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“Mr. Kitely," said Thomas, “ I am more obliged to you than I can tell, for what you did last night.”.
Perhaps you ought to be; but it wasn't for your sake, Mr. Worboise, that I did it.” “I am quite aware of that. Still
, if you will allow me to say so, I am as much obliged to you as if it had been."
Mr. Kitely grumbled something, for he was not prepared to be friendly.
let me wait in your shop till Mr. Stopper comes ?" “ There he is.”
Thomas's heart beat fast; but he delayed only to give Mr. Stopper time to enter the more retired part of the counting-house. Then he hurried to the door and went in.
Mr. Stopper was standing with his back to the glass partition, and took the entrance for that of one of his clerks. Thomas tapped at the glass door, but not till he had opened it and said " Mr. Stopper" did he take any notice. He started then, and turned ; but, having regarded him for a moment, gave a rather constrained smile, and, to his surprise, held out his hand.
“ It is very good of you to speak to me at all, Mr. Stopper," said Thomas, touched with gratitude already. "I don't deserve it."
“Well, I must say you have behaved rather strangely, to say the least of it. It might have been a serious thing for you, Mr. Thomas, if I hadn't been more friendly than you would have given me credit for. Look here."
And he showed him the sum of eleven pounds thirteen shillings and eightpence halfpenny put down to Mr. Stopper's debit in the petty cash book.
“ You understand that, I presume, Mr. Thomas? You ran the risk of transportation there."
“I know I did, Mr. Stopper. But just listen to me for a moment, and you will be able to forgive me, I think. I had been drinking, and gambling, and losing all night ; and I believe I was really drunk when I did that. Not that I didn't know I was doing wrong. I can't say that. And I know it doesn't clear me at all; but I want to tell you the truth of it. I've been wretched ever since, and daren't show myself. I have been bitterly punished. I haven't touched cards or dice since. Here's the money," he concluded, offering the notes and gold.
Mr. Stopper did not heed the action at first. He was regarding Thomas rather curiously. Thomas perceived it.
Yes, Thomas said, “I am a sailor. It's an honest way of living, and I like it."
“ But you'll come back now, won't you ?”
“ That depends," answered Thomas. “Would you take me now, Mr. Stopper?” he added, with a feeble experimental smile. “ But there's the money. Do take it out of my hands."
“It lies with your father now, Mr. Thomas. Have you been to Highbury? or course, I took care not to let him know.”
"Thank you heartily. I'm just going there. Do take the horrid money, and let me feel as if I weren't a thief after all.”
“As for the money, eleven pound, odd,” said Mr. Stopper, without looking at it," that's neither here nor there. It was a burglary, there can be no doubt, under the circumstances. But I owe you a quarter's salary, though I should not be bound to pay it, seeing you left as you did. Still, I want to be friendly, and you worked very fairly for it. I will hand you over the difference."
“No, never mind that. I don't care about the money. It was all that damned play,” said Thomas.
“Don't swear, Mr. Thomas,” returned Stopper, taking out the cheque-book, and proceeding to write a cheque for thirteen pounds six shillings and threepence halfpenny.
“ If you had suffered as much from it as I have, Mr. Stopper, you would see no harm in damning it."
Mr. Stopper made no reply, but handed him the cheque, with the words,
“Now we're clear, Mr. Thomas. But don't do it again. It won't pass twice. I've saved you this time."
“ Do it again !” cried Thomas, seizing Mr. Stopper's hand; “I would sooner cut my own throat. Thank you, thank you a thousand times, Mr. Stopper," he added, his heart brimful at this beginning of his day of horror.
Mr. Stopper very quietly withdrew his hand, turned round on his stool, replaced his cheque-book in the drawer, and proceeded to arrange his writing materials, as if nobody were there but himself. He knew well enough that it was not for Thomas's sake that he had done it; but he had no particular objection to take that credit for it. There was therefore something rudely imposing in the way in which he behaved to Thomas, and Thomas felt it, and did not resent it; for he had no right to be indignant : he was glad of any terms he could make. Let us hope that Mr. Stopper had a glimmering of how it might feel to have been kind, and that he was a little more ready in consequence to do a friendly deed in time to come, even when he could reap no benefit from it. Though Mr. Stopper's assumption of faithful friendship could only do him harm, yet perhaps Thomas's ready acknowledgment of it might do him good; for not unfrequently to behave to a man as good rouses his conscience and makes him wish that he were as good as he is taken for. It gives him almost a taste of what goodness is like-certainly a very faint and far-off reflex-yet a something.
Thomas left the counting-house a free man. He bounded back to Mr. Fuller, returned the money, showed him the cheque, and told him all
• There's a beginning for you, my boy !” said Mr. Fuller, almost as delighted as Thomas himself. Now for the next."
There came the rub. Thomas's countenance fell. He was afraid, and Mr. Fuller saw it.
“You daren't go near Lucy till you have been to your father. It would be to insult her, Thomas."
Tom caught up his cap from the table and left the house, once more resolved. It would be useless to go to Highbury at this hour; he would find his father at his office in the city. And he had not far to go to find him-unfortunately, thought Tom.
THOMAS AND HIS FATHER.
WHEN he was shown into his father's room he was writing a letter. Looking up and seeing Tom, he gave a grin--that is, a laugh without the smile in it-handed him a few of his fingers, pointed to a chair, and went on with his letter. This reception irritated Tom, and perhaps so far did him good that it took off the edge of his sheepishness-or rather, I should have said, put an edge upon it. Before his father he did not feel that he appeared exactly as a culprit. He had told him either to give up Lucy, or not to show his face at home again. He had lost Lucy, it might be—though hope had revived greatly since his interview with Mr. Stopper ; but, in any case, even if she refused to see him, he would not give her up. So he sat, more composed than he had expected to be, waiting for what should follow. In a few minutes his father looked up again, as he methodically folded his letter, and, casting a sneering glance at his son's garb, said, “What's the meaning of this masquerading, Tom ?”
It means that I'm dressed like my work," answered Tom, surprised at his own coolness, now that the ice was broken.
* What's your work then, pray ?”
I've made five coasting voyages since you turned me out,” said Tom.
“ I turned you out! You turned yourself out. Why the devil did you come back, then? Why don't you stick to your new trade ?"
“ You told me either to give up Lucy Burton, or to take lodgings in Wapping. I won't give up Lucy Burton."
“Take her to hell, if you like. What do you come back here for, with your cursed impudence? There's nobody I want less."
This was far from true. He had been very uneasy about his
son. Yet now that he saw him-a prey to the vile demon that ever stirred up his avarice, till the disease, which was as the rust spoken of by the prophet St. James, was eating his flesh as it were firehis tyrannical disposition, maddened by Thomas's resistance, and the consequent frustration of his noney-making plans, broke out against him in this fierce, cold, blasting wrath.
"I come here,” said Thomas and he said it merely to discharge himself of a duty, for he had not the thinnest shadow of a hope that it would be of service—“I come here to protest against the extreme to which you are driving your legal rights—which I have only just learned-against Mrs. Boxall.”
And her daughter. But I am not aware that I am driving my rights, as you emphasize the word," said Mr. Worboise, relapsing into his former manner, so cold that it stung ; "for I believe I hive driven them already almost as far as my knowledge of affairs allows me to consider prudent. I have turned those people out of the house."
"You have !” cried Thomas, starting to his feet. “Father ! father! you are worse than even I thought you. It is cruel. It is wicked."
"Don't discompose yourself about it. It is all your own fault, my son."
" I am no son of yours. From this moment I renounce you, and call you father no more," cried Thomas, in mingled wrath and horror and consternation at the atrocity of his father's conduct.
“ By what name, then, will you be pleased to be known in future, that I may say when I hear it that you are none of mine?”
" Oh, the devil !” burst out Tom, beside himself with his father's behaviour and treatment.
“Very well. Then I beg again to inform you, Mr. Devil, that it is your own fault. Give up that girl, and I will provide for the lovely syren and her harridan of a grandam for life; and take you home to wealth and a career which you shall choose for yourself.”
“No, father. I will not."
“Then take yourself off, and be" It is needless to print the close of the sentence.
Thomas rose and left the room. As he went down the stairs, his father shouted after him, in a tone of fury,
“You're not to go near your mother, mind.”
" I'm going straight to her," answered Tom, as quietly as he could.
"If you do, I'll murder her."
Tom came up the stair again to the door next his father's, where the clerks sat. He opened this, and said aloud,
Gentlemen, you hear what my father has just said. There may be occasion to refer to it again." Then returning to his father's door, he said in a low tone which only he could hear, “ My mother
may die any moment, as you very well know, sir. It may be awk. ward after what has just passed.”
Having said this, he left his father a little abashed. As his wrath ebbed, he began to admire his son's presence of mind, and even to take some credit for it: “A chip of the old block !” he muttered to himself. “Who would have thought there was so much in the rascal ? Sea-faring must agree with the young beggar !”
Thomas hailed the first hansom, jumped in, and drove straight to Highbury: Was it strange that notwithstanding the dreadful interview he had just had-notwithstanding, too, that he feared he had not behaved properly to his father, for his conscience had already begun to speak about comparatively little things, having been at last hearkened to in regard to great things that notwithstanding this, he should feel such a gladness in his being as he had never known before? The second and more awful load of duty was now lifted from his mind. True, if he had loved his father much, as it was simply impossible that he should, that load would have been replaced by another-misery about his father's wretched condition and the loss of his love. But although something of this would come later, the thought of it did not intrude now to destroy any of the enjoyment of the glad reaction from months-he would have said years-yea, a whole past life of misery-for the whole of his past life had been such a poor thing, that it seemed now as if the misery of the last few months had been only the misery of all his life coming to a head. And this indeed was truer than his judgment would yet have allowed : it was absolute fact, although he attributed it to an overwrought fancy.
THOMAS AND HIS MOTHER,
WHEN the maid opened the door to him she stared like an idiot ; yet she was in truth a woman of sense ; for before Thomas had reached the foot of the stairs she ran after him, saying,
“ Mr. Thomas ! Mr. Thomas ! you mustn't go up to mis'ess all of a sudden. You'll kill her if
do." Thomas paused at once. “Run up and tell her then. Make haste."
She sped up the stairs. Thomas followed, and remained out. side his mother's door. He had to wait a little while, for the maid was imparting the news with circumspection. He heard the low tone of his mother's voice, but could not hear what she said. At last came a little cry, and then he could hear a sob. A minute