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handsome girl by his side, Thomas was in a gayer mood than had been his for many a long day. Miss Hubbard talked plenteously -about balls and theatres and Mansion-house dinners, about Rotten Row and St. James's ; and although of all these Thomas knew very little, yet, being quick and sympathetic, he was able to satisfy the lady sufficiently to keep her going. He was fortunate enough besides to say one or two clever things with which she was pleased, and to make an excellent point once in a criticism upon a girl they both knew, which, slighting her, conveyed, by no very occult implication, a compliment to Miss Hubbard. By the time they had reached this stage of acquaintanceship, they had left stout Sir Jonathan and Mr. Worboise far behind; but Miss Hubbard was not in the least danger of being made uncomfortable by any squeamish notions of propriety; and, having nothing moru amusing to do, and being out already, she proposed that they should go home by a rather longer road, which would lead them over a hill whence they could have a good view of the country.
“Do you like living in the country, Miss Hubbard ?"
“Oh! dear no. London for me. I can't tell what made papa come to this dull place.”
“The scenery is very lovely, though.”
“People say so. I'm sure I don't know. Scenery wasn't taught when I went to school.”
“ Were you taught horses there?” asked Thonias, slily.
“No. That comes by nature. Do you know I won this bracelet in a handicap last Derby?” she said, showing a very fine arm as well as bracelet, though it was only the morning, so-called.
Miss Hubbard had no design upon Thomas. How could she have? She knew nothing about him. She would have done the same with any gentleman she liked well enough to chatter to. And if Thomas felt it, and thought that Laura Hubbard was more entertaining than sober Lucy Burton, he made up to Lucy for it in his own idea by asserting to himself that, after all, she was far handsomer than Miss Hubbard, handsome as she was. Yet I should never think of calling Lucy handsome. She was lovely -almost beautiful too. Handsome always indicates more or less vulgarity-no, I mean commonness-in my ears. And certainly, whatever she might be capable of, had she been blessed with poverty, Miss Hubbard was as common as she was handsome. Thomas was fool enough to revert to Byron to try his luck with that. She soon made himn ashamed of showing any liking for such a silly thing as poetry. That piqued him as well, however.
“You sing, I suppose ?” he said.
“I don't know. One must have some words or other just to make her open her mouth. I never know what they're about. Why should I? Nobody ever pays the least attention to them or to the music either, except it be somebody that wants to marry you."
But why should I go further with the record of such talk? It. is not interesting to me, and therefore can hardly be so to my reader. Even if I had the heart to set it forth aright, I hope I should yet hold to my present belief, that nothing in which the art is uppermost is worth the art expended upon it.
Thomas was a little shocked at her coolness, certainly ; but at the same time that very coolness seemed a challenge. Before they had reached the house again, he was vexed to find that he had made no impression upon Miss Hubbard.
Farewell to such fencing. By the time he had heard her sing, and his father and he were on their way home again, I am glad to say that Thomas had had nearly enough of her. He thought her voice loud and harsh in speech, showy and distressing in song, and her whole being bruvura. The contrasts in Lucy had come back upon him with a gush of memorial loveliness ; for, as I have said, she still held the fortress of his heart, and held it for its lawful owner.
Scarcely were they seated in the railway carriage, of which they were the sole occupants, when the elder Worboise threw a shot across the bows of the younger.
“Well, Tom, my boy,” he said, rubbing his lawyer palms,“ how do you like Miss Hubbard ?".
“Oh, very well, father,” answered Thomas, indifferently. “She's a very jolly sort of girl.”
“She is worth a hundred thousand," said his father, in a tone that would have been dry but for a touch of slight resentment at the indifference, possibly in the father's view irreverence, with which he spoke of her.
“Girls ?” asked Thomas.
Tom was now convinced of his father's design in taking him out for a holiday. But even now he shrunk from confession. And how did he justify his sneaking now? By saying to himself, “ Lucy can't have anything like that money ; it won't do. I must wait a more fitting opportunity.” But he thought he was very brave indeed, and actually seizing the bull of his father's will by the horns when he ventured to take his meaning for granted, and replied,
“Why, father, a fellow has no chance with a girl like that, except he could ride like Assheton Smith, and knew all the slang of the hunting-field as well as the race-course.”
“ A few children will cure her of that,” said his father.
“What I say is," persisted Thomas," that she would never look at a clerk."
“ If I thought you had any chance, I would buy you a commission in the Blues."
“ It wants blue blood for that,” said Thomas, whose heart notwithstanding danced in his bosom at the sound of commission. Then, afraid lest he should lose the least feather of such a chance, he added hastily, “But any regiment would do.”
“ I daresay,” returned his father, at right angles. “When you have made a little progress it will be time enough. She knows nothing about what you are now. Her father asked me, and I said I had not made up my mind yet what to do with you."
“But, as I said before," resumed Thomas, fighting somewhat feebly, “I haven't a chance with her. She likes better to talk about horses than anything else, and I never had my leg across a horse's back in my life-as you know, father," he added, in a tone of reproach.
“You mean, Tom, that I have neglected your education. Well, it shall be so no longer. You shall go to the riding-school on Monday night. It won't be open to-morrow, I suppose."
I hope my reader is not so tired of this chapter as I am. It is bad enough to have to read such uninteresting things—but to have to write them! The history that is undertaken must be written, however, whether the writer weary sometimes of his task, or the interest of his labour carry him lightly through to the close.
Thomas, wretched creature, dallied with his father's proposal. He did not intend adopting the project, but the very idea of marrying a rich, fashionable girl like that, with a knight for a father, flattered him. Still more was he excited at the notion, the very possibility of wearing a uniform. And what might he not do with so much money? Then, when the thought of Lucy came, he soothed his conscience by saying to himself, “ See how much I must love her when I am giving up all this for her sake !" Still his thoughts hovered about what he said he was giving up. He went to bed on Sunday night, after a very pathetic sermon from Mr. Simon, with one resolution, and one only-namely, to go to the riding-school in Finsbury on Monday night.
But something very different was waiting him.
The whole ground under Thomas's feet was honeycombed and filled with combustible matter. A spark dropped from any, even a loving hand, might send everything in the air. It did not need an enemy to do it.
Lucy Burton had been enjoying a delightful time of rest by the sea-side. She had just enough to do with and for the two children to gain healthy distraction to her thinking. But her thinking as well as her bodily condition grew healthier every day that she breathed the sea air. She saw more and more clearly than ever that things must not go on between her and Thomas as they were now going on. The very scent of the sea that came in at her bed. room window when first she opened it in the morning, protested against it; the wind said it was no longer endurable; and the clear, blue autumn sky said it was a shame for his sake, if not for her own. She must not do evil that good might come; she must not allow Thomas to go on thus for the sake even of keeping a hold of him for his good. She would give him one chance more, and if he did not accept it, she would not see him again, let come of it what would. In better mood still, she would say, “ Let God take care of that for him and me.” She had not written to him since she came : that was one thing she could avoid. Now she resolved that she would write to him just before her return, and tell him that the first thing she would say to him when she saw him would behad he told his father? and upon his answer depended their future. But then the question arose, what address she was to put upon the letter ; for she was not willing to write either to his home or to the counting-house, for evident reasons. Nor had she come to any conclusion, and had indeed resolved to encounter him once more without having written, when from something incoherently expressed in her grandmother's last letter, which indeed referred to an expected absence of Mr. Stopper, who was now the old lady's main support, she concluded, hastily, I allow, that Mr. Worboise was from home, and that she might without danger direct a letter to Highbury.
ì fancy that through some official at the Court of Probate, Mr. Worboise had heard of a caveat having been entered with reference to the will of Mr. Richard Boxall, deceased. I do not know that this was the case, but I think something must have occurred to irri. tate him against those whom he, with the law on his side, was so sorely tempted to wrong. I know that the very contemplation of wrong is sufficient to irritate, and that very grievously, against the object of the wrong ; but though not equal to Miss Hubbard, Lucy would have been a very good match, even in Mr. Worboise's eyes. On the other hand, however, if he could but make up, not his mind, but his conscience, to take Boxall's money, his son would be so much the more likely to secure Miss Hubbard's; which, together with what he could leave him, would amount to a fortune of over two hundred thousand-sufficient to make his son somebody. If Thomas had only spoken in time, that is, while his father's con. science still spoke, and before he had cast eyes of ambition towards Sir Jonathan's bankers ! All that was wanted on the devil's side now was some personal quarrel with the rightful heirs. And if Mr. Worboise had not already secured that by means of Mr. Sargent's caveat, he must have got it from what happened on the Monday morning. Before Thomas came down to breakfast, the postman had delivered a letter addressed to him, with the Hastings post-mark upon it.
When Thomas entered, and had taken his seat with the usual cool Good morning, his father tossed the letter to him across the table, saying, more carelessly than he felt,
“ Who's your Hastings correspondent, Tom?"
The question, coming with the sight of Lucy's handwriting, made the eloquent blood surge into Tom's face. His father was not in the way of missing anything that there was to see, and he saw Tom's face.
"A friend of mine," stammered Tom. “Gone down for a holi
« One of your fellow-clerks?” asked his father, with a dry significance that indicated the possible neighbourhood of annoyance, or worse. “I thought the writing of doubtful gender.”
For Lucy's writing was not in the style of a field of corn in a hurricane : it had a few niistakable curves about it, though to the experienced eye it was nothing the less feminine that it did not effect feminity.
"No," faltered Tom, “he's not a clerk ; he's a-well, he's ateacher of music.”
“Hm !” remarked Mr. Worboise. “How did you come to make his acquaintance, Tom ?"
And he looked at his son with awful eyes, lighted from behind with growing suspicion.
Tom felt his jaws growing paralyzed. His mouth was as dry as his hand, and it seemed as if his tongue would rattle in it like the clapper of a cracked bell if he tried to speak. But he had nothing to say. A strange tremor went through him from top to toe, making him conscious of every inch of his body at the very moment when his embarrassment inight have been expected to make him forget it altogether. His father kept his eyes fixed on him, and Toni's perturbation increased every moment.
“I think, Tom, the best way out of your evident confusion will be to hand me over that letter," said his father, in a cool, determined tone, at the same time holding out his hand to receive it.
Tom had strength to obey only because he had not strength to resist. But he rose from his seat, and would have left the room.
“Sit down, sir,” said Mr. Worboise, in a voice that revealed growing anger, though he could not yet have turned over the leaf to see the signature. In fact, he was more annoyed at his son's pusillanimity than at his attempted deception. “ You make a soldier !” he added, in a tone of contempt that stung Tom-not to the heart, but to the back-bone. When he had turned the leaf and seen the signature, he rose slowly from his chair, and walked