Sidebilder
PDF

see you home again. Put on this ring, and we'll both be good children to mother there.” So saying, she took a penny ring, with a bit of red and two bits of green glass in it, from her finger, and put it upon Poppie's, who submitted speechless, but was pleased with the glitter of the toy. She did not kiss in return, though : Poppie liked to be kissed, but she had not learned to kiss yet. “Mother,” Mattie went on, “I was behaving like—like—like—a wicked Pharisee and Sadducee. I beg your pardon, mother. I will be good. May I sit in the corner by the door?” “I think,” answered the little tailor, greatly moved, and believing in the wind that bloweth where it listeth more than ever he had believed before—“I think if I were to move a little, you could sit in the corner by the window, and then you would see into the court better. Only,” he said, as he drew his work about his new position, “you must not lean much against the sash, for it is not very sound, and you might tumble into the court, you know.” So Mattie and Poppie sat side by side, and the heart of the tailor had a foretaste of heaven. Presently Mattie began to talk to Poppie. She could scarcely, however, draw a single response from her, for she had nothing to say. Interchange of thought was unknown to the elder child, and Mattie's words were considerably less intelligible to Poppie than the autumn wind that now blew round their nest. Mattie was annoyed. The romance of the reconciliation was dimmed. Instinctively she felt that the only way to restore it was to teach Poppie, and she took her in hand at once. There was more hope for Poppie, and Spelt too, now that Mattie was in the work, for there is no teacher of a child like a child. All the tutors of Oxford and Cambridge will not bring on a baby as a baby a year older will. The childlike is as essential an element in the teacher as in the scholar. And the train of my story is not going so fast but that I may pull up at this siding for a moment to say that those who believe they have found a higher truth, with its higher mode of conveyance, are very apt to err in under-valuing, even to the degree of wishing to remove the lower forms in which truth, if not embodied exactly, is at least wrapt up. Truth may be presented in the grandeur of a marble statue, or in a brown-paper parcel. I choose the sculpture; my last son prefers the parcel. The only question is whether there is truth—not in the abstract, but as assimilable by the recipient—present in the form. I cannot, however, resume without a word on the other side. To the man who sees and feels the higher and nobler form, it is given to teach that. Let those to whom the lower represents the sum of things, teach it with their whole hearts. He has nothing to do with it, for he cannot teach it without being false. The snare of the devil holds men who, capable of teaching the higher, talk of the ople not being ready to receive it, and therefore teach them in F. which are to their own souls an obstruction. There is cowardice and desertion therein. They leave their own harder and higher work to do the easier and clumsier work of their neighbour. It is wasteful of time, truth, and energy. The man who is most careful over the truth that lies in forms not his own, will be the man most careful to let no time-serving drag him down—not to the level of the lower teachers, for they are honest—but to the level of Job's friends, who lied for God; nay, lower still ; for this will soon cease to be lying even for God, and become lying for himself.

When Mattie left her, Lucy again threw herself down and turned her face to the wall, and the story of which Mattie had been talking straightway began to mingle with all that filled her troubled mind. For who was a prodigal son but her lost Thomas P Lost indeed . But there was another word in the parable to balance that—there was found as well. Thomas might be found again. And if the angels in heaven rejoiced over the finding of such a lost wanderer, why should she cut the cable of love, and let rim go adrift from her heart? Might she not love him still P Oright she not to love him still P Was he not more likely to come back some day if she went on loving him 2 The recent awaking of Lucy's spiritual nature—what would be called by some, her conversion— had been so interpenetrated with the image, the feeling, the subjective presence of Thomas—she had thought so much of him while stooping her own shoulders to the easy yoke, that she could not leave him out now, and it seemed as if, were she to give him up, she would lose half the incentive to press forward herself. The fibres of her growth had so twined around him, that if the idea of his regeneration departed from her, the hope of her own would sicken at least, if not die. True, Pride hinted at the disgrace of being allied to such a man—a man who had stolen; but Faith replied, that if there were joy in heaven over him, she too might rejoice over him when he came back ; and if the Father received the prodigal with all his heart, she too might receive him with all hers. But she would have no right to receive him thus if she did nothing to restore him ; nor would she have any right to put forth in full her reclaiming influence, except she meant thus to receive him. Her conscience began to reproach her that she had not before done all that she could to reclaim him, and if she only knew the way, she was now at least prepared to spend and be spent for him. But she had already done all that she was, at this juncture of his history, to be allowed to do for the wretched trifler. God had taken the affair out of her hands, and had put it into those ef somewhat harder teachers.

CHAPTER XXXIX.
BUSINESS.

WHEN Mr. Worboise found that Thomas did not return that night, he concluded at once that he had made up his mind to thwart him in his now cherished plan, to refuse the daughter of Sir Jonathan Hubbard, and marry the girl whom his father disliked. He determined at once, even supposing he might be premature as regarded the property, to have the satisfaction of causing the Boxalls sharp uneasiness at least. His son would not have dared to go against his wishes but for the enticements of “that minx,” in the confidence that her uncle's property was about to be hers. He would teach her and him too a lesson. Either her uncle or some one or more of his family were not drowned, or they were all drowned : in neither case was the property hers. If one of the family was alive, the property remained where it was ; if they were all gone, the property was his. He thought himself into a rage over her interference with his plans, judged himself an injured person, and thereby freed of any trifling obligation that a fastidious conscience might have fancied to exist to the prejudice of his claims upon the property of his friend, supposed to be deceased. He was now ready to push his rights to the uttermost—to exact the pound of flesh that the law awarded him. He went the next morning but one after Thomas's disappearance and propounded the will. In due time this came to the knowledge of Mr. Sargent. He wrote to Mrs. Boxall a stiff business letter acquainting her with the fact, and then called upon Mr. Worboise to see whether some arrangement could not be come to ; for having learned the nature of the will, he saw that almost any decent division of the property, for which he could only appeal to the justice of the man, would be better than a contest. Mr. Worboise received him with a graciousness reaching almost to kindness, talked lightly of the whole as a mere matter of business about which there was no room for disputing, smiled aside every attempt made by Mr. Sargent to approach the subject from another quarter, and made him understand, without saying a word to that effect, that he was prepared to push matters to the extreme of extremity. He even allowed him to see that he had reasons beyond the value of the money for setting about the matter in the coolest, most legal fashion in the world. Mr. Sargent went away baffled—to devise upon what grounds he could oppose the grant of probate. While Mr. Sargent was having his interview, Mr. Stopper was awaiting his departure in the clerks’ room. It must be remembered that Mr. Stopper was now between two stools; and while he came to plead the cause of the widow and fatherless, he must be especially careful for his own sake not to give offence. Him, too, Mr. Worboise received with the greatest good-humour; assured him that there was no mistake in the matter, and he believed no flaw in the will ; informed him that he had drawn it up himself, and had, at his friend's request, entered his own name as contingent -, ersioner. His friend might have done it in joke, he did not know"; but he had not any intention of foregoing his rights, or turning cat of Luck's way when she met him in the teeth. On the contrary, he meant to have the money and to use it; for, at all events, it could not have been in joke that his friend had omitted his mother and his niece. He must have had some good reason for so doing ; and he was not one to treat a dead friend's feeling with disrespect—and so on, all in pleasant words and with smiling delivery, ended by a hearty, easy “good morning.” For, ere he had finisled, Mr. Stopper coming to the conclusion that nothing was to be done, rose to take his leave. At the door he turned, and said, “I hope nothing is amiss with your son, Mr. Worboise. I hope he is not ill.” “Why do you ask?” returned Mr. Worboise, just a little staggered ; for he was not prepared to hear that Thomas was missing from Bagot Street as well as from home. When he heard the fact, however, he merely nodded his head, saying, “Well, Mr. Stopper, he's too old for me to horsewhip him. I don't know what the young rascal is after. I leave him in your hands. That kind of thing won’t do, of course. I don't know that it wouldn't be the best thing to discharge him. It's of no consequence to me, you know, and it would be a lesson to him, the young scapegrace | That's really going too far, though you and I can make allowances, eh, Stopper ?” Mr. Stopper was wise enough not to incur the odium of a Job's messenger by telling what even Mr. Worboise would have considered bad news; for he had a reverence for locks and money, and regarded any actionable tampering with either as disgraceful. “Besides,” thought Stopper, “if it was only to spite the young jackanapes, I could almost marry that girl without a farthing. But I shouldn’t have a chance if I were to leak about Tom.” Mr. Worboise was uneasy, though. He told his wife the sum of what had passed between Tom and himself, but I fear enjoyed her discomfiture at the relation; for he said spitefully, as he left the room, “Shall I call on Mr. Simon as I go to town, and send him up, Mrs. Worboise P” His wife buried her face in her pillow, and made no reply. Perhaps the husband's heart smote him; but I doubt it, though he did call on Mr. Simon and send him to her.

All the result of Mr. Simon's inquiries was the discovery that Thomas had vanished from the counting-house too. Thereupon a more real grief than she had ever known seized the mother's heart; her conscience reproached her as often as Mr. Simon hinted that it was a judgment upon her for having been worldly in her views concerning her son's marriage; and she sent for Amy home, and allowed things to take their way.

All the comfort Mr. Worboise took was to say to himself over and over, “The young rascal's old enough to take care of himself. He knows what he's about too. He thinks to force me to a surrender by starving me of his precious self. We'll see. I’ve no doubt he's harboured in that old woman's house. Stay a bit, and if I don't fire him out—by Jovel She'll find I’m not one to take liberties with, the old hag ' "

The best that Mr. Sargent could do at present was to resist probate on the ground of the uncertainty of the testator's death, delaying thus the execution of the will. He had little hope, however, of any ultimate success—except such as he might achieve by shaming Mr. Worboise into an arrangement.

Mrs. Boxall sent for him, and with many acknowledgments begged him to do his best for them, saying that, if he were successful, she would gladly pay him whatever he demanded. He repudiated all idea of payment, however, and indeed considered himself only too fortunate to be permitted to call as often as he pleased, for then he generally saw Lucy. But he never made the smallest attempt to renew even the slight intimacy which had formerly existed between them.

CHAPTER XL.
MR. SARGENT LABOURS.

THAT large room in Guild Court, once so full of aged cheerfulness and youthful hope, was now filled with an atmosphere of both moral and spiritual perturbation. The first effect of her son's will upon Mrs. Boxall was rage and indignation against Mr. Worboise, who, she declared, must have falsified it. She would not believe that Richard could have omitted her name, and put in that of his attorney. The moment she heard the evil tidings, she rose and went for her bonnet, with the full intention of giving the rascal a bit of her mind. It was all that her granddaughter and Mr. Stopper could do to prevent her. For some time she would yield no ear to their representations of the bad consequences of such a proceeding. She did not care. If there was justice to be had on the earth she would have it, if she went to the queen herself to get it. I half suspect that, though she gave in at last, she did carry out her inten

« ForrigeFortsett »