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stant Poppie had crept through underneath. She dodged the man, and followed them, taking care, however, not to let them see her, for she had not the smallest desire of coming to speech with them. The gorgeousness about her did not produce much effect upon Poppie's imagination. What it might have produced was counteracted by a strange fancy that rose at once under the matted covering of that sun-burnt hair. She had seen more than one dead man carried home upon a stretcher. She had seen the miserable funerals of the poor, and the desolate coffin put in the earth. But she knew that of human beings there were at least two very different breeds, of one of which she knew something of the habits and customs, while of the other she knew nothing, except that they lived in great houses, from which they were carried away in splendid black carriages, drawn by ever so many horses with great black feathers growing out of their heads. What became of them after that she had not the smallest idea, for no doubt they would be disposed of in a manner very different from the funerals she had been allowed to be present at. When she entered the wax-work exhibition the question was solved. This was one of the places to which they carried the grand people after they were dead. Here they set them up dressed in their very best, to stand there till— ah till when, Poppie 2 That question she made no attempt to answer. She did not much like the appearance of the dead people. She thought it a better way to put them in the earth and have done with them, for they had a queer look as if they did not altogether like the affair themselves. And when one of them stared at her, she dodged its gyes, and had enough to do between them all and the showman ; for though Poppie was not afraid of anybody, she had an instinctive knowledge that it was better to keep out of some people's way. She followed the sight of her friend, however, till the couple went into the “chamber of horrors,” as if there was not horror enough in seeing humanity imitated so abominably in the Outer-room. Yes, I am sorry to say it, Lucy went into that place, but she did not know what she was doing, and it was weeks before she recovered her self-respect after it. . However, as Thomas seemed interested, she contrived to endure it for a little while—to endure, I do not mean the horror, for that was not very great—but the vulgarity of it all. Poppie lingered, not daring to follow them, and at length, seeing a large p 'ty arrive, began to look about for some place of refuge. In the art of vanishing she was an adept, with an extraordinary proclivity towards holes and corners. In fact, she could hardly see a hole big enough to admit her without darting into it at once to see if it would do—for what she could not have specified —but for general purposes of refuge. She considered all such places handy, and she found one handy now. Close to the entrance, in a recess, was a couch, and on this couch lay a man. He did not look like the rest of the dead people, for his eyes were closed. Then the dead people went to bed sometimes, and to sleep Happy dead people—in a bed like this For there was a black velvet cover thrown over the sleeping dead man, so that nothing but his face was visible; and to the eyes of Poppie this pall looked so soft, so comfortable, so enticing ! It was a place to dream in. And could there be any better hiding-place than this 2 If the man was both dead and sleeping, he would hardly object to having her for a companion. But as she sent one parting peep round the corner of William Pitt or Dick Turpin, after her friends, ere she forsook them to lie down with the dead, one of the attendants caught sight of her, and advanced to expel the dangerous intruder. Poppie turned and fled, sprang into the recess, crept under the cover like a hunted mouse, and lay still, the bedfellow of no less illustrious a personage than the Duke of Wellington, and cold as he must have been, Poppie found him warmer than her own legs. The man never thought of following her in that direction, and supposed that she had escaped as she had managed to intrude. Poppie found the place so comfortable, that she had no inclination to change her quarters in haste. True, it was not nice to feel the dead man when she put out foot or hand ; but then she need not put out foot or hand. And Poppie was not used to feeling warm. It was a rare sensation, and she found it delightful. Every now and then she peeped from under the mortcloth, for the Duke - was supposed to be lying in state, to see whether Thomas and Lucy were coming. But at length, what with the mental and physical effects of warmth and comfort combined, she fell fast asleep, and dreamed she was in a place she had been in once before, though she had forgotten all about it. From the indefinite account she gave of it, I can only conjecture that it was the embodiment of the vaguest memory of a motherly bosom ; that it was her own mother's bosom she recalled even thus faintly, I much doubt. But from this undefined bliss she was suddenly aroused by a rough hand and a rough voice loaded with a curse. Poppie was used to curses, and did not mind them a bit—somehow they never hurt her—but she was a little frightened at the face of indignant surprise and wrath which she saw bending over her when she awoke. It was that of one of the attendants. He had a policeman beside him, for whom he had sent before he awoke the child, allowing her thus a few moments of unconscious blessedness with the future hanging heavy in the near distance. But the Duke had slept none the less soundly that she was by his side, and had lost none of the warmth that she had gained. It was well for Ruth that there were no police when she slept in Boaz's barn; still better that some of the clergymen who serve God by reading her story on the Sunday, were not magistrates before whom the police carried her. With a tight grasp on her arm, Poppie was walked away in a manner uncomfortable at least to one who was accustomed to trot along at her own sweet will,—and a sweet will it was, that for happiness was content to follow and keep within sight of some one that drew her, without longing for even a word of grace—to what she had learned to call the jigs, namely, the police-prison. But my reader must not spend too much of his stock of sympathy upon Poppie ; for she did not mind it much. To be sure in such weather the jug was very cold, but she had the memories of the past to comfort her, the near past, spent in the society of the dead Duke, warm and consoling. When she fell asleep on the hard floor of the lock-up, she dreamed that she was dead and buried, and trying to be warm and comfortable as she ought to be in her grave, only somehow-or-another she could not get things to come right: the wind would blow through the chinks of her pauper's coffin ; and she wished she had been a duke or a great person generally to be so grandly buried as they were in the cemetery in Baker Street. But Poppie was far less to be pitied for the time, cold as she was, than Mary Boxall, lying half asleep and half awake and all dreaming in that comfortable room, with a blazing fire, and her own mother sitting beside it. True, likewise, Poppie heard a good many bad words and horrid speeches in the jug, but she did not heed them much. Indeed, they did not even distress her, she was so used to them ; nor, upon occasion, was her own language the very pink of propriety. How could it be 2 The vocabulary in use in the houses she knew had ten vulgar words in it to one that Mattie for instance would hear. But whether Poppie, when speaking the worst language that ever crossed her lips, was lower, morally and spiritually considered, than the young lord in the nursery, who, speaking with articulation clear-cut as his features, and in language every word of which is to be found in Johnson, refuses his brother a share of his tart and gobbles it up himself, there is to me, knowing that if Poppie could swear she could share, no question whatever. God looks after His children in the cellars as well as in the nurseries of London. Of course she was liberated in the morning, for the police magistrates of London are not so cruel as some of those country clergymen who, not content with preaching about the justice of God from the pulpit, must seat themselves on the magistrate's bench to dispense the injustice of men. If she had been brought before some of them for sleeping under a haystack, and having no money in her pocket, as if the night sky besides being a cold tester to lie under were something wicked as well, she would have been sent to prison ; for instead of believing in the blessedness of the poor, they are of Miss Kilmansegg's opinion, “that people with nought are naughty.” The poor little thing was only reprimanded for being where she had no business to be, and sent away. But it was no wonder if after this adventure she should know Thomas again when she saw him; nay, that she should sometimes trot after him for the length of a street or so. But he never noticed her.
THE next day the sun shone brilliantly upon the snow as Thomas walked to the counting-house. He was full of pleasant thoughts crossed and shadowed by a few of a different kind. He was not naturally deceitful, and the sense of having a secret which must get him into trouble if it were discovered, and discovered it must be some day, could not fail to give him uneasiness notwithstanding the satisfaction which the romance of the secrecy of a love-affair afforded him. Nothing, however, as it seemed to him, could be done, for he was never ready to do anything to which he was neither led nor driven. He could not generate action, or rather, he had never yet begun to generate action. As soon as he reached Bagot Street, he tapped at the glass door and was admitted to Mr. Boxall’s room. He found him with a look of anxiety upon a face not used to express that emotion. “I hope Miss Mary,” Thomas began, with a little hesitation. “She’s very ill,” said her father; “very ill indeed. It was enough to be the death of her. Excessively imprudent.” Now Mary was as much to blame, if there was any blame at all, for the condition in which she now was, as Thomas; but he had still generosity enough left not to say so to her father. He was only selfish, not mean. “I am very sorry,” he said. “We were caught in the snow, and lost our way.” “Yes, yes, I know. I oughtn't to be too hard upon young people,” returned Mr. Boxall, remembering perhaps that he had his share of the blame in leaving them so much to themselves. “I only hope she may get through it. But she's in a bad way. She was quite delirious last night.” Thomas was really concerned for a moment, and looked so. Mr. Boxall saw it, and spoke more kindly. “I trust, however, that there is not any immediate danger. It's no use you coming to see her. She can’t see anybody but the doctor.” This was a relief to Thomas. But it was rather alarming to find that Mr. Boxall clearly expected him to want to go to see her. “I am very sorry,” he said again; and that was all he could find to say. “Well, well,” returned his master, accepting the words as if they had been an apology. “We must do our work, anyhow. Business is the first thing, you know.”
Thomas took this as a dismissal, and retired to the outer office, in a mood considerably different from that which Mr. Boxall attributed to him.
A clerk's duty is a hard one, and this ought to be acknowledged. Neither has he any personal interest in the result of the special labour to which he is for the time devoted, nor can this labour have much interest of its own beyond what comes of getting things square, and the sense of satisfaction that springs from activity and the success of completion. And it is not often that a young man is fortunate enough to have a master who will not only appreciate his endeavours, but will let him know that he does appreciate them. There are reasons for the latter fact beyond disposition and temperament. The genial employer has so often found that a strange process comes into operation in young and old, which turns the honey of praise into the poison of self-conceit, rendering those to whom it is given disagreeable, and ere long insufferable, that he learns to be very chary in the administration of the said honey, lest subordinates think themselves indispensable, and even neglect the very virtues which earned them the praise. A man must do his duty, if he would be a free man, whether he likes it or not, and whether it is appreciated or not. But if he can regard it as the will of God, the work not fallen upon him by chance, but given him to do, understanding that everything well done belongs to His kingdom, and everything ill done to the kingdom of darkness, surely even the irksomeness of his work will be no longer insuperable. But Thomas had never been taught this. He did not know that his day's work had anything to do with the saving of his soul. Poor Mr. Simon gave him of what he had, like his namesake at the gate of the temple, but all he had served only to makea man creep, it could not make him stand up and walk. “A servant with this clause,”—that is the clause, “for thy fake,”—wrote George Herbert :
“A servant with this clause
But Mr. Simon could not understand the half of this, and nothing at all of the essential sacredness of the work which God would not give a man to do if it were not sacred. Hence Thomas regarded his work only as drudgery; considered it beneath him ; judged himself fitter for the army, and had hankerings after gold lace. He dabbled with the fancy that there was a mistake somewhere in the arrangement of mundane affairs, a serious one—for was he not fitted by nature to move in some showy orbit, instead of being doomed to rise in Highbury, shine in Bagot Street, and set yet again in Highbury P And so, although he did not absolutely neglect his work, for he hated to be found fault with, he just did it, not entering into it