POPPIE.

Mrs. Boxall was the mother of Richard Boxall, the “governor” of
Thomas Worboise. Her John had been the possessor of a small landed
property, which he farmed himself, and upon which they brought up a
family of three sons and one daughter, of whom Richard was the eldest,
and the daughter Lucy the youngest. None of the sons showed the least
inclination to follow the plow or take any relation more or less
dignified toward the cultivation of the ancestral acres. This aversion,
when manifested by Richard, occasioned his father considerable
annoyance, but he did not oppose his desire to go into business instead
of farming; for he had found out by this time that he had perpetuated
in his sons a certain family doggedness which he had inherited from one
ancestor at least–an obstinacy which had never yet been overcome by
any argument, however good. He yielded to the inevitable, and placed
him in a merchant’s office in London, where Richard soon made himself
of importance. When his second son showed the same dislike to draw
his livelihood directly from the bosom of the earth, and revealed a
distinct preference for the rival element, with which he had made some
acquaintance when at school at a sea-port at no great distance from his
home, old John Boxall was still more troubled, but gave his consent–a
consent which was, however, merely a gloomy negation of resistance. The
cheerfulness of his wife was a great support to him under what he felt
as a slight to himself and the whole race of Boxalls; but he began,
notwithstanding, to look upon his beloved fields with a jaundiced eye,
and the older he grew the more they reminded him of the degenerate
tastes and heartlessness of his boys. When he discovered, a few years
after, that his daughter had pledged herself, still in his eyes a mere
child, to a music-master who visited her professionally from the next
town, he flew at last into a terrible rage, which was not appeased by
the girl’s elopement and marriage. He never saw her again. Her mother,
however, was not long in opening a communication with her, and it was
to her that Edward, the youngest son, fled upon occasion of a quarrel
with his father, whose temper had now become violent as well as morose.
He followed his second brother’s example, and went to sea. Still the
mother’s cheerfulness was little abated; for, as she said to herself,
she had no reason to be ashamed of her children. None of them had done
any thing they had to be ashamed of, and why should she be vexed? She
had no idea Lucy had so much spirit in her. And if it were not for the
old man, who was surely over-fond of those fields of his, she could
hold up her head with the best of them; for there was Dick–such a
gentleman to be sure! and John, third mate already! and Cecil Burton
sought after in London, to give his lessons, as if he were one of the
old masters! The only thing was that the wind blew harder at night
since Ned went to sea; and a boy was in more danger than a grown man
and a third mate like John.

And so it proved; for one night when the wind blew a new hay-rick of
his father’s across three parishes, it blew Edward’s body ashore on the
west coast.

Soon after this a neighboring earl, who had the year before paid off
a mortgage on his lands, proceeded in natural process to enlarge his
borders; and while there was plenty that had formerly belonged to the
family to repurchase, somehow or another took it into his head to begin
with what might seem more difficult of attainment. But John Boxall
was willing enough to part with his small patrimony–for he was sick
of it–provided he had a good sum of ready money, and the house with
its garden and a paddock, by way of luck-penny, secured to him for his
own life and that of his wife. This was easily arranged. But the late
yeoman moped more than ever, and died within a twelvemonth, leaving his
money to his wife. As soon as he was laid in his natural inheritance
of land cubical, his wife went up to London to her son Richard, who
was by this time the chief manager of the business of Messrs. Blunt &
Baker. To him she handed over her money to use for the advantage of
both. Paying her a handsome percentage, he invested it in a partnership
in the firm, and with this fresh excitement to his energies, soon
became, influentially, the principal man in the company. The two other
partners were both old men, and neither had a son or near relative
whom he might have trained to fill his place. So in the course of a
few years, they, speaking commercially, fell asleep, and in the course
of a few more, departed this life, commercially and otherwise. It was
somewhat strange, however, that all this time Richard Boxall had given
his mother no written acknowledgment of the money she had lent him,
and which had been the foundation of his fortune. A man’s faults are
sometimes the simple reverses of his virtues, and not the results of
his vices.

When his mother came first to London, he had of course taken her
home to his house and introduced her to his wife, who was a kind
and even warm-hearted woman. But partly from prudence, partly from
habit, Mrs. Boxall, senior, would not consent to become the permanent
guest of Mrs. Boxall, junior, and insisted on taking a lodging in the
neighborhood. It was not long, however, before she left the first,
and betook herself to a second; nor long again before she left the
second, and betook herself to a third. For her nature was like a
fresh, bracing wind, which, when admitted within the precincts of a
hot-house, where everything save the fire is neglected, proves a most
unwelcome presence, yea, a dire dismay. Indeed, admirably as she had
managed and borne with her own family, Mrs. Boxall was quite unfit to
come into such habitual contact with another household as followed from
her occupying a part of the same dwelling. Her faith in what she had
tried with success herself, and her repugnance to whatever she had not
been accustomed to, were such that her troublesomeness when she became
familiar, was equal to the good nature which at first so strongly
recommended her. Hence her changes of residence were frequent.

Up to the time when he became a sleeping partner, Mr. Blunt had
resided in Guild Court–that is, the house door was in the court,
while the lower part of the house, forming the offices of the firm,
was entered from what was properly a lane, though it was called Bagot
Street. As soon as mother and son heard that Mr. Blunt had at length
bought a house in the country, the same thought arose in the mind of
each–might not Mrs. Boxall go and live there? The house belonged to
the firm, and they could not well let it, for there was more than
one available connection between the two portions of the building,
although only one had lately been in use, a door, namely, by which Mr.
Blunt used to pass immediately from the glass-partitioned part of the
counting-house to the foot of the oak stair-case already described;
while they used two of the rooms in the house as places of deposit for
old books and papers, for which there was no possible accommodation
in the part devoted to active business. Hence nothing better could be
devised than that Mrs. Boxall, senior, should take up her abode in the
habitable region. This she made haste to do, accompanied by a young
servant. With her she soon quarreled, however, and thereafter relied
upon the ministrations of a charwoman. The door between the house and
the counting-house was now locked, and the key of it so seldom taken
from the drawer of Mr. Boxall, that it came to be regarded almost as a
portion of the wall. So much for the inner connection of Guild Court
and Bagot Street.

Some years after Mrs. Boxall removed to London, Mr. Burton, the
music-master, died. They had lived from hand to mouth, as so many
families of uncertain income are compelled to do, and his unexpected
death left his wife and child without the means of procuring immediate
necessities. Inheriting the narrowness and prejudices of his descent
and of his social position to a considerable degree, Mr. Boxall
had never come to regard his sister’s match with a music-master as
other than a degradation to the family, and had, in his best humors,
never got further in the humanities of the kingdom of heaven, than
to patronize his brother-in-law; though if size and quality go for
anything in existence itself, as they do in all its accidents, Richard
Boxall was scarcely comparable, honest and just man as he was, to Cecil
Burton; who, however, except that he was the father of Lucy, and so
in some measure accounts for her, is below the western horizon of our
story, and therefore need scarcely be alluded to again. This behavior
of her brother was more galling to Mrs. Burton than to her husband, who
smiled down any allusion to it; and when she was compelled to accept
Richard’s kindness in the shape of money, upon the death of Mr. Burton,
it was with a bitterness of feeling which showed itself plainly enough
to wound the self-love of the consciously benevolent man of business.
But from the first there had been the friendliest relations between the
mother and daughter, and as it was only from her determination to avoid
all ground of misunderstanding, that Mrs. Boxall had not consented
to take up her abode with the Burtons. Consequently, after the death
of Mr. Burton, the mother drew yet closer to the daughter, while the
breach between brother and sister was widened.

Two years after the death of her husband, Mrs. Burton followed him.
Then Mrs. Boxall took her grandchild Lucy home to Guild Court, and
between the two there never arose the question of which should be
the greater. It often happens that even a severe mother becomes
an indulgent grandmother, partly from the softening and mellowing
influences of time, partly from increase of confidence in child-nature
generally, and perhaps also, in part, from a diminished sense or
responsibility in regard to a child not immediately her own. Hence
grandparents who have brought up their own children well are in danger
of spoiling severely those of their sons and daughters. And such might
have been the case with Mrs. Boxall and Lucy, had Lucy been of a more
spoilable nature. But she had no idea of how much she had her own way,
nor would it have made any difference to her if she had known it.
There was a certain wonderful delicacy of moral touch about her in the
discrimination of what was becoming, as well as of what was right,
which resulted in a freedom the legalist of society would have called
boldness, and a restraint which the same judge would have designated
particularity; for Lucy’s ways were not, and could not be, her ways,
the one fearing and obeying, as she best could, existing laws hard
to interpret, the other being a law unto herself. The harmonies of
the music by which, from her earliest childhood, her growing brain
had been interpenetrated, had, by her sweet will, been transformed
into harmonies of thought, feeling, and action. She was not clever,
but then she did not think she was clever, and therefore it was of no
consequence; for she was not dependent upon her intellect for those
judgments which alone are of importance in the reality of things, and
in which clever people are just as likely to go wrong as any other
body. She had a great gift in music–a gift which Thomas Worboise _had
never yet discovered_, and which, at this period of his history, he
was incapable of discovering, for he had not got beyond the toffee
of the drawing-room sentiment–the song which must be sent forth to
the universe from the pedestal of ivory shoulders. But two lines of
a ballad from Lucy Barton were worth all the music, “She walks in
beauty,” included, that Mary Boxall could sing or play.

Lucy had not seen her cousins for years. Her uncle Richard, though
incapable of being other than satisfied that the orphan should be
an inmate of the house in Guild Court, could not, or at least did
not, forget the mildly defiant look with which she retreated from
his outstretched hand, and took her place beside her mother, on the
sole occasion on which he called upon his sister after her husband’s
death. She had heard remarks–and being her mother’s, she could not
question the justice of them. Hence she had not once, since she had
taken up her abode with her grandmother, been invited to visit her
cousins; and there was no affectation, but in truth a little anxiety,
in the question she asked Thomas Worboise about Mary Boxall’s beauty.
But, indeed, had she given her uncle no such offense, I have every
reason to believe that her society would not have been much courted by
his family. When the good among rich relations can be loving without
condescension, and the good among poor relations can make sufficient
allowance for the rich, then the kingdom of heaven will be nigh at
hand. Mr. Boxall shook hands with his niece when he met her, asked her
after his mother, and passed on.

But Lucy was not dependent on her uncle, scarcely on her grandmother,
even. Before her mother’s death, almost child as she still was, she had
begun to give lessons in music to a younger child than herself, the
daughter of one of her father’s favorite pupils, who had married a rich
merchant; and these lessons she continued. She was a favorite with the
family, who were Jews, living in one of the older quarters of the west
end of London; and they paid her handsomely, her age and experience
taken into account. Every morning, except Saturday, she went by the
underground railway to give an hour’s lesson to Miriam Morgenstern, a
gorgeous little eastern, whom her parents had no right to dress in such
foggy colors as she wore.

Now a long farewell to preliminaries.

Lucy was just leaving her home one morning to go to her pupil, and had
turned into the flagged passage which led from the archway into the
court, when she met a little girl of her acquaintance, whom, with her
help, I shall now present to my readers. She was a child of eight,
but very small for her age. Her hair was neatly parted and brushed
on each side of a large, smooth forehead, projecting over quiet eyes
of blue, made yet quieter by the shadow of those brows. The rest of
her face was very diminutive. A soberness as of complete womanhood,
tried and chastened, lay upon her. She looked as if she had pondered
upon life and its goal, and had made up her little mind to meet its
troubles with patience. She was dressed in a cotton frock printed with
blue rose-buds, faded by many waters and much soap. When she spoke,
she used only one side of her mouth for the purpose, and then the
old-fashionedness of her look rose almost to the antique, so that you
could have fancied her one of the time-belated _good people_ that,
leaving the green forest-rings, had wandered into the city and become a
Christian at a hundred years of age.

“Well, Mattie,” said Lucy, “how are you this morning?”

“I am quite well, I thank you, miss,” answered Mattie. “I don’t call
this morning. The church clock struck eleven five minutes ago.”

This was uttered with a smile from the half of her mouth which seemed
to say, “I know you want to have a little fun with me by using wrong
names for things because I am a little girl, and little girls can be
taken in; but it is of no use with me, though I can enjoy the joke of
it.”

Lucy smiled too, but not much, for she knew the child.

“What do you call the morning, then, Mattie?” she asked.

“Well,”–she almost always began her sentences with a _Well_–“I call
it morning before the sun is up.”

“But how do you know when the sun is up? London is so foggy, you know,
Mattie.”

“Is it? I didn’t know. Are there places without fog, miss?”

“Oh, yes; many.”

“Well, about the sun. I always know what _he’s_ about, miss. I’ve got a
almanac.”

“But you don’t understand the almanac, do you?”

“Well, I don’t mean to say I understand all about it, but I always know
what time the sun rises and goes to bed, you know.”

Lucy had found she was rather early for the train, and from where she
stood she could see the clock of St. Jacob’s, which happened to be a
reliable one. Therefore she went on to amuse herself with the child.

“But how is it that we don’t see him, if he gets up when the almanac
says, Mattie?”

“Well, you see, miss, he sleeps in a crib. And the sides of it are
houses and churches, and St. Paulses, and the likes of that.”

“Yes, yes; but some days we see him, and others we don’t. We don’t see
him to-day, now.”

“Well, miss, I dare say he’s cross some mornings, and keeps the
blankets about him after he’s got his head up.”

Lucy could not help thinking of Milton’s line–for of the few poems she
knew, one was the “Ode on the Nativity”–

So, when the Sun in bed,
Curtain’d with cloudy red,
_Pillows his chin upon an orient wave_.

But the child laughed so queerly, that it was impossible to tell
whether or how much those were her real ideas about the sunrise.

“How is your father?” Lucy asked.

“Do you mean my father or my mother?”

“I mean your father, of course, when I say so.”

“Yes, but I have a mother, too.”

Lucy let her have her way, for she did not quite understand her. Only
she knew that the child’s mother had died two or three years ago.

“Well,” resumed the child, “my father is quite well, thank God; and so
is my mother. There he is, looking down at us.”

“Who do you mean, Mattie?” asked Lucy, now bewildered.

“Well, my mother,” answered the child, with a still odder half smile.

Lucy looked up, and saw–but a little description is necessary.
They were standing, as I have said already, in the flagged passage
which led to, and post-officially considered, formed part of Guild
Court. The archway from Bagot Street into this passage was as it were
tunneled through a house facing the street, and from this house a
wall, stretching inward to the first house in the court proper, formed
one side of the passage. About the middle, this wall broke into two
workshops, the smallest and strangest ever seen out of the east. There
was no roof visible–that lay behind the curtain-wall; but from top
to bottom of the wall, a hight of about nine feet, there was glass,
divided in the middle so as to form two windows, one above the other.
So likewise on the right-hand side of the glass were two doors, or
hatches, one above the other. The tenement looked as if the smallest
of rooms had been divided into two horizontally by a floor in the
middle, thus forming two cells, which could not have been more than
five feet by four, and four feet in hight. In the lower, however, a
little hight had been gained by sinking the floor, to which a single
step led down. In this under cell a cobbler sat, hammering away at his
lap-stone–a little man, else he could hardly have sat there, or even
got in without discomfort. Every now and then he glanced up at the girl
and the child, but never omitted a blow in consequence. Over his head,
on the thin floor between, sat a still smaller man, cross-legged like a
Turk, busily “plying his needle and thread.” His hair, which standing
straight up gave a look of terror to his thin, pale countenance, almost
touched the roof. It was the only luxuriance about him. As plants run
to seed, he seemed to have run to hair. A calm, keen eye underneath
its towering forest, revealed observation and peacefulness. He, too,
occasionally looked from his work, but only in the act of drawing the
horizontal thread, when his eyes had momentary furlough, moving in
alternate oscillation with his hand. At the moment when the child said
so, he was looking down in a pause in which he seemed for the moment to
have forgotten his work in his interest in the pair below. He might be
forty, or fifty or sixty–no one could tell which.

Lucy looked up, and said, “That is Mr. Spelt; that is not your mother.”

“Well, but I call him my mother. I can’t have two fathers, you know. So
I call Mr. Spelt my mother; and so he is.”

Here she looked up and smiled knowingly to the little tailor, who,
leaning forward to the window, through which, reaching from roof to
floor of his cage, his whole form was visible, nodded friendlily to the
little girl in acknowledgment of her greeting. But it was now time for
Lucy to go.

As soon as she had disappeared beyond the archway, Mattie turned toward
the workshops. Mr. Spelt saw her coming, and before she had reached
them, the upper half of the door was open, and he was stretching down
his arms to lift her across the shoemaking region, into his own more
celestial realm of tailoring. In a moment she was sitting in the
farthest and snuggest corner, not cross-legged, but with her feet
invisible in a heap of cuttings, from which she was choosing what she
would–always with a reference to Mr. Spelt–for the dressing of a
boy-doll which he had given her.

This was a very usual proceeding–so much so that Mattie and the tailor
sat for nearly an hour without a word passing between them beyond what
sprung from the constructive exigencies of the child. Neither of them
was given to much utterance, though each had something of the peculiar
gift of the Ancient Mariner, namely, “strange power of speech.” They
would sit together sometimes for half a day without saying a word; and
then again there would be an oasis of the strangest conversation in
the desert of their silence–a bad simile, for their silence must have
been a thoughtful one to blossom into such speech. But the first words
Mattie uttered on this occasion, were of a somewhat mundane character.
She heard a footstep pass below. She was too far back in the cell to
see who it was, and she did not lift her eyes from her work.

“When the cat’s away, the mice will play,” she said.

“What are you thinking about, Mattie?” asked the tailor.

“Well, wasn’t that Mr. Worboise that passed? Mr. Boxall must be out.
But he needn’t go there, for somebody’s always out this time o’ day.”

“What do you mean, Mattie?” again asked the tailor.

“Well, perhaps you don’t understand such things, Mr. Spelt, not being a
married man.”

Poor Mr. Spelt had had a wife who had killed herself by drinking all
his earnings; but perhaps Mattie knew nothing about that.

“No more I am. You must explain it to me.”

“Well, you see, young people will be young people.”

“Who told you that?”

“Old Mrs. Boxall says so. And that’s why Mr. Worboise goes to see Miss
Burton, _I_ know. I told you so,” she added, as she heard his step
returning. But Thomas bore a huge ledger under his arm, for which Mr.
Stopper had sent him round to the court. Very likely, however, had Lucy
been at home, he might have laid a few minutes more to the account of
the errand.

“So, so!” said the tailor. “That’s it, is it, Mattie?”

“Yes; but we don’t _say_ anything about such things, you know.”

“Oh, of course not,” answered Mr. Spelt; and the conversation ceased.

After a long pause, the child spoke again.

“Is God good to you to-day, mother?”

“Yes, Mattie. God is always good to us.”

“But he’s better some days than others, isn’t he?”

To this question the tailor did not know what to reply, and therefore,
like a wise man, did not make the attempt. He asked her instead, as he
had often occasion to do with Mattie, what she meant.

“Don’t you know what I mean, mother? Don’t you know God’s better to us
some days than others? Yes; and he’s better to some people than he is
to others.”

“I am sure he’s always good to you and me, Mattie.”

“Well, yes; generally.”

“Why don’t you say _always_?”

“Because I’m not sure about it. Now to-day it’s all very well. But
yesterday the sun shone in the window a whole hour.”

“And I drew down the blind to shut it out,” said Mr. Spelt,
thoughtfully.

“Well,” Mattie went on, without heeding her friend’s remark, “he
_could_ make the sun shine every day, if he liked.–I _suppose_ he
could,” she added, doubtfully.

“I don’t think we should like it, if he did,” returned Mr. Spelt, “for
the drain down below smells bad in the hot weather.”

“But the rain might come–at night, I mean, not in the day-time, and
wash them all out. Mightn’t it, mother?”

“Yes; but the heat makes people ill. And if you had such hot weather as
they have in some parts, as I am told, you would be glad enough of a
day like this.”

“Well, why haven’t they a day like this, when they want it?”

“God knows,” said Mr. Spelt, whose magazine was nearly exhausted, and
the enemy pressing on vigorously.

“Well, that’s what I say. God knows, and why doesn’t he help it?”

And Mr. Spelt surrendered, if silence was surrender. Mattie did not
press her advantage, however, and the besieged plucked up heart a
little.

“I fancy perhaps, Mattie, he leaves something for us to do. You know
they cut out the slop-work at the shop, and I can’t do much more with
that but put the pieces together. But when a repairing job comes in, I
can contrive a bit then, and I like that better.”

Mr. Spelt’s meaning was not very clear, either to himself or to Mattie.
But it involved the shadow of a great truth–that all the discords
we hear in the universe around us, are God’s trumpets sounding a
_réveillé_ to the sleeping human will, which once working harmoniously
with his, will soon bring all things into a pure and healthy rectitude
of operation. Till a man has learned to be happy without the sunshine,
and therein becomes capable of enjoying it perfectly, it is well that
the shine and the shadow should be mingled, so as God only knows how to
mingle them. To effect the blessedness for which God made him, man must
become a fellow-worker with God.

After a little while Mattie resumed operations.

“But you can’t say, mother, that God isn’t better to some people than
to other people. He’s surely gooder to you and me than he is to Poppie.”

“Who’s Poppie?” asked Mr. Spelt, sending out a flag of negotiation.

“Well, there she is–down in the gutter, I suppose, as usual,” answered
Mattie, without lifting her eyes.

The tailor peeped out of his house-front, and saw a barefooted child in
the court below. What she was like I shall take a better opportunity
of informing my reader. For at this moment the sound of strong nails
tapping sharply reached the ear of Mr. Spelt and his friend. The sound
came from a window just over the archway, hence at right angles to Mr.
Spelt’s workshop. It was very dingy with dust and smoke, allowing only
the outline of a man’s figure to be seen from the court. This much
Poppie saw, and taking the tapping to be intended for her, fled from
the court on soundless feet. But Mattie rose at once from her corner,
and, laying aside cuttings and doll, stuck her needle and thread
carefully in the bosom of her frock, saying:

“That’s my father a-wanting of me. I wonder what he wants now. I’m sure
I don’t know how he would get on without _me_. And that _is_ a comfort.
Poor man! he misses my mother more than I do, I believe. He’s always
after me. Well, I’ll see you again in the afternoon if I can. And, if
not, you may expect me about the same hour to-morrow.”

While she thus spoke she was let down from the not very airy hight
of the workshop on to the firm pavement below; the tailor stretching
his arms with her from above, like a bird of prey with a lamb in his
talons. The last words she spoke from the ground, her head thrown back
between her shoulders that she might look the tailor in the face, who
was stooping over her like an angel from a cloud in the family Bible.

“Very well, Mattie,” returned Mr. Spelt; “you know your own corner well
enough by this time, I should think.”

So saying, he drew himself carefully into his shell, for the place
was hardly more, except that he could just work without having to get
outside of it first. A soft half smile glimmered on his face; for
although he was so used to Mattie’s old-fashioned ways, that they
scarcely appeared strange to him now, the questions that she raised
were food for the little tailor’s meditation–all day long, upon
occasion. For some tailors are given to thinking, and when they are
they have good opportunity of indulging their inclinations. And it is
wonderful what a tailor’s thinking may come to, especially if he reads
his New Testament. Now, strange perhaps to tell, though Mr. Spelt never
went to church, he did read his New Testament. And the little tailor
was a living soul. He was one of those few who seem to be born with
a certain law of order in themselves, a certain tidiness of mind, as
it were, which would gladly see all the rooms or regions of thought
swept and arranged; and not only makes them orderly, but prompts them
to search after the order of the universe. They would gladly believe
in the harmony of things; and although the questions they feel the
necessity of answering take the crudest forms and the most limited
and individual application, they yet are sure to have something to do
with the laws that govern the world. Hence it was that the partial
misfit of a pair of moleskin or fustian trowsers–for seldom did his
originality find nobler material to exercise itself upon–would make
him quite miserable, even though the navvy or dock-laborer might be
perfectly satisfied with the result, and ready to pay the money for
them willingly. But it was seldom, too, that he had even such a chance
of indulging in the creative element of the tailor’s calling, though
he might have done something of the sort, if he would, in the way of
altering. Of that branch of the trade, however, he was shy, knowing
that it was most frequently in request with garment unrighteously come
by; and Mr. Spelt’s thin hands were clean.

He had not sat long after Mattie left him, before she reappeared from
under the archway.

“No, no, mother,” she said, “I ain’t going to perch this time. But
father sends his compliments, and will you come and take a dish of tea
with him and me this afternoon?”

“Yes, Mattie; if you will come and fetch me when the tea’s ready.”

“Well, you had better not depend on me; for I shall have a herring to
cook, and a muffin to toast, besides the tea to make and set on the
hob, and the best china to get out of the black cupboard, and no end o’
things to see to.”

“But you needn’t get out the best china for me, you know.”

“Well, I like to do what’s proper. And you just keep your eye on St.
Jacob’s, Mr. Spelt, and at five o’clock, when it has struck two of
them, you get down and come in, and you’ll find your tea a-waiting of
you. There!”

With which conclusive form of speech, Mattie turned and walked back
through the archway. She never ran, still less skipped as most children
do, but held feet and head alike steadily progressive, save for the
slightest occasional toss of the latter, which, as well as her mode
of speech, revealed the element of conceit which had its share in the
oddity of the little damsel.

When two strokes of the five had sounded in the ears of Mr. Spelt, he
laid his work aside, took his tall hat from one of the comers where
it hung on a peg, leaped lightly from his perch into the court, shut
his half of the door, told the shoemaker below that he was going to
Mr. Kitely’s to tea, and would be obliged if he would fetch him should
anyone want him, and went through the archway. There was a door to
Mr. Kitely’s house under the archway, but the tailor preferred going
round the corner to the shop door in Bagot Street. By this he entered
Jacob Kitely’s domain, an old book-shop, of which it required some
previous knowledge to find the way to the back premises. For the whole
cubical space of the shop was divided and subdivided into a labyrinth
of book-shelves, those in front filled with decently if not elegantly
bound books, and those behind with a multitude innumerable of books
in all conditions of dinginess, mustiness, and general shabbiness.
Among these Jacob Kitely spent his time patching and mending them, and
drawing up catalogues. He was not one of those booksellers who are
so fond of their books that they cannot bear to part with them, and
therefore when they are fortunate enough to lay their hands upon a rare
volume, the highest pleasure they know in life, justify themselves in
keeping it by laying a manuscript price upon it, and considering it
so much actual property. Such men, perhaps, know something about the
contents of their wares; but while few surpassed Jacob in a knowledge
of the outside of books, from the proper treatment of covers in the
varying stages of dilapidation, and of leaves when water-stained or
mildewed or dry-rotted to the different values of better and best
editions, cut and uncut leaves, tall copies, and folios shortened
by the plow into doubtful quartos, he never advanced beyond the
title-page, except when one edition differed from another, and some
examination was necessary to determine to which the copy belonged.
And not only did he lay no _fancy prices_ upon his books, but he was
proud of selling them under the market value–which he understood well
enough, though he used the knowledge only to regulate his buying.
The rate at which he sold was determined entirely by the rate at
which he bought. Do not think, my reader, that I have the thinnest
ghost of a political economy theory under this: I am simply and only
describing character. Hence he sold his books cheaper than any other
bookseller in London, contenting himself with a profit proportioned to
his expenditure, and taking his pleasure in the rapidity with which
the stream of books flowed through his shop. I have known him take
threepence off the price he had first affixed to a book, because he
found that he had not advertised it, and therefore it had not to bear
its share of the expense of the catalogue.

Mr. Spelt made his way through the maze of books into the back shop,
no one confronting him, and there found Mr. Kitely busy over his next
catalogue, which he was making out in a school-boy’s hand.

“How are you, Spelt?” he said, in an alto voice, in which rung a
certain healthy vigor, amounting to determination. “Just in time, I
believe. My little woman has been busy in the parlor for the last hour,
and I can depend upon her to the minute. Step in.”

“Don’t let me interrupt you,” suggested Mr. Spelt, meekly, and
reverentially even, for he thought Mr. Kitely must be a very learned
man indeed to write so much about books, and had at home a collection
of his catalogues complete from the year when he first occupied the
nest in the passage. I had forgot to say that Mr. Kitely was Mr.
Spelt’s landlord, and found him a regular tenant, else he certainly
would not have invited him to tea.

“Don’t let me interrupt you,” said Mr. Spelt.

“Not at all,” returned Mr. Kitely. “I’m very happy to see you, Spelt.
You’re very kind to my Mattie, and it pleases both of us to have you to
tea in our humble way.”

His humble way was a very grand way indeed to poor Spelt–and Mr.
Kitely knew that. Spelt could only rub his nervous, delicate hands in
token that he would like to say something in reply if he could but find
the right thing to say. What hands those were, instinct with life and
expression to the finger nails! No hands like them for fine-drawing.
He would make the worst rent look as if there never had been a rough
contact with the nappy surface.

The tailor stepped into the parlor, which opened out of the back shop
sideways, and found himself in an enchanted region. A fire–we always
see the fire first, and the remark will mean more to some people than
to others–a most respectable fire burned in the grate, and if the room
was full of the odor of red herrings, possibly objectionable _per se_,
where was the harm when they were going to partake of the bloaters? A
consequential cat lay on the hearth-rug. A great black oak cabinet,
carved to repletion of surface, for which a pre-Raphaelite painter
would have given half the price of one of his best pictures, stood at
the end of the room. This was an accident, for Mr. Kitely could not
appreciate it. But neither would he sell it when asked to do so. He
was not going to mix trades, for that was against his creed; the fact
being that he had tried so many things in his life that he now felt
quite respectable from having settled to one for the rest of his days.
But the chief peculiarity of the room was the number of birds that hung
around it in cages of all sizes and shapes, most of them covered up now
that they might go to sleep.

After Mattie had bestowed her approbation upon Mr. Spelt for coming
exactly to the hour, she took the brown tea-pot from the hob, the
muffin from before the fire, and three herrings from the top of it,
and put them all one after another upon the table. Then she would have
placed chairs for them all, but was prevented by the gallantry of Mr.
Spelt, and only succeeded in carrying to the head of the table her own
high chair, on which she climbed up, and sat enthroned to pour out the
tea. It was a noteworthy triad. On opposite sides of the table sat the
meek tailor and the hawk-expressioned bookseller. The latter had a
broad forehead and large, clear, light eyes. His nose–I never think a
face described when the nose is forgotten: Chaucer never omits it–rose
from between his eyes as if intending to make the true Roman arch, but
having reached the keystone, held on upon the same high level, and did
not descend, but ceased. He wore no beard, and bore his face in front
of him like a banner. A strong pediment of chin and a long, thin-lipped
mouth completed an expression of truculent good nature. Plenty of
clear-voiced speech, a breezy defiance of nonsense in every tone,
bore in it a certain cold but fierce friendliness, which would show
no mercy to any weakness you might vaunt, but would drag none to the
light you abstained from forcing into notice. Opposite to him sat the
thoughtful, thin-visaged, small man, with his hair on end; and between
them the staid, old-maidenly child, with her hair in bands on each side
of the smooth solemnity of her face, the conceit of her gentle nature
expressed only in the turn-up of her diminutive nose. The bookseller
behaved to her as if she had been a grown lady.

“Now, Miss Kitely,” he said, “we shall have tea of the right sort,
shan’t we?”

“I hope so,” answered Mattie, demurely. “Help Mr. Spelt to a herring,
father.”

“That I will, my princess. There, Mr. Spelt! There’s a herring with a
roe worth millions. To think, now, that every one of those eggs would
be a fish like that, if it was only let alone!”

“It’s a great waste of eggs, ain’t it, father?” said Mattie.

“Mr. Spelt won’t say so, my princess,” returned Mr. Kitely, laughing.
“He likes ’em.”

“I do like them,” said the tailor.

“Well, I dare say they’re good for him, and it don’t hurt them much,”
resumed Mattie, reflectively.

“They’ll go to his brains, and make him clever,” said Kitely. “And you
wouldn’t call that a waste, would you, Mattie?”

“Well, I don’t know. I think Mr. Spelt’s clever enough already. He’s
too much for me sometimes. I confess I can’t always follow him.”

The father burst into a loud roar of laughter, and laughed till the
tears were running down his face. Spelt would have joined him but for
the reverence he had for Mattie, who sat unmoved on her throne at the
head of the table, looking down with calm benignity on her father’s
passion, as if laughter were a weakness belonging to grown-up men,
in which they were to be condescendingly indulged by princesses, and
little girls in general.

“Well, how’s the world behaving to you, Spelt?” asked the bookseller,
after various ineffectual attempts to stop his laughter by the wiping
of his eyes.

“The world has never behaved ill to me, thank God,” answered the tailor.

“Now, don’t you trouble yourself to say that. You’ve got nobody to
thank but yourself.”

“But I like to thank God,” said Mr. Spelt, apologetically. “I forgot
that you wouldn’t like it.”

“Pshaw! pshaw! I don’t mind it from you, for I believe you’re fool
enough to mean what you say. But, tell me this, Spelt–did you thank
God when your wife died?”

“I tried hard not. I’m afraid I did, though,” answered Spelt, and sat
staring like one who has confessed, and awaits his penance.

The bookseller burst into another loud laugh, and slapped his hand on
his leg.

“You have me there, I grant, Spelt.”

But his face grew sober as he added, in a lower but still loud voice–

“I was thinking of my wife, not of yours. Folk say she was a rum un.”

“She was a splendid woman,” said the tailor. “She weighed twice as much
as I do, and her fist–” Here he doubled up his own slender hand, laid
it on the table, and stared at it, with his mouth full of muffin. Then,
with a sigh, he added, “She was rather too much for me, sometimes. She
was a splendid woman, though, when she was sober.”

“And what was she when she was drunk?”

This grated a little on the tailor’s feelings, and he answered with
spirit—

“A match for you or any other man, Mr. Kitely.”

The bookseller said, “Bravo, Spelt!” and said no more.

They went on with their tea for some moments in silence.

“Well, princess!” said Mr. Kitely at last, giving an aimless poke to
the conversation.

“Well, father,” returned Mattie.

Whereupon her father turned to Spelt and said, as if resuming what had
passed before–

“Now tell me honestly, Spelt, do you believe there is a God?”

“I don’t doubt it.”

“And I do. Will you tell me that, if there was a God, he would have a
fool like that in the church over the way there, to do nothing but read
the service, and a sermon he bought for eighteenpence, and–”

“From you?” asked Spelt, with an access of interest.

“No, no. I was too near the church for that. But he bought it of
Spelman, in Holywell Street. Well, what was I saying?”

“You was telling us what Mr. Potter did for his money.”

“Yes, yes. I don’t know anything else he does but stroke his Piccadilly
weepers, and draw his salary. Only I suppose they have some grand name
for salary nowadays, out of the Latin Grammar or the Roman Antiquities,
or some such, to make it respectable. Don’t tell me there’s a God, when
he puts a man like that in the pulpit. To hear him haw-haw!”

The bookseller’s logic was, to say the least of it, queer. But Spelt
was no logician. He was something better, though in a feeble way. He
could jump over the dry-stone fences and the cross-ditches of the
logician. He was not one of those who stop to answer arguments against
going home, instead of making haste to kiss their wives and children.

“I have read somewhere–in a book I dare say you mayn’t have in your
collection, Mr. Kitely–they call it the New Testament–”

There was not an atom of conscious humor in the tailor as he said this.
He really thought Mr. Kitely might have conscientious scruples as to
favoring the sale of the New Testament. Kitely smiled, but said nothing.

“I’ve read”–the tailor went on–“that God winked at some people’s
ignorance. I dare say he may wink at Mr. Potter’s.”

“Anyhow, I wouldn’t like to be Mr. Potter,” said the bookseller.

“No, nor I,” returned Spelt. “But just as I let that poor creature,
Dolman, cobble away in my ground-floor–though he has never paid me
more than half his rent since ever he took it–”

“Is that the way of it? Whew!” said Mr. Kitely.

“About and about it,” answered the tailor. “But that’s not the point.”

“What a fool you are then, Spelt, to–”

“Mr. Kitely,” interposed the tailor with dignity, “do I pay your rent?”

“You’ve got my receipts, I believe,” answered the bookseller, offended
in his turn.

“Then I may make a fool of myself, if I please,” returned Spelt, with
a smile which took all offense out of the remark. “I only wanted to
say that perhaps God lets Mr. Potter hold the living of St. Jacob’s
in something of the same way that I let poor Dolman cobble in my
ground-floor. No offense, I hope.”

“None whatever. You’re a good-natured, honest fellow, Spelt; and don’t
distress yourself, you know, for a week or so. Have half a herring
more? I fear this is a soft roe.”

“No more, I thank you, Mr. Kitely. But all the clergy ain’t like Mr.
Potter. Perhaps he talks such nonsense because there’s nobody there to
hear it.”

“There’s plenty not there to do something for his money,” said Kitely.

“That’s true,” returned the tailor. “But seeing I don’t go to church
myself, I don’t see I’ve any right to complain. Do you go to church,
Mr. Kitely?”

“I should think _not_,” answered the bookseller. “But there’s some one
in the shop.”

So saying, he started up and disappeared. Presently voices were heard,
if not in dispute, yet in difference.

“You won’t oblige me so far as that, Mr. Kitely?”

“No, I won’t. I never pledge myself. I’ve been too often taken in. No
offense. A man goes away and forgets. Send or bring the money, and the
book is yours; or come to-morrow. I dare say it won’t be gone. But I
won’t promise to keep it. There!”

“Very well, I won’t trouble you again in a hurry.”

“That is as you please, sir,” said the bookseller, and no reply
followed.

“That’s Mr. Worboise,” said Mattie, “I wish father wouldn’t be so hard
upon him.”

“I don’t like that young man,” said Kitely, reëntering. “My opinion is
that he’s a humbug.”

“Miss Burton does not think so,” said Mattie, quietly.

“Eh, what, princess?” said her father. “Eh! ah! well! well!”

“You don’t give credit, Mr. Kitely?” said the tailor.

“No, not to my own father. I don’t know, though, if I had the old
boy back again, now he’s dead. I didn’t behave over well to him, I’m
afraid. I wonder if he’s in the moon, or where he is, Mr. Spelt, eh?
I should like to believe in God now, if it were only for the chance
of saying to my father, ‘I’m sorry I said so-and-so to you, old man.’
Do you think he’ll have got over it by this time, Spelt? You know all
about those things. But I won’t have a book engaged and left and not
paid for. I’d rather give credit and lose it, and have done with it. If
young Worboise wants the book he may come for it to-morrow.”

“He always pays me–and pleasantly,” said Spelt.

“Of course,” said Mattie.

“I don’t doubt it,” said her father; “but I like things neat and clean.
And I don’t like him. He thinks a deal of himself.”

“Surely he’s neat and clean enough,” said Spelt.

“Now, you don’t know what I mean. A man ought always to know what
another man means before he makes his remarks. I mean, I like a book
to go out of my sight, and the price of it to go into my pocket, right
slick off. But here’s Dolman come to fetch you, Spelt,” said the
bookseller, as the cobbler made his appearance at the half-open door of
the parlor.

“No, I ain’t,” said Dolman. “I only come to let the guv’nor know as I’m
a going home.”

“Where’s that?” asked Kitely.

“Leastways, I mean going home with a pair o’ boots,” answered Dolman,
evasively, wiping his nose with the back of his hand.

“Ah!” said the bookseller.

It is but justice to Thomas Worboise to mention that he made no
opportunities of going to his “governor’s” house after this. But the
relations of the families rendered it impossible for him to avoid
seeing Mary Boxall sometimes. Nor did he make any great effort to
evade each meetings: and it must be confessed that it was not without
a glow of inward satisfaction that he saw her confusion and the rosy
tinge that spread over her face and deepened the color of her eyes
when they thus happened to meet. For Mary was a soft-hearted and too
impressible girl. “I never said anything to her,” were the words with
which he would now and then apply an unction to his soul, compounded
of self-justification and self-flattery. But he could not keep an
outward appearance of coolness correspondent to the real coldness of
his selfish heart, and the confusion which was only a dim reflection of
her own was sufficient to make poor Mary suppose that feelings similar
to her own were at work in the mind of the handsome youth. Why he did
not _say_ anything to her had not yet begun to trouble her, and her
love was as yet satisfied with the ethereal luxuries of dreaming and
castle-building.

It had been arranged between Amy Worboise and the Boxall girls, that if
Christmas Day were fine, they would persuade their fathers to go with
them to Hampstead Heath in the morning. How much of this arrangement
was owing to sly suggestion on the part of Mary in the hope of seeing
Tom, I do not know. I believe Jane contrived that Charles Wither should
have a hint of the possibility. It is enough that the plan was accepted
by the parents, and that the two families, with the exception of Mrs.
Boxall, who could not commit the care of the Christmas dinner to the
servants, and the invalid Mrs. Worboise, who, indeed, would always
have preferred the chance of a visit from Mr. Simon to the certainty
of sunshine and extended prospect, found themselves, after morning
service, on the platform of the Highbury railway station, whence they
soon reached Hampstead.

The walk from the station, up the hill to the top of the heath, was
delightful. It was a clear day, the sun shining overhead, and the
ground sparkling with frost under their feet. The keen, healthy air
brought color to the cheeks and light to the eyes of all the party,
possibly with the sole exception of Mr. Worboise, who, able to walk
uncovered in the keenest weather, was equally impervious to all the
gentler influences of Nature. He could not be said to be a disbeliever
in Nature, for he had not the smallest idea that she had any existence
beyond an allegorical one. What he did believe in was the law, meaning
by that neither the Mosaic nor the Christian, neither the law of love
nor the law of right, but the law of England as practiced in her courts
of justice. Therefore he was not a very interesting person to spend
a Christmas morning with, and he and Mr. Boxall, who was equally a
believer in commerce, were left to entertain each other.

Mary Boxall was especially merry; Amy Worboise roguish as usual; Jane
Boxall rather silent, but still bright-eyed, for who could tell whom
she might meet upon the heath? And with three such girls Tom could not
be other than gay, if not brilliant. True, Lucy was alone with her old
grandmother in dingy Guild Court; but if she loved him, was not that
enough to make her or any other woman happy? And he could not help it,
besides. And why should he not improve the shining hour because Lucy
had no flowers to gather honey from? Besides, was he not going to meet
her the very next day, after much contrivance for concealment? So he
was resolved to be merry and “freuen sich des Lebens.”

They reached the flag-staff. The sun was getting low, and clouds
were gathering behind him. Harrow-on-the-Hill was invisible, but the
reservoir gleamed coldly far across the heath. A wind was blowing from
the northwest; all London lay south and east in clearness wonderful,
for two or three minutes. Then a vapor slowly melted away the dome of
St. Paul’s, and, like a spirit of sorrow, gathered and gathered till
that which was full of life to those who were in it, was but a gray
cloud to those that looked on from the distant hight. Already the young
people felt their spirits affected, and as if by a common impulse,
set off to walk briskly to the pines above the “Spaniards.” They had
not gone far, before they met Charles Wither sauntering carelessly
along–at least he seemed much surprised to see them. He turned and
walked between Jane and Amy, and Mary and Tom were compelled to drop
behind, so as not to extend their line unreasonably and occupy the
whole path. Quite unintentionally on Tom’s part, the distance between
the two divisions increased, and when he and Mary reached the pines,
the rest of the party had vanished. They had in fact gone down into the
Vale of Health, to be out of the wind, and return by the hollow, at the
suggestion of Charles Wither, who wished thus to avoid the chance of
being seen by Mr. Boxall. When he had taken his leave of them, just as
they came in sight of the flag-staff, where Mr. Worboise and Mr. Boxall
had appointed to meet them on their return from the pines, Jane begged
Amy to say nothing about having met him.

“Oh,” said Amy, with sudden and painful illumination, “I am _so_ sorry
to have been in the way.”

“On the contrary, dear Amy, I should not have known what to say to
papa, except you had been with me. I am so much obliged to you.”

Thus there was clearly trouble in store for Mr. Boxall, who had never
yet known what it was not to have his own way–in matters which he
would consider of importance at least.

The two gentlemen had gone into Jack Straw’s to have a glass of wine
together, in honor of Christmas Day; and while they were seated
together before a good fire, it seemed to Mr. Boxall a suitable
opportunity for entering on a matter of business.

“What will you say to me, Worboise, when I tell you that I have never
yet made a will?”

“I needn’t tell you what I think, Boxall. You know well enough. Very
foolish of you. Very imprudent, indeed. And I confess I should not have
expected it of you, although I had a shrewd suspicion that such was the
case.

“How came you to suspect it?”

“To tell the truth; I could not help thinking that as our friendship
was not of yesterday, you would hardly have asked any one else to draw
up your will but your old friend. So you see it was by no mysterious
exercise of intelligence that I came to the conclusion that, not being
an unkind or suspicious man, you must be a dilatory, and, excuse me, in
this sole point, a foolish man.”

“I grant the worst you can say, but you shall say it only till
to-morrow–that is, if you will draw up the will, and have it ready for
me to sign at any hour you may be at leisure for a call from me.”

“I can’t undertake it by to-morrow; but it shall be ready by the next
day at twelve o’clock.”

“That will do perfectly. I must remain ‘a foolish man’ for twenty-four
hours longer–that is all.”

“You won’t be much the worse for that, except you have an attack of
apoplexy to fix you there. But, joking apart, give me my instructions.
May I ask how much you have to leave?”

“Oh; somewhere, off and on, about thirty thousand. It isn’t much, but I
hope to double it in the course of a few years, if things go on as they
are doing.”

Mr. Worboise had not known so much about his friend’s affairs as he had
pretended to his son. When he heard the amount, he uttered a slight
“Whew!” But whether it meant that the sum fell below or exceeded his
expectations, he gave Mr. Boxall no time to inquire.

“And how do you want the sum divided?” he asked.

“I don’t want it divided at all. There’s no occasion whatever to
mention the sum. The books will show my property. I want my wife, in
the case of her surviving me, to have the whole of it.”

“And failing her?”

“My daughters, of course–equally divided. If my wife lives, there is
no occasion to mention them. I want them to be dependent upon her as
long as she lives, and so hold the family together as long as possible.
She knows my wishes about them in everything. I have no secrets from
her.”

“I have only to carry out instructions. I have no right to offer any
suggestions.”

“That means that you would suggest something. Speak out, man.”

“Suppose your daughters wished to marry?”

“I leave all that to their mother, as I said. They must be their own
mistresses some day.”

“Well, call on me the day after to-morrow, and I shall have the draught
at least ready.”

When the two girls reached the flag-staff, their parents were not
there. Jane was glad of this, for it precluded questioning as to the
point whence they had arrived. As they stood waiting, large snow-flakes
began to fall, and the wind was rising. But they had not to wait long
before the gentlemen made their appearance, busily conversing, so
busily, indeed, that when they had joined the girls, they walked away
toward the railway station without concerning themselves to ask what
had become of Mary and Thomas.

When they reached the railway station, Mr. Boxall became suddenly aware
that two of their party were missing.

“Why, Jane, where’s Mary? And where’s Tom? Where did you leave them?”

“Somewhere about the pines. I thought they would have been back long
ago.”

The two fathers looked at each other, and each seeing that the other
looked knowing, then first consented, as he thought, to look knowing
himself.

“Well,” said Mr. Worboise, “they’re old enough to take care of
themselves, I suppose. I vote we don’t wait for them.”

“Serve them right,” said Mr. Boxall.

“Oh, don’t, papa,” interposed Jane.

“Well, Jane, will you stop for them?” said her father.

But a sudden light that flashed into Jane’s eyes made him change his
tone. He did not know why, but the idea of Charles Wither rose in his
mind, and he made haste to prevent Jane from taking advantage of the
proposal.

“Come along,” he said. “Let them take care of themselves. Come along.”

The suspicion had crossed him more than once, that Mr. Wither and Jane
possibly contrived to meet without his knowledge, and the thought made
him writhe with jealousy; for it lay in his nature to be jealous of
everyone of whom his wife or his daughters spoke well–that is, until
he began to like him himself, when the jealousy, or what was akin to
it, vanished. But it was not jealousy alone that distressed him, but
the anxiety of real love as well.

By the time they reached Camden Road station, the ground was covered
with snow.

When Tom and Mary arrived at the pines, I have said they found that the
rest of their party had gone.

“Oh, never mind,” said Mary, merrily; “let us run down into the hollow,
and wait till they come back. I dare say they are not far off. They
will never go without us.”

Partly from false gallantry, partly from inclination, Thomas agreed.
They descended the bank of sand in a quite opposite direction from that
taken by Jane and her companions, and wandered along down the heath.
By this time the sky was all gray and white. Long masses of vapor were
driving overhead with jagged upper edges. They looked like lines of
fierce warriors stooping in their eager rush to the battle. But down in
the hollows of the heath all was still, and they wandered on for some
time without paying any heed to the signs of the coming storm. Does my
reader ask what they talked about? Nothing worthy of record, I answer;
although every word that Thomas uttered seemed to Mary worth looking
into for some occult application of the sort she would gladly have
heard more openly expressed. At length, something cold fell upon her
face, and Thomas glancing that moment at her countenance, saw it lying
there, and took it for a tear. She looked up: the sky was one mass of
heavy vapor, and a multitude of great downy snow-flakes was settling
slowly on the earth. In a moment they were clasped hand in hand.
The pleasure of the snow, the excitement of being shut out from the
visible, or rather the seeing world, wrapped in the skirts of a storm
with a pretty girl for his sole companion, so wrought upon Thomas, who
loved to be moved and hated to will, that he forgot Lucy, and stood in
delight gazing certainly at the falling snow, and not at Mary Boxall,
but holding her hand tight in his own. She crept closer to him, for a
little gentle fear added to her pleasure, and in a moment more his arm
was about her–to protect her, I dare say, he said to himself.

Now, be it understood that Thomas was too much in love with himself
to be capable of loving any woman under the sun after a noble and
true fashion. He did not love Lucy a great deal better than he loved
Mary. Only Mary was an ordinary pretty blonde, and Lucy was dark,
with great black eyes, and far more distinguished in appearance than
Mary. Besides, she was poor, and that added greatly to the romance of
the thing; for it made it quite noble in him to love her, and must
make her look up to him with such deserved admiration, that–without
reckoning the fact that the one was offered him, and the other only
not forbidden because there was as yet no suspicion of his visits in
Guild Court–there was positively no room to hesitate in choice between
them. Still the preference was not strong enough to keep his heart from
beating fast when he found the snow-storm had closed him in with Mary.
He had sense enough, however, to turn at once in order to lead her back
toward the road. But this was already a matter of difficulty, for there
was no path where the storm found them, and with the gathering darkness
the snow already hid the high road across the heath; so that the first
question was in what direction to go to find it. They kept moving,
however, Mary leaning a good deal on Tom’s arm, and getting more and
more frightened as no path came in view. Even Tom began to be anxious
about what was to come of it, and although he did his best to comfort
Mary, he soon found that, before the least suspicion of actual danger,
the whole romance had vanished. And now the snow not only fell rapidly,
but the wind blew it sharply in their faces, and blinded them yet more
than merely with its darkness–not that this mattered much as to the
finding the way, for that was all hap-hazard long ago.

After wandering, probably in a circuitous fashion, for more than
an hour, Mary burst out crying, and said she could not walk a step
farther. She would have thrown herself down had not Tom prevented her.
With the kindest encouragement–though he was really down-hearted
himself–he persuaded her to climb a little hight near them, which with
great difficulty she managed to do. From the top they saw a light, and
descending the opposite side of the hill, found themselves in a road,
where an empty cab stood by the door of a public-house. After trying to
persuade Mary to have some refreshment, to which she refused to listen,
insisting on being taken to her mother, Thomas succeeded in getting
the cabman to drive them to the station. In the railway carriage, Mary
lay like one dead, and although he took off both his coats to wrap
about her, she seemed quite unconscious of the attention. It was with
great difficulty that she reached her home; for there was no cab at the
hackney station, and the streets were by this time nearly a foot deep
in snow.

Thomas was not sorry to give her up to her mother. She immediately
began to scold him. Then Mary spoke for the first time, saying, with
great effort:

“Don’t, mother. If it had not been for Thomas, I should have been dead
long ago. He could not help it. Good-night, Tom.”

And she feebly held up her face to kiss him. Tom stooped to meet it,
and went away feeling tolerably miserable. He was wet and cold. The
momentary fancy for Mary was quite gone out of him, and he could not
help seeing that now he had kissed her before her mother he had got
himself into a scrape.

Before morning Mary was in a raging fever.

That night Charles Wither spent at a billiard-table in London, playing,
not high but long, sipping brandy and water all the time, and thinking
what a splendid girl Jane Boxall was. But in the morning he looked all
right.

Thomas woke the next morning with a well-deserved sense of something
troubling him. This too was a holiday, but he did not feel in a holiday
mood. It was not from any fear that Mary might be the worse for her
exposure, neither was it from regret for his conduct toward her. What
made him uncomfortable was the feeling rather than thought that now
Mrs. Boxall, Mary’s mother, had a window that overlooked his premises,
a window over which he had no legal hold, but which, on the contrary,
gave her a hold over him. It was a window, also, of which she was not
likely, as he thought, to neglect the advantage. Nor did it console
him to imagine what Lucy would think, or–which was of more weight
with Thomas–say or do, if she should happen to hear of the affair of
yesterday. This, however, was very unlikely to happen; for she had not
one friend in common with her cousins, except just her lover. To-day
being likewise a holiday, he had arranged to meet her at the Marble
Arch, and take her to that frightful source of amusement, Madame
Tussaud’s. Her morning engagement led her to that neighborhood, and
it was a safe place to meet in–far from Highbury, Hackney, and Bagot
Street.

The snow was very deep. Mrs. Boxall tried to persuade Lucy not to go.
But where birds can pass, lovers can pass, and she was just finishing
her lesson to resplendent little Miriam as Thomas got out of an omnibus
at Park Street, that he might saunter up on foot to the Marble Arch.

The vision of Hyde Park was such as rarely meets the eye of a Londoner.
It was almost grotesquely beautiful. Even while waiting for a lovely
girl, Thomas could not help taking notice of the trees. Every bough,
branch, twig, and shoot supported a ghost of itself, or rather a white
shadow of itself upon the opposite side from where the black shadow
fell. The whole tree looked like a huge growth of that kind of coral
they call brain-coral, and the whole park a forest of such coralline
growths. But against the sky, which was one canopy of unfallen snow,
bright with the sun behind it, the brilliant trees looked more like
coral still, gray namely, and dull.

Thomas had not sauntered and gazed for more than a few minutes before
he saw Lucy coming down Great Cumberland Street toward him. Instead of
crossing the street to meet her, he stood and watched her approach.
There was even some excuse for his coolness, she looked so picturesque
flitting over the spotless white in her violet dress, her red cloak,
her grebe muff. I do not know what her bonnet was; for if a bonnet be
suitable, it allows the face to show as it ought, and who can think of
a bonnet then! But I know that they were a pair of very dainty morocco
boots that made little holes in the snow across Oxford Street toward
the Marble Arch where Thomas stood, filled, I fear, with more pride in
the lovely figure that was coming to _him_ than love of her.

“Have I kept you waiting long, Thomas?” said Lucy, with the sweetest of
smiles, her teeth white as snow in the summer flush of her face.

“Oh! about ten minutes,” said Thomas. It wasn’t five. “What a cold
morning it is!”

“I don’t feel it much,” answered Lucy. “I came away the first moment I
could. I am sorry I kept you waiting.”

“Don’t mention it, Lucy. I should be only too happy to wait for you as
long every morning,” said Thomas, gallantly, not tenderly.

Lucy did not relish the tone. But what could she do? A tone is one of
the most difficult things to fix a complaint upon. Besides, she was not
in a humor to complain of any thing if she could help it. And, to tell
the truth, she was a little afraid of offending Thomas, for she looked
up to him ten times more than he deserved.

“How lovely your red cloak looked–quite a splendor–crossing the
snow!” he continued.

And Lucy received this as a compliment to herself, and smiled again.
She took his arm–for lovers will do that sometimes after it is quite
out of fashion. But, will it be believed? Thomas did not altogether
like her doing so, just because it was out of fashion.

“What a delightful morning it is,” she said. “Oh! do look at the bars
of the railing.”

“Yes, I see. The snow has stuck to them. But how can you look at such
vulgar things as iron stanchions when you have such a fairy forest as
that before you?” said the reader of Byron, who was not seldom crossed
by a feeling of dismay at finding Lucy, as he thought, decidedly
unpoetical. He wanted to train her in poetry, as, with shame let it
flow from my pen, in religion.

“But just look here,” insisted Lucy, drawing him closer to the fence.
“You are short-sighted, surely, Thomas. Just look there.”

“Well, I see nothing but snow on both sides of the paling-bars,”
returned Thomas.

“Now I am sure you are short-sighted. It is snow on the one side, but
not on the other. Look at the lovely crystals.”

On the eastern quarter of each upright bar the snow had accumulated and
stuck fast to the depth of an inch: the wind had been easterly. The
fall had ceased some hours before morning, and a strong frost had set
in. That the moisture in the air should have settled frozen upon the
iron would not have been surprising; what Lucy wondered at was, that
there should be a growth, half an inch long, of slender crystals, like
the fungous growth commonly called mold, only closer, standing out
from the bar horizontally, as if they had grown through it, out of the
soil of the snow exactly opposite to it on the other side. On the one
side was a beaten mass of snow, on the other a fantastic little forest
of ice.

“I do not care about such microscopic beauties,” said Thomas, a little
annoyed that she whom he thought unpoetical could find out something
lovely sooner than he could; for he was of those in whom a phantasm
of self-culture is one of the forms taken by their selfishness. They
regard this culture in relation to others with an eye to superiority,
and do not desire it purely for its own sake. “Those trees are much
more to my mind, now.”

“Ah, but I do not love the trees less. Come into the park, and then we
can see them from all sides.”

“The snow is too deep. There is no path there.”

“I don’t mind it. My boots are very thick.”

“No, no; come along. We shall get to Madame Tussaud’s before there are
many people there. It will be so much nicer.”

“I should like much better to stay here awhile,” said Lucy, half vexed
and a little offended.

But Thomas did not heed her. He led the way up Oxford Street. She had
dropped his arm, and now walked by his side.

“A nice lover to have!” I think I hear some of my girl readers say. But
he was not so bad as this always, or even gentle-tempered Lucy would
have quarreled with him, if it had been only for the sake of getting
rid of him. The weight of yesterday was upon him. And while they were
walking up the street, as handsome and fresh a couple as you would find
in all London, Mary was lying in her bed talking wildly about Thomas.

Alas for the loving thoughts of youth and maidens, that go out like the
dove from the ark, and find no room on the face of the desired world to
fold their wings and alight! Olive-leaves they will gather in plenty,
even when they are destined never to build a nest in the branches of
the olive tree. Let such be strong notwithstanding, even when there are
no more olive-leaves to gather, for God will have mercy upon his youths
and maidens, and they shall grow men and women. Let who can understand
me.

Having thus left the beauties of nature behind them for the horrible
mockery of art at Madame Tussaud’s, Thomas became aware from Lucy’s
silence that he had not been behaving well to her. He therefore set
about being more agreeable, and before they reached Baker Street she
had his arm again, and they were talking and laughing gayly enough.
Behind them, at some distance, trotted a small apparition which I must
now describe.

It was a little girl, perhaps ten years old, looking as wild as any
savage in Canadian forest. Her face was pretty, as far as could be
judged through the dirt that variegated its surface. Her eyes were
black and restless. Her dress was a frock, of what stuff it would
have been impossible to determine, scarcely reaching below her knees,
and rent upward into an irregular fringe of ribbons that frostily
fanned her little legs as she followed the happy couple, in a pair of
shoes much too large for her, and already worn into such holes as to
afford more refuge for the snow than for her feet. Her little knees
were very black, and oh! those poor legs, caked and streaked with
dirt, and the delicate skin of them thickened and cracked with frost
and east winds and neglect! They could carry her through the snow
satisfactorily, however–with considerable suffering to themselves, no
doubt. But Poppie was not bound to be miserable because Poppie’s legs
were anything but comfortable; there is no selfishness in not being
sorry for one’s own legs. Her hair, which might have been expected to
be quite black, was mingled with a reddish tinge from exposure to the
hot sun of the preceding summer. It hung in tangled locks about her,
without protection of any sort. How strange the snow must have looked
upon it! No doubt she had been out in the storm. Her face peeped out
from among it with the wild innocence of a gentle and shy but brave
little animal of the forest. Purposely she followed Lucy’s red cloak.
But this was not the first time she had followed her; like a lost pup,
she would go after this one and that one–generally a lady–for a whole
day from place to place, obedient to some hidden drawing of the heart.
She had often seen Lucy start from Guild Court, and had followed her
to the railway; and, at length, by watching first one station and then
another, had found out where she went every morning. Knowing then that
she could find her when she pleased, she did not follow her more than
twice a week or so, sometimes not once–just as the appetite woke in
her for a little of her society. But my reader must see more of her
before he or she will be interested enough in her either to please me
or to care to hear more about the habits of this little wild animal of
the stone forest of London. She had never seen Lucy with a gentleman
before. I wonder if she had ever in her little life walked side by side
with anybody herself; she was always trotting behind. This was the
little girl whom Miss Matilda Kitely, her father’s princess, called
Poppie, and patronized, although she was at least two years older than
herself, as near as could be guessed. Nor had she any other name; for
no one knew where she had come from, or who were her parents, and she
herself cared as little about the matter as anybody.

The lovers were some distance ahead of Poppie, as they had been all
the way, when they entered the passage leading to the wax works. The
instant she lost sight of them so suddenly, Poppie started in pursuit,
lost one of her great shoes, and, instead of turning to pick it up,
kicked the other after it–no great loss–and scampered at full
barefooted speed over the snow, which was here well trodden. They could
hardly have more than disappeared at the further end when she arrived
at the entrance.

Poppie never thought about _might_ or _might_ not, but only about
_could_ or _could not_. So the way being open, and she happening to
have no mind that morning to part with her company before she was
compelled, she darted in to see whether she could not get another peep
of the couple. Not only was the red cloak a fountain of warmth to
Poppie’s imagination, but the two seemed so happy together that she
felt in most desirable society.

Thomas was in the act of paying for admission at the turnstile, when
she caught sight of them again. The same moment that he admitted them,
the man turned away from his post. In an instant Poppie had crept
through underneath, dodged the man, and followed them, taking care,
however, not to let them see her, for she had not the smallest desire
to come to speech with them.

The gorgeousness about her did not produce much effect upon Poppie’s
imagination. What it might have produced was counteracted by a
strange fancy that rose at once under the matted covering of that
sunburnt hair. She had seen more than one dead man carried home upon
a stretcher. She had seen the miserable funerals of the poor, and the
desolate coffin put in the earth. But she knew that of human beings
there were at least two very different breeds, of one of which she
knew something of the habits and customs, while of the other she knew
nothing, except that they lived in great houses, from which they were
carried away in splendid black carriages, drawn by ever so many horses,
with great black feathers growing out of their heads. What became of
them after that she had not the smallest idea, for no doubt they would
be disposed of in a manner very different from the funerals she had
been allowed to be present at. When she entered the wax-work exhibition
the question was solved. This was one of the places to which they
carried the grand people after they were dead. Here they set them up,
dressed in their very best, to stand there till–ah, till when, Poppie?
That question she made no attempt to answer. She did not like the look
of the dead people. She thought it a better way to put them in the
earth and have done with them, for they had a queer look, as if they
did not altogether like the affair themselves. And when one of them
stared at her, she dodged its eyes, and had enough to do between them
all and the showman; for though Poppie was not afraid of anybody, she
had an instinctive knowledge that it was better to keep out of some
people’s way. She followed the sight of her friend, however, till the
couple went into the “chamber of horrors,” as if there was not horror
enough in seeing humanity imitated so abominably in the outer room.

Yes, I am sorry to say it, Lucy went into that place, but she did
not know what she was doing, and it was weeks before she recovered
her self-respect after it. However, as Thomas seemed interested, she
contrived to endure it for a little while–to endure, I do not mean
the horror, for that was not very great–but the vulgarity of it all.
Poppie lingered, not daring to follow them, and at length, seeing a
large party arrive, began to look about for some place of refuge. In
the art of vanishing she was an adept, with an extraordinary proclivity
toward holes and comers. In fact, she could hardly see a hole big
enough to admit her without darting into it at once to see if it would
do–for what, she could not have specified–but for general purposes of
refuge. She considered all such places handy, and she found one handy
now.

Close to the entrance, in a recess, was a couch, and on this couch
lay a man. He did not look like the rest of the dead people, for his
eyes were closed. Then the dead people went to bed sometimes, and to
sleep. Happy dead people–in a bed like this! For there was a black
velvet cover thrown over the sleeping dead man, so that nothing but his
face was visible; and to the eyes of Poppie this pall looked so soft,
so comfortable, so enticing! It was a place to dream in. And could
there be any better hiding-place than this? If the man was both dead
and sleeping, he would hardly object to having her for a companion.
But as she sent one parting peep round the corner of William Pitt or
Dick Turpin, after her friends, ere she forsook them to lie down with
the dead, one of the attendants caught sight of her, and advanced to
expel the dangerous intruder. Poppie turned and fled, sprang into the
recess, crept under the cover, like a hunted mouse, and lay still,
the bed-fellow of no less illustrious a personage than the Duke of
Wellington, and cold as he must have been, Poppie found him warmer than
her own legs. The man never thought of following her in that direction,
and supposed that she had escaped as she had managed to intrude.

Poppie found the place so comfortable that she had no inclination
to change her quarters in haste. True, it was not nice to feel the
dead man when she put out foot or hand; but then she need not put out
foot or hand. And Poppie was not used to feeling warm. It was a rare
sensation, and she found it delightful. Every now and then she peeped
from under the _mortcloth_–for the duke was supposed to be lying in
state–to see whether Thomas and Lucy were coming. But at length, what
with the mental and physical effects of warmth and comfort combined,
she fell fast asleep, and dreamed she was in a place she had been in
once before, though she had forgotten all about it. From the indefinite
account she gave of it, I can only conjecture that it was the
embodiment of the vaguest memory of a motherly bosom; that it was her
own mother’s bosom she recalled even thus faintly, I much doubt. But
from this undefined bliss she was suddenly aroused by a rough hand and
a rough voice loaded with a curse. Poppie was used to curses, and did
not mind them a bit–somehow they never hurt her–but she was a little
frightened at the face of indignant surprise and wrath which she saw
bending over her when she awoke. It was that of one of the attendants,
with a policeman beside him, for whom he had sent before he awoke the
child, allowing her thus a few moments of unconscious blessedness, with
the future hanging heavy in the near distance. But the duke had slept
none the less soundly that she was by his side, and had lost none of
the warmth that she had gained. It was well for Ruth that there were
no police when she slept in Boaz’s barn; still better that some of the
clergymen, who serve God by reading her story on the Sunday, were not
the magistrates before whom the police carried her. With a tight grasp
on her arm, Poppie was walked away in a manner uncomfortable certainly
to one who was accustomed to trot along at her own sweet will–and a
sweet will it was, that for happiness was content to follow and keep
within sight of some one that drew her, without longing for even a
word of grace–to what she had learned to call _the jug_, namely, the
police prison; but my reader must not spend too much of his stock of
sympathy upon Poppie; for she did not mind it much. To be sure in such
weather the jug was very cold, but she had the memories of the past to
comfort her, the near past, spent in the society of the dead duke, warm
and consoling. When she fell asleep on the hard floor of the _lock-up_,
she dreamed that she was dead and buried, and trying to be warm and
comfortable, as she ought to be in her grave, only somehow or another
she could not get things to come right; the wind would blow through the
chinks of her pauper’s coffin; and she wished she had been a duke or
a great person generally, to be so grandly buried as they were in the
cemetery in Baker Street. But Poppie was far less to be pitied for the
time, cold as she was, than Mary Boxall, lying half asleep and half
awake and all dreaming in that comfortable room, with a blazing fire,
and her own mother sitting beside it. True, likewise, Poppie heard a
good many bad words and horrid speeches in the jug, but she did not
heed them much. Indeed, they did not even distress her, she was so
used to them; nor, upon occasion, was her own language the very pink
of propriety. How could it be? The vocabulary in use in the houses
she knew had ten vulgar words in it to one that Mattie, for instance,
would hear. But whether Poppie, when speaking the worst language that
ever crossed her lips, was lower, morally and spiritually considered,
than the young lord in the nursery, who, speaking with articulation
clear cut as his features, and in language every word of which is to be
found in Johnson; refuses his brother a share of his tart and gobbles
it up himself, there is to me, knowing that if Poppie could swear she
could share, no question whatever. God looks after his children in the
cellars as well as in the nurseries of London.

Of course she was liberated in the morning, for the police magistrates
of London are not so cruel as some of those country clergymen who, not
content with preaching about the justice of God from the pulpit, must
seat themselves on the magistrate’s bench to dispense the injustice of
men. If she had been brought before some of them for sleeping under
a hay-stack, and having no money in her pocket, as if the night sky,
besides being a cold tester to lie under, were something wicked as
well, she would have been sent to prison; for, instead of believing in
the blessedness of the poor, they are of Miss Kilmansegg’s opinion,
“that people with nought are naughty.” The poor little thing was only
reprimanded for being where she had no business to be, and sent away.
But it was no wonder if, after this adventure, she should know Thomas
again when she saw him; nay, that she should sometimes trot after him
for the length of a street or so. But he never noticed her.

The next day the sun shone brilliantly upon the snow as Thomas walked
to the counting-house. He was full of pleasant thoughts, crossed and
shadowed by a few of a different kind. He was not naturally deceitful,
and the sense of having a secret which must get him into trouble if it
were discovered, and discovered it must be some day, could not fail to
give him uneasiness notwithstanding the satisfaction which the romance
of the secrecy of a love affair afforded him. Nothing, however, as it
seemed to him, could be done, for he was never ready to do anything to
which he was neither led nor driven. He could not generate action, or,
rather, he had never yet begun to generate action.

As soon as he reached Bagot Street, he tapped at the glass door, and
was admitted to Mr. Boxall’s room. He found him with a look of anxiety
upon a face not used to express that emotion.

“I hope Miss Mary–” Thomas began, with a little hesitation.

“She’s very ill,” said her father, “very ill, indeed. It was enough to
be the death of her. Excessively imprudent.”

Now Mary had been as much to blame, if there was any blame at all, for
the present results of the Christmas morning, as Thomas; but he had
still generosity enough left not to say so to her father.

“I am very sorry,” he said. “We were caught in the snow, and lost our
way.”

“Yes, yes, I know. I oughtn’t to be too hard upon young people,”
returned Mr. Boxall, remembering, perhaps, that he had his share of the
blame in leaving them so much to themselves.

“I only hope she may get through it. But she’s in a bad way. She was
quite delirious last night.”

Thomas was really concerned for a moment, and looked so. Mr. Boxall saw
it, and spoke more kindly.

“I trust, however, that there is not any immediate danger. It’s no use
you coming to see her. She can’t see anybody but the doctor.”

This was a relief to Thomas. But it was rather alarming to find that
Mr. Boxall clearly expected him to want to go to see her.

“I am very sorry,” he said again; and that was all he could find to say.

“Well, well,” returned his master, accepting the words as if they had
been an apology. “We must do our work, anyhow. Business is the first
thing, you know.”

Thomas took this as a dismissal, and retired to the outer office, in a
mood considerably different from that which Mr. Boxall attributed to
him.

A clerk’s duty is a hard one, and this ought to be acknowledged.
Neither has he any personal interest in the result of the special labor
to which he is for the time devoted, nor can this labor have much
interest of its own beyond what comes of getting things square, and the
sense of satisfaction which springs from activity, and the success of
completion. And it is not often that a young man is fortunate enough
to have a master who will not only appreciate his endeavors, but will
let him know that he does appreciate them. There are reasons for the
latter fact beyond disposition and temperament. The genial employer has
so often found that a strange process comes into operation in young and
old, which turns the honey of praise into the poison of self-conceit,
rendering those to whom it is given disagreeable, and ere long
insufferable, that he learns to be very chary in the administration of
the said honey, lest subordinates think themselves indispensable, and
even neglect the very virtues which earned them the praise. A man must
do his duty, if he would be a free man, whether he likes it or not,
and whether it is appreciated or not. But if he can regard it as the
will of God, the work not fallen upon him by chance, but _given_ him to
do, understanding that every thing well done belongs to His kingdom,
and every thing ill done to the kingdom of darkness, surely even the
irksomeness of his work will be no longer insuperable. But Thomas
had never been taught this. He did not know that his day’s work had
anything to do with the saving of his soul. Poor Mr. Simon gave him
of what he had, like his namesake at the gate of the temple, but all
he had served only to make a man creep; it could not make him stand up
and walk. “A servant with this clause,”–that is the clause, “_for thy
sake_,”–wrote George Herbert:

“A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
Makes that and the action fine.”

But Mr. Simon could not understand the half of this, and nothing at
all of the essential sacredness of the work which God would not give
a man to do if it were not sacred. Hence Thomas regarded his work
only as drudgery; considered it beneath him; judged himself fitter
for the army, and had hankerings after gold lace. He dabbled with the
fancy that there was a mistake somewhere in the arrangement of mundane
affairs, a serious one, for was he not fitted by nature to move in some
showy orbit, instead of being doomed to rise in Highbury, shine in
Bagot Street, and set yet again in Highbury? And so, although he did
not absolutely neglect his work, for he hated to be found fault with,
he just did it, not entering into it with any spirit; and as he was
clever enough, things went on with tolerable smoothness.

That same evening, when he went home from his German lesson of a
quarter of an hour, and his interview with Lucy of an hour and a
quarter, he found Mr. Simon with his mother. Thomas would have left
the room; for his conscience now made him wish to avoid Mr. Simon–who
had pressed him so hard, with the stamp of religion that the place was
painful, although the impression was fast disappearing.

“Thomas,” said his mother, with even more than her usual solemnity,
“Thomas, come here. We want to have some conversation with you.”

“I have not had my tea yet, mother.”

“You can have your tea afterward. I wish you to come here now.”

Thomas obeyed, and threw himself with some attempt at nonchalance into
a chair.

“Thomas, my friend,” began Mr. Simon, with a tone–how am I to describe
it? I could easily, if I chose to use a contemptuous word, but I do not
wish to intrude on the region of the comic satirist, and must therefore
use a periphrase–with the tone which corresponds to the long face
some religions people assume the moment the conversation turns toward
sacred things, and in which a certain element of the ludicrous, because
affected, goes far to destroy the solemnity, “I am uneasy about you.
Do not think me interfering, for I watch for your soul as one that
must give an account. I have to give an account of you, for at one
time you were the most promising seal of my ministry. But your zeal
has grown cold; you are unfaithful to your first love; and when the
Lord cometh as a thief in the night, you will be to him as one of
the lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, my poor friend. He will spue you
out of his mouth. And I may be to blame for this, though at present
I know not how. Ah, Thomas! Thomas! Do not let me have shame of you
at his appearing. The years are fleeting fast, and although he delay
his coming, yet he _will_ come; and he will slay his enemies with the
two-edged sword that proceedeth out of his mouth.”

Foolish as Mr. Simon was, he was better than Mr. Potter, if Mr.
Kitely’s account of him was correct; for he was in earnest, and acted
upon his belief. But he knew nothing of human nature, and as Thomas
grew older, days, even hours, had widened the gulf between them, till
his poor feeble influences could no longer reach across it, save as
unpleasant reminders of something that had been. Happy is the youth of
whom a sensible, good clergyman has a firm hold–a firm human hold, I
mean–not a priestly one, such as Mr. Simon’s. But if the clergyman be
feeble and foolish, the worst of it is, that the youth will transfer
his growing contempt for the clergyman to the religion of which he
is such a poor representative. I know another clergyman–perhaps my
readers may know him too–who, instead of lecturing Thomas through the
medium of a long string of Scripture phrases, which he would have had
far too much reverence to use after such a fashion, would have taken
him by the shoulder, and said, “Tom, my boy, you’ve got something on
your mind. I hope it’s nothing wrong. But whatever it is, mind you come
to me if I can be of any use to you.”

To such a man there would have been a chance of Tom’s making a clean
breast of it–not yet, though–not before he got into deep water. But
Mr. Simon had not the shadow of a chance of making him confess. How
could Thomas tell such a man that he was in love with one beautiful
girl, and had foolishly got himself into a scrape with another?

By this direct attack upon him in the presence of his mother, the man
had lost the last remnant of his influence over him, and, in fact, made
him feel as if he should like to punch his head, if it were not that
he could not bear to hurt the meek little sheep. He did not know that
Mr. Simon had been rather a bruiser at college–small and meek as he
was–only that was before his conversion. If he had cared to defend
himself from such an attack, which I am certain he would not have
doubled fist to do, Thomas could not have stood one minute before him.

“Why do you not speak, Thomas?” said his mother, gently.

“What do you want me to say, mother?” asked Thomas in return, with
rising anger. He never could resist except his temper came to his aid.

“Say what you ought to say,” returned Mrs. Worboise, more severely.

“What ought I to say, Mr. Simon?” said Thomas, with a tone of mock
submission, not so marked, however, that Mr. Simon, who was not
sensitive, detected it.

“Say, my young friend, that you will carry the matter to the throne of
grace, and ask the aid–”

But I would rather not record sacred words which, whatever they might
mean in Mr. Simon’s use of them, mean so little in relation to my story.

Thomas, however, was not yet so much of a hypocrite as his training had
hitherto tended to make him, and again he sat silent for a few moments,
during which his mother and her friend sat silent likewise, giving him
time for reflection. Then he spoke, anxious to get rid of the whole
unpleasant affair.

“I will promise to think of what you have said, Mr. Simon.”

“Yes, Thomas, but _how_ will you think of it?” said his mother.

Mr. Simon, however, glad to have gained so much of a concession, spoke
more genially. He would not drive the matter further at present.

“Do, dear friend; and may He guide you into the truth. Remember,
Thomas, the world and the things of this world are passing away. You
are a child no longer, and are herewith called upon to take your part,
for God or against him–”

And so on, till Thomas grew weary as well as annoyed.

“Will you tell me what fault you have to find with me?” he said at
last. “I am regular at the Sunday-school, I am sure.”

“Yes, that we must allow, and heartily,” answered Mr. Simon, turning
to Mrs. Worboise as if to give her the initiative, for he thought
her rather hard with her son; “only I would just suggest to you,
Mr. Thomas–I don’t ask you the question, but I would have you ask
yourself–whether your energy is equal to what it has been? Take care
lest, while you teach others, you yourself should be a castaway.
Remember that nothing but faith in the merits–”

Thus started again, he went on, till Thomas was forced loose from all
sympathy with things so unmercifully driven upon him, and vowed in his
heart that he would stand it no longer.

Still speaking, Mr. Simon rose to take his leave. Thomas, naturally
polite, and anxious to get out of the scrutiny of those cold blue eyes
of his mother, went to open the door for him, and closed it behind him
with a sigh of satisfaction. Then he had his tea and went to his own
room, feeling wrong, and yet knowing quite well that he was going on to
be and to do wrong. Saintship like his mother’s and Mr. Simon’s was out
of his reach.

Perhaps it was. But there were other things essential to saintship
that were within his reach–and equally essential to the manliness of
a gentleman, which he would have been considerably annoyed to be told
that he was in much danger of falling short of, if he did not in some
way or other mend his ways, and take heed to his goings.

The next morning mother and pastor held a long and, my reader will
believe, a dreary consultation over the state of Thomas. I will not
afflict him with a recital of what was said and resaid a dozen times
before they parted. If Mr. Worboise had overheard it, he would have
laughed, not heartily, but with a perfection of contempt, for he
despised all these things, and would have despised better things, too,
if he had known them.

The sole result was that his mother watched Thomas with yet greater
assiduity; and Thomas began to feel that her eyes were never off him,
and to dislike them because he feared them. He felt them behind his
back. They haunted him in Bagot Street. Happy with Lucy, even there
those eyes followed him, as if searching to find out his secret; and a
vague fear kept growing upon him that the discovery was at hand. Hence
he became more and more cunning to conceal his visits. He dreaded what
questions those questioning eyes might set the tongue asking. For he
had not yet learned to lie. He prevaricated, no doubt; but lying may be
a step yet further on the downward road.

One good thing only came out of it all: he grew more and more in love
with Lucy. He almost loved her.