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on the ridge, but forming an obtuse angle at the point ; his mouth curved upwards, and drawn upwards by the corners when he smiled, which gave him the appearance of laughing down at everything ; his chin nowise remarkable. And there, reader, I hope you have him. I ought to have mentioned that no one ever saw his teeth, though to judge from his performances at the table they were in serviceable condition. He was considerably above the middle height, shapeless rather than stout, and wore black clothes.
You're going to dine at the Boxalls' to-night, I believe, Tom. Mr. Boxall asked me, but I can't go. I am so busy with the case of Spender and Spoon."
No, father. I don't mean to go,” said Tom.
Why not?" asked Mr. Worboise, with some surprise, and more than a hint of dissatisfaction. “Your mother hasn't been objecting, has she?"
“I am not aware that my mother knows of the invitation,” answered Tom, trying to hide his discomfort in formality of speech. “Well
, I said nothing about it, I believe. But I accepted for you at the same time that I declined for myself. You saw the letter--I left it for you."
“Yes, sir, I did." "Well
, in the name of Heaven, what do you mean? You answer as if you were in the witness-box. I am not going to take any advantage of you. Speak out, man. Why wont you go to Boxall's?"
“Well, sir, to tell the truth, I didn't think he behaved quite well to me yesterday. I happened to be a few minutes late, and
“And Boxall blew you up; and that's the way you take to show your dignified resentment. * Bah!”
“He ought to behave to me like a gentleman.” “But how is he, if he isn't a 'gentleman ?
He hasn't had the bringing up you've had. But he's a good, honest fellow, and says what he means."
“That is just what I did, sir. And you have always told me that honesty is the best policy."
“ Yes, I confess. But that is not exactly the kind of honesty I mean," returned Mr. Worboise, with a fishy smile, for his mouth was exactly of the fish-type. The law scarcely refers to the conduct of a gentleman as a gentleman.”
This was obscure to his son, as it may be to the reader.
“ Then you don't want me to behave like a gentleman ?" said Tom.
“Keep your diploma in your pocket till it's asked for," answered his father. “If you are constantly obtruding it on other people, they will say you bought it and paid for it. A gentleman can afford to put an affront in beside it, when he knows it's there. But
the idea of good old Boxall insulting a son of mine is too absurd, Tom. You must remember you are his servant."
So he told me," said Tom, with reviving indignation.
“ Especially as it expresses a disagreeable fact. Come, come, my boy. Better men than you will ever be, have had to sweep out their master's office before now. But no reference is made to the fact when they call the office their own. You go 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 up."
" 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-pos. sibly 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 won't have you offend Mr. Boxall, anyhow,” he concluded. “He is your governor.”
The father had tact enough to substitute the clerks 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.
No 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 shopdinner ; 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.
Mary was a very pretty, brown-haired, white-skinned, blue-eyed damsel, whose charms lay in harmony of colour, general roundness, the smallness of her extremities, and her simple kindheartedness. She was dressed in white muslin, with ribands of precisely the colour of her eyes. Tom could not help being pleased at having her beside him. She was not difficult to entertain, for she was willing to be interested in anything ; and while Tom was telling her a story about a young lad in his class at the Sunday-school, whom he had gone to see at his wretched home, those sweet eyes filled with tears, and Mr. Stopper saw it, and choked in his glass of sherry. Tom saw it, too, and would have been more overcome thereby, had it not been for reasons.
Charles Wither, on the opposite side of the table, was neglecting his own lady for the one at his other elbow, who was Jane Boxall—a fine, regular-featured, dark-skinned young woman. They were waiched with stolen glances of some anxiety from both ends of the table, for neither father nor mother cared much about Charles Wither, although the former was too kind to omit inviting him to his house occasionally.
After the ladies retired, the talk was about politics, the moneymarket, and other subjects quite uninteresting to Tom, who, as I have already said, was at this period of his history a reader of Byron, and had therefore little sympathy with human pursuits except they took some abnormal form—such as piracy, atheism, or the like-in the person of one endowed with splendid faculties and gifts in general. So he stole away from the table, and joined the ladies sometime before the others rose from their wine; not, however, before he had himself drunk more than his gravity of demeanour was quite sufficient to ballast. He found Mary turning over some music, and as he drew near he saw her laying aside, in its turn, Byron's song, “ She walks in beauty.”
“Oh! do you sing that song, Miss Mary ?” he asked with empressement.
“I have sung it several times," she answered ; “but I am afraid I cannot sing it well enough to please you. Are you fond of the song ?”
“I only know the words of it, and should so much like to hear you sing it. I never heard it sung. Do, Miss Mary."
“ You will be indulgent, then ?" “ I shall have no chance of exercising that virtue, I know. There."
He put the music on the piano as he spoke, and Mary, adjusting her white skirts and her white shoulders, began to sing the song with taste, and, what was more, with simplicity. Her voice was very pleasant to the ears of Thomas, warbling one of the songs of the man whom, against his conscience, he could not help regarding as the greatest he knew. So much moved was he, that the signs of his emotion would have been plainly seen had not the rest of the company, while listening more or less to the song, been employing their eyes at the same time with Jane's portfolio of drawings. All the time he had his eyes upon her white shoulder : stooping to turn the last leaf from behind her, he kissed it lightly. At the same moment the door opened, and Mr. Stopper entered. Mary ceased singing, and rose with a face of crimson and the timidest, slightest glance at Tom, whose face flushed up in response.
It was a foolish action, possibly repented almost as soon as done.
Certainly for the rest of the evening Thomas sought no opportunity of again approaching Mary. I do not doubt it was with some feeling of relief that he heard his father say it was time for them to be going home.
None of the parents would have been displeased had they seen the little passage between the young people. Neither was Mary offended at what had occurred. While she sat singing, she knew that the face bending over her was one of the handsomest-a face rather long and pale, of almost pure Greek outline, with a high forehead, and dark eyes with a yet darker fringe. Nor although the reader must see that Tom had nothing yet that could be called character, was his face therefore devoid of expression; for he had plenty of feeling, and that will sometimes shine out the more from the very absence of a characteristic meaning in the countenance. Hence, when Mary felt the kiss, and glanced at the face whence it had fallen, she read more in the face than there was in it to read, and the touch of his lips went deeper than her white shoulder. They were both young, and as yet mere electric jars charged with emotions. Had they both continued such as they were now, there could have been no story to tell about them; none such, at least, as I should care to tell. They belonged to the common class of mortals who, although they are weaving a history are not aware of it, and in whom the process goes on so slowly that the eye of the artist can find in them no substance sufficient to be woven into a human creation in tale or poem. How dull that life looks to him, with its ambitions, its love-making, its dinners, its sermons, its tailor's bills, its weariness over all-without end or goal save that towards which it is driven purposeless ! Not till a hope is born such that its fulfilment depends upon the will of him who cherishes it, does a man begin to develope the stuff out of which a tale can be wrought. For then he begins to have a story of his own -it
may be for good, it may be for evil—but a story. Thomas's religion was no sign of this yet ; for a man can no more be saved by the mere reflex of parental influences, than he will be condemned by his inheritance of parental sins. I do not say that there is no interest in the emotions of such young people ; but I say there is not reality enough in them to do anything with. They are neither consistent nor persistent enough to be wrought into form. Such are in the condition over which in the miracle-play Adam laments to Eve after their expulsion from Paradise :
“ Oure hap was hard, oure wytt was nesche (soft, tender)
To paradys when we were brought.” Mr. Boxall lived in an old-fashioned house in Hackney, with great rooms and a large garden. Through the latter he went with Mr. Worboise and Tom to let them out at a door in the wall, which would save them a few hundred yards in going to the North London