Sidebilder
PDF

with any spirit; and as he was clever enough, things went on with tolerable smoothness. That same evening when he went home from his German lesson of a quarter-of-an-hour, and his interview with Lucy of an hour and a quarter, he found Mr. Simon with his mother. Thomas would have left the room ; for his conscience now made him wish to avoid Mr. Simon—who had pressed him so hard with the stamp of religion that the place was painful, although the impression was fast disappearing. “Thomas,” said his mother, with even more than her usual solemnity, “Thomas, come here. We want to have some conversation with you.” “I have not had my tea yet, mother.” “You can have your tea afterwards. I wish you to come here now.” Thomas obeyed, and threw himself, with some attempt at nonchalance into a chair. “Thomas, my friend,” began Mr. Simon, with a tone—how am I to describe it I could easily, if I chose to use a contemptuous word, but I do not wish to intrude on the region of the comic satirist, and must therefore use a periphrase—with the tone which corresponds to the long face some religious people assume the moment the conversation turns towards sacred things, and in which a certain element of the ludicrous because affected goes far to destroy the solemnity, “I am uneasy about you. Do not think me interfering, for I watch for your soul as one that must give an account. I have to give an account of you, for at one time you were the most promising seal of my ministry. But your zeal has grown cold ; you are unfaithful to your first love; and when the Lord cometh as a thief in the night, you will be to Him as one of the lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, my poor friend. He will spue you out of His mouth. And I may be to blame for this, though at present I know not how. Ah, Thomas Thomas I Do not let me have shame of you at His appearing. The years are fleeting fast, and although He delay His coming, yet He will come ; and He will slay His enemies with the two-edged sword that proceedeth out of His mouth.” Foolish as Mr. Simon was, he was better than Mr. Potter, if Mr. Kitely’s account of him was correct; for he was in earnest, and acted upon his belief. But he knew nothing of human nature, and as Thomas grew older, days, even hours, had widened the gulf between them, till his poor feeble influences could no longer reach across it, save as unpleasant reminders of something that had been. Happy is the youth of whom a sensible good clergyman has a firm hold—a firm human hold, I mean—not a priestly one such as Mr. Simon's. But if the clergyman be feeble and foolish, the worst of it is, that the youth will transfer his growing contempt for the clergyman to the religion of which he is such a poor representative, I know another clergyman—perhaps my readers may know him too —who instead of lecturing Thomas through the medium of a long string of Scripture phrases, which he would have had far too much reverence to use after such a fashion, would have taken him by the shoulder, and said, “Tom, my boy, you've got something on your mind. I hope it's nothing wrong. But whatever it is, mind you come to me if I can be of any use to you.” To such a man there would have been a chance of Tom's making a clean breast of it—not yet, though—not before he got into deep water. But Mr. Simon had not the shadow of a chance of making him confess. How could Thomas tell such a man that he was in love with one beautiful girl, and had foolishly got himself into a scrape with another ? By this direct attack upon him in the presence of his mother, the man lost the very last remnant of his influence over him, and, in fact, made him feel as if he should like to punch his head, if it were not that he could not bear to hurt the meek little sheep. He did not know that Mr. Simon had been rather a bruiser at college— small and meek as he was—only that was before his conversion. If he had cared to defend himself from such an attack, which I am certain he would not have doubled fist to do, Thomas could not have stood one minute before him. “Why do you not speak, Thomas?” said his mother, gently. “What do you want me to say, mother ?” asked Thomas in return, with rising anger. He never could resist except his temper came to his aid. “Say what you ought to say,” returned Mrs. Worboise, more severely. “What ought I to say, Mr. Simon?” said Thomas, with a tone of mock submission, not so marked, however, that Mr. Simon, who was not sensitive, detected it. “Say, my young friend, that you will carry the matter to the throne of grace, and ask the aid–’” But I would rather not record sacred words which, whatever they might mean in Mr. Simon's use of them, mean so little in relation to my story. Thomas, however, was not yet so much of a hypocrite as his training had hitherto tended to make him, and again he sat silent for a few moments, during which his mother and her friend sat silent likewise, giving him time for reflection. Then he spoke anxious to get rid of the whole unpleasant affair. “I will promise to think of what you have said, Mr. Simon.” “Yes, Thomas, but how will you think of it?” said his mother. Mr. Simon, however, glad to have gained so much of a concession, spoke more genially. He would not drive the matter further at present.

“Do, dear friend, and may He guide you into the truth. Remember, Thomas, the world and the things of the world are passing away. You are a child no longer, and are herewith called upon to take your part, for God or against him—” And so on, till Thomas got weary as well as annoyed. “Will you tell me what fault you have to find with me?” he said at last. “I am regular at the Sunday-school, I am sure.” “Yes, that we must allow, and heartily,” answered Mr. Simon, turning to Mrs. Worboise as if to give her the initiative, for he thought her rather hard with her son; “only I would just suggest to you, Mr. Thomas—I don't ask you the question, but I would have you ask yourself—whether your energy is equal to what it has been P Take care lest, while you teach others, you yourself should be a castaway. Remember that nothing but faith in the merits—” Thus started again, he went on, till Thomas was forced loose from all sympathy with things so unmercifully driven upon him, and vowed in his heart that he would stand it no longer. Still speaking, Mr. Simon rose to take his leave. Thomas, naturally polite, and anxious to get out of the scrutiny of those cold blue eyes of his mother, went to open the door for him, and closed it behind him with a sigh of satisfaction. Then he had his tea and went to his own room, feeling wrong, and yet knowing quite well that he was going on to be and to do wrong. Saintship like his mother's and Mr. Simon's was out of his reach. Perhaps it was. But there were other things essential to saintship that were within his reach—and equally essential to the manliness of a gentleman, which he would have been considerably annoyed to be told that he was in as much danger of falling short of, if he did not in some sort or other mend his ways, and take heed to his goings. The next morning mother and pastor held a long and, my reader will believe, a dreary consultation over the state of Thomas. I will not afflict him with the recital of what was said and resaid a dozen times before they parted. If Mr. Worboise had overheard it, he would have laughed, not heartily, but with a perfection of contempt, for he despised all these things, and would have despised better things too, if he had known them. The sole result was that his mother watched Thomas with yet greater assiduity; and Thomas began to feel that her eyes were never off him, and to dislike them because he feared them. He felt them behind his back. They haunted him in Bagot Street. Happy with Lucy, even there those eyes followed him, as if searching to find out his secret; and a vague fear kept growing upon him that the discovery was at hand. Hence he became more and more cunning to conceal his visits. He dreaded what questions those questioning eyes might set the tongue asking. For he had not yet learned to lie. He prevaricated, no doubt; but lying may be a step yet

further on the downward road. One good thing only came out of it all : he grew more and more

in love with Lucy. He almost loved her.

[ocr errors]

For some days Mr. Boxal! was so uneasy about Mary that he forgot his appointment with Mr Worboise. At length, however, when a thaw had set in, and she had begun to improve, he went to call upon his old friend. “Ah, Boxall ! glad to see you. What a man you are to make an appointment with ! Are you aware, sir, of the value of time in London, not to say in this life generally P Are you aware that bills are due at certain dates, and that the man who has not money at his banker's to meet them is dishonoured—euphemistically shifted to the bill P” Thus jocosely did Mr. Worboise play upon the well-known business-habits of his friend, who would rather, or at least believed he would rather, go to the scaffold than allow a bill of his to be dishonoured. But Mr. Boxall was in a good humour too this morning. “At least, Worboise,” he answered, “I trust when the said bill is dishonoured, you may not be the holder.” “Thank you. I hope not. I don't like losing money.” “Oh, don't mistake me ! I meant for my sake, not yours.” go Why ?” “Because you would skin the place before you took the pound of flesh. I know you !” Mr. Worboise winced. Mr. Boxall thought he had gone too sar, that is, had been rude. But Mr. Worboise laughed aloud. “You flatter me, Boxall,” he said. “I had no idea I was such a sharp practitioner. But you ought to know best. We'll take care, at all events, to have this will of yours right.” So saying, he went to a drawer to get it out. But Mr. Boxall still feared that his friend had thought him rude. “The fact is,” he said, “I have been so uneasy about Mary—” “Why? What's the matter?” interrupted Mr. Worboise, stopping on his way across the room. “Don’t you know P” returned Mr. Boxall, in some surprise. “She’s never got over that Hampstead Heath affair. She's been in bed ever since.” “God bless me !” exclaimed the other. “I never heard a word of it. What was it?”

So Mr. Boxall told as much as he knew of the story, and any way there was not much to tell. “Never heard a word of it !” repeated the lawyer. The statement made Mr. Boxall more uneasy than he cared to show. “But I must be going,” he said; “so let's have this troublesome will signed and done with.” “Not in the least a troublesome one, I assure you. Rather too simple, I think. Here it is.” And Mr. Worboise began to read it over point by point to his client. “All right,” said the latter. “Mrs. Boxall to have everything, to do with it as she pleases. It is the least I can say, for she has been a good wife to me.” “And will be for many years to come, I hope,” said Mr. Worboise. “I hope so. Well, go on.” Mr. Worboise went on. “All right,” said his client again. “Failing my wife, my daughters to have everything, as indeed they will whether my wife fails or not—at last I mean, for she would leave it to them, of course.” “Well,” said the lawyer, “and who comes next 7” “Nobody. Who did you think?” “It's rather a short—doesn't read quite business-like. Put in anybody just for the chance—a poor one, ha I ha l' with such a fine family as yours.” “Stick yourself in then, old fellow; and though it won't do you any good, it'll be ar, expression of my long esteem and friendship for you.” “What a capital stroke "thought Mr. Boxall. “I’ve surely got that nonsense out of his head now. He'll never think of it more. I was country-bred.” “Thank you, old friend,” said Mr. Worboise quietly, and entered his own name in succession. The will was soon finished, signed, and witnessed by two of Mr. Worboise's clerks. “Now what is to be done with it P” asked Mr. Worboise. “Oh, you take care of it for me. You have more stowage—for that kind of thing, I mean,—than I have. I should never know where to find it.” o If you want to make any alteration in it, there's your box, you OW. “Why, what alteration could I want to make in it?” “That's not for me to suppose. You might quarrel with me though, and want to strike cut my name.” “True. I might quarrel with my wife too, mightn't I, and strike her name out f*

« ForrigeFortsett »