Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

not ?

changed character, to lose her advantage by marrying one who is

“She might change him, Mr. Worboise, as I have said already," returned the lady, decisively; for she might speak with authority to one who knew nothing about these things.

“Yes. But if Thomas were changed, and Mary not—what then?”

Mrs. Worboise murmured something not quite audible about “I and the children whom God hath given me.”

“At the expense of the children he hasn't given you !” said Mr. Worboise, at a venture; and chuckled now, for he saw his victory in her face.

But Mr. Worboise's chuckle always made Mrs. Worboise shut up, and not another word could he get out of her that evening. She never took refuge in her illness, but in an absolute dogged silence, in which she persuaded herself that she was suffering for the truth's sake.

Her husband's communication made her still more anxious about Thomas, and certain suspicions she had begun to entertain about the German master became more decided. In her last interview with Mr. Simon, she had hinted to him that Thomas ought to be watched, that they might know whether he really went to his German lesson or went somewhere else. But Mr. Simon was too much of a gentleman not to recoil from the idea, and Mrs. Worboise did not venture to press it. When she saw him again, however, she suggested—I think I had better give the substance of the conversation, for it would not in itself be interesting to my readers-she suggested her fears that his German master had been mingling German theology with his lessons, and so corrupting the soundness of his faith. This seemed to Mr. Simon very possible indeed, for he knew how insidious the teachers of such doctrines are, and, glad to do something definite for his suffering friend, he offered to call upon the man, and see what sort of person he was. This offer Mrs. Worboise gladly accepted, without thinking that of all men to find out any insidious person, Mr. Simon, in his simplicity, was the least likely.

But now the difficulty arose that they knew neither his name nor where he lived, and they could not ask Thomas about him. So Mr. Simon undertook the task of finding the man by inquiry in the neighbourhood of Bagot Street.

“My friend,” he said, stepping the next morning into Mr. Kitely's shop,-he had a way of calling everybody his friend, thinking so to recommend the Gospel.

“At your service, sir," returned Mr. Kitely, brusquely, as he stepped from behind one of the partitions in the shop, and saw the little clerical apparition which had not even waited to see the form of the human being ere he applied to him the sacred epithet.

“I only wanted to ask you," drawled Mr. Simon, in a drawl both

of earnestness and unconscious affectation, “whether you happen to know of a German master somewhere in this neighbourhood.”

“Well, I don't know," returned Mr. Kitely, in a tone that indi. cated a balancing rather than pondering operation of the mind. For although he was far enough from being a Scotchman, he always liked to know why one asked a question, before he cared to answer it. “I don't know as I could recommend one over another."

“ I am not in want of a master. I only wish to find out one that lives in this neighbourhood.”

“I know at least six of them within a radius of one half-mile, taking my shop here for the centre of the circle,” said Mr. Kitely, consequentially. “What's the man's name you want, sir?”

“ That is what I cannot tell you." “ Then how am I to tell you, sir ?" “ If you will oblige me with the names and addresses of those six you mention, one of them will very likely be the man I want.”

"I daresay the clergyman wants Mr. Moloch, father," said a voice from somewhere in the neighbourhood of the floor, “the foreign gentleman that Mr. Worboise goes to see up the court."

“ That's the very man, my child,” responded Mr. Simon. “Thank you very much. Where shall I find him?"

“I'll show you,” returned Mattie.

“Why couldn't he have said so before ?” remarked Mr. Kitely to himself with indignation. “But it's just like them.”

By them he meant clergymen in general.

“What a fearful name-Moloch!reflected Mr. Simon, as he followed Mattie up the court. He would have judged it a name of bad omen, had he not thought omen rather a wicked word. The fact was, the German's name was Molken, a very innocent one, far too innocent for its owner, for it means only whey.

Herr Molken was a ne'er-do-weel student of Heidelburg, a clever fellow, if not a scholar, whose bad habits came to be too well known at home for his being able to indulge them there any longer, and who had taken refuge in London from certain disagreeable consequences which not unfrequently follow aberrant efforts to procure the means of gambling and general dissipation. Thomas had as yet spent so little time in his company, never giving more than a quarter of an hour or so to his lesson, that Molken had had no opportunity of influencing him in any way. But he was one of those who, the moment they make a new acquaintance, begin examining him for the sake of discovering his weak points, that they may get some hold of him. He measured his own strength or weakness by the number of persons of whom at any given time he had a hold capable of being turned to advantage in some way or other in the course of events. Of all dupes, one with some intellect and no principle, weakened by the trammels of a religious system with which he is at strife, and which therefore hangs like a miilstone about his neck, impedes his every motion, and gives him up to the mercy of his enemy, is the most thorough prey to the pigeon-plucker, for such a one has no recuperative power, and the misery of his conscience makes him abject. Molken saw that Tom was clever, and he seemed to have some money : if he could get this hold of him in any way, it might be “to the welfare of his advantage.”

The next lesson fell on the evening after Mr. Simon's visit to Guild Court, and Mr. Molken gave Thomas a full account of the “ beseek” he had had from “one soft ghostly," who wanted to find out something about Thomas, and how he had told him that Mr. Worboise was a most excellent and religious young man ; that he worked very hard at his German, and that he never spent less (here Mr. Molken winked at Thomas) than an hour and a half over Krummacher or some other religious writer. All this Mr. Simon had faithfully reported to Mrs. Worboise, never questioning what Mr. Molken told him, though how any one could have looked at him without finding cause to doubt whatever he might say, I can hardly imagine. For Mr. Molken was a small wiry man, about thirty, with brows overhanging his eyes like the eaves of a Swiss cottage, and rendering those black and wicked luminaries blacker and more wicked still. His hair was black, his beard was black, his skin was swarthy, his forehead was large; his nose looked as if it had been made of putty and dabbed on after the rest of his face was finished ; his mouth was sensual ; and, in short, one was inclined to put the question in the Gospel : Whether hath sinned, this man or his parents ? He could, notwithstanding, make himself so agreeable, had such a winning carriage and dignified deference, that he soon disarmed the suspicion caused by his appearance. He had, besides, many accomplishments, and seemed to know everything—at least to a lad like Thomas, who could not detect the assumption which not unfrequently took the place of knowledge. He manifested also a genuine appreciation of his country's poetry, and even the short lessons to which Thomas submitted had been enlivened by Herr Molken's enthusiasm for Goëthe. If those of his poems which he read and explained to Thomas were not of the best, they were none the worse for his purposes.

Now he believed he had got by Mr. Simon's aid the hold that he wanted. His one wink, parenthetically introduced above, revealed to Thomas that he was master of his secret, and Thomas felt that he was, to a considerable degree, in his hands. This, however, caused him no apprehension.

His mother, although in a measure relieved, still cherished sus. picions of German theology which the mention of Krummacher had failed to remove. She would give her son a direct warning on the subject. So when he came into her room that evening, she said,

* Mr. Simon has been making some friendly inquiries about you, Thomas. He was in the neighbourhood, and thought he might call on Mr. Moloch-what a dreadful name! Why have you nothing to say to me about your studies ? Mr. Simon says you are getting quite a scholar in German. But it is a dangerous language, Thomas, and full of errors. Beware of yielding too ready an ear to the seductions of human philosophy, and the undermining attacks of will-worship.”

Mrs. Worboise went on in this strain, intelligible neither to herself nor her son, seeing she had not more than the vaguest notion of what she meant by German theology, for at least five minutes, during which Thomas did not interrupt her once. By allowing the lies of his German master to pass thus uncontradicted, he took another long stride down the inclined plane of deceit.

After this he became, naturally, more familiar with Mr. Molken. The German abandoned books, and began to teach him fencing, in which he was an adept, talking to him in German all the while, and thus certainly increasing his knowledge of the language, though not in a direction that was likely within fifty years to lead him to the mastery of commercial correspondence in that tongue.

CHAPTER XIII.

MOTHER AND DAUGHTER.

MR. BOXALL, with some difficulty, arising from reluctance, made his wife acquainted with the annoyance occasioned him in the discovery of the fact that Tom Worboise had not even told his father that Mary was ill.

“I'm convinced,” he said, “ that the young rascal has only been amusing himself-flirting, I believe, you women call it."

" I'm none so sure of that, Richard," answered his wife. “ You leave him to me."

“Now, my dear, I won't have you throwing our Mary in any fool's face. It's bad enough as it is. But I declare I would rather see her in her grave than scorned by any man.”

“ You may see her there without before long," answered his wife, with a sigh.

“Eh! What? She's not worse, is she?

“No; but she hasn't much life left in her. I'm afraid it's settling on her lungs. Her cough is something dreadful to hear, and tears her to pieces."

"It's milder weather, though, now, and that will make a difference before long.–Now, I know what you're thinking of, my dear, and I won't have it. I told the fellow she wasn't fit to see anybody."

“Were you always ready to talk about me to every one that came in your way, Richard ?” asked his wife, with a good-humoured smile.

“I don't call a lad's father and mother any one that comes in the way-though, I daresay, fathers and mothers are in the way sometimes,” he added, with a slight sigh.

“Would you have talked about me to your own father, Richard ?

“ Well, you see, I wasn't in his neighbourhood. But my father was a-a-stiff kind of man to deal with.”

“ Not worse than Mr. Worboise, depend upon it, my dear.”

“But Worboise would like well enough to have our Mary for a daughter-in-law.”

“I daresay. But that mightn't make it easier to talk to him about her-for Tom, I mean. For my part, I never did see two such parents as poor Tom has got. I declare it's quite a shame to sit upon that handsome young lad—and amiable-as they do. He can hardly call his nose his own. I wouldn't trust that Mr. Worboise, for my part, no, not if I was drowning."

“Why, wife !” exclaimed Mr. Boxall, both surprised and annoyed, “this is something new ! How long"

But his wife went on regardless.

“And that mother of his ! It's a queer kind of religion that freezes the life out of you the moment you come near her. How ever a young fellow could talk about his sweetheart to either of them is more than I can understand-or you either, my dear. So don't look so righteous over it.”

Mrs. Boxall's good-natured audacity generally carried everything before it, even with more dangerous persons than her own husband. He could not help—I do not say smiling, but trying to smile ; and though the smile was rather a failure, Mrs. Boxall chose to take it for a smile. Indeed she generally put her husband into good humour by treating him as if he were in a far better humour than he really was in. It never does any good to tell a man that he is cross. If he is, it makes him no better even though it should make him vexed with himself; and if he isn't cross, nothing is more certain to make him cross, without giving him a moment's time to consult the better part of him.

Somewhere within the next eight days, Mrs. Boxall wrote to Tom as follows :

"MY DEAR MR. THOMAS,-Mary is much better, and you need not be at all uneasy about the consequences of your expedition to the North Pole on Christmas Day. I am very sorry I was so cross when you brought her home. Indeed, I believe I ought to beg your pardon. If you don't come and see us soon, I shall fancy that I have seriously offended you. But I knew she never could stand exposure to the weather, and I suppose that was what upset

« ForrigeFortsett »