« ForrigeFortsett »
him, and that the Bible was not the sole means used by God to make his children grow : their brothers and sisters must have a share in it too.
Mr. Fuller set about making Poppie's acquaintance. And first he applied to Mattie, in order to find out what kind of thing Poppie liked. Mattie told him lollipops. But Mr. Fuller preferred attacking the town of Mansoul at the gate of one of the nobler senses, if possible. He tried Lucy, who told him about the bit of red glass and the buttons. So Mr. Fuller presented his friendship's offering to Poppie in the shape of the finest kaleidoscope he could purchase. It was some time before she could be taught to shut one eye and look with the other ; but when at length she succeeded in getting a true vision of the wonders in the inside of the thing, she danced and shouted for joy. This confirmed Mr. Fuller's opinion that it was through her eyes, and not through her ears, that he must approach Poppie's heart. She had never been accustomed to receive secondary impressions; all her impressions, hitherto, had come immediately through the senses. Mr. Fuller therefore concluded that he could reach her mind more readily through the seeing of her eyes than such hearing of the ears as had to be converted by the imagination into visual forms before it could make any impression. He must get her to ask questions by showing her eyes what might suggest them. And protestantism having deprived the church of almost all means of thus appealing to the eye as an inlet of truth, he was compelled to supply the deficiency as he best could. I do not say that Mr. Fuller would have filled his church with gorgeous paintings as things in general, and artists in especial, are. He shrunk in particular from the more modern representations of our Lord given upon canvas, simply because he felt them to be so unlike him, showing him either as effeminately soft, or as pompously condescending ; but if he could have filled his church with pictures in which the strength exalted the tenderness, and the majesty was glorified by the homeliness, he would have said that he did not see why painted windows should be more consistent with protestantisin than painted walls. Lacking such aids, he must yet provide as he could that kind of instruction which the early church judged needful for those of its members who were in a somewhat similar condition to that of Poppie. He therefore began searching the print-shops, till he got together about a dozen of such engravings, mostly from the old masters, as he thought would represent our Lord in a lovable aspect, and make the child want to have them explained. For Poppie had had no big family Bible with pictures, to pore over in her homeless childhood; and now she had to go back to such a beginning.
By this time he had so far ingratiated himself with her that she was pleased to accompany Mattie to tea with him, and then the pictures made their appearance.
This took place again and again, till the pictures came to be looked for as part of the entertainment-Mr. Fuller adding one now and then, as he was fortunate in his search, for he never passed a fresh print-shop without making inquiry after such engravings.
Meantime Poppie went out crossing-sweeping by fits and starts. Her father neither encouraged nor prevented her.
One fternoon of a cold day, when the wind from the east was blowing the darkness over the city, and driving all who had homes and could go to them home for comfort, they were walking hand in hand in Farringdon Street, a very bleak, open place. Poppie did not feel the cold nearly so much as her father, but she did blow upon the fingers of her disengaged hand now and then notwithstanding
Have a potato to warm you, Poppie,” said her father, as they came up to one of those little steam-engines for cooking potatoes, which stand here and there on the edges of the pavement about London, blowing a fierce cloud of steam from their little funnels, so consoling to the half-frozen imagination.
“ Jolly !” cried Poppie, running up to the man, and laying her hand on the greasy sleeve of his velveteen coat.
“I say, Jim, give us a ha’porth,” she said.
“Why ain't it?” said Poppie. “ Here's my father. I've found one, and a good 'un, Jim.”
The man looked at Poppie's dress, then at Mr. Spelt, touched the front of his cloth cap, and said,
“Good evenin' guv'nor.” Then in an undertone he added, “ I say, guv'nor, you never did better in your life than takin' that 'ere pretty creeter off the streets. You look well arter her. She's a right good ’un, I know. Bless you, she ain't no knowledge what wickedness means."
In the warmth of his heart, Mr. Spelt seized the man's hand, and gave it a squeeze of gratitude.
Come, Jim, ain't your taters done yet?” said Poppie. “ Bustin' o' mealiness," answered Jim, throwing back the lid, and taking out a potato, which he laid in the hollow of his left hand. Then he caught up an old and I fear dirty knife, and split the potato lengthways. Then with the same knife, he took a piece of butter from somewhere about the apparatus, though how it was not oil instead of butter I cannot think, laid it into the cleft as if it had been a trowelful of mortar, gave it a top-dressing of salt and a shake of the pepper-box, and handed it to Poppie.
“Same for you, sir ?” he asked.
“ Well, I don't mind if I do have one," answered Spelt. “Are they good ?"
• The best and the biggest at the price in all London," said Jim. “Taste one," he went on, as he prepared another, “and if you like to part with it then, I'll take it back and eat it myself.”
Spelt paid for the potatoes--the sum of three ha’pence-and Poppie bidding Jim good-night, trotted away by his side, requiring both her hands now for the management of the potato, at which she was more expert than her father, for he, being nice in his ways, found the butter and the peel together troublesome.
“ I say, ain't it jolly ?” remarked Poppie. “ I call that a good trade now."
“Would you like to have one o' them things and sell hot potatoes?” asked her father.
“ Just wouldn't I ?”
“A deal better,” answered Poppie. “ You see, daddie, it's more respectable-a deal. It takes money to buy a thing like that. And I could wear my red jacket then. Nobody could say anything then, for the thing would be my own, and a crossing belongs to everybody.”
Mr. Spelt turned the matter over and over in his mind, and thought it might be a good plan for giving Poppie some liberty, and yet keeping her from roving about everywhere without object or end. So he began at once to work for a potato steamer for Poppie, and, in the course of a fortnight, managed to buy her one. Great was Poppie's delight.
She went out regularly in the dusk to the corner of Bagot Street. Her father carried the machine for her, and leaving her there with it, returned to his work. In following her new occupation the child met with little annoyance, for this was a respectable part of the city, and the police knew her, and were inclined to protect her. One of her chief customers was Mr. Spelt himself, who would always once, sometimes twice, of an evening lay down his work, scramble from his perch, and running to the corner of the street, order a potato, ask her how she was getting on, pay his ha’penny or penny, and hurry back with the hot handful to console him for the absence of his darling. Having eaten it, chuckling and rejoicing, he would attack his work with vigour so renewed as soon to make up for the loss of time involved in procuring it. But keeping out of view the paternal consumption, Poppie was in a fair way of soon paying all the expense of the cooking apparatus. Mr. and Miss Kitely were good customers, too, and everything looked well for father and daughter.
Every night at half-past nine, her father was by her side, to carry the “ murphy-buster,”--that was Jim's name for it-home. There was no room for it in the shop, of course. He took it up the three flights of stairs to Poppie's own room; and there, with three-quarters of a pint of beer to wash them down, they finished the remainder potatoes, “ with butter, with pepper, and with salt,” as Poppie would exclaim, in the undisguised delight of her sumptuous fare. Sometimes there were none left, but that gave only a variety to their pleasures; for as soon as the engine, as Mr. Spelt called it, was deposited in safety, they set out to buy their supper.
And great were the consultations to which, in Mr. Spelt's desire to draw out the choice and judgment of his daughter, this proceeding gave rise. At one time it was a slice of beef or ham that was resolved upon, at another a bit of pudding, sometimes a couple of mutton pies or sausages, with bread ad libitum.
There was a cookshop in the neighbourhood, whose window was all beclouded with jets of steam, issuing as from a volcanic soil, and where all kinds of hot dainties were ready for the fortunate purchaser ; thither the two would generally repair, and hold their consultation outside the window. Then, the desirable thing once agreed upon, came the delight of buying it, always left to Poppie ; of carrying it home, still left to Poppie ; of eating it, not left to Poppie, but heightened by the sympathetic participation of her father. Followed upon all, the chapter in the Bible, the Lord's Prayer, bed, and dreams of Mrs. Flanaghan and her gin bottle, or, perhaps, of Lucy and her first kiss.
MEANTIME Mrs. Worboise had taken to her bed, and not even Mr. Simon could comfort her. The mother's heart now spoke louder than her theology.
She and her priest belonged to a class more numerous than many of my readers would easily believe, a great part of whose religion consists in arrogating to themselves exclusive privileges, and another great part in defending their supposed rights from the intrusion of others. The thing does not look such to them, of course; but the repulsiveness of their behaviour to those who cannot use the same religious phrases, indicating the non-adoption of their particular creed, compels others so to conclude concerning their religion. Doubtless they would say for themselves, “We do but as God has taught us ; we believe but as he has told us; we exclude whom he has excluded, and admit whom he has admitted.” But alas for that people, the God of whose worship is altogether such a one as themselves, or worse ; whose God is paltry, shallowminded, and full of party-spirit ; who sticks to a thing because he has said it, accepts a man because of his feelings, and condemns him because of his opinions; who looks no deeper than a man's words to find his thoughts, and no deeper than his thoughts to find his will! True, they are in the hands of another God than that of their making, and such offences must come; yet, alas for them ! for they are of the hardest to redeem into the childhood of the kingdom.
I do not say that Mrs. Worboise began to see her sins as such when the desolation of Thomas's disappearance fell upon her, but the atmosphere of her mind began to change, and a spring season of mother's feelings to set in. How it care about I cannot explain. I as well as any of my readers might have felt as if Mrs. Worboise were almost beyond redemption, but it was not so. Her redemption came in the revival of a long-suppressed motherhood. Her husband's hardness and want of sympathy with her sufferings had driven her into the arms of a party of exclusive Christians, whose brotherhood consisted chiefly, as I have already described it, in denying the great brotherhood, and refusing the hand of those who follow not with them. They were led by one or two persons of some social position, whose condescending assumption of superiority over those that were without was as offensive as absurd, and whose weak brains were their only excuse. The worst thing of this company was that it was a company. In many holding precisely the same opinions with them, those opinions are comparatively harm. less, because they are more directly counteracted by the sacred influences of God's world and the necessities of things, which are very needful to prevent, if possible, self-righteous Christians from sending themselves to a deeper hell than any they denounce against their neighbours. But when such combine themselves into an esoteric school, they foster, as in an oven or a forcing-pit, all the worst distinctions for the sake of which they separate themselves from others. All that was worst in poor Mrs. Worboise was cherished by the companionship of those whose chief anxiety was to save their own souls, and who thus ran the great risk set forth by the Saviour of losing them. They treated the words of the Bible like talismans or spells, the virtue of which lay in the words and the assent given to them, or, at most, the feelings that could be conjured up by them, not in the doing of the things they presupposed or commanded. But there was one thing that did something to keep her fresh and prevent her from withering into a dry tree of supposed orthodoxy, the worst dryness of all, because it is the least likely to yield to any fresh burst of living sap from the forgotten root—that was her anxiety to get her son within the “garden walled around," and the continual disappointment of her efforts to that end.
But now that the shock of his flight had aggravated all the symptoms of her complaint, which was a serious one, though slow in the movement of its progressive cycles, now that she was confined to her bed and deprived of the small affairs that constituted the dull excitements of her joyless life, her imagination, roused by a reaction from the first grief, continually presented to her the