Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

to spend a Christmas morning with, and he and Mr. Boxall, who was equally a believer in commerce, were left to entertain each other.

Mary Boxall was especially merry; Amy Worboise roguish as usual ; Jane Boxall rather silent, but still bright-eyed, for who could tell whom she might meet upon the heath ? And with three such girls Tom could be no other than gay, if not brilliant.

True, Lucy was alone with her old grandmother in dingy Guild Court; but if she loved him, was that not enough to make her or any other woman happy? And he could not help it besides. And why should he not improve the shining hour because Lucy had no flowers to gather honey from ? Besides, was he not going to meet her the very next day, after much contrivance for concealment? So he was resolved to be merry and “ freuen sich des Lebens." They reached the flagstaff.

The sun getting low, and clouds were gathering behind him. Harrow on the Hill was invisible, but the reservoir gleamed coldly far across the heath.

was

A wind was blowing from the north-west; all London lay south and east in clearness wonderful, for two or three minutes. Then a vapour slowly melted away the dome of St. Paul's; and like a spirit of sorrow, gathered and gathered till that which was full of life to those who were in it, was but a gray cloud to those that looked on from the distant height. Already the young people felt their spirits affected, and as if by a common impulse, they set off to walk briskly to the pines above the “Spaniards.” They had not gone far before they met Charles Wither sauntering carelessly along—at least he seemed much surprised to see them. He turned and walked between Jane and Amy, and Mary and Tom were compelled to drop behind, so as not to extend their line unreasonably and occupy the whole path. Quite unintentionally on Tom's part, the distance between the two divisions increased, and when he and Mary reached the pines, the rest of the party had vanished. They had in fact gone down into the Vale of Health, to be out of the wind, and return by the hollow, at the suggestion of Charles Wither, who wished thus to avoid the chance of being seen by Mr. Boxall. When he had taken his leave of them, just as they came in sight of the flagstaff, where Mr. Worboise and Mr. Boxall had appointed to meet them on their return from the pines, Jane begged Amy to say nothing about having met him.

“Oh!” said Amy, with sudden and painful illumination, “I am so sorry to have been in the way.

“On the contrary, dear Amy, I should not have known what to say to papa, except you had been with me. I am so much obliged to

you.

Thus there was clearly trouble in store for Mr. Boxall, who had never yet known what it was not to have his own way—in matters which he would consider of importance at least.

The two gentlemen had gone into “ Jack Straw's” to have a glass of wine together, in honour of Christmas-Day; and while they were seated together before a good fire, it seemed to Mr. Boxall a suitable opportunity for entering on a matter of business.

“What will you say to me, Worboise, when I tell you that I have never yet made a will ?”

“I needn't tell you what I think, Boxall. You know well enough. Very foolish of you. Very imprudent, indeed. And I confess I should not have expected it of you, although I had a shrewd suspicion that such was the

case."

“ How came you to suspect it?”

“To tell the truth, I could not help thinking that as our friendship was not of yesterday, you would hardly have asked any one else to draw up your will but your old friend.

So you see it was by no mysterious exercise of intelligence that I came to the conclusion that, not being an unkind or suspicious man, you must be a dilatory, and, excuse me, in this sole point, a foolish man.”

“I grant the worst you can say. shall say it only till to-morrow—that is, if you

But you

will draw up the will, and have it ready for me to sign at any hour you may be at leisure for a call from me.”

“I can't undertake it by to-morrow; but it shall be ready by the next day at twelve o'clock.”

“ That will do perfectly. I must remain a foolish man' for twenty-four hours longerthat is all.”

"You wont be much the worse for that, except you have an attack of apoplexy to fix you there. But, joking apart, give me my instructions. May I ask how much you have to leave ?

“Oh! somewhere, off and on, about thirty thousand. It isn't much, but I hope to double it in the course of a few years, if things go on as they are doing.”

Mr. Worboise had not known so much about his friend's affairs as he had pretended to his son.

When he heard the amount, he uttered a slight “Whew !” But whether it meant that the sum fell below or exceeded his expectations, he gave Mr. Boxall no time to inquire.

« ForrigeFortsett »