bably to ease his own conscience Jim-wards, handed him a glass of old Tom, which Jim, not without suspicion of false play, emptied and deposited. From that day, although he continued to call occasionally at The Mermaid, he lost all

interest in his late client, never referred him, and always talked of Bessie Potts as if he himself had taken her out of the water.

The acquaintance between Dolman and him began about this time to grow a little more intimate, and after the meeting which I have described above, they met pretty frequently, when Mr. Dolman communicated to him such little facts as transpired about " them lawyers," namely Mr. Worboise's proceedings. Amongst the rest was the suspicious disappearance of the son, whom Mr. Dolman knew, not to speak to, but by sight, as well as his own lapstone. Mr. Salter, already suspicious of his man, requested a description of the missing youth, and concluded that it was the same in whom he had been so grievously disappointed, for the odd sixpence represented any conceivable amount of meanness, not to say wicked.

This increased intimacy with Jim did Dolman no good, and although he would not yet forsake his work during work-hours, he would occasionally permit Jim to fetch a jug of beer from a neigh. bouring tavern, and consume it with him in his shop. On these occasions they had to use great circumspection with regard to Dolly's landlord, who sat over his head. But in the winter nights, Mr. Spelt would put up the outside shutter over his window to keep the cold out, only occasionally opening his door to let a little air in. This made it possible to get the beer introduced below without discovery, when Dolman snail-like closed the mouth of his shell also, in which there was barely room for two, and stitched away while Jim did the chief part of the drinking and talking-in an undertone-for him--not so low, however, but that Spelt could hear not a little that set him thinking: It was pretty clear that young Worboise was afraid to show himself, and this and other points he communicated to his friend Kitely. This same evening they were together thus when they heard a hurried step come up and stop before the window, and the voice of Mr. Kitely, well known to Dolman, called to the tailor overhead.

Spelt, I say. Spelt !" Mr. Spelt looked out at his door. “Yes, Mr. Kitely. What's the matter ?"

“ Here's that young devil's limb, Worboise, been and sent a letter to Miss Burton by your Poppie, and he's a-waitin' an answer Come along, and we'll take him alive.”

“But what do you want to do with him ? " asked Spelt.
“ Take him to Mr. Fuller."
“ But what if he won't come ?"

“We can threaten him with the police, as if we knew all about it. Come along. There's no time to be lost.”

“But what would you take him to Mr. Fuller for ?" My reader may well be inclined to ask the same question. I will explain. Mr. Kitely was an original man in thinking, and . rarely practical man in following it up, for he had confidence in his own conclusions. Ever since he had made the acquaintance of Mr. Fuller through Mattie's illness, he had been feeling his influence more and more, and was gradually reforming his ways in many little things that no one knew of but himself. No one in London knew him as anything but an honest man, but I presume there are few men so honest that if they were to set about it seriously, they could not be honester still. I suspect that the most honest man of my acquaintance will be the readiest to acknowledge this; for honesty has wonderful offshoots from its great tap-root. Having this experience in himself, he had faith in the moral power of Mr. Fuller. Again, since Lucy had come to live in the house, he had grown to admire her yet more, and the attention and kindness she continued to show to his princess, caused an equal rowth in his gratitude. Hence it became more and more monstrous in his eyes that she should be deprived of her rights in such a villainous man. ner by the wickedness of "them Worboises.” For the elder he was afraid that he was beyond redemption ; but if he could get a hold of the younger, and put him under Mr. Fuller's pump, for that was how he represented the possible process of cleansing to himself, something might come of it. He did not know that Thomas was entirely ignorant of his father's relation to the property of the late Richard Boxall, and that no man in London would have less influence with Worboise, senior, than Worboise, junior. He had had several communications with Mr. Fuller on the subject, and had told him all he knew. Mr. Fuller likewise had made out that this must be the same young man of whom Lucy had spoken in such trouble. But as he had disappeared, nothing could be done even if he had had the same hope of good results from the interview as Mr. Kitely, whose simplicity and eagerness amused as well as pleased him. When Mr. Kitely, therefore, received from Poppie Thomas's ietter to give to Lucy, who happened to be out, he sped at once, with his natural promptitude, to secure Mr. Spelt's assistance in carrying out his conspiracy against Thomas.

As soon as the two below heard Mr. Spelt scramble down and depart with Mr. Kitely, they issued from their station ; Mr. Dolman anxious to assist in the capture, Mr. Salter wishing to enjoy his disgrace, for the odd sixpence rankled. As soon as they saw him within the inner door of the church they turned and departed. They knew nothing about churches, and were unwilling to enter. They did not know what they might be in for, if they went in. Neither had they any idea for what object Thomas was taken there. Dolman went away with some vague notion about the Ecclesiastical Court; for he tried to read the papers sometimes. This notion ho

imparted with equal vagueness to the brain of Jim Salter, already muddled with the beer he had drunk. Dolman went back to his work, hoping to hear about it when Spelt came home. Jim wandered eastward, to convey a somewhat incorrect idea of what had happened to the inhabitants of The Mermaid. Having his usual design on The Mermaid's resources, his story lost nothing in the telling, and, in great perplexity and greater uneasiness, Captain Smith and Mr. Potts started to find out the truth of the matter. Jim conducted them to the church-door, which was still open,

and retired round the corner.

Meantime the captors and the culprit waited till the service was over. As soon as Mr. Fuller had retired to the vestry and the con. gregation had dispersed, Mr. Kitely intimated to Thomas that he must follow him, and led the way up the church. With the fear of the police still before his eyes, Thomas did follow, and the little tailor brought up the rear. Hardly waiting, in his impatience, to knock at the door, Mr. Kitely popped his head in as Mr. Fuller was standing in his shirt-sleeves, and said, with ill-suppressed triumph,

“Here he is, sir! I've got him !” “Whom do you mean ?" said Mr. Fuller, arrested by surprise with one arm in his coat and the other hand searching for the other sleeve.

“Young Worboise. The lawyer-chap, you know, sir,” he added, seeing that the name conveyed no idea.

Oh!" said Mr. Fuller, prolongedly. “Show him in, then.” And on went his coat.

Thomas entered, staring in bewilderment. Nor was Mr. Fuller quite at his ease at first, when the handsome brown sailor-lad stepped into the vestry. But he shook hands with him, and asked him to take a chair. Thomas obeyed. Seeing his conductors lin. gered, Mr. Fuller then said,

“You must leave us alone now, Mr. Kitely. How do you do, Mr. Spelt?”

They retired, and after a short consultation together in the church, agree that they had done their part and could do no more, and went home.



As soon as the door closed behind them, Mr. Fuller turned to Tom, saying, as he took a chair near him, " I'm very glad to see you, Mr. Worboise. I have long wanted to have a little talk with you.“

“ Will you tell me," said Tom, with considerable uneasiness, not.

withstanding the pacific appearance of everything about him," why those people have made me come to you? I was afraid of making a row in the street, and so I thought it better to give in. But I have not an idea why I am here."

Mr. Fuller thought there must be some further reason, else a young man of Thomas's appearance would not have so quietly yielded to the will of two men like Kitely and Spelt. But he kept this conclusion to himself.

“ It certainly was a most unwarrantable proceeding if they used any compulsion. But I have no intention of using any-nor should I have much chance," he added, laughing, “if it came to a tussle with a young fellow like you, Mr. Worboise.”

This answer restored Tom to his equanimity a little.

“ Perhaps you know my father," he said, finding that Mr. Fuller was silent. In fact, Mr. Fuller was quite puzzled how to proceed. He cared little for the business part, and for the other, he must not compromise Lucy. Clearly the lawyer-business was the only beginning. And this question of Tom's helped him to it.

* I have not the pleasure of knowing your father. I wish I had. But after all, it is better I should have a chat with you first."

“ Most willingly,” said Tom, with courtesy:

“ It is a very unconventional thing I am about to do. But very likely you will give me such information as may enable me to set the minds of some of my friends at rest. I am perfectly aware what a lame introduction this is, and I must make a foolish figure indeed, except you will kindly understand that sometimes a clergyman is compelled to meddle with matters which he would gladly leave alone."

" I have too much need of forbearance myself not to grant it, sir -although I do not believe any will be necessary in your case. Pray make me understand you.

Mr. Fuller was greatly pleased with this answer, and proceeded to business at once.

“I am told by a man who is greatly interested in one of the parties concerned, that a certain near relative of yours is in possession of a large property which ought by right, if not by law, to belong to an old lady who is otherwise destitute. I wish to employ your mediation to procure a settlement upon her of such small portion of the property at least as will make her independent. I am certainly explicit enough now,” concluded Mr. Fuller, with a considerable feeling of relief in having discharged himself, if not of his duty, yet of so creditable a beginning of it.

“I am as much in the dark as ever, sir," returned Thomas. “I know nothing of what you refer to. If you mean my father, I am the last one to know anything of his affairs. I have not seen him or heard from him for months."

“ But you cannot surely be ignorant of the case. It has been

reported in the public prints from time to time. It seems that your father has come in for the contingent reversion-I think that is the phrase, I'm not sure—of all the property of the late Richard Boxall,

“ By Jove !" cried Thomas, starting to his feet in a rage, then sinking back on his chair in conscious helplessness.

“ He did make his will," he muttered.

“Leaving,” Mr. Fuller went on, “the testator's mother and niece utterly unprovided for."

“But grannie had money of her own in the business. I have heard her say so a thousand times.”

“She has nothing now."

“My father is a villain !” exclaimed Thomas, starting once more to his feet, and pacing up and down the little vestry like a wild beast in a cage.

" And what am I?” he added, after a pause. “I have brought all this upon her.” He could say no more. He sat down, hid his face in his hands, and sobbed.

Thomas was so far mistaken in this, that his father, after things had gone so far as they had gone, would have done as he had done, whatever had been Thomas's relation to the lady. But certainly, if Thomas had behaved as he ought, things could not have gone thus far. He was a cause of all the trouble.

Nothing could have been more to Mr. Fuller's mind.

“ As to Miss Burton," he said, “ I happen to know that she has another grief, much too great to allow her to think about money. A clergyman, you know, comes to hear of many things. She never told me who he was," said Mr. Fuller, with hesitation ; " but she confessed to me that she was in great trouble."

“Oh, sir, what shall I do?” cried Thomas. “ I love her with all my heart, but I can never, never dare to think of her more. I came up to London at the risk of-of-I came up to London only to see her and give her back this ring, and beg her to forgive me, and go away for ever. And now I have not only given her pain"

“Pain !” echoed Mr. Fuller. “If she weren't so good, her heart would have broken before now."

Thomas burst out sobbing again. He turned his face away from Mr. Fuller, and stood by the wall, shaken with misery. Mr. Fuller left him alone for a minute or two. Then going up to him, he put his hand on his shoulder kindly, and said,

“My dear boy, I suspect you have got into some terrible scrape, or you would not have disappeared as they tell me. behaviour seems to confirm the suspicion. Tell me all about it, and I have very little doubt that I can help you out of it. But you must tell me everything." "I will, sir ; I will," Tom sobbed.

Mind, no half-confessions. I have no right to ask you to con

And your

« ForrigeFortsett »