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worse than part with her ring ; but when the thought struck her that it must have been for the sake of redeeming that ring that he had robbed his employer, which was indeed the case, somehow or other, strange as it may seem, the offences appeared mutually to mitigate each other. And when she thought the whole matter over in the relief of knowing that she was free of Mr. Sargent, she quite believed that she had discovered fresh ground for taking courage.
MRS. BOXALL FINDS A COMPANION IN MISFORTUNE.
AT last the day arrived that Lucy and her grandmother had fixed for removing into the bookseller's house. The furniture was all Mrs. Boxall's own, though, if Mr. Worboise had thought proper to dispute the fact, there was nobody left who could have borne witness to it. Mr. Kitely shut shop a little earlier ; Mr. Spelt descended from his perch ; and Mr. Dolman crept out of his hole-all to bear a hand in the moving of it. It was dusk when they began, but the darkness did not hinder their diligence, and in the course of a couple of hours, all the heavier articles were in their new places. When everything was got into something like order, it did not appear that, save for the diminution of space, they had had such a terrible downcome. Lucy was heartily satisfied with their quarters, and the feeling that she had now to protect and work for her grandmother gave a little cheerfulness to her behaviour, notwithstanding the weight on her heart. Mattie was important, with an importance which not even the delight of having Miss Burton to live with them could assuage ; for she had lo preside at a little supper which Mr. Kitely had procured, in honour of the occasion, from the same cookshop which supplied the feasts of Spelt and Poppie. But when things were partially arranged for the night, Mrs. Boxall, who was in a very despondent condition, declared her intention of going to bed. Lucy would gladly have done the same, but she could not think of doing dishonour to the hospitality of their kind friend.
“Well, I am sorry the old lady can't be prevailed upon,” said Mr. Kitely. “ Them sassages I know to be genuine-none of your cats or cats' meat either. I know the very tree they grew upon -eh, princess ? And now we shan't be able to eat 'em up."
“Why don't you ask Mr. Spelt to come in and help us ?” said Mattie.
“ Bless you ! he's gone to fetch his kid ; and before they come home they'll have bought their supper. They always do. I know
their ways. But I do believe that's them gone up the court this minute. I'll run and see.”
Mr. Kitely hurried out, and returned with Mr. Spelt, Poppie, and the steam-engine, which was set down in the middle of the
“Ain't I been fort'nate," said the hookseller. “ Poppie ain't sold all her potatoes. They was a going to eat 'em up by way of savin.' So we've agreed to club, and go share and share. Ain't that it, Poppie ?"
Poppie grinned, and gave no other answer. But her father took up the word.
“ It's very kind of you to put it so, Mr. Kitely. But it seems to me we're hardly fit company for a lady like Miss Burton."
“Surely, Mr. Spelt, we haven't been neighbours so long without being fit to have our supper together ?” said Lucy.
“That's very neighbourly of you, miss Let me assist you to a potato," said Spelt, going towards the steamer. “It's my belief there ain't no better iaters in London, though I says it as buys 'em," he added, throwing back the lid.
“But we ain't going to begin on the taters, Spelt. You come and sit down here, and we'll have the taters put on a plate. That's the right way, ain't it princess ? '
“Well, I should say so, Mr. Kitely," answered Mattie, who had hitherto been too full of her own importance even to talk. But Mr. Spelt interfered.
“ Them taters,” said he, with decision, “ought to be eaten fresh out of the steamer. If you turn 'em out on to a plate, I don't answer for the consequences. We'll pull 'em nearer to the table, and I'll sit by them, with your leave, Miss Burton, and help every• body as wants one."
It was remarkable with how much more decision than had be. longed to him formerly, Mr. Spelt now spoke. Mr. Kitely, after a half-hour's meditation next day, as to whether the cause of it was Poppie or the potatoes, came to the wise conclusion that between them they had made a man of Spelt.
By this time they were all seated round the table.
“Mr. Spelt, you be parson, and say grace,” said Kitely, in his usual peremptory tone.
“Why should you ask me, Mr. Kitely?” said the tailor, humbly.
“ Because you know more about that sort o' thing than I doand you know it."
Mr. Spelt said grace so devoutly that nobody could hear him. “Why do you say grace as if you was ashamed of it, Spelt? If I was to say grace now, I would let you hear me.”
“I didn't know you cared about such things,” returned Spelt, evasively.
“Well,” said Mr. Kitely, “no more I do-or did, rather ; for I'm afraid that Mr. Fuller will get me into bad habits before he has done with me. He's a good man, Mr. Fuller, and that's more than I'd say for every one of the cloth. They're nothing but cloth -meaning no offence, Mr. Spelt, to an honest trade.”
Perhaps there are more good ones amongst them than you think, Mr. Kitely,” said Lucy.
“There ud need to be, miss. But I declare that man has almost made me hold my tongue against the whole sect of them. It seems a shame, with him in St. Amos's, to say a word against Mr. Potter in St. Jacob's. I never thought I should take to the church in
old “Old age, Mr. Kitely!” Mattie broke in. “ If you talk in that way, think what you make of me."
A general laugh greeted this remark. But Mattie was serious, and did not even smile.
Poppie never opened her lips, except to smile. But she behaved with perfect propriety. Mr. Spelt had civilized her so far, and that without much trouble. He never told any one, however, that it was with anxiety that he set out every night at half-past nine to bring her home ; for more than once, he had found her potato steamer standing alone on the pavement, while she was off somewhere, looking at something, or following a crowd. Upon one of these occasions he had stood nearly half an hour before she came back. All she said when she returned was, “I thought I should find you here, daddy.”
But I must not linger with the company assembled in the bookseller's back parlour; for their conversation will not help my readers on with my story.
A very little man, with very short, bandy legs, was trudging along a wide and rather crowded thoroughfare, with a pair of workman's boots in his hand. It was Mr. Spelt's sub, Mr. Dolman the cobbler.
“Well, Dolly, how do ?” said a man in a long velveteen coat, with a short pipe in his mouth and a greasy cloth cap on his head. “ You're late to-night, ain't you, Dolly ? "
“ Them lawyers; them lawyers, Jim !” returned Dolman, enig. matically.
“ What the blazes have you got to do with lawyers ?” exclaimed Jim Salter, staring at the cobbler, who, for the sake of balance, had now got one boot in each hand, and stood weighing the one against the other.
“Not much for my own part,” returned Dolman, who was feeling very important from having assisted at his neighbour's flitting. “But there's good people in our court could tell you another story.”
I have said that Mrs. Boxall did anything but hold her tongue about her affairs, and Dolman had heard Mr. Worboise's behaviour so thoroughly canvassed between Mr. Kitely and Mr. Spelt that he was familiar with the main points of the case.
“ Come and have a drop of beer,” said Jim, “and tell us all about it."
No greater temptation could have been held out to Dolman. But he had a certain sense of duty that must first be satisfied.
“No, Jim. I never touch a drop till I've taken my work home” “Where's that ? ” asked Jim. “Down by the Minories," answered the cobbler. “Come along, then. I'll help you to carry it.”
“'Taint heavy. I'll carry it myself,” answered Dolman, who having once been robbed on a similar occasion, seemed, in regard to boots, to have lost his faith in humanity.
“I can't think, Dolly, why you roost so far from your work. Now, it's different with me. My work's here and there and everywhere ; but yours is allus in the same place."
“It gives me a walk, Jim. Besides it's respectable. It's having two places of one's own. My landlady, Mrs. Dobbs, knows that my shop's in a fashionable part, and she's rather proud of me for a lodger in consekence. And my landlord, that's Mr. Spelt, a tailor, and well-to-do-how's he to know that I ’ain't got a house in the suburbs ? ” answered Dolman, laughing.
The moment he had got his money, and delivered the boots-for that was the order of business between Dolinan and his customers—they betook themselves to a public-house in the neighbourhood, where Dolrnan conveyed to Jim, with very tolerable correctness, the whole story of Mrs. Boxall's misfortunes. Before he reached the end of it, however, Jim, who had already“ put a name upon something ” with two of his acquaintances that night, got rather misty, and took his leave of Dolman with the idea that Lucy and her grandmother had been turned out, furniture and all, into the street, without a place to go to, and had been taken up by the police.
Much as she had dreaded leaving her own house, as she had always considered it, Mrs. Boxall had a better night in her new abode than she had had for months, and rose in the morning with a surprising sense of freshness. Wonderful things come to us in sleep-none perhaps more wonderful than this reviving of the colours of the faded soul from being laid for a few hours in the dark-in God's ebony box, as George Herbert calls the night. It is as if the wakeful angels had been busy all the night preening the draggled and ruffled wings of their sleeping brothers and sisters. Finding that Lucy was not yet dressed, she went down alone to the back parlour, and, having nothing else to do, began to look at the birds, of which, I have already informed my reader, Mr. Kitely kept a great many, feeding and cleaning them himself,
and teaching the more gifted, starlings and parrots, and such like birds of genius, to speak. If he did anything in the way of selling as well as buying them, it was quite in a private way—as a gentleman may do with horses.
“Good morning, sir,” screamed a huge gray parrot the moment she entered, regardless of the sex of his visitor. It was one the bookseller had bought of a sailor somewhere about the docks a day or two before, and its fame had not yet spread through the neighbourhood ; consequently, Mrs. Boxall was considerably startled by the salutation.
Have you spliced the main brace this morning, sir ? ” continued the parrot, and, without waiting for a reply, like the great ladies who inquire after an inferior's family, and then look out of the window, burst into the song, There a sweet little cherub," and, stopping as suddenly at the word, followed it with the inquiry, “ How's your mother ?" upon which point Mrs. Boxall may, without any irreverence, be presumed to have been a little in the dark. The next moment the unprincipled animal poured forth its innocent soul in a torrent of imprecations, which, growing as furious as fast, reached the ears of Mr. Kitely. He entered in a moment and silenced the animal with prompt rebuke, and the descent of an artificial night in the shape of a green cloth over his cage-the vengeance of the lower Jove. The creature exploded worse than ever for a while, and then subsided. Meantime the bookseller turned to Mrs. Boxall to apologize.
“ I haven't had him long, ma'am-only a day or two. He's been ill brought up, as you see, poor bird! I shall have a world of trouble to cure him of his bad language. If I can't cure him I'll wring his neck.”
“ The poor creature doesn't know better," said Mrs. Boxall. “Wouldn't it be rather hard to kill him for it?”
“Well, but what am I to do? I can't have such words running out and in my princess's ears all day.
“ But you could sell him, or give him away, you know, Mr. Kitely.”
“A pretty present he would be, the rascal! And for selling him, it would be wickedness to put the money in my pocket. There was a time, ma'am, when I would have taught him such words myself, and thought no harm of it; but now, if I was to sell that bird, ma'am-how should I look Mr. Fuller in the face next Sunday? No; if I can't cure him, I must twist his neck. We'll eat him, ma'am. I daresay he's nice.”
He added in a whisper_“I wanted him to hear me. There's no telling how much them creatures understand.”
But before Mr. Kitely had done talking, Mrs. Boxall's attention was entirely taken up with another bird, of the perroquet species. It was the most awfully grotesque, the most pitiably comic animal in creation. It had a green head, with a collar of red round the