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Away with it went all thought of Thomas's past behaviour. He was repentant. The prodigal had turned to go home, and she would walk with him and help his homeward steps. She loved him, and would love him more than ever. If there was more joy in heaven over one such than over ninety-and-nine who were not such, why not more joy in her soul ? Her heart beat so violently as she crossed Mr. Fuller's threshold, that she could hardly breathe. He took her into the sitting-room, where a most friendly fire was blazing, and left her. Still
she had asked no questions. She knew that she was going to see Thomas. Whether he was in the house or not, she did not know. She hardly cared. She could sit there, she thought, for years waiting for him ; but every ring of the door-bell made her start and tremble. There were so many rings that her heart had hardly time to quiet itself a little from one before another set it beating again worse than ever. At length there came a longer pause, and she fell into a dreamy study of the fire. The door opened at length, and she thought it was Mr. Fuller, and, not wishing to show any disquietude, sat still. A moment more, and Thomas was kneeling at her feet. He had good cause to kneel. He did not offer to touch her. He only said, in a choked voice, “Lucy," and bowed his head before her. She put her hands on the bowed head, drew it softly on her knees, gave one long, gentle, but irrepressible wail like a child, and burst into a quiet passion of tears. Thomas drew his head from her hands, sank on the floor, and lay sobbing, and kissing her feet. She could not move to make him cease. But when she recovered herself a little, after a measureless time to both of them, she stooped, put her hands round upon his face, and drew him upwards. He rose, but only to his knees.
“Lucy, Lucy,” he sobbed, “ will you forgive me?"
He could not say more yet. She bent forward and kissed his forehead.
“I have been very wicked. I will tell you all about it-everything." “No, no, Thomas. Only love me."
“ I love you-oh! I love you with all my heart and soul. I don't deserve to be allowed to love one of your hands; but if you will only let me love you, I will be your slave for ever. I don't even ask you to love me one little bit. If you will only let me love
“ Thomas," said Lucy, slowly, and struggling with her sobs, “my heart is so full of love and gladness that it is like to break. I can't
By degrees they grew calmer, but Thomas could not rest till she knew all.
“ Lucy," he said, “I can't be sure that all you give me is really mine till I've told you everything. Perhaps you won't love me not so much-when you know all. So I must tell you."
"I don't care what it is, Thomas, for I am sure you won't again."
“I will not," said Thomas, solemnly. “But please, Lucy darling, listen to me for my sake, not for your own, for it will hurt you
"If it will make you easier, Thomas, tell me everything." “ I will I will. I will hide nothing."
And Thomas did tell her everything. But Lucy cried so much, that when he came to the part describing his adventures in London after he took the money, he felt greatly tempted, and yielded to the temptation to try to give her the comical side as well. And at the very first hint of fun in the description he gave of Jim Salter, Lucy burst into such a fit of laughter, that Thomas was quité frightened, for it seemed as if she would never stop. So that between the laughing and crying Thomas felt like Christian between the quagmire and the pitfalls, and was afraid to say anything. But at length the story was told ; and how Lucy did, besides laughing and crying, at every new turn of the story-to show my reader my confidence in him I leave all that to his imagination, assuring him only that it was all right between them. My woman-readers will not require even this amount of information, for they have the gift of understanding without being told.
When he came to the point of his father offering to provide for them if he would give up Lucy, he hesitated, and said,
“Ought I to have done it, Lucy, for your sake ?”
“For my sake, Tom ! If you had said for grannie's—. But I know her well enough to be absolutely certain that she would starve rather than accept a penny from him, except as her right. Besides, I can make more money in a year than he would give her, I am pretty sure. So if you will keep me, Tom, I will keep her.”
Here Lucy discovered that she had said something very improper, and hid her face in her hands. But a knock came to the door, and then both felt so shy that neither dared to say, Come in. Therefore Mr. Fuller put his head in without being told, and said,
“ Have you two young people made it up yet ? " “Have we, Tom?" said Lucy. “I don't know," said Tom. “ What was it, sir?" Mr. Fuller laughed heartily, came near, put a hand on the head of each, and said,
“God bless you. I too am glad at my very heart. Now you must come to supper.”
But at supper, which the good man had actually cleared his table to have in the study that he might not disturb them so soon, Thomas had a good many questions to ask. And he kept on asking, for he wanted to understand the state of the case between Mrs. Boxall and his father. All at once, at one reply, he jumped from his seat, looking very strange.
“I must be off, Lucy. You won't hear from me for a day or
two. Good-bye, Mr. Fuller. I haven't time for a word,” he said, pulling out his watch. “Something may be done yet. It may all come to nothing. Don't ask me any questions. I may save months."
He rushed from the room, and left Mr. Fuller and Lucy staring at each other. Mr. Fuller started up a moment after and ran to the door, but only to hear the outer door bang, and Thomas shout, “Cab ahoy!” in the street. So there was nothing for it but to take Lucy home again. He left her at Mr. Kitely's door. "Well
, miss, what have you been about ?” said her grandmother.
" Having a long talk with Thomas, grannie," answered Lucy.
“You have !” exclaimed Mrs. Boxall, who had expected nothing else, rising slowly from her seat with the air of one about to pronounce a solemn malediction.
“Yes, grannie; but he knew nothing till this very night about the way his father has behaved to us.”
“He made you believe that, did he ?" “Yes, grannie.”
" Then you're a fool. He didn't know, did he? Then you'll never see him again. He comes of a breed bad enough to believe anything of. You give him up, or I give you up."
"No, I won't, grannie,” said Lucy, smiling in her face.
“ Very well, grannie," answered Lucy, putting her arms round her, and kissing her. Shall I fetch your bonnet ?"
Grannie vouchsafed no reply, but took her candle and went-up to bed.
JACK OF THE “NINGPO."
My reader will know better than Lucy or Mr. Fuller what Thomas was after. Having only a hope, he did not like to say much, and therefore, as well as that he might not lose the chance of a night train, he hurried away. The first thing he did was to drive to a certain watchmaker's, to raise money, if he could, once more on his watch and on Lucy's ring, which I need not say remained in his possession. But the shop was shut. Then he drove to the Mer. maid, and came upon Captain Smith as he was emptying his tumbler of grog preparatory to going to bed.
" I say, captain, you must let Robins off this voyage. I want him to go to Neweastle with me."
“What's up now? Ain't he going to Newcastle ? And
you can go with him if
like.” “ I want him at once. It's of the greatest importance."
“You won't find him to-night, I can tell you. You'd better sit down and have something, and tell us all about it."
When Thomas thought, he saw that nothing could be done till next day. Without money, without Robins, without a train in all probability, he was helpless. Therefore he sat down and told the captain what he was after, namely, to find Robins's friend Jack, whose surname he did not know, and see what evidence he could give upon the question of the order of decease in the family of Richard Boxall. He explained the point to the captain, who saw at once that Robins's services must be dispensed with for this voyage--except indeed he returned before they weighed anchor again, which was possible enough. When Tom told him what he had heard Jack say about little Julia, the captain, pondering it over, gave it as his judgment that Jack, being the only one saved, and the child being with him till she died, there was a probability almost of his being able to prove that she outlived the rest. At all events, he said, no time must be lost in finding this Jack.
Mr. Potts having joined them, they sat talking it over for a long time. At last Tom said,
“There's one thing I shall be more easy when I've told you : that lawyer is my father.”
“God bless my soul !” said Mr. Potts, while Captain Smith said something decidedly different.
“So, you'll oblige me," Tom went on," if you'll say nothing very hard of him, for I hope he will live to be horribly ashamed of himself."
“ Here's long life to him!” said Captain Smith. “And no success this bout !” added Mr. Potts. “ Amen to both, and thank you," said Tom.
Mrs. Potts would have got the same bed ready for him that he had had before, but as the captain was staying all night, Tom in. sisted on sleeping on the sofa. He wanted to be off to find Robins the first thing in the morning. It was, however, agreed that the captain should go and send Robins, while Thomas went to get his money. In a few hours Robins and he were off for Newcastle.
LUCY, AND MATTIE, AND POPPIE. The Saturday following Tom's departure Lucy had a whole holiday, and she resolved to enjoy it. Not much resolution was necessary for that; for everything now was beautiful, and not even
her grannie's fits of ill-humour could destroy her serenity. The old woman had, however, her better moments, in which she would blame her other self for her unkindness to her darling ; only that repentance was forgotten the moment the fit came again. The saddest thing in the whole afiair was to see how the prospect of wealth, and the loss of that prospect, worked for the temperamental ruin of the otherwise worthy old woman. Her goodness had had little foundation in principle; therefore, when the floods came and the winds blew, it could not stand against them. Of course prosperity must be better for some people, so far as we can see, for they have it ; and adversity for others, for they have it ; but I suspect that each must have a fitting share of both; and no disposition, however good, can be regarded as tempered, and tried, and weatherproof, till it has had a trial of some proportion of both. I am not sure that both are absolutely necessary to all ; I only say that we cannot be certain of the character till we have seen it outstand both. The last thing Mrs. Boxall said to Lucy as she went out that morning, rousing herself from a dark-hued reverie over the fire, was, ..
“ Lucy, if you marry that man I'll go to the workhouse."
“But they won't take you in, grannie, when you've got a granddaughter to work for you."
" I won't take a farthing of my own property, but as my own right.”
" Thomas won't have a farthing of it to offer you, grannie, I'm afraid. He quarrelled with his fathet just about that, and he's turned him out."
“ Then I must go to the workhouse."
“And I'll bring you packets of tea and snuff, as they do for the old goodies in the dusters, grannie,” said Lucy, merrily.
“Go along with you. You never had any heart but for your beaux."
“There's a little left for you yet, dear grannie. And for beaux, you know as well as I do that I never had but one."
So saying, she ran away, and up the court to Mr. Spelt's shop. “Where's Poppie, Mr. Spelt ?" she asked. “In the house, I believe, miss.” “Will you let her come with me to the Zoological Gardens to
“With all my heart, miss. Shall I get down, and run up and tell her ? "
“No, thank you ; on no account. I'll go up myself."
She found Poppie actually washing cups and saucers, with her sleeves tucked up, and looking not merely a very lovely, but a very orderly maiden. No doubt she was very odd still, and would be to the end of her days. What she would do when she was too old (which would not be till she was too frail) to scud, was incon