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THE WALK TO THE COUNTING-HOUSE.
In the month of November, not many years ago, a young man was walking from Highbury to the City. It was one of those grand mornings that dawn only twice or thrice in the course of the year, aud are so independent of times and seasons that November even comes in for its share. And it seemed as if young Thomas Worboise had at his toilette felt the influences of the weather, for he was dressed a trifle more gaily than was altogether suitable for the old age of the year. Neither, however, did he appear in harmony with the tone of the morning, which was something as much beyond the significance of his costume, as the great arches of a cathedral upheaving a weight of prayer from its shadowed heart towards the shadowless heavens are beyond the petty gorgeousness of the needlework that adorns the vain garments of its priesthood. It was a lofty blue sky, with multitudes of great clouds half-way between it and the earth, amongst which, as well as along the streets, a glad west wind was revelling. There was nothing much for it to do in the woods now, and it took to making merry in the clouds and the streets. And so the whole heaven was full of church-windows. Every now and then a great bore in the cloudy mass would shoot a sloped cylinder of sunrays earthwards, like an eye that in virtue of the light it shed itself upon the object of its regard. Grey billows of vapour with sunny heads tossed about in the air, an ocean for angelic sport, only that the angels could not like sport in which there was positively no danger. Where the sky shone through, it looked awfully sweet, and profoundly high. But al. though Thomas enjoyed the wind on his right cheek as he passed the streets that opened into High Street, and although certain half
sensations, half sentiments awoke in him at its touch, his look was oftenest down at his light trowsers or his enamelled boots, and never rose higher than the shop-windows.
As he turned into the churchyard to go eastward, he was joined by an acquaintance a few years older than himself, whose path lay in the same direction.
“ Jolly morning, ain't it, Tom?” said he.
“ Ye-es," answered Thomas, with something of a fashionable drawl, and in the doubtful tone of one who will be careful how he either praises or condemns anything. “Ye-es. It almost makes one feel young again.”
“Ha, ha, ha! How long is it since you enjoyed the pleasing sensation last ?"
“None of your chaff, now, Charles."
“Well, upon my word, if you don't like chaff, you put yourself at the wrong end of the winnower.”
"I never read the Georgics,” said Tom, sarcastically.
“Yes, I know I was born in the country--a clodhopper, no doubt, but I can afford to stand your chaff, for í feel as young as the day I was born. If you were a fast fellow, now, I shouldn't wonder; but for one like you that teaches in the Sunday school and all that, I am ashamed of you, talking like that. Confess now, you don't believe a word of what you cram the goslings with.”
“ Charles, you may make game of me as you like, but I won't let you say a word against religion in my presence. You may despise me if you please, and think it very spoony of me to teach in the Sun. day School, but-well, you know well enough what I mean.”
“I can guess at it, old fellow. Come, come, don't think to humbug me. You know as well as I do that you don't believe a word of it. I don't mean you want to cheat me or any one else. I believe you're above that. But you do cheat yourself. What's the good of it all when you don't feel half as merry as I do on a bright morning like this? I never trouble my head about that rubbish. Here am I as happy as I care to be-for to-day at least, and sufficient unto the day, you know.”
Thomas might have replied, had he been capable of so replying, that although the evil is sufficient for the day, the good may not be. But he said something very different, although with a solemnity fit for an archbishop.
“There's a day coming, Charles, when the evil will be more than sufficient. I want to save my soul. You have a soul to save too."
“ Possibly," answered Charles, with more carelessness than he felt ; for he could not help being struck with the sententiousness of Thomas's reply, if not with the meaning contained in it. As he was not devoid of reverence, however, and had been spurred on to say what he had said more from the sense of an undefined incon.
gruity between Thomas's habits, talk included, and the impression his general individuality made upon him, than from any wish to cry down the creed in which he took no practical interest, he went no further in the direction in which the conversation was leading. He doubled.
your soul be safe, Tom, why should you be so gloomy ?" Are there no souls to save but mine? There's yours now.” “ Is that why you put on your shiny trot-boxes, and your lavender trowsers, old fellow? Come, don't be stuck up. I can't stand it.”
“As you please, Charles : I love you too much to mind your making game of me."
Come now,” said Charles Wither," speak right out as I am doing to you. Your seem to know something I don't. If you would only speak right out, who knows if you mightn't convert me, and save my soul too that you make such a fuss about. For my part, I haven't found out that I have a soul yet. What am I to do with it before I know I've got it? But that's not the point. It's the trowsers. When I feel miserable about myself"
“Nonsense, Charles ! You never do."
“But I do, though. I want something I haven't got often enough. And, for the life of me, I don't know what it is. Sometimes I think it's a wife. Sometimes I think it's freedom to do whatever I please. Sometimes I think it's a bottle of claret and a jolly good laugh. But to return to the trowsers.”
“Now leave my trowsers alone. It's quite disgusting to treat serious things after such a fashion."
"I didn't know trowsers were serious things except to old grandfather Adam. But it's not about your trowsers I was talking. It was about my own." "I
see nothing particular about yours.” “ That's because I'm neither glad nor sorry." “What do you mean?”
“Now you come to the point. That's just what I want to come to myself, only you wouldn't let me. You kept shying like a halfbroke filly.”
“Come now, Charles, you know nothing about horses, I am very sure."
Charles Wither smiled, and took no other notice of the assevera. tion.
“What I mean is this,” he said, " that when I am in a serious, dull-grey, foggy mood, you know-not like this sky~"
But when he looked up, the sky was indeed one mass of leaden grey. The glory of the unconditioned had yielded to the bonds of November, and Ichabod.
“ Well, Charles resumed, looking down again, “I mean just like this same sky over St. Luke's Workhouse here. Lord! I wonder
if St. Luke ever knew what kind of thing he'd give his medical name to! When I feel like that, I never dream of putting on lavender trowsers, you know, Tom, my boy. So I can't understand you, you know. I only put on such-like-I never had such a stunning pair as those--when I go to Richmond, or—"
“Of a Sunday, I believe,” said Worboise, nettled.
“Of a Sunday. Just so. The better day, the better deed, you know, as people say; though, I dare say, you don't think it."
“When the deed is good, the day makes it better. When the deed is bad, the day makes it worse," said Tom, with a mixture of reproof and “high sentence," which was just pure nonsense.
How much of Thomas's depression was real, and how much was put on- I do not mean outwardly put on without being inwardly assumed-in order that he might flatter himself with being in close symyathy and harmony with Lord Byron, a volume of whose poems was at the time affecting the symmetry of his handsome blue frock. coat, by pulling down one tail more than the other, and bumping against his leg every step he took I cannot exactly tell. At alí events, the young man was—like most men, young and old-under conflicting influences; and these influences he had not yet begun to harmonize in any definite result.
By the time they reached Bunhill Fields, they were in a grey fog; and before they got to the counting-house, it had grown very thick. Through its reddish mass the gas-lights shone with the cold brilliance of pale gold.
The scene of their daily labour was not one of those grand rooms with plate-glass windows, which now seem to be considered, if not absolutely necessary to commercial respectability, yet a not alto. gether despicable means of arriving at such. It was a rather long, rather narrow, rather low, but this morning not so dark room as usual--for the whole force of gas-burners was in active operation. In general it was dark, for it was situated in a narrow strect, opening off one of the principal city thoroughfares.
As the young men entered, they were greeted with a low growl from the principal clerk, a black-browed, long-nosed man. This was the sole recognition he gave them. Two other clerks looked up with a good morning and a queer expression in their eyes. Some remarks had been made about them before they entered. And now a voice came from the penetralia.
“ Tom, I want you." Tom was disposing of his hat and gloves with some care. “You hear the governor, Mr. Worboise, I suppose ?" said Mr. Stopper, the head-clerk, in the same growling voice, only arti. culated now.
Yes, I hear him," answered Thomas, with some real and some assumed nonchalance. “I do hear him, Mr. Stopper.
Through a glass partition, which crossed the whole of the room,