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Is all around so very fair?
When Mr. Fuller had finished the hymn, he closed the book and looked towards Mattie. She responded—with a sigh:
“Well, I think I know what it means. You see I have such a big head, and so many things come and go just as they please, that if it weren't for Somebody I don't know what I should do with them all. But as soon as I think about Him, they grow quieter and behave better. But I don't know all that it means. Will you lend me the book, Mr. Fuller 7"
All the child's thoughts took shapes, and so she talked like a lunatic. Still, as all the forms to which she gave an objective existence were the embodiments of spiritual realities, she could not be said to have yet passed the narrow line that divides the poet from the maniac. But it was high time that the subjects of her thoughts should be supplied from without, and that the generating power should lie dormant for a while. , And the opportunity for this arrived sooner than her friends had expected.
LUCy was so full of Mattie and what Mr. Fuller had said that she told Mrs. Morgenstern all about it before Miriam had her lesson. After the lesson was over, Mrs. Morgenstern, who had, contrary to her custom, remained in the room all the time, said, “Well, Lucy, I have been thinking about it, and I think I have arranged it all very nicely. It's clear to me that the child will go out of her mind if she goes on as she's doing. Now, I don't think Miriam has been quite so well as usual, and she has not been out of London since last August. Couldn't you take her down to St. Leonards—or I daresay you would like Hastings better P You can go on with your lessons there all the same, and take little Mattie with you.” “But what will become of my grandmother ?” said Lucy. “She can go with you, can't she I could ask her to go and take care of you. It would be much better for you to have her, and it makes very little difference to me, you know.” “Thank you very much,” returned Lucy, “but I fear my grandmother will not consent to it. I will try her, however, and see what can be done. Thank you a thousand times, dear Mrs. Morgenstern. Wouldn't you like to go to Hastings, Miriam P.” Miriam was delighted at the thought of it, and Lucy was not without hopes that if her grandmother would not consent to go herself, she would at least wish her to go. Leaving Mattie out of view, she would be glad to be away from Thomas for a while, for, until he had done as he ought, she could not be happy in his presence; and she made up her mind that she would write to him very plainly when she was away—perhaps tell him positively that if he would not end it, she must. I say perhaps, for ever as she approached the resolution, the idea of the poor lad's helpless desertion arose before her, and she recoiled from abandoning him. Nothing more could be determined, however, until she saw her grandmother. But as she was going out she met Mr. Sargent in the hall. He had come to see her. This very morning the last breath of the crew and passengers of the “Ningpo” had bubbled up in the newspapers; and all the world who cared to know it knew the fact, that the vessel had been dashed to pieces upon a rock of the Cape Verde Islands; all hands and passengers supposed to be lost. This the underwriters knew a few hours before. Now it was known to Mr. Stopper and Mr. Worboise, both of whom it concerned even more than the underwriters. Mr. Stopper's first feeling was one of dismay, for the articles of partnership had not been completed before Mr. Boxall sailed. Still, as he was the only person who understood the business, he trusted in any case to make his position good, especially if he was right in imagining that old Mrs. Boxall must now be nearest of kin—a supposition which he scarcely allowed himself to doubt. Here, however, occurred the thought of Thomas. He had influence there, and that influence would be against him, for had he not insulted him This he could not help yet. He would wait for what might turn up. What Mr. Worboise's feelings were when first he read the paragraph in the paper I do not know, nor whether he had not al. emotion of justice, and an inclination to share the property with Mrs. Boxall. But I doubt whether he very clearly recognized the existence of his friend's mother. In his mind probably her subjective being was thinned by age, little regard, and dependence, into a thing of no account—a shadow of the non-Elysian sort, living only in the waste places of human disregard. He certainly knew nothing of her right to any property in the possession of her son. Of one of his feelings only am I sure : he became more ambitious for his son, in whom he had a considerable amount of the pride of paternity. Mrs. Boxall was the last to hear anything of the matter. She did not read the newspapers, and, accustomed to have sons at sea, had not even begun to look for news of the “Ningpo.” “Ah, Miss Burton,” said Mr. Sargent, “I am just in time. I thought perhaps you would not be gone yet. Will you come into the garden with me for a few minutes ? I won't keep you long.” Lucy hesitated. Mr. Sargent had of late, on several occasions, been more confidential in his manner than was quite pleasant to her, because, with the keenest dislike to false appearances, she yet could not take his intentions for granted, and tell him that she was engaged to Thomas. He saw her hesitation, and hastened to remove it. “I only want to ask you about a matter of business,” he said. “I assure you I won't detain you.” Mr. Sargent knew something of Mr. Wither, who had very “good connexions,” and was indeed a favourite in several professional circles; and from him he had learned all about Lucy's relations, without even alluding to Lucy herself, and that her uncle and whole family had sailed in the “Ningpo.” Anxious to do what he could for her, and fearful lest, in their unprotected condition, some advantage should be taken of the two women, he had made haste to offer his services to Lucy, not without a vague feeling that he ran great risk of putting himself in the false position of a fortunehunter by doing so, and heartily abusing himself for not having made more definite advances before there was any danger of her becoming an heiress ; for although a fortune was a most desirable thing in Mr. Sargent's position, especially if he wished to marry, he was above marrying for money alone, and in the case of Lucy, with whom he had fallen in love—just within his depth, it must be confessed—while she was as poor as himself, he was especially jealous of being unjustly supposed to be in pursuit of her prospects. Possibly the consciousness of what a help the fortune would be to him, made him even more sensitive than he would otherwise have been. Still, he would not omit the opportunity of being useful to the girl, trusting that his honesty would, despite of appearances, manifest itself sufficiently to be believed in by so honest a nature as Lucy Burton. “Have you heard the sad news f" he said, as soon as they were in the garden.
*No,” answered Lucy, without much concern; for she did not expect to hear anything about Thomas. “I thought not. It is very sad. The ‘Ningpo’ is lost.” Lucy was perplexed. She knew the name of her uncle's vessel; but for a moment she did not associate the name with the thing. In a moment, however, something of the horror of the fact reached her. She did not cry, for her affections had no great part in any one on board of the vessel, but she turned very pale. And not a thought of the possible interest she might have in the matter crossed her mind. She had never associated good to herself with her incle or any of his family. “How dreadful ' " she murmured. “My poor cousins ! What they must all have gone through Are they come home?” “They are gone home,” said Mr. Sargent, significantly. “There can be little doubt of that, I fear.” “You don't mean they're drowned 2" she said, turning her white face on him, and opening her eyes wide. i o It is not absolutely certain; but there can be little doubt about t.” He did not show her the paragraph in the Times, though the paper was in his pocket : the particulars were too dreadful. ‘Are there any other relations but your grandmother and yourself?” he asked, for Lucy remained silent. “I don't know of any,” she answered. “Then you must come in for the property.” “Oh, no. He would never leave it to us. He didn't like me, for one thing. But that was my fault, perhaps. He was not over kind to my mother, and so I never liked him.” And here at length she burst into tears. She wept very quietly, however, and Mr. Sargent went on. “But you must be his next of kin. Will you allow me to make inquiry—to do anything that may be necessary, for you? Don't misunderstand me,” he added, pleadingly. “It is only as a friend —what I have been for a long time now, Lucy.” Lucy scarcely hesitated before she answered, with a restraint that appeared like coldness, “Thank you, Mr. Sargent. The business cannot in any case be mine. It is my grandmother's, and I can, and will, take no hand in it.” “Will you say to your grandmother that I am at her service f* “If it were a business matter, there is no one I would more willingly—ask to help us ; but as you say it is a matter of friendship, I must refuse your kindness.” Mr. Sargent was vexed with himself, and disappointed with her. He supposed that she had misinterpreted his motives. Beo, he two, he was driven to a sudden unresolved action of appeal. .*
“Miss Burton,” he said, “for God's sake, do not misunderstand me, and attribute to mercenary motives the offer I make only in the confidence that you will not do me such an injustice.”
Lucy was greatly distressed. Her colour went and came for a few moments, and then she spoke.
“Mr. Sargent, I am just as anxious that you should understand me; but I am in a great difficulty, and have to throw myself on your generosity.”
She paused again, astonished to find herself making a speech. But she did not pause long.
“I refuse your kindness,” she said, “only because I am not free to lay myself under such obligation to you.--Do not ask me to say more,” she added, finding that he made no reply.
But if she had looked in his face, she would have seen that he understood her perfectly. Honest disappointment and manly suffering were visible enough on his countenance. But he did not grow ashy pale, as some lovers would at such an utterance. He would never have made, under any circumstances, a passionate lover, though an honest and true one ; for he was one of those balanced natures which are never all in one thing at once. Hence the very moment he received a shock was the moment in which he began to struggle for victory. Something called to him, as Una to the Red-Cross Knight when face to face with the serpent Error,
“Strangle her, else she sure will strangle thee.”
Before Lucy's eyes and his met, he had mastered his countenance at least. “I understand you, Miss Burton,” he said, in a calm voice which only trembled a little—and it was then that Lucy ventured to look at him—“and I thank you. Please to remember that if you ever need a friend, I am at your service.” Without another word, he lifted his hat and went away. Lucy hastened home full of distress at the thought of her grandmother's grief, and thinking all the way how she could convey the news with least of a shock ; but when she entered the room, she found her already in tears, and Mr. Stopper seated by her side comforting her with common-places.
DURING all this time, when his visits to Lucy were so much interrupted by her attendance upon Mattie, Thomas had not been doing