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After wandering, probably in a circuitous fashion, for more than an hour, Mary burst out crying, and said she could not walk a step farther. She would have thrown herself down had not Tom prevented her. With the kindest encouragement ---though he was really downhearted himself,- he persuaded her to climb a little height near them, which with great difficulty she managed to do. From the top they saw a light, and descending the opposite side of the hill, found themselves in a road, where an empty cab stood by the door of a public-house. After trying to persuade Mary to have some refreshment, to which she refused to listen, insisting on being taken to her mother, Thomas succeeded in getting the cab. man to drive them to the station. In the railway carriage, Mary lay like one dead, and although he took off both his coats to wrap about her, she seemed quite unconscious of the attention.
It was with great difficulty that she reached her home; for there was no cab at the Hackney station, and the streets were by this time nearly a foot deep in snow.
Thomas was not sorry to give her up to her mother. She immediately began to scold him. Then Mary spoke for the first time, saying, with an effort :
“ Don't, mother. If it had not been for Thomas, I should have been dead long ago. He could not help it. Good night, Tom."
And she feebly held up her face to kiss him. Tom stooped to meet it, and went away, feeling tolerably miserable. He was wet and cold, and the momentary fancy for Mary was quite gone, while he could not help seeing that now he had kissed her before her mother he had got himself into a scrape.
Before morning Mary was in a high fever.
That night Charles Wither spent at a billiard-table, sipping brandy and water while he played, and thinking what a splendid girl Jane Boxall was. But in the morning he looked all right.
THOMAS woke the next morning with a well-deserved sense of something troubling him. This too was a holiday, but he did not feel in a holiday-mood. It was not from any fear that Mary might be the worse for her exposure, neither was it from regret for his conduct towards her. What made him uncomfortable was the feeling rather than thought that now Mrs. Boxall, Mary's mother, had a window that overlooked his premises, a window over which he had no legal hold, but which, on the contrary, gave her a hold over him. It was a window also of which she was not likely, as he thought, to neglect the advantage. Nor did it console him to imagine what Lucy would think, or-which was of more weight with Thomas-say or do, if she should chance to hear of the affair of yesterday. This, however, was very unlikely to happen; for she had not one friend in common with her cousins, except just her lover.' To-day, as I have said, being a holiday, he had arranged to meet her at the Marble Arch, and take her to that frightíul reservoir of amusement, Madame Tussaud's. Her usual morning engagement led her to that neighbourhood, and it was a safe place to meet in-far from Highbury, Hackney, and Bagot-street.
The snow was very deep. Mrs. Boxall tried to persuade Lucy not to go. But where birds can pass lovers can pass, and she was just finishing her lesson to resplendent little Miriam as Thomas got out of an omnibus at Park-street, that he might saunter up on foot to the Marble Arch.
The vision of Hyde Park was such as rarely meets the eye of a Londoner. It was almost grotesquely beautiful. Even while waiting for a lovely girl, Thomas could not help taking notice of the trees. Every bough, branch, twig, and shoot supported a ghost of itself, or rather a white shadow of itself upon the opposite side from whore the black shadow fell. The whole tree looked like a huge growth of that kind of coral they call brain-coral, and the whole park a forest of such coralline growths. But against the sky, which was one canopy of unfallen snow, bright with the sun behind it, the brilliant trees looked more like coral still, grey, namely, and dull.
Thomas had not sauntered and gazed for more than a few minutes before he saw Lucy coming down Great Cumberland-street towards him. Instead of crossing the street to meet her, he stood and watched her approach. And there was even some excuse for his coolness, she looked so picturesque flitting over the spotless white in her violet dress, her red cloak, her grebe muff. I do not know what her bonnet was; for if a bonnet be suitable, it allows the face to show as it ought, and who can think of a bonnet then! But I know that they were a pair of very dainty morocco boot's that made little holes in the snow all across Oxford-street towards the Marble Arch where Thomas stood, filled, I fear, with more pride in the lovely figure that was coming to him than love of her.
“ Have I kept you waiting long, Thomas ?” said Lucy, with the sweetest of smiles, her teeth white as snow in the summer flush of her face.
“Oh! about ten minutes," answered Thomas. it wasn't five. What a cold morning it is!”
“I don't feel it much," returned Lucy. “I came away the first moment I could. I am sorry I kept you waiting."
“Don't mention it, Lucy. I should be only too happy to wait for you as long every morning," said Thomas, gallantly, not tenderly.
Lucy did not relish the tone. But what could she do? A tone is one of the most difficult things to fix a complaint upon. Besides, she was not in a humour to complain of anything if she could help it. And, to tell the truth, she was a little afraid of offending Thomas, for she looked up to him ten times more than he deserved.
“How lovely your red cloak looked-quite a splendour-crossing the snow !” he continued.
And Lucy received this as a compliment to herself, and smiled again. She took his arm-for lovers will do that sometimes after it is quite out of fashion. But will it be believed ? Thomas did not altogether like her doing so, just because it was out of fashion.
“ What a delightful morning it is !” she said. “Oh! do look at the bars of the railing."
“ Yes, I see. The snow has stuck to them. But how can you look at such vulgar things as iron stanchions when you have such a fairy-forest as that before you?” said the reader of Byron, who was not seldom crossed by a feeling of dismay at finding Lucy, as he thought, decidedly unpoetical. He wanted to train her in poetry, as, with shame let it flow from my pen, in religion.
“But just look here,” insisted Lucy, drawing him closer to the fence. “ You are short-sighted, surely, Thomas. Just look there."
“ Well, I see nothing but snow on both sides of the paling-bars," returned Thonias.
“Now I am sure you are short-sighted. It is snow on the one side, but not on the other. Look at the lovely crystals.”
On the eastern quarter of each upright bar the snow had accumulated and stuck fast to the depth of an inch : the wind had been easterly. The fall had ceased some hours before morning, and a strong frost had set in. That the moisture in the air should have settied frozen upon the iron would not have been surprising ; what Lucy wondered at was, that there should be a growth, half an inch long, of slender crystals, like the fungous growth commonly called mould, only closer, standing out from the bar horizontally, as if they had grown through it out of the soil of the snow exactly opposite to it on the other side. On the one side was a beaten mass of snow, on the other a fantastic little forest of ice.
“I do not care about such microscopic beauties," said Thomas, a little annoyed that she whom he thought unpoetical could find out something lovely sooner than he could ; for he was of those in whom a phantasm of self-culture is one of the forms taken by their selfishness. They regard this culture in relation to others with an eye to superiority, and do not desire it purely for its own sake. “ Those trees are much more to my mind now.
“Ah, but I do not love the trees less. Come into the park, and then we can see them from all sides.”
“Tue snow is too deep. There is no path there." “I don't mind it. My boots are very thick.”
“No, no; come along. We shall get to Madame Tussauds before there are many people there. It will be so much nicer.”
“ I should like much better to stay here awhile,” said Lucy, half vexed and a little offended.
But Thomas did not heed her. He led the way up Oxford Street. She had dropped his arm, and now walked by his side.
“A nice lover to have !" I think I hear some of my girl-readers say. But he was not so bad as this always, or even gentletempered Lucy would have quarrelled with him, if it had been only for the sake of getting rid of him: the weight of yesterday was upon him.-And while they were walking up the street, as handsome and fresh a couple as you would find in all London, Mary was lying in her t.ed talking wildly about Thomas.
Alas for the loving rhoughts of youths and maidens that go forth like the dove from the ark, and find no room on the face of the desired world to fold their wings and alight ! Olive-leaves they will gather in plenty, even when they are destined never to build a nest in the branches of the olive-tree. Let such be strong notwithstanding, even when there are no more olive leaves to gather, for God will have mercy upon His youths and maidens, and they shall grow men and women. Let who can, understand me.
Having thus lest the truths of nature behind them for the horrible mockery of art at Madame Tussaud's, Thomas became aware from Lucy's silence, that he had not been behaving well to her. He therefore set about being more agreeable, and before they reached Baker Street she had his arm again, and they were talking and laughing gaily enough. Behind them, at some distance, trotted a small apparition, which I must now describe.
It was a little girl, perhaps ten years old, looking as wild as any savage in Canadian forest. Her face was pretty, as far as could be judged through the dirt that variegated its surface. Her eyes were black and restless. Her dress was a frock, of what stuff it would have been impossible to determine, scarcely reaching below her knees, and rent upwards into an irregular fringe of ribbons that frostily fanned her little legs as she followed the happy couple, and a pair of shoes much too large for her, and already worn into such holes as to afford more refuge for the snow than for her feet. Her little knees were very black, and oh! those poor legs, caked and streaked with dirt, and the delicate skin of them thickened and cracked with frost, and east winds, and neglect! They could carry her through the snow satisfactorily, however-with considerable suffering to themselves, no doubt. But Poppie was not bound to be miserable because Poppie's legs were anything but comfortable : there is no selfishness in not being sorry for one's own legs. Her hair, which might have been expected to be quite black, was mingled with a reddish tinge from exposure to the hot sun of the preceding summer. It hung in tangled locks about her, without protection of any sort. How strange the snow must have looked upon it : no doubt she had been abroad in the storm! Her face peeped out from amongst it with the wild innocence of a gentle and shy but brave little animal of the forest. Purposeless she followed Lucy's red cloak. But this was not the first time she had followed her: like a lost pup she would go after this one or that one-generally a lady-for a whole day from place to place, obedient to some hidden drawing of the heart. She had often seen Lucy start from Guild Court, and had followed her to the railway ; and, at length, by watching first one station and then another, had found out where she went every morning. Knowing then that she could find her when she pleased, she did not follow her more than twice a week or so, sometimes not once-just as the appetite awoke for a little of her society. She had never seen Lucy with a gentleman before. I wonder if she had ever in her little life walked side by side with anybody herself: she was always trotting behind. But my reader must see more of the child before he or she will be interested enough in her either to please me or to care to hear more about the habits of this little wild animal of the stone forest of London. This was the little girl whom Miss Matilda Kitely, her father's princess, called Poppie, and patronized, although she was at least two years older than herself, as near as could be guessed. Nor had she any other name ; for no one knew where she had come from, or who were her parents, and she herself cared as little about the matter as anybody.
The lovers were some distance ahead of her then, as they had been all the way, when they entered the passage leading to the wax-works. The instant she lost sight of them so suddenly, Poppie started in pursuit, lost one of her great shoes, and instead of turning to pick it up, kicked the other after it- -no great loss-and scampered at full bare footed speed over the snow, which was here well trodden. They could hardly have more than disappeared at the further end when she arrived at the entrance.
Poppie never thought about might or might not, but only about could or could not. So the way being open, and she happening to have no mind that morning to part with her company before she was compelled, she darted in to see whether she could not get another peep of the couple. Not only was the red cloak a fountain of warmth to Poppie's imagination, but the two seemed so happy together that she felt in most desirable society.
Thomas was in the act of paying for admission at the turnstile, when she caught sight of them again. The same moment that he admitted them the man turned away from his post. In an in.