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and tell Mr. Boxall that you will be happy to dine with him to-night if he will allow you to change your mind.”
“ But I told him I was engaged.”
“ Tell him the engagement is put off, and you are at his service.”
“But- " began Tom, and stopped. He was going to say the engagement was not put off.
“ But what?” said his father.
“I don't like to do it," answered Tom. “He will take it for giving in and wanting to make
“Leave it to me, then, my boy," returned his father, kindly. “I will manage it. My business is not so very pressing but that I can go if I choose. I will write and say that a change in my plans has put it in my power to be his guest, after all, and that I have persuaded you to put off your engagement and come with me.”
“ But that would be would not be true," hesitated Tom. “Pooh! pooh! I'll take the responsibility of
that. Besides, it is true. Your mother will make a perfect spoon of you—with the help of good little Master Simon. Can't I change my plans if I like? We must not offend Boxall. He is a man of mark—and warm. I say nothing about figures—I never tell secrets. I don't even say how many figures. But I know all about it, and venture to say, between father and son, that he is warm, decidedly warm-possibly hot,” concluded Mr. Worboise, laughing.
“I don't exactly understand you, sir,” said Tom, meditatively.
“ You would understand me well enough if you had a mind to business," answered his father.
But what he really meant in his heart was that Mr. Boxall had two daughters, to one of whom it was possible that his son might take a fancy, or rather-to express it in the result, which was all that he looked to-a marriage might be brought about between Tom and Jane or Mary Boxall; in desiring which, he thought he knew what he was after, for he was Mr. Boxall's man of business.
“I wont have you offend Mr. Boxall, anyhow," he concluded. “He is your governor."
The father had tact enough to substitute the clerk’s pseudonym for the obnoxious term.'
“ Very well, sir; I suppose I must leave it to you," answered Tom; and they finished their breakfast without returning to the subject.
When he reached the counting-house, Tom went at once to Mr. Boxall's room, and made his apologies for being late again, on the ground that his father had detained him while he wrote the letter he now handed to him. Mr. Boxall glanced at the note.
“I am very glad, Tom, that both your father and you have thought better of it. Be punctual at seven."
“Wife must put another leaf yet in the table,” he said to himself, as Thomas retired to · his desk. “Thirteen's not lucky, though ; but one is sure to be absent.”
The Boxalls' Dinner.
To one was absent, however, and number
thirteen was the standing subject of the jokes of the evening, especially as the thirteenth was late, in the person of Mr. Wither, whom Mr. Boxall had invited out of mere good nature; for he did not care much about introducing him to his family, although his conduct in the countinghouse was irreproachable. Miss Worboise had been invited with her father and brother, but whether she stayed at home to nurse her mother or to tease the curate, is of no great importance to my history.
The dinner was a good, well-contrived, rather antiquated dinner, within the compass of the house itself; for Mrs. Boxall only pleased her husband as often as she said that they were and would remain old-fashioned people, and would have their own maids to prepare and serve a dinner—"none of those men-cooks and undertakers to turn up their noses at everything in the house !" But Tom abused the whole affair within himself as nothing but a shop-dinner; for there was Mr. Stopper, the head-clerk, looking as sour as a summons; and there was Mr. Wither, a good enough fellow and gentlemanlike, but still of the shop; besides young Weston, of whom nobody could predicate anything in particular, save that he stood in such awe of Mr. Stopper, that he missed the way to his mouth in taking stolen stares at him across the table. Mr. Worboise sat at the hostess's left hand, and Mr. Stopper at her right; Tom a little way from his father, with Mary Boxall, whom he had taken down, beside him; and many were the under-browed glances which the head-clerk shot across the dishes at the couple.