joined her there. But some delay had arisen, and she was not to sail till the next morning. Mr. Boxall had resolved to make use of the time thus gained or lost, and had come up to town. I cannot help believing that it was by contrivance of Mr. Stopper, who had watched Tom and seen him go up the court, that he went through the door from his private room, instead of going round, which would have given warning to the lovers. Possibly he returned intending to see his mother ; but after the discovery he made, avoided her partly because he was angry and would not quarrel with her the last thing before his voyage. Upon maturer consideration, he must have seen that he had no ground for quarrelling with her at all, for she could have known nothing about Tom in relation to Mary, except Tom had told her, which was not at all likely. But before he had had time to see this, he was on his way to Gravesend again. He was so touchy as well as obstinate about everything wherein his family was concerned, that the sight of Tom with his Mary's cousin was enough to drive all reflection out of him for an hour at least.

Thomas and Lucy stood and stared at each other. Thomas stared from consternation ; Lucy only stared at Tom.

“Well, Thomas,” she said at last, with a sweet watery smile ; for she had her lover, and she had lost her idol. She had got behind the scenes, and could worship no more; but Dagon was a fine idea, notwithstanding his fall, and if she could not set him up on his pedestal again, she would at least try to give him an arm-chair. Fish-tailed Dagon is an unfortunate choice for the simile, I know, critical reader; but let it pass, and, the idea it illustrates being by no means original, let the figure at least have some claim to the distinction.

“Now he'll go and tell my father," said Tom ; "and I wish you knew what a row my mother and he will make between them.”

“But why, Tom? Have they any prejudice against me? Do they know there is such a person?”.

I don't know. They may have heard of you at your uncle's.” “ Then why should they be so very angry?”.

“My father because you have no money, and my mother because you have no grace.”

“No grace, Tom! Am I so very clumsy ? ” Thomas burst out laughing.

I forgot,” he said. “ You were not brought up to my mother's slang. She and her set use Bible words till they make you hate them."

But you shouldn't hate them. They are good in themselves, though they be wrong used."

“That's all very well. Only if you had been pestered with them as I have been, I am afraid you would have had to give in to hating them, as well as me, Lucy. I never did like that kind of


slang. But what am I to do with old Boxall—I beg your pardon --with your uncle Richard ? He'll be sure to write to my father before he sails. They're friends, you know.”

“Well, but you will be beforehand with him, and then it won't matter. You were going to do it at any rate, and the thing now is to have the start of him," said Lucy, perhaps not sorry to have in the occurrence an additional spur to prick the sides of Thomas's intent.

Yes, yes, that's all very well,” returned Thomas, dubiously, as if there was a whole world behind it.

“Now, dear Tom, do go home at once, and write. You will save the last post if you do,” said Lucy decidedly ; for she saw more and more the necessity, for Thomas's own sake, of urging him to action.

“So, instead of giving me a happy evening, you are going to send me home to an empty house !”

You see the thing must be done, or my uncle will be before you,” said Lucy, beginning to be vexed with him for his utter want of decision, and with herself for pushing him towards such an act. Indeed, she felt all at once that perhaps she had been unmaidenly. But there was no choice except to do it, or break off the engagement.

Now whether it was that her irritation influenced her tone and infected Tom with like irritation, or that he could not bear being thus driven to do what he so much disliked, while on the whole he would have preferred that Mr. Boxall should tell his father and so save him from the immediate difficulty, the evil spirit in him arose once more in rebellion, and, like the mule that he was, he made an effort to unseat the gentle power that would have urged him along the only safe path on the mountain-side.

Lucy, I will not be badgered this way. If you can't trust me, you won't get anything out of me.”

Lucy drew back a step and looked at him for one moment; then turned and left the room. Thomas waited for a minute ; then, choosing to arouse a great sense of injury in his bosom, took his hat, and went out, banging the door behind him.

Just as he banged Lucy's door, out came Mr. Molken from his. It was as if the devil had told a hawk to wait, and he would fetch him a pigeon.

Coming to have your lesson after all ?” he asked, as Thomas, from very indecision, made a step or two towards him.

“No; I don't feel inclined for a lesson to-night.” “Where are you going, then ?”

“Oh, I don't know," answered Tom, trying to look no-how in particular.

Come along with me, then. I'll show you something of life after dark."

[ocr errors]

“ But where are you going ?”
“ You'll see that when we get there.

You're not afraid, are

you ?"

“Not I," answered Tom ; "only a fellow likes to know where he's going. That's all.”

“Well, where would you like to go? A young fellow like you really ought to know something of the world'he lives in. You are clever enough, in all conscience, if you only knew a little more.'

“Go on, then. I don't care. It's nothing to me where I go. Only," Tom added, “I have no money in my pocket. I spent my last shilling on this copy of Goethe's poems.'

“Ah, you never spent your money better! There was a man, now, that never contented himself with hearsay! He would know all the ways of life for himself-else how was he to judge of them all ? He would taste of everything, that he might know the taste of it. Why should a man be ignorant of anything that can be known ? Come along. I will take care of you. See if I don't !”

“ But you can't be going anywhere in London for nothing. And I tell you I haven't got a farthing in my purse.”

“Never mind that. It shan't cost you anything.–Now I am going to make a clean breast of it, as you English call it; though why there should be anything dirty in keeping your own secrets I don't know. I want to make an experiment with you."

“Give me chloroform, and cut me up ?” said Tom, reviving as his quarrel with Lucy withdrew a little into the background.

“ Not quite that. You shall neither take chloroform, nor have your eyes bandaged, nor be tied to the table. You can go the moment you have had enough of it. It is merely for the sake of my theory. Entirely an experiment."

“ Perhaps, if you told me your theory, I might judge of the nature of the experiment."

“I told you all about it the other day. You are one of those fortunate mortals doomed to be lucky. Why, I knew one-not a gambler, I don't mean that--whose friends at last would have nothing to do with him where any chance was concerned. If it was only sixpenny points, they wouldn't play a single rubber of whist with him except he was their partner. In fact, the poor wretch was reduced to play only with strangers-comparative strangers, I mean, of course. He won everything."

“Then what do you want with me ? Out with it.”

I only want to back you. You don't understand the thing. You shan't spend a farthing. I have plenty.”—Here Molken pulled a few sovereigns from his pocket as he went on, and it never occurred to Tom to ask how he had them, seeing he was so hard-up at dinner-time.-" It's all for my theory of luck, I assure you. I have given up practical gambling, as I told you, long ago. It's not right. I have known enough about it, I confess to you-you know we understand each other ; but I confess too my theory—I am anxious about that.”

All this time they had been walking along, Thomas paying no heed to the way they went. He would have known little about it, however, well as he thought he knew London, for they had entered a region entirely unknown to him.

haven't told nie, aster all,” he said, “where you are going.”

"Here,' answered Molken, pushing open the swing-door of a public-house.

But you



The next morning Thomas made his appearance in the office at the usual hour, but his face was pale and his eyes were red. His shirt-front was tumbled and dirty, and he had nearly forty shillings in his pocket. He never looked up from his work, and now and then pressed his hand to his head. All this Mr. Stopper saw and enjoyed.



WHEN Lucy left the room, with her lover-if lover he could be called-alone in it, her throat felt as if it would burst with the swelling of something like bodily grief. She did not know what it was, for she had never felt anything like it before. She thought she was going to die. Her grandmother could have told her that she would be a happy woman if she did not have such a swelling in her throat a good many times without dying of it ; but Lucy did not go to consult her grandmother. She went to her own room and threw herself on her bed, but started up again when she heard the door bang, flew to the window, and saw all that passed between Molken and Thomas till they left the court together. She had never seen Molken so full in the face before ; and whether it was from this full view, or that his face wore more of the spider expression upon this occasion I do not know-I incline to the latter, for I think that an on-looker can read the expression of a countenance better, sometimes, than the person engaged in conversation with its owner-however it was, she felt a dreadful repugnance to Molken from that moment, and be. came certain that he was trying in some way or other to make his own out of Thomas. With this new distress was mingled the kind, but mistaken self-reproach that she had driven him to it. Why should she not have borne with the poor boy, who was worried to death between his father and mother and Mr. Stopper and that demon down there ? He would be all right if they would only leave him alone. He was but a poor boy, and, alas ! she had driven him away from his only friend--for such she was sure she was. She threw herself on her bed, but she could not rest. All the things in the room seemed pressing upon her, as if they had staring eyes in their heads; and there was no heart anywhere.

Her grandmother heard the door bang, and came in search of her.

“What's the matter, my pet ?” she asked, as she entered the room and found her lying on her bed.

Oh, nothing, grannie," answered Lucy, hardly knowing what she said. “You've quarrelled with that shilly-shally beau of yours, I

supo pose. Well, let him go !--he's not much.”

Lucy made no reply, but turned her face towards the wall, as mourners did ages before the birth of King Hezekiah. Grannie had learned a little wisdom in her long life, and left her. She would get a cup of tea ready, for she had great faith in bodily cures for mental aches. But before the tea was well in the tea. pot Lucy came down in her bonnet and shawl.

She could not rest. She tossed and turned. What could Thomas be about with that man? What mischief might he not take him into ? Good women, in their supposed ignorance of men's wickedness, are not unfrequently like the angels, in that they understand it perfectly, without the knowledge soiling one feather of their wings. They see it clearly—even from afar. Now, although Lucy could not know so much of it as many are compelled to know, she had some acquaintance with the lowest castes of humanity, and the vice of the highest is much the same as the vice of the lowest, only in general worse-more refined, and more detestable. So, by a natural process, without knowing how, she understood something of the kind of gulf into which a man like Molken might lead Thomas, and she could not bear the thoughts that sprang out of this understanding. Hardly knowing what she did, she got up and put on her bonnet and shawl, and went downstairs.

“Where on earth are you going, Lucy ?” asked her grandmother, in some alarm.

Lucy did not know in the least what she meant to do. She had had a vague notion of setting out to find Thomas somewhere, and rescue him from the grasp of Moloch, but save for the restless. ness with which her misery filled her, she could never have entertained the fancy. The moment her grandmother asked her the question, she saw how absurd it would be. Still she could not rest. So she invented an answer, and ordered her way according to her word.

« ForrigeFortsett »