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GUILD COURT AGAIN
I will not linger over the last of my story. Mr. Sargent was delighted at the turn affairs had taken from a business point of view, I mean. The delight was greatly tempered by other considerations. Still he went into the matter mind and soul, if not heart and soul, and moved for a fresh trial on the ground of fresh evidence. Mr. Worboise tried the plan of throwing discredit on the witness; but the testimony of Robins and Thomas was sufficient to remove any influence that course might have had. The former judgment was rescinded, and the property was Mrs. Boxall's.
Mr. Worboise and Mr. Sargent met in the lobby. The latter, in very unlawyerlike fashion, could not help saying,
“You would have done better to listen to reason, Mr. Worboise.” “I've fought fair, and lost, Mr. Sargent; and there's an end of
The chief consolation Mr. Worboise now had was that his son had come out so much more of a man than he had expected, having indeed foiled him at his own game, though not with his own weapons. To this was added the expectation of the property, after all, reverting to his son ; while, to tell the truth, his mind was a little easier after he was rid of it, although he did not part with it one moment before he was compelled to do so. He made no ad. vances, however, towards a reconciliation with Thomas. Probably he thought that lay with Thomas, or at least would wait to give him an opportunity of taking the first step. My reader would doubtless have expected, as I should myself, that he would vow endless alienation from the son who had thus defeated his dearest plans, first in one direction, then in another ; but somehow, as I have shown, his heart took a turn short of that North Pole of bitterness.
There is nothing to wonder at in the fact that Mrs. Boxall should know nothing yet of her happy reverse of fortune. They had, as I have said already, judged it better to keep the fresh attempt from her, so that if by any chance it should fail, she might not suffer by it, and, in any case, might be protected from the wearing of anxiety and suspense.
“Let's give grannie a surprise, Lucy," said Thomas, having hurried to her with the good news.
“How do you mean, Tom? We must be careful how we break it to her. Poor dear ! she can't stand much now.”
“Well, my plan will just do for that. Get Mrs. Whatshername, over the way, her old crony, you know—to ask her to tea this
evening. While she's away, Kitely, Spelt, and I will get all the things back into the old place. There's nobody there, is there?”
“No; I believe not. I don't see why we shouldn't. I'll run across to the old lady, and tell her we want grannie out of the way for an hour or two."
She took care, however, not to mention the reason, or their surprise would have been a failure.
There were no carpets to fit, for the floor had been but partially covered, showing the dark boards in the newest fashion. Before Mrs. Boxall's visit was over, the whole of her household property had been replaced-each piece in the exact position it used to occupy when they had not yet dreamed of fortune or misfortune. Just as they were getting anxious lest she should come upon the last of it, Lucy, bethinking herself, said to the bookseller,
“Mr. Kitely, you must lend us Widdles. Grannie can't exist without Widdles.”
“I wish you hadn't proposed it, miss; for I did mean to have all the credit of that one stroke myself. But Widdles is yours, or hers rather, for you won't care much about the old scaramouch.”
“Not care about him! He's the noblest bird in creation, that I know, Mr. Kitely. He doesn't mind being bald even, and that's the highest summit of disregard for appearances that I know of. I'm afraid I shouldn't take it so quietly."
“It don't much matter nowadays,” said Mr. Kitely. “They make such wonderful wigs."
“But that's ten times worse," said Lucy.
“ You don't mean to say you'd go with a bare poll, miss, so be that Providence was to serve you the same as Widdles ?-which Heaven forbid !”
“I wouldn't wear a wig anyhow."
“What nonsense we are talking !” said Lucy, after a good laugh. “ But I'm so happy I don't know what to do. Let's make a wig for Widdles, and grannie will think her bears'-grease has made hair grow instead of feathers."
Whether this proposal was ever carried out, I do not know. But Widdles followed the furniture ; and when grannie came home she found that all her things were gone. She stared. Nobody was to be seen. But all were watching from behind the defences of Mr. Kitely's bookshelves.
“Mr. Kitely,” she called at last, in a voice that revealed consternation.
The bookseller obeyed the summons.
“I didn't expect it of you, Mr. Kitely,” she said, and burst into tears.
This quite upset the conspirators. But Mr. Kitely kept them back as they were hurrying forward.
“We thought we could do a little better for you, you see, ma'am. It was a confined place this for the likes of you. So Miss Lucy and I made bold to move your things up to a place in the court where you'll have more room.”
She said nothing, but went up-stairs. In both rooms she found utter emptiness. Mr. Kitely followed her.
“There's not a stick left, you see, ma'am. Come, and I'll take you home.”
“I didn't think you'd have turned me out in my old age, Mr. Kitely. But I suppose I must go."
It was with considerable exercise of self-denial that the book. seller refrained from telling her the truth, but he would not spoil the young people's sport. He led her up to the door of her own house.
“No, Mr. Kitely. I'll never set foot in that place again. I won't accept it from no one-not even rent-free.”
“But it's your own,” said Kitely, almost despairing of persuasion, and carried beyond his intent.
“That's just why I won't go in. It is mine, I know, but I won't have my own in charity.”
“ Thomas," whispered Lucy, for they were following behind," you must tell her the good news. It will help her over her prejudice against you. Old people are hard to change, you know.”
“Mrs. Boxall,” said Thomas, going up to her, “this house is your own."
“Go away," returned Mrs. Boxall, energetically. “Isn't it enough that you have robbed me? Will you offer me my own in charity ?”
“Do listen to me, grannie," pleaded Thomas.
“ I will not listen to you. Call a cab, Lucy. We'll drive to the nearest workhouse.”
Lucy saw it was time to interfere.
“What Thomas says is true, grannie, if you would only listen to him. Everything's changed. Thomas has been over the seas to find a man who was in uncle's ship when it went down. He has given such evidence that the property is yours now."
“I don't care ; it's all a trick. I don't believe he went over the seas. I won't take anything from the villain's hand."
“ Villains don't usually plot to give away what they've got,” said Lucy.
" But it's Thomas Worboise you mean?”.
“Yes ; but he had nothing to do with it, as I've told you a hundred times, grannie. He's gone and slaved for you, and that's all the thanks you give him—to stand there on the stones, refusing to take what's your very own."
The light was slowly dawning on grannie's confused mind.
“ Then you mean," she said, “ that all my son Richard's money-"
“Is yours, grannie,” said Lucy and Thomas, in a breath.
“Only,” added Lucy, “ you've spoiled all our bit of fun by being so obstinate, grannie.“
For sole answer the old woman gave a hand to each of them, and led them into the house, up the wide oak staircase, and along the passage into the old room, where a fire was burning cheerfully just as in the old time, and every article of furniture, book-case, piano, settle, and all, stood each in its old place, as if it had never been inoved.
Mrs. Boxall sat down in her own chair, “like one that hath been stunned,” and for some moments gave no sign of being conscious of what was going on around her At length a little noise at her ear attracted her attention. She looked round. On the edge of the little table which had always been beside her easy chair, stood Widdles, the long feathers of whose wings looked like arms that he had tucked under his coat-tails, only there was no coat.
“ Poor Widdles !” said the old woman, and burst into tears.
WOUND UP OR RUN DOWN.
THOMAS resumed his place in the office, occupying nis old stool, and drawing his old salary, upon which he now supported himself in comfort and decency. He took a simple lodging in the neighbourhood, and went twice a week in the evening to see his mother. In doing so he did not run much risk of meeting his father, whom he neither sought nor avoided, for he was seldom at home before midnight. His mother now lived on these visits and the expecta. tion of them. And she began not only to love her son more and more for himself, but to respect him. Indeed, it was chiefly the respect that increased her love. If he was not converted, there must be something besides conversion that was yet good, if not so good. And she thought she might be excused if she found some pleasure even in that. It might be a weakness—it might be wrong, she thought, seeing that nothing short of absolute conversion was in the smallest degree pleasing in the sight of God; but as he was her own son, perhaps she would be excused, though certainly not justified. As Thomas's perception of truth grew, however, the conversations he had with her insensibly modified her judgment through her feelings, although she never yielded one point of her creed as far as words were concerned.
The chief aid which Thomas had in this spiritual growth, next to an honest endeavour to do the work of the day and hour, and his love to Lucy, was the instruction of Mr. Fuller. Never, when he could help it, did he fail to be present at daily prayers in St. Amos's church. Nor did he draw upon his office hours for this purpose. The prayers fell in his dinner-hour. Surely no one will judge that a quarter of an hour, though in the middle of the day, spent in seeking the presence of that Spirit whereby all actions are fitted to the just measure of their true end, was disproportioned by excess to the time spent in those outward actions of life, the whole true value of which depends upon the degree to which they are performed after the mind of that Spirit. What gave these prayers and ex: hortations a yet more complete fitness to his needs was their shortness. No mind could be wearied by them. I believe it very often happens that the length of the services, as they are called, is such that they actually disable the worshipper in no small degree from acting so after them as alone can make them of real worth to his being: they are a weakness and not a strength, exhausting the worshipper in saying “Lord, Lord," instead of sending him forth to do his will. The more he feels, the less fit is he, and the less fitting it is, to prolong the expression of his devotion. I believe this is greatly mistaken in all public services that I know anything about, which involve, in their length, an entire departure from good old custom, not good because old, but so good that it ought to have been older, and needs now to be raised from the dead that it may be custom once more. Thomas did not enjoy his dinner less, and did his work far more thoroughly and happily because of this daily worship and doctrine—a word which, I think, is never used by St. Paul except as meaning instruction in duty, in that which it is right to do and that which it is right not to do, including all mental action as well as all outward behaviour.
It was impossible under the influence of such instruction that Tom should ever forget the friends who had upheld him in the time of his trouble. He often saw Captain Smith, and on one occasion, when he had a fortnight's holiday—the only one before his marriage
- he went a voyage to Jersey in his brig, working his passage as before, but with a very different heart inside his blue jacket. The Pottses, too, he called on now and then; and even the unamiable Jim Salter came round to confess his respect for him, when he found that he never forgot his old mates.
As soon as Thomas resumed his stool in the counting-house, Mr. Wither resigned his, and went abroad.
Mrs. Boxall of course recovered her cheerfulness, but her whole character was more subdued. A certain tenderness towards Lucy appeared, which, notwithstanding all her former kindness, was entirely new. A great part of her time was spent in offices of goodwill towards Widdles. She always kept her behaviour to Mr. Stopper somewhat stately and distant. But he did his best for the business—for it was the best for himself.
My story leaves Mr. Spelt and Mr. Kitely each happy in a