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Miss Hubbard did not care for colour, save as reflected from her guests, seeing she had all her furniture in pinafores. How little some rich people know how to inherit the earth! The good things of it they only uncover when they can make, not receive a show.
My dear reader,-No, I will not take a liberty to which I have no right ; for perhaps were he to see me he would not like me, and possibly were I to meet him I should not like him : I will rather say My reader, without the impertinence or the pledge of an adjective--have a little patience while I paint Miss Hubbard just with the feather-end of my pen. I shall not be long about it.
Thomas sat in the drawing-room, I say, feeling vacant, for he was only waiting, not expecting, when the door opened, and in came a fashionable girl-rather tall, handsome, bright-eyed, welldressed, and yetWhat was it that Thomas did not like about her? Was it that she dressed in the extreme of the fashion ? I will not go on to say what the fashion was, for before I had finished writing it, it would have ceased to be the fashion; and I will not paint my picture knowingly with colours that must fade the moment they are laid on. To be sure she had ridden the fashion till it was only fit for the knacker's yard; but she soon made him forget that, for she was clever, pleasant, fast--which means affectedly unrefined, only her affectation did no violence to fact-and altogether amusing. I believe what Thomas did not like about her at first was just all wherein she differed from Lucy. Yet he could not help being taken with her; and when his father and Sir Jonathan came into the room, the two were talking like a sewing-machine.
“Laura, my dear,” said the knight, “I have prevailed on Mr. Worboise to spend the day with us. You have no engagement, I believe ?"
“Fortunately, I have not, papa."
“Well, I'll just give orders about dinner, and then I'll take our friends about the place. I want to show them my new stable. You had better come with us."
Sir Jonathan always ordered the dinner himself. He thought no woman capable of that department of the household economy. Laura put on her hat--beautiful with a whole kingfisher-and they went out into the grounds ; from the grounds to the stable-trim as her drawing-room--where her favourite horse ate apples out of her pocket; from the stable to the hot-houses and kitchen-garden ; then out at a back door into the lane-shadowy with trees-in which other colours than green were now very near carrying the vote of the leaves. Sweet scents of decay filled the air, waved about, swelling and sinking, on the flow of a west wind, gentle and soft, as if it had been fanned from the wings of spring when nearest to summer. Great white clouds in a brilliant sky tempered the heat of the sun. What with the pure air, the fine light, and the
handsome girl by his side, Thomas was in a gayer mooi than had been his for many a long day. Miss Hubbard talked plenteously about balls and theatres and Mansion-house dinners, about Rotten Row and St. James's; and although of all these Thomas knew very little, yet, being quick and sympathetic, he was able to satisfy the lady sufficiently to keep her going. He was fortunate enough besides to say one or two clever things with which she was pleased, and to make an excellent point once in a criticism upon a girl they both knew, which, slighting her, conveyed, by no very occult implication, a compliment to Miss Hubbard. By the time they had reached this stage of acquaintanceship, they had left stout Sir Jonathan and Mr. Worboise far behind; but Miss Hubbard was not in the least danger of being made uncomfortable by any squeamish notions of propriety; and, having nothing more amusing to do, and being out already, she proposed that they should go home by a rather longer road, which would lead them over a hill whence they could have a good view of the country.
“Do you like living in the country, Miss Hubbard ?"
" Oh! dear no. London for me. I can't tell what made papa come to this dull place."
“The scenery is very lovely, though.” “People say so. I'm sure I don't know. Scenery wasn't taught when I went to school.”
“ Were you taught horses there?” asked Thomas, slily.
“No. That comes by nature. Do you know I won this bracelet in a handicap last Derby ?” she said, showing a very fine arm as well as bracelet, though it was only the morning, so-called.
Miss Hubbard had no design upon Thomas. How could she have? She knew nothing about him. She would have done the same with any gentleman she liked well enough to chatter to. And if Thomas felt it, and thought that Laura Hubbard was more entertaining than sober Lucy Burton, he made up to Lucy for it in his own idea by asserting to himself that, after all, she was far handsomer than Miss Hubbard, handsome as she was. Yet I should never think of calling Lucy handsome. She was lovely -almost beautiful too. Handsome always indicates more or less vulgarity-no, I mean commonness-in my ears. And certainly, whatever she might be capable of, had she been blessed with poverty, Miss Hubbard was as common as she was handsome. Thomas was fool enough to revert to Byron to try his luck with that. She soon made him ashamed of showing any liking for such a silly thing as poetry. That piqued him as well, however.
“You sing, I suppose?” he said.
“I don't know. One must have some words or other just to make her open her mouth. I never know what they're about. Why
should I? Notody ever pays the least attention to them or to the music either, except it be somebody that wants to marry you."
But why should I go further with the record of such talk? It is not interesting to me, and therefore can hardly be so to my reader. Even if I had the heart to set it forth aright, I hope í should yet hold to my present belief, that nothing in which the art is uppermost is worth the art expended upon it.
Thomas was a little shocked at her coolness, certainly; but at the same time that very coolness seemed a challenge. Before they had reached the house again, he was vexed to find that he had made no impression upon Miss Hubbard.
Farewell to such fencing. By the time he had heard her sing, and his father and he were on their way home again, I am glad to say that Thomas had had nearly enough of her. He thought her voice loud and harsh in speech, showy and distressing in song, and her whole being bravura. The contrasts in Lucy had come back upon him with a gush of memorial loveliness ; for, as I have said, she still held the fortress of his heart, and held it for its lawful owner.
Scarcely were they seated in the railway carriage, of which they were the sole occupants, when the elder Worboise threw a shot across the bows of the younger.
“Well, Tom, my boy," he said, rubbing his lawyer palms, "how do you like Miss Hubbard ?”
Oh, very well, father,” answered Thomas, indifferently. “She's a very jolly sort of girl.”
"She is worth a hundred thousand," said his father, in a tone that would have been dry but for a touch of slight resentment at the indifference, possibly in the father's view irreverence, with which he spoke of her.
“Girls ?” asked Thomas.
Tom was now convinced of his father's design in taking him out for a holiday. But even now he shrunk from confession. And how did he justify his sneaking now? By saying to himself, " Lucy can't have anything like that money; it won't do. I must wait a more fitting opportunity." But he thought he was very brave indeed, and actually seizing the bull of his father's will by the horns when he ventured to take his meaning for granted, and replied,
“Why, Sather, a fellow has no chance with a girl like that, except he could ride like Assheton Smith, and knew all the slang of the hunting-field as well as the race-course."
“A few children will cure her of that,” said his father.
“ What I say is,” persisted Thomas," that she would never look at a clerk."
"If I thought you had any chance, I would buy you a commission in the Blues."
" It wants blue blood for that," said Thomas, whose heart not
« When you
withstanding danced in his bosom at the sound of commission. Then, afraid
lest he should lose the least feather of such a chance, he added hastily, " But any regiment would do.”
I daresay,” returned his father, at right angles. have made a little progress it will be time enough. She knows nothing about what you are now. Her father asked me, and I said I had not made up my mind yet what to do with you.”
* But, as I said before," resumed Thomas, fighting somewhat feebly, “ I haven't a chance with her. She likes better to talk about horses than anything else, and I never had my leg across a horse's back in my life as you know, father,” he added, in a tone et reproach.
You mean, Tom, that I have neglected your education. Wee, it shall be so no longer. You shall go to the riding-school Monday night. It won't be open to-morrow, I suppose.
I hope my reader is not so tired of this chapter as I am. It is bad enough to have to read such uninteresting things--but to have to write them! The history that is undertaken must be written, however, whether the writer weary sometimes of his task, or the interest of his labour carry him lightly through to the close.
Thomas, wretched creature, dallied with his father's proposal. He did not intend adopting the project, but the very idea of marrying a rich, fashionable girl like that, with a knight for a father, flattered him. Ştill more was he excited at the notion, the very possibility of wearing a uniform. And what might he not do with so much money? Then, when the thought of Lucy came, he soothed his conscience by saying to himself, “See how much I must love her when I am giving up all this for her sake !” Still his thoughts hovered about what he said he was giving up. He went to bed on Sunday night, after a very pathetic sermon from Mr. Simon, with one resolution, and one only-namely, to go to the riding-school in Finsbury on Monday night.
But something very different was waiting him.
THE whole ground under Thomas's feet was honeycombed and filled with combustible matter. A spark dropped from any, even a loving hand, might send everything in the air. It did not need an enemy to do it.
Lucy Burton had been enjoying a delightful time of rest by the sea-side. She had just enough to do with and for the two children to gain healthy distraction to her thinking. But her thinking as
well as her bodily condition grew healthier every day that she breathed the sea air. She saw more and more clearly than ever that things must not go on between her and Thomas as they were now going on. The very scent of the sea that came in at her bed. room window when first she opened it in the morning, protested against it; the wind said it was no longer endurable; and the clear, blue autumn sky said it was a shame for his sake, if not for her own. She must not do evil that good might come; she must not allow Thomas to go on thus for the sake even of keeping a hold of him for his good. She would give him one chance more, and if he did nnt accept it, she would not see him again, let come of it what would. In better mood still, she would say, “Let God take care of that for him and me.” She had not written to him since she came : that was one thing she could avoid. Now she resolved that she would write to him just before her return, and tell him that the first thing she would say to him when she saw him would be had he told his father? and upon his answer depended their future. But then the question arose, what address she was to put upon the letter; for she was not willing to write either to his home or to the counting-house, for evident reasons. Nor had she come to any conclusion, and had indeed resolved to encounter him once more without having written, when from something incoherently expressed in her grandmother's last letter, which indeed referred to an expected absence of Mr. Stopper, who was now the old lady's main support, she concluded, hastily, I allow, that Mr. Worboise was from home, and that she might without danger direct a letter to Highbury.
I fancy that through some official at the Court of Probate, Mr. Worboise had heard of a caveat having been entered with reference to the will of Mr. Richard Boxall, deceased. I do not know that this was the case, but I think something must have occurred to irri. tate him against those whom he, with the law on his side, was so sorely tempted to wrong. I know th at the very contemplation of wrong is sufficient to irritate, and that very grievously, against the object of the wrong ; but though not equal to Miss Hubbard, Lucy would have been a very good match, even in Mr. Worboise's eyes. On the other hand, however, if he could but make up, not his mind, but his conscience, to take Boxall's money, his son would be só much the more likely to secure Miss Hubbard's; which, together with what he could leave him, would amount to a fortune of over two hundred thousand-sufficient to make his son somebody. If Thomas had only spoken in time, that is, while his father's conscience still spoke, and before he had cast eyes of ambition towards Sir Jonathan's bankers ! All that was wanted on the devil's side now was some personal quarrel with the rightful heirs. And if Mr. Worboise had not already secured that by means of Mr. Sar. gent's caveat, he must have got it from what happened on the