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or two more passed, which seemed endless to Thomas, and then the maid came to the door, and asked him to go in. He obeyed.
His mother lay in bed, propped up as she used to be on the sofa. She looked much worse than before. She stretched out her arms to him, kissed him, and held his head to her bosom. He had never before had such an embrace from her.
“ My boy! my boy!" she cried, weeping. “Thank God, I have you again. You'll tell me all about it, won't you ?”
She went on weeping and murmuring words of endearment and gratitude for some time. Then she released him, holding one of his hands only.
“ There's a chair there. Sit down and tell me about it. I am afraid your poor father has been hard upon you."
“We won't talk about my father," said Thomas. “I have faults enough of my own to confess, mother. But I won't tell you all about them now. I have been very wicked-gambling and worse; but I will never do so any more. I am ashamed and sorry; and I think God will forgive me. Will you forgive me, mother?"
“ With all my heart, my boy. And you know that God forgives every one that believes in Jesus. I hope you have given your heart to him, at last. Then I shall die happy.”
“I don't know, mother, whether I have or not, but I want to do what's right.”
“That won't save you, my poor child. You'll have a talk with Mr. Simon about it, 'won't you? I'm not able to argue anything now."
It would have been easiest for Thomas to say nothing, and leave his mother to hope, at least; but he had begun to be honest, therefore he would not deceive her. But in his new anxiety to be honest, he was in great danger of speaking roughly, if not rudely. Those who find it difficult to oppose are in more danger than others of falling into that error when they make opposition a point of conscience. The unpleasantness of the duty irritates them.
“Mother, I will listen to anything you choose to say ; but I won't see that," fool he was going to add, but he avoided the epithet“I won't talk about such things to a man for whom I have no respect.”
Mrs. Worboise gave a sigh ; but, perhaps partly because her own respect for Mr. Simon had been a little shaken of late, she said nothing. Thomas resumed.
'If I hadn't been taken by the hand by a very different man from him, mother, I shouldn't have been here to-day. Thank God! Mr. Fuller is something like a clergyman !”
“Who is he, Thomas ? I think I have heard the name," "He is the clergyman of St. Amos's in the City."
"Ah ! I thought so. A ritualist, I'm afraid, Thomas. They lay their snares for young people.”
"Nonsense, mother!" said Thomas, irreverently. "I don't know what you mean. Mr. Fuller, I think, would not feel flattered to be told that he belonged to any party whatever but that of Jesus Christ himself. But I should say, if he belonged to any, it would be the Broad Church."
“I don't know which is worst. The one believes all the lying idolatry of the Papists; the other believes nothing at all. I'm sadly afraid, Thomas, you've been reading Bishop Colenso."
Mrs. Worboise believed, of course, in no distinctions but those she saw; and if she had heard the best men of the Broad Church party repudiate Bishop Colenso, she would only have set it down to Jesuitism.
A sailor hasn't much time for reading, mother." “A sailor, Thomas! What do you mean? Where have you been all this time?” she asked, examining his appearance anxiously.
“At sea, mother." “My boy! my boy! that is a godless calling. How ever-?" Thomas interrupted her.
“ They that go down to the sea in ships were supposed once to see the wonders of the Lord, mother."
“Yes. But when will you be reasonable? That was in David's time."
“ The sea is much the same, and man's heart is much the same. Anyhow, I'm a sailor, and a sailor I must be. I have nothing else to do."
“ Mr. Boxall's business is all your father's now, I hear, though I am sure I cannot understand it. Whatever you've done, you can go back to the counting-house, you know.”
“I can't, mother. My father and I have parted for ever."
“Oh, Tom, Tom ! Why do you set yourself against your father?"
"Well, mother, I don't want to be impertinent; but it seems to me it's no more than you have been doing all your life.”
“For conscience-sake, Tom. But in matters indifferent we ought to yield, you
know." • Is it an indifferent matter to keep one's engagements, mother? To be true to one's word ?"
“But you had no right to make them.”
“ They are made, anyhow, and I must bear the consequences of keeping them.”
Mrs. Worboise was nearly worn out. Tom saw it, and rose to "Am I never to see you again, Tom?" she asked, despairingly.
“ Every time I come to London--so long as my father doesn't make you shut the door against me, mother.”
“That shall never be, my boy. And you really are going on that sea again?"
“ Yes, mother. It's an honest calling. And believe me, mother, it's often easier to pray to God on shipboard than it is sitting at a desk.”
“Well, well, my boy!" said his mother, with a great sigh of weariness. "If I only knew that you were possessed of saving faith, I could bear even to hear that you had been drowned. It may happen any day, you know, Thomas.”
"Not till God pleases. Í shan't be drowned before that.”
“ God has given no pledge to protect any but those that put faith in the merits of his Son."
“Mother, mother, I can't tell a bit what you mean.”
“ The way of salvation is so plain that he that runneth may read."
“So you say, mother ; but I don't see it so. Now I'll tell you what: I want to be good.”
“My dear boy!”
"And I pray, and will pray to God to teach me whatever he wants me to learn. So if your way is the right one, God will teach me that. Will that satisfy you, mother ? "
“My dear, it is of no use mincing matters. God has told us plainly in his holy word that he that puts his trust in the merits of Christ shall be saved ; and he that does not shall be sent to the place of misery for ever and ever.”
The good woman believed that she was giving a true representation of the words of Scripture when she said so, and they were an end of all controversy.
“But, mother, what if a man can't believe ?"
“Then he must take the consequences. There's no provision made for that in the word.”
“But if he wants to believe, mother?" said Tom, in a small agony at his mother's hardness.
"" There's no man that can't believe, if he's only willing. I used to think otherwise. But Mr. Simon thinks so, and he has brought me to see that he is right.”
“Well, mother, I'm glad Mr. Simon is not at the head of the universe, for then it would be a paltry affair. But it ill becomes me to make remarks upon anybody. Mr. Simon hasn't disgraced himself like me, after all, though I'm pretty sure if I had had such teaching as Mr. Fuller's instead of his, I should never have fallen as I have done."
Thomas said this with some bitterness as he rose to take his leave. He had no right to say so. Men as good as he, with teaching as good as Mr. Fuller's, have yet fallen. He forgot that
he had had the schooling of sin and misery to prepare the soil of his heart before Mr. Fuller's words were sown in it. Even Mr. Simon could have done a little for him in that condition, if he had only been capable of showing him a little pure human sympathy.
His mother gave him another tearful embrace. Thomas's heart was miserable at leaving her thus fearful, almost hopeless about him. How terrible it would be for her in the windy nights, when she could not sleep, to think that if he went to the bottom, it must be to go deeper still! He searched his mind eagerly for something that might comfort her. It flashed upon him at last.
“Mother dear," he said, “ Jesus said, Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." I will go to him. I will promise you that, if you like. That is all I can say, and I think that ought to be enough. If he gives me rest, shall I not be safe? And whoever says that he will not if I go to him"
“In the appointed way, my dear."
“He says nothing more than go to him. I say I will go to him, the only way that a man can, when he is in heaven and I am on the earth. And if Mr. Simon or anybody says that he will not give me rest, he is a liar. If that doesn't satisfy you, mother, I don't believe you have any faith in him yourself.”
With this outburst, Thomas again kissed his mother, and then left the room. Nor did his last words displease her. I do not by any means set him up as a pattern of filial respect even towards his mother ; nor can I approve altogether of the form his confession of faith took, for there was in it a mixture of that graceless material--the wrath of man; but it was good notwithstanding : and such a blunt utterance was far more calculated to carry some hope into his mother's mind than any amount of arguing upon the points of difference between them.
As he reached the landing his sister Amy came rushing up the stair from the dining-room, with her hair in disorder, and a blushing face. “Why, Tom !” she said, starting back. Tom took her in his arms.
“How handsome you have grown, Tom !” said Amy; and breaking from him ran up to her mother's room.
Passing the dining-room door, Tom saw Mr. Simon looking into the fire. The fact was he had just made Amy an offer of marriage. Tom let him stand and hurried back on foot to his friend, his heart full, and his thoughts in confusion.
He found him in his study, where he had made a point of staying all day that Tom might find him at any moment when he might want him. He rose eagerly to meet him.
“Now see I by thine eyes that this is done,” he said, quoting King Arthur.
They sat down, and Tom told him all.
" I wish you had managed a little better with your father," he said.
" I wish I had, sir. But it is done, and there is no help for it now."
“No; I suppose not-at present, at least.”
“As far as Lucy is concerned, it would have made no difference, if you had been in my place-I am confident of that."
“I daresay you are right. But you have earned your dinner anyhow; and here comes Mrs. Jones to say it is ready. Come along."
Thomas's face fell. “I thought I should have gone to see Lucy now, sir." “ I believe she will not be at home.” “ She was always home from Mrs. Morgenstern's before now.”
“ Yes. But she has to work much harder now. You see her grandmother is dependent on her now.”
“And where are they? My father told me himself he had turned them out of the house in Guild Court."
“Yes. But they are no further off for that: they have lodgings at Mr. Kitely's. Í think you had better go and see your friends the sailor and publican after dinner, and by the time you come back, I shall have arranged for your seeing her. You would hardly like to take your chance, and find her with her grandmother and Mattie.”
Who is Mattie? Oh, I know that dreadful little imp of Kitely's."
" I daresay she can make herself unpleasant enough,” said Mr. Fuller, laughing ; " but she is a most remarkable and very interesting child. I could hardly have believed in such a child if I had
not known her. She was in great danger, I allow, of turning out a • little prig, if that word can be used of the feminine gender, but your friend Lucy has saved her from that.”
“God bless her," said Thomas fervently. " She has saved me too, even if she refuses to have anything more to do with me. How shall I tell her everything! Since I have had it over with my father and Stopper, I feel as if I were whitewashed, and to have to tell her what a sepulchre I am is dreadful—and she so white outside and in!”
“Yes, it's hard to do, my boy, but it must be done."
“I would do it, I would insist upon it, even if she begged me not, Mr. Fuller. If she were to say that she would love me all the same, and I needn't say a word about the past, for it was all over now, I would yet beg her to endure the ugly story for my sake, that I might hear my final absolution from her lips."
" That's right,” said Mr. Fuller.