and keep me company. Make haste and get your clothes on, and go and see.”

Now Lucy had had hopes of inducing Mattie to go with her, as I indicated in a previous chapter ; but she could not press the child after the reason he gave for not going. And now she might as well ask her to stay with her grandmother. So she went round the corner to Mr. Kitely's shop, glancing up at Mr. Spelt's nest in the wall as she passed, to see whether she was not there.

When she entered the wilderness of books she saw no one ; but peeping round one of the many screens, she spied Mattie sitting with her back towards her, and her head bent downward. Looking over her shoulder, she saw that she had a large folding plate of the funeral of Lord Nelson open before her, the black shapes of which, with their infernal horror of plumes-the hateful flowers that the buried seeds of ancient paganism still shoot up into the pleasant Christian fields-she was studying with an unaccountable absorption of interest.

" What have you got there, Mattie?” asked Lucy.

“Well, I don't ezackly know, miss," answered the child, looking up, very white-faced and serious.

“Put the book away, and come and see grannie. She wants you to take care of her to-day, while I go out.”

"Well, miss, I would with pleasure; but you see father is gone out, and has left me to take care of the shop till he comes back."

“But he won't be gone a great while, will he?”

“No, miss. Ile knows I don't like to be left too long with the books.' Ile'll be back before St. Jacob strikes nine-that I know.”

“Well, then, I'll go and get grannie made comfortable , and if you don't come to me by half-past nine, I'll come after you again.”

“Do, miss, if you please ; for if father ain't come by that time -my poor head"

“You must put that ugly book away," said Lucy, “and take a better one.”

“Well, miss, I know I oughtn't to have taken this book, for there's no summer in it; and it talks like the wind at night."

“Why did you take it then?”

Because Syne told me to take it. But that's just why I oughtn't to ha' taken it.”

And she rose and put the book in one of the shelves over he head, moving her stool when slie had done so, and turning her face towards the spot where the book now stood. Lucy watched her uneasily.

“What do you mean by saying that Syne told you ?" she asked. “Who is Syne ?”

“Don't you know Syne, miss ? Syne is--You know 'Lord Syne was a miserly churl'don't you ?"

Then before Lucy could reply, she looked up in her face, with a smile hovering about the one side of her mouth, and said,

“But it's all nonsense, miss, when you're standing there. There isn't no such person as Syne, when you're there. I don't believe there is any such person. But,” she added with a sigh, “when you're gone away—I don't know. But I think he's upstairs in the nursery now," she said, putting her hand to her big forehead.

No, no, there's no such person."

And Mattie tried to laugh outright, but failed in the attempt, and the tears rose in her eyes.

“You've got a headache, dear," said Lucy.

“Well, no,” answered Mattie. “I cannot say that I have just a headache, you know. But it does buzz a little. I hope Mr. Kitely won't be long now.”

"I don't like leaving you, Mattie; but I must go to my grandmother,” said Lucy, with reluctance.

“ Never mind me, miss. I'm used to it. I used to be afraid of Lord Syne, for he watched me, ready to pounce out upon nie with all his men at his back, and he laughed so loud to see me run. But I know better now. I never run from him now. I always frown at him, and take my own time, and do as I like. I don't want him to see that I'm afraid, you know. And I do think I have taught him a lesson. Besides, if he's very troublesome, you know, miss, I can run to Mr. Spelt. But I never talk to him about Syne, because when I do he always looks so mournsul. Perhaps he thinks it is wicked. He is so good himself, he has no idea how wicked a body can be."

Lucy thought it best to hurry away, that she might return the sooner ; for she could not bear the child to be left alone in such a mood. And she was sure that the best thing for her would be to spend the day with her cheery old grandmother. But as she was leaving the shop, Mr. Kitely came in, his large, bold, sharp face fresh as a north wind without a touch of east in it. Lucy preferred her request about Mattie, and he granted it cordially.

" I'm afraid, Mr. Kitely,” said Lucy, “the darling is not well. She has such strange fancies.”

“Oh, I don't know," returned the bookseller, with mingled concern at the suggestion and refusal to entertain it.

“ She's always been a curious child. Her mother was like that, you see, and she takes after her. Perhaps she does want a little more change. I don't think she's been out of this street now all her life. But she'll shake it off as she gets older, I have no doubt."

So saying, he turned into his shop, and Lucy went home. In half an hour she went back for Mattie, and leaving the two together, of whom the child, in all her words and ways, seemed the older, set out for the West End, where Mrs. Morgenstern was anxiously hoping for ber appearance, seeing she depended much upon her assistance in

the treat she was giving to certain poor people of her acquaintance. By any person but Mattie, Mrs. Morgenstern would have been supposed to be literally fulfilling the will of our Lord in asking only those who could not return her invitation,



MRS. MORGENSTERN looked splendid as she moved about amongst the hothouse plants, arranging them in the hall, on the stairs, and in the drawing-rooms. She judged, and judged rightly, that one ought to be more anxious to show honour to poor neighbours by putting on her best attire, than to ordinary guests of her own rank. Therefore, although it was the morning, she had put on a dress of green silk, trimmed with brown silk and rows of garnet buttons, which set off her dark complexion and her rich black hair, plainly braided down her face, and loosely gathered behind. She was half a head taller than Lucy, who was by no means short. The two formed a beautiful contrast. Lucy was dark-haired and dark. eyed as well as Mrs. Morgenstern, but had a smaller face and features, regular to a rare degree. Her high close-fitting dress of black silk, with a plain linen collar and cuffs, left her loveliness all to itself. Lucy was neither strikingly beautiful nor remarkably intellectual : when one came to understand what it was that attracted him so much, he found that it was the wonderful harmony in her. As Wordsworth prophesied for his Lucy that“ beauty born of murmuring sound 'should' pass into her face," so it seemed as if the harmonies which flowed from her father's fingers had moulded her form and face, her motions and thoughts, after their own fashion, even to a harmony which soothed before one knew that he was receiving it, and when he had discovered its source made him ready to quote the words of Sir Philip Sidney :

Just accord all music makes ;
In the just accord excelleth,
Where each part in such peace dwelleth,

Each of other beauty takes. I have often wondered how it was that Lucy was capable of so much ; how it was, for instance, that, in the dispensing of Mrs. Morgenstern's bounty, she dared to make her way into places where no one but herself thought it could be safe for her to go, but where not even a rude word was ever directed against her or used with regard to her. If she had been as religious as she afterwards became, I should not have wondered aus; for some who do not believe that God is anywhere in thes dens of what

looks to them all misery, will dare everything to rescue their fellowcreatures from impending fate. But Lucy had no theories to spur or to support her. She never taught them any religion : she was only, without knowing it, a religion to their eyes. I conclude, therefore, that at this time it was just the harmony of which I have spoken that led her, protected her, and, combined with a dim conscious. ness that she must be doing right in following out the loving impulses of her nature, supported her in the disagreeable circum. stances into which she was sometimes brought.

While they were thus busy with the flowers, Miriam joined them. She had cast her neutral tints, and appeared in a frock of dark red, with a band of gold in her dusky hair, sombrely rich. She was a strange-looking child, one of those whose coming beauty promises all the more that it has as yet reached only the stage of interesting ugliness. Splendid eyes, olive complexion, rounded cheeks, were accompanied by a very unfinished nose, and a large mouth, with thick though finely-modelled lips. She would be a glory some day. She flitted into the room, and flew from flower to flower like one of those black and red butterflies that Scotch children call witches. The sight of her brought to Lucy's mind by contrast the pale face and troubled brow of Mattie, and she told Mrs. Morgenstern about her endeavour to persuade the child to come, and how and why she had failed. Mrs. Morgenstern did not laugh much at the story, but she very nearly did something else.

“Oh! do go and bring little Mattie," said Miriam. “I will be very kind to her. I will give her my doll's-house ; for I shall be too big for it next year.”

“But I left her taking care of my grandmother,” said Lucy, to the truth of whose character it belonged to make no concealment oi the simplicity of the household conditions of herself and her grandmother.

And," she added, “ if she were to come I must stay at home; and besides, she could not come without me."

“But I'll tell you what-couldn't you bring the other--the little l'oppie she talks about? I should like to show Mattie that we're not quite so bad as she thinks us. Do you know this Poppie ?” said Mrs. Morgenstern.

Then Lucy told her what she knew about Poppie. She had been making inquiries in the neighbourhood, and though she had not traced the child to head-quarters anywhere, everybody in the poor places in which she had sought information knew something about her, though all they knew put together did not come to much. She slept at the top of a stair here, in the bottom of a cupboard there, coiling herself up in spaces of incredible smallness; but no one could say where her home was, or indeed if she had any home. Nor, if she wanted to find her, was It of much consequence whether she knew her home or not, for that would certainly be the last place where Poppie would be found.

“But," she concluded, “if you would really like to have her, I will go and try if I can find her. I could be back in an hour and a half or so."

“ You shall have the brougham.”

“No, no,” interrupted Lucy. “To go in a brougham to look for Poppie would be like putting salt on a bird's tail. Besides, I should not like the probable consequences of seating ber in your carriage. But I should like to see how that wild little savage would do in such a place as this."

“Oh, do go," cried Miriam, clapping her hands. “It will be such fun.”

Lucy ran for her bonnet, with great doubts of success, yet willing to do her best to find the child. She did not know that Poppie had followed her almost to Mrs. Morgenstern's door that very morning.

Now what made Lucy sufficiently hopeful of finding Poppie to start in pursuit of her, was the fact that she had of late seen the child so often between Guild Court and a certain other court in the neighbourhood of Shoreditch. But Lucy did not know that it was because she was there that Poppie was there. She had not for some time, as I have said, paid her usual visits at Mrs. Morgenstern's because of her grandmother's illness; and when she did go out she had gone only to the place I have just mentioned, where the chief part of her work amongst the poor lay. Poppie haunting her as she did, where Lucy was there she saw Poppie. And, indeed, if Poppie had any ties to one place more than a hundred others, that place happened to be Staines Court.

When Lucy came out of Mrs. Morgenstern's, if she had only gone the other way, she would have met Poppie coming round the next corner. After Lucy had vanished Poppie had found a penny in the gutter, had bought a fresh roll with it, and given the half of it to a child younger than herself, whom she met at the back of the Marylebone police station, and after contemplating the neighbouring churchyard through the railings while they ate their roll together, and comparing this resting-place of the dead with the grand Baker Street Cemetery, she had judged it time to scamper back to the neighbourhood of Wyvil Place, that she might have a chance of seeing the beautiful lady as she came out again. As she turned the corner she saw her walking away towards the station, and after following her till she entered it, scudded off for the city, and arrived in the neighbourhood Guild Court before the third train reached Farringdon Street, to which point only was the railway then available.

Lucy just looked in on her grandmother, and then set off for Staines Court, where she was glad of the opportunity of doing some loving-kindness while seeking Poppie. The first house she entered was in a dreadful condition of neglect. There were hardly more balusters in the stairs than served to keep the filthy hand-rail in its

« ForrigeFortsett »