the first, and betook herself to a second, nor long again before she left the second, and betook herself to a third. For her nature was like a fresh bracing wind, which, when admitted within the precincts of a hot-house where everything save the fire is neglected, proves a most unwelcome presence, yea, a dire dismay. Indeed, admirably as she had managed and borne with her own family, Mrs. Boxall was quite unfit to come into such habitual contact with another household as followed from her occupying a part of the same dwelling. Her faith in what she had tried with success herself, and her repugnance to whatever she had not been accustomed to, were such that her troublesomeness when she became familiar, was equal to the goodnature which at first so strongly recommended her. Hence her changes of residence were frequent.

Up to the time when he became a sleeping partner, Mr. Blunt had resided in Guild Court-that is, the house-door was in the court, while the lower part of the house, forming the offices of the firm, was entered from what was properly a lane, though it was called Bagot Street. As soon as mother and son heard that Mr. Blunt had at length bought a house in the country, the same thought arose in the mind of each-might not Mrs. Boxall go and live there? The house belonged to the firm, and they could not well let it, for there was more than one available connection between the two portions of the building, although only one had lately been in use, a door, namely, by which Mr. Blunt used to pass immediately from the glass-partitioned part of the counting-house to the foot of the oak-staircase already described; while they used two of the rooms in the house as places of deposit for old books and papers, for which there was no possible accommodation in the part devoted to active business. Hence nothing better could be devised than that Mrs. Boxall, senior, should take up her abode in the habitable region. This she made haste to do, accompanied by a young servant. With her she soon quarrelled, however, and thereafter relied upon the ministrations of a charwoman. The door between the house and the counting-house was now locked, and the key of it so seldom taken from the drawer of Mr. Boxall, that it came to be regarded almost as a portion of the wall. So much for the inner connection of Guild Court and Bagot Street.

Some years after Mrs. Boxall removed to London, Mr. Burton, the music-master, died. They had lived from hand to mouth, as so many families of uncertain income are compelled to do, and his unexpected death left his wife and child without the means of procuring immediate necessities. Inheriting the narrowness and prejudices of his descent and of his social position to a considerable degree, Mr. Boxall had never come to regard his sister's match with a music-master as other than a degradation to the family, and had, in his best humours, never got farther in the humanities of the kingdom of heaven, than to patronize his brother-in-law; though if size and quality go for anything in existence itself, as they

do in all its accidents, Richard Boxall was scarcely comparable, honest and just man as he was, to Cecil Burton; who, however, except that he was the father of Lucy, and so in some measure accounts for her, is below the western horizon of our story, and therefore need scarcely be alluded to again. This behaviour of her brother was more galling to Mrs. Burton than to her husband, who smiled down any allusion to it; and when she was compelled to accept Richard's kindness in the shape of money, upon the death of Mr. Burton, it was with a bitterness of feeling which showed itself plainly enough to wound the self-love of the consciously benevolent man of business. But from the first there had been the friendliest relations between the mother and daughter, and it was only from her determination to avoid all ground of misunderstanding, that Mrs. Boxall had not consented to take up her abode with the Burtons. Consequently after the death of Mr. Burton, the mother drew yet closer to the daughter, while the breach between brother and sister was widened.

Two years after the death of her husband, Mrs. Burton followed him. Then Mrs. Boxall took her grandchild Lucy home to Guild Court, and between the two there never arose the question of which should be the greater. It often happens that even a severe mother becomes an indulgent grandmother, partly from the softening and mellowing influences of time, partly from increase of confidence in childnature generally, and perhaps also in part from a diminished sense of responsibility in regard to a child not immediately her own. Hence grandparents who have brought up their own children well are in danger of spoiling severely those of their sons and daughters. And such might have been the case with Mrs. Boxall and Lucy, had Lucy been of a more spoilable nature. But she had no idea of how much she had her own way, nor would it have made any difference to her if she had known it. There was a certain wonderful delicacy of moral touch about her in the discrimination of what was becoming, as well as of what was right, which resulted in a freedom the legalist of society would have called boldness, and a restraint which the same judge would have designated particularity; for Lucy's ways were not, and could not, be her ways, the one fearing and obeying, as she best could, existing laws hard to interpret, the other being a law unto herself. The harmonies of the music by which, from her earliest childhood, her growing brain had been interpenetrated, had, by her sweet will, been transformed into harmonies of thought, feeling, and action. She was not clever, but then she did not think she was clever, and therefore it was of no consequence; for she was not dependent upon her intellect for those judgments which alone are of importance in the reality of things, and in which clever people are just as likely to go wrong as any other body. She had a great gift in musica gift which Thomas Worboise had never yet discovered, and which, at this period of his history, he

was incapable of discovering, for he had not got beyond the toffee of drawing-room sentiment-the song which must be sent forth to the universe from the pedestal of ivory shoulders. But two lines of a ballad from Lucy Burton were worth all the music, "She walks in beauty" included, that Mary Boxall could sing or play.


Lucy had not seen her cousins for years. uncle Richard, though incapable of being other than satisfied that the orphan should be an inmate of the house in Guild Court, could not, or, at least, did not forget the mildly defiant look with which she retreated from his outstretched hand, and took her place beside her mother, on the sole occasion on which he called upon his sister after her husband's death. She had heard remarks-and being her mother's, she could not question the justice of them. Hence she had not once, since she had taken up her abode with her grandmother, been invited to visit her cousins; and there was no affectation, but in truth, a little anxiety, in the question she asked Thomas Worboise about Mary Boxall's beauty. But, indeed, had she given her uncle no such offence, I have every reason to believe that her society would not have been much courted by his family. When the good among rich relations can be loving without condescension, and the good among poor relations can make sufficient allowance for the rich, then the kingdom of heaven will be nigh at hand. Mr. Boxall shook hands with his niece when he met her, asked her after his mother, and passed on.

But Lucy was not dependent on her uncle, scarcely on her grandmother, even. Before her mother's death, almost child as she still was, she had begun to give lessons in music to a younger child than herself, the daughter of one of her father's favourite pupils, who had married a rich merchant; and these lessons she continued. She was a favourite with the family, who were Jews, living in one of the older quarters of the west end of London; and they paid her handsomely, her age and experience taken into account. Every morning, except Saturday, she went by the underground railway to give an hour's lesson to Miriam Morgenstern, a gorgeous little eastern, whom her parents had no right to dress in such foggy colours as she wore.

Now a long farewell to preliminaries. Lucy was just leaving her home one morning to to her pupil, and had turned into the flagged passage which led from the archway into the court, when she met a little girl of her acquaintance, whom, with her help, I shall now present to my readers. She was a child of eight, but very small for her age. Her hair was neatly parted and brushed on each side of a large smooth forehead, projecting over quiet eyes of blue, made yet quieter by the shadow of those brows. The rest of her face was very diminutive. A soberness as of complete womanhood, tried and chastened, lay upon her. She looked as if she had pondered upon life and its goal, and had made up her little mind to meet its troubles with patience. She was dressed in a cotton

frock printed with blue rose-buds, faded by many waters and much soap. When she spoke, she used only one side of her mouth for the purpose, and then the old-fashionedness of her look rose almost to the antique, so that you could have fancied her one of the time-belated good people that, leaving the green forest-rings, had wandered into the city and become a Christian at a hundred years of age.


'Well, Mattie," said Lucy, "how are you this morning?

"I am quite well, I thank you, miss," answered Mattie. "I don't call this morning. The churchclock struck eleven five minutes ago."

This was uttered with a smile from the half of her mouth which seemed to say, "I know you want to have a little fun with me by using wrong names for things because I am a little girl, and little girls can be taken in ; but it is of no use with me, though I can enjoy the joke of it."

Lucy smiled too, but not much, for she knew the child.

[ocr errors]

"What do you call the morning, then, Mattie ?" she asked.


"Well," she almost always began her sentences with a Well-"I call it morning before the sun is up.' "But how do you know when the sun is up? London is so foggy, you know, Mattie."

"Is it? I didn't know. Are there places without fog, miss?"

"Oh yes; many."

"Well, about the sun. I always know what he's about, miss. I've got a almanack."

"But you don't understand the almanack, do you?"

"Well, I don't mean to say I understand all about it, but I always know what time the sun rises and goes to bed, you know."

Lucy had found she was rather early for the train, and from where she stood she could see the clock of St. Jacob's, which happened to be a reliable one. Therefore she went on to amuse herself with the child.

"But how is it that we don't see him, if he gets up when the almanack says, Mattie ?"

"Well, you see, miss, he sleeps in a crib. And the sides of it are houses and churches, and St. Paulses, and the likes of that."


Yes, yes; but some days we see him, and others we don't. We don't see him to-day, now."

"Well, miss, I daresay he's cross some mornings, and keeps the blankets about him after he's got his head up."

Lucy could not help thinking of Milton's linefor of the few poems she knew, one was the "Ode on the Nativity :


So, when the Sun in bed, Curtain'd with cloudy red, Pillows his chin upon an orient wave.

But the child laughed so queerly, that it was impossible to tell whether or how much those were her real ideas about the sunrise.

"How is your father?" Lucy asked.
"Do you mean my father or my mother?"
"I mean your father, of course, when I say so."
"Yes, but I have a mother, too."

Lucy let her have her way, for she did not quite derstand her. Only she knew that the child's mother had died two or three years ago.

"Well," resumed the child, "my father is quite All, thank God; and so is my mother. There he is, looking down at us."


Who do you mean, Mattie ?" asked Lucy, now Jewildered.

As soon as she had disappeared beyond the archway, Mattie turned towards the workshops. Mr. Spelt saw her coming, and before she had reached

"Well, my mother," answered the child, with a them, the upper half of the door was open, and till odder half-smile.

he was stretching down his arms to lift her across the shoemaking region, into his own more celestial realm of tailoring. In a moment she was sitting in the furthest and snuggest corner, not cross-legged, but with her feet invisible in a heap of cuttings, from which she was choosing what she wouldalways with a reference to Mr. Spelt-for the dressing of a boy-doll which he had given her.

This was a very usual proceeding-so much so that Mattie and the tailor sat for nearly an hour without a word passing between them beyond what sprung from the constructive exigencies of the child. Neither of them was given to much utterance, though each had something of the pe culiar gift of the Ancient Mariner, namely, “strange power of speech.' They would sit together sometimes for half a day without saying a word; and then again there would be an oasis of the strangest conversation in the desert of their silence-a bad simile, for their silence must have been a thoughtful one to blossom into such speech. But the first words Mattie uttered on this occasion, were of a somewhat mundane character. She heard a footstep pass below. She was too far back in the cell to see who it was, and she did not lift her eyes from her work.

"When the cat's away, the mice will play," she said.

"What are you thinking about, Mattie?" asked the tailor.

Lucy looked up, and saw— -But a little description is necessary. They were standing, as I have said already, in the flagged passage which led to, and post-officially considered, formed part of Guild Court. The archway from Bagot Street into this passage was as it were tunnelled through a house facing the street, and from this house a wall, stretching inwards to the first house in the court proper, formed one side of the passage. About the zuiddle, this wall broke into two workshops, the smallest and strangest ever seen out of the east. There was no roof visible-that lay behind the curtain-wall; but from top to bottom of the wall, a height of about nine feet, there was glass, divided in the middle so as to form two windows, one above the other. So likewise on the right hand side of the glass were two doors, or hatches, one above the other. The tenement looked as if the smallest of ooms had been divided into two horizontally by a floor in the middle, thus forming two cells, which could not have been more than five feet by four, and four feet in height. In the lower, however, a little height had been gained by sinking the floor, to which a single step led down. In this under cell a cobbler sat, hammering away at his lap-stone-a little man, else he could hardly have sat there, or eren got in without discomfort. Every now and then he glanced up at the girl and the child, but never amitted a blow in consequence. Over his head, on the thin floor between, sat a still smaller man, gross-legged like a Turk, busily “plying his needle and thread." His hair, which standing straight up gave a look of terror to his thin pale countemance, almost touched the roof. It was the only luxuriance about him. As plants run to seed, he seemed to have run to hair. A calm keen eye Anderneath its towering forest, revealed observation and peacefulness. He, too, occasionally Looked from his work, but only in the act of drawing the horizontal thread, when his eyes had momentary furlough, moving in alternate oscillation with his hand. At the moment when the child said so, he was looking down in a pause in which the seemed for the moment to have forgotten his work in his interest in the pair below. He might e forty, or fifty, or sixty-no one could tell which. Lucy looked up, and said, "That is Mr. Spelt; that is not your mother."

"Well, but I call him my mother. I can't have two fathers, you know. So I call Mr. Spelt my mother; and so he is."

Here she looked up and smiled knowingly to the little tailor, who, leaning forward to the window, through which, reaching from roof to floor of his cage, his whole form was visible, nodded friendlily to the little girl in acknowledgment of her greeting. But it was now time for Lucy to go.

[ocr errors]

“Well, wasn't that Mr. Worboise that passed? Mr. Boxall must be out. But he needn't go there, for somebody's always out this time o' day."

"What do you mean, Mattie?" again asked the tailor.

"Well, perhaps you don't understand such things, Mr. Spelt, not being a married man.”

Poor Mr. Spelt had had a wife who had killed herself by drinking all his earnings; but perhaps Mattie knew nothing about that.

"No more I am. You must explain it to me."


'Well, you see, young people will be young people."

"Who told you that?"

"Old Mrs. Boxall says so. And that's why Mr. Worboise goes to see Miss Burton, I know. I told you so," she added, as she heard his step returning. But Thomas bore a huge ledger under his arm, for which Mr. Stopper had sent him round to the

[ocr errors]

court. Very likely, however, had Lucy been at home, he might have laid a few minutes more to the account of the errand.

of a great truth-that all the discords we hear in the universe around us, are God's trumpets sounding a réveillé to the sleeping human will, "That's it, is it, which once working harmoniously with his, will soon bring all things into a pure and healthy recti.

"So, so!" said the tailor. Mattie?" "Yes; but we don't say anything about such tude of operation. Till a man has learned to be things, you know." happy without the sunshine, and therein becomes

"Oh, of course not," answered Mr. Spelt; and capable of enjoying it perfectly, it is well that the the conversation ceased. shine and the shadow should be mingled, so as God only knows how to mingle them. To effect the blessedness for which God made him, man must become a fellow-worker with God.

After a long pause, the child spoke again.

"Is God good to you to-day, mother?" "Yes, Mattie. God is always good to us." "But he's better some days than others, isn't he?" To this question the tailor did not know what to reply, and therefore, like a wise man, did not make the attempt. He asked her instead, as he had often occasion to do with Mattie, what she meant.

"Don't you know what I mean, mother? Don't you know God's better to us some days than others? Yes; and he's better to some people than he is to others."

"I am sure he's always good to you and me, Mattie."

“I don't think we should like it, if he did," returned Mr. Spelt, "for the drain down below smells bad in the hot weather."

"Well, yes; generally."

"Why don't you say always?"

The tailor peeped out of his house-front, and saw a bare-footed child in the court below. What she was like I shall take a better opportunity of informing my reader. For at this moment the sound of strong nails tapping sharply reached the ear of Mr. Spelt and his friend. The sound came from a window just over the archway, hence at rightangles

"Because I'm not sure about it. Now to-day it's all very well. But yesterday the sun shone in at the window a whole hour."

"And I drew down the blind to shut it out," to Mr. Spelt's workshop. It was very dingy with said Mr. Spelt, thoughtfully.

“Well,” Mattie went on, without heeding her friend's remark, "he could make the sun shine every day, if he liked. I suppose he could," she added, doubtfully.

"But the rain might come-at night, I mean, not in the daytime-and wash them all out. Mighto't it, mother?"

"Yes; but the heat makes people ill. And if you had such hot weather as they have in some parts, as I am told, you would be glad enough of a day like this."

dust and smoke, allowing only the outline of a man's figure to be seen from the court. This much Poppie saw, and taking the tapping to be intended for her, fled from the court on soundless feet. But Mattie rose at once from her corner, and, laying aside cuttings and doll, stuck her needle and thread carefully in the bosom of her frock, saying,


"That's my father a-wanting of me. I wonder what he wants now. I'm sure I don't know how he would get on without me. And that is a comfort Poor man! he misses my mother more than I do, I believe. He's always after me. Well, I'll see you again in the afternoon, if I can. And, if not, yox may expect me about the same hour to-morrow. While she thus spoke she was let down frems the not very airy height of the workshop on to the firm pavement below; the tailor stretching his arms with her from above, like a bird of prey with a lamb in his talons. The last words she spoke from the ground, her head thrown back between

"Well, why haven't they a day like this, when they want it?"

"God knows," said Mr. Spelt, whose magazine was nearly exhausted, and the enemy pressing on vigorously.

"Well, that's what I say. God knows, and why her shoulders that she might look the tailor in the doesn't he help it?" face, who was stooping over her like an angel frous a cloud in the family-bible.

"Very well, Mattie," returned Mr. Spelt; yoar know your own corner well enough by this time, I should think."

And Mr. Spelt surrendered, if silence was surrender. Mattie did not press her advantage, however, and the besieged plucked up heart a little.

"I fancy perhaps, Mattie, he leaves something for us to do. You know they cut out the slopwork at the shop, and I can't do much more with that but put the pieces together. But when a repairing job comes in, I can contrive a bit then, and I like that better."

After a little while Mattie resumed operations.

"But you can't say, mother, that God isn't better to some people than to other people. He's surely gooder to you and me than he is to Poppie." "Who's Poppie?" asked Mr. Spelt, sending out a flag of negotiation.

"Well, there she is-down in the gutter, I suppose, as usual," answered Mattie, without lifting her eyes.

[ocr errors]

Mr. Spelt's meaning was not very clear, either to himself or to Mattie. But it involved the shadow

[ocr errors]

So saying, he drew himself carefully into his shell, for the place was hardly more, except that he could just work without having to get outside of it first. A soft half smile glimmered on his face; for although he was so used to Mattie's oldfashioned ways, that they scarcely appeared strange to him now, the questions that she raised were food

for the little tailor's meditation-all day long, upon occasion. For some tailors are given to thinking, and when they are they have good opportunity of indulging their inclinations. And it is wonderful what a tailor's thinking may come to, especially if he reads his New Testament. Now, strange perhaps to tell, though Mr. Spelt never went to church, he did read his New Testament. And the little tailor was a living soul. He was one of those few who seem to be born with a certain law of order in themselves, a certain tidiness of mind, as it were, which would gladly see all the rooms or regions of thought swept and arranged; and not only makes them orderly, but prompts them to search after the order of the universe. They would gladly believe in the harmony of things; and although the questions they feel the necessity of answering take the crudest forms and the most limited and individual application, they yet are sure to have something to do with the laws that govern the world. Hence it was that the partial misfit of a pair of moleskin or fustian trowsers-for seldom did his originality find nobler material to exercise itself upon-would make him quite miserable, even though the navvy or dock-labourer might be perfectly satisfied with the result, and ready to pay the money for them willingly. But it was seldom, too, that he had even such a chance of indulging in the creative element of the tailor's calling, though he might have done something of the sort, if he would, in the way of altering. Of that branch of the trade, however, he was shy, knowing that it was most frequently in request with garments unrighteously come by; and Mr. Spelt's thin hands were clean.

He had not sat long after Mattie left him, before she reappeared from under the archway.

"No, no, mother," she said, "I ain't going to perch this time. But father sends his compliments, and will you come and take a dish of tea with him and me this afternoon?"

When two strokes of the five had sounded in the ears of Mr. Spelt, he laid his work aside, took his tall hat from one of the corners where it hung on a peg, leaped lightly from his perch into the court, shut his half of the door, told the shoemaker below that he was going to Mr. Kitely's to tea, and would be obliged if he would fetch him should any one want him, and went through the archway. There was a door to Mr. Kitely's house under the archway, but the tailor preferred going round the corner to the shop-door in Bagot Street. By this he entered Jacob Kitely's domain, an old-book-shop, of which it required some previous knowledge to find the way to the back premises. For the whole cubical space of the shop was divided and subdivided into a labyrinth of book-shelves, those in front filled with decently if not elegantly bound books, and those behind with a multitude innumerable of books in all conditions of dinginess, mustiness, and general shabbiness. Amongst these Jacob Kitely spent his time patching and mending them, and drawing up catalogues. He was not one of those booksellers who are so fond of their books that they cannot bear to part with them, and therefore when they are fortunate enough to lay their hands upon a rare volume, the highest pleasure they know in life, justify themselves in keeping it by laying a manuscript price upon it, and considering it so much actual property. Such men, perhaps, know something about the contents of their wares; but while few surpassed Jacob in a knowledge of the outsides of books, from the proper treatment of covers in the varying stages of dilapidation, and of leaves when water-stained or mildewed or dry-rotted, to the different values of better and best editions, cut and uncut leaves, tall copies, and folios shortened by the plough into doubtful quartos, he never advanced beyond the title-page, except when one edition differed from another, and some examination was necessary to determine to which the copy be

"Yes, Mattie; if you will come and fetch me longed. And not only did he lay no fancy-prices when the tea's ready."


Well, you had better not depend on me; for I shall have a herring to cook, and a muffin to toast, besides the tea to make and set on the hob, and the best china to get out of the black cupboard, and no end o' things to see to."

"But you needn't get out the best china for me, you know."

"Well, I like to do what's proper. And you just keep your eye on St. Jacob's, Mr. Spelt, and at five o'clock, when it has struck two of them, you get down and come in, and you'll find your tea a waiting of you. There!"

upon his books, but he was proud of selling them under the market-value--which he understood well enough, though he used the knowledge only to regulate his buying. The rate at which he sold was determined entirely by the rate at which he bought. Do not think, my reader, that I have the thinnest ghost of a political-economy-theory under this: I am simply and only describing character. Hence he sold his books cheaper than any other bookseller in London, contenting himself with profit proportioned to his expenditure, and taking his pleasure in the rapidity with which the stream of books flowed through his shop. I have known him take threepence off the price he had first affixed to a book, because he found that he had not advertised it, and therefore it had not to bear its share of the expense of the catalogue.

Mr. Spelt made his way through the maze of books into the back shop, no one confronting him, and there found Mr. Kitely busy over his next catalogue, which he was making out in a schoolboy's hand.

With which conclusive form of speech, Mattie turned and walked back through the archway. She never ran, still less skipped as most children do, but held feet and head alike steadily progressive, save for the slightest occasional toss of the latter, which, as well as her mode of speech, revealed the element of conceit which had its share in the oddity of the little damsel.


« ForrigeFortsett »