« ForrigeFortsett »
“I know what he will do. He will make it a condition that I shall give up Lucy. But I will go to prison before I will do that. Not that it will make any difference in the end, for Lucy won't have a word to say to me now. She bore all that woman could bear. But she shall give me up-she has given me up, of course ; but I will never give her up that way."
“ That's right, my boy.-Well, what do you say to it?".
Tom was struggling with himself. With a sudden resolve, the source of which he could not tell, he said, “I will, sir." With a new light in his face he added, “What next ? "
“Then you must go to your father.”
“You must-if you should not find a word to say when you goif you should fall in a faint on the floor when you try."
“ I will, sir. Am I to tell him everything ?"
“I am not prepared to say that. If he had been a true father to you, I should have said 'Of course.' But there is no denying the fact that such he has not been-or rather, that such he is not. The point lies there. I think that alters the affair. It is one thing to confess to God and another to the devil. Excuse me, I only put the extremes."
“What ought I to tell him, then ?".
“I think you will know that best when you see him. We cannot tell how much he knows."
“ Yes," said Thomas, thoughtfully; "I will tell him that I am sorry I went away as I did, and ask him to forgive me. Will that
“I must leave all that to your own conscience, heart, and honesty. Of course, if he receives you at all, you must try what you can do for Mrs. Boxall."
“Alas ! I know too well how useless that will be. It will only enrage him the more at them. He may offer to put it all right, though, if I promise to give Lucy up. Must I do that, sir ? "
Knowing more about Lucy's feelings than Thomas, Mr. Fuller answered at once—though if he had hesitated, he might have discovered ground for hesitating
“On no account whatever."
“ Then you must not forget Miss Burton. You have some apology to make to her too, I suppose.”
“I had just sent her a note, asking her to meet me once more, and was waiting for her answer, when the bookseller laid hold of me. I was so afraid of making a row, lest the police should come, that I gave in to him. I owe him more than ever I can repay."
“ You will when you have done all you have undertake:)."
“But how am I to see Lucy now? She will not know where I am. But perhaps she will not want to see me.”
Here Tom looked very miserable again. Anxious to give him courage, Mr. Fuller said,
“ Come home with me now. In the morning, after you have seen Mr. Stopper, and your father and inother, come back to my house. I am sure she will see you."
With more thanks in his heart than on his tongue, Tom followed Mr. Fuller from the church. When they stepped into the street, they found the bookseller, the seaman, and the publican, talking together on the pavement.
“It's all right,” said Mr. Fuller, as he passed them. “Goodnight.” Then, turning again to Mr. Kitely, he added in a low voice, “He knows nothing of his father's behaviour, Kitely. You'll be glad to hear that.”
“I ought to be glad to hear it for his own sake, I suppose," returned the bookseller. “But I don't know as I am for all that.”
“Have patience ; have patience," said the parson, and walked on, taking Thomas by the arm.
For the rest of the evening Mr. Fuller avoided much talk with the penitent, and he sent him to bed early.
THOMAS AND MR. STOPPER.
THOMAS did not sleep much that night, and was up betimes in the morning. Mr. Fuller had risen before him, however, and when Thomas went down-stairs, after an invigorating cold bath, which his host had taken special care should be provided for him, along with clean linen, he found him in his study reading. He received him very heartily, looking him, with some anxiety, in the face, as if to see whether he could read action there. Apparently he was encouraged, for his own face brightened up, and they were soon talking together earnestly. But knowing Mr. Stopper's habit of being first at the counting-house, Thomas was anxious about the time, and Mr. Fuller hastened breakfast. That and prayers over, he put twelve pounds into Thomas's hand, which he had been out that morning already to borrow from a friend. Then, with a quaking heart, but determined will, Thomas set out and walked straight to Bagot Street. Finding no one there but the man sweeping out the place, he went a little farther, and there was the bookseller arranging his stall outside the window. Mr. Kitely regarded him with doubtful eyes, vouchsafing him a “good morning” of the gruffest.
“Mr. Kitely,” said Thomas, “ I am more obliged to you than I can tell, for what you did last night.”
"Perhaps you ought to be; but it wasn't for your sake, Mr. Worboise, that I did it."
“I am quite aware of that. Still, if you will allow me to say so, I am as much obliged to you as if it had been."
Mr. Kitely grumbled something, for he was not prepared to be friendly.
“Will you let me wait in your shop till Mr. Stopper comes ?" “ There he is."
Thomas's heart beat fast; but he delayed only to give Mr. Stopper time to enter the more retired part of the counting-house. Then he hurried to the door and went in.
Mr. Stopper was standing with his back to the glass partition, and took the entrance for that of one of his clerks. Thomas tapped at the glass door, but not till he had opened it and said " Mr. Stopper” did he take any notice. He started then, and turned ; but, having regarded him for a moment, gave a rather constrained smile, and, to his surprise, held out his hand.
“It is very good of you to speak to me at all, Mr. Stopper,” said Thomas, touched with gratitude already. “I don't deserve it."
“Well, I must say you have behaved rather strangely, to say the least of it. It might have been a serious thing for you, Mr. Thomas, if I hadn't been more friendly than you would have given me credit for. Look here."
And he showed him the sum of eleven pounds thirteen shillings and eightpence halfpenny put down to Mr. Stopper's debit in the petty cash book.
“You understand that, I presume, Mr. Thomas? You ran the risk of transportation there."
“I know I did, Mr. Stopper. But just listen to me for a moment, and you will be able to forgive me, I think. I had been drinking, and gambling, and losing all night ; and I believe I was really drunk when I did that. Not that I didn't know I was doing wrong. I can't say that. And I know it doesn't clear me at all; but I want to tell you the truth of it. I've been wretched ever since, and daren't show myself. I have been bitterly punished. I haven't touched cards or dice since. Here's the money,” he concluded, offering the notes and gold.
Mr. Stopper did not heed the action at first. He was regarding Thomas rather curiously. Thomas perceived it.
“ Yes," Thomas said, “I am a sailor. It's an honest way of living, and I like it."
“But you'll come back now, won't you ?”
“That depends,” answered Thomas. “Would you take me now, Mr. Stopper ?” he added, with a feeble experimental smile. “ But there's the money. Do take it out of my hands.”
" It lies with your father now, Mr. Thomas. Have you been to Highbury? Of course, I took care not to let him know."
“Thank you heartily. I'm just going there. Do take the horrid money, and let me feel as if I weren't a thief after all.”
“As for the money, eleven pound, odd,” said Mr. Stopper, without looking at it, “that's neither here nor there. It was a burglary, there can be no doubt, under the circumstances. But I owe you a quarter's salary, though I should not be bound to pay it, seeing you left as you did. Still, I want to be friendly, and you worked very fairly for it. I will hand you over the difference."
“No, never mind that. I don't care about the money. It was all that damned play," said Thomas.
“ Don't swear, Mr. Thomas,” returned Stopper, taking out the cheque-book, and proceeding to write a cheque for thirteen pounds six shillings and threepence halfpenny.
“ If you had suffered as much from it as I have, Mr. Stopper, you would see no harm in damning it."
Mr. Stopper made no reply, but handed him the cheque, with the words,
“ Now we're clear, Mr. Thomas. But don't do it again. It won't pass twice. I've saved you this time.”
“Do it again !” cried Thomas, seizing Mr. Stopper's hand; “I would sooner cut my own throat. Thank you, thank you a thousand times, Mr. Stopper,” he added, his heart brimsul at this beginning of his day of horror.
Mr. Stopper very quietly withdrew his hand, turned round on his stool, replaced his cheque-book in the drawer, and proceeded to arrange his writing materials, as if nobody were there but himself. He knew well enough that it was not for Thonias's sake that he had done it; but he had no particular objection to take that credit for it. There was therefore something rudely imposing in the way in which he behaved to Thomas, and Thomas felt it, and did not resent it ; for he had no right to be indignant : he was glad of any terms he could make Let us hope that Mr. Stopper had a glimmering of how it might feel to have been kind, and that he was a little more ready in consequence to do a friendly deed in time to come, even when he could reap no benefit from it. Though Mr. Stopper's assumption of faithful friendship could only do him harm, yet perhaps Thomas's ready acknowledgment of it might do him good; for not unfrequently to behave to a man as good rouses his conscience and makes him wish that he were as good as he is taken for. It gives him almost a taste of what goodness is like--certainly a very faint and far-off reflex---yet a something.
Thomas left the counting-house a free man. He bounded back to Mr. Fuller, returned the money, showed him the cheque, and told him all.
“There's a beginning for you, my boy !” said Mr. Fuller, almost as delighted as Thomas himself. “Now for the next."
There came the rub. Thomas's countenance fell. He was afraid, and Mr. Fuller saw it.
“You daren't go near Lucy till you have been to your father. It would be to insult her, Thomas."
Tom caught up his cap from the table and left the house, once more resolved. It would be useless to go to Highbury at this hour; he would find his father at his office in the city. And he had not far to go to find nim-unfortunately, thought Tom.
THOMAS AND HIS FATHER.
When he was shown into his father's room he was writing a letter. Looking up and seeing Tom, he gave a grin-that is, a laugh without the smile in it-handed him a few of his fingers, pointed to a chair, and went on with his letter. This reception irritated Tom, and perhaps so far did him good that it took off the edge of his sheepishness-or rather, I should have said, put an edge upon it. Before his father he did not feel that he appeared exactly as a culprit. He had told him either to give up Lucy, or not to show his face at home again. He had lost Lucy, it might be-though hope had revived greatly since his interview with Mr. Stopper ; but, in any case, even if she refused to see him, he would not give her up. So he sat, more composed than he had expected to be, waiting for what should follow. In a few minutes his father looked up again, as he methodically folded his letter, and, casting a sneering glance at his son's garb, said,
“What's the meaning of this masquerading, Tom ?”.
“ It means that I'm dressed like my work," answered Tom, surprised at his own coolness, now that the ice was broken.
“What's your work then, pray ?”
“ I've made five coasting voyages since you turned me out,” said Tom.
“I turned you out! You turned yourself out. Why the devil did you come back, then ? Why don't you stick to your new trade ?"
- You told me either to give up Lucy Burton, or to take lodgings in Wapping. I won't give up Lucy Burton.”
“Take her to hell, if you like. What do you come back here for, with your cursed impudence? There's nobody I want less." This was far from true. He had been very uneasy about his