. I cannot. Teach me. Give me thy rest.
How am I to begin? How am I to take thy yoke on me? I must be meek. I
am very troubled and vexed. Am I angry? Am I unforgiving? Poor Thomas!
Lord Jesus, have mercy upon Thomas. He does not know what he is doing.
I will be very patient. I will sit with my hands folded, and bear all
my sorrow, and not vex Grannie with it; and I won’t say an angry word
to Thomas. But, O Lord, have mercy upon him, and make him meek and
lowly of heart. I have not been sitting at thy feet and learning of
thee. Thou canst take all my trouble away by making Thomas good. I
ought to have tried hard to keep him in the way his mother taught him,
and I have been idle and self-indulgent, and taken up with my music and
dresses. I have not looked to my heart to see whether it was meek and
lowly like thine. O Lord, thou hast given me everything, and I have
not thought about thee. I thank thee that thou hast made me miserable,
for now I shall be thy child. Thou canst bring Thomas home again to
thee. Thou canst make him meek and lowly of heart, and give rest to his
Is it any wonder that she should have risen from her knees comforted?
I think not. She was already–gentle and good as she had always
been–more meek and lowly. She had begun to regard this meekness as the
yoke of Jesus, and therefore to will it. Already, in a measure, she was
a partaker of his peace.
Worn out by her suffering, and soothed by her prayer, she fell asleep
the moment she laid her head upon the pillow. And thus Lucy passed the
Tom went home the next night with a racking headache. Gladly would he
have gone to Lucy to comfort him, but he was too much ashamed of his
behavior to her the night before, and too uneasy in his conscience. He
was, indeed, in an abject condition of body, intellect, and morals.
He went at once to his own room and to bed; fell asleep; woke in the
middle of the night miserably gnawed by “Don Worm, the conscience;”
tried to pray, and found it did him no good; turned his thoughts to
Lucy, and burst into tears at the recollection of how he had treated
her, imagining over and over twenty scenes in which he begged her
forgiveness, till he fell asleep at last, dreamed that she turned her
back upon him, and refused to hear him, and woke in the morning with
the resolution of going to see her that night and confessing everything.
His father had come home after he went to bed, and it was with great
trepidation that he went down to breakfast, almost expecting to find
that he knew already of his relation to Lucy. But Richard Boxall was
above that kind of thing, and Mr. Worboise was evidently free from any
suspicion of the case.
He greeted his son kindly, or rather frankly, and seemed to be in good
“Our friends are well down the Channel by this time, with such a fair
wind,” he said. “Boxall’s a lucky man to be able to get away from
business like that. I wish you had taken a fancy to Mary, Tom. She’s
sure to get engaged before she comes back. Shipboard’s a great place
for getting engaged. Some hungry fellow, with a red coat and an empty
breeches-pocket, is sure to pick her up. You might have had her if you
had liked. However, you may do as well yet; and you needn’t be in a
hurry now. It’s not enough that there’s as good fish in the sea: they
must come to your net, you know.”
Tom laughed it off, went to his office, worked the weary day through,
and ran round to Guild Court the moment he left business.
Lucy had waked in the night as well as Tom; but she had waked to the
hope that there was a power somewhere–a power working good, and
upholding them that love it; to the hope that a thought lived all
through the dark, and would one day make the darkness light about
her; to the hope that a heart of love and help was at the heart of
things, and would show itself for her need. When, therefore, Tom
knocked–timidly almost–at the door, and opened it inquiringly, she
met him with a strange light in her pale face, and a smile flickering
about a lip that trembled in sympathy with her rain-clouded eyes.
She held out her hand to him cordially, but neither offered to
embrace–Thomas from shame, and Lucy from a feeling of something
between that had to be removed before things could be as they were-or
rather before their outward behavior to each other could be the same,
for things could not to all eternity be the same again: they must be
infinitely better and more beautiful, or cease altogether.
Thomas gave a look for one moment full in Lucy’s eyes, and then dropped
his own, holding her still by the consenting hand.
“Will you forgive me, Lucy?” he said, in a voice partly choked by
feeling, and partly by the presence of Mrs. Boxall, who, however, could
not hear what passed between them, for she sat knitting at the other
end of the large room.
“Oh, Tom!” answered Lucy, with a gentle pressure of his hand.
Now, as all that Tom wanted was to be reinstated in her favor, he
took the words as the seal of the desired reconciliation, and went no
further with any confession. The words, however, meaning simply that
she loved him and wanted to love him, ought to have made Tom the more
anxious to confess all–not merely the rudeness of which he had been
guilty and which had driven her from the room, but the wrong he had
done her in spending the evening in such company; for surely it was
a grievous wrong to a pure girl like Lucy to spend the space between
the last and the next pressure of her hand in an atmosphere of vice.
But the cloud cleared from his brow, and, with a sudden reaction of
spirits, he began to be merry. To this change, however, Lucy did
not respond. The cloud seemed rather to fall more heavily over her
countenance. She turned from him, and went to a chair opposite her
grandmother. Tom followed, and sat down beside her. He was sympathetic
enough to see that things were not right between them after all. But
he referred it entirely to her uneasiness at his parents’ ignorance of
Some of my readers may think that Lucy, too, was to blame for want of
decision; that she ought to have refused to see Thomas even once again,
till he had made his parents aware of their relation to each other.
But knowing how little sympathy and help he had from those parents,
she felt that to be severe upon him thus would be like turning him
out into a snow-storm to find his way home across a desolate moor;
and her success by persuasion would be a better thing for Thomas than
her success by compulsion. No doubt, if her rights alone had to be
considered, and not the necessities of Thomas’s moral nature, the
plan she did not adopt would have been the best. But no one liveth to
himself–not even a woman whose dignity is in danger–and Lucy did
not think of herself alone. Yet, for the sake of both, she remained
perfectly firm in her purpose that Thomas should do something.
“Your uncle has said nothing about that unfortunate rencontre, Lucy,”
said Tom, hoping that what had relieved him would relieve her. “My
father came home last night, and the paternal brow is all serene.”
“Then I suppose you said something about it, Tom?” said Lucy, with a
faint hope dawning in her heart.
“Oh! there’s time enough for that. I’ve been thinking about it, you
see, and I’ll soon convince you,” he added, hurriedly, seeing the cloud
grow deeper on Lucy’s face. “I must tell you something which I would
rather not have mentioned.”
“Don’t tell me, if you ought not to tell me, Tom,” said Lucy, whose
conscience had grown more delicate than ever, both from the turning of
her own face toward the light, and from the growing feeling that Tom
was not to be trusted as a guide.
“There’s no reason why I shouldn’t,” returned Tom. “It’s only
this–that my father is vexed with me because I wouldn’t make love
to your cousin Mary, and that I have let her slip out of my reach
now; for, as he says, somebody will be sure to snap her up before she
comes back. So it’s just the worst time possible to tell him anything
unpleasant, you know. I really had far better wait till the poor girl
is well out to sea, and off my father’s mind; for I assure you, Lucy,
it will be no joke when he does know. He’s not in any mood for the news
just now, I can tell you. And then my mother’s away, too, and there’s
nobody to stand between me and him.”
Lucy made no reply to his speech, uttered in the eagerness with which
a man, seeking to defend a bad position, sends one weak word after
another, as if the accumulation of poor arguments would make up for
the lack of a good one. She sat for a long minute looking down on a
spot in the carpet–the sight of which ever after was the signal for a
pain-throb; then, in a hopeless tone, said, with a great sigh:
“I’ve done all I can.”
The indefiniteness of the words frightened Thomas, and he began again
to make his position good.
“I tell you what, Lucy,” he said; “I give you my promise that before
another month is over–that is to give my father time to get over his
vexation–I will tell him all about it, and take the consequences.”
Lucy sighed once more, and looked dissatisfied. But again it passed
through her mind that if she were to insist further, and refuse to
see Thomas until he had complied with her just desire, she would most
likely so far weaken, if not break, the bond between them, as to take
from him the only influence that might yet work on him for good, and
expose him entirely to such influences as she most feared. Therefore
she said no more. But she could not throw the weight off her, or
behave to Thomas as she had behaved hitherto. They sat silent for some
time–Thomas troubled before Lucy, Lucy troubled about Thomas. Then,
with another sigh, Lucy rose and went to the piano. She had never done
so before when Thomas was with her, for he did not care much about her
music. Now she thought of it as the only way of breaking the silence.
But what should she play?
Then came into her memory a stately, sweet song her father used to
sing. She did not know where he got either the words or the music of
it. I know that the words are from Petrarch. Probably her father had
translated them, for he had been much in Italy, and was a delicately
gifted man. But whose was the music, except it was his own, I do not
know. And as she sang the words, Lucy perceived for the first time how
much they meant, and how they belonged to her; for in singing them she
prayed both for herself and for Thomas.
I am so weary with the burden old
Of foregone faults, and power of custom base,
That much I fear to perish from the ways,
And fall into my enemy’s grim hold.
A mighty friend, to free me, though self-sold
Came, of his own ineffable high grace,
Then went, and from my vision took his face.
Him now in vain I weary to behold.
But still his voice comes echoing below:
O ye that labor! see, here is the gate!
Come unto me–the way all open lies!
What heavenly grace will–what love–or what fate–
The glad wings of a dove on me bestow,
That I may rest, and from the earth arise?
[Footnote 1: Petrarch’s sixtieth Sonnet.]
Her sweet tones, the earnest music, and the few phrases he could catch
here and there, all had their influence upon Tom. They made him feel.
And with that, as usual, he was content. Lucy herself had felt as she
had never felt before, and, therefore, sung as she had never sung
before. And Tom was astonished to find that her voice had such power
over him, and began to wonder how it was that he had not found it out
before. He went home more solemn and thoughtful than he had ever been.
Still he did nothing.
Thus things went on for the space of about three weeks. Tom went to see
Lucy almost every night, and sometimes stayed late; for his mother was
still from home, and his father was careless about his hours so long
as they were decent. Lucy’s face continued grave, but lost a little
of its trouble; for Tom often asked her to sing to him now, and she
thought she was gaining more of the influence over him which she so
honestly wished to possess. As the month drew toward a close, however,
the look of anxiety began to deepen upon her countenance.
One evening, still and sultry, they were together as usual. Lucy was
sitting at the piano, where she had just been singing, and Tom stood
beside her. The evening, as the Italian poets would say, had grown
brown, and Mrs. Boxall was just going to light the candles, when Tom
interposed a request for continued twilight.
“Please, grannie,” he said–for he too called her grannie–“do not
light the candles yet. It is so sweet and dusky–just like Lucy here.”
“All very well for you,” said Mrs. Boxall; “but what is to become of
me? My love-making was over long ago, and I want to see what I’m about
now. Ah! young people, your time will come next. Make hay while the sun
“While the candle’s out, you mean, grannie,” said Tom, stealing a kiss
“I hear more than you think for,” said the cheery old woman. “I’ll give
you just five minutes’ grace, and then I mean to have my own way. I am
not so fond of darkness, I can tell you.”
“How close it is!” said Lucy. “Will you open the window a little wider,
Tom. Mind the flowers.”
She came near the window, which looked down on the little stony desert
of Guild Court, and sank into a high-backed chair that stood beside it.
“I can hardly drag one foot after another,” she said, “I feel so
oppressed and weary.”
“And I,” said Tom, who had taken his place behind her, leaning on the
back of her chair, “am as happy as if I were in Paradise.”
“There must be thunder in the air,” said Lucy. “I fancy I smell the
lightning already. Oh, dear!”
“Are you afraid of lightning, then?” asked Thomas.
“I do not think I am exactly; but it shakes me so! I can’t explain what
I mean. It affects me like a false tone on the violin. No, that’s not
it. I can’t tell what it is like.”
A fierce flash broke in upon her words. Mrs. Boxall gave a scream.
“The Lord be about us from harm!” she cried.
Lucy sat trembling.
Thomas did not know how much she had to make her tremble. It is
wonderful what can be seen in a single moment under an intense light.
In that one flash Lucy had seen Mr. Molken and another man seated at
a table, casting dice, with the eagerness of hungry fiends upon both
A few moments after the first flash, the wind began to rise, and as
flash followed flash, with less and less of an interval, the wind
rose till it blew a hurricane, roaring in the chimney and through the
archway as if it were a wild beast caged in Guild Court, and wanting to
When the second flash came, Lucy saw that the blind of Mr. Molken’s
window was drawn down.
All night long the storm raved about London. Chimney-pots clashed on
the opposite pavements. One crazy old house, and one yet more crazy
new one, were blown down. Even the thieves and burglars retreated to
their dens. But before it had reached its worst Thomas had gone home.
He lay awake for some time listening to the tumult and rejoicing in it,
for it roused his imagination and the delight that comes of beholding
danger from a far-removed safety–a selfish pleasure, and ready to pass
from a sense of our own comfort into a complacent satisfaction in the
suffering of others.
Lucy lay awake for hours. There was no more lightning, but the howling
of the wind tortured her–that is, drew discords from the slackened
strings of the human instrument–her nerves; made “broken music in
her sides.” She reaped this benefit, however, that such winds always
drove her to her prayers. On the wings of the wind itself, she hastened
her escape “from the windy storm and tempest.” When at last she fell
asleep, it was to dream that another flash of lightning–when or where
appearing she did not know–revealed Thomas casting dice with Molken,
and then left them lapt in the darkness of a godless world. She woke
weeping, fell asleep again, and dreamed that she stood in the darkness
once more, and that somewhere near Thomas was casting dice with the
devil for his soul, but she could neither see him nor cry to him, for
the darkness choked both voice and eyes. Then a hand was laid upon her
head, and she heard the words–not in her ears, but in her heart–“Be
of good cheer, my daughter.” It was only a dream; but I doubt if
even–I must not name names, lest I should be interpreted widely from
my meaning–the greatest positivist alive could have helped waking with
some comfort from that dream, nay, could have helped deriving a faint
satisfaction from it, if it happened to return upon him during the day.
“But in no such man would such a dream arise,” my reader may object.
“Ah, well,” I answer, because I have nothing more to say. And perhaps
even in what I have written I may have been doing or hinting some wrong
to some of the class. It is dreadfully difficult to be just. It is far
easier to be kind than to be fair.
It was not in London or the Empire only that that storm raged that
night. From all points of the compass came reports of its havoc.
Whether it was the same storm, however, or another on the same night, I
cannot tell; but on the next morning save one, a vessel passing one of
the rocky islets belonging to the Cape Verde group, found the fragments
of a wreck floating on the water. The bark had parted amidships, for,
on sending a boat to the island, they found her stem lying on a reef,
round which little innocent waves were talking like human children. And
on her stem they read her name, _Ningpo, London_. On the narrow strand
they found three bodies: one, that of a young woman, vestureless and
broken. They buried them as they could.