« ForrigeFortsett »
“It might happen." “Yes; anything might happen. Meantime I am content with sufficient probabilities.” “By the way, how is that son of mine getting on ?” “Oh, pretty well. He's regular enough, and I hear no com2laints of him from Stopper; and he's sharp enough, I assure you.” “But you're not over satisfied with him yourself, eh?” “Well, to speak the truth, between you and me, I don't think he's cut out for our business.” “That's much the same as saying he's of no use for business of any sort.” ‘I don't know. He does his work fairly well, as I say, but he don't seem to have any heart in it.” “Well, what do you think he is fit for now 7" “I’m sure I don't know. You could easily make a fine gentleman of him.” Mr. Boxall spoke rather bitterly, for he had already had flitting doubts in his mind whether Tom had been behaving well to Mary. It had become very evident since her illness that she was very much in love with Tom, and that he should be a hair's-breadth less in love with her was offence enough to rouse the indignation of a man like Mr. Boxall, good-natured as he was ; and that he had never thought it worth while even to mention the fact of her illness to his father, was strange to a degree. “But I can't afford to make a fine gentleman of him. I've got his sister to provide for as well as my fine gentleman. I don't mean to say that I could not leave him as much, perhaps more, than you can to each of your daughters; but girls are so different from boys. Girls can live upon anything; fine gentlemen can't.” And here Mr. Worboise swore. “Well, it's no business of mine,” said Mr. Boxall. “If there's anything I can do for him, of course, for your sake, Worboise—” “The rascal has offended him somehow,” said Mr. Worboise to himself. “It's that Hampstead business. Have patience with the young dog,” he said aloud. “That's all I ask you to do for him. Who knows what may come out of him yet?” “That's easy to do. As I tell you, there's no fault to find with him,” answered Mr. Boxall, afraid that he had exposed some feeling * had better have been hidden. “Only one must speak the truth. With these words Mr. Boxall took his leave. Mr. Worboise sat and cogitated. “There's something in that rascal's head, now,” he said to himself. “His mother and that Simon will make a spoon of him. I want to get some sense out of him before he's translated to kingdomcome. But how the deuce to get any sense out when there's so precious little in l I found seventeen volumes of Byron on his bookshelves last night. I’ll have a talk to his mother about him. Not that that's of much use !” To her husband Mrs. Worboise always wore a resigned air, believing herself unequally yoked to an unbeliever with a bond which she was not at liberty to break, because it was enjoined upon her to win her husband by her chaste conversation coupled with fear. Therefore when he went into her room that evening, she received him as usual with a look which might easily be mistaken, and not much mistaken either, as expressive of a sense of injury. “Well, my dear,” her husband began, in a conciliatory, indeed jocose, while yet complaining tone, “do you know what this precious son of ours has been about? Killing Mary Boxall in a snow-storm, and never telling me a word about it. I suppose you know the whole story, though P You might have told me.” “Indeed, Mr. Worboise, I am sorry to say I know nothing about Thomas now-a-days. I can’t understand him. He's quite changed. But if I were not laid on a couch of suffering—not that I complain of that—I should not come to you to ask what he was about. I should find out for myself.” “I wish to goodness you were able.” “Do not set your wish against His will,” returned Mrs. Worboise with a hopeless reproof in her tone, implying that it was of no use to say so, but she must bear her testimony notwithstanding. “Oh no, no,” returned her husband; “nothing of the sort. Nothing farther from my intention. But what is to be done about this affair? You know it would please you as well as me to See him married to Mary Boxall. She's a good girl, that you know.’ “If I were sure that she was a changed character, there is nothing I should like better, I confess—that is, of worldly interest.” “Come, come, Mrs. Worboise. I don't think you’re quite fair to the girl.” “What do you mean, Mr. Worboise?” “I mean that just now you seemed in considerable doubt whether or not your son was a changed character, as you call it. And yet you say that if Mary Boxall were a changed character, you would not wish anything more—that is, of worldly interest—than to see him married to Mary Boxall. Is that fair to Mary Boxall I put the question merely.” “There would be the more hope for him; for the Scripture says that the believing wife may save her husband.” Mr. Worboise winked inwardly to himself. Because his wife's religion was selfish, and therefore irreligious, therefore religion was a humbug, and therefore his conduct might be as selfish as ever he chose to make it. “But how about Mary Why should you wish her, if she was a food character, to lose her advantage by marrying one who is not “She might change him, Mr. Worboise, as I have said already,” returned the lady, decisively; for she might speak with authority to one who knew nothing about these things. “Yes. But if Thomas were changed, and Mary not—what then?” Mrs. Worboise murmured something not quite audible about “I and the children whom God hath given me.” “At the expense of the children he hasn't given you !” said Mr. Worboise, at a venture; and chuckled now, for he saw his victory in her face. But Mr. Worboise's chuckle always made Mrs. Worboise shut top, and not another word could he get out of her that evening. She never took refuge in her illness, but in an absolute dogged silence, in which she persuaded herself that she was suffering for the truth’s sake. Her husband's communication made her still more anxious about Thomas, and certain suspicions she had begun to entertain about the German master became more decided. In her last interview with Mr. Simon, she had hinted to him that Thomas ought to be watched, that they might 1.1.0 w whether he really went to his German lesson or went somewhere else. But Mr. Simon was too much of a gentleman not to recoil from the idea, and Mrs. Worboise did not venture to press it. When she saw him again, however, she suggested—I think I had better give the substance of the conversation, for it would not in itself be interesting to my readers—she suggested her fears that his German master had been mingling German theology with his lessons, and so corrupting the soundness of his faith. This seemed to Mr. Simon very possible indeed, for he knew how insidious the teachers of such doctrines are, and, glad to do something definite for his suffering friend, he offered to call upon the man, and see what sort of person he was. This offer Mrs. Worboise gladly accepted, without thinking that of all men to find out any insidious person, Mr. Simon, in his simplicity, was the least likely. But now the difficulty arose that they knew neither his name nor where he lived, and they could not ask Thomas about him. So Mr. Simon undertook the task of finding the man by inquiry in the neighbourhood of Bagot Street. “My friend,” he said, stepping the next morning into Mr. Kitely's shop, he had a way of calling everybody his friend, thinking so to recommend the Gospel. “At your service, sir,” returned Mr. Kitely, brusquely, as he stepped from behind one of the partitions in the shop, and saw the little clerical apparition which had not even waited to see the form of the human being ere he applied to him the sacred epithet. “I only wanted to ask you,” drawled Mr. Simon, in a drawl both of earnestness and unconscious affectation, “whether you happen to know of a German master somewhere in this neighbourhood.” “Well, I don't know,” returned Mr. Kitely, in a tone that indicated a balancing rather than pondering operation of the mind. For although he was far enough from being a Scotchman, he always liked to know why one asked a question, before he cared to answer it. “I don't know as I could recommend one over another.” “I am not in want of a master. I only wish to find out one that lives in this neighbourhood.” o “I know at least six of them within a radius of one half-mile, taking my shop here for the centre of the circle,” said Mr. Kitely, consequentially. “What's the man's name you want, sir?” “That is what I cannot tell you.” “Then how am I to tell you, sir?” “If you will oblige me with the names and addresses of those six you mention, one of them will very likely be the man I want.” “I daresay the clergyman wants Mr. Moloch, father,” said a voice from somewhere in the neighbourhood of the floor, “the foreign gentleman that Mr. Worboise goes to see up the court.” “That's the very man, my child,” responded Mr. Simon. “Thank you very much. Where shall I find him f" “I’ll show you,” returned Mattie. “Why couldn't he have said so before ?” remarked Mr. Kitely to himself with indignation. “But it's just like them.” By them he meant clergymen in general. “What a fearful name—Moloch / " reflected Mr. Simon, as he followed Mattie up the court. He would have judged it a name of bad omen, had he not thought omen rather a wicked word. The fact was, the German's name was Molken, a very innocent one, far too innocent for its owner, for it means only whey. Herr Molken was a ne'er-do-weel student of Heidelburg, a clever fellow, if not a scholar, whose bad habits came to be too well known at home for his being able to indulge them there any longer, and who had taken refuge in London from certain disagreeable consequences which not unfrequently follow aberrant efforts to procure the means of gambling and general dissipation. Thomas had as yet spent so little time in his company, never giving more than a quarter of an hour or so to his lesson. that Molken had had no opportunity of influencing him in any way. But he was one of those who, the moment they make a new acquaintance, begin examining him for the sake of discovering his weak points, that they may get some hold of him. He measured his own strength or weakness by the number of persons of whom at any given time he had a hold capable of being turned to advantage in some way or other in the course of events. Of all dupes, one with some intellect and no principle, weakened by the trammels of a religious system with which he is at strife, and which therefore hangs like a millstone about his neck, impedes his every motion, and gives him up to the mercy of his enemy, is the most thorough prey to the pigeon-plucker, for such a one has no recuperative power, and the misery of his conscience makes him abject. Molken saw that Tom was clever, and he seemed to have some money : if he could get this hold of him in any way, it might be “to the welfare of his advantage.”
The next lesson fell on the evening after Mr. Simon's visit to Guild Court, and Mr. Molken gave Thomas a full account of the “beseek” he had had from “one soft ghostly,” who wanted to find out something about Thomas, and how he had told him that Mr. Worboise was a most excellent and religious young man ; that he worked very hard at his German, and that he never spent less (here Mr. Molken winked at Thomas) than an hour and a half over Krummacher or some other religious writer. All this Mr. Simon had faithfully reported to Mrs. Worboise, never questioning what Mr. Molken told him, though how any one could have looked at him without finding cause to doubt whatever he might say, I can hardly imagine. For Mr. Molken was a small wiry man, about thirty, with brows overhanging his eyes like the eaves of a Swiss cottage, and rendering those black and wicked luminaries blacker and more wicked still. His hair was black, his beard was black, his skin was swarthy, his forehead was large ; his nose looked as if it had been made of putty and dabbed on after the rest of his face was finished; his mouth was sensual ; and, in short, one was inclined to put the question in the Gospel: Whether hath sinned, this man or his parents P He could, notwithstanding, make himself so agreeable, had such a winning carriage and dignified deference, that he soon disarmed the suspicion caused by his appearance. He had, besides, many accomplishments, and seemed to know everything—at least to a lad like Thomas, who could not detect the assumption which not unfrequently took the place of knowledge. He manifested also a genuine appreciation of his country's poetry, and even the short lessons to which Thomas submitted had been enlivened by Herr Molken's enthusiasm for Goéthe. If those of his poems which he read and explained to Thomas were not of the best, they were none the worse for his purposes.
Now he believed he had got by Mr. Simon's aid the hold that he wanted. His one wink, parenthetically introduced above, revealed to Thomas that he was master of his secret, and Thomas felt that he was, to a considerable degree, in his hands. This, however, caused him no apprehension.
His mother, although in a measure relieved, still cherished suspicions of German theology which the mention of Krummacher had failed to remove. She would give her son a direct warning on the subject. So when he came into her room that evening, she said,