« ForrigeFortsett »
have observed, and I have experimented, and I tell you you are a lucky one."
Tom stroked the faintest neutrality of a coming moustache, ponderingly and pleasedly, and said nothing.
“ By-the-bye, are you coming to me to-night ?” asked Molken.
“No-0," answered Tom, still stroking his upper lip with the thumb and forefinger of his left hand, “I think not. I believe I have an engagement to-night, somewhere or other."
He took out his pocket-book, and pretended to look. “ Yes. I can't have my lesson to-night.”
“Then I needn't stop at home for you.-By-the-way, have you a sovereign about you? I wouldn't trouble you, you know, only, as I told you, I haven't got one. I believe your quarter is out to-night.”
“Oh, I beg your pardon ; I ought to have thought of that. I have two half-sovereigns in my pocket, and no more, I am sorry to say. Will one of them do for to-night? You shall have more tomorrow.”
"Oh, thank you ; it's of no consequence. “Well, I don't know, I think I will take the ten shillings, for I want to go out this evening. Yes. Thank you. Never mind to-morrow, except it be convenient.”
Tom settled the bill, and put the change of the other halfsovereign in his pocket. Molken left him at the door of the tavern, and he went back to the counting-house.
“ Who was that with you at the Golden Fleece, Tom ? " asked Mr. Stopper, as he entered ; for he took advantage of his position to be as rude as he found convenient.
Taken by surprise, Tom answered at once,-
The next moment he could have knocked his head against the wall with indignation at himself. For, always behindhand when left to himself, he was ready enough when played upon by another to respond and repent.
"He's got a hang-dog phiz of his own," said Mr. Stopper, as he plunged again into the business before him, writing away as deliberately as if it had been on parchment instead of foolscap; for Stopper was never in a hurry, and never behind.
Tom's face flushed red with wrath.
“ I'll thank you to be civil in your remarks on my friends, Mr. Stopper."
Mr. Stopper answered with a small puff of windy breath from distended lips. He blew, in short. Tom felt his eyes waver. He grew almost blind with rage. If he had followed his inclination, he would have brought the ruler beside him down, with a terrible crack, on the head before him. “Why didn't he ?” does my reader inquire ? Just because of his incapacity for action of any sort. He did not
refrain in the pity that disarms some men in the midst of their wrath, nor yet from the sense that vengeance is God's business, and will be carried out in a mode rather different from that which man would make choice of.
HOW TOM SPENT THE EVENING.
WHEN Tom left the office he walked into Mr. Kitely's shop, for he was afraid lest Mr. Stopper should see him turn up to Guild Court. He had almost forgotten Mr. Kitely's behaviour about the book he would not keep for him, and his resentment was gone quite. There was nobody in the shop but Mattie.
"Well, chick," said Thomas, kindly, but more condescendingly than suited Miss Matilda's tastes.
“ Neither chick nor child," she answered promptly, though where she got the phrase is a mystery, as indeed is the case with almost all the sayings of such children.
6 What are you, then ? A fairy ?”
“If I was, I know what I would do. Oh, wouldn't I just ! I should think I would !”.
« Well, what would you do, little Miss What's-your-name ? »
“My name is Miss Kitely ; but that's neither here nor there. Oh no! it's not me! Wouldn't I just !”
“Well, Miss Kitely, I want to know what you would do if you were a fairy !”
"I would turn your eyes into gooseberries, and your tongue into a bit of leather a foot long ; and every time you tried to speak, your long tongue would slap your blind eyes and make you cry."
"What a terrible doom !” returned Thomas, offended at the child's dislike to him, but willing to carry it off. “Why?”
“Because you made Miss Burton's eyes red, you naughty man! I know you. It must be you. Nobody else could make her eyes red but you, and you go and do it."
Thomas's first movement was of anger; for he felt, as all who have concealments are ready to feel, that he was being uncomfortably exposed. He turned his back on the child, and proceeded to examine the books on a level with his face. While he was thus engaged, Mr. Kitely entered.
* How do you do, Mr. Worboise ?” he said. “ I've got another copy of that book you and I fell out about some time ago. I can let you have this one at half the price.”
It was evident that the bookseller wanted to be conciliatory. Thomas, in his present mood, was inclined to repel his advances, but he shrunk from contention, and therefore said,
“ Thank you. I shall be glad to have it. How much is it?"
Mr. Kitely named the amount, and, ashamed to appear again unable, even at the reduced price, to pay for it, Thomas pulled out the last farthing of the money in his possession, which came to the exact sum required, and pocketed the volume.
“If you would excuse a man who has seen something of the world-more than was good for him at one time of his life-Mr. Worboise," said Mr. Kitely, as he pocketed the money, “I would give you a hint about that German up the court. He's a clever fellow enough, I daresay—perhaps too clever. Don't you have anything to do with him beyond the German. Take my advice. I don't sit here all day at the mouth of the court for nothing. I can see what comes in my way as well as another man."
What is there to say against him, Mr. Kitely? I haven't seen any harm in him.”
• I'm not going to commit myself in warning you, Mr. Worboise. But I do warn you. Look out, and don't let him lead you into mischief.”
"I hope I am able to take care of myself, Mr. Kitely,” said Thomas, with a touch of offence.
“I hope you are, Mr. Worboise," returned the bookseller, drily; “ but there's no offence meant in giving you the hint."
At this moment Mr. Stopper passed the window. Thomas listened for the echo of his steps up the archway, and as none came, he knew that he had gone along the street. He waited, therefore, till he thought he must be out of sight, and then sped uneasily from the shop, round the corner, and up to Mrs. Boxall's door, which the old lady herself opened for him, not looking so pleased as usual to see him. Mr. Molken was watching from the opposite ground floor window. A few minutes after, Mr. Stopper repassed the window of Mr. Kitely's shop, and went into the counting-house.
Thomas left Mrs. Boxall to shut the door, and rushed eagerly up the stairs, and into the sitting-room. There he found the red eyes of which Mattie had spoken. Lucy rose and held out her hand, but her manner was constrained, and her lips trembled as if she were going to cry. Thomas would have put his arm round her and drawn her to him, but she gently pushed his arm away, and he felt as many a man has felt, and every man, perhaps, ought to feel, that in the gentlest repulse of the woman he loves there is something terribly imperative and absolute.
“Why, Lucy!” he said, in a tone of hurt ; "what have I done ?""
“ If you can forget so soon, Thomas," answered Lucy," I cannot. Since yesterday I see things in a different light altogether. I cannot, for your sake any more than my own, allow things to go on in this doubtful way."
“Oh! but, Lucy, I was taken unawares yesterday; and to-day, now I have slept upon it, I don't see there is any such danger. I ought to be a match for that brute Stopper, anyhow."
Yet the brute Stopper had outreached him, or, at least, “served him out,” three or four times that very day, and he had refused to acknowledge it to himself, which was all his defence, poor wretch.
“But that is not all the question, Thomas. It is not right. At least, it seems to me that it is not right to go on like this. People's friends ought to know. I would not have done it if grannie hadn't been to know. But then I ought to have thought of your friends as well as my own."
“ But there would be no difficulty if I had only a grandmother," urged Thomas, “and one as good as yours. I shouldn't have thought of not telling then."
“I don't think the difficulty of doing right makes it unnecessary to do it,” said Lucy.
“I think you might trust that to me, Lucy," said Thomas, falling back upon his old attempted relation of religious instructor to his friend.
Lucy was silent for a moment; but after what she had gone through in the night, she knew that the time had come for altering their relative position if not the relation itself.
“No, Thomas," she said ; “I must take my own duty into my own hands. I will not go on this way."
“Do you think then, Lucy, that in affairs of this kind a fellow ought to do just what his parents want ? "
“No, Thomas. But I do think he ought not to keep such things secret from them.”
“Not even if they are unreasonable and tyrannical ? "
“No. A man who will not take the consequences of loving cannot be much of a lover."
“ Lucy!” cried Thomas, now stung to the neart.
“I can't help it, Thomas,” said Lucy, bursting into tears; “I must speak the truth, and if you cannot bear it, the worse for meand for you, too, Thomas.”
“ Then you mean to give me up ?” said Thomas, pathetically, without, however, any real fear of such an unthinkable catastrophe.
“If it be giving you up to say I will not marry a man who is too much afraid of his father and mother to let them know what he is about, then I do give you up. But it will be you who give me up if you refuse to acknowledge me as you ought.”
Lucy could not have talked like this ever before in her life. She had gone through an eternity of suffering in the night. She was a woman now. She had been but a girl before. Now she stood high above Thomas. He was but a boy still, and not beautiful as such. She was all at once old enough to be his mother. There
was no escape from the course she must take ; no dodging was possible. This must be. But she was and would be gentle with poor Thomas.
“You do not love me, Lucy,” he cried.
“My poor Thomas, I do love you; love you so dearly that I trust and pray you may be worthy of my love. Go and do as you ought, and come back to me-like one of the old knights you talk about,” she added, with the glimmer of a hopeful smile, “ bringing victory to his lady."
“I will, I will,” said Thomas, overcome by her solemn beauty and dignified words. It was as if she had cast the husk of the girl, and had come out a saving angel. But the perception of this was little more to him yet than a poetic sense of painful pleasure.
“ I will, I will," he said. “But I cannot to-night, for my father and mother are both at Folkestone. But I will write to them-that will be best.”
“Any way you like, Thomas. I don't care how you do it, so it is done."
All this time the old lady, having seen that something was wrong, had discreetly kept out of the way, for she knew that the quarrels of lovers at least are most easily settled between them. selves. Thomas now considered it all over and done with, and Lucy, overjoyed at her victory, leaned into his arms, and let him kiss her ten times. Such a man, she ought not, perhaps-only she did not know better-to have allowed to touch her till he had done what he had promised. To some people the promise is the difficult part, to others the performance. To Thomas, unhappily, the promising was easy.
They did not hear the door open. It was now getting dark, but the two were full in the light of the window, and visible enough to the person who entered. He stood still for one moment, during which the lovers unwound their arms. Only when parting, they became aware that a man was in the room. He came forward with hasty step. It was Richard Boxall. Thomas looked about for his hat. Lucy stood firm and quiet, waiting.
“Lucy, where is your grandmother?”
“ You are not very polite, uncle," said Lucy, with dignity. “ This is my friend, Mr. Worboise, whom I believe you know. Of course I do not receive visitors without my grandmother's knowledge.”
Mr. Boxall choked an oath in his throat, or rather the oath nearly choked him. He turned and went down the stair again ; but neither of them heard the outer door close. Thomas and Lucy stared at each other in dismay.
The facts of the case were these, as near as I can guess. The “Ningpo” had dropped down to Gravesend, and the Boxalls had