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“I'm going to see little Mattie,” she said. “The child is lonely, and so am I. I will take her out for a walk."
“Do then, my dear. It will do you both good," said the grand. mother. “Only you must have a cup of tea first."
Lucy drank her cup of tea, then rose, and went to the bookshop. Mr. Kitely was there alone.
“How's Mattie to-night, Mr. Kitely? Is she any better, do you think ?" she asked.
“ She's in the back room there. I'll call her," said the bookseller, without answering either of Lucy's questions."
“Oh ! I'll just go in to her. You wouldn't mind me taking her out for a little walk, would you ?”
“ Much obliged to you, miss," returned the bookseller, heartily. “ It's not much amusement the poor child has. I'm always meaning to do better for her, but I'm so tied with the shop that-1 don't know hardly how it is, but somehow we go on the old way. She'll be delighted.”
Lucy went into the back parlour, and there sat Mattie, with her legs curled up beneath her on the window-sill, reading a little book, thumbed and worn at the edges, and brown with dust and use.
“ Well, Miss Burton,” she cried, before Lucy had time to speak, “I've found something here. I think it's what people call poetry. I'm not sure ; but I'm sure it's good, whatever it is. Only I can't read it very well. Will you read it to me, please, miss? I do like to be read to."
"I want you to come out for a walk with me, Mattie," said Lucy, who was in no humour for reading.
Wise Mattie glanced up in her face. She had recognized the sadness in her tone.
“Well, read this first, please, Miss Burton," she said. “I think it will do you good. Things will go wrong. I'm sure it's very sad. And I don't know what's to be done with the world. It's always going wrong. It's just like father's watch. He's always saying there's something out of order in its inside, and he's always a-taking of it to the doctor, as he calls the watchmaker to amuse me. Only I'm not very easy to amuse," reflected Mattie, with a sigh. “But,” she resumed, “I wish I knew the doctor to set the world right. The clock o' St. Jacob's goes all right, but I'm sure Mr. Potter ain't the doctor to set the world right, any more than Mr. Derry is for Mr. Kitely's watch."
The associations in Mattie's mind were not always very clear either to herself or other people : they were generally just, notwithstanding.
“ But you have never been to Mr. Potter's church to know, Mattie.”
“Oh! haven't I just ? Times and times. Mr. Spelt has been
a-taking of me. I do believe mother thinks I'm going to die, and wants to get me ready. I wonder what it all means."
“Nonsense, Mattie !" said Lucy, already turned a little aside from her own sorrow by the words of the child. “You must put on your hat, and come out with me."
“My bonnet, miss. Hats are only fit for very little girls. And I won't go till you read this poetry to me-if it be poetry.”
Lucy took the book, and read. The verses were as follows :
As Jesus went into Jericho town,
Before Lucy had finished reading the not very poetic lines, they had somehow or other reached her heart. For they had one quality belonging to most good poetry-that of directness or simplicity ; and never docs a mind like hers-like hers, I mean, in truthfulness -turn more readily towards the spiritual, which is the region after all out of which that which is natural comes, than when a cloud of mist enwraps and hides the world around it, leaving only the sky visible overhead. She closed the little book gently, laid it down, got Mattie's bonnet, and heedless of the remarks of the child upon the poem, put it on her, and led her out. Her heart was too full to speak. As they went through the shop
“A pleasant walk to you, ladies," said the bookseller.
“Thank you, Mr. Kitely," returned his daughter, for Lucy could not yet speak.
They had left Bagot Street, and were in one of the principal thoroughfares, before Lucy had got the lump in her throat sufficiently swallowed to be able to say a word. She had not yet begun to consider where they should go. When they came out into the wider street, the sun, now near the going down, was shining golden through a rosy fog. Long shadows lay or 'fitted about over the level street. Lucy had never before taken any notice of the long shadows of evening. Although she was a town.girl, and had therefore had comparatively few chances, yet in such wide streets as she had sometimes to traverse they were not a rare sight. In the city, to be sure, they are much rarer. But the reason she saw them now was that her sorrowful heart saw the sorrowfulness of the long shadows out of the rosy mist, and made her mind observe them. The sight brought the tears again into her eyes, and yet soothed her. They looked so strange upon that wood-paved street, that they seemed to have wandered from some heathy moor and lost themselves in the labyrinth of the city. Even more than the scent of the hay in the early morning, floating into the silent streets from the fields around London, are these long shadows to the lover of nature, convincing him that what seems the unnatural Babylon of artifice and untruth, is yet at least within the region of nature, contained in her bosom, and subjected to her lovely laws; is on the earth as truly as the grassy field upon which the child sees with delighted awe his very own shadow stretch out to such important, yea portentous length. Even hither come the marvels of Nature's magic. Not all the commonplaces of ugly dwellings, and cheating shops that look churches in the face and are not ashamed, can shut out that which gives mystery to the glen far withdrawn, and loveliness to the mountain-side. From this moment Lucy began to see and feel things as she had never seen or felt them before. Her weeping had made way for a deeper spring in her nature to flow -a gain far more than sufficient to repay the loss of such a lover as Thomas, if indeed she must lose him.
But Mattie saw the shadows too.
“Well, miss, who'd ha’ thought of such a place !” she said. “I declare it bewilders my poor brain. I feel every time a horse puts his foot on my shadow as if I must cry out. Isn't it silly? It's all my big head-it's not me, you know, miss."
Lucy could not yet make the remark, and therefore I make it for her-how often we cry out when something steps on our shadow, passing yards away from ourselves! There is not a phenomenon of disease-not even of insanity—that has not its counterpart in our moral miseries, all springing from want of faith in God. At least, so it seems to me. That will account for it all, or looks as if it would; and nothing else does.
It seems to me, also, that in thinking of the miseries and wretchedness in the world we too seldom think of the other side. We hear of an event in association with some certain individual, and we say "How dreadful! How miserable !” And perhaps we say—“Is there--can there be a God in the earth when such a thing can take place ?” But we do not see into the region of actual suffering or conflict. We do not see the heart where the shock falls. We neither see the proud bracing of energies to meet the ruin that threatens, nor the gracious faint in which the weak escape from writhing. We do not see the abatement of pain which is paradise to the tortured; we do not see the gentle upholding in sorrow that comes even from the ministrations of nature-not to speak of human nature-to delicate souls. In a word, we do not see, and the sufferer himself does not understand, how God is present every moment, comforting, upholding, heeding that the pain shall not be more than can be borne, making the thing possible and not hideous. I say nothing of the peaceable fruits that are to spring therefrom ; and who shall dare to say where they shall not follow upon such tearing up of the soil ? Even those long shadows gave Lucy some unknown comfort, flowing from Nature's recognition of the loss of her lover; and she clasped the little hand more tenderly, as if she would thus return her thanks to Nature for the kindness received.
To get out of the crowd on the pavement Lucy turned aside into a lane. She had got half-way down it before she discovered that it was one of those through which she had passed the night before when she went with Thomas to the river. She turned at once to leave it. As she turned, right before her stood an open church door. It was one of those sepulchral city churches, where the voice of the clergyman sounds ghostly, and it seerns as if the dead below were more real in their presence than the half-dozen worshippers scattered among the pews.
On this occasion, however, there were seven present when Lucy and Mattie entered and changed the mystical number to the magical.
It was a church named outlandishly after a Scandinavian saint. Some worthy had endowed a week-evening sermon there after better fashion than another had endowed the poor of the parish. The name of the latter was recorded in golden letters upon a black tablet in the vestibule, as the donor of 200l., with the addition in letters equally golden, None of which was ever paid by his trustees.
I will tell you who the worshippers were. There was the housekeeper in a neighbouring warehouse, who had been in a tumult all the day, and at nightfall thought of the kine-browsed fields of her childhood, and went to church. There was an old man who had once been manager of a bank, and had managed it ill both for himself and his conipany; and having been dismissed in consequence, had first got weak in the brain, and then begun to lay up treasure in heaven. Then came a brother and two sisters, none of them under seventy. The former kept shifting his brown wig and taking snuff the whole of the service, and the latter two wiping, with yellow silk handkerchiefs, brown faces inlaid with coal-dust. They could not agree well enough to live together, for their father's will was the subject of constant quarrel. They therefore lived in three lodgings at considerable distances apart. But every night in the week they met at this or that church similarly endowed, sat or knelt, or stood in holy silence or sacred speech for an hour and a half, walked together to the end of the lane discussing the sermon, and then separated till the following evening. Thus the better parts in them made a refuge of the house of God, where they came near to each other, and the destroyer kept a little aloof for the season. These, with the beadle and his wife, and Lucy and Mattie, made up the congregation.
Now when they left the lane there was no sun to be seen; but when they entered the church, there he was-his last rays pouring in through a richly-stained window, the only beauty of the building. This window-a memorial one-was placed in the northern side of the chancel, whence a passage through houses, chimneys, and churches led straight to the sunset, down which the last rays I speak of came speeding for one brief moment ere all was gone, and the memorial as faded and grey as the memory of the man to whom it was dedicated.
This change from the dark lane to the sun-lighted church, laid hold of Lucy's feelings. She did not know what it made her feel, but it aroused her with some vague sense of that sphere of glory which enwraps all our lower spheres, and she bowed her knees and her head, and her being worshipped, if her thoughts were too troubled to go upwards. The prayers had commenced ; and as she kneeled, the words “ He pardoneth and absolveth,” were the first that found luminous entrance into her soul ; and with them came the picture of Thomas, as he left the court with the man of the bad countenance. Of him, and what he might be about, her mind was full ; but every now and then a flash of light, in the shape of words, broke through the mist of her troubled thoughts, and testified of the glory-sphere beyond ; till at length her mind was so far calmed that she became capable of listening a little to the discourse of the preacher.
He was not a man of the type of Mr. Potter of St. Jacob's, who considered himself possessed of worldly privileges in virtue of a heavenly office not one of whose duties he fulfilled in a heavenly fashion. Some people considered Mr. Fuller very silly for believing that he might do good in a church like this, and with a congregation like this, by speaking that which he knew, and testifying that which he had seen. But he did actually believe it. Somehow or other-I think because he was so much in the habit of looking up to the Father-the prayers took a hold of him once more every time he read them; and he so delighted in the truths he saw that