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“You have me there, I grant, Spelt.”
But his face grew sober as he added, in a lower but still loud voice,
“I was thinking of my wife, not of yours. Folk say she was a rum un."
“She was a splendid woman,” said the tailor. “She weighed twice as much as I do, and her fist-" Here he doubled up his own slender hand, laid it on the table, and stared at it, with his mouth full of muffin. Then, with a sigh, he added, “She was rather too much for me, sometimes. She was a splendid woman, though, when she was sober.”
“And what was she when she was drunk ? "
This grated a little on the tailor's feelings, and he answered with spirit,
“A match for you or any man, Mr. Kitely.” The bookseller said, “ Bravo, Spelt !” and said no more. They went on with their tea for some moments in silence. “Well, princess !” said Mr. Kitely at last, giving an aimless poke to the conversation.
“Well, Mr. Kitely!” responded Mattie.
Whereupon her father turned to Spelt and said, as if resuming what had passed before,
“Now tell me honestly, Spelt, do you believe there is a God ?” “I don't doubt it."
“And I do. Will you tell me that, if there was a God, he would have a fool like that in the church over the way there, to do nothing but read the service, and a sermon he bought for eighteenpence, and"
“From you ?” asked Spelt, with an access of interest.
“No, no. I was too near the church for that. But he bought it of Spelman, in Holywell Street.-Well, what was I saying?”
“ You was telling us what Mr. Potter did for his money."
“Yes, yes. I don't know anything else he does but stroke his Piccadilly weepers, and drawr it. Don't tell me there's a God, when he puts a man like that in the pulpit. To hear him haw-haw !"
The bookseller's logic was, to say the least of it, queer. But Spelt was no logician. He was something better, though in a feeble way. He could jump over the dry-stone fences and the crossditches of the logician. He was not one of those who stop to answer arguments against going home, instead of making haste to kiss their wives and children.
“I've read somewhere-in a book I dare say you mayn't have in your collection, Mr. Kitely—they call it the New Testament"
There was not an atom of conscious humour in the tailor as he said this. He really thought Mr. Kitely might have conscientious scruples as to favouring the sale of the New Testament. Kitely smiled, but said nothing.
“ I've read”—the tailor went on—" that God winked at some people's ignorance. I dare say He may wink at Mr. Potter's."
“Anyhow, I wouldn't like to be Mr. Potter," said the bookseller.
“No, nor 1,” returned Spelt. “But just as I let that poor creature, Dolman, cobble away in my ground-floor-though he has never paid me more than half his rent since ever he took the place—"
“ Is that the way of it? Whew !” said Mr. Kitely.
“About and about it,” answered the tailor. “ But that's not the point."
“What a fool you are then, Spelt, to_"
“Mr. Kitely,” interposed the tailor, with dignity,“ do I pay your rent?"
“ You've got my receipts, I believe,” answered the bookseller, offended in his turn.
“Then I may make a fool of myself if I please,” returned Spelt, with a smile which took all offence out of the remark. “I only wanted to say that perhaps God lets Mr. Potter hold the living of St. Jacob's in something of the same way that I let poor Dolman cobble in my ground-floor. No offence, I hope.”
“ None whatever. You're a good-natured, honest fellow, Spelt ; and don't distress yourself, you know, for a week or so. Have half a herring more? Í fear this is a soft roe.”
“No more, I thank you, Mr. Kitely. But all the clergy ain't like Mr. Potter. Perhaps he talks such nonsense because there's nobody there to hear it.”
“There's plenty not there to do something for, for his money,” said Kitely.
“That's true," returned the tailor. “But seeing I don't go to church myself, I don't see I've any right to complain. Do you go to church, Mr. Kitely ?”
“I should think not,” answered the bookseller. “But there's some one in the shop."
So saying, he started up and disappeared. Presently voices were heard, if not in dispute, yet in difference.
“You won't oblige me so far as that, Mr. Kitely ?"
“No, I won't. I never pledge myself. I've been too often taken in. No offence. A man goes away and forgets. Send or bring the money and the book is yours. Or come to-morrow. I daresay it won't be gone. But I won't promise to keep it. There ! ”
“ Very well, I won't trouble you again in a hurry.”
“That is as you please, sir," said the bookseller, and no reply followed
“That's Mr. Worboise,” said Mattie. “I wish Mr. Kitely wouldn't be so hard upon him.”
“ I don't like that young man,” said Kitely, re-entering. “My opinion is that he's a humbug.” *“ Miss Burton does not think so," said Mattie, quietly.
“Eh ! what, princess ?” said her father. “Eh ! ah ! Well ! well ! »
“You don't give credit, Mr. Kitely ?” said the tailor.
“No, not to my own father. I don't know, though, if I had the old boy back again, now he's dead. I didn't behave over well to him, I'm afraid. I wonder if he's in the moon, or where he is, Mr. Spelt, eh? I should like to believe in God now, if it were only for the chance of saying to my father, I'm sorry I said so-and-so to you, old man. Do you think he'll have got over it by this time, Spelt? You know all about those things. But I won't have a book engaged and left and not paid for. I'd rather give credit and lose it, and have done with it. If young Worboise wants the book, he may come for it to-morrow.”
" He always pays me—and pleasantly,” said Spelt. “Of course," said Mattie.
“I don't doubt it," said her father; “but I like things neat and clean. And I don't like him. He thinks a deal of himself.”
“ Surely he's neat and clean enough,” said Spelt.
“ Now, you don't know what I mean. A man ought always to know what another man means before he makes his remarks. I mean, I like a book to go out of my sight, and the price of it to go into my pocket, right slick off. But here's Dolnian come to fetch you, Spelt,” said the bookseller, as the cobbler made his appearance at the half-open door of the parlour.
“ No, I ain't," said Dolman. “I only come to let the guv'ner know as I'm a goin' home.”
“Where may that be?” asked Kitely.
“ Leastways, I mean goin' home with a pair o' boots,” answered Dolman, evasively, wiping his nose with the back of his hand.
“Ah!” said the bookseller.
A POOR ADVENTURE.
It is but justice to Thomas Worboise to mention that he made no opportunities of going to his “governor's ” house after this. But the relations of the families rendered it impossible for him to avoid seeing Mary Boxall sometimes. Neither did he make any great effort to evade such meetings; and it must be confessed that it was not wi:hout a glow of inward satisfaction that he saw her confusion and the rosy tinge that spread over her face and deepened the colour of her eyes when they thus happened to meet. For Mary was a soft-hearted and too impressible girl. “I never said anything to her," were the words with which he would now and then apply an
unction to his soul, compounded of self-justification and self-flattery. But he could not keep an outward appearance of coolness correspondent to the real coldness of his selfish heart; and the confusion which was only a dim reflection of her own was sufficient to make poor Mary suppose that feelings similar to her own were at work in the mind of the handsome youth. Why he did not say anything to her had not yet begun to trouble her, and her love was as yet satisfied with the ethereal luxuries of dreaming and castlebuilding.
It had been arranged between Amy Worboise and the Boxall girls, that if Christmas-Day were fine, they would persuade their fathers to go with them to Hampstead Heath in the morning. How much of this arrangement was owing to sly suggestion on the part of Mary in the hope of seeing Tom, I do not know. I believe, however, Jane contrived that Charles Wither should have a hint of the possibility. It is enough that the plan was accepted by the parents, and that the two families, with the exception of Mrs. Boxall, who could not commit the care of the Christmas dinner to the servants, and the invalid Mrs. Worboise, who, indeed, would always have preferred the chance of a visit from Mr. Simon to the certainty of sunshine and extended prospect, found themselves, after morning service, on the platform of the Highbury railway-station, whence they soon reached Hampstead.
The walk from the station up the hill to the top of the heath was delightful. It was a clear day, the sun shining overhead, and the ground sparkling with frost under their feet. The keen, healthy air brought colour to the cheeks and light to the eyes of all the party, possibly with the sole exception of Mr. Worboise, who, able to walk uncovered in the keenest weather, was impervious to all the gentler influences of Nature. He could not be said to be a disbeliever in Nature, for he had not the smallest idea that she had any existence beyond an allegorical one. What he did believe in was the law, meaning by that neither the Mosaic nor the Christian, neither the law of love nor the law of right, but the law of England, as practised in her courts of justice. Therefore he was not a very interesting person to spend a Christmas morning with, and he and Mr. Boxall, who was equally a believer in commerce, were left to entertain each other.
Mary Boxall was especially merry; Amy Worboise roguish as usual ; Jane Boxall rather silent, but still bright-eyed, for who could tell whom she might meet upon the heath? And with three such girls Tom could be no other than gay, if not brilliant. True, Lucy was alone with her old grandmother in dingy Guild Court; but if she loved him, was not that enough to make her or any other woman happy? And he could not help it besides. And why should he not improve the shining hour because Lucy had no flowers to gather honey from ? Besides, was he not going to meet her the very next day, after much contrivance for concealment? So he was resolved to be merry and " freuen sich des Lebens."
They reached the flagstaff. The sun was getting low, and clouds were gathering behind him. Harrow-on-the-Hill was invisible, but the reservoir gleamed coldly far across the heath. A wind was blowing from the north-west ; all London lay south and east in clearness wonderful, for two or three minutes. Then a vapour slowly melted away the dome of St. Paul's; and like a spirit of sorrow, gathered and gathered till that which was full of life to those who were in it, was but a grey cloud to those that looked on from the distant height. Already the young people felt their spirits affected, and as if by a common impulse, they set off to walk briskly to the pines above the “Spaniards." They had not gone far before they met Charles Wither sauntering carelessly along-at least he seemed much surprised to see them. He turned and walked between Jane and Amy, and Mary and Tom were compelled to drop behind, so as not to extend their line unreasonably and occupy the whole path. Quite unintentionally on Tom's part, the distance between the two divisions increased, and when he and Mary reached the pines, the rest of the party had vanished. They had in fact gone down into the Vale of Health, to be out of the wind, and return by the hollow, at the suggestion of Charles Wither, who wished thus to avoid the chance of being seen by Mr. Boxall. When he had taken his leave of them, just as they came in sight of the flagstaff, where Mr. Worboise and Mr. Boxall had appointed to meet them on their return from the pines, Jane begged Amy to say nothing about having met him.
“Oh!” said Amy, with sudden and painful illumination, “I am so sorry to have been in the way."
“On the contrary, dear Amy, I should not have known what to say to papa, except you had been with me. I am so much obliged to you."
Thus there was clearly trouble in store for Mr. Boxall, who had never yet known what it was not to have his own way-in matters which he would consider of importance at least.
The two gentlemen had gone into “ Jack Straw's” to have a glass of wine together, in honour of Christmas-Day; and while they were seated together before a good fire, it seemed to Mr. Boxall a suit. able opportunity for entering on a matter of business.
“What will you say to me, Worboise, when I tell you that I have never yet made a will ?”
“I needn't tell you what I think, Boxall. You know well enough. Very foolish of you. Very imprudent, indeed. And I confess I should not have expected it of you, although I had a shrewd suspicion that such was the case.”
“How came you to suspect it ? “To tell the truth, I could not help thinking that as our friend