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But whether the head clerk had any design upon Lucy or not, he seemed to think that her favour was of as much consequence as that of her grandmother. He might have reasoned in this way-that he could not expose Thomas without making Lucy his enemy, both from her regard to him and because of the disgrace that would come upon her by having her name associated with his; and Mrs. Boxall was old, and Lucy might take her place any day in the course of nature. Whereas so long as he kept the secret and strengthened the conclusions against Thomas without divulging them, he had a hold over Lucy, even a claim upon her gratitude, he would say, which he might employ as he saw occasion, and as prudence should direct, holding his revenge still ready in his hands in case there should be nothing to be gained by foregoing it. Therefore, when the clerk in whose charge the moneybox was, opened it, he found in it only a ticket with Mr. Stopper's initials and the sum abstracted in figures, by which it was implied that Mr. Stopper had taken the contents for his own use. So, although it seemed queer that he should have emptied it of the whole sum, even to the few coppers, there was nothing to be said, and hardly anything to be conjectured even.
As Thomas did not make his appearance all day, not a doubt remained upon Mr. Stopper's mind that he had committed the robbery. But he was so well acquainted with the minutest details of the business that he knew very well that the firm was the gainer by Thomas's absconding as nearly as possible to the same amount that he had taken. This small alleviation of Thomas's crime, however, Mr. Stopper took no pains to communicate to Lucy, chuckling only over his own good fortune in getting rid of him so opportunely; for he would no longer stand in his way, even if he were to venture on making advances to Lucy: she could never have anything more to do with a fellow who could be tried for burglary if he chose to apply for a warrant for his apprehension.
Intending that his forbearance should have the full weight of obedience to her wishes, Mr. Stopper went up in the evening after the counting-house was closed. Lucy was not there. She had not left her room since the morning, and the old woman's tenderness had revived a little.
Perhaps you'd better not hang them keys up there, Mr. Stopper. I don't care about the blame of them. I've had enough of it. There's Lucy, poor dear, lying on her bed like a dead thing; and neither bit nor sup passed her lips all day. Take your keys away with you, Mr. Stopper. I'll have nothing more to do wi' them, I can tell you. And don't you go and take away that young man's character, Mr. Stopper."
“ Indeed, I should be very sorry, Mrs. Boxall. He hasn't been here all day, but I haven't even made a remark on his absep se to any one about the place."
“That's very right, Mr. Stopper. The young gentleman may be at home with a headache.”
“Very likely,” answered Mr. Stopper, drily. “Good-night, Mrs. Boxall. And as the keys must have an unpleasant look after what has happened, I'll just put them in my pocket and take them home with me.”
“Do ye that, Mr. Stopper. And good-night to you. And if the young man comes back to-morrow, don't ye take no notice of what's come and gone. If you're sure he took it, you can keep it off his salary, with a wink for a warning, you know."
"All right, ma'am,” said Mr. Stopper, taking his departure in less good humour than he showed.
I will not say much about Lucy's feelings. For some time she was so stunned by the blow as to be past conscious suffering. Then commenced a slow oscillation of feeling : for one half hour, unknown to her as time, she would be declaring him unworthy of occasioning her trouble ; for the next she would be accusing his attachment to her, and her own want of decision in not absolutely refusing to occupy the questionable position in which she found herself, as the combined causes of his ruin ; for as ruin she could not but regard such a fall as his. She had no answer to her letter -heard nothing of him all day, and in the evening her grandmother brought her the statement of Mr. Stopper that Thomas had not been there. She turned her face away towards the wall, and her grandmother left her, grumbling at girls generally, and girls in love especially. Meantime a cherub was on its way towards her, bearing a little bottle of comfort under its wing.
MATTIE FALLS AND RISES AGAIN.
MATTIE had expected Lucy to call for her in the forenoon and take her out to Wyvil Place to see Miriam. Spending the morning with her father in the shop, amidst much talk, conducted with the most respectful docility on the part of her father, and a good deal of condescending assertion on the part of the child, she had run out twenty times to look at the clock of St. Jacob's ; and at length, finding that Lucy did not come, had run up and knocked at her door, giving Mr. Spelt a promissory nod as she passed. Hearing from Mrs. Boxall
, however, that Miss Burton was too tired to go out with her, she turned in some disappointment, and sought Mr. Spelt.
“Well, mother, how do you do?" she asked, perking up her
little grey face, over which there was now a slight wash of rosecolour, towards the watch-tower of the tailor.
Quite well, Mattie. And you look well," answered Mr. Spelt. " And I am well, I assure you; better than I ever expected to be in this world, mother. I mean to come up beside you a bit. I want to tell you something."
I don't know, Mattie," answered Mr. Spelt with some embarrassment. "Is it anything in particular ?”.
“In particular! Well, I should think so," returned Mattie, with a triumph just dashed with displeasure, for she had not been accustomed to any hesitation in accepting her advances on the part of Mr. Spelt. “I should think so." Then lowering her voice to a keen whisper she added, “ I've been to see God in his own house."
“Been to church, have you ?" said Mr. Spelt.
Now I am sorry to say that Spelt was behaving dishonestlynot from choice, but from embarrassment and fear springing from a false conscientiousness. And Mattie felt at once that Mr. Spelt was not behaving like himself.
"No, Mr. Spelt," she answered with dignity-bridling indeed; “I've not been to church, You don't call that God's house, do you? Them! They're nothing but little shops like your own, Mr. Spelt. But God's house !-Take me up, I say. Don't make me shout such things in the open street.”
Thus adjured, Mr. Spelt could stand out no longer. He stooped over his threshold and lifted Mattie towards him. But the moment her head reached the level of his floor, she understood it all. In her old place in the corner sat the little demoniac Poppie, clothed and in her right mind. A true observer, however, would have seen from her pale thin face, that possibly her quietude was owing more to weakness than to any revolution in her nature.
“Well!” said Mattie, with hauteur. “Will you set me down again, if you please, Mr. Spelt?”
“I think, perhaps," said the tailor meekly, holding the child still suspended in the air, “ I could find room for you both. The corner opposite the door there, Mattie," he added, looking round suggestively in the direction of the spot signified.
“ Þut me down,” insisted Mattie, in such a tone that Mr. Spelt dared not keep her in suspense any longer, but lowered her gently to the ground. All the time Poppie had been staring with great black eyes, which seemed to have grown much larger during her illness, and, of course, saying nothing.
As soon as the soles of Mattie's feet touched the ground, she seemed to gather strength like Antæus; for instead of turning and walking away, with her head as high, morally considered, as that of any giant, she began a parley with the offending Mr. Spelt.
“ I have heard, mother---Mr. Spelt--that you should be off with
the old love before you're on with the new. You never told me what you were about.”
" But you was away from home, Mattie."
“ You could have written. It would only have cost a penny. I shouldn't have minded paying it.”
"Well, Mattie, shall I turn Poppie out ?"
“Oh!'I don't want you to turn her out. You would say I drove her to the streets again.”
“Do you remember, Mattie, that you wouldn't go to that good lady's house because she didn't ask Poppie too? Do you ?"
Á moment's delay in the child's answer revealed shame. But she was ready in a moment.
"Here is a big house. That's my own very corner." “Don't you see how ill Poppie is ? »
“Well!" said the hard little thing, with a side nod of her head over the speaking corner of her mouth.
Mr. Spelt began to be a little vexed. He took the upper hand now and came home to her. She was turning to go away, when he spoke in a tone that stopped her. But she stood with her back half turned towards him.
“Mattie, do you remember the story Somebody told us about the ragged boy that came home again, and how his brother, with the good clothes on, was offended, and wouldn't go in because he thought he was taking his place? You're behaving just the same as the brother with the good clothes."
“I don't know that. There's some difference, I'm sure. I don't think you're telling the story right. I don't think there's anything about taking his place. I'll just go and look. I can read it for myself, Mr. Spelt."
So saying, Mattie walked away to the house, with various backward tosses of the head. Mr. Spelt drew his head into his shell, troubled at Mattie's naughtiness. Poppie stared at him, but said nothing, for she had nothing to say.
When Mattie entered the shop, her father saw that something was amiss with her.
“What's the matter with my princess ?” he asked. “Oh, nothing much," answered Mattie, with tears in her eyes. " I shall get over it, I daresay.- Mr. Spelt has been very naughty, she added, in a somewhat defiant tone; and before her father could say anything more she had reached the stairs, and went to her own room.
My reader must imagine her now taking hold of a huge family bible her father had given her for the sake of the large print. She lugs it along and heaves it upon her bed; then, by a process known only to herself, finds the place, and begins to spell out the story once more, to discover whether the tailor has not garbled it to her condemnation. But, as she reads, the story itself lays
hold upon her little heart, and she finds a far deeper condemnation there than she had found in her friend's reproof. About half an hour after, she ran-Mattie seldom ran---past Mr. Spelt and Poppie, not venturing to look up, though, ere she came too near, the tailor could see the red eyes in the white face, and knocked at Mrs. Boxall's door.
Lucy was still lying on her bed when she heard little knuckles at her door, and having answered without looking round, felt, a moment after, a tiny hand steal into hers. She opened her eyes, and saw Mattie by her bedside. Nor was she too much absorbed in her own griefs to note that the child had hers too.
“What is the matter with you, Mattie, my dear?" she asked in a faint voice.
Mattie burst into tears--a rare proceeding with the princess. It was some moments before she could sob out,
I've been so naughty, Miss Burton-so very naughty!" Lucy raised herself, sat on the side of the bed, and took the child's hand. Mattie could not look up.
" I'm sorry to hear that, Mattie. What have you done ?” “Such a shame !--Poppie! Far country. Elder brother." These were almost the only words Lucy could hear for the sobs of the poor child. Hence she could only guess at the cause of her grief, and her advice must be general.
“ If you have done wrong to Poppie, or any one, you must go and tell her so, and try to make up for it."
“Yes, I will, for I can't bear it," answered Mattie, beginning to recover herself. “ Think of doing the very same as the one I was so angry with when mother read the story! I couldn't bear to see Poppie in my place in mother's shop, and I was angry, and wouldn't go in. But I'll go now, as soon as I get my poor eyes dried.”
Lucy was not able to say much to her, and Mattie was so taken up with her own repentance that she did not see that Lucy was in trouble too. In a few minutes the child announced her intention of going to Mr. Spelt at once, and left Lucy to her own thoughts. I will first tell how Mattie finished her repentance, and then return to Lucy.
She walked right under Mr. Spelt's door, and called aloud, but with a wavering voice,
Mother, take me up directly. I'm very sorry.” Over the threshold came a pair of arms, and Mattie was hoisted into the heaven of ber repentant desire. As soon as she was in it she crawled on her hands and knees--even she could scarcely have stood in the place-towards Poppie.
“How do you do, prodigal ?" she said, putting her arms round the bewildered Poppie, who had no more idea of what she meant than a child born in heaven would have had. “ I'm very glad to