if you like to part with it then, I'll take it back and eat it myself.”

Spelt paid for the potatoes-the sum of three ha'pence—and Poppie bidding Jim good-night, trotted away by his side, requiring both her hands now for the management of the potato, at which she was more expert than her father, for he, being nice in his ways, found the butter and the peel together troublesome.

“I say, ain't it jolly ?" remarked Poppie. "I call that a good trade now."

“Would you like to have one o' them things and sell hot potatoes?” asked her father.

“Just wouldn't I ?"
“ As well as sweeping a crossing?"

“A deal better," answered Poppie. “ You see, daddie, it's more respectable-a deal. It takes money to buy a thing like that. And I could wear my red jacket then. Nobody could say anything then, for the thing would be my own, and a crossing belongs to everybody."

Mr. Spelt turned the matter over and over in his mind, and thought it might be a good plan for giving Poppie some liberty, and yet keeping her from roving about everywhere without object or end. So he began at once to work for a potato steamer for Poppie, and, in the course of a fortnight, managed to buy her one. Great was Poppie's delight.

She went out regularly in the dusk to the corner of Bagot Street. Her father carried the machine for her, and leaving her there with it, returned to his work. In following her new occupation the child met with little annoyance, for this was a respectable part of the city, and the police knew her, and were inclined to protect her. One of her chief customers was Mr. Spelt himself, who would always once, sometimes twice, of an evening lay down his work, scramble from his perch, and running to the corner of the street, order a potato, ask her how she was getting on, pay bis ha'penny or penny, and hurry back with the hot handful to console him for the absence of his darling. Having eaten it, chuckling and rejoicing, he would attack his work with vigour so renewed as soon to make up for the loss of time involved in procuring it. But keeping out of view the paternal consumption, Poppie was in a fair way of soon paying all the expense of the cooking apparatus. Mr. and Miss Kitely were good customers, too, and everything looked well for father and daughter.

Every night at half-past nine, her father was by her side, to carry the “murphy-buster," --that was Jim's name for it-home. There was no room for it in the shop, of course. He took it up the three flights of stairs to Poppie's own room ; and there, with three-quarters of a pint of beer to wash them down, they finished the remainder potatoes, “ with butter, with pepper, and with salt, as Poppie

would exclaim, In the undisguised delight of her sumptuous fare. Sometimes there were none left, but that gave only a variety to their pleasures ; for as soon as the engine, as Mr. Spelt called it, was deposited in safety, they set out to buy their supper.

And great were the consultations to which, in Mr. Spelt's desire to draw out the choice and judgment of his daughter, this proceeding gave rise. At one time it was a slice of beef or ham that was resolved upon, at another a bit of pudding, sometimes a couple of mutton pies or sausages, with bread ad libitum. There was a cookshop in the neighbourhood, whose window was all beclouded with jets of steam, issuing as from a volcanic soil, and where all kinds of hot dainties were ready for the fortunate purchaser ; thither the two would generally repair, and hold their consultation outside the window. Then, the desirable thing once agreed upon, came the delight of buying it, always left to Poppie ; of carrying it home, still left to Poppie ; of eating it, not left to Poppie, but heightened by the sympathetic participation of her father. Followed upon all, the chapter in the Bible, the Lord's Prayer, bed, and dreams of Mrs. Flanaghan and her gin bottle, or, perhaps, of Lucy and her first kiss,



MEANTIME Mrs. Worboise had taken to her bed, and not even Mr. Simon could comfort her. The mother's heart now spoke louder than her theology:

She and her priest belonged to a class more numerous than many of my readers would easily believe, a great part of whose religion consists in arrogating to themselves exclusive privileges, and another great part in defending their supposed rights from the intrusion of others. The thing does not look such to them, of course ; but the repulsiveness of their behaviour to those who cannot use the same religious phrases, indicating the non-adoption of their particular creed, compels others so to conclude concerning their religion. Doubtless they would say for themselves, “We do but as God has taught us; we believe but as he has told us; we exclude whom he has excluded, and admit whom he has admitted.” But alas for that people, the God of whose worship is altogether such a one as themselves, or worse ; whose God is paltry, shallowminded, and full of party-spirit ; who sticks to a thing because he has said it, accepts a man because of his feelings, and condemns him because of his opinions; who looks no deeper than a man's words to find his thoughts, and no deeper than his thoughts to find his will I True, they are in the hands of another God than that of

their making, and such offences must come; yet, alas for them ! for they are of the hardest to redeem into the childhood of the kingdom.

I do not say that Mrs. Worboise began to see her sins as such when the desolation of Thomas's disappearance fell upon her, but the atmosphere of her mind began to change, and a spring season of mother's feelings to set in. How it came about I cannot explain. I as well as any of my readers might have felt as if Mrs. Worboise were almost beyond redemption, but it was not so. Her redemption came in the revival of a long-suppressed motherhood. Her husband's hardness and want of sympathy with her sufferings had driven her into the arms of a party of exclusive Christians, whose brotherhood consisted chiefly, as I have already described it, in denying the great brotherhood, and refusing the hand of those who follow not with them. They were led by one or two persons of some social position, whose condescending assumption of superiority over those that were without was as offensive as absurd, and whose weak brains were their only excuse. The worst thing of this company was that it was a company. In many holding precisely the same opinions with them, those opinions are comparatively harm. less, because they are more directly counteracted by the sacred influences of God's world and the necessities of things, which are very needful to prevent, if paginile self-righteous Christians from sending themselves to a deeper heil than any they denounce against their neighbours. But when such combine themselves into an esoteric school, they foster, as in an oven or a forcing-pit, all the worst distinctions for the sake of which they separate themselves from others. All that was worst in poor Mrs. Worboise was cherished by the companionship of those whose chief anxiety was to save their own souls, and who thus ran the great risk set forth by the Saviour of losing them. They treated the words of the Bible like talismans or spells, the virtue of which lay in the words and the assent given to them, or, at most, the feelings that could be conjured up by them, not in the doing of the things they presupposed or commanded. But there was one thing that did something to keep her fresh and prevent her from withering into a dry tree of supposed orthodoxy, the worst dryness of all, because it is the least likely to yield to any fresh burst of living sap from the forgotten root-that was her anxiety to get her son within the “garden walled around," and the continual disappointment of her efforts to that end.

But now that the shock of his flight had aggravated all the symptoms of her complaint, which was a serious one, though slow in the movement of its progressive cycles, now that she was confined to her bed and deprived of the small affairs that constituted the dull excitements of her joyless life, her imagination, roused by a reaction from the first grief, continually presented to her the

form of her darling in the guise of the prodigal, his handsome face worn with hunger and wretchedness, or, still worse, with dissipation and disease ; and she began to accuse herself bitterly for having alienated his affections from herself by too assiduously forcing upon his attention that which was distasteful to him. She said to herself that it was easy for an old woman like her, who had been disappointed in everything, and whose life and health were a wreck, to turn from the vanities of the world, but how could her young Thomas, in the glory of youth, be expected to see things as she saw them? How could he flee from the wrath to come when he had as yet felt no breath of that wrath on his cheek? She ought to have loved him, and borne with him, and smiled upon him, and never let him fancy that his presence was a pain to her because he could not take her ways for his. Add to this certain suspicions that arose in her mind from what she considered unfriendly neglect on the part of the chief man of their chosen brotherhood, and from the fact that her daughter Amy had already wrought a questionable change on Mr. Simon, having persuaded him to accompany hernot to the theatre at all-only to the Gallery of Illustration, and it will be seen that everything tended to turn the waters of her heart back into the old channel with the flow of a spring-tide towards her son.

She wept and prayed-better tears and better prayers, because her love was stronger. She humbled her heart, proud of its acceptance with God, before a higher idea of that God. She began to doubt whether she was more acceptable in his sight than other people. There must be some who were, but she could not be one of them. Instead of striving after assurance, as they called it, she began to shrink from every feeling that lessened her humility; for she found that when she was most humble, then she could best pray for her son. Not that had her assurance rested in the love of God it would ever have quenched her prayer ; but her assurance had been taught to rest upon her consciousness of faith, which, unrealized, tended to madness-realized, to spiritual pride. She lay thus praying for him, and dreaming about him, and hoping that he would return before she died, when she would receive him as son had never before been welcomed to his mother's bosom.

But Mr. Worboise's dry sand-locked bay was open to the irruption of no such waters from the great deep of the eternal love. Narrow and poor as it was, Mrs. Worboise's religion had yet been as a little wedge to keep her door open to better things, when they should arrive and claim an entrance, as they had now done. But her husband's heart was full of money, and the love of it. How to get money, how not to spend it, how to make it grow—these were the chief cares that filled his heart. His was not the natural anxiety the objects of which, though not the anxiety, were justified by the Lord when he said, “ Your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.” It was not what he needed that filled his mind

with care, but what he did not need, and never would need ; nay, what other people needed, and what was not his to take-not his in God's sight, whatever the law might say. And to God's decision everything must come at last, for that is the only human verdict of things--the only verdict which at last will satisfy the whole jury of humanity. But I am wrong : this was not all that filled his heart. One demon generally opens the door to another--they are not jealous of exclusive possession of the human thrall. The heart occupied by the love of money will be only too ready to fall a prey to other evils; for selfishness soon branches out in hatred and injustice. The continued absence of his son, which he attributed still to the Boxalls, irritated more than alarmed him ; but if sometimes a natural feeling of dismay broke in upon him, it only roused yet more the worst feelings of his heart against Lucy and her grandmother. Every day to which Thomas's absence extended itself, his indignation sank deeper rather than rose higher. Every day he vowed that, if favoured by fortune, he would make them feel in bitterness how deeply they had injured him. To the same account he entered all the annoyance given him by the well-meaning Mr. Sargent, who had only as yet succeeded in irritating him without gaining the least advantage over him. His every effort in resistance of probate failed. The decision of the court was that Mr. Boxall, a strong, healthy, well-scasoned middle-aged man, was far more likely to have outlived all his daughters, than any one of them to have outlived him ; therefore Mr. Worboise obtained probate and entered into possession.

Although Mr. Sargent could not but have at least more than doubted the result, he felt greatly discomfited åt it. He went straight to Mr. Morgenstern's office to communicate his failure and the foiling of the liberality which had made the attempt possible. Mr. Morgenstern oniy smiled and wrote him a cheque for the costs. Of course, being a Jew, he did not enjoy parting with his money for nothing—no Christian would have minded it in the least. Seriously, Mr. Morgenstern did throw half his cigar into the fire from annoyance. But his first words were,

“What is to be done for those good people, then, Sargent ?"

“We must wait till we see. I think I told you that the old lady has a claim upon the estate, which, most unfortunately, she cannot establish. Now, however, that this cormorant has had his own way, he will perhaps be inclined to be generous; for justice must be allowed in this case to put on the garb of generosity, else she will not appear in public, I can tell you. I mean to make this one attempt more. I confess to considerable misgiving, however. To-morrow, before his satisfaction has evaporated, I will make it, and let you know the result.”

By this time Mr. Morgenstern had lighted another cigar.

« ForrigeFortsett »