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“ That is quite possible. When you do see him again, try to get him to come and see me. Or I will go and see him. Í shall not overwhelm him with a torrent of religion which he cannot understand, and which would only harden him."
“There is nothing I should wish more. But tell me one thing, Mr. Fuller : would it be right to marry him ? I want to understand. Nothing looks farther off; but I want to know what is right.”.
“ I think,” returned Mr. Fuller, “that every willing heart will be taught what is right by the time that action is necessary. One thing seems clear, that while
love him “I shall always love him," interrupted Lucy.
" I must speak generally," said Mr. Fuller ; "and there have been a few instances,” he added, with the glimmer of a smile through the seriousness of his countenance, “ of young maidens, and young men no less, changing their minds about such matters. I do not say you will. But while you love him, it is clear to me, that you must not accept the attentions of any one else. I could put a very hard and dreadful name upon that.-There is another thing equally clear to me that while he is unrepentant, that is, as long as he does not change his ways--turn from evil towards good-think better of it, that is—you would be doing very wrong to marry him. I do not say when, or that ever you are bound to stop loving him ; but that is a very different thing to consenting to marry him. Any influence for good that a woman has over such a man, she may exercise as much before marriage as after it. Indeed, if the man is of a poor and selfish nature, she is almost certain, as far as my observation goes, to lose her influence after marrying him. Many & woman, I fear, has married man with the hope of reforming him, and has found that she only afforded him opportunity for growth in wickedness. I do not say that no good at all comes of it, so long as she is good, but it is the wrong way, and evil comes of it."
“I am sure you are right, Mr. Fuller. It would be dreadful to marry a bad man, or a man who had not strength, even for love of a wife, to turn from bad ways. But you won't think the hardest of my poor Thomas yet ? He has been led astray, and has too much good in him to be easily made all bad.”
“ I, too, will hope so, for your sake as well as his own.” Lucy rose.
“Good morning, Mr. Fuller. I do not know how to thank you. I only wanted leave to go on loving him. Thank you a thousand times."
“Do not thank me, as if I could give you leave to do this or that. I only tell you what seems to me the truth of the matter."
“ But is not that the best thing to give or to receive ?" “Yes, it is,” answered Mr. Fuller, as Lucy left the vesiry. It was with a heart wonderfully lightened that she went home to
her grandmother. This new cloud of terror had almost passed away ; it only lightened a little on the horizon when she thought of having again to hear what Mr. Sargent wanted to say.
That same evening he came. Lucy never lifted her eyes to his face, even when she held out her hand to him. He misinterpreted her embarrassment; and he found argument to strengthen his first impression ; for a moment after, summoning all her courage, and remembering very conveniently a message she had had for her, Lucy said to her grandmother,
" Mr. Kitely said he would like to see you, grannie, about the papers for our rooms. He has got some patterns.”
I have done with this world, child, and all its vanities,” said Mrs. Boxall, with a touch of asperity.
“It would only be polite, though, grannie, as he is taking so much trouble about it, to go and see them. He is so kind !
“We're going to pay him for his kindness," said the old dame, soured out of her better judgment, and jealous of Mr. Sargent supposing that they were accepting charity.
“No, grannie. That nobody ever could do. Kindness is just what can't be paid for, do what you will."
" I see you want to get rid of me,” she said, rising, “so I suppose I had better go. Things are changed. Old people must learn to do as they're bid. You'll be teaching me my catechism next, I suppose."
Mrs. Boxall walked out of the room with as stiff a back as she had ever assumed in the days of her prosperity. The moment the door closed, Mr. Sargent approached Lucy, who had remained standing, and would have taken her hand, but she drew it away and took the lead.
“ I am very sorry if I have led you into any mistake, Mr. Sargent. I was so distressed at what you said the other evening, that I made this opportunity for the sake of removing at once any misapprehension. I wish to remind you that I considered the subject you resumed then as quite settled.”
“But excuse me, Miss Burton. I, too, considered it settled ; but circumstances having altered so entirely—"
“ Could you suppose for a moment that because I had lost the phantom of a fortune which I never possessed, I would accept the inan-whose kindness I was always grateful for, but whose love I had refused before, because I could not give him any in return ?"
"No. I did not suppose so. You gave me a reason for refusing my attentions then, which I have the best ground for believing no longer exists.” " What was the reason I gave you then?”
loved another. " And what ground have I given you for supposing that suola has ceased to be the case ?"
“ You have not given me any. He has.”
Lucy started. The blood rushed to her forehead, and then back to her heart.
“Where is he?" she cried, clasping her hands. " For God's sake, tell me !"
“That, at least, is answer enough to my presumptuous hope," returned Mr. Sargent, with some bitterness.
“Mr. Sargent," said Lucy, who, though trembling greatly, had now recovered her self-command, "I beg your pardon for any pain I may have occasioned you. But, by surprising the truth, you have saved me the repetition of what I told you before. Tell me what you know about Mr. Worboise."
But Mr. Sargent's feelings—those especially occupied with him. self-got the better of him now, bitterly as he regretted it afterwards. He felt it a wrong that such a woman should pass him by for the sake of such a man ; and he answered in the heat of injury,
All I care to know about him is, that for the sake of his game amongst a low set of gamblers, he staked and lost a diamond ring a rose-diamond, which one of his companions seemed to know as the gift of a lady. That is the man for whom Lucy Burton is proud to express her devotion !”
Lucy had grown very pale ; but she would hold out till Mr. Sargent was gone. She had an answer on her lips ; but if she spoke he would stay. Still she would say one word for Thomas.
“ Your evidence is hardly of the most trustworthy kind, Mr. Sargent. Good-morning."
“ It is of his kind, anyhow, whatever that may be," he retorted, and left the room. Before he reached the bottom of the stairs, he despised himself most heartily, and rushed up again to attempt an apology. Opening the room door, he saw Lucy lying on the floor. He thought she had fainted. But the same moment, Mrs. Boxall, who had only gone up-stairs, came down behind him, and he thought it best to leave, and write a letter. But Lucy had not fainted. She had only thrown herself on the floor in that agony which would gladly creep into the grave to forget itself. In all grief unmingled with anger there is the impulse to lie down. Lucy had not heard Mr. Sargent return or her grandmother coine down, for she had been pressing her ears with her hands, as if the last sounds that had entered had wounded them grievously.
6 Well, I'm sure ! what next ?" remarked Mrs. Boxall. “I daresay fashions have come to that at last!”
What she meant was not very clear ; but the moment she spoke, Lucy started from the floor and left the room. She had not been long in her own chamber, however, before, with the ingenuity of a lover, she contrived to draw a little weak comfort even out of what Mr. Sargent had told her. She believed that he had done
worse than part with her ring ; but when the thought struck her that it must have been for the sake of redeeming that ring that he had robbed his employer, which was indeed the case, somehow or other, strange as it may seem, the offences appeared mutually to mitigate each other. And when she thought the whole matter over in the relief of knowing that she was free of Mr. Sargent, she quite believed that she had discovered fresh ground for taking courage.
MRS. BOXALL FINDS A COMPANION IN MISFORTUNE.
At last the day arrived that Lucy and her grandmother had fixed for removing into the bookseller's house. The furniture was all Mrs. Boxall's own, though, if Mr. Worboise had thought proper to dispute the fact, there was nobody left who could have borne witness to it. Mr. Kitely shut shop a little earlier ; Mr. Spelt descended from his perch ; and Mr. Dolman crept out of his hole-all to bear a hand in the moving of it. It was dusk when they began, but the darkness did not hinder their diligence, and in the course of a couple of hours, all the heavier articles were in their new places. When everything was got into something like order, it did not appear that, save for the diminution of space, they had had such a terrible downcome. Lucy was heartily satisfied with their quarters, and the feeling that she had now to protect and work for her grandmother gave a little cheerfulness to her behaviour, notwithstanding the weight on her heart. Mattie was important, with an importance which not even the delight of having Miss Burton to live with them could assuage ; for she had to preside at a little supper which Mr. Kitely had procured, in honour of the occasion, from the same cookshop which supplied the feasts of Spelt and Poppie. But when things were partially arranged for the night, Mrs. Boxall, who was in a very despondent condition, declared her intention of going to bed. Lucy would gladly have done the same, but she could not think of doing dishonour to the hospitality of their kind friend.
Well, I am sorry the old lady can't be prevailed upon," said Mr. Kitely. “Them sassages I know to be genuine-none of your cats or cats' meat either. I know the very tree they grew upon -eh, princess ? And now we shan't be able to eat 'em up."
“Why don't you ask Mr. Spelt to come in and help us ?" said Mattie.
“Bless you ! he's gone to fetch his kid ; and before they come home they'll have bought their supper. They always do. I know
their ways. But I do believe that's them gone up the court this minute. I'll run and see.”
Mr. Kitely hurried out, and returned with Mr. Spelt, Pappie, and the steam-engine, which was set down in the middle of the
“Ain't I been fortnate," said the bookseller. “ Poppie ain't sold all her potatoes. They was a going to eat 'em up by way of savin.' So we've agreed to club, and go share and share. Ain't that it, Poppie ? "
Poppie grinned, and gave no other answer. But her father took up the word.
“It's very kind of you to put it so, Mr. Kitely. But it seems to me we're hardly fit company for a lady like Miss Burton.”
“Surely, Mr. Spelt, we haven't been neighbours so long without being fit to have our supper together?” said Lucy.
“That's very neighbourly of you, miss. Let me assist you to potato,” said Spelt, going towards the steamer. “It's my belief there ain't no better taters in London, though I says it as buys 'em," he added, throwing back the lid.
But we ain't going to begin on the taters, Spelt. You come and sit down here, and we'll have the taters put on a plate. That's the right way, ain't it princess?"
Well, I should say so, Mr. Kitely," answered Mattie, who had hitherto been too full of her own importance even to talk. But Mr. Spelt interfered.
“ Them taters," said he, with decision, “ought to be eaten fresh out of the steamer. If you turn 'em out on to a plate, I don't answer for the consequences. We'll pull 'em nearer to the table, and I'll sit by them, with your leave, Miss Burton, and help everybody as wants one.”
It was remarkable with how much more decision than had be. longed to him formerly, Mr. Spelt now spoke. Mr. Kitely, after a half-hour's meditation next day, as to whether the cause of it was Poppie or the potatoes, came to the wise conclusion that between them they had made a man of Spelt.
By this time they were all seated round the table.
“Mr. Spelt, you be parson, and say grace," said Kitely, in his usual peremptory tone.
“Why should you ask me, Mr. Kitely?" said the tailor, humbly. Because
you know more about that sort o' thing than I do and you
know it." Mr. Spelt said grace so devoutly that nobody could hear him. “Why do you say grace as if you was ashamed of it, Spelt? If I was to say grace now, I would let you hear me."
I didn't know you cared about such things,” returned Spelt, evasively.