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Lucy, Lucy troubled about Thomas. Then with another sigh, Lucy rose and went to the piano. She had never done so before when Thomas was with her, for he did not care much about her music. Now she thought of it as the only way of breaking the silence. Strange it is how often silence is a thing that must be broken.
Then came into her memory a stately, sweet song her father used to sing. She did not know where he got either the words or the music of it. I know that the words are from Petrarch. Probably her father had translated them, for he had been much in Italy, and was a delicately gifted man. But whose was the music, except it was his own, I do not know. And as she sang the words, Lucy perceived for the first time how much they meant, and how they belonged to her; for in singing them she prayed both for herself and for Thomas.
I am so weary with the burden old
That I may rest, and from the earth arise ! 1 Her sweet tones, the earnest music, and the few phrases he could catch here and there, all had their influence upon Tom. They made him feel. And with that, as usual, he was content. Lucy herself had felt as she had never felt before, and therefore sung as she had never sung before. And Tom was astonished to find that her voice had such power over him, and began to wonder how it was that he had not experienced this before. He went home more solemn and thoughtful than he had ever been.
Still he did nothing.
A COMING EVENT.
Thus things went on for the space of about three weeks. Tom went to see Lucy almost every night, and sometimes stayed late ;
1 Petrarch's sixtieth Sonnet.
for his mother was still from home, and his father was careless about his hours so long as they were decent. Lucy's face continued grave, but lost a little of its trouble ; for Tom often asked her to sing to him now, and she thought she was gaining more of the influence over him which she so honestly wished to possess. As the month drew towards a close, however, the look of anxiety began to deepen upon her countenance.
One evening, still and sultry, they were together as usual. Lucy was sitting at the piano where she had just been singing, and Tom stood beside her. The evening, as the Italian poets would say, had grown brown, and Mrs. Boxall was just going to light the candles, when Tom interposed a request for continued twilight.
“Please, grannie," he said for he too called her grannie—“ do not light the candles yet. It is so sweet and dusky !-just like Lucy here."
"All very well for you," said Mrs. Boxall ; " but what is to become of me? My lovemaking was over long ago, and I want to see what I'm about now. Ah ! young people, your time will come next. Make hay while the sun shines.”
“ While the candle's out, you mean, grannie,” said Tom, stealing a kiss from Lucy.
“I hear more than you think for," said the cheery old woman. “I'll give you just five minutes' grace, and then I mean to have my own way. I am not so fond of darkness, I can tell you."
“How close it is !” said Lucy. “ Will you open the window a little wider, Tom? Mind the flowers."
She came near the window, which looked down on the little stony desert of Guild Court, and sank into a high-backed chair that stood beside it.
“I can hardly drag one foot after another," she said, “ I feel so oppressed and weary."
** And I," said Tom, who had taken his place behind her, lean. ing on the back of her chair, “am as happy as if I were in Paradise.”
“There must be thunder in the air," said Lucy. “I fancy I smell the lightning already. Oh dear !"
" Are you afraid of lightning, then ?” asked Thomas.
“I do not think I am exactly; but it shakes me so! I cannot explain what I mean. It affects me like a false tone on the violin. No, that's not it. I can't tell what it is like."
A fierce flash broke in upon her words. Mrs. Boxall gave a scream.
“The Lord be about us from harm !” she cried. Lucy sat trembling.
Thomas did not know how much she had to make her tremble. It is wonderful what can be seen in a single moment under an intense light. In that one flash Lucy had seen Mr. Molken and another man seated at a table, casting dice, with the eagerness of hungry fiends upon both their faces.
A few moments after the first flash, the wind began to rise, and as flash followed flash, with less and less of an interval, the wind rose till it blew a hurricane, roaring in the chimney and through the archway as if it were a wild beast caged in Guild Court, and wanting to get out.
When the second flash came, Lucy saw that the blind of Mr. Molken's window was drawn down.
All night long the storm raved about London. Chimney-pots clashed on the opposite pavements. One crazy old house, and one yet more crazy new one, were blown down. Even the thieves and burglars retreated to their dens. But before it had reached its worst Thomas had gone home. He lay awake for some time listening to the tumult and rejoicing in it, for it roused his imagina. tion and the delight that comes of beholding danger from a farremoved safety-a selfish pleasure, and ready to pass from a sense of our own comfort into a complacent satisfaction in the suffering of others.
Lucy lay awake for hours. There was no more lightning, but the howling of the wind tortured her—that is, drew discords from the slackened strings of the human instrument-her nerves ; made “ broken music in her sides.” She reaped this benefit, however, that such winds always drove her to her prayers. On the wings of the wind itself, she hastened her escape “ from the windy storm and tempest.” When at last she fell asleep, it was to dream that another flash of lightning-when or where appearing she did not know-revealed Thomas casting dice with Molken, and then left them lapt in the darkness of a godless world. She woke weeping, fell asleep again, and dreamed that she stcod in the darkness once more, and that somewhere near Thomas was casting dice with the devil for his soul, but she could neither see him nor cry to him, for the darkness choked both voice and eyes. Then a hand was laid upon her head, and she heard the words—not in her ears, but in her heart—“ Be of good cheer, my daughter.” It was only a dream ; but I doubt if even-I must not name names, lest I should be interpreted widely from my meaning-the greatest Positivist alive could have helped waking with some comfort from that dream, nay, could have helped deriving a faint satisfaction from it, if it happened to return upon him during the day. “But in no such man would such a dream arise," my reader may object. “Ah, well," I answer, because I have nothing more to say. And perhaps even in what I have written I may have been doing or hinting some wrong to some of the class. It is dreadfully difficult to be just. It is far easier to be kind than to be fair.
It was not in London or the empire only that that storm raged that night. From all points of the compass came reports of its
havoc. Whether it was the same storm, however, or another on the same night, I cannot tell; but on the next morning save one, a vessel passing one of the rocky islets belonging to the Cape Verde group, found the fragments of a wreck floating on the water. She had parted amidships, for, on sending a boat to the island, they found her stern lying on a reef, round which little innocent waves were talking to each other. On her stern they read her name, “ Ningpo,” London; and on the narrow strand they found three bodies ; one, that of a young woman, vestureless and broken. They buried them as they could.
The storm of that night beat furiously against poor Mattie's window, and made a dreadful tumult in her big head. When her father went into her little room, as was his custom every morning when she did not first appear in his, he found her lying awake, with wide eyes, seemingly unaware of what was before them. Her head and her hands were both hot ; and when her father at length succeeded in gaining some notice from her, the words she spoke, although in themselves intelligible enough, had reference to what she had been going through in the night, in regions far withdrawn, and conveyed to him no understanding of her condition further than that she was wandering. In great alarm, he sent the charwoman (whose morning visits were Mattie's sole assistance in the house, for they always had their dinner from a neighbouring cookshop) to fetch the doctor, while he went up the court to ask Lucy to come and see her.
Lucy was tossing in a troubled dream when she woke to hear his knock at the door. Possibly the whole dream passed between the first and second summons of the bookseller, who was too anxious and eager to shrink from rousing the little household. She thought she was one of the ten virgins, but whether one of the wise or foolish she did not know. She had knocked at a door, and as it opened, her lamp went out in the wind it made. But a hand laid hold of hers in the dark, and would have drawn her into the house. Then she knew that she was holding another hand which at first she took to be that of one of her sisters, but found to be Thomas's. She clung to it, and would have drawn him into the house with her, but she could not move him. And still the other hand kept drawing her in. She woke in an agony just as she was losing her hold of Thomas, and heard Mr. Kitely's knock. She was out of bed in a moment, put on her dressing-gown and her shoes, and ran downstairs.
On learning what was the matter, she made haste to dress, and in a few minutes stood by Mattie's bedside. But the child did not know her. When the doctor came, he shook his head, though he was one of the most undemonstrative of his profession; and after prescribing for her, said she must be watched with the greatest care, and gave Lucy urgent directions about her treatment. Lucy resolved that she would not leave her, and began at once to make what preparations were necessary for carrying out the doctor's instructions. Mattie took the medicine he sent; and in a little while the big eyes began to close, sank and opened again, half-closed and then started wide open, to settle their long lashes at last, after many slow flutterings, upon the pale cheek below them. Then Lucy wrote a note to Mrs. Morgenstern, and left her patient to run across to her grandmother to consult with her how she should send it. But when she opened the door into the court, there was Poppie, who of course flitted the moment she saw her, but only a little way off, like a bold bird.
“Poppie, dear Poppie !” cried Lucy, earnestly,“ do come here. I want you.”
“ Blowed if I go there again, lady?” said Poppie, without moving in either direction.
“Come here, Poppie. I won't touch you-I promise you. I wouldn't tell you a lie, Poppie,” she added, seeing that she made no impression on the child.
To judge by the way Poppie came a yard nearer, she did not seem at all satisfied by the assurance.
“ Look here, Poppie. There's a little girl-you know herMattie-she's lying very ill here, and I can't leave her. Will you take this letter for me—to that big house in Wyvil Place—to tell them I can't come to-day?"
“They'll wash me,” said Poppie, decisively.
“Oh, no, they won't again, Poppie. They know now that you don't like it."
“They'll be giving me something I don't want, then. I know the sort of them."
“You needn't go into the house at all. Just ring the bell, and give the letter to the servant."
Poppie came close up to Lucy.
“I tell you what, lady: I'm not afraid of him. He won't touch me again. If he do, I'll bite worser next time. But I won't run errands for nothink. Nobody does, miss. You ’aint forgotten what you guv me last time? Do it again, and I'm off.”
“A good wash, Poppie-that's what I gave you last time.”
“No, miss," returned the child, looking up in her face beseechingly. “You knows as well as me.” And she held up her pretty grimy mouth, so that her meaning could not be mistaken. “Old Mother Flanaghan gave me a kiss once. You remember