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fruits of his labour, Mrs. Worboise. But when we think of the briefness of life, and how soon the night cometh when no man can work, I do not think we can be too earnest to win souls for our crown of rejoicing when He comes with the holy angels.—First our own souls, Mr. Thomas, and then the souls of others.”
Thomas, believing every word that the curate spoke, made notwithstanding no reply, and the curate went on.
“ There are so many souls that might be saved, if one were only in earnest, and so few years to do it in. We do not strive with God in prayer, Mrs. Worboise. We faint and cease from our prayers and our endeavours together.”
“ That is too true," responded the lady.
“I try to do my best," said Thomas, in a tone of apology, and with a lingering doubt in his mind whether he was really speaking the absolute truth. But he comforted himself with saying to himself, “I only said "I try to do my best :' I did not say, 'I try my best to do my best.'”
“I have no reason to doubt it, my young
friend,” returned the curate, who was not ten years older than his young friend. “I only fancied—no doubt it was but the foolish fancy of my own anxiety—that you did not respond quite so heartily as usual to my question.”
The mother's eyes were anxiously fixed on her son during the conversation, for her instincts told her that he was not quite at his ease. She had never given him any scope, never trusted him, or trained him to freedom; but, herself a prisoner to her drawing-room and bed-room, sought, with all her energy and contrivance, for which she had plenty of leisure, to keep, strengthen, and repair the invisible cable by which she seemed to herself to hold, and in fact did hold him, even when he was out of her sight, and himself least aware of the fact.
As yet again Thomas made no reply, Mr. Simon changed the subject.
“Have you much pain to-night, Mrs. Worboise ?” he asked.
“I can bear it,” she answered. “It will not last for ever.”
“ You find comfort in looking to the rest that remaineth,” responded Mr. Simon. “It is the truest comfort. Still, your friends would gladly see you enjoy a little more of the present ” world, Mr. Simon was going to say, but the word was unsuitable ; so he changed it—" of the present-ah! dispensation," he said.
“ The love of this world bringeth a snare,” suggested Mrs. Worboise, believing that she quoted Scripture.
Thomas rose and left the room. He did not return till the curate had taken his leave. It was then almost time for his mother to retire. As soon as he entered he felt her anxious paleblue eyes upon him.
“Why did you go, Thomas ?” she asked, moving on her couch, and revealing by her face a twinge of sharper pain than ordinary. “You used to listen with interest to the conversation of Mr. Simon. He is a man whose conversation is in Heaven.”
“I thought you would like to have a little private talk with him, mamma. You generally. do have a talk with him alone.”
“Don't call it talk, Thomas. That is not the proper word to use.”
“ Communion, then, mother," answered Thomas, with the feeling of aversion a little stronger and more recognisable than before, but at the same time annoyed with himself that he thus felt. And, afraid that he had shown the feeling which he did recognise, he hastened to change the subject and speak of one which he had at heart.
“But, mother, dear, I wanted to speak to you about something. You mustn't mind my being late once or twice a-week now, for I am going in for German. There is a very good master lives a few doors from the countinghouse; and if you take lessons in the evening at his own lodgings, he charges so much less for it! And, you know, it is such an advantage now-adays for any one who wants to get on in business to know German!”
“Does Mr. Wither join you, Thomas ?"
asked his mother, in a tone of knowing reproof.
“No, indeed, mother," answered Thomas; and a gleam of satisfaction shot through his brain as his mother seemed satisfied. Either, however, he managed to keep it off his face, or his mother did not perceive or understand it, for the satisfaction remained on her countenance.
“I will speak to your father about it," she answered.
This was quite as much as Thomas could have hoped for: he had no fear of his father making any objection. He kissed his mother on the cheek—it was a part of her system of mortifying the flesh with its affections and lusts that she never kissed him with any fervour, rarely indeed allowing those straight lips to meet his—and they parted for the night.