Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

fess but on the ground of helping you. But if I am to help you, I must know all. Can I trust you that you will be quite straightforward and make a clean breast of it?"

Tom turned round, and looked Mr. Fuller calmly in the face. The light of hope shone in his eyes : the very offer of hearing all his sin and misery gave him hope. To tell it would be to get rid of some of the wretchedness.

“I hate myself so, sir,” he said, “that I do not feel it worth while to hide anything. I will speak the truth. When you wish to know more than I tell, ask me any questions you please, and I will answer them.” • At this moment a tap was heard at the vestry door, and it opened, revealing two strange figures with scared interrogating faces on the top-the burly form of Captain Smith, and the almost as bulky, though differently arranged, form of Mr. Potts.

"Don't 'e be too hard on the young gentleman, sir,” said Mr. Potts, in the soothing tone of one who would patch up a family quarrel. “He won't do it again, I'll go bail. You don't know, sir, what a good sort he is. Don't 'é get him into no trouble. He lost his life-all but-a reskewing of my Bessie. He did now. True as the Bible, sir,” added Mr. Potts, with conciliatory flattery to the clergyman's profession, whom they took for the father or uncle of Thomas.

“ You just let me take him off again, sir," put in Captain Smith, while the face of Mr. Potts, having recovered its usual complexion, looked on approvingly, like a comic but benevolent moon.

Mr. Fuller had a wise way of never interrupting till he saw in what direction the sense lay. So he let them talk, and the seaman went on.

“Everybody knows the sea's the place for curing the likes o' them fine fellows as carries too much sail ashore. They soon learns their reef-points there. Why, parson, sir, he's been but three or four voyages, and I'll take him for an able-bodied seaman tomorrow. He's a right good sort, though he may ha' been a little frolicsome on shore. We was all young once, sir."

Are these men friends of yours, Mr. Worboise ?” asked Mr. Fuller.

"Indeed they are," answered Thomas. “I think I must have killed myself before now, if it hadn't been for those two."

So saying he shook hands with Mr. Potts, and, turning to the captain, said,

* Thank you, thank you, captain, but I am quite safe with this gentleman. I will come and see you to-morrow.”

“He shall sleep at my house to-night," said Mr. Fuller ; " and no harm shall happen to him, I promise you."

“ Thank you, sir ;” and “Good-night, gentlemen," said both, and went through the silent wide church with a kind of awe that rarely visited either of them.

Without further preface than just the words, "Now, I will tell you all about it, sir," Thomas began his story. When he had finished it, having answered the few questions he put to him in its course, Mr. Fuller was satisfied that he did know all about it, and that if ever there was a case in which he ought to give all the help he could, here was one. He did not utter a word of reproof. Thomas's condition of mind was such that it was not only unnecessary, but might have done harm. He had now only to be met with the same simplicity which he had himself shown. The help must match the confession.

Well, we must get you out of this scrape, somehow," he said, heartily.

“I don't see how you can, sir."

“ It rests with yourself chiefly. Another can only help. The feet that walked into the mire must turn and walk out of it again. I don't mean to reproach you only to encourage you to effort.”

“What effort ?" said Tom. “I have scarcely heart for anything. I have disgraced myself for ever. Suppose all the consequences of my-doing as I did”—he could not yet call the deed by its name

were to disappear, I have a blot upon me to all eternity, that nothing can wash out. For there is the fact. I almost think it is not worth while to do anything."

You are altogether wrong about that,” returned Mr. Fuller. "It is true that the deed is done, and that that cannot be obliterated. But a living soul may outgrow all stain and all reproach–I do not mean in the judgment of men merely, but in the judgment of God, which is always founded on the actual fact, and always calls things by their right names, and covers no man's sin, although he forgives it and takes it away. A man may abjure his sin so, cast it away from him so utterly, with pure heart and full intent, that, although he did it, it is his no longer. But, Thomas Worboise, if the stain of it were to cleave to you to all eternity, that would be infinitely better than that you should have continued capable of doing the thing. You are more honourable now than you were before. Then you were capable of the crime ; now, I trust, you are not. It was far better that, seeing your character was such that you could do it, you should thus be humbled by disgracing yourself, than that you should have gone on holding up a proud head in the world, with such a deceitful hollow of weakness in your heart. It is the kindest thing God can do for his children, sometimes, to let them fall in the mire. You would not hold by your Father's hand; you struggled to pull it away; he let it go, and there you lay. Now that you stretch forth the hand to him again, he will take you, and clean, not your garments only, but your heart, and soul, and consciousness. Pray to your Father, my boy. He will change your humiliation into humility, your shame into purity."

“Oh, if he were called anything else than Father!' I am afraid I hate my father.”

“ I don't wonder. But that is your own fault, too."

“ How is that, sir ? Surely you are making even me out worse than I am."

“No. You are afraid of him. As soon as you have ceased to be afraid of him, you will no longer be in danger of hating him."

“ I can't help being afraid of him.”

You must break the bonds of that slavery. No slave can be God's servant. His servants are all free rnen. But we will come to that presently. You must not try to call God your Father, till father means something very different to you from what it seems to mean now. Think of the grandest human being you can imagine—the tenderest, the most gracious, whose severity is boundless, but hurts himself most-all against evil, all for the evil-doer. God is all that, and infinitely more. You need not call him by any name till the name bursts from your heart. God our Saviour means all the names in the world, and infinitely more! One thing I can assure you of, that even I, if you will but do your duty in regard to this thing, will not only love-yes, I will say that word-will not only love, but honour you far more than if I had known you only as a respectable youth. It is harder to turn back than to keep at home. I doubt if there could be such joy in heaven over the repenting sinner if he was never to be free of his disgrace. But I like you the better for having the feeling of eternal disgrace now."

“I will think God is like you, sir. Tell me what I am to do."

“I am going to set you the hardest of tasks, one after the other. They will be like the pinch of death. But they must be done. And after that-peace. Who is at the head of the late Mr. Boxall's business now ?"

I suppose Mr. Stopper. He was head-clerk.” “You must go to him and take him the money you stole." Thomas turned ashy pale. “ I haven't got it, sir.” “How much was it, did you say?" “ Eleven pounds---nearly twelve." “I will find you the money. I will lend it to you."

“Thank you, thank you, sir. I will not spend a penny I can help till I repay you. But” Yes, now come the buts," said Mr. Fuller, with a smile of kind

“What is the first but?" Stopper is a hard man, and never liked me. He will give me up to the law."

“I can't help it. It must be done. But I do not believe he will do that. I will help you so far as to promise you to do all that lies in my power in every way to prevent it. And there is your father : his word will be law with him now."

“So much the worse, sir. He is ten times as hard as Stopper." “ He will not be willing to disgrace his own family, though.”

ness.

"I know what he will do. He will make it a condition that I shall give up Lucy. But I will go to prison before I will do that. Not that it will make any difference in the end, for Lucy won't have a word to say to me now. She bore all that woman could bear. But she shall give me up-she has given me up, of course ; but I will never give her up that way.”

“That's right, my boy.—Well, what do you say to it ?”

Tom was struggling with himself. With a sudden resolve, the source of which he could not tell, he said, “I will, sir." With a new light in his face he added, “What next ?"

“Then you must go to your father.”
“ That is far worse. I am afraid I can't."

“You must-if you should not find a word to say when you go if you should fall in

faint on the floor when you try." “ I will, sir. Am I to tell him everything ?"

“ I am not prepared to say that. If he had been a true father to you, I should have said 'Of course.' But there is no denying the fact that such he has not been-or rather, that such he is not. The point lies there. I think that alters the affair. It is one thing to confess to God and another to the devil. Excuse me, I only put the extremes."

“What ought I to tell him, then ?"

“I think you will know that best when you see him. We cannot tell how much he knows."

“Yes," said Thomas, thoughtfully; "I will tell him that I am sorry I went away as I did, and ask him to forgive me. Will that do ?"

“I must leave all that to your own conscience, heart, and honesty. Of course, if he receives you at all, you must try what you can do for Mrs. Boxall."

Alas ! I know too well how useless that will be. It will only enrage him the more at them. He may offer to put it all right, though, if I promise to give Lucy up. Must I do that, sir ? ”

Knowing more about Lucy's feelings than Thomas, Mr. Fuller answered at once-though if he had hesitated, he might have discovered ground for hesitating“On no account whatever.”

And what must I do next?” he asked, more cheerfully. “ There's your mother." " Ah ! you needn't remind me of her."

“ Then you must not forget Miss Burton. You have some apology to make to her too, I suppose."

“ I had just sent her a note, asking her to meet me once more, and was waiting for her answer, when the bookseller laid hold of

I was so afraid of making a row, lest the police should come, that I gave in to him. I owe him more than ever I can repay.'

“You will when you have done all you have undertaken."

me.

" But how am I to see Lucy now? She will not know where I am. But perhaps she will not want to see me.”

Here Tom looked very miserable again. Anxious to give him courage, Mr. Fuller said,

“Come home with me now. In the morning, after you have seen Mr. Stopper, and your father and mother, come back to my house. I am sure she will see you.”

With more thanks in his heart than on his tongue, Tom followed Mr. Fuller from the church. When they stepped into the street, they found the bookseller, the seaman, and the publican, talking together on the pavement. It's all right," said Mr. Fuller, as he passed them.

" Goodnight." Then, turning again to Mr. Kitely, he added in a low voice, " He knows nothing of his father's behaviour, Kitely. You'll be glad to hear that.”

"I ought to be glad to hear it for his own sake, I suppose," returned the bookseller. “But I don't know as I am for all that.“

“ Have patience ; have patience,” said the parson, and walked on, taking Thomas by the arm.

For the rest of the evening Mr. Fuller avoided much talk with the penitent, and he sent him to bed early.

CHAPTER L

THOMAS AND MR. STOPPER.

THOMAS did not sleep much that night, and was up betimes in the morning. Mr. Fuller had risen before him, however, and when Thomas went down-stairs, after an invigorating cold bath, which his host had taken special care should be provided for him, along with clean linen, he found him in his study reading. He received him very heartily, looking him, with some anxiety, in the face, as if to see whether he could read action there. Apparently he was encouraged, for his own face brightened up, and they were soon talking together earnestly. But knowing Mr. Stopper's habit of being first at the counting-house, Thomas was anxious about the time, and Mr. Fuller hastened breakfast. That and prayers over, he put twelve pounds into Thomas's hand, which he had been out that morning already to borrow from a friend. Then, with a quaking heart, but determined will, Thomas set out and walked straight to Bagot Street. Finding no one there but the man sweeping out the place, he went a little farther, and there was the bookseller arranging his stall outside the window. Mr. Kitely regarded him with doubtful eyes, vouchsafing him a "good morning" of the gruffest.

« ForrigeFortsett »