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“ Do, dear friend, and may He guide you into the truth. Remember, Thomas, the world and the things of the world are passing away. You are a child no longer, and are herewith called upon to take your part, for God or against him—"
And so on, till Thomas got weary as well as annoyed.
“Will you tell me what fault you have to find with me?” he said at last. “I am regular at the Sunday-school, I am sure.”
Yes, that we must allow, and heartily," answered Mr. Simon, turning to Mrs. Worboise as if to give her the initiative, for he thought her rather hard with her son ; “only I would just suggest to you, Mr. Thomas- I don't ask you the question, but I would have you ask yourself—whether your energy is equal to what it has been ? Take care lest, while you teach others, you yourself should be a castaway. Remember that nothing but faith in the merits"
Thus started again, he went on, till Thomas was forced loose from all sympathy with things so unmercifully driven upon him, and vowed in his heart that he would stand it no longer.
Still speaking, Mr. Simon rose to take his leave. Thomas, naturally polite, and anxious to get out of the scrutiny of those cold blue eyes of his mother, went to open the door for him, and closed it behind him with a sigh of satisfaction. Then he had his tea and went to his own room, feeling wrong, and yet knowing quite well that he was going on to be and to do wrong. Saintship like his mother's and Mr. Simon's was out of his reach.
Perhaps it was. But there were other things essential to saintship that were within his reach-and equally essential to the manliness of a gentleman, which he would have been considerably annoyed to be told that he was in as much danger of falling short of, if he did not in some sort or other mend his ways, and take heed to his goings.
The next morning mother and pastor held a long and, my reader will believe, a dreary consultation over the state of Thomas. I will not afflict him with the recital of what was said and resaid a dozen times before they parted. If Mr. Worboise had overheard it, he would have laughed, not heartily, but with a perfection of contempt, for he despised all these things, and would have despised better things too, if he had known them.
The sole result was that his mother watched Thomas with yet greater assiduity; and Thomas began to feel that her eyes were never off him, and to dislike them because he feared them. He felt them behind his back. They haunted him in Bagot Street. Happy with Lucy, even there those eyes followed him, as if searching to find out his secret; and a vague fear kept growing upon him that the discovery was at hand. Hence he became more and more cunning to conceal his visits. He dreaded what questions those questioning eyes might set the tongue asking. For he had not yet learned to
lie. He prevaricated, no doubt; but lying may be a step yet further on the downward road.
One good thing only came out of it all : he grew more and more in love with Lucy. He almost loved her.
For some days Mr. Boxall was so uneasy about Mary that he forgot his appointment with Mr. Worboise. At length, however, when a thaw had set in, and she had begun to improve, he went to call upon his old friend.
“Ah, Boxall ! glad to see you. What a man you are to make an appointment with ! Are you aware, sir, of the value of time in London, not to say in this life generally? Are you aware that bills are due at certain dates, and that the man who has not money at his banker's to meet them is dishonoured-euphemistically shifted to the bill ?”
Thus jocosely did Mr. Worboise play upon the well-known business-habits of his friend, who would rather, or at least believed he would rather, go to the scaffold than allow a bill of his to be dishonoured. But Mr. Boxall was in a good humour too this morning,
“At least, Worboise,” he answered, “I trust when the said bill is dishonoured, you may not be the holder.”
“ Thank you. I hope not. I don't like losing money."
“Because you would skin the place before you took the pound of flesh. I know you !”
Mr. Worboise winced. Mr. Boxall thought he had gone too far, that is, had been rude. But Mr. Worboise laughed aloud.
“ You flatter me, Boxall," he said. “I had no idea I was such a sharp practitioner. But you ought to know best. We'll take care, at all events, to have this will of yours right.”
So saying, he went to a drawer to get it out. But Mr. Boxall still feared that his friend had thought him rude.
“ The fact is,” he said, “I have been so uneasy about Mary”
“ Why? What's the matter ?” interrupted Mr. Worboise, stopping on his way across the room.
“Don't you know ?” returned Mr. Boxall, in some surprise. “She's never got over that Hampstead Heath affair. She's been in bed ever since.”
“God bless me!” exclaimed the other. “I never heard a word of it. What was it ?”
So Mr. Boxall told as much as he knew of the story, and any way there was not much to tell.
“Never heard a word of it!" repeated the lawyer.
The statement made Mr. Boxall more uneasy than he cared to show.
“But I must be going,” he said ; " so let's have this troublesome will signed and done with.”
“Not in the least a troublesome one, I assure you. Rather too simple, I think. Here it is." And Mr. Worboise began to read it over point by point to his client.
“ All right,” said the latter. “Mrs. Boxall to have everything, to do with it as she pleases. It is the least I can say, for she has been a good wife to me.”
“And will be for many years to come, I hope," said Mr. Worboise.
“I hope so. Well, go on.” • Mr. Worboise went on.
“ All right,” said his client again. “ Failing my wife, my daughters to have everything, as indeed they will whether my wife fails or not-at last I mean, for she would leave it to them, of course."
“ Well," said the lawyer, "and who comes next ? " “Nobody. Who did you think?".
“It's rather a short-doesn't read quite business-like. Put in anybody just for the chance-a poor one, ha ! ha! with such a fine family as yours."
“Stick yourself in then, old fellow; and though it won't do yo any good, it'll be an expression of my long esteem and friendship for you."
“'What a capital stroke!” thought Mr. Boxall. “I've surely got that nonsense out of his head now. He'll never think of it more. I was country-bred."
“ Thank you, old friend,” said Mr. Worboise quietly, and entered his own name in succession.
The will was soon finished, signed, and witnessed by two of Mr. Worboise's clerks.
“Now what is to be done with it ?" asked Mr. Worboise.
“Oh, you take care of it for me. You have more stowage-for that kind of thing, I mean,-than I have. I should never know where to find it."
“ If you want to make any alteration in it, there's your box, you know."
“Why, what alteration could I want to make in it?".
“That's not for me to suppose. You might quarrel with me though, and want to strike out my name.”
“ True. I might quarrel with my wife too, mightn't I, and strike her name out ??
“It might happen."
“Yes ; anything might happen. Meantime I am content with sufficient probabilities.”
“By the way, how is that son of mine getting on?”
“Oh, pretty well. He's regular enough, and I hear no complaints of him from Stopper; and he's sharp enough, I assure you."
“ But you're not over satisfied with him yourself, eh?”
“Well, to speak the truth, between you and me, I don't think he's cut out for our business.”
“That's much the same as saying he's of no use for business of any sort."
"I don't know. He does his work fairly well, as I say, but he don't seem to have any heart in it.”
“Well, what do you think he is fit for now?”
“ I'm sure I don't know. You could easily make a fine gentleman of him.”
Mr. Boxall spoke rather bitterly, for he had already had fitting. doubts in his mind whether Tom had been behaving well to Mary. It had become very evident since her illness that she was very much in love with Tom, and that he should be a hair's-breadth less in love with her was offence enough to rouse the indignation of a man like Mr. Boxall, good-natured as he was; and that he had never thought it worth while even to mention the fact of her illness to his father, was strange to a degree.
“But I can't afford to make a fine gentleman of him. I've got his sister to provide for as well as my fine gentleman. I don't mean to say that I could not leave him as much, perhaps more, than you can to each of your daughters ; but girls are so different from boys. Girls can live upon anything; fine gentlemen can't.” And here Mr. Worboise swore.
“Well, it's no business of mine," said Mr. Boxall. “ If there's anything I can do for him, of course, for your sake, Worboise,”
“ The rascal has offended him somehow," said Mr. Worboise to himself. “It's that Hampstead business. Have patience with the young dog," he said aloud. “That's all I ask you to do for him. Who knows what may come out of him yet?"
“ That's easy to do. As I tell you, there's no fault to find with him," answered Mr. Boxall, afraid that he had exposed some feel. ing that had better have been hidden. “Only one must speak the truth."
With these words Mr. Boxall took his leave.
“ There's something in that rascal's head, now," he said to himself. “His mother and that Simon will make a spoon of him. I want to get some sense out of him before he's translated to kingdomcome. But how the deuce to get any sense out when there's so precious little in! I found seventeen volumes of Byron on his
bookshelves last night. I'll have a talk to his mother about him. Not that that's of much use!”
To her husband Mrs. Worboise always wore a resigned air, believing herself unequally yoked to an unbeliever with a bond which she was not at liberty to break, because it was enjoined upon her to win her husband by her chaste conversation coupled with fear. Therefore when he went into her room that evening, she received him as usual with a look which might easily be mis. taken, and not much mistaken either, as expressive of a sense of injury.
"Well, my dear," her husband began, in a conciliatory, indeed jocose, while yet complaining tone,“ do you know what this precious son of ours has been about? Killing Mary Boxall in a snow-storm, and never telling me a word about it. I suppose you know the whole story, though? You might have told me.”
“ Indeed, Mr. Worboise, I am sorry to say I know nothing about Thomas now-a-days. I can't understand him. He's quite changed. But if I were not laid on a couch of suffering—not that I complain of that I should not come to you to ask what he was about. I should find out for myself.”
“I wish to goodness you were able.”
“Do not set your wish against His will,” returned Mrs. Worboise with a hopeless reproof in her tone, implying that it was of no use to say so, but she must bear her testimony notwithstanding.
“Oh! no, no," returned her husband; "nothing of the sort. Nothing farther from my intention. But what is to be done about this affair? You know it would please you as well as me to see him married to Mary Boxall. She's a good girl, that you know.”
“If I were sure that she was a changed character, there is nothing I should like better, I confess—that is, of worldly interest."
“Come, come, Mrs. Worboise. I don't think you're quite fair to the girl.”
“What do you mean, Mr. Worboise ?"
“I mean that just now you seemed in considerable doubt whether or not your son was a changed character, as you call it. And yet you say that if Mary Boxall were a changed character, you would not wish anything more-that is, of worldly interest—than to see him married to Mary Boxall. Is that fair to Mary Boxall ? I put the question merely."
“There would be the more hope for him; for the Scripture says that the believing wife may save her husband."
Mr. Worboise winked inwardly to himself. Because his wife's religion was selfish, and therefore irreligious, therefore religion was a humbug, and therefore his conduct might be as selfish as ever he chose to make it.
“But how about Mary? Why should you wish her, if she was a