« ForrigeFortsett »
tion afterwards without affording any one the chance of preventing her. However that may be, the paroxysm of her present rage passed off in tears followed by gloomy fits, which were diversified by outbreaks of temper against Lucy, although she spoke of her as a poor dear orphan, reduced to beggary by the wickedness and greed of lawyers in general, who lived like cannibals upon the flesh and blood of innocents. In vain would Lucy try to persuade her that they were no worse now than they had been, reminding her that they were even happier together before the expectation of more than plenty came in to trouble them; beside her late imagination of wealth, her present feeling was that of poverty, and to feel poor is surely the larger half of being poor.
On Lucy my reader will easily believe that this change of prospect had little effect. Her heart was too much occupied with a far more serious affair to be moved about money. Had everything been right with Thomas, I have no doubt she would have built many a castle of the things she would do ; but till Thomas was restored to her by being brought to his right mind, no one thing seemed more worth doing than another. Sadness settled upon her face, her walk, her speech, her whole expression. But she went about her work as before, and did what she could to keep her sorrow from hurting others. The reality of the late growth of religious feeling in her was severely tested; but it stood the test; for she sought comfort in holding up her care to God; and what surer answer to such prayer could there be, than that she had strength to do her work? We are saved by hope, and Lucy's hope never died; or if it did wither away under the dry blasts of her human judgment, the prayers that went up for submission to His will, soon returned in such dews as caused the little flower once more to lift its head in the sun and wind. As often as she could-not every day, because of her engagements with Miriam Morgenstern-she went to Mr. Fuller's church, and I think I may say that she never returned without what was worth going for. I do not say that she could always tell what she had learned, but she came away with fresh strength, and fresh resolution to do what might show itself to be right. And the strength came chiefly from this, that she believed more and more what the apostle Peter came to be so sure of before he died, that “ He careth for us.” She believed that the power that made her a living soul was not, could not be, indifferent to her sorrows, however much she might have deserved them, still less indifferent because they were for her good,-a ready excuse for indifference with men; -and if only he cared that she suffered, if he knew that it was sad and hard to bear, she could bear it without a word, almost without a thought of restlessness. And then, why should she not hope for Thomas as well as for herself? If we are to love our neighbour as ourself, surely we must hope and pray for him as for ourself; and if Lucy found that she could love Thomas at least as
herself, for him she was in that very love bourd to pray and to hope as for herself.
Mr. Sargent was soon tk oroughly acquainted with all Mrs. Boxall's affairs. And he had so little hope of success in regard to the will, that, when he found that she had no vouchers to produce for her own little property placed in her son's hands, he resolved, before going any farther in a course which must irritate Mr. Worboise, to see whether he could not secure that first. Indeed he was prepared, seeing how ill matters looked for his clients, to offer to withdraw from the contest, provided the old lady's rights were acknowledged. With this view he called once more upon Mr. Worboise, who received him just as graciously as before. A conversation something like this followed.
“Mrs. Boxall informs me, Mr. Worboise, that her son, at the time of his death, was, and had been for many years, in possession of some property of hers, amounting to somewhere between two and three thousand pounds. The old lady is a very simple woman—".
" Is she?" interjected, rather than interrupted, Mr. Worboise, in a cold parenthesis. Mr. Sargent went on.
"Indeed she does not know the amount exactly, but that could be easily calculated from the interest he was in the habit of paying her."
“But whatever acknowledgment she holds for the money will render the trouble unnecessary,” said Mr. Worboise, who saw well enough to what Mr. Sargent was coming.
“Unfortunately-it was very wrong of a man of business, or anybody, indeed-her son never gave her any acknowledgment in writing."
“Oh!" said Mr. Worboise, with a smile, “then I don't exactly see what can be done. It is
awkward." “ You can be easily satisfied of the truth of the statement." “I am afraid not, Mr. Sargent." “She is a straightforward old lady, and"
“I have reason to doubt it. At all events, seeing she considers the whole of the property hers by right, an opinion in which you sympathize with her--as her legal adviser, I mean—it will not be very surprising if, from my point of view, I should be jealous of her making a statement for the sake of securing a part of those rights. With such a temptation, and such an excuse, it is just possibleI've heard of such a thing as evil that good might come, eh, Mr. Sargent ?-even if she were as straightforward as you think her. Let her produce her vouchers, I say:
“ I have no fear—at least I hope Mr. Stopper will be able to prove it. There will be evidence enough of the interest paid.”
“As interest, Mr. Sargent ? I suspect it will turn out to be only an annuity that the good fellow allowed her, notwithstanding the reasons he must have had for omitting her name from his will."
"I confess this much to you, Mr. Worboise--that our cause is so far from promising that I should advise Mrs. Boxall to be content with her own, and push the case no farther.”
“Quite right, Mr. Sargent. The most prudent advice you can give her.”
“You will then admit the debt, and let the good woman have her own ?"
“Admit the debt by no means ; but certainly let her have her own as soon as she proves what is her own," answered Mr. Worboise, smiling.
“But I give you my word, Mr. Worboise,” said Mr. Sargent, doing his best to keep his temper,
" that I believe the woman's statement to be perfectly true.”
“I believe you, Mr. Sargent, but I do not believe the woman," returned Mr. Worboise, again smiling.
“But you know it will not matter much, because, coming into this property as you do, you can hardly avoid making some provision for those so nearly related to the testator, and who were dependent upon him during his lifetime. You cannot leave the old lady to starve."
“It will be time enough to talk about that when my rights are acknowledged. Till then I decline to entertain the question.”
There was a something in Mr. Worboise's manner, and an irrepressible flash of his eye, that all but convinced Mr. Sargent that there was nothing not in the bond to be got from him. He therefore left him, and started a new objection in opposing the probate of the will. He argued the probability of all or one or other of the daughters surviving the father-that is, not of their being yet alive, but of their having outlived him. Now this question, though plain as the alphabet to those who are acquainted with law, requires some explanation to those who are not, numbering possibly the greater part of my readers.
The property would come to Mr. Worboise only in the case of all those nientioned in the will dying before Mr. Boxall. A man can only will that which is his own at the time of his death. If he died before any of his family, Mr. Worboise had nothing to do with it. It went after the survivor's death to her heirs. Hence if either of the daughters survived father and mother, if only for one provable moment, the property would be hers, and would go to her heir, namely, her grandmother. So it would in any case, had not Mr. Worboise been mentioned, except Mrs. Richard Boxall had survived her husband and family, in which case the money would have gone to her nearest of kin. This alternative, however, was not started, for both sides had equal interest in opposing it—and indeed the probable decision upon probabilities would have been that the wife would die first. The whole affair then turned upon the question : whether it was more likely that Richard Boxall or every
one of his daughters died first ; in which question it must be remembered that there was nothing cumulative in the three daughters. He was as likely to die before or to survive all three as any one of them, except individual reasons could be shown in regard to one daughter which did not exist in regard to another.
One word more is necessary. Mr. Sargent was not in good practice, and would scarcely have been able-I do not use the word afforded, because I do not know what it means to meet the various expenses of the plea. But the very day he had become acquainted with the contents of the will, he told Mr. Morgen. stern of the peculiar position in which his governess and her grandmother found themselves. Now Mr. Morgenstern was not only rich-that is common ; nor was he only aware that he was rich; if that is not so common, it is not yet very uncommon; but he felt that he had something to spare. Lucy was a great favourite with him ; so was Mr. Sargent. He could not but see that Sargent was fond of Lucy, and that he was suffering from some measure of repulse. He therefore hoped, if not to be of any material assistance to Lucy, for from Sargent's own representation he could not see that the matter was a promising one, at least to give the son of his old friend a chance of commending himself to the lady by putting it in his power to plead her cause. And conducted as Mr. Sargent conducted the affair, it did not put Mr. Morgenstern to an amount of expense that cost him two thoughts; while even if it had been serious, the pleasure with which his wife regarded his generosity would have been to him reward enough.
HOW THOMAS DID AND FARED.
I FLATTER myself that my reader is not very much interested in Thomas : I never meant that he should be yet. I confess, however, that I am now girding up my loins with the express intention of beginning to interest him if I can. For I have now almost reached the point of his history which I myself feel to verge on the interesting. "When a worthless fellow begins to meet with his deserts, then we begin to be aware that after all he is our own flesh and blood. Our human heart begins to feel just the least possible yearning towards him. We hope he will be well trounced, but we become capable of hoping that it may not be lost upon him. At least we are content to hear something more about him.
When Thomas left the gambling-house that dreary morning, he must have felt very much as the devil must feel. For he had plenty of money and no home. He had actually, on this raw morning when nature seemed to be nothing but a drizzle diluted with grey
fog, nowhere to go to. More, indeed : he had a good many places, including the principal thoroughfares of London, where he must not go. There was one other place which he did all he could to keep out of, and that was the place where the little thinking that was considered necessary in his establishment was carried on. He could not help peeping in at the window, however, and now and then putting his ear to the keyhole. And what did he hear? That he, Thomas Worboise, gentleman, was a thief, a coward, a sneak. Now, when Thomas heard this, for the first time in his life, his satisfaction with himself gave way utterly; nor could all his admira. tion for Lara or the Corsair-I really forget whether they are not one and the same phantom-reconcile him to becoming one of the fraternity. But the Corsair at least would not have sold Medora's ring to save his life. Up to this point, he had never seen himself contemptible. Nor even now could he feel it much, for, weary and sick, all he wanted was some place to lay down his head and go to sleep in. After he had slept, he would begin to see things as they were, and, once admitted possible that he could do an ungentlemanly action, fresh accusations from quarters altogether unsuspected of unfriendliness would be lodged in that court of which I have already spoken. But for a time mere animal selfpreservation would keep the upper hand. He was conscious of an inclination to dive into every court that he came near--of a proclivity towards the darkness. This was the same Thomas Worboise that used to face the sunshine in gay attire, but never let the sun further in than his brain ; so the darkness within him had come at last to the outside and swathed all in its funereal folds. Till a man's indwelling darkness is destroyed by the deep-going light of truth, he walks in darkness, and the sooner this darkness comes out in action and shows itself to be darkness, the better for the
The presence of this darkness, however, is sooner recognized by one man than by another. To one the darkness within him is made manifest by a false compliment he has just paid to a pretty girl ; to Thomas it could only be revealed by theft and the actual parting for money with the jewel given him by a girl whom he loved as much as he could love, which was not much-yet; to a thirdnot murder, perjury, hypocrisy, hanging, will reveal it: he will go into the other world from the end of a rope, not mistakir g darkness for light, but knowing that it is what it is, and that it is his, and yet denying the possession of the one, and asserting the possession of the other.
Thomas forgot all about where he was, till suddenly he found himself far west in the Strand. The light of the world was coming nearer ; no policeman was in sight; and the archway leading down under the Adelphi yawned like the mouth of hell at his side. He darted into it. But no sooner was he under the arches than he wished himself out again. Strange forms of misery and vice were