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story about a young lad in his class at the Sunday-school, whom he had gone to see at his wretched home, those sweet eyes filled with tears, and Mr. Stopper saw it, and choked in his glass of sherry. Tom saw it, too, and would have been more overcome thereby, had it not been for reasons.
Charles Wither, on the opposite side of the table, was neglecting his own lady for the one at his other elbow, who was Jane Boxall-a fine, regular-featured, dark-skinned young woman. They were watched with stolen glances of some anxiety from both ends of the table, for neither father nor mother cared much about Charles Wither, although the former was too kind to omit inviting him to his house occasionally.
After the ladies retired, the talk was about politics, the money, market, and other subjects quite uninteresting to Tom, who, as I have already said, was at this period of his history a reader of Byron, and had therefore little sympathy with human pursuits except they took some abnormal form-such as piracy, atheism, or the like-in the person of one endowed with splendid faculties and gifts in general. So he stole away from the table, and joined the ladies sometime before the others rose from their wine; not, however, before he had himself drunk more than his gravity of demeanour was quite sufficient to ballast. He found Mary turning over some music, and as he drew near he saw her laying aside, in its turn, Byron's song,
She walks in beauty." “Oh! do you sing that song, Miss Mary?” he asked with empressement.
I have sung it several times," she answered ; "but I am afraid 1 cannot sing it well enough to please you. you fond of the song ?”
“I only know the words of it, and should so much like to hear you sing it. I never heard it sung. Do, Miss Mary."
“ You will be indulgent, then ?". "I shall have no chance of exercising that virtue, I know. There."
He put the music on the piano as he spoke, and Mary, adjusting her white skirts and her white shoulders, began to sing the song with taste, and, what was more, with simplicity. Her voice was very pleasant to the ears of Thomas, warbling one of the songs of the man whom, against his conscience, he could not help regarding as the greatest he knew. So much moved was he, that the signs of his emotion would have been plainly seen had not the rest of the company, while listening more or less to the song, been employing their eyes at the same time with Jane's portfolio of drawings. All the time he had his eyes upon her white shoulder : stooping to turn the last leaf from behind her, he kissed it lightly. At the same moment the door opened, and Mr. Stopper entered. Mary ceased singing, and rose with a face of crimson and the timidest, slightest glance at Tom, whose face flushed up in response.
It was a foolish action, possibly repented almost as soon as done.
Certainly for the rest of the evening Thomas sought no opportunity of again approaching Mary. I do not doubt it was with some feeling of relief that he heard his father say it was time for them to be going home.
None of the parents would have been displeased had they seen the little passage between the young people. Neither was Mary offended at what had occurred. While she sat singing, she knew that the face bending over her was one of the handsomest-a face rather long and pale, of almost pure Greek outline, with a high forehead, and dark eyes with a yet darker fringe. Nor although the reader must see that Tom had nothing yet that could be called character, was his face therefore devoid of expression; for he had plenty of feeling, and that will sometimes shine out the more from the very absence of a characteristic meaning in the countenance. Hence, when Mary felt the kiss, and glanced at the face whence it had fallen, she read more in the face than there was in it to read, and the touch of his lips went deeper than her white shoulder. They were both young, and as yet mere electric jars charged with emotions. Had they both continued such as they were now, there could have been no story to tell about them ; none such, at least, as I should care to tell. They belonged to the common class of mortals who, although they are weaving a history are not aware of it, and in whom the process goes on so slowly that the eye of the artist can find in them no substance sufficient to be woven into a human creation in tale or poem. How dull that life looks to him, with its ambitions, its love-making, its dinners, its sermons, its tailor's bills, its weariness over all-without end or goal save that towards which it is driven purposeless ! Not till a hope is born such that its fulfilment depends upon the will of him
who cherishes it, does a man begin to develope the stuff out of which a tale can be wrought. For then he begins to have a story of his own -it may be for good, it may be for evil-but a story. Thomas's religion was no sign of this yet ; for a man can no more be saved by the mere reflex of parental influences, than he will be condemned by his inheritance of parental sins. I do not say that there is no interest in the emotions of such young people ; but I say there is not reality enough in them to do anything with. They are neither consistent nor persistent enough to be wrought into form. Such are in the condition over which in the miracle-play Adam laments to Eve after their expulsion from Paradise :-
“Oure hap was hard, oure wytt was nesche (soft, tender)
To paradys when we were brought.” Mr. Boxall lived in an old-fashioned house in Hackney, with great rooms and a large garden. Through the latter he went with Mr. Worboise and Tom to let them out at a door in the wall, which would save them a few hundred yards in going to the North London
Railway. There were some old trees in the garden, and much shrubbery: As he returned he heard a rustle amongst the lilacs that crowded about a side walk, and thought he saw the shimmer of a white dress. When he entered the drawing-room, his daughter Jane entered from the opposite door. He glanced round the room : Mr. Wither was gone.
This made Mr. Boxall suspicious and restless; for, as I have said, he had not confidence in Mr. Wither. Though punctual and attentive to business, he was convinced that he was inclined to be a fast man; and he strongly suspected him of being concerned in betting transactions of different sorts, which are an abomination to the man of true business associations and habits.
Mr. Worboise left the house in comfortable spirits, for Providence had been propitious to him for some months past, and it mattered nothing to him whether or how the wind blew. But it blew from the damp west, cold and grateful upon Thomas's brow. For the immediate influence of the wine he had drunk had gone off, and its effects remained in discomfort and doubt. Had he got himself into a scrape with Mary Boxall ?--He had said nothing to her. He had not committed himself to anything. And the wind blew cooler and more refreshing upon his forehead. And then came a glow of pleasure as he recalled her blush, and the glance she had so timidly lifted towards his lordly face. That was something to be proud of! Certainly he was one whom women-I suppose he said girls to himself-were ready to-yes-to fall in love with. Proud position ! Enviable destiny! Before he reached home the wind had blown away every atom of remorse with the sickly fumes of the wine ; and although he resolved to be careful how he behaved to Mary Boxall in future, he hugged his own handsome idea in the thought that she felt his presence, and was just a little-not dangerously—but really a little in love with him.
THE office was closed, the shutters were up in the old-fashioned way on the outside, the lights extinguished, and Mr. Stopper, who was always the last to leave, was gone. The narrow street looked very dreary, for most of its windows were similarly covered. The shutters, the pavements, the kennels, everything shone and darkened by fits. For it was a blowing night, with intermittent showers, and everything being wet, reflected the gas-lighi's in turn, for the wind teased them into all angles of relation with neighbouring objects tossing them about like flowers ready at any moment to be blown from their stems. Great masses of grey went sweeping over the
narrow section of the sky that could be seen from the pavement. Now and then the moon gleamed out for one moment and no more, swallowed the next by a mile of floating rain, dusky and shapeless. Fighting now with a fierce gust, and now limping along in comparative quiet, with a cotton umbrella for a staff, an old woman passed the office, glanced up at the shuttered windows, and, after walking a short distance, turned into a paved archway, and then going along a narrow passage reached a small paved square, called Guild Court. Here she took from her pocket a latch-key, and opening a door much in want of paint, but otherwise in good condition, entered, and ascended a broad dusky staircase, with great landings, whence each ascent rose at right angles to the preceding. The dim light of the tallow candle, which she had left in a corner of the staircase as she descended, and now took up with her again, was sufficient to show that the balusters were turned and carved, and the handrail on the top of them broad and channeled. When she reached the first floor, she went along a passage, and at the end of it opened a door. A cheerful fire burned at the farther end of a large room, and by the side of the fire sat a girl, gazing so intently into the glowing coals, that she seemed unaware of the old woman's entrance. When she spoke to her, she started and rose.
So you're come home, Lucy, and searching the fire for a wishing-cap, as usual!” said the old lady, cheerily.
The girl did not reply, and she resumed, with a little change of tone, " I do declare, child, I'll never let him cross the door again, if he drives you into the dumps that way. Take heart of grace, my girl; you're good enough for him any day, though he be a fine gentleman. He's no better gentleman than my son, anyhow, though he's more of a buck."
Lucy moved about a little uneasily ; turned to the high mantelpiece, took up some trifle and played with it nervously, set it down with a light sigh, the lightness of which was probably affected ; went across the room to a chest of drawers, in doing which she turned her back on the old woman; and then only replied, in a low pleasant voice, which wavered a little, as if a good cry were not far off—“I'm sure, grannie, you're always kind to him when he comes."
" I'm civil to him, child. Who could help it? Such a fine handsome fellow! And has got very winning ways with him, too! That's the mischief of it! I always had a soft
art to a frank face. A body would think I wasn't a bit wiser than the day I was born."
And she laughed a toothless old laugh which must once have been very pleasant to her husband to hear, and indeed was pleasant to hear now. By this time she had got her black bonnet off, revealing a widow's cap, with grey hair neatly arranged down the sides of a very wrinkled old face. Indeed the wrinkles were in
numerable, so that her cheeks and forehead looked as if they had been crimped with a penknife, like a piece of fine cambric frill. But there was not one deep rut in her forehead or cheek. Care seemed to have had nothing at all to do with this condition of them.
“Well, grannie, why should you be so cross with me for liking him, when you like him just as much yourself?” said Lucy, archly.
“Cross with you, child ! I'm not cross with you, and you know that quite well. You know I never could be cross with you even if I ought to be. And I didn't ought now, I'm sure. But I am cross with him ; for he can't be behaving right to you when your sweet face looks like that."
“Now don't, grannie, else I shall have to be cross with you. Don't say a word against him. Don't now, dear grannie, or you and I shall quarrel, and that would break my heart.”
“ Bles the child ! I'm not saying a word for or against I'm afraid you're a great deal too fond of him, Lucy. What hold have you of him now?”
“What hold, grannie !” exclaimed Lucy, indignantly. "Do you think if I were going to be married to him to-morrow, and he never came to the church--do you think I would lift that bonnet to hold him to it? Indeed, then, I wouldn't.”
And Lucy did not cry, but she turned her back on her grand. mother as if she would rather her face should not be seen.
“What makes you so out of sorts, to-night, then, lovey?”
Lucy made no reply, but moved hastily to the window, made the smallest possible chink between the blind and the window-frame, and peeped out into the court. She had heard a footstep which she knew; and now she glided, quiet and swift as a ghost, out of the room, closing the door behind her.
“I wonder when it will come to an end. Always the same thing over again, I suppose, to the last of the world. It's no use telling them what we know. It won't make one of them young things the wiser. The first man that looks at them turns the head of them. And I must confess, if I was young again myself, and hearkening for my John's foot in the court, pretty fast I'd hobble no, not hobble then, but run down the stairs like Lucy there to open the door for him. But then John was a good one; and there's few o' them like him now, I doubt."
Something like this, I venture to imagine, was passing through the old woman's mind when the room.door opened again, and Lucy entered with Thomas Worboise. Her face was shining like a summer morning now, and a conscious pride sat on the forehead of the young man, which made him look far nobler than he has yet shown himself to my reader. The last of a sentence came into the room with him.
"-so you see, Lucy, I could not help it. My father -How do