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He could not help blushing, for he remembered, as well he might. And she could not help seeing, for she had eyes, very large ones, and at least as loving as they were large.
“Yes, she is very pretty,” answered Thomas; “but not nearly so pretty as you, Lucy."
Thomas, then, was not stupid, although my reader will see that he was weak enough. And Lucy was more than half satisfied, though she did not half like that blush. But Thomas himself did not like either the blush or its cause. And poor Mary knew nothing of either, only meditated upon another blush, quite like this as far as appearance went, but with a different heart to it..
Thomas did not stop more than half-an-hour. When he left, instead of walking straight out of Guild Court by the narrow paved passage, he crossed to the opposite side of the court, opened the door of a more ancient-looking house, and entered. Reappearing
-that is, to the watchful eyes of Lucy manœuvring with the windowblind-after about two minutes, he walked home to Highbury, and told his mother that he had come straight from his German master, who gave him hopes of being able, before many months should have passed, to write a business-letter in intelligible German.
MORE ABOUT GUILD COURT.
MRS. BOXALL was the mother of Richard Boxall, the “ governor" of Thomas Worboise. Her John had been the possessor of a small landed property, which he farmed himself, and upon which they brought up a family of three sons and one daughter, of whom Richard was the eldest, and the daughter, Lucy, the youngest. None of the sons showed the least inclination to follow the plough, or take any relation more or less dignified towards the cultivation of the ancestral acres. This aversion when manifested by Richard occasioned his father considerable annoyance, but he did not oppose his desire to go into business instead of farming ; for he had found out by this time that he had perpetuated in his sons a certain family doggedness which he had inherited from one ancestor at least—an obstinacy which had never yet been overcome by any argument, however good. He yielded to the inevitable, and placed him in a merchant's office in London, where Richard soon made himself of importance. When his second son showed the same dislike to draw his livelihood directly from the bosom of the earth, and revealed a distinct preference for the rival element, with which he had made some acquaintance when at school at a seaport at no great distance from his home, old John Boxall was still more troubled, but gave his consent-a consent which was, however, merely a gloomy negation of resistance. The cheerfulness of his wife was a great support to him under what he felt as a slight to himself and the whole race of Boxalls ; but he began, notwithstanding, to look upon his beloved fields with a jaundiced eye, and the older he grew the more they reminded him of the degenerate tastes and heartlessness of his boys. When he discovered, a few years after, that his daughter had pledged herself, still in his eyes a mere child, to a music-master who visited her professionally from the next town, he flew at last into a terrible rage, which was not appeased by the girl's elopement and marriage. He never saw her again. Her mother, however, was not long in opening a communication with her, and it was to her that Edward, the youngest son, fled upon occasion of a quarrel with his father, whose temper had now become violent as well as morose. He followed his second brother's example, and went to sea. Still the mother's cheerfulness was little abated; for, as she said to herself, she had no reason to be ashamed of her children. None of them had done anything they had to be ashamed of, and why should she be vexed? She had no idea Lucy had so much spirit in her. And if it were not for the old man, who was surely over-fond of those fields of his, she could hold up her head with the best of them ; for there was Dick—such a gentleman to be sure ! and John, third mate already! and Cecil Burton sought after in London to give his lessons as if he were one of the old masters! The only thing was that the wind blew harder at night since Ned went to sea ; and a boy was in more danger than a grown man, and a third mate like John.
And so it proved; for one night when the wind blew a new hayrick of his father's across three parishes, it blew Edward's body ashore on the west coast.
Soon after this, a neighbouring earl, who had the year besore paid off a mortgage on his lands, proceeded in natural process to enlarge his borders ; and while there was plenty that had formerly belonged to the family to repurchase, somehow or another took it into his head to begin with what seemed far more difficult of attainment. But John Boxall was willing enough to part with his small patrimony-for he was sick of it-provided he had a good sum of ready money, and the house with its garden and a paddock, by way of luck-penny, secured to him for his own life and that of his wife. This was easily arranged. But the late yeoman moped more than ever, and died within a twelvemonth, leaving his money to his wife. As soon as he was laid in his natural inheritance of land cubical, his widow went up to London to her son Richard, who was by this time the chief manager of the business of Messrs. Blunt and Baker. To him she handed over her money to use for the advantage of both. Paying her a handsome percentage, he invested it in a partnership in the firm, and with this fresh excitement to his energies, soon became, influentially, the principal man in the company. The two other partners were both old men, and neither had a son nor near relative whom he might have trained to fill his place. So in the course of a few years, they, speaking commercially, fell asleep, and in the course of a few more, departed this life, commercially and otherwise. It was somewhat strange, however, that all this time Richard Boxall had given his mother no written acknowledgment of the money she had lent him, and which had been the foundation of his fortune. A man's faults are sometimes the simple reverses of his virtues, and not the results of his vices.
When his mother came first to London, he had of course taken her home to his house and introduced her to his wife, who was a kind and even warm-hearted woman. But partly from prudence, partly from habit, Mrs. Boxall senior would not consent to be the permanent guest of Mrs. Boxall junior, and insisted on taking a lodging in the neighbourhood. It was not long, however, before she left the first and betook herself to a second, nor long again before she left the second and betook herself to a third. For her nature was like a fresh bracing wind, which, when admitted within the precincts of a hot-house where everything save the fire is neglected, proves a most unwelcome presence, yea, a dire dismay. Indeed, admirably as she had managed and borne with her own family, Mrs. Boxall was quite unfitted to come into such habitual contact with another household as followed from her occupying a part of the same dwelling. Her faith in what she had tried with success herself, and her repugnance to whatever she had not been accustomed to, were such that her troublesomeness when she became familiar was equal to the good-nature which at first so strongly recommended her. Hence her changes of residence were frequent.
Up to the time when he became a sleeping partner, Mr. Blunt had resided in Guild Court-that is, the house-door was in the court, while the lower part of the house, forming the offices of the firm, was entered from what was properly a lane, though it was called Bagot Street. As soon as mother and son heard that Mr. Blunt had at length bought a house in the country, the same thought arose in the mind of each-might not Mrs. Boxall go and live there? The house belonged to the firm, and they could not well let it, for there was more than one available communication between the two portions of the building, although only one of them was now fit for use--a door, namely, by which Mr. Blunt passed immediately from the glass-partitioned part of the counting-house to the foot of the oak-staircase already described ; while they used two of the rooms in the house as places of deposit for old books, letters, and papers, for which there was no accommodation in the part devoted to active business. Hence nothing better could be devised than
that Mrs. Boxall, senior, should take up her abode in the habitable region. This she made haste to do, accompanied by a young servant. With her she soon quarrelled, however, and thereafter relied upon the ministrations of a charwoman. The door between the house and the counting-house was now locked, and the key of it so seldom taken from the drawer of Mr. Boxall, that it came to be regarded almost as a portion of the wall. So much for the inner connexion of Guild Court and Bagot Street.
Some years after Mrs. Boxall removed to London, Cecil Burton (her daughter's husband,) died. They had lived from hand to mouth, as so many families of uncertain income are compelled to do, and his unexpected death left his wife and child without the means of procuring immediate necessaries. Inheriting the narrowness and prejudices of his descent and of his social position to a considerable degree, Mr. Boxall had never come to regard his sister's match with a music-master as other than a degradation to the family, and had, in his best humours, never got farther in the humanities of the kingdom of heaven, than to patronize his brother-in-law; though if size and quality go for anything in existence itself, as they do in all its accidents, Richard Boxall was scarcely comparable, honest and able man as he was, to Cecil Burton ; who, however, except that he was the father of Lucy, and so in some measure accounts for her, is below the western horizon of our story, and therefore needs scarcely be alluded to again. This behaviour of her brother was more galling to Mrs. Burton than to her husband, who smiled down any allusion to it; and when she was compelled, upon the death of Mr. Burton, to accept Richard's kindness in the shape of money, it was with a bitterness of feeling which showed itself plainly enough to wound the self-love of the consciously benevolent man of business. But from the first there had been the friendliest relations between the mother and daughter, and it was only from her determination to avoid all ground of misunderstanding, that Mrs. Boxall had not consented to take up her abode with the Burtons. Consequently after the death of the husband, the mother drew yet closer to the daughter, while the breach between brother and sister widened.
Two years after the death of Cecil Burton, his wife followed him. Then Mrs. Boxall took her grandchild Lucy home to Guild Court, and between the two there never arose the question of which should be the greater. It often happens that even a severe mother becomes an indulgent grandmother, partly from the softening and mellowing influences of time, partly from increase of confidence in child-nature generally, and perhaps also in part from a diminished sense of responsibility in regard to a child not immediately her own. Hence grandparents who have brought up their own children well are in danger of spoiling severely those of their sons and daughters. And such might have been the case with Mrs. Boxall and Lucy, had Lucy been of a more spoilable nature. But she had no idea of how much she had her own way, nor would it have made any difference to her if she had known it. There was a certain wonderful delicacy of moral touch about her, in the discrimination of what was becoming as well as of what was right, which resulted in a freedom the legalist of society would have called boldness, and a restraint which the same judge would have designated particularity; for Lucy's ways could not but be different from the ways of one who feared and obeyed, as she best could, existing laws hard to interpret, while Lucy was a law unto herself. The harmonies of the music by which, from her earliest childhood, her growing brain had been interpenetrated, had, by her sweet will, been transformed into harmonies of thought, feeling, and action. She was not clever, but then she did not think she was clever, and therefore it was of no consequence ; for she was not dependent upon her intellect for those judgments which alone are of importance in the reality of things, and in which clever people are just as likely to go wrong as any other body. She had a great gift in music-a gift which Thomas Worboise had never yet discovered, and which, at this period of his history, he was incapable of discovering, for he had not got beyond the toffee of drawingroom sentiment—the song which must be sent forth to the universe from the pedestal of ivory shoulders. But two lines of a ballad from Lucy Burton were worth all the music, “She walks in beauty” included, that Mary Boxall coulu sing or play.
Lucy had not seen her cousins for years. Her uncle Richard, though incapable of being other than satisfied that the orphan should be an inmate of the house in Guild Court, could not, or, at least, did not forget the mildly defiant look with which she retreated from his outstretched hand, and took her place beside her mother, on the sole occasion on which he called upon his sister after her husband's death. She had heard remarks--and being her mother's, she could not question the justice of them. Hence she had not once, since she had taken up her abode with her grandmother, been invited to visit her cousins; and there was no affectation, but in truth, a little anxiety, in the question she asked Thomas Worboise about Mary Boxall's beauty. But, indeed, had she given her uncle no such offence, I have every reason to believe that her society would not have been much courted by his family. When the good among rich relations can be loving without condescension, and the good among poor relations can make a sufficient allowance for the rich, then the kingdom of heaven will be nigh at hand. Mr. Boxall shook hands with his niece when he met her, asked her after his mother, and passed on.
But Lucy was not dependent on her uncle, scarcely on her grandmother, even. Before her mother's death, almost child as she still was, she had begun to give lessons in music to a younger child