withstanding the pacific appearance of everything about him, “why those people have made me come to you? I was afraid of making a row in the street, and so I thought it better to give in. But I have not an idea why I am here."

Mr. Fuller thought there must be some further reason, else a young man of Thomas's appearance would not have so quietly yielded to the will of two men like Kitely and Spelt. But he kept this conclusion to himself.

“It certainly was a most unwarrantable proceeding if they used any compulsion. But I have no intention of using any–nor should I have much chance," he added, laughing, “if it came to a tussle with a young fellow like you, Mr. Worboise.”

This answer restored Tom to his equanimity a little.

“ Perhaps you know my father,” he said, finding that Mr. Fuller was silent. In fact, Mr. Fuller was quite puzzled how to proceed. He cared little for the business part, and for the other, he must not compromise Lucy. Clearly the lawyer-business was the only beginning. And this question of Tom's helped him to it.

I have not the pleasure of knowing your father. I wish I had. But after all, it is better I should have a chat with you first.” “ Most willingly,” said Tom, with courtesy:

" It is a very unconventional thing I am about to do. But very likely you will give ine such information as may enable me to set the minds of some of my friends at rest. I am perfectly aware what a lame introduction this is, and I must make a foolish figure indeed, except you will kindly understand that sometimes a clergyman is compelled to meddle with matters which he would gladly leave alone.

“I have too much need of forbearance myself not to grant it, sir -although I do not believe any will be necessary in your case. Pray make me understand you.”

Mr. Fuller was greatly pleased with this answer, and proceeded to business at once.

“I am told by a man who is greatly interested in one of the parties concerned, that a certain near relative of yours is in posses: sion of a large property which ought by right, if not by law, to belong to an old lady who is otherwise destitute. I wish to employ your mediation to procure a settlement upon her of such small portion of the property at least as will make her independent. I am certainly explicit enough now,” concluded Mr. Fuller, with a considerable feeling of relief in having discharged himself, if not of his duty, yet of so creditable a beginning of it.

“ I am as much in the dark as ever, sir," returned Thomas. “I know nothing of what you refer to. If you mean my father, I am the last one to know anything of his affairs. I have not seen him or heard from him for months."

But you cannot surely be ignorant of the case. It has been

[ocr errors]

reported in the p:iblic prints from time to time. It seems that your father has come in for the contingent reversion-I think that is the phrase, I'm not sure--of all the property of the late Richard Boxall, -"

“ By Jove !" cried Thomas, starting to his feet in a rage, then sinking back on his chair in conscious helplessness. “ He did make his will,” he muttered.

“Leaving,” Mr. Fuller went on, “the testator's mother and niece utterly unprovided for."

“But grannie had money of her own in the business. I have heard her say so a thousand times.”

“She has nothing now.”

“My father is a villain !” exclaimed Thomas, starting once more to his feet, and pacing up and down the little vestry like a wild beast in a cage.

“And what am I?” he added, after a pause. “I have brought all this upon her.” He could say no more. He sat down, hid his face in his hands, and sobbed.

Thomas was so far mistaken in this, that his father, after things had gone so far as they had gone, would have done as he had done, whatever had been Thomas's relation to the lady. But certainly, if Thomas had behaved as he ought, things could not have gone thus far. He was a cause of all the trouble.

Nothing could have been more to Mr. Fuller's mind.

As to Miss Burton,” he said, “I happen to know that she has another grief, much too great to allow her to think about money. A clergyman, you know, comes to hear of many things. She never told me who he was,” said Mr. Fuller, with hesitation ; “ but she confessed to me that she was in great trouble."

“Oh, sir, what shall I do?” cried Thomas. “I love her with all my heart, but I can never, never dare to think of her more. I came up to London at the risk of-of-I came up to London only to see her and give her back this ring, and beg her to forgive me, and go away for ever. And now I have not only given her pain”

“ Pain !" echoed Mr. Fuller. “If she weren't so good, her heart would have broken before now."

Thomas burst out sobbing again. He turned his face away from Mr. Fuller, and stood by the wall, shaken with misery. Mr. Fuller left him alone for a minute or two. Then going up to him, he put his hand on his shoulder kindly, and said,

“My dear boy, I suspect you have got into some terrible scrape, or you would not have disappeared as they tell me. behaviour seems to confirm the suspicion. Tell me all about it, and I have very little doubt that I can help you out of it. But you must tell me everything:

“I will, sir ; I will," Tom sobbed. “Mind, no half-confessions. I have no right to ask you to con

And your

fess but on the ground of helping you. But if I am to help you, I must know all. Can I trust you that you will be quite straightforward and make a clean breast of it?

Tom turned round, and looked Mr. Fuller calmly in the face. The light of hope shone in his eyes : the very offer of hearing all his sin and misery gave him hope. To tell it would be to get rid of some of the wretchedness.

“ I hate myself so, sir,” he said, “ that I do not feel it worth while. to hide anything. I will speak the truth. When you wish to know more than I tell, ask me any questions you please, and I will answer them."

At this moment a tap was heard at the vestry door, and it opened, revealing two strange figures with scared interrogating faces on the top—the burly form of Captain Smith, and the almost as bulky, though differently arranged, form of Mr. Potts.

Don't 'e be too hard on the young gentleman, sir,” said Mr. Potts, in the soothing tone of one who would patch up a family quarrel. “He won't do it again, I'll go bail. You don't know, sir, what a good sort he is. Don't 'e get him into no trouble. He lost his life-all but-a reskewing of my Bessie. He did now. True as the Bible, sir," added Mr. Potts, with conciliatory flattery to the clergyman's profession, whom they took for the father or uncle of Thomas.

“You just let me take him off again, sir," put in Captain Smith, while the face of Mr. Potts, having recovered its usual complexion, looked on approvingly, like a comic but benevolent moon.

Mr. Fuller had a wise way of never interrupting till he saw in what direction the sense lay. So he let them talk, and the seaman went on.

“Everybody knows the sea's the place for curing the likes o' them fine fellows as carries too much sail ashore. They soon learns their reef-points there. Why, parson, sir, he's been but three or four voyages, and I'll take him for an able-bodied seaman to

He's a right good sort, though he may ha' been a little frolicsome on shore. We was all young once, sir.”

“Are these men friends of yours, Mr. Worboise ?” asked Mr. Fuller.

“Indeed they are,” answered Thomas. “I think I must have killed myself before now, if it hadn't been for those two."

So saying he shook hands with Mr. Potts, and, turning to the captain, said,

Thank you, thank you, captain, but I am quite safe with this gentleman. I will come and see you to-morrow.”

“He shall sleep at my house to-night,” said Mr. Fuller ; " and no harm shall happen to him, I promise you.”

“ Thank you, sir; ” and “Good-night, gentlemen,” said both, and went through the silent wide church with a kind of awe that rarely visited either of them.


Without further preface than just the words, “Now, I will tell you all about it, sir," Thomas began his story. When he had finished it, having answered the few questions he put to him in its course, Mr. Fuller was satisfied that he did know all about it, and that if ever there was a case in which he ought to give all the help he could, here was one. He did not utter a word of reproof. Thomas's condition of mind was such that it was not only unnecessary, but might have done harm. He had now only to be met with the same simplicity which he had himself shown. The help must match the confession.

“Well, we must get you out of this scrape, somehow," he said, heartily.

“I don't see how you can, sir.”

“It rests with yourself chiefly. Another can only help. The feet that walked into the mire must turn and walk out of it again. I don't mean to reproach you-only to encourage you to effort."

“What effort ?" said Tom. “I have scarcely heart for anything. I have disgraced myself for ever. Suppose all the consequences of my-doing as I did”—he could not yet call the deed by its name

were to disappear, I have a blot upon me to all eternity, that nothing can wash out. For there is the fact. I almost think it is not worth while to do anything."

You are altogether wrong about that,” returned Mr. Fuller. “It is true that the deed is done, and that that cannot be obliterated. But a living soul may outgrow all stain and all re. proach-I do not mean in the judgment of men merely, but in the judgment of God, which is always founded on the actual fact, and always calls things by their right names, and covers no man's sin, although he forgives it and takes it away: A man may abjure his sin so, cast it away from him so utterly, with pure heart and full intent, that, although he did it, it is his no longer. But, Thomas Worboise, if the stain of it were to cleave to you to all eternity, that would be infinitely better than that you should have continued capable of doing the thing. You are more honourable now than you were before. Then you were capable of the crime ; now, I trust, you are not. It was far better that, seeing your character was such that you could do it, you should thus be humbled by disgracing yourself, than that you should have gone on holding up a proud head in the world, with such a deceitful hollow of weakness in your heart. It is the kindest thing God can do for his children, sometimes, to let them fall in the mire. You would not hold by your Father's hand; you struggled to pull it away; he let it go, and there you lay. Now that you stretch forth the hand to him again, he will take you, and clean, not your garments only, but your heart, and soul, and consciousness. Pray to your Father, my boy. He will change your humiliation into humility, your shame into purity.”

“Oh, if he were called anything else than Father! I am afraid I hate my





I don't wonder. But that is your own fault, too.” “ How is that, sir ? Surely you are making even me out worse than I am."

“No. You are afraid of him. As soon as you have ceased to be afraid of him, you will no longer be in danger of hating him.” “I can't help being afraid of him.”

You must break the bonds of that slavery. No slave can be God's servant. His servants are all free inen. But we will come to that presently. You must not try to call God your Father, till father means something very different to you from what it seems to mean

Think of the grandest human being you can imagine—the tenderest, the most gracious, whose severity is boundless,

but hurts himself most-all against evil, all for the evil-doer. God is all that, and infinitely more. You need not call him by any name till the name bursts from your heart. God our Saviour means all the names in the world, and infinitely more ! One thing I can assure you of, that even I, if you will but do your duty in regard to this thing, will not only love-yes, I will say that word-will not only love, but honour you far more than if I had known you only as a respectable youth. It is harder to turn back than to keep at home. I doubt if there could be such joy in heaven over the repenting sin. ner if he was never to be free of his disgrace. But I like you the better for having the feeling of eternal disgrace now."

I will think God is like you, sir. Tell me what I am to do." “I am going to set you the hardest of tasks, one after the other. They will be like the pinch of death. But they must be done. And after that-peace. Who is at the head of the late Mr. Boxall's business now?.

“I suppose Mr. Stopper. He was head-clerk.”
You must go to him and take him the money you stole."
Thomas turned ashy pale.
“I haven't got it, sir.”
“How much was it, did you say ?”
“Eleven pounds-nearly twelve.”
“I will find you the money. I will lend it to you."

“Thank you, thank you, sir. I will not spend a penny I can help till I repay you. But,” Yes, now come the buts,” said Mr. Fuller, with a smile of kind

“What is the first but?" Stopper is a hard man, and never liked me. He will give me up to the law.”

“I can't help it. It must be done. But I do not believe he will do that. I will help you so far as to promise you to do all that lies in my power in every way to prevent it. And there is your father : his word will be law with him now."

“So much the worse, sir. He is ten times as hard as Stopper.” “He will not be willing to disgrace his own family, though.”


« ForrigeFortsett »