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Come, come, my boy. Better men than you will “Wife must put another leaf yet in the table," ever be have had to sweep their master's office he said to himself, as Thomas retired to his desk. before now. But no reference is made to the fact “Thirteen's not lucky though ; but one is sure to after they call the office their own. You go and be absent." tell Mr. Boxall that you will be happy to dine with No one was absent, however, and number thirteen him to-night if he will allow you to change your was the standing subject of the jokes of the evening, mind."
especially as the thirteenth was late, in the person “But I told him I was engaged.”
of Mr. Wither, whom Mr. Boxall had invited out “Tell him the engagement is put off, and you of mere good nature; for he did not care much about are at his service."
introducing him to his family, although his conduct “But—" began Tom, and stopped. He was in the counting-house was irreproachable. Miss going to say the engagement was not put off. Worboise had been invited with her father and “But what?" said his father.
brother, but whether she stayed at home to nurse “I don't like to do it," answered Tom. “He will her mother or to tease the curate, is of no great take it for giving in and wanting to make up." importance to my history.
“Leave it to me, then, my boy,” returned his The dinner was a good, well-contrived, rather father, kindly. "I will manage it. My business antiquated dinner, within the compass of the house is not so very pressing but that I can go if I choose. itself; for Mrs. Boxall only pleased her husband as I will write and say that a change in my plans has often as she said that they were and would remain oldput it in my power to be his guest, after all, and fashioned people, and would have their own maids that I have persuaded you to put off your engage- to prepare and serve a dinner—“none of those menment and come with me."
cooks and undertakers to turn up their noses at “But that would be—would not be true,” hesi- everything in the house !” But Tom abused the tated Tom.
whole affair within himself as nothing but a shop“Pooh! pooh! I'll take the responsibility of that. dinner ; for there was Mr. Stopper, the head-clerk, Besides, it is true. Your mother will make a per- looking as sour as a summons; and there was Mr. fect spoon of you-with the help of good little Wither, a good enough fellow and gentlemanlike, Master Simon. Can't I change my plans if I like? but still of the shop; besides young Weston, of We must not offend Boxall. He is a man of mark-whom nobody could predicate anything in particuand warm. I say nothing about figures—I never lar, save that he stood in such awe of Mr. Stopper, tell secrets. I don't even say how many figures. that he missed the way to his mouth in taking But I know all about it, and venture to say, stolen stares at him across the table. Mr. Worboise between father and son, that he is warm, de- sat at the hostess's left hand, and Mr. Stopper at cidedly warm-possibly hot,” concluded Mr. Wor- her right; Tom a little way from his father, with boise, laughing.
Mary Boxall, whom he had taken down, beside him; “I don't exactly understand you, sir," said Tom, and many were the under-browed glances which the meditatively.
head-clerk shot across the dishes at the couple. “You would understand me well enough if you Mary was a very pretty, brown-haired, whitebad a mind to business," answered his father. skinned, blue-eyed damsel, whose charms lay in
But what he really meant in his heart was that harmony of colour, general roundness, the smallness Mr. Boxall had two daughters, to one of whom it of her extremities, and her simple kindheartedness. was possible that his son might take a fancy, or She was dressed in white muslin, with ribands of rather-to express it in the result, which was all precisely the colour of her eyes. Tom could not that he looked to-a marriage might be brought help being pleased at having her beside him. She about between Tom and Jane or Mary Boxall; in was not difficult to entertain, for she was willing to desiring which, he thought he knew what he was be interested in anything; and while Tom was about, for he was Mr. Boxall's man of business. telling her a story about a young lad in his class at
"I won't have you offend Mr. Boxall, anyhow," the Sunday-school, whom he had gone to see at his he concluded. “He is your governor."
wretched home, those sweet eyes filled with tears, The father had tact enough to substitute the and Mr. Stopper saw it, and choked in his glass of clerk's pseudonym for the obnoxious term.
sherry. Tom saw it too, and would have been more “ Very well, sir; I suppose I must leave it to overcome thereby, had it not been for reasons. you,” answered Tom; and they finished their break- Charles Wither, on the opposite side of the table, fast without returning to the subject.
was neglecting his own lady for the one at his other When he reached the counting-house, Tom went elbow, who was Jane Boxall—a fine, regular-feaat once to Mr. Boxall's room, and made his apologies tured, dark-skinned young woman. They were for being late again, on the ground that his father watched with stolen glances of some anxiety from had detained him while he wrote the letter he now both ends of the table, for neither father nor mother handed to him. Mr. Boxall glanced at the note. cared much about Charles Wither, although the
“I am very glad, Tom, that both your father former was too kind to omit inviting him to his and you have thought better of it. Be punctual at house occasionally. seven.”
After the ladies retired, the talk was about poli.
tics, the money-market, and other subjects quite feeling, and that will sometimes shine out the more uninteresting to Tom, who, as I have already said, from the very absence of a characteristic meaning in was at this period of his history a reader of Byron, the countenance. Hence, when Mary felt the kiss, and had therefore little sympathy with human and glanced at the face whence it had fallen, she pursuits except they took some abnormal form- read more in the face than there was in it to read, such as piracy, atheism, or the like-in the person and the touch of his lips went deeper than her of one endowed with splendid faculties and gifts in white shoulder. They were both young, and as general. So he stole away from the table, and yet mere electric jars charged with emotions. joined the ladies some time before the others rose Had they both continued such as they were now, from their wine ; not, however, before he had there could have been no story to tell about himself drunk more than his gravity of demeanour them ; nove such, at least, as I should care to tell. was quite sufficient to ballast. He found Mary They belonged to the common class of mortals who, turning over some music, and as he drew near he although they are weaving a history, are not aware saw her laying aside, in its turn, Byron's song, of it, and in whom the process goes on so slowly “She walks in beauty.”
that the eye of the artist can find in them no sub“Ol! do you sing that song, Miss Mary?” he stance sufficient to be woven into a human creation asked with empressement.
in tale or poem. How dull that life looks to him, “I have sung it several times,” she answered; with its ambitions, its love-making, its dinners, its “but I am afraid I cannot sing it well enough to sermons, its tailor's bills, its weariness over all — please you. Are you fond of the song ?”
without end or goal save that towards which it is “I only know the words of it, and should so driven purposeless ! Not till a hope is born such much like to hear you sing it. I never heard it that its fulfilment depends upon the will of him sung. Do, Miss Mary."
who cherishes it, does a man begin to develop the “You will be indulgent, then?”
stuff out of which a tale can be wrought. For then “I shall have no chance of exercising that virtue, he begins to have a story of his own-it may be for I know. There."
good, it may be for evil--but a story. Thomas's He put the music on the piano as he spoke, and religion was no sign of this yet; for a man can no Mary, adjusting her white skirts and her white more be saved by the mere reflex of parental influ. shoulders, began to sing the song with taste, and ences, than he will be condemned by his inheritance what was more, with simplicity. Her voice was of parental sins. I do not say that there is no very pleasant to the ears of Thomas, warbling one interest in the emotions of such young people ; but of the songs of the man whom, against his con- I say there is not reality enongh in them to do science, he could not help regarding as the greatest anything with. They are neither consistent nor he knew. So much moved was he, that the sigos persistent enough to be wrought into form. Such of his emotion would have been plainly seen had are in the condition over which in the miracle-play not the rest of the company, while listening more Adam laments to Eve after their expulsion from or less to the song, been employing their eyes at Paradise : the same time with Jane's portfolio of drawings. All the time he had his eyes upon her white
“Oure hap was hard, oure uytt was nesche (soft, tender)
To paradys whan we were brought.” shoulder: stooping to turn the last leaf from behind her, be kissed it lightly. At the same moment the Mr. Boxall lived in an old-fashioned house in door opened, and Mr. Stopper entered. Mary Hackney, with great rooms and a large garden. stopped singing, and rose with a face of crimson Through the latter he went with Mr. Worboise and and the timidest, slightest glance at Tom, whose Tom to let them out at a door in the wall, which face flushed up in response.
would save them a few hundred yards in going to It was a foolish action, possibly repented almost the North London Railway. There were some old as soon as done. Certainly for the rest of the trees in the garden, and much shrubbery. As he evening, Thomas sought no opportunity of again returned he heard a rustle amongst the lilacs that approaching Mary. I do not doubt it was with crowded about a side walk, and thought he saw the some feeling of relief that he heard his father say shimmer of a white dress. When he entered the it was time for them to be going home.
drawing-room, his daughter Jane entered from the None of the parents would have been displeased opposite door. He glanced round the room: Mr. had they seen the little passage between the young Wither was gone. This made Mr. Boxall suspicious people. Neither was Mary offended at what had and restless ; for, as I have said, be had not conoccurred. While she sat singing, she knew that fidence in Mr. Wither. Though punctual and attenthe face bending over her was one of the hand | tive to business, he was convinced that he was somest-a face rather long and pale, of almost inclined to be a fast man; and he strongly suspected pure Greek outline, with a high forehead, and him of being concerned in betting transactions of dark eyes with a yet darker fringe. Nor although different sorts, which are an abomination to the man the reader must see that Tom had nothing yet of true business associations and habits. that could be called character, was his face there. Mr. Worboise left the house in comfortable spirits, fore devoid of expression ; for he had plenty of for Providence had been propitious to him for some months past, and it mattered nothing to him whether side of the fire sat a girl, gazing so intently into or how the wind blew. But it blew from the damp the glowing coals, that she seemed unaware of the west cold and grateful upon Thomas's brow. The old woman's entrance. When she spoke to her, she immediate influence of the wine be had drunk had started and rose. gone off, and its effects remained in discomfort and “So you're come home, Lucy, and searching the doubt. Had he got himself into a scrape with Mary fire for a wishing-cap, as usual !" said the old lady, Boxall? He had said nothing to her. He had not cheerily. committed himself to anything. And the wind blew The girl did not reply, and she resumed, with a cooler and more refreshing upon his forehead. And little change of tone, — then came a glow of pleasure as he recalled her blush, “I do declare, child, I'll never let him cross the and the glance she had so timidly lifted towards his door again, if he drives you into the dumps that way. lordly face. That was something to be proud of! Take heart of grace, my girl ; you're good enough Certainly he was one whom women-I suppose he for him any day, though he be a fine gentleman. said girls to himself – were ready to-yes-to fall He's no better gentleman than my son, anyhow, in love with. Proud position ! Enviable destiny ! though he's more of a buck.” Before he reached home the wind had blown away Lucy moved about a little uneasily ; turned to every atom of remorse with the sickly fumes of the the high mantelpiece, took up some trifle and wine; and although he resolved to be careful how played with it nervously, set it down with a light he behaved to Mary Boxall in future, he hugged his sigh, the lightness of which was probably affected ; own handsome idea in the thought that she felt his went across the room to a chest of drawers, in presence, and was-just a little-not dangerously- doing which she turned her back on the old woman ; but really a little in love with him.
and then only replied, in a low pleasant voice,
which wavered a little, as if a good cry were not far CHAPTER IV.-GUILD COURT.
off,The office was closed, the shutters were up in “I'm sure, grannie, you're always kind to him the old-fashioned way on the outside, the lights ex. when he comes." tinguished, and Mr. Stopper, who was always the “I'm civil to him, child. Who could help it? last to leare, was gone. The narrow street looked Such a fine handsome fellow! And has got very very dreary, for most of its windows were similarly winning ways with him, too! That's the mischief covered. The shutters, the pavements, the ken- of it! I always had a soft beart to a frank face. nels, everything shone and darkened by fits. For it A body would think I wasn't a bit wiser than the was a blowing night, with intermittent showers, day I was born.” and everything was wet, and reflected the gas- And she laughed a toothless old laugh which must lights in turn, which the wind teased into all angles once have been very pleasant to her husband to of relation with neighbouring objects, tossing them hear, and indeed was pleasant to hear now. By about like flowers ready at any moment to be blown this time she had got her black bonnet off, revealfrom their stems. Great masses of gray went ing a widow's cap, with gray hair neatly arranged sweeping over the narrow section of the sky that down the sides of a very wrinkled old face. Indeed could be seen from the pavement. Now and then the wrinkles were innumerable, so that her cheeks the moon gleamed out for one moment and no and forehead looked as if they had been crimped more, swallowed the next by a mile of floating rain, with a penknife, like a piece of fine cambric frill. dusky and shapeless. Fighting now with a fierce But there was not one deep rut in her forehead or gust, and now limping along in comparative quiet, cheek. Care seemed to have had nothing at all to with a cotton umbrella for a staff, an old woman do with this condition of them. passed the office, glanced up at the shuttered win- “Well, grannie, why should you be so cross with dows, and, after walking a short distance, turned into me for likivg him, when you like him just as much a paved archway, and then going along a narrow yourself ? " said Lucy, archly. passage reached a small paved square, called Guild “Cross with you, child! I'm not cross with you, Court. Here she took from her pocket a latch- and you know that quite well. You know I never key, and opening a door much in want of paint, but could be cross with you even if I ought to be. otherwise in good condition, entered, and ascended And I didn't ought now, I'm sure. But I am cross a broad dusky staircase, with great landings, with him ; for he can't be behaving right to you whence each ascent rose at right angles to the when your sweet face looks like that.” preceding. The dim light of the tallow-caudle, “Now don't, grannie, else I shall have to be which she had left in a corner of the stair- cross with you. Don't say a word against him. case as she descended, and now took up with her Don't now, dear grannie, or you and I shall quarrel, again, was sufficient to show that the balusters and that would break my heart.” were turned and carved, and the handrail on the “Bless the child! I'm not saying a word for or top of them broad and channeled. When she against him. I'm afraid you're a great deal too fond reached the first floor, she went along a passage, of him, Lucy. What hold have you of him now?” and at the end of it opened a door. A cheerful fire “What hold, grannie!” exclaimed Lucy indig. burned at the other end of a large room, and by the pantly. “Do you think if I were going to be married to him to-morrow, and he never came to black with age and manipulation, only it could not wie church-do you think I would lift that bonnet be seen now because it was covered with a check of tu hold him to it? Indeed, then, I wouldn't.” red and blue. A few mahogany chairs, seated with
And Lucy did not cry, but she turned her back horsehair, a fire-screen in faded red silk, a wooden ou her grandmother as if she would rather her face foot-stool and a tall-backed easy chair, covered with should not be seen.
striped stuff, almost completed the furniture of the "What makes you so out of sorts, to-night, nondescript apartment. then, lovey ?”
Thomas Worboise carried a chair to the fire, and Lucy made no reply, but moved hastily to the put his feet on the broad-barred bright kitchen. window, made the smallest possible chink between fender in front of it. the blind and the window-frame, and peeped out into “Are your feet wet, Thomas ? ” asked Lucy with the court. She had heard a footstep which she some gentle anxiety, and a tremor upon his name, knew; and now she glided, quiet and swift as a as if she had not yet got quite used to saying it ghost, out of the room, closing the door behind her. without a Mr. before it.
“I wonder when it will come to an end. Always “Oh no, thank you. I don't mind a little wet. the same thing over again, I suppose, to the last of Hark how the wind blows in the old chimney up the world. It's no use telling them what we know. there! It'll be an awkward night on the west It won't make one of them young things the wiser. coast, this. I wonder what it feels like to be The first man that looks at them turns the head of driving right on the rocks at the Land's End, or them. And I must confess, if I was young again some such place.” myself, and hearkening for my John's foot in the “Don't talk of such things in that cool way, court, I might bobble—no, not hobble then, but run Mr. Thomas. You make my blood run cold,” said down the stairs like Lucy there to open the door Mrs. Boxall. for him. But then John was a good one; and “ He doesn't mean it, you know, grannie,” said there's few o' them like him now, I doubt."
Lucy, mediating Something like this, I venture to imagine, was “But I do mean it. I should like to know how passing through the old woman's mind when the it feels,” persisted Thomas with the very shrouds, room-door opened again, and Lucy entered with as taut as steel bars, blowing out in the hiss of Thomas Worboise, Her face was shining like a the nor'-wester.” summer morning now, and a conscious pride sat on “Yes, I daresay!" returned the old lady, with the forehead of the young man, which made him some indignation. “ You wonld like to know how look far nobler than he has yet shown himself to it felt so long as your muddy boots was on my clean
The last of a sentence came into the fender!” room with him.
Thomas did not know that the old lady had lost “So you see, Lucy, I could not help it. My one son at sea, and had another the captain of a father--How do you do, Mrs. Boxall ? What a sailing-vessel, or he would not have spoken as he blowing night it is ! But you have a kind of did. But he was always wanting to know swallow's nest here, for hardly a breath gets into how things felt. Had not his education rendered the court when our windows down below in the it impossible for him to see into the state of counting-house are shaking themselves to bits.” his own mind, he might, questioned as to wbat he
It was hardly a room to compare to a swallow's considered the ideal of life, have replied, “A conpest. It was a very large room indeed. The floor, tinuous succession of delicate and poetic sensations." which was dark with age, was uncarpeted, save just Hence he had made many a frantic effort after before the fire, which blazed brilliantly in a small religious sensations. But the necessity of these was kitchen-range, curiously contrasting with the tall, now somewhat superseded by his growing attachment carved chimney-piece above it. The ceiling corres- to Lucy, and the sensations consequent upon that. ponded in style, for it was covered with ornament- Up to this moment, in his carriage and speech,
he had been remarkably different from himself, as All made out of the carver's brain.
already shown in my history. For he was, or thought And the room was strangely furnished. The high himself, somebody here; and there was a freedom oak-settle of a farm-house stood back against the and ease about his manner, amounting, in fact, to a wall not far from the fire, and a few feet from it a slight though not disagreeable swagger, which pretall, old-fashioned piano, which bore the name of sented him to far more advantage than he had in Broadwood under the cover. At the side of the the presence of bis father and mother, or even of room farthest from the fire, stood one of those chests Mr. Boxall and Mr. Stopper. But he never could of drawers, on which the sloping lid at the top left bear any one to be displeased with him except he just room for a glass-doored bookcase to stand, were angry himself. So when Mrs. Boxall spoke rivalling the piano in height. Then there was a as she did, his countenance fell. He instantly resofa, covered with chintz plentifully besprinkled moved his feet from the fender, glanced up at her with rose-buds; and in the middle of the room a face, saw that she was really indignant, and, square mahogany table, called by upholsterers a missing the real reason of course, supposed that it pembroke, I think, the colour of which was all but I was because he had been indiscreet in being disre