Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

excitement. He accosted him then as he hurried past, but Tom, to whom the sight of hiin recalled no cherished memories, and who did not feel that he owed him any gratitude for favours received, felt that it would be the readiest and surest mode of procedure to cut him at once, and did so, although he could not prevent Molken from seeing that he knew him, and did not choose to know him. This added immeasurably to Molken's determination, for now his feelings as a gentleman were enlisted on the same side. He was too prudent, if not too cowardly, to ask him what he meant ; nor would that mode have served his turn; it fitted his nature and character better to lurk and watch. When Tom got into a cab, Molken therefore got into another, and gave the driver directions to keep Tom's in sight, but not to follow so closely as to occasion suspicion. He ran him to earth at the Mermaid. There he peeped in at the door, and finding that he must have gone into the house, became more and more satisfied that he was after something or other which he wanted to keep dark--something fitted, in fact, for Molken to do himself, or to turn to his advantage if done by another. He entered the bar, called for a glass of hot gin and water, and got into conversation with Mr. Potts. The landlord of the Mermaid, however, although a man of slow mental processes, had instinct enough, and experience more than enough, to dislike the look of Molken. He gave him, therefore, such short answers as especially suited his own style, refused to be drawn into conversation, and persisted in regarding him merely as the purchaser of a glass of gin and water, hot with. On such an occasion Mr. Potts's surly grandeur could be surpassed by no bar-keeper in England. But this caution completed Molken's conviction that Thomas was about something dark, and that the landlord of the Mermaid was in it, too ; the more conclusively when, having, by way of experiment, mentioned Thomas's name as known to Mr. Potts, the latter cunningly repudiated all knowledge of “the party.” Molken therefore leit the house, and after doubling a little, betook himself to a coffeeshop opposite, whence he could see the door of the Mermaid from the window, and by a proper use of shillings, obtained leave to pass as much of the night there as he pleased. He thought he saw Thomas, with a light in his hand, draw down the dingy blind of an upper window; and concluding that he had gone to bed, Molken threw himself on one of the seats, and slept till daylight, when he resumed his watch. At length he saw him come out with another man in the dress of a sailor like himself, but part with him at the door, and walk off in the direction of the City. He then followed him, saw him go into the watchmaker's, and come out putting something in his trousers' pocket, followed him again, and observed that the ring, which he knew, and which he had seen on his hand as he came behind him from Limehouse, was gone, as well as his watch, which he had seen him use the night before, while now te

looked up at every clock he passed. Nor did he leave his track till he saw him get into a train at King's Cross, accompanied by another sailor, not the one he had seen in the morning, whom he met evidently by appointment at the station. Here the condition of his own funds brought Molken to a pause, or he would very likely have followed his wild-goose chase to Newcastle at least. As it was, he could only find out where they were going, and remain behind with the hope of being one day called upon to give evidence that would help to hang him. Nor had he long to wait before something seemed likely to come of all his pains-taking. For after a few days he had a second visit from Mr. Sargent, to whom, however, he was chary of his information till bribed by a couple of sovereigns. Then he told him all. The only point Mr. Sargent could at once lay hold of was the ring. He concluded that he had recovered the ring merely to show it to her, and again make away with it, which must even in her eyes look bad enough to justify any amount of jealousy as to the truth of his reformation. Acting on this fresh discovery, he went to the watchmakers--a respectable man who did business in a quiet way, and had accommodated Tom only for old acquaintance-sake, not, however, knowing much about him. Mr. Sargent told him who he was, gave him his card, and easily prevailed on him to show the watch and the ring. The latter especially Mr. Sargent examined, and finding quite peculiarity enough about it to enable him to identify it by description, took his leave.

Now had it not been for Thomas's foolish half-romantic way of doing things, no evil could have come of this. If when he found that he had still a little time, he had returned and fully explained to his friends what his object was when he left them so suddenly, all would have been accounted for. He liked importance, and surprises, and secrecy. But this was self-indulgence, when it involved the possibility of so much anxiety as a lengthened absence must occasion Lucy, and Mr. Fuller too. They had a right, besides, to know everything that he was about, after all that they had done for him, and still more from the fact that they were both so unselfishly devoted to his best good, and must keep thinking about him. Regarding his behaviour in its true light, however, and coming to the obvious conclusion between themselves that Tom had a clue to some evidence, they remained at ease on the matter-which ease was a little troubled when Lucy received the following note from Mr. Sargent. Without the least intention of being unjust, he gave, as people almost always do, that colouring to his representation which belonged only to the coloured medium of prejudication through which he viewed the object :

“Dear Madam,-Perfectly aware that I am building an insur. mountable barrier between myself and my own peace, I am yet sufficiently disinterested to have some regard for youis. If you

her grannie's fits of ill-humour could destroy her serenity. The old woman had, however, her better inoments, in which she would blame her other self for her unkindness to her darling ; only that repentance was forgotten the moment the fit came again. The saddest thing in the whole afiair was to see how the prospect of wealth, and the loss of that prospect, worked for the temperamental ruin of the otherwise worthy old woman. Her goodness had had little foundation in principle; therefore, when the floods came and the winds blew, it could not stand against them. Of course prosperity must be better for some people, so far as we can see, for they have it ; and adversity for others, for they have it ; but I suspect that each must have a fitting share of both; and no disposition, however good, can be regarded as tempered, and tried, and weatherproof, till it has had a trial of some proportion of both. I am not sure that both are absolutely necessary to all ; I only say that we cannot be certain of the character till we have seen it outstand both. The last thing Mrs. Boxall said to Lucy as she went out that morning, rousing herself from a dark-hued reverie over the fire, was,

“ Lucy, if you marry that man I'll go to the workhouse."

“ But they won't take you in, grannie, when you've got a granddaughter to work for you.”

"I won't take a farthing of my own property, but as my own right.”

“Thomas won't have a farthing of it to offer you, grannie, I'm afraid. He quarrelled with his father just about that, and he's turned him out."

“ Then I must go to the workhouse.”

“ And I'll bring you packets of tea and snuff, as they do for the old goodies in the dusters, grannie,” said Lucy, merrily.

“Go along with you. You never had any heart but for your beaux.”

“There's a little left for you yet, dear grannie. And for beaux, you know as well as I do that I never had but one."

So saying, she ran away, and up the court to Mr. Spelt's shop. “ Where's Poppie, Mr. Spelt ?" she asked. “In the house, I believe, miss.” “Will you let her come with me to the Zoological Gardens to

- With all my heart, miss. Shall I get down, and run up and tell her ?"

“No, thank you ; on no account. I'll go up myself.”

She found Poppie actually washing cups and saucers, with her sleeves tucked up, and looking not merely a very lovely, but a very orderly maiden. No doubt she was very odd still, and would be to the end of her days. What she would do when she was too old (which would not be till she was too frail) to scud, was incon

day ? »

ceivable. But with all such good influences around her-her father, Mattie, Mr. Fuller, Lucy Burton-it was no wonder that the real woman in her should have begun to grow, and, having begun, should promise well for what was yet to be. There is scarcely anything more marvellous in the appearance of simple womanliness under such circumstances in the child of the streets, than there is in its existence in the lady who has outgrown the ordinarily evil influences of the nursery, the school-room, and the boarding-school. Still, I must confess that anything like other people might well be a little startling to one who had known Poppie a year before and had not seen her since. Lucy had had a great deal to do with the change; for she had been giving her regular lessons with Mattie for the last few months. The difficulty was, to get Poppie to open her mental eyes to any information that did not come by the sight of her bodily eyes. The conveyance of facts to her, not to say of thoughts or feelings, by words, except in regard to things she was quite used to, was almost an impossibility. For a long time she only stared and looked around her now and then, as if she would be so glad to scud if she dared. But she loved Lucy, who watched long and anxiously for some sign of dawning interest. It came at last. Nor let my reader suspect the smallest atom of satire in her most innocent remark: “ Was Jesus a man? I sposed he wor a clergyman!" But having once got a glimpse of light, her eyes, if they opened slowly, strengthened rapidly. Her acquisition was not great, that is, but she learned to think with an amount of reality which showed that, while she retained many of the defects of childhood, she retained also some of its most valuable characteristics.

The contrast with Mattie was very remarkable. Poppie was older than Mattie, I have said ; but while Mattie talked like an old woman, Poppie talked like a baby. The remarks of each formed a strange opposition, both in matter and form, to her appearance, as far as bodily growth was concerned. But the faces were consistent with the words. There was, however, a very perceptible process of what may be called a double endosmose and exosmose going on between them. Poppie was getting wiser, and Mattie was getting merrier. Sometimes, to the delight of Mr. Kitely, they would be heard frolicking about his house like kittens. Such a burst, however, would seldorn last long; for Mrs. Boxall resented it as unfeeling towards her misfortunes, and generally put a stop to it. This did not please Mr. Kitely at all. It was, in fact, the only thing that he found annoying in the presence of Mrs. Boxall in his house. But he felt such a kindly pity for the old woman that he took no notice of it, and intimated to Mattie that it was better to give up to her.

“The old lady is cranky to-day. She don't feel comfortable in her inside,” he would say; and Mattie would repeat the remark to Poppie, as if it were her own. There was one word in it, however, which, amongst others of her vocabulary, making the antique formality of her speech so much the more ludicrous, she could not pronounce.

“The old lady don't feel over comfibittle in her inside to-day. We must drop it, or she'll be worse,” Mattie would gravely remark to Poppie, and the tumult would be heard no more that day, or at least for an hour, when, if they were so long together, it might break out again.

Every now and then some strange explosion of Arab habits or ways of thinking would shock Mattie ; but from seeing that it did not shock Miss Burton so much. she became, by degrees, considerably less of a little prig. Childhood revived in her more and more.

“Will you come with me to-day, Poppie, to see the wild beasts ? » said Lucy. “But they'll eat us, won't they ?” “Oh no, child. What put that into your head?” “ I thought they always did.” “ They always would if they could. But they can't.” “Do they pull their teeth out, then ?" “ You come and see. I'll take care of you." “ Is Mattie going?“ Yes." " Then I'll come.”

She threw down the saucer she was washing, dried her hands in her apron, and stood ready to follow.

“No, no, Poppie ; that won't do. You must finish washing up and drying your breakfast things. Then you must put on your cloak and hat, and make yourself look nice and tidy, before I can take you.”

“If it's only the beasts, miss! They ain't very particler, I guess."

Was this the old word of Chaucer indigenous, or a slip from the American slip?

“ It's not for the beasts, but because you ought always to be tidy. There will be people there; of course, and it's disrespectful to other people to be untidy.”

“I didn't know, miss. Would they give I to the bears?" “ Poppie, you're a goose. Come along. Make haste.”

The children had never seen any but domestic animals before, and their wonder and pleasure in these strange new forms of life were boundless. Mattie caught the explosive affection from Poppie, and Lucy had her reward in the outbursts of interest, as varied in kind as the animals themselves, that rose on each side of her. The differences, too, between the children were very notable. Poppie shrieked with laughter at the monkeys; Mattie

« ForrigeFortsett »