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the absolute truth. But he comforted himself with saying to himself, " I only said 'I try to do my best :' I did not say, 'I try my best to do my best.""
“I have no reason to doubt it, my young friend,” returned the curate, who was not ten years older than his young friend. “I only fancied—no doubt it was but the foolish fancy of my own anxiety—that you did not respond quite so heartily as usual to my question."
The mother's eyes were anxiously fixed on her son during the conversation, for her instincts told her that he was not quite at his ease. She had never given him any scope, never trusted him, or trained him to freedom ; but, herself a prisoner to her drawing-room and bedroom, sought, with all her energy and contrivance, for which she had plenty of leisure, to keep, strengthen, and repair the in. visible cable by which she seemed to herself to hold, and in fact did hold him, even when he was out of her sight, and himself least aware of the fact.
As yet again Thomas made no reply, Mr Simon changed the subject.
"Have you much pain to-night, Mrs. Worboise ?” he asked. “ I can bear it,” she answered. “It will not last for ever.”
“You find comfort in looking to the rest that remaineth,” responded Mr. Simon. “ It is the truest comfort. Still, your friends would gladly see you enjoy a little more of the present world, Mr. Simon was going to say, but the word was unsuitable ; so he changed it-"of the present-ah! dispensation," he said.
“The love of this world bringeth a snare,” suggested Mrs Wor. boise, believing that she quoted Scripture.
Thomas rose and left the room. He did not return till the curate had taken his leave. It was then almost time for his mother to retire. As soon as he entered he felt her anxious pale-blue eyes
“Why did you go, Thomas ?" she asked, moving on her couch, and revealing by her face a twinge of sharper pain than ordinary. “ You used to listen with interest to the conversation of Mr. Simon. He is a man whose conversation is in Heaven."
“ I thought you would like to have a little private talk with him, mamma. You generally do have a talk with him alone."
“Don't call it talk, Thomas. That is not the proper word to use."
“ Communion, then, mother," answered Thomas, vand the feeling of aversion a little stronger and more recognizable than before, but at the same time annoyed with himself that he thus felt. And, afraid that he had shown the feeling which he did recognize, he hastened to change the subject and speak of one which he had at heart.
“ But, mother, dear, I wanted to speak to you about something. You mustn't mind my being late once or twice a week now, for I
am going in for German. There is a very good master lives a few doors from the counting-house; and if you take lessons in the evening at his own lodgings, he charges so much less for it! And, you know, it is such an advantage now-a-days for any one who wants to get on in business to know German !
“Does Mr. Wither join you, Thomas?" asked his mother, in a tone of knowing reproof.
“No, indeed, mother," answered Thomas ; and a gleam of satis. faction shot through his brain as his mother seemed satisfied. Either, however, he managed to keep it off his face, or his mother did not perceive or understand it, for the satisfaction remained on her countenance.
“I will speak to your father about it,” she answered.
This was quite as much as Thomas could have hoped for : he had no fear of his father making any objection. He kissed his mother on the cheek-it was a part of her system of mortifying the flesh with its affections and lusts that she never kissed him with any fervour, rarely indeed allowing those straight lips to meet his-and they parted for the night.
THOMAS descended to breakfast, feeling fresh and hopeful. The weather had changed during the night, and it was a clear frosty morning, cold blue cloudless sky and cold grey leafless earth reflecting each other's winter attributes. The sun was there, watching from afar how they could get on without him ; but, as if they knew he had not forsaken them, they were both merry. Thomas stood up with his back to the blazing fire, and through the window saw his father walking bare-headed in the garden. He had not returned home till late the night before, and Thomas had gone to bed without seeing him. Still he had been up the first in the house, and had been at work for a couple of hours upon the papers he had brought home in his blue bag. Thomas walked to the window to show himself, as a hint to his father that breakfast was ready. Mr. Worboise saw him, and came in. Father and son did not shake hands or wish each other a good morning, but they nodded and smiled, and took their seats at the table. As Mr. Worboise sat down, he smoothed, first with one hand, then with the other, two long sidetresses of thin air, trained like creepers over the top of his head, which was perfectly bald. Their arrangement added to the resemblance his forehead naturally possessed to the bottom of a flat iron, set up on the base of its triangle. His eyebrows were very dark, straight, and bushy; his eyes a keen hazel ; his nose straight
on the ridge, but forming an obtuse angle at the point ; his mouth curved upwards, and drawn upwards by the corners when he smiled, which gave him the appearance of laughing down at everything ; his chin nowise remarkable. And there, reader, I hope you have him. I ought to have mentioned that rö one ever saw his teeth, though to judge from his performances at the table they were in serviceable condition. He was considerably above the middle height, shapeless rather than stout, and wore black clothes.
“You're going to dine at the Boxalls' to-night, I believe, Tom. Mr. Boxall asked me, but I can't go. I am so busy with the case of Spender and Spoon.”
No, father. I don't mean to go," said Tom. “Why not?" asked Mr. Worboise, with some surprise, and more than a hint of dissatisfaction. “Your mother hasn't been objecting, has she ?"
“I am not aware that my mother knows of the invitation,” answered Tom, trying to hide his discomfort in formality of speech.
“Well, I said nothing about it, I believe. But I accepted for you at the same time that I declined for myself. You saw the letter-I left it for you."
“Yes, sir, I did." “Well
, in the name of Heaven, what do you mean? You answer as if you were in the witness-box. I am not going to take any advantage of you. Speak out, man. Why wont you go to Boxall's?" “Well
, sir, to tell the truth, I didn't think he behaved quite well to me yesterday. I happened to be a few minutes late, and"
“And Boxall blew you up; and that's the way you take to show your dignified resentment. * Bah!”
“He ought to behave to me like a gentleman.” “But how is he, if he isn't a 'gentleman?
He hasn't had the bringing up you've had. But he's a good, honest fellow, and says what he means."
“That is just what I did, sir. And you have always told me that honesty is the best policy."
“ Yes, I confoes.But that is not exactly the kind of honesty I mean," returneu „Ir. Worbcise, with a Ashy smile, for his mouth was exactly of the fish-type. “The law scarcely refers to the conduct of a gentleman as a gentleman.”
This was obscure to his son, as it may be to the reader.
“ Then you don't want me to behave like a gentleman ?' said Tom.
“Keep your diploma in your pocket till it's asked for," answered his father. If you are constantly obtruding it on other people, they will say you bought it and paid for it. A gentleman can afford to put an affront in beside it, when he knows it's there. But
the idea of good old Boxall insulting a son of mine is too absurd, Tom. You must remember you are his servant.”
"So he told me,” said Tom, with reviving indignation.
“ Especially as it expresses a disagreeable fact. Come, come, my boy. Better men than you will ever be, have had to sweep out their master's office before now. But no reference is made to the fact when they call the office their own. You go and tell Mr. Boxall that you will be happy to dine with him to-night if he will allow you to change your mind."
But I told him I was engaged.” “Tell him the engagement is put off, and you are at his service."
“But—" began Tom, and stopped. He was going to say the engagement was not put off.
“But what?" said his father.
“ I don't like to do it," answered Tom. “He will take it for giving in and wanting to make up.' Leave it to me, then,
my boy," returned his father, kindly. “I will manage it. My business is not so very pressing but that I can go if I choose. I will write and say that a change in my plans has put it in my power to be his guest, after all, and that I have persuaded you to put off your engagement and come with me."
But that would be-would not be true,” hesitated Tom. "Pooh! pooh! I'll take the responsibility of that. Besides, it is true. Your mother will make a perfect spoon of you with the help of good little Master Simon. Can't I change my plans if I like? We must not offend all. He is a man of mark-and warm. I say nothing abou: figures- I never tell secrets. I don't even say how many figures. But I know all about it, and venture to say, between father and son, that he is warm, decidedly warm-pos. sibly hot,” concluded Mr. Worboise, laughing,
"I don't exactly understand you, sir," said Tom, meditatively.
“ You would understand me well enough if you had a mind to business," answered his father.
But what he really meant in his heart was that Mr. Boxall had two daughters, to one of whom it was possible that his son might take a fancy, or rather--to express it in the result, which was all that he looked to--a marriage might be brought about between Tom and Jane or Mary Boxall ; in desiring which, he thought he knew what he was after, for he was Mr. Boxall's man of business.
“I won't have you offend Mr. Boxall, anyhow," he concluded. “ He is your governor.”
The father had tact enough to substitute the clerks pseudonym for the obnoxious term.
“Very well, sir ; I suppose I must leave it to you," answered Tom; and they finished their breakfast without returning to the subject.
When he reached the counting.house, Tom went at once to Mr. Boxall's room, and made his apologies for being late again, on the ground that his father had detained him while he wrote the letter he now handed to him. Mr. Boxall glanced at the note.
“I am very glad, Tom, that both your father and you have thought better of it. Be punctual at seven.”
“Wife must put another leaf yet in the table,” he said to himself, as Thomas retired to his desk, “ Thirteen's not lucky though ; but one is sure to be absent."
THE BOXALLS DINNER.
No one was absent, however, and number thirteen was the standing subject of the jokes of the evening, especially as the thirteenth was late, in the person of Mr. Wither, whom Mr. Boxall had invited out of mere good nature ; for he did not care much about introducing him to his family, although his conduct in the countinghouse was irreproachable. Miss Worboise had been invited with her father and brother, but whether she stayed at home to nurse her mother or to tease the curate, is of no great importance to my history.
The dinner was a good, well-contrived, rather antiquated dinner, within the compass of the house itself ; for Mrs. Boxall only pleased her husband as often as she said that they were and would remain old-fashioned people, and would have their own maids to prepare and serve a dinner - none of those men-cooks and undertakers to turn up their noses at everything in the house !" But Tom abused the whole affair within himself as nothing but a shopdinner ; for there was Mr. Stopper, the head-clerk, looking as sour as a summons; and there was Mr. Wither, a good enough fellow and gentlemanlike, but still of the shop ; besides young Weston, of whom nobody could predicate anything in particular, save that he stood in such awe of Mr. Stopper, that he missed the way to his mouth in taking stolen stares at him across the table. Mr. Worboise
sat at the hostess's left hand, and Mr. Stopper at her right; Toin a little way from his father, with Mary Boxall, whom he had taken down, beside him ; and many were the under-browed glances which the head-clerk shot across the dishes at the couple.
Mary was a very pretty, brown-haired, white-skinned, blue-eyed damsel, whose charms lay in harmony of colour, general roundness, the smallness of her extremities, and her simple kindheartedness. She was dressed in white muslin, with ribands of precisely the colour of her eyes. Tom could not help being pleased at having her beside him. She was not difficult to entertain, for she was willing to be interested in anything ; and while Tom was telling her a