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mother,” prefacing some story, part true, part false, arranged for the occasion. So long as his father took no notice of the matter he did not much mind. He was afraid of him still ; but so long as he was out of bed early enough in the morning, his father did not much care at what hour he went to it. He had had his own wild oats to sow in his time. The purity of his boy's mind and body did not trouble him much, provided that, when he came to take his position in the machine of things, he turned out a steady, respectable pinion, whose cogs did not miss, but held--the one till the other caught. He had, however, grown ambitious for him within the last few days—more of which by-and-by.
In the vacancy of mind occasioned by the loss of his visits to Lucy-for he had never entered heartily into any healthy pursuits in literature, art, or even amusement-Thomas had, as it were, gradually sauntered more and more into the power of Mr. Molken; and although he had vowed to himself, after his first experience, that he would never play again, himself not being to himself a very awe-inspiring authority, he had easily broken that vow. It was not that he had any very strong inclination to play—the demon of play had not yet quite entered into him ; it was only that whatever lord asserted dominion over Thomas, to him Thomas was ready to yield that which he claimed. Molken said, “Come along," and Thomas went along. Nor was it always to the gambling-house that he followed Molken ; but although there was one most degrading species of vice from which his love to Lucy-for he loved Lucy with a real though not great love-did preserve him, there were several places to which his friend took him from which he could scarcely emerge as pure as he entered them. I suspectthanks to what influence Lucy had with him, to what conscience he had left in him, to what good his mother and Mr. Simon had taught him, in a word, to the care of God over him-Mr. Molken found him rather harder to corrupt than, from his shilly-shally ways, he had expected. Above all, the love of woman, next to the love of God, is the power of God to a young nian's salvation; for all is of God, everything, from first to last-nature, providence, and grace—it is all of our Father in heaven ; and what God hath joined let not man put asunder.
His gainbling was a very trifle as far as money went : an affair of all but life and death as far as principle was concerned. There is nothing like the amount of in-door gambling that there used to be ; but there is no great improvement in taking it to the downs and the open air, and making it librate on the muscles of horses instead of on the spinning power of a top or the turning up of cards. And whoever gambles, whether at rouge-et-noir or at Flyaway versus Stay-well, will find that the laws of gambling are, like those of the universe, unalterable. The laws of gambling are discontent, confusion, and loss upon every one who seeks to make money without giving money's worth. It will matter little to the gambler whether the retribution comes in this world, he thinking, like Macbeth, to "skip the life to come," or in the next. He will find that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
But for Thomas, the worst thing in the gambling, besides the bad company it led him into, was that the whole affair fell in so with his natural weakness. Gambling is the employment fitted for the man without principles and without will, for his whole being is but, as far as he is concerned, the roulette-ball of chance. The wise, on the contrary, do not believe in Fortune, yield nothing to her sway, go on their own fixed path regardless “ of her that turneth as a ball," as Chaucer says. They at least will be steady, come to them what may. Thomas got gradually weaker and weaker, and had it not been for Lucy, would soon have fallen utterly. But she, like the lady of an absent lord, still kept one fortress for him in a yielded and devastated country.
There was no newspaper taken in at Mr. Worboise's, for he always left home for his office as soon as possible. So, when Thomas reached the counting-house, he had heard nothing of the sad news about his late master and his family. But the moment he entered the place he felt that the atmosphere was clouded. Mr. Wither, whose face was pale as death, rose from the desk where he had been sitting, caught up his hat, and went out. Thomas could not help suspecting that his entrance was the cause of Mr. Wither's departure, and his thoughts went back to last night, and he wondered whether his fellow-clerks would cut him because of the company he had been in. His conscience could be more easily pricked by the apprehension of overt disapprobation than by any other goad. None of them took any particular notice of him, however ; only a gloom as of a funeral hung about all their faces, and radiated from them so as to make the whole place look sepulchral. Mr. Stopper was sitting within the glass partition, whence he called for Mr. Worboise, who obeyed with a bad grace, as anticipating something disagreeable.
“There !” said Mr. Stopper, handing him the newspaper, and watching him as he read.
Thomas read, returned the paper, murmured something, and went back with scared face to the outer room. There a conversation arose in a low voice, as if it had been in the presence of the dead. Various questions were asked and conjectures hazarded, but nobody knew anything. Thomas's place was opposite the glass, and before he had been long seated he saw Mr. Stopper take the key of the door of communication from a drawer, unlock the door, and . with the Times in his hand walk into Mrs. Boxall's house, closing the door behind him. This movement was easy to understand, and set Thomas thinking. Then first the thought struck him that Lucy and her grandmother would come in for all the property. This sent a glow of pleasure through him, and he had enough ado to keep the funereal look which belonged to the occasion. Now he need not fear to tell his father the fact of his engagement-indeed he might delay the news as long as he liked, sure that it would be wel. come when it came. If his father were pleased, he did not care so much for his mother. But had he known how much she loved him, he could not have got so far away from her as to think so. If, on the other hand, he had fallen in with her way of things, she would have poured out upon him so much repressed affection that he would have known it. But till he saw as she saw, felt as she felt, and could talk as she talked, her motherhood beheld an impervious barrier between her and him-a barrier she laboured hard to remové, but with tools that could make no passage through an ever-closing mist.
I cannot help thinking that if he had told all now, the knowledge of his relation to Lucy would have been welcomed by his father, and would have set everything right. I cannot but believe that Mr. Worboise's mind was troubled about the property. With perfect law on his side, there was that yet against him which all his worldliness did not quite enable him to meet with coolness. But the longer the idea of the property rested upon his mind, the more, as if it had been the red-hot coin of the devil's gift, it burned and burrowed out à nest for itself, till it lay there stone-cold and immovably fixed, and not to be got rid of. Before many weeks had passed he not only knew that it was his by law, but felt that it was his by righthis own by right of possession, and the clinging of his heart-strings around it-his own because it was so good that he could not part with it. Still, it was possible that something adverse might turn up, and there was 110 good in incurring odium until he was absolutely sure that the fortune as well as the odium would be his ; therefore he was in no haste to propound the will.
At the same time, as I have said, he began to be more ambitious for his son, and the more he thought about the property, the more he desired to increase it by the advantageous alliance which he had now no doubt he could command. This persuasion was increased by the satisfaction which his son's handsome person and pleasing manners afforded him ; and a confidence of manner which had of late shown itself, chiefly, it must be confessed, from the experience of the world he had had in the company he had of late frequented, had raised in his father's mind a certain regard for him which he had not felt before. Therefore he began to look about him, and speculate. He had not the slightest suspicion of Thomas being in love; and, indeed, there was nothing in his conduct or appearance that could have aroused such a suspicion in his mind. Mr. Worboise believed, on the contrary, that his son was leading a rather wild life.
It may seem strange that Thomas should not by this time have sunk far deeper into the abyss of misery; but Molken had been careful in not trying to hook him while he was only nibbling; and, besides, until he happened to be able to lose something worth winning, Molken rather avoided running hijn into any scrape that might disgust him without bringing any considerable advantage to himself.
There was one adverse intelligence, of whom Mr. Worboise knew nothing, and who knew nothing of Mr. Worboise, ready to pounce upon him the moment he showed his game. This was Mr. Sargent. Smarting, not under Lucy's refusal so much as from the lingering suspicion that she had altogether misinterpreted his motives, he watched for an opportunity of proving his disinterestedness: this was his only hope ; for he saw that Lucy was lost to him. He well knew that in the position of her and her grandmother, it would not be surprising if something with a forked tongue or a cloven foot should put its head out of a hole before very long, and begin to creep towards them; and therefore, as I say, he kept an indefinite but wide watch, in the hope which I have mentioned. He had no great difficulty in discovering that Mr. Worboise had been Mr. Boxall's man of business, but he had no right to communicate with him on the subject. This indeed Mr. Stopper, who had taken the place of adviser in general to Mrs. Boxall, had already done asking him whether Mr. Boxall had left no will, to which he had received a reply only to the effect that it was early days, that there was no proof of his death, and that he was prepared to give what evidence he possessed at the proper time-an answer Mrs. Boxall naturally enough, with her fiery disposition, considered less than courteous. Of this Mr. Sargent of course was not aware, but as the only thing he could do at present, he entered a caveat in the Court of Probate.
Mr. Stopper did his best for the business in the hope of one day having not only the entire management as now, but an unquestionable as unquestioned right to the same. If he ever thought of anything further since he had now a free entrance to Mrs. Boxall's region, he could not think an inch in that direction without encountering the idea of Thomas.
It was very disagreeable to Thomas that Mr. Stopper, whom he detested, should have this free admission to what he had been accustomed to regard as his peculium. He felt as if the place were defiled by his presence, and to sit as he had sometimes to sit, knowing that Mr. Stopper was overhead, was absolutely hateful. But, as I shall have to set forth in the next chapter, Lucy was not at home; and that mitigated the matter very considerably. For the rest Mr. Stopper was on the whole more civil to Thomas than he had hitherto been, and appeared even to put a little more confidence in him than formerly. The fact was that the insecurity
of his position made him conscious of vulnerability, and he wished to be friendly on all sides, with a vague general feeling of strengthening his outworks.
Mr. Wither never opened his mouth to Thomas upon any occasion or necessity, and from several symptoms it appeared that his grief, or rather perhaps the antidotes to it, were dragging him down hill.
Amy Worboise was not at home. The mother had seen symptoms; and much as she valued Mr. Simon's ghostly ministrations, the old Adam in her rebelled too strongly against having a curate for her son-in-law. So Amy disappeared for a season, upon a convenient invitation. But if she had been at home, she could have influenced events in nothing, for, as often happens in families, there was no real coinmunication between brother and sister,
MATTIE IN THE COUNTRY.
I NOW return to resume the regular thread of my story.
I do not know if my reader is half as much interested in Mattie as I am. I doubt it very much. He will, most probably, like Poppie better. But big-headed, strange, and conceited as Mattie was, she was altogether a higher being than Poppie. She thought ; Poppie only received impressions. If she had more serious faults than Poppie, they were faults that belonged to a more advanced stage of growth: diseased, my reader may say, but diseased with a disease that fell in with, almost belonged to, the untimely development. All Poppie's thoughts, to speak roughly, came from without; all Mattie's from within. To complete Mattie, she had to go back a little, and learn to receive impressions; to complete Poppie, she had to work upon the inpressions she received, and, so to speak, generate thoughts of her own. Mattie led the life of a human being; Poppie of a human animal. Mattie lived ; Poppie was there. Poppie was the type of most people; Mattie of the elect.
Lucy did not intend, in the sad circumstances in which she now was, to say a word to her grandmother about Mrs. Morgenstern's proposal. But it was brought about very naturally. As she entered the court, she met Mattie. The child had been once more to visit Mr. Spelt, but had found the little nest so oppressive that she had begged to be put down again, that she might go to her own room. Mr. Spelt was leaning over his door and his crossed legs, for he could not stand up, looking anxiously after her; and the child's face was so pale and sad, and she held her little hand so pitifully to her big head, that Lucy could not help feeling that the first necessity amongst her duties was to get Mattie away.