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ship was not of yesterday, you would hardly have asked any one else to draw up your will but your old friend. So you see it was by no mysterious exercise of intelligence that I came to the conclusion that, not being an unkind or suspicious man, you must be a dilatory, and, excuse me, in this sole point, a foolish man.”
“ Í grant the worst you can say... But you shall say it only till to-morrow-that is, if you will draw up the will, and have it ready for me to sign at any hour you may be at leisure for a call from me.”
“I can't undertake it by to-morrow; but it shall be ready by the next day at twelve o'clock."
“That will do perfectly. I must remain 'a foolish man' for twenty-four hours longer—that is all.”
“You won't be much the worse for that, except you have an attack of apoplexy to fix you there. But, joking apart, give me my instructions. May I ask how much you have to leave?”
“Oh! somewhere, off and on, about thirty thousand. It isn't much, but I hope to double it in the course of a few years, if things go on as they are doing.”
Mr. Worboise had not known so much about his friend's affairs as he had pretended to his son. When he heard the amount, he uttered a slight “Whew!” But whether it meant that the sum fell below or exceeded his expectations, he gave Mr. Boxall no time to inquire.
And how do you want the sum divided ?” he asked. " I don't want it divided at all. There's no occasion whatever to mention the sum. The books will show my property. I want my wife, in the case of her surviving me, to have the whole of it.”
“And failing her ?”
“My daughters, of course-equally divided. If my wife lives, there is no occasion to mention them. I want them to be dependent upon her as long as she lives, and so hold the family together as long as possible. She knows my wishes about them in everything. I have no secrets from her.”
“ I have only to carry out instructions. have no right to offer any suggestions."
“ That means that you would suggest something. Speak out, man." “Suppose your daughters wished to marry?”
I leave all that to their mother, as I said. They must be their own mistresses some day.”
*“ Well, call on me the day after to-morrow, and I shall have the draught at least ready.”
When the two girls reached the flagstaff, their parents were not there. Jane was glad of this, for it precluded questioning as to the point whence they had arrived. As they stood waiting, large snowflakes began to fall, and the wind was rising. But they had not
to wait long before the gentlemen made their appearance, busily conversing, so busily indeed that, when they had joined the girls, they walked away towards the railway-station without concerning themselves to ask what had become of Mary and Thomas.
When they reached the railway-station, Mr. Boxall became suddenly aware that two of their party were missing.
"Whý, Jane, where's Mary? And where's Tom? Where did you leave them?"
"Somewhere about the pines. I thought they would have been back long ago.
The two fathers looked at each other, and each seeing that the other looked knowing, then first consented, as he thought, to look knowing himself.
“Well,” said Mr. Worboise, “they're old enough to take care of themselves, I suppose. I vote we don't wait for them.”
“ Serve them right,” said Mr. Boxall.
But a sudden light that flashed into Jane's eyes made him change his tone. He did not know why, but the idea of Charles Wither rose in his mind, and he made haste to prevent Jane from taking advantage of the proposal.
“Come along," he said. “Let them take care of themselves. Come along.”
The suspicion had crossed him more than once, that Mr. Wither and Jane possibly contrived to meet without his knowledge, and the thought made him writhe with jealousy; for it lay in his nature to be jealous of every man of whom his wife or his daughters spoke well—that is, until he began to like him himself, when the jealousy, or what was akin to it, vanished. But it was not jealousy alone that distressed him, but the anxiety of real love as well.
By the time they reached Carnden Road station, the ground was covered with snow.
When Tom and Mary arrived at the pines, I have said they found that the rest of their party had gone.
“Oh, never mind," said Mary, merrily ; “let us run down into the hollow, and wait till they come back. We can keep the pines in sight, you know. I daresay they are not far off. They will never go without us."
Partly from false gallantry, partly from inclination, Thomas agreed. They descended the bank of sand in a quite opposite direction from that taken by Jane and her companions, and wandered along down the heath. By this time, the sky was all grey and white. Long masses of vapour were driving overhead with jagged upper edges. They looked like lines of fierce warriors, stooping in their eager rush to the battle.
But down in the hollows of the heath all was still, and they wandered on for some time without paying any heed to the signs of the coming storm. Does my reader ask what they talked about ? Nothing worthy of record, I answer ; although every word that Thornas uttered, seemed to Mary worth looking into for some occult application of the sort she would gladly have heard more openly expressed. At length, something cold fell upon her face, and Thomas glancing that moment at her countenance, saw it lying there, and took it for a tear. She looked up : the sky was one mass of heavy vapour, and a multitude of great downy snow-flakes was settling slowly on the earth. In a moment they were clasped hand in hand. The pleasure of the snow, the excitement of being shut out from the visible, or rather the seeing world, wrapped in the skirts of a storm with a pretty girl for his sole companion, so wrought upon Thomas, who loved to be moved and hated to will, that he forgot Lucy, and stood in delight, gazing certainly at the falling snow, and not at Mary Boxall, but holding her hand tight in his own. She crept closer to him, for a little gentle fear added to her pleasure, and in a moment more his arm was about her-to protect her, I daresay he said to himself.
Now be it understood that Thomas was too much in love with himself to be capable of loving any woman under the sun after a noble and true fashion. Hedid not love Lucy a great deal better than he loved Mary. Only Mary was an ordinary pretty blonde, and Lucy was dark, with great black eyes, and far more distinguished in appearance than Mary. Besides she was poor, and that added greatly to the romance of the thing ; for it made it quite noble in him to love her, and must make her look up to him with such deserved admiration, that-without reckoning the fact that the one was offered him, and the other only not forbidden because there was as yet no suspicion of his visits in Guild Court—there was positively no room to hesitate in choice between them. Still the preference was not strong enough to keep his heart from beating fast when he found the snow-storm had closed him in with Mary. He had sense enough, however, to turn at once in order to lead her back towards the road. But this was already a matter of difficulty, for there was no path where the storm found them, and with the gathering darkness the snow already hid the high road across the heath; so that the first question was in what direction to go to find it. They kept moving, however, Mary leaning a good deal on Tom's arm, and getting more and more frightened as no path came in view. Even Tom began to be anxious about what was to come of it, and although he did his best to comfort Mary, he soon found that before the least suspicion of actual danger the whole romance of the situation had vanished. And now the snow not only fell rapidly, but the wind blew it sharply in their faces, and blinded them yet more than merely with its darkness—not that this mattered much as to the finding the way, for that was all hap-hazard long ago. After wandering, probably in a circuitous fashion, for more than an hour, Mary burst out crying, and said she could not walk a step farther. She would have thrown herself down had not Tom prevented her. With the kindest encouragement,—though he was really downhearted himself,-- he persuaded her to climb a little height near them, which with great difficulty she managed to do. From the top they saw a light, and descending the opposite side of the hill, found themselves in a road, where an empty cab stood by the door of a public-house. After trying to persuade Mary to have some refreshment, to which she refused to listen, insisting on being taken to her mother, Thomas succeeded in getting the cab. man to drive them to the station. In the railway carriage, Mary lay like one dead, and although he took off both' his coats to wrap about her, she seemed quite unconscious of the attention. It was with great difficulty that she reached her home ; for there was no cab at the Hackney station, and the streets were by this time nearly a foot deep in snow.
Thomas was not sorry to give her up to her mother. She immediately began to scold him. Then Mary spoke for the first time, saying, with an effort :
“ Don't, mother. If it had not been for Thomas, I should have been dead long ago. He could not help it. Good night, Tom.”
And she feebly held up her face to kiss him. Tom stooped to meet it, and went away, feeling tolerably miserable. He was wet and cold, and the momentary fancy for Mary was quite gone, while he could not help seeing that now he had kissed her before her mother he had got himself into a scrape.
Before morning Mary was in a high fever.
That night Charles Wither spent at a billiard-table, sipping brandy and water while he played, and thinking what a splendid girl Jane Boxall was. But in the morning he looked all right.
THOMAS woke the next morning with a well-deserved sense of something troubling him. This too was a holiday, but he did not feel in a holiday-mood. It was not from any fear that Mary might be the worse for her exposure, neither was it from regret for his conduct towards her. What made him uncomfortable was the feeling rather than thought that now Mrs. Boxall, Mary's mother, had a window that overlooked his premises, a window over which he had no legal hold, but which, on the contrary, gave her a hold over him. It was a window also of which she was not likely, as he thought, to neglect the advantage. Nor did it console him to imagine what Lucy would think, or-which was of more weight with Thomas-say or do, if she should chance to hear of the affair of yesterday. This, however, was very unlikely to happen ; for she had not one friend in common with her cousins, except just her lover. To-day, as I have said, being a holiday, he had arranged to meet her at the Marble Arch, and take her to that frightful reservoir of amusement, Madame Tussaud's. Her usual morning engagement led her to that neighbourhood, and it was a safe place to meet in-far from Highbury, Hackney, and Bagot-street.
The snow was very deep. Mrs. Boxall tried to persuade Lucy not to go. But where birds can pass lovers can pass, and she was just finishing her lesson to resplendent little Miriam as Thomas got out of an omnibus at Park-street, that he might saunter up on foot to the Marble Arch.
The vision of Hyde Park was such as rarely meets the eye of a Londoner. It was almost grotesquely beautiful. Even while waiting for a lovely girl, Thomas could not help taking notice of the trees. Every bough, branch, twig, and shoot supported a ghost of itself, or rather a white shadow of itself upon the opposite side from where the black shadow fell. The whole tree looked like a huge growth of that kind of coral they call brain-coral, and the whole park a forest of such coralline growths. But against the sky, which was one canopy of unfallen snow, bright with the sun behind it, the brilliant trees looked more like coral still, grey, namely, and dull.
Thomas had not sauntered and gazed for more than a few minutes before he saw Lucy coming down Great Cumberland-street towards him. Instead of crossing the street to meet her, he stood and watched he approach. And there was even some excuse for his coolness, she looked so picturesque flitting over the spotless white in her violet dress, her red cloak, her grebe muff. I do not know what her bonnet was; for if a bonnet be suitable, it allows the face to show as it ought, and who can think of a bonnet then! But I know that they were a pair of very dainty morocco boots that made little holes in the snow all across Oxford-street towards the Marble Arch where Thomas stood, filled, I fear, with more pride in the lovely figure that was coming to him than love of her.
“ Have I kept you waiting long, Thomas ?” said Lucy, with the sweetest of smiles, her teeth white as snow in the summer flush of her face.
“Oh! about ten minutes," answered Thomas. It wasn't five. “What a cold morning it is ! ”
“ I don't feel it much," returned Lucy. “I came away the first moment I could. I am sorry I kept you waiting.”
“Don't mention it, Lucy. I should be only too happy to wait