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you do, Mrs. Boxall? What a blowing night it is ! But you have a kind of swallow's Best here, for hardly a breath gets into the court, when our windows down below in the counting-house are shaking themselves to bits.”
It was hardly a room to compare to a swallow's nest. It was a very large room indead. The floor, which was dark with age, was uncarpeted, save just before the fire, which blazed brilliantly in a small kitchen-range, curiously contrasting with the tall, carved chimney-piece above it. The ceiling corresponded in style, for it was covered with ornament
All made out of the carver's brain. And the room was strangely furnished. The high oak-settle of a farm-house stood back against the wall not far from the fire, and a few feet from it a tall, old-fashioned piano, which bore the name of Broadwood under the cover. At the side of the room farthest from the fire, stood an equally old fashioned chest of drawers, on which the sloping lid at the top left just room for a glass-doored book-case to stand, rivalling the piano in height. Then there was a sofa, covered with chintz plentifully besprinkled with rose-buds; and in the middle of the room a square mahogany table, called by upholsterers a pembroke, I think, the colour of which was all but black with age and manipulation, only it could not be seen now because it was covered with a check of red and blue. A few mahogany chairs, seated with horsehair, a fire-screen in faded red silk, a wooden foot-stool and a tall-backed easy-chair, covered with striped stuff, almost completed the furniture of the nondescript apartment.
Thomas Worboise carried a chair to the fire, and put his feet on the broad-barred bright kitchen-fender in front of it.
"Are your feet wet, Thomas ?" asked Lucy, with some gentle anxiety, and a tremor upon his name, as if she had not yet got quite used to saying it without a Mr. before it.
“Oh no, thank you. I don't mind a little wet. Hark how the wind blows in the old chimney up there! It'll be an awkward night on the west coast, this. I wonder what it feels like to be driving right on the rocks at the Land's End, or some such place.”
“Don't talk of such things in that cool way, Mr. Thomas. You make my blood run cold,” said Mrs. Boxall.
He doesnt mean it, you know, grannie,” said Lucy, mediating. “But I do mean it. I should like to know how it feels," persisted Thomas" with the very shrouds, as taut as steel bars, blowing out in the hiss of the nor'-wester."
Yes, I daresay !" returned the old lady, with some indignation. “ You would like to know how it felt so long as your muddy boots was on my clean fender!"
Thomas did not know that the old lady had lost one son at
sea, and had another the captain of a sailing-vessel, or he would not have spoken as he did. But he was always wanting to know how things felt. Had not his education rendered it impossible for him to see into the state of his own mind, he might, questioned as to what he considered the ideal of life, have replied, “A continuous succession of delicate and poetic sensations." Hence he had made many a frantic effort after religious sensations. But the necessity of these was now somewhat superseded by his grow. ing attachment to Lucy, and the sensations consequent upon that.
Up to this moment, in his carriage and speech, he had been remarkably different from himself as already shown in my history. For he was, or thought himself somebody here; and there was a freedom and ease about his manner amounting in fact to a slight though not disagreeable swagger, which presented him with far more advantage than he had in the presence of his father and mother, or even of Mr. Boxall and Mr. Stopper. But he never could bear any one to be displeased with him except he were angry himself. So when Mrs. Boxall spoke as she did, his countenance fell. He instantly removed his feet from the fender, glanced up at her face, saw that she was really indignant, and, missing the real reason of course, supposed that it was because he had been indiscreet in being disrespectful to a cherished article of housewifery. It was quite characteristic of Tom that he instantly pulled his handkerchief from his pocket, and began therewith to restore the brightness of the desecrated iron. This went at once to the old lady's heart. She snatched the handkerchief out of his hand.
Come, come, Mr. Thomas. Don't ye mind an old woman like that. To think of using your handkerchief that way. And cambric, too ! "
Thomas looked up in surprise, and straightway recovered his behaviour. “I didn't think of your fender," he said.
Oh, drat the fender !” exclaimed Mrs. Boxall, with more energy than refinement.
And so the matter dropped, and all sat silent for a few moments, Mrs. Boxall with her knitting, and Tom and Lucy beside each other with their thoughts. Lucy presently returned to their talk on the staircase.
So you were out at dinner on Wednesday, Thomas ?”
Yes. It was a great bore, but I had to go. Boxall's, you know. I beg your pardon, Mrs. Boxall ; but that's how fellows like me talk, you know. I should have said Mr. Boxall. And I didn't mean that he was a bore. That he is not, though he is a little particular-of course. I only meant it was a bore to go there when I wanted to come here."
" Is my cousin Mary very pretty ?" asked Luey, with a meaning in her tone which Thomas easily enough understood.
He could not help blushing, for he remembered, as well he might. And she could not help seeing, for she had eyes, very large ones, and at least as loving as they were large.
“Yes, she is very pretty," answered Thomas ; " but not nearly so pretty as you, Lucy.”
Thomas, then, was not stupid, although my reader will see that he was weak enough. And Lucy was more than half satisfied, though she did not half like that blush. But Thomas himself did not like cither the blush or its cause. And poor Mary knew nothing of either, only meditated upon another blush, quite like this as far as appearance went, but with a different heart to it.
Thomas did not stop more than half-an-hour. When he left, instead of walking straight out of Guild Court by the narrow paved passage, he crossed to the opposite side of the court, opened the door of a more ancient-looking house, and entered. Reappearing --that is, to the watchful eyes of Lucy maneuvring with the windowblind-after about two minutes, he walked home to Highbury, and told his mother that he had come straight from his German master, who gave him hopes of being able, before many months should have passed, to write a business-letter in intelligible German.
MORE ABOUT GUILD COURT.
MRS. BOXALL was the mother of Richard Boxall, the “governor” of Thomas Worboise. Her John had been the possessor of a small landed property, which he farined himself, and upon which they brought up a family of three sons and one daughter, of whom Richard was the eldest, and the daughter, Lucy, the youngest. None of the sons showed the least inclination to follow the plough, or take any relation more or less dignified towards the cultivation of the ancestral acres. This aversion when manifested by Richard occasioned his father considerable annoyance, but he did not oppose his desire to go into business instead of farming ; for he had found out by this time that he had perpetuated in his sons a certain family doggedness which he had inherited from one ancestor at least-an obstinacy which had never yet been overcome by any argument, however good. He yielded to the inevitable, and placed him in a merchant's office in London, where Richard soon made himself of importance. When his second son showed the same dislike to draw his livelihood directly from the bosom of the earth, and revealed a distinct preference for the rival element, with which he had made some acquaintance when at school at a seaport at no great distance from his home, old John Boxall waa
still more troubled, but gave his consent-a consent which was, however, merely a gloomy negation of resistance. The cheerfulness of his wife was a great support to him under what he felt as a slight to himself and the whole race of Boxalls ; but he began, notwithstanding, to look upon his beloved fields with a jaundiced eye, and the older he grew the more they reminded him of the degenerate tastes and heartlessness of his boys. When he discovered, a few years after, that his daughter had pledged herself, still in his eyes a mere child, to a music-master who visited her professionally from the next town, he flew at last into a terrible rage, which was not appeased by the girl's elopement and marriage. He never saw her again. Her mother, however, was not long in opening a communication with her, and it was to her that Edward, the youngest son, fled upon occasion of a quarrel with his father, whose temper had now become violent as well as morose. He followed his second brother's example, and went to sea. Still the mother's cheerfulness was little abated; for, as she said to herself, she had no reason to be ashamed of her children. None of them had done anything they had to be ashamed of, and why should she be vexed? She had no idea Lucy had so much spirit in her. And if it were not for the old man, who was surely over-fond of those fields of his, she could hold up her head with the best of them; for there was Dick-such a gentleman to be sure ! and John, third mate already! and Cecil Burton sought after in London to give his lessons as if he were one of the old masters! The only thing was that the wind blew harder at night since Ned went to sea ; and a boy was in more danger than a grown man, and a third mate like John.
And so it proved; for one night when the wind blew a new hayrick of his father's across three parishes, it blew Edward's body ashore on the west coast.
Soon after this, a neighbouring earl, who had the year before paid off a mortgage on his lands, proceeded in natural process to enlarge his borders; and while there was plenty that had formerly belonged to the family to repurchase, somehow or another took it into his head to begin with what seemed far more difficult of attainment. But John Boxall was willing enough to part with his small patrimony-for he was sick of it-provided he had a good sum of ready money, and the house with its garden and a paddock, by way of luck-penny, secured to him for his own life and that of his wife. This was easily arranged. But the late yeoman moped more than ever, and died within a twelvemonth, leaving his money to his wife. As soon as he was laid in his natural inheritance of land cubical, his widow went up to London to her son Richard, who was by this time the chief manager of the business of Messrs. Blunt and Baker. To him she handed over her money to use for the advantage of both. Paying her a handsome percentage, he
invested it in a partnership in the firm, and with this fresh excitement to his energies, soon became, influentially, the principal man in the company. The two other partners were both old men, and neither had a son nor near relative whom he might have trained to fill his place. So in the course of a few years, they, speaking commercially, fell asleep, and in the course of a few more, departed this life, commercially and otherwise. It was somewhat strange, however, that all this time Richard Boxall had given his mother no written acknowledgment of the money she had lent him, and which had been the foundation of his fortune. A man's faults are sometimes the simple reverses of his virtues, and not the results of his vices.
When his mother came first to London, he had of course taken her home to his house and introduced her to his wife, who was a kind and even warm-hearted woman. But partly from prudence, partly from habit, Mrs. Boxall senior would not consent to be the permanent guest of Mrs. Boxall junior, and insisted on taking a lodging in the neighbourhood. It was not long, however, before she left the first and betook herself to a second, nor long again before she left the second and betook herself to a third. For her nature was like a fresh bracing wind, which, when admitted within the precincts of a hot-house where everything save the fire is neglected, proves a most unwelcome presence, yea, a dire dismay. Indeed, admirably as she had managed and borne with her own family, Mrs. Boxall was quite unfitted to come into such habitual contact with another household as followed from her occupying a part of the same dwelling. Her faith in what she had tried with success herself, and her repugnance to whatever she had not been accustomed to, were such that her troublesomeness when she be, came familiar was equal to the good-nature which at first so strongly recommended her. Hence her changes of residence were frequent.
Up to the time when he became a sleeping partner, Mr. Blunt had resided in Guild Court--that is, the house-door was in the court, while the lower part of the house, forming the offices of the firm, was entered from what was properly a lane, though it was called Bagot Street. As soon as mother and son heard that Mr. Blunt had at length bought a house in the country, the same thought arose in the mind of each-might not Mrs. Boxall go and live there? The house belonged to the firm, and they could not well let it, for there was more ihan one availahle communication between the two portions of the building, although only one of them was now fit for use-a door, namely, by which Mr. Blunt passed immediately from the glass-partitioned part of the counting-house to the foot of the oak-staircase already described ; while they used two of the rooms in the house as places of deposit for old books, letters, and papers, for which there was no accommodation in the part devoted to active business. Hence nothing better could be devised than