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with the nature and habits of those who in this lowly-alas, how far from humble !--office represent the gospel of welcome. They ought to have at least one sermon a year preached to them upon their duties before the whole congregation. The reception the servants of any house afford has no little share in the odour of hospitality which that house enjoys, and hospitality is no small Christian virtue.
- Lucy's troubled heart beat very fast as she opened the door in answer to Mr. Fuller's cheerful “ Come in." But the moment she saw Mr. Fuller she felt as if she had been guilty of an act of impropriety, and ought to have waited in the church till he came out. She drew back with a murmured “I beg your pardon," but Mr. Fuller at once reassured her. He came forward, holding out his hand.
“How do you do, Miss Burton ? I am delighted to see you. By your coming to the vestry like a brave woman, I suppose there is something I can do for you. Let me hear all about it. Sit down.”
So saying, he gave her a chair, and seated bimself on the only remaining one. And as soon as she saw that Mr. Fuller was not shocked at her forwardness, such was Lucy's faith in him, that her courage returned, and with due regard to his time and her own dignity, she proceeded at once to explain to him the difficulty in which she found herself. It was a lovely boldness in the maiden, springing from faith and earnestness and need, that enabled her to set forth in a few plain words the main points of her case that she had been engaged for many months to a youth who seemed to have forsaken her, but whom she did not know to have done so, though his conduct had been worse than doubtful, seeing he had 'allen into bad company. She would never have troubled Mr. Fuller about it for that, for it was not sympathy she wanted; but there was a gentleman-and here she faltered more-to whom she was under very great obligation, and who said he loved her; and she wanted much to know whether it was her duty to yield to his entreaties.
My reader must remember that Lucy was not one of those clear-brained as well as large-hearted women who see the rights of a thing at once. Many of the best women may be terribly puzzled, especially when an opportunity of self-sacrifice occurs. They are always ready to think that the most painful way is the right one. This indicates a noble disposition. And the most painful way may be the right one ; but it is not the right one because it is the most painful. It is the righ: way because it is the right way, whether it be painful or delightful; and the notion of selfsacrifice may be rooted in spiritual pride. Whether it be so or not, the fact that the wrong way may be the least self-indulgent, the most painful, will not prevent it from bringing with it all the consequences that belong to it: wrong doing cannot set things right, however noble the motive may be. Of course the personal condemnation and the individual degradation are infinitely less than if even the right way is chosen only because it is the easiest and pleasantest. But God will not make of law a child's toy, to indulge the vagaries of his best children.
When Lucy had finished setting forth her case, which the tremb. ling of her voice, and the swelling of her tears, hardly interrupted, Mr. Fuller said,
"Now you must allow me, Miss Burton, to ask you one or two plain questions."
“ Certainly, sir. Ask me whatever you please. I will answer honestly."
“That I have no doubt about.—Do you love this man to whom you say you are obliged.”
“Indeed I do not. I hope I am grateful to him, and I would do anything in return, except--"
“I understand you. It seems to me, though this kind of thing involves many questions too delicate to be easily talked about, that, whatever he may desire at the time, it is doing any man a grievous wrong to marry him without loving him. Blinded by his love, he may desire it none the less even if you tell him that you do not love him ; but the kindest thing, even to him, is to refuse. This is what seems to me the truth.”
While Mr. Fuller spoke, Lucy heaved such a deep sigh of relief, that if any corroboration of what she represented as the state of her feelings had been necessary, Mr. Fuller had it. After a little pause, he went on,
“ Now, one question more : Do you love the other still ?”
“I do,” said Lucy, bursting at last into a passion of tears. “But, perhaps," she sobbed, “I ought to give him up altogether. I am afraid he has not behaved well at all.”
“ To you ?” “1 didn't mean that. I wasn't thinking about myself just then." “ Has he let you understand that he has forsaken you ?".
“No, no. He hasn't said a word. Only I haven't seen him for so long."
“There is, then, some room for hope. If you were to resolve upon anything now, you would be doing so without knowing what you were doing, because you do not know what he is doing. It is just possible it may be a healthy shame that is keeping him away from you. It may become your duty to give him up, but I think when it is so, it will be clearly so. God gives us all time : we should give each other time too. I wish I could see him.”
“I wish, indeed, you could, sir. It seems to me that he has not been well brought up. His father is a dreadfully hard and worldly man, as my poor grandmother knows too well ; and his mother is very religious, but her religion seems to me to have done my poor Thomas more harm than his father's worldliness.”
“That is quite possible. When you do see him again, try to get him to come and see me. Or I will go and see hiin. I shall not overwhelm him with a torrent of religion which he cannot understand, and which would only harden him.”
“There is nothing I should wish more. But tell me one thing, Mr. Fuller : would it be right to marry him? I want to understand. Nothing looks farther off; but I want to know what is right."
“ I think,” returned Mr. Fuller, “that every willing heart will be taught what is right by the time that action is necessary. One thing seems clear, that while you love him "
“ I shall always love him," interrupted Lucy.
“I must speak generally," said Mr. Fuller ; "and there have been a few instances,” he added, with the glimmer of a smile through the seriousness of his countenance, “ of young maidens, and young men no less, changing their minds about such matters. I do not say you will. But while you love him, it is clear to me, that you must not accept the attentions of any one else. I could put a very hard and dreadful name upon that.-There is another thing equally clear to me-that while he is unrepentant, that is, as long as he does not change his ways--turn from evil towards good-think better of it, that is-you would be doing very wrong to marry him. I do not say when, or that ever you are bound to stop loving him ; but that is a very different thing to consenting to marry him. Any influence for good that a woman has over such a man, she may exercise as much before marriage as after it. Indeed, if the nian is of a poor and selfish nature, she is almost certain, as far as my observation goes, to lose her influence after marrying him. Many a woman, I fear, has married a man with the hope of reforming him, and has found that she only afforded him opportunity for growth in wickedness. I do not say that no good at all comes of it, so long as she is good, but it is the wrong way, and evil comes of it.”
“I am sure you are right, Mr. Fuller. It would be dreadful to marry a bad man, or a man who had not strength, even for love of a wife, to turn from bad ways. But you won't think the hardest of my poor Thomas yet ? He has been led astray, and has too much good in him to be easily made all bad."
“ I, too, will hope so, for your sake as well as his own." Lucy rose. “ Good morning, Mr. Fuller. I do not know how to thank you. I only wanted leave to go on loving him. Thank you a thousand times."
“Do not thank me, as if I could give you leave to do this or that. I only tell you what seems to me the truth of the matter."
“ But is not that the best thing to give or to receive ?" “Yes, it is," answered Mr. Fuller, as Lucy left the vestry. It was with a heart wonderfully lightened that she went home to
her grandmother. This new cloud of terror had almost passed away ; it only lighiened a little on the horizon when she thought of having again to hear what Mr. Sargent wanted to say.
That same evening he came. Lucy never lifted her eyes to his face, even when she held out her hand to him. He misinterpreted her embarrassment ; and he found argument to strengthen his first impression ; for a moment after, summoning all her couiage, and remembering very conveniently a message she had had for her, Lucy said to her grandmother,
“ Mr. Kitely said he would like to see you, grannie, about the papers for our rooms. He has got some patterns."
“ I have done with this world, child, and all its vanities,” said Mrs. Boxall, with a touch of asperity.
“ It would only be polite, though, grannie, as he is taking so much trouble about it, to go and see them. He is so kind ! ”
• We're going to pay him for his kindness," said the old dame, soured out of her better judgment, and jealous of Mr. Sargent supposing that they were accepting charity.
“No, grannie. That nobody ever could do. Kindness is just what can't be paid for, do what you will.”.
“I see you want to get rid of me,” she said, rising, “ so I suppose I had better go. Things are changed. Old people must learn to do as they're bid. You'll be teaching me my catechism next, I suppose.”
Mrs. Boxall walked out of the room with as stiff a back as she had ever assumed in the days of her prosperity. The moment the door closed, Mr. Sargent approached Lucy, who had remained standing, and would have taken her hand, but she drew it away and took the lead.
“I am very sorry if I have led you into any mistake, Mr. Sargent. I was so distressed at what you said the other evening, that I made this opportunity for the sake of removing at once any misapprehension. I wish to remind you that I considered the subject you resumed then as quite settled.”
“But excuse me, Miss Burton. I, too, considered it settled ; but circumstances having altered so entirely –
“ Could you suppose for a moment that because I had lost the phantom of a fortune which I never possessed, I would accept the man-whose kindness I was always grateful for, but whose love I had refused before, because I could not give him any in return ? "
“No. I did not suppose so. You gave me a reason for refusing my attentions then, which I have the best ground for believing no Jonger exists."
“What was the reason I gave you then ?" “That you loved another."
“ And what ground have I given you for supposing that such has ceased to be the case ?"
" You have not given me any. He has.”
Lucy started. The blood rushed to her forehead, and then back to her heart.
“Where is he?” she cried, clasping her hands. “For God's sake, tell me !”
“ That, at least, is answer enough to my presumptuous hope,” returned Mr. Sargent, with some bitterness.
“Mr. Sargent," said Lucy, who, though trembling greatly, had now recovere i her self-command, “I beg your pardon for any pain I may have occasioned you. But, by surprising the truth, you have saved me the repetition of what I told you before. Tell me what you know about Mr. Worboise.”
But Mr. Sargent's feelings—those especially occupied with him. self-got the better of him now, bitterly as he regretted it afterwards. He felt it a wrong that such a woman should pass him by for the sake of such a man ; and he answered in the heat of injury,
"All I care to know about him is, that for the sake of his game amongst a low set of gamblers, he staked and lost a diamond ring -a rose-diamond, which one of his companions seemed to know as the gift of a lady. That is the man for whom Lucy Burton is proud to express her devotion !”
Lucy had grown very pale ; but she would hold out till Mr. Sargent was gone. She had an answer on her lips ; but if she spoke he would stay. Still she would say one word for Thomas. .“ Your evidence is hardly of the most trustworthy kind, Mr. Sargent. Good-morning.”
“It is of his kind, anyhow, whatever that may be," he retorted, and left the room. Before he reached the bottom of the stairs, he despised himself most heartily, and rushed up again to attempt an apology. Opening the room door, he saw Lucy lying on the floor. He thought she had fainted. But the same moment, Mrs. Boxall, who had only gone up-stairs, came down behind him, and he thought it best to leave, and write a letter. But Lucy had not fainted. She had only thrown herself on the floor in that agony which would gladly creep into the grave to forget itself. In all grief unmingled with anger there is the impulse to lie down. Lucy had not heard Mr. Sargent return or her grandmother come down, for she had been pressing her ears with her hands, as if the last sounds that had entered had wounded them grievously.
6. Well, I'm sure ! what next?” remarked Mrs. Boxall. “I daresay fashions have come to that at last !”
What she meant was not very clear ; but the moment she spoke, Lucy started from the floor and left the room. She had not been long in her own chamber, however, before, with the ingenuity of a lover, she contrived to draw a little weak comfort even out of what Mr. Sargent had told her. She believed that he had done