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  • 1891
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him dressed to her heart’s content, and the satisfaction of her mistress, who would not have him in livery, but in a plain suit of dark blue cloth: for she loved blue, all her men-people being, or having been in the navy. Thus dressed, he looked as much of a gentleman as before: his look of refinement had owed nothing to the contrast of his rags. Better clothes make not a few seem commoner.

When Mrs. Mereweather came back from the town the first day, she found that the ragged boy had got her kitchen and scullery as nice and clean, and everything as ready to her hand, as if she had got her work done before she went, which the omnibus would not permit. This rejoiced her much; but being a woman of experience, she continued a little anxious lest his sweet ways should go after his rags, lest his new garments should breed bumptiousness and bad manners. For such a change is no unfrequent result of prosperity. But such had been Mr. Porson’s teaching and example, such Mrs. Person’s management, and such the responsiveness of the boy’s disposition, that the thought never came to him whether this or that was a thing fit for him to do: if the thing was a right thing, and had to be done, why should not he do it as well as another! To earn his own and Abdiel’s bread, he would do anything honest, setting up his back at nothing. But when about a thing, he forgot even his obligation to do it, in the glad endeavour to do it well.

As the days went on, Mrs. Mereweather was not once disappointed in him. He did everything with such a will that both she and the housemaid were always ready to spare and help him. Very soon they began to grow tender over him; and on pretence of his being the earlier drest to open the door, did certain things themselves which he had been quite content to do, but which they did not like seeing him do. Many–I am afraid most boys would have presumed on their generosity, but Clare was nowise injured by it.

Nothing could be kinder than the way his mistress treated him. Having lent him some books, and at once perceived that he was careful of them, she let him have the run of her library when his day’s work was over. For he not only read but respected books. Nothing shows vulgarity more than the way in which some people treat books. No gentleman would write his remarks on the margins of another person’s book; no lady would brush her hair as she read one of her own.

From hungry days and cold nights, Clare and Abdiel found themselves _in clover_–the phrase surely of some lover of cows!–and they were more than content. Clare had longed so much for work, and had for so many a weary day sought it in vain, that he valued it now just because it was work. And he seemed to know instinctively that a man ranks, not according to the thing he does, but according to the way he does it. In life it is far higher to do an inferior thing well than to do a superior thing passably.

Clare made good use of his privileges, and read much, educating himself none the worse that he did it unconsciously. He read whatever came in his way. He read really–not as most people read, leaving the sentences behind them like so many unbroken nuts, the kernel of whose meaning they have not seen. He learned more than most boys at school, more even than most young men at college; for it is not what one knows, but what one uses, that is the true measure of learning. Whatever he read, he read from the point of practice. In history or romance he saw–not merely what a man ought to be or do, but what he himself must, at that moment, be or do. There is a very common sort of man calling himself practical, but neglecting to practise the most important things, who would laugh at the idea of Clare being practical, seeing he did not trouble his head about money, or “getting on in the world”–what servants call “bettering themselves;” but such a practical man will find he has been but a practical fool. Clare took heed to do what was right, and grow a better man. Such a life is the only really practical one.

People wondered how Miss Tempest had managed to get hold of such a nice-looking page, and the good lady was flattered by their wonder. But she knew the world too well to be sure of him yet. She knew that it is difficult, in the human tree, to distinguish between blossom and fruit. Deeds of lovely impulse are the blossom; unvarying, determined Tightness is the fruit.

Chapter LVI.

Strategy.

Miss Tempest was the last of an old family, with scarce a relation, and no near one, in the world. Hence the pieces of personal property that had continued in the possession of various branches of the family after land and money, through fault or misfortune, were gone, had mostly drifted into the small pool of Miss Tempest’s life now slowly sinking in the sands of time, there to gleam and sparkle out their tale of its old splendour. She did not think often of their money-worth: had she done so, she would have kept them at her banker’s; but she valued them greatly both for their beauty and their associations, constantly using as many of them as she could. More than one of her friends had repeatedly tried to persuade her that it was not prudent to have so much plate and so many jewels in the house, for the fact was sure to be known where it was least desirable it should: she always said she would think about it. At times she would for a moment contemplate sending her valuables to the bank; but her next thought–by no means an unwise one–would always be, “Of what use will they be at the bank? I might as well not have them at all! Better sell them and do some good with the money!–No; I must have them about me!”

There are predatory persons in every large town, who either know or are learning to know the houses in it worth the risk of robbing. When it falls to the lot of this or that house to be attempted, one of the gang will make the acquaintance of some servant in it, with the object of discovering beforehand where its treasure lies, and so reducing the time to be spent in it, and the risk of frustration or capture. Often they seduce one of the household to let them in, or hand out the things they want. Any such gang, however, must soon have become convinced that at Miss Tempest’s corruption was impossible, and that they could avail themselves solely of their own internal resources.

It was well now for Miss Tempest that she was so faithful herself as to encourage faithfulness in others: gladly would she have had Abdiel sleep in her room, but she would not take the pleasure of his company from his old master and companion in suffering. The dog therefore slept on Clare’s bed, just as he did when the bed was as hard to define as to lie upon, only now he had to take the part neither of blanket nor hot bottle.

One night, about half-past twelve, watchful even in slumber, he sprang up in his lair at his master’s feet, listened a moment, gave a low growl, again listened, and gave another growl. Clare woke, and found his bed trembling with the tremor of his little four-footed guardian. Telling him to keep quiet, he rose on his elbow, and in his turn listened, but could hear nothing. He thought then he would light his candle and go down, but concluded it wiser to descend without a light, and listen under cloak of the darkness. If he could but save Miss Tempest from a fright! He crept out of bed, and went first to the window–a small one in the narrowing of the gable-wall of his attic room: the night was warm, and, loving the night air, he had it open. Hearkening there for a moment, he thought he heard a slight movement below. Very softly he put out his head, and looked down. There was no moon, but in the momentary flash of a lantern he caught sight of a small pair of legs disappearing inside the scullery window, which was almost under his own. Swift and noiseless he hurried down, and reached the scullery door just in time for a little fellow who came stealing out of it, to run against him.

Now Clare had heard the housemaid read enough from the newspapers to guess, the moment he looked from the garret window, that the legs he saw were those of a boy sent in to open a door or window, and when the boy, feeling his way in the dark, came against him, he gripped him by the throat with the squeeze that used to silence Tommy. The prowler knew the squeeze. The moment Clare relaxed it, in a piping whisper came the words,

“Clare! Clare! they said they’d kill me if I didn’t!”

“Didn’t what?”

“Open the door to them.”

“If you utter one whimper, I’ll throttle you,” said Clare.

He tightened his grasp for an instant, and Tommy, who had not forgotten that what Clare said, he did, immediately gave in, and was led away. Clare took him in his arms and carried him to his room, tied him hand and foot, and left him on the floor, fast to the bedstead. Then he crept swiftly to the servants’ room, and with some difficulty waking them, told them what he had done, and asked them to help him.

Both women of sense and courage, they undertook at once to do their part. But when he proposed that they should open a window, as if it were done by Tommy, and so enticing the burglars to enter, secure the first of them, they, naturally enough, and wisely too, declined to encounter the risk.

The burglars, perplexed by the lack of any sign from Tommy yet the utter quiet of the house, concluded probably that he had fallen somewhere, and was lying either insensible, or unable to move and afraid to cry out–in which case they would be at the mercy of what he might say when he was found.

Those within could hear as little noise without. They went from door to window, wherever an attempt might be made, but all was still. Then it occurred to Clare that he had left the scullery window unwatched. He hastened to it–and was but just in time: two long thin legs were sticking through, and showed by their movements that considerable effort was being made by the body that belonged to them, to enter after them. Legs first was the wrong way, but the youth feared the unknown fate of Tommy, and being pig-headed, would go that way or not at all.

A boy in courage equal to Clare, but of less coolness, would at once have made war on the intrusive legs; but Clare bethought him that, so long as that body filled the window, no other body could pass that way; so it would be well to keep it there, a cork to the house, making it like the nest of a trap-door-spider. He begged the women, therefore, who had followed him, to lay hold each of an ankle, and stick to it like a clamp, while he ran to get some string.

The women, entering heartily into the business, held on bravely. The owner of the legs made vigorous efforts to release them, more anxious a good deal to get out than he had been to get in, but he was not very strong, and had no scope. His accomplices laid hold of him and pulled; then, with good mother-wit, the women pulled away from each other, and so made of his legs a wedge.

Clare came back with a piece of clothes-line, one end of which he slipped with a running knot round one ankle, and the other in like fashion round the other. Then he cut the line in halves, and drawing them over two hooks in the ceiling, some distance apart, so that the legs continued widespread like a V upside down, hauled the feet up as high as he could, and fastened the ends of the lines. Hold lines and hooks, it was now impossible to draw the fellow out.

Leaving the women to watch, and telling them to keep a hand on each of the lines because the scullery was pitch-dark, he went next to his room and looked again from the window. He feared they might be trying to get in at some other place, for they would not readily abandon their accomplices, and doubtless knew what a small household it was! He would see first, therefore, what was doing outside the scullery, and then make a round of doors and windows!

Right under him when he looked out, stood a short, burly figure; another man was taking intermittent hauls at the arms of their leg-tied companion, regardless of his stifled cries of pain when he did so. Clare went and fetched his water-jug, which was half full, and leaning out once more, with the jug upright in his two hands, moved it this way and that until he had it, as nearly as he could determine, just over the man beneath him, and then dropped it. The jug fell plumb, and might have killed the man but that he bent his head at the moment, and received it between his shoulders. It knocked the breath out of him, and he lay motionless. The other man fled. The window-stopper, hearing the crash of the jug, wrenched and kicked and struggled, but in vain. There he had to wait the sunrise, for not a moment sooner would the cook open the door.

When they went out at last, the stout man too was gone. He had risen and staggered into the shrubbery, and there fallen, but had risen once more and got away.

Their captive pretended to be all but dead, thinking to move their pity and be set free. But Clare went to the next house and got the man-servant there to go for the police, begging him to make haste: he knew that his tender-hearted mistress, if she came down before the police arrived, would certainly let the fellow go, and Tommy with him; and he was determined the law should have its way if he could compass it What hope was there for the wretched Tommy if he was allowed to escape! And what right had they to let such people loose on their neighbours! It was selfishness to indulge one’s own pity to the danger of others! He would be his brother’s keeper by holding on to his brother’s enemy!

Going at last to his room, he found Tommy asleep. The boy was better dressed, but no cleaner than when first he knew him. Clare proceeded to wash and dress. Tommy woke, and lay staring, but did not utter a sound.

“Have your sleep out,” said Clare. “The police won’t be here, I daresay, for an hour yet.”

“I believe you!” returned Tommy, as impudent as ever. His contemplation of Clare had revived his old contempt for him. ‘I mean to go. I ‘ain’t done nothing.”

“Go, then,” said Clare, and took no more heed of him.

“If it’s manners you want, Clare,” resumed Tommy, “_please_ let me go!”

Clare turned and looked at him. The evil expression was hardened on his countenance. He gave him no answer.

“You ain’t never agoin’ to turn agin an old pal, aire you?” said Tommy.

“I ain’t a pal of yours, Tommy, or of any other thief’s!” answered Clare.

“I’ll take my oath on it to the beak!”

“You’ll soon have the chance; I’ve sent for the police.” Tommy changed his tone.

“Please, Clare, let me go,” he whined.

“I will not. I did what I could for you before, and I’ll do what I can for you now. You must go with the police.”

Tommy began to blubber, or pretend–Clare could not tell which.

“This beastly string’s a cuttin’ into me!” he sobbed.

Clare examined it, and found it easy enough.

“I won’t undo one knot,” he answered, “until there’s a policeman in the room. If you make a noise, I will stuff your mouth.”

His dread was that his mistress might hear, and spoil all. “It’s her house,” he said to himself, “but they’re my captives!”

Tommy lay still, and the police came.

When they untied and drew out the cork of the scullery window, Clare thought he had seen him before, but could not remember where. One of the policemen, however, the moment his eyes fell on his face, cried out joyfully,

“Ah, ha, my beauty! I’ve been a lookin’ for you!”

“Never set eyes on ye afore,” growled the fellow.

“Don’t ye say now ye ain’t a dear friend o’ mine,” insisted the policeman, “when I carry yer pictur’ in my bosom!”

He drew out a pocket-book, and from it a photograph, at which he gazed with satisfaction, comparing it with the face before him. In another moment Clare recognized the lad sent by Maidstone to exchange band-boxes with him.

“Her majesty the queen wants you for that robbery, you know!” said the policeman.

A boy who loved romance and generosity more than truth and righteousness, would now have regretted the chance he had lost of doing a fine action, and sought yet to set the rascal free. There are men who cheat and make presents; there are men who are saints abroad and churls at home, as Bunyan says; there are men who screw down the wages of their clerks and leave vast sums to the poor; men who build churches with the proceeds of drunkenness; men who promote bubble companies and have prayers in their families morning and evening; men, in a word, who can be very generous with what is not their own; for nothing ill-gotten is a man’s own any more than the money in a thief’s pocket: Clare was not of the contemptible order of the falsely generous.

Profiting, doubtless, by Maidstone’s own example, the fellow had, as Clare now learned, run away from his master, carrying with him the contents of the till: whether he deserved punishment more than his master, may be left undiscussed.

When first Miss Tempest’s friends heard of the attempt to break into her house, they said–what could she expect if she took tramps into her service! They were consider-ably astonished, however, when they read in the newspaper the terms in which the magistrate had spoken of the admirable courage and contrivance of Miss Tempest’s page, and the resolution with which the women of her household had seconded him. If every third house were as well defended, he said, the crime of burglary would disappear.

After the trial, Clare begged and was granted an interview with the magistrate. He told him what he knew about Tommy, and entreated he might be sent to some reformatory, to be kept from bad company until he was able to distinguish between right and wrong, which he thought he hardly could at present The magistrate promised it should be done, and with kind words dismissed him.

Things returned to their old way at Miss Tempest’s. Her friends never doubted she would now at last commit her plate to her banker’s strong room, but they found themselves mistaken: she was convinced that, with such servants and Abdiel, it was safe where it was.

The leader of the gang, injured by Clare’s water-jug, was soon after captured, and the gang was broken up.

Chapter LVII.

Ann Shotover.

So void of self-assertion was Clare, so prompt at the call of whoever needed him, so quiet yet so quick, so silent in his sympathetic ministrations, so studious and so capable, that, after two years, Miss Tempest began to feel she ought to do what she could to “advance his prospects,” even at the loss to herself of his services.

He never came to regard Miss Tempest as he did the other women who had saved him: he never thought of her as his fourth mother. Truly good and kind she was, but she had a certain manner which prevented him from feeling entirely comfortable with her. It did not escape him, however, that Abdiel was thoroughly at his ease in her company; and he believed therefore that the dog knew her better, or at least was more just to her, than he.

The fact was Miss Tempest kept down all her feelings, with a vague sense that to show them would be to waste her substance: it was the one shape that the yet lingering selfishness of a very unselfish person took. Thus she kept him at a distance, and he stayed at a distance, she on her part wondering that he did not open out to her more, but neither doubting that all was right between them. Nothing, indeed, was wrong–only they might have come a little nearer. Perhaps, also, Miss Tempest was a little too conscious of being his patroness, his earthly saviour.

It was natural that, after the defeated robbery, Clare should become a little known to the friends of the mistress he had so well served; when, therefore, Miss Tempest spoke to her banker concerning the ability of her page, mentioning that, in his spare time, he had been reading hard, as well as attending an evening-school for mathematics, where he gained much approbation from his master, she spoke of one already known by him to one accustomed to regard character.

The banker listened with a solemn listening from which she could not tell what he was thinking. No one ever could tell what Mr. Shotover was thinking: his face was not half a face; it was more a mask than a face. High in the world’s regard, rich, and of unquestioned integrity, he was believed to have gathered a large fortune; but he kept his affairs to himself. That he liked his own way so much as never to yield it, I give up to the admiration of such as himself: often kind–when the required mode of the kindness pleased him, a constant church-goer and giver of money, always saying less the more he made up his mind, he had generally no trouble in getting it.

Priding himself on his moral discrimination, he had, now and then, as suited his need, taken from a lower position a young man he thought would serve his purpose, and modelled him to it. He had had his eye on Clare ever since reading the magistrate’s eulogy of his contrivance and courage; but when Miss Tempest spoke, he had not made up his mind about him, for something in the boy repelled him. He had scarcely troubled himself to ask what it was, nor do I believe he could have discovered, for the root of the repulsion lay in himself.

Moved in part, however, by the representations of Miss Tempest, in part also, I think, by a desire to discover that the boy was a hypocrite, Mr. Shotover consented to give him a trial, whereupon Miss Tempest made haste to disclose to her _protege_ the grand thing she had done for him.

She was disappointed at the coolness and lack of interest with which Clare heard her great news. She could not but be gratified that he did not want to leave her, but she was annoyed that he seemed unaware of any advantage to be gained in doing so–high as the social ascent from servitude to clerkship would by most be considered. But Clare’s horizon was not that of the world. He had no inclination to more of figures and less of persons. Miss Tempest, however, insisting that she knew what was best for him, and what it was therefore his duty to do, he listened in respectful silence to all she had to say. But what she counted her most powerful argument–that he owed it to himself to rise in the world–did not even touch him, did not move the slightest response in a mind nobly devoid of ambition. Her argument was in truth nonsense; for a man owes himself nothing, owes God everything, and owes his neighbour whatever his own conscience goes on to require of him for his neighbour. Feeling at the same time, however, that she had a huge claim on his compliance with her wishes, Clare consented to leave her kitchen for her friend’s bank, where he had of course to take the lowest position, one counted by the rest of the clerks, especially the one just out of it, _menial_, requiring him to be in the bank earlier by half an hour than the others, to be the last to go away at night, and to sleep in the house–where a not uncomfortable room in the attic story was appointed him.

Mr. Shotover himself lived above the bank–with his family, consisting of his wife and two daughters. Mrs. Shotover suffered from a terrible disease–that of thinking herself ill when nothing was the matter with her except her paramount interest in herself–the source of at least half the incurable disease among idle people. The elder daughter was a high-spirited girl about twenty, with a frank, friendly manner, indicating what God meant her to be, not what she was, or had yet chosen to be. She was not really frank, and seemed far more friendly than she was, being more selfish than she knew, and far more selfish than she seemed: she was merry, and that goes a great way in seeming. Her mother spent no regard upon her; her heart was too full of herself to have in it room for a grown-up daughter as well, with interests of her own. The younger was a child about six, of whom the mother took not so much care by half as a tigress of her cub.

One morning, a little before eight o’clock, as Clare was coming down from his room to open the windows of the bank, he just saved himself from tumbling over something on the attic stair, which was dark, and at that point took rather a sharp turn. The something was a child, who gave a low cry, and started up to run away: there was not light enough for either to discern easily what the other was like. But Clare, to whom childhood was the strongest attraction he yet knew, bent down his face from where he stood on the step above her, and its moonlight glow of love and faith shone clear in the eyes of the little girl. The moment she saw his smile, she knew the soul that was the light of the smile, and her doll dropped from her hands as she raised them to lay her arms gently about his neck.

“Oh!” she said, “you’re come!”

He saw now, in the dusk, a pale, ordinary little face, with rather large gray eyes, a rather characterless, tiny, up-turned nose, and a rather pretty mouth.

“Yes, little one. Were you expecting me?” he returned, with his arms about her.

“Yes,” she answered, in the tone of one stating what the other must know.

“How was it I frightened you, then?”

“Only at first I thought you was an ogre! That was before I saw you. Then I knew!”

“Who told you I was coming?”

“Nobody. Nobody knew you was coming but me. I’ve known it–oh, for such a time!–ever since I was born, I think!”

She turned her head a little and looked down where the doll lay a step or two below.

“You can go now, dolly,” she said. “I don’t want you any more.” Here she paused a while, as if listening to a reply, then went on: “I am much obliged to you, dolly; but what am I to do with you? You won’t never speak! It has made me quite sad many a time, you know very well! But you can’t help it! So go away, please, and be nobody, for you never would be anybody! I did my best to get you to be somebody, but you wouldn’t! Thank you all the same! I will take you and put you where you can be as dull as you please, and nobody will mind.”–Here she left Clare, went down, and lifted her plaything.–“Dolly, dolly,” she resumed, “he’s come! I knew he would! And you don’t know it because you’re nobody!”

Without looking back, or a word of adieu to Clare, she went slowly down the steps, one by one, with the doll in her arms, manifesting for it neither contempt nor tenderness. Many a child would have carried the discrowned favourite by one leg; she carried her in both hands.

Clare waited a while on the narrow, closed-in, wooden stair, not a little wondering, and full of thought. His wonder, however, had no puzzlement in it. The child’s behaviour involved no difficulty. The two existences came together, and each understood the other in virtue of its essential nature. In after years Clare could put the thing into such words; he sought none at the time. The child was lonely. She had done her best with her doll, but it had failed her. It was not companionable. The moment she looked in Clare’s face, she knew that he loved her, and that she had been waiting for _him_! She was not surprised to see him; how should it be otherwise than just so! He was come: good bye, dolly! The child had imagination–next to conscience the strongest ally of common sense. She knew, like St. Paul, that an idol is nothing. As men and women grow in imagination and common sense, more and more will sacred silly dolls be cast to the moles and the bats. But pretty Fancy and limping Logic are powerful usurpers in commonplace minds.

Clare saw nothing more of her that day, neither tried to see her; but he did his work in an atmosphere of roses. The work was not nearly so interesting as house-work, but Clare was an honest gentleman, therefore did it well: that it was not interesting was of no account; it was his work! But to know that a child was in the house, not merely a child for him to love, but a child that already loved him so that he could be her servant indeed, changed the stupid bank almost into the dome of the angels.

His fellow clerks took little notice of him beyond what, in the routine of the day, was unavoidable. He had been a page-boy: the less they did with him the better! Were they not wronged by his introduction into their company? The poorest creature of them believed he would have served out the burglars better if the chance had been his.

Chapter LVIII.

Child-talk.

As Clare came down the next morning but one, there was the child again on the dark narrow stair. She had no doll. Her hands lay folded in her lap. She sat on the same step, the very image of child-patience. As he approached she did not move. I believe she held solemn revel of expectation. He laid his hand on the whitey-brown hair smoothed flat on her head with a brush dipped in water. Not much dressing was wasted on Ann–common little name!

She rose, turned to him, and again laid her arms about his neck. No kiss followed: she had not been taught to kiss.

“Where’s dolly?” asked Clare.

“Nowhere. Buried,” answered the child.

“Where did you bury her? In the garden?”

“No. The garden wouldn’t be nowhere!”

“Where, then?”

“Nowhere. I threw her out of the window.”

“Into the street?”

“Yes. She did fell on a horse’s back, and he jumped. I was sorry.”

“It didn’t hurt him. I hope it didn’t hurt dolly!”

The moment he said it, Clare’s heart reproached him: he was not talking true! he was not talking out of his real heart to the child! Almost with indignation she answered:–

“_Things_ don’t be hurt! Dolly was a thing! She’s _no_ thing now!”

“Why?”

“Because she fell under the horse, and was seen no more.”

“Is she old enough,” thought Clare, “to read the Pilgrim’s Progress?”

“Will you tell me, please,” he said, “_when_ a thing is only a thing?”

“When it won’t mind what you do or say to it.”

“And when is a thing no thing any more?”

“When you never think of it again.”

“Is a fly a thing?”

“I _could_ make a fly mind, only it would hurt it!”

“Of course we wouldn’t do that!”

“No; we don’t want to make a fly mind. It’s not one of our creatures.”

Clare thought that was far enough in metaphysics for one morning.

“I waited for you yesterday,” he said, “but you didn’t come!”

“Dolly didn’t like to be buried. I mean, I didn’t like burying dolly. I cried and wouldn’t come.”

“Then why did you bury dolly?”

“She _had_ to be buried. I told you she couldn’t _be_ anybody! So I _made_ her be buried.”

“I see! I quite understand.–But what have you to amuse yourself with now?”

“I don’t want to be mused now. You’s come! I’m growed up!”

“Yes, of course!” answered Clare; but he was puzzled what to say next.

What could he do for her? Glad would he have been to take her down to the sea, or to the docks, or into the country somewhere, till dinner-time, and then after dinner take her out again! But there was his work–ugly, stupid work that had to be done, as dolly _had_ to be buried! Alas for the child who has discarded her toys, and is suddenly growed up! What is she to do with herself? Clare’s coming had caused the loss of Ann’s former interests: he felt bound to make up to her for that loss. But how? It was a serious question, and not being his own master, he could not in a moment answer it.

“I wish I could stay with you all day!” he said. “But your papa wants me in the bank. I must go.”

Clare had not had a good sight of the child, and was at a loss to think what must be her age. Her language, both in form and utterance, was partly precise and _grown-up_, and partly childish; but her wisdom was child-like–and that is the opposite both of precise and childish. It was the wisdom that comes of unity between thought and action.

“Is there anything I can do for you before I go–for I must go?” said Clare.

“Who says _must_ to you? Nurse says _must_ to me.”

“Your papa says _must_ to me.”

“If you didn’t say _yes_ when papa said _must_, what would come next?”

“He would say, ‘Go out of my house, and never come in again.'”

“And would you do it?”

“I must: the house is his, not mine.”

“If I didn’t say _yes_ when papa said _must_, what would happen?”

“He would try to make you say it.”

“And if I wouldn’t, would he say, ‘Go out of my house and never come in again’?”

“No; you are his little girl!”

“Then I think he shouldn’t say it to you.–What is your name?”

“Clare.”

“Then, Clare, if my papa sends you out of his house, I will go with you.–You wouldn’t turn me out, would you, when I was a _little_ naughty?”

“No; neither would your papa.”

“If he turned you out, it would be all the same. Where you go, I will go. I must, you know! Would you mind if he said ‘Go away’?”

“I should be very sorry to leave you.”

“Yes, but that’s not going to be! Why do you stay with papa? Were you in the house always–ever so long before I saw you?”

“No; a very little while only.”

“Did you come in from the street?”

“Yes; I came in from the street. Your papa pays me to work for him.”

“And if you wouldn’t?”

“Then I should have no money, and nothing to eat, and nowhere to sleep at night.”

“Would that make you uncomfable?”

“It would make me die.”

“Have you a papa?”

“Yes, but he’s far away.”

“You could go to him, couldn’t you?”

“One day I shall.”

“Why don’t you go now, and take me?”

“Because he died.”

“What’s _died_?”

“Went away out of sight, where we can’t go to look for him till we go out of sight too.”

“When will that be?”

“I don’t know.”

“Does anybody know?”

“Nobody.”

“Then perhaps you will never go?”

“We must go; it’s only that nobody knows when.”

“I think the when that nobody knows, mayn’t never come.–Is that why you have to work?”

“Everybody has to work one way or another.”

“I haven’t to work!”

“If you don’t work when you’re old enough, you’ll be miserable.”

“_You’re_ not old enough.”

“Oh, yes, indeed I am! I’ve been working a long time now.”

“Where? Not for papa?”

“No; not for papa.”

“Why not? Why didn’t you come sooner? Why didn’t you come _much_ sooner–_ever_ so much sooner? Why did you make me wait for you all the time?”

“Nobody ever told me you were waiting.”

“Nobody ever told me you were coming, but I knew.”

“You had to wait for me, and you knew. I had to wait for you, and I didn’t know! When we have time, I will tell you all about myself, and how I’ve been waiting too.”

“Waiting for me?”

“No.”

“Who for?”

“For my father and mother–and somebody else, I think.”

“That’s me.”

“No; I’m waiting yet. I didn’t know I was coming to you till I came, and there you were!”

The child was silent for a moment. Then she said thoughtfully,

“You will tell me _all_ about yourself! That _will_ be nice!–Can you tell stories?” she added. “–Of course you can! You can do _every_thing!”

“Oh, no, I can’t!”

“Can’t you?”

“No; I can do _some_ things–not many. I can love you, little one!–Now I must go, or I shall be late, and nobody ever ought to be late.”

“Go then. I will go to my nursery and wait again.”

She went down the stair without once looking behind her. Clare followed. On the next floor she went one way to her nursery, and he another to the back-stairs.

One of the causes and signs of Clare’s manliness was, that he never aimed at being a man. Many men continue childish because they are always trying to act like men, instead of simply trying to do right. Such never develop true manliness, Clare’s manhood stole upon him unawares. That which at once made him a man and kept him a child, was, that he had no regard for anything but what was real, that is, true.

All the day the thought kept coming, what could he do for the little girl Perhaps what stirred his feeling for her most, was a suspicion that she was neglected. But the careless treatment of a nurse was better for her than would have been the capricious blandishments and neglects of a mother like Mrs. Shotover. Clare, however, knew nothing yet about Ann’s mother. He knew only, by the solemnly still ways of the child, that she must be much left to her own resources, and was wonderfully developed in consequence–whether healthily or not, he could not yet tell. The practical question was–how to contrive to be her occasional companion; how to offer to serve her.

After much thinking, he concluded that he must wait: opportunity might suggest mode; and he would rather find than make opportunity!

Chapter LIX.

Lovers’ walks.

He had not long to wait. That very afternoon, going a message for the head-clerk, he met Ann walking with a young lady–who must be Miss Shotover. Neither sister seemed happy with the other. Ann was very white, and so tired that she could but drag her little feet after her. Miss Shotover, flushed with exertion, and annoyed with her part of nursemaid, held her tight and hauled her along by the hand. She looked good-natured, but not one of the ministering sort. Every now and then she would give the little arm a pull, and say, though not _very_ crossly, “Do come along!” The child did not cry, but it was plain she suffered. It was plain also she was doing her best to get home, and avoid rousing her sister’s tug.

Keen-sighted, Clare had recognized Ann at some distance, and as he approached had a better opportunity than on the dark stair of seeing what his little friend was like. He saw that her eyes were unusually clear, and, paces away, could distinguish the blue veins on her forehead: she looked even more delicate than he had thought her. The lines of her mouth were straightened out with the painful effort she had to make to keep up with her sister. Her nose continued insignificant, waiting to learn what was expected of it.

For Miss Shotover, there was not a good feature in her face, and even to a casual glance it might have suggested a measure of meanness. But a bright complexion, and the youthful charm which vanishes with youth, are pleasant in their season. Her figure was lithe, and in general she had a look of fun; but at the moment heat and impatience clouded her countenance.

Clare stopped and lifted his hat. Then first the dazed child saw him, for she was short-sighted, and her observation was dulled by weariness. She said not a word, uttered no sound, only drew her hand from her sister’s, and held up her arms to her friend–in dumb prayer to be lifted above the thorns of life, and borne along without pain. He caught her up.

“I beg your pardon, ma’am,” he said, “but the little one and I have met before:–I live in the house, having the honour to be the youngest of your father’s clerks. If you will allow me, I will carry the child. She looks tired!”

Miss Shotover was glad enough to be relieved of her clog, and gave smiling consent.

“If you would be so kind as to carry her home,” she said, “I should be able to do a little shopping!”

“You will not mind my taking her a little farther first, ma’am? I am on a message for Mr. Woolrige. I will carry her all the way, and be very careful of her.”

Miss Shotover was not one to cherish anxiety. She already knew Clare both by report and by sight, and willingly yielded. Saying, with one of her pleasant smiles, that she would hold him accountable for her, she sailed away, like a sloop that had been dragging her anchor, but had now cut her cable. Clare thought what a sweet-looking girl she was–and in truth she was sweet-_looking_. Then, all his heart turned to the little one in his arms.

What a walk was that for both of them! Little Ann seemed never to have lived before: she was actually happy! She had been long waiting for Clare, and he was come–and such as she had expected him! It was bliss to glide thus along the busy street without the least exertion, looking down on the heads of the people, safe above danger and fear amid swift-moving things and the crowding confusions of life! To be in Clare’s arms was better than being in the little house on the elephant’s back in her best picture-book! True, little one! To be in the arms of love, be they ever so weak, is better than to ride the grandest horse in all the stables of God–and God would have you know it! Never mind your pale little face and your puny nose! While your heart is ready to die for love-sake, you are blessed among women! Only remember that to die of disappointment is not to die either of or for love!

And to Clare, after all those days upon days during which only a dog would come to his arms, what a glory of life it was to have a human child in them, the little heart of the pale face beating against his side! He was not going to forget Abdiel. Abdiel was not a fact to be forgotten. Abdiel was not a doll, Abdiel was not a thing that would not come alive. Abdiel was a true heart, a live soul, and Clare would love him for ever!–not an atom the less that now he had one out upon whom a larger love was able to flow! All true love makes abler to love. It is only false love, the love of those who take their own meanest selfishness, their own pleasure in being loved, for love, that shrinks and narrows the soul.

To the pale-faced, listening child, Clare talked much about the wonderful Abdiel, and about the kind good Miss Tempest who was keeping him to live again at length with his old master; and Ann loved the dog she had never seen, because the dog loved the Clare who was come at last.

When they returned, Clare rang the house-bell, and gave up his charge to the man who opened the door. Without word or tone, gesture or look of objection, or even of disinclination, the child submitted to be taken from Clare’s loving embrace, and carried to a nurse who was neither glad nor sorry to see her.

He had been so long gone that Mr. Woolrige found fault with him for it. Clare told him he had met Miss Shotover with her sister, and the child seemed so tired he had asked leave to carry her with him, Mr. Woolrige was not pleased, but he said nothing; on the spot the clerks nicknamed him _Nursie_; and Clare did his best to justify the appellation-he never lost a chance of acting up to it, and always answered when they summoned him by it.

Before the week was ended, he sought an interview with Miss Shotover, and asked her whether he might not take little Ann out for a walk whenever the evening was fine. For at five o’clock the doors of the bank were shut, and in half an hour after he was free. Miss Shotover said she saw no objection, and would tell the nurse to have her ready as often as the weather was fit; whereupon Clare left her with a gratitude far beyond any degree of that emotion by her conceivable. The nurse, on her part, was willing to gratify Clare, and not sorry to be rid of the child, who was not one, indeed, to interest any ordinary woman.

The summer came and was peculiarly fine, and almost every evening Clare might be seen taking his pleasure–neither like bank-clerk nor like nurse-maid, for always he had little Ann in his arms, or was leading her along with care and entire attention: he never let her walk except on entreaty, and not always then. To his fellow clerks this proof of an utter lack of dignity seemed consistent with his origin–of which they knew nothing; they knew only his late position. To themselves they were fine gentlemen with cigars in their mouths, and he was a lackey to the bone! To himself Clare was the lover of a child; and about them he did not think. Theirs was the life of a town; Clare’s was a life of the universe.

The pair came speedily to understand and communicate like twin brother and sister. Clare, as he carried her, always knew when Ann wanted a change of position; Ann always knew when Clare began to grow weary–knew before Clare himself–and would insist on walking. Neither could remember how it came, but it grew a custom that, when they walked hand in hand, Clare told her stories of his life and adventures; when he carried her, he told her fairy-tales, which he could spin like a spider: she preferred the former.

So neither bank nor nursery was any longer dreary.

At length came the gray, brooding winter, causing red fingers and aches and chilblains. But it was not unfriendly to little Ann. True, she was not permitted to go out in the evening any more, but Clare, with the help of the cook, devoted to her his dinner-hour instead. It was no hardship to eat from a basket in place of a table, to one who never troubled himself as to the kind, quality, or quantity of his food itself. He had learned, like a good soldier, to endure hardness. I have heard him say that never did he enjoy a dinner more than when, in those homeless days of his boyhood, he tore the flakes off a loaf fresh from the baker’s oven, and ate them as he walked along the street. The old highlanders of Scotland were trained to think it the part of a gentleman not to mind what he ate–sign of scant civilization, no doubt, in the eyes of some who now occupy but do not fill their place–as time will show, when the call is for men to fight, not to eat.

Chapter LX.

The shoe-black.

The head-clerk, while he had not a word against him, as he confessed to Mr. Shotover, yet thought Clare would never make a man of business. When pressed to say on what he grounded the opinion, he could only answer that the lad did not seem to have his heart in it. But if, to be a man of business, it is not enough to do one’s duty scrupulously, but the very heart must be in it, then is there something wrong with business. The heart fares as its treasure: who would be content his heart should fare as not a few sorts of treasure must? Mr. Woolrige passed no such judgment, however, upon certain older young men in the bank, whose hearts certainly were not in the business, but even worse posited.

One cold, miserable day, at once damp and frosty, on which it was quite unfit to take Ann out, Clare, having eaten a hasty dinner, and followed it with a walk, was returning through the town in good time for the recommencement of business, when he came upon a little boy, at the corner of a street, blowing his fingers, and stumping up and down the pavement to keep his blood moving while he waited for a job: his brushes lay on the top of his blacking-box on the curbstone. Clare saw that he was both hungry and cold–states of sensation with which he was far too familiar to look on the signs of them with indifference. To give him something to do, and so something to eat, he went to his block and put his foot on it. The boy bustled up, snatched at his brushes, and began operations. But, whether from the coldness or incapacity of his hands, Clare soon saw that his boots would not be polished that afternoon.

“You don’t seem quite up to your business, my boy!” he said. “What’s the matter?”

The boy made no answer, but went on with his vain attempt. A moment more, and Clare saw a tear fall on the boot he was at work upon.

“This won’t do!” said Clare. “Let me look at _your_ boots.”

The boy stood up, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Ah!” said Clare, “I don’t wonder you can’t polish my boots, when you don’t care to polish your own!”

“Please, sir,” answered the boy, “it’s Jim as does it! He’s down wi’ the measles, an’ I ain’t up to it.”

“Look here, then! I’ll give you a lesson,” said Clare. “Many’s the boot I’ve blacked. Up with your foot! I’ll soon show you how the thing’s done!”

“Please, sir,” objected the boy, “there ain’t enough boot left to take a polish!”

“We’ll see about that!” returned Clare. “Put it up. I’ve worn worse in my time.”

The boy obeyed. The boot was very bad, but there was enough leather to carry some blacking, and the skin took the rest.

Clare was working away, growing pleasantly hot with the quick, sharp motion, while two of his fellow clerks were strolling up on the other side of the corner, who had been having more with their lunch than was good for them. Swinging round, they came upon a well dressed youth brushing a ragged boy’s boots. It was an odd sight, and one of them, whose name was Marway, thought to get some fun out of the phenomenon.

“Here!” he cried, “I want my boots brushed.”

Clare rose to his feet, saying,

“Brush the gentleman’s boots. I will finish yours after, and then you shall finish mine.”

“Hullo, Nursie! it’s you turned boot-black, is it?–Nice thing for the office, Jack!” remarked Marway, who was the finest gentleman, and the lowest blackguard among the clerks.

He put his foot on the block. The boy began his task, but did no better with his boots than he had done with Clare’s.

“Soul of an ass!” cried Marway, “are you going to keep my foot there till it freezes to the block? Why don’t you do as Nursie tells you? _He_ knows how to brush a boot! _You_ ain’t worth your salt! You ain’t fit to black a donkey’s hoofs!”

“Give me the brushes, my boy,” said Clare.

The boy rose abashed, and obeyed. After a few of Clare’s light rapid strokes, the boots looked very different.

“Bravo, Nursie!” cried Marway. “There ain’t a flunkey of you all could do it better!”

Clare said nothing, finished the job, and stood up. Marway, turning on the other heel as he set his foot down, said, “Thank you, Nursie!” and was walking off.

“Please, Mr. Marway, give the boy his penny,” said Clare.

But Marway wanted to _take a rise out of_ Clare.

“The fool did nothing for me!” he answered. “He made my boot worse than it was.”

“It was I did nothing for you, Mr. Marway,” rejoined Clare. “What I did, I did for the boy.”

“Then let the boy pay you!” said Marway.

The shoe-black went into a sudden rage, caught up one of his brushes, and flung it at Marway as he turned. It struck him on the side of the head. Marway swore, stalked up to Clare and knocked him down, then strode away with a grin.

The shoe-black sent his second brush whizzing past his ear, but he took no notice. Clare got up, little the worse, only bruised.

“See what comes of doing things in a passion!” he said, as the boy came back with the brushes he had hastened to secure. “Here’s your penny! Put up your foot.”

The boy did as he was told, but kept foaming out rage at the bloke that had refused him his penny, and knocked down his friend. It did not occur to him that he was himself the cause of the outrage, and that his friend had suffered for him. Clare’s head ached a good deal, but he polished the boy’s boots. Then he made him try again on his boots, when, warmed by his rage, he did a little better. Clare gave him another penny, and went to the bank.

Marway was not there, nor did he show himself for a day or two. Clare said nothing about what had taken place, neither did the others.

Chapter LXI.

A walk with consequences.

Clare had been in the bank more than a year, and not yet had Mr. Shotover discovered why he did not quite trust him. Had Clare known he did not, he would have wondered that he trusted him with such a precious thing as his little Ann. But was his child very precious to Mr. Shotover? When a man’s heart is in his business, that is, when he is set on making money, some precious things are not so precious to him as they might be–among the rest, the living God and the man’s own life. He would pass Clare and the child without even a nod to indicate approval, or a smile for the small woman. He had, I presume, sufficient regard for the inoffensive little thing to be content she should be happy, therefore did not interfere with what his clerks counted so little to the honour of the bank. But although, as I have said, he still doubted Clare, true eyes in whatever head must have perceived that the child was in charge of an angel. The countenance of Clare with Ann in his arms, was so peaceful, so radiant of simple satisfaction, that surely there were some in that large town who, seeing them, thought of the angels that do alway behold the face of the Father in heaven.

One evening in the early summer, when they had resumed their walks after five o’clock, they saw, in a waste place, where houses had been going to be built for the last two years, a number of caravans drawn up in order.

A rush of hope filled the heart of Clare: what if it should be the menagerie he knew so well! And, sure enough, there was Mr. Halliwell superintending operations! But if Glum Gunn were about, he might find it awkward with the child in his arms! Gunn might not respect even her! Besides he ought to ask leave to take her! He would carry her home first, and come again to see his third mother and all his old friends, with Pummy and the lion and the rest of the creatures.

Little Ann was eager to know what those curious houses on wheels were. Clare told her they were like her Noah’s ark, full of beasts, only real, live beasts, not beasts made of bits of stick. She became at once eager to see them–the more eager that her contempt of things like life that wouldn’t come alive had been growing stronger ever since she threw her doll out of the window. Clare told her he could not take her without first asking leave. This puzzled her: Clare was her highest authority.

“But if _you_ take me?” she said.

“Your papa and mamma might not like me to take you.”

“But I’m yours!”

“Yes, you’re mine–but not so much,” he added with a sigh, “as theirs!”

“Ain’t I?” she rejoined, in a tone of protesting astonishment mingled with grief, and began to wriggle, wanting to get down.

Clare set her down, and would have held her, as usual, by the hand, but she would not let him. She stood with her eyes on the ground, and her little gray face looking like stone. It frightened Clare, and he remained a moment silent, reviewing the situation.

“You see, little one,” he said at length, “you were theirs before I came! You were sent to them. You are their own little girl, and we must mind what they would like!”

“It was only till you came!” she argued. “They don’t care _very_ much for me. Ask them, please, to sell me to you. I don’t think they would want much money for me! How many shillings do you think I am worth, Clare? Not many, I hope!–Six?”

“You are worth more than all the money in your papa’s bank,” answered Clare, looking down at her lovingly.

The child’s face fell.

“Am I?” she said. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know I was worth so much!–and not yours!” she added, with a sigh that seemed to come from the very heart of her being. “Then you’re not able to buy me?”

“No, indeed, little one!” answered Clare. “Besides, papas don’t sell their little girls!”

“Oh, yes, they do! Gus said so to Trudie!” Clare knew that _Trudie_ meant her sister Gertrude.

“Who is Gus?” he asked.

“Trudie calls him Gus. I don’t know more name to him. Perhaps they call him something else in the bank.”

“Oh! he’s in the bank, is he?” returned Clare. “Then I think I know him.”

“He said it to her one night in my nursery. Jane went down; I was in my crib. They talked such a long time! I tried to go to sleep, but I couldn’t. I heard all what he said to her. It wasn’t half so nice as what you talk to me!”

This was not pleasant news to Clare. Augustus Marway was, if half the tales of him were true, no fit person for his master’s daughter to be intimate with! He had once heard Mr. Shotover speak about gambling in such terms of disapprobation as he had never heard him use about anything else; and it was well known in the bank that Marway was in the company of gamblers almost every night. He was so troubled, that at first he wished the child had not told him. For what was he to do? Could it be right to let the thing go on? Clare felt sure Mr. Shotover either did not know that Marway gambled, or did not know that he talked in the nursery with his daughter. But, alas, he could do nothing without telling, and they all said none but the lowest of cads would carry tales! For the young men thought it the part of gentlemen _to stick by each other_, and hide from Mr. Shotover some things he had a right to know. But Clare saw that, whatever they might think, he must act in the matter. Little Ann wondered that he scarcely spoke to her all the way home. But she did not say anything, for she too was troubled: she did not belong to Clare so much as she had thought she did!

Clare reflected also as he went, how much he owed Ann’s sister for letting him have the little one. She had always spoken to him kindly too, and never seemed, like the clerks, to look down upon him because he had been a page-boy–though, he thought, if they were to be as often hungry as he had been, they would be glad to be page-boys themselves! For himself, he liked to be a page-boy! He would do anything for Miss Tempest! And he must do what he could for Miss Shotover! It would be wicked to let her marry a man that was wicked! He had himself seen him drunk! Would it be fair, knowing she did not know, not to tell? Would it not be helping to hurt her? Was he to be a coward and fear being called bad names? Was he, for the sake of the good opinion of rascals, to take care of the rascal, and let the lady take care of herself? There was this difficulty, however, that he could assert nothing beyond having seen him drunk!

He carried Ann to the nursery, and set out for the menagerie. When he knocked at the door of the house-caravan, Mrs. Halliwell opened it, stared hardly an instant, threw her arms round his neck, and kissed him.

“Come in, come in, my boy!” she said. “It makes me a happy woman to see you again. I’ve been just miserable over what might have befallen you, and me with all that money of yours! I’ve got it by me safe, ready for you! I lie awake nights and fancy Gunn has got hold of you, and made away with you; then fall asleep and am sure of it. He’s been gone several times, a looking for you, I know! I think he’s afraid of you; I know he hates you. Mind you keep out of his sight; he’ll do you a mischief if he has the chance. He’s the same as ever, a man to make life miserable.”

“I’ve never done him wrong,” said Clare, “and I’m not going to keep out of his way as if I were afraid of him! I mean to come and see the animals to-morrow.”

A great deal more passed between them. They had their tea together. Mr. Halliwell, who did not care for tea, came and went several times, and now the night was dark. Then they spoke again of Gunn.

“Well, I don’t think he’ll venture to interfere with you,” said Mrs. Halliwell, “except he happens to be drunk.–But what’s that talking? _We_’re all quiet for the night. Listen.”

For some time Clare had been conscious of the whispered sounds of a dialogue somewhere near, but had paid no attention. The voices were now plainer than at first When his mother told him to listen, he did, and thought he had heard one of them before. It was peculiar–that of an old Jew whom he had seen several times at the bank. As the talking went on, he began to think he knew the other voice also. It was that of Augustus Marway. The two fancied themselves against a caravan full of wild beasts.

Marway was the son of the port-admiral, who, late in life, married a silly woman. She died young, but not before she had ruined her son, whose choice company was the least respectable of the officers who came ashore from the king’s ships.

He had of late been playing deeper and having worse luck; and had borrowed until no one would lend him a single sovereign more. His father knew, in a vague way, how he was going on, and had nearly lost hope of his reformation. Having yet large remains of a fine physical constitution, he seldom failed to appear at the bank in the morning–if not quite in time, yet within the margin of lateness that escaped rebuke. Mr. Shotover was a connection by marriage, which gave Marway the privilege of being regarded by Miss Shotover as a cousin–a privilege with desirable possibilities contingent, making him anxious to retain the good opinion of his employer.

Clare heard but a portion here and there of the conversation going on outside the wooden wall; but it was plain nevertheless that Marway was pressing a creditor to leave him alone until he was married, when he would pay every shilling he owed him.

The young fellow had a persuasive tongue, and boasted he could get the better of even a Jew. Clare heard the money-lender grant him a renewal for three months, when, if Marway did not pay, or were not the accepted suitor of the lady whose fortune was to redeem him, his creditor would take his course.

The moment he perceived they were about to part, Clare hastened from the caravan, and went along the edge of the waste ground, so as to meet Marway on his road back to the town: at the corner of it they came jump together. Marway started when Clare addressed him. Seeing, then, who claimed his attention, he drew himself up.

“Well?” he said.

“Mr. Marway,” began Clare, “I heard a great deal of what passed between you and old Lewin.”

Marway used worse than vulgar language at times, and he did so now, ending with the words,

“A spy! a sneaking spy! Would you like to lick my boot? By Jove, you shall know the taste of it!”

“Nobody minds being overheard who hasn’t something to conceal! If I had low secrets I would not stand up against the side of a caravan when I wanted to talk about them. I was inside. Not to hear you I should have had to stop my ears.”

“Why didn’t you, then, you low-bred flunkey?”

“Because I had heard of you what made it my duty to listen.”

Marway cursed his insolence, and asked what he was doing in such a place. He would report him, he said.

“What I was doing is my business,” answered Clare. “Had I known you for an honest man I would not have listened to yours. I should have had no right.”

“You tell me to my face I’m a swindler!” said Marway between his teeth, letting out a blow at Clare, which he cleverly dodged.

“I do!”

“I don’t know what you mean, but bitterly shall you repent your insolence, you prying rascal! This is your sweet revenge for a blow you had not the courage to return!–to dog me and get hold of my affairs! You cur! You’re going to turn informer next, of course, and bear false witness against your neighbour! You shall repent it, I swear!”

“Will it be bearing false witness to say that Miss Shotover does not know the sort of man who wants to marry her? Does she know why he wants to marry her? Does her father know that you are in the clutches of a money-lender?”

Marway caught hold of Clare and threatened to kill him. Clare did not flinch, and he calmed down a little.

“What do you want to square it?” he growled.

“I don’t understand you,” returned Clare.

“What’s the size of your tongue-plaster?”

“I don’t know much slang.”

“What bribe will silence you then? I hope that is plain enough–even for _your_ comprehension!”

“If I had meant to hold my tongue, I should have held it.”

“What do you want, then?”

“To keep you from marrying Miss Shotover.”

“By Jove! And suppose I kick you into the gutter, and tell you to mind your own business–what then?”

“I will tell either your father or Mr. Shotover all about it.”

“Even you can’t be such a fool! What good would it do you? You’re not after her yourself, are you?–Ha! ha!–that’s it! I didn’t nose that!–But come, hang it! where’s the _use_?–I’ll give you four flimsies–there! Twenty pounds, you idiot! There!”

“Mr. Marway, nothing will make me hold my tongue–not even your promise to drop the thing.”

“Then what made you come and cheek me? Impudence?”

“Not at all! I should have been glad enough not to have to do it! I came to you for my own sake.”

“That of course!”

“I came because I would do nothing underhand!”

“What are you going to do next, then?”

“I am going to tell Mr. Shotover, or Admiral Marway–I haven’t yet made up my mind which.”

“What are you going to tell them?”

“That old Lewin has given you three months to get engaged to Miss Shotover, or take the consequences of not being able to pay what you owe him.”

“And you don’t count it underhand to carry such a tale?”

“I do not. It would have been if I hadn’t told you first. I would tell Miss Shotover, only, if she be anything of a girl, she wouldn’t believe me.”

“I should think not! Come, come, be reasonable! I always thought you a good sort of fellow, though I _was_ rough on you, I confess. There! take the money, and leave me my chance.”

“No. I will save the lady if I can. She shall at least know the sort of man you are.”

“Then it’s war to the knife, is it?”

“I mean to tell the truth about you.”

“Then do your worst. You shall black my boots again.”

“If I do, I shall have the penny first.”

“You cringing flunkey!”

“I haven’t cringed to you, Mr. Marway!”

Marway tried to kick him, failed, and strode into the dark between him and the lamps of the town.

Chapter LXII.

The cage of the puma.

Marway was a fine, handsome fellow, whose manners, where he saw reason, soon won him favour, and two of the young men in the office were his ready slaves. Every moment of the next day Clare was watched. Marway had laid his plans, and would forestall frustration. Clare could hardly do anything before the dinner-hour, but Marway would make assurance double sure.

At anchor in the roads lay a certain frigate, whose duty it was to sail round the islands, like a duck about her floating brood. Among the young officers on board were two with whom Marway was intimate. He had met them the night before, and they had together laid a plot for nullifying Clare’s interference with Marway’s scheme–which his friends also had reason to wish successful, for Marway owed them both money. Clare had come in the way of all three.

Now little Ann was a guardian cherub to the object of their enmity, and he and she must first of all be separated. Clare had asked leave of Miss Shotover to take the child to Noah’s ark, as she called it, that evening, and Marway had learned it from her: Clare’s going would favour their plan, but the child’s presence would render it impracticable.

One thing in their favour was, that Mr. Shotover was from home. If Clare had resolved on telling him rather than the admiral, he could not until the next evening, and that would give them abundant time. On the other hand, having him watched, they could easily prevent him from finding the admiral. But Clare had indeed come to the just conclusion that his master had the first right to know what he had to tell. His object was not the exposure of Marway, but the protection of his master’s daughter: he would, therefore, wait Mr. Shotover’s return. He said to himself also, that Marway would thereby have a chance to bethink himself, and, like Hamlet’s uncle, “try what repentance can.”

As soon as he had put the bank in order for the night, he went to find his little companion, and take her to Noah’s ark. The child had been sitting all the morning and afternoon in a profound stillness of expectation; but the hour came and passed, and Clare did not appear.

“You never, never, never came,” she said to him afterward. “I had to go to bed, and the beasts went away.”

It was many long weeks before she told him this, or her solemn little visage smiled again.

He went to the little room off the hall, where he almost always found her waiting for him, dressed to go. She was not there. Nobody came. He grew impatient, and ran in his eagerness up the front stair. At the top he met the butler coming from the drawing-room–a respectable old man, who had been in the family as long as his master.

“Pardon me, Mr. Porson,” said the butler, who was especially polite to Clare, recognizing in him the ennoblement of his own order, “but it is against the rules for any of the gentlemen below to come up this staircase.”

“I know I’m in the wrong,” answered Clare; “but I was in such a hurry I ventured this once. I’ve been waiting for Miss Ann twenty minutes.”

“If you will go down, I will make inquiry, and let you know directly,” replied the butler.

Clare went down, and had not waited more than another minute when the butler brought the message that the child was not to go out. In vain Clare sought an explanation; the old man knew nothing of the matter, but confessed that Miss Shotover seemed a little put out.

Then Clare saw that his desire to do justice had thwarted his endeavour: Marway had seen Miss Shotover, he concluded, and had so thoroughly prejudiced her against anything he might say, that she had already taken the child from him! He repented that he had told him his purpose before he was ready to follow it up with immediate action. Distressed at the thought of little Ann’s disappointment, he set out for the show, glad in the midst of his grief, that he was going to see Pummy once more.

The weather had been a little cloudy all day, but as he left the closer part of the town, the vaporous vault gave way, and the west revealed a glorious sunset. Troubled for the trouble of little Ann, Clare seemed drawn into the sunset. The splendour said to him: “Go on; sorrow is but a cloud. Do the work given you to do, and the clouds will keep moving; stop your work and the clouds will settle down hard.”

“When I was on the tramp,” thought Clare, “I always went on, and that’s how I came here. If I hadn’t gone on, I should never have found the darling!”

As little as during any day’s tramp did he know how his reflection was going to be justified.

He wandered on, and the minutes passed slowly: it was wandering now with no child in his arms! He was in no haste to go to the menagerie; he would be in good time for the beasts; and the later he was, the sooner he would see his mother alone and have a talk with her!

At last, it being now quite dark, he turned, and made for the caravans.

A crowd was going up the steps, passing Mrs. Halliwell slowly, and descending into the area surrounded by the beasts. Clare went up, and laid his money on the little white table. The good woman took it with a smile, threw it in her wooden bowl, and handed him, as if it had been his change, three bright sovereigns. Clare turned his face away. He could not take them. He felt as if it would break one bond between them.

“The money’s your own!” she said, in a low voice.

“By and by, mother!” he answered.

“No, no, take it now,” she insisted, in an almost angry whisper; but the same moment threw the sovereigns among the silver, and some coppers that lay on the table over them.

Judging by her look that he had better say nothing, he turned and went down the steps. Before he reached the bottom of them, Glum Gunn elbowed his way past him, throwing a scowl on him from his ugly eyes at the range of a few inches.

The place was fuller than it had been all the evening, and with a rougher sort of company. The show would close in about an hour. It seemed to Clare not so well lighted as usual. Perhaps that was why he did not observe that he was watched and followed by Marway, with two others, and one burly, middle-aged, sailor-looking fellow. But I doubt whether he would have seen them in any light, for he had no suspicions, and was not ready to analyze a crowd and distinguish individuals.

He avoided making straight for Pummy, contenting himself for the moment with an occasional glimpse of him between the moving heads, now opening a vista, now closing it again, for he hoped to get gradually nearer unseen, so as to be close to the animal when first he should descry him, for he dreaded attracting attention by becoming, while yet at a distance, the object of an uproarious outbreak of affection on the part of the puma.

But while he was yet a good way from him, a most ferocious yell sprang full grown into the air, which the very fibres of his body knew as one of the cries of the puma when most enraged. There he was on his hind legs, ramping against the front of the cage, every hair on him bristling, his tail lashing his flanks. The same instant arose a commotion in the crowd behind Clare, a pushing and stooping and swaying to and fro, with shouts of, “Here he is! here he is!”

Filled with a foreboding that was almost a prescience, he fell to forcing his way without ceremony, and had got a little nearer to the puma, when, elbowing roughly through the spectators, with red, evil face, in drink but not drunk, Glum Gunn appeared, almost between him and the cage–once more, to the horror of Clare, holding by the neck his poor little Abdiel, curled up into the shape of a flea. The brute was making his way with him to the cage of the puma, whose wrath, grown to an indescribable frenzy, now blazed point-blank at the dog.

I think some waft of the wild odour of the menagerie must have reached the nostrils of the loving creature, brought back old times and his master, and waked the hope of finding him. That he had but just arrived was plain, for he had not had time to get to his master.

Clare was almost at the edge of the close-packed, staring crowd, absorbed in the sight of the huge raving cat. Breaking through its outermost ring in the strength of sudden terror, he darted to the cage to reach it before Glum Gunn. A man crossed and hustled him. Gunn opened the door of the cage, and flung Abdiel to the puma. Ere he could close it, Clare struck him once more a stout left-hander on the side of his head. Gunn staggered back. Clare sprang into the cage–just as Pummy spying him uttered a jubilant roar of recognition. His jumping into the cage just prevented the puma from getting out, and the crowd from trampling each other to death to escape The Christians’ Friend; but now that Clare was in, the cage-door might have swung all night open unheeded–so long, that is, as no dog appeared.

As for Abdiel the puma had forgotten him: the dog was out of his sight for the moment, though only behind him, while his friend and he were rubbing recognizant noses. Abdiel showed his wisdom by keeping in the background. The moment he was flung into the cage, he had got into a corner of it, and stood up on his hind legs.

His master believed that, knowing how the puma loved the human form divine, he thought to prejudice him in his favour by showing how near he could come to it. There he yet stood, his head sunk on his chest, watching out of his eyes for the terrible moment when his enemy should again catch sight of him.

The moment came. The puma’s delight had broken out in wildest motion. He sprang to the roof of his cage, and grappling there, looked down with retorted neck, and saw the dog. Poor Abdiel immediately raised his head, and in hope of propitiation all but forlorn, began a little dance his master had taught him.

What Pummy would have done with him, I fear, but I cannot tell. Clare sprang to the rescue, and the weight of the puma’s bulk descended, not on Abdiel, but on the shoulders of Clare who had the dog in his bosom. In a moment more it was evidenced that a common love, however often the cause of jealousy, is the most powerful mediator between the generous. The puma forgot his hate, the dog forgot his fear, and presently, to the admiration of the crowd, Clare and Pummy and Abby were rolling over and over each other on the floor of the cage.

Pummy had the best of the rough game. One moment he would be a bend in a seemingly unloosable knot of confused animality, the next he would be clinging to the top of his cage, where the others could not follow him. Perhaps to have a human to play with, was even better than dreams of loveliest frolics with brothers and sisters, and a mother as madly merry as they, in still, moonlit nights among the rocks, where neither sound nor scent of horse woke the devil in any of their bosoms!

Glum Gunn, too angry to speak, stood watching with a scowl fit for Lucifer when he rose from his first fall from heaven. He could do nothing! If he touched one, all three would be upon him! Experience had taught him what the puma would do in defence of Clare! He must bide his time!–But he must keep hold of his chance! He drew from his pocket his master-key, and at a moment when Clare was under the other two, slid it into the key-hole, and locked the door of the cage. He had him now–and his beast of a dog too! If he could have turned the puma mad, and made him tear them both to shreds, he would not have delayed an instant. But he must think! He must say, like Hamlet, “About, my brains!”

The man, however, who wishes to do evil, will find as ready helpers as he who wishes to do well: in the place were those who wanted Gunn’s aid, and would give him theirs.

He felt a touch on his arm, glanced sullenly round, and saw a face under whose beauty lay the devil. Marway, with eye and thumb, requested him to withdraw for a moment, and he did not hesitate. As he went he chuckled to himself at the thought of Clare when he found the door locked.

Marway’s three accomplices had drifted off one by one to wait him outside: he rejoined them with Gunn; and, retiring a little way from the caravans, the five held a council, the results of which make an important part of Clare’s history.

Clare seemed absorbed in his game with his four-footed, one-tailed friends, but he was wide awake: he had Abdiel to deliver, and kept, therefore, all the time, at least half an eye on Glum Gunn. He saw Marway come up to him, and saw them retire together: it was the very moment to leave the cage with Abdiel! He rose, not without difficulty, because of the jumping of his playmates upon him and over him, and went to the door.

The moment he did so, the crowd was greatly amused to see the puma turn upon the dog with a snarl, and the dog, at the fearful sound of altered mood, immediately put on the man, rise to one pair of feet, and begin to dance. The puma turned from him, went to the heel of his chosen master, and there stood.

In vain Clare endeavoured to open the gate. He had never known it locked, and could not think when it had been done. At length, amid the laughter of the spectators, he desisted, and the three resumed their frolics.

At this the admiration of the visitors broke out. They had seen the door made fast, and had kept pretty quiet, waiting what would come: they had thus earned their amusement when he sought in vain to open it. When his withdrawal confessed him foiled, the merrier began to mock and the ruder to jeer. But when they saw him laugh, and all three return to their gambols, they applauded heartily.

Just before this last portion of the entertainment, Mr. Halliwell, who had been looking on for a while, retired, not knowing the cage-door was locked. He went to his wife and said, that, if they had but the boy and his dog again, and were but free of that brother of his, the menagerie would be a wild-beast paradise. He would have had her go and see the pranks in the puma’s cage, but she was too tired, she said; so he strolled out with his pipe, and left his men to close the exhibition. Mrs. Halliwell fastened her door and went to bed, a little hurt that Clare did not come to her.

Gradually the folk thinned away; and at last only a few who had got in at half-price remained. To them the attendants hinted that they were going to shut shop, and one by one they shuffled out, the readier that Clare was now so tired that Pummy could not get up the merest tail of a lark more. He was quite fresh himself, and had he been out in the woods, would certainly not have gone home till morning. But he was such a human creature that he would not insist when he saw Clare was weary; and that he had no inclination to play with Abdiel when his master was out of the game, was quite as well for Abdiel, for Pummy might have forgot himself. When Abby, not free from fear, as knowing well he was not free from danger, crept to his master’s bosom, Pummy gave a low growl, and shoving his nose under the long body of the dog, with one jerk threw him a yard off upon the floor, whence Abdiel returned to content himself with his master’s feet, abandoning the place of honour to one who knew himself stronger, and probably counted himself better. So they all fell asleep in peace. For although Clare knew himself and Abdiel Gunn’s prisoners, he feared no surprise with two such rousable companions.

Chapter LXIII.

The dome of the angels.

When Clare awoke, he knew he had been asleep a long time. It was, notwithstanding, quite dark, and there was something wrong with him. His head ached: it had never ached before. He put out his hands: Pummy’s hairy body was nowhere near. He called Abdiel: no whimper answered; no cold nose was thrust into his hand. He had gone to sleep, surely between his two friends! Could he have only dreamed it?

Why was the darkness so thick? There must surely be light in the clouds by this time! He felt half awake and half dreaming.

What was the curious motion he grew aware of? Was something trying to keep him asleep, or was something trying to wake him? Had they put him in a big cradle? Were they heaving him about to rouse him? Or could it be a gentle earthquake that was rocking him to and fro? Would it wake up in earnest presently, and pull and push, and shake and rattle, until the dome of the angels came shivering down upon him?

Where was he? Not on the hard floor of Pummy’s cage, but on something much harder–like iron. Was he in the wagon in which they carried the things for setting up the show? Something had happened to him, and his mother was taking him with her! But in that case he would be lying softer! _She_ would not have given him a bed so full of aches!

What would they think at the bank? What would little Ann think if he came to her no more?

He could not be in a caravan; the motion was much too smooth and pleasant for that!

He put his hand to his face: what was it wet on his cheek? It did not feel nice; it felt like blood! Had he had a blow on the head? Was that what gave him this headache? He felt his head all over, but could find no hurt.

Why was he lying like a log, wondering and wondering, instead of getting up and seeing what it all meant? It must be the darkness and the headache that kept him down! The place was very close! He _must_ get out of it!

He tried to get on his feet, but as he rose, his head struck something, and he dropped back. He got again on his knees and groped about. On all sides he was closed in. But he was not shut in a dungeon of stone. He seemed to be in a great wooden box–small enough to be a box, much too large for a coffin. Could it be one of the oubliettes in the roof of the doge’s palace at Venice? He laughed at the idea, for the motion continued, the gentle earthquake that seemed trying to rock him to sleep: the doge’s palace could hardly be afloat on the grand canal!

What could it all mean? What would little Ann do without him? She would not cry: she never cried–at least, he had never seen her cry! but that would not make it easier for her!

What had become of Abdiel? Had Glum Gunn got him? Then the wet on his face was Abdiel’s blood–shed in his defence, perhaps, when his enemies were taking him away!

Fears and anxieties, such as he had never known before, began to crowd upon him–not for himself; he was not made to think of himself, either first or second. Something dreadful might be going on that he could not prevent! He had never been so miserable. It was high time to do something–to ask the great one somewhere, he did not know where, who could somehow, he did not know how, hear the thoughts that were not words, to do what ought to be done for little Ann, and Abdiel, and Pummy! He prayed in his heart, lay still, and fell fast asleep.

He came to himself again, in the act of drawing a deep breath of cool, delicious air. He was no longer shut in the dark, stifling box. He was coming alive! A comforting wind blew all about him. It was like a live thing putting its own life into him. But his eyelids were heavy; he was unable to open them.

All at once they opened of themselves.

The dome of the angels had come down and closed in round him, but bringing room for him, taking none away. It was blue, and filled with the loveliest white clouds, possessed by a blowing wind that never was able to blow them away. They were of strangely regular shapes; not the less were they alive–piled one above the other, up and up–up ever so high! They all kept their places, and some had the loveliest blue shadows upon them, which glided about a little. But the dome of the angels rose high, and ever higher still, above them. The dome of the angels was at home, and the clouds were at home in it. He gazed entranced at the sight. Then came a sudden strong heave and roll of the earthquake, and a light shone in his eyes that blinded him.

It was but the strong friendly sun. When Clare opened his eyes again, he knew that he was lying on the deck of one of the great ships he had so frequently looked at from the shore. Oh, how often had he not longed after this one and that one of them, as if in some one somewhere, perhaps in that one, lay something he could not do without, which yet he could never set his eyes, not to say his hands upon. He had his heart’s desire, and what was to come of it? He lay on the ship, and the ship lay on the sea, a little world afloat on the water, moving as a planet moves through the heavens, but carrying her own heaven with her, attended by her own clouds, bearing her whither she would. Up into those clouds he lay gazing, up into the dome of the angels, drawing deeper and deeper breaths of gladness, too happy to think–when a foot came with a kick in the ribs, and a voice ordered him to get up: was he going to lie there till the frigate was paid off?

Chapter LXIV.

The panther.

Clare scrambled to his feet, and surveyed the man who had thus roused him. He had a vague sense of having seen him before, but could not remember where. Feeling faint, and finding himself beside a gun, he leaned upon it.

The sailor regarded him with an insolent look.

“Wake up,” he said, “an’ come along to the cap’n. What’s the service a comin’ to, I should like to know, when a beggarly shaver like you has the cheek to stow hisself away on board one o’ his majesty’s frigates! Wouldn’ nothin’ less suit your highness than a berth on the Panther?”

“Is that the name of the ship?” asked Clare.

“Yes, that’s the name of the ship!” returned the man, mimicking him. “You’ll have the Panther, his mark, on the back o’ _you_ presently! Come along, I say, to the cap’n! We ha’ got to ask _him_, what’s to be done wi’ rascals as rob their masters, an’ then stow theirselves away on board his majesty’s ships!”

“Take me to the captain,” said Clare.

The man seemed for a moment to doubt whether there might not be some mistake: he had expected to see him cringe. But he took him by the collar behind, and pushed him along to the quarter-deck, where an elderly officer was pacing up and down alone.

“Well, Tom,” said the captain, stopping in his walk, “what’s the matter? Who’s that you’ve got?”

“Please yer honour,” answered the boatswain, giving Clare a shove, “this here’s a stowaway in his majesty’s ship, Panther. I found him snug in the cable-tier.–Salute the captain, you beggar!”

Clare had no cap to lift, but he bowed like the gentleman he was. The captain stood looking at him. Clare returned his gaze, and smiled. A sort of tremble, much like that in the level air on a hot summer day, went over the captain’s face, and he looked harder at Clare.

A sound arose like the purring of an enormous cat, and, sure enough, it was nothing else: chained to the foot of the forward binnacle stood a panther, a dark yellow creature with black spots, bigger than Pummy, swinging his tail. Clare turned at the noise he made. The panther made a bound and a leap to the height and length of his chain, and uttered a cry like a musical yawn. Clare stretched out his arms, and staggered toward him. The next moment the animal had him. The captain darted to the rescue. But the beast was only licking him wherever there was a bare spot to lick; and Clare wondered to find how many such spots there were: he was in rags! The panther kept tossing him over and over as if he were a baby, licking as he tossed, and in his vibrating body and his whole behaviour manifested an exceeding joy. The captain stood staring “like one that hath been stunned.”

The boatswain was not astonished: he had seen Clare at home among wild animals, and thought the panther was taken with the wild-beast smell about him.

“I beg your pardon, sir,” said Clare, rolling himself out of the panther’s reach, and rising to his feet, “but wild things like me, somehow! I slept with a puma last night. He and this panther, sir, would have a terrible fight if they met!”

The captain threw a look of disappointment at the panther.

“Go forward, Tom,” he said.

The man did not like the turn things had taken, and as he went wore something of the look of one doomed to make the acquaintance of another kind of cat.

“What made you come on board this ship, my lad?” asked the captain, in a voice so quiet that it sounded almost kind.

“I did not come on board, sir.”

“Don’t trifle with _me_,” returned the captain sternly.

Clare looked straight at him, and said–

“I have done nothing wrong, sir. I know you will help me. I fell asleep last night, as I told you, sir, in the cage of a puma. I knew him, of course! How I came awake on board your ship, I know no more than you do, sir.”

The smile of Clare’s childhood had scarcely altered, and it now shone full on the captain. He turned away, and made a tack or two on the quarter-deck. He was a tall, thin man, with a graceful carriage, and a little stoop in the shoulders. He had a handsome, sad face, growing old. His hair was more than half way to gray, and he seemed somewhere about fifty. He had the sternness of a man used to command, but under the sternness Clare saw the sadness.

The attention of the boy was now somewhat divided between the captain and his panther, which seemed possessed with a fierce desire to get at him, though plainly with no inimical intent. The attention of the captain seemed divided between the boy and the panther; his eyes now rested for a moment on the animal, now turned again to the boy. Two officers on the port side of the quarter-deck stole glances at the strange group–the stately, solemn, still man; the ragged creature before him, who looked in his face without fear or anxiety, and with just as little presumption; and the wildly excited panther, whose fierce bounding alternated with cringing abasement of his beautiful person, accompanied by loving sweeps of his most expressive tail.

The captain made a tack or two more on the quarter-deck, then turned sharp on the boy.

“What is your name?” he asked.

“I don’t quite know, sir,” answered Clare.

“Come with me,” said the captain.

To the surprise of the officers, he led the way to his state-room, and the boy followed. The panther gave a howl as Clare disappeared. The officers remarked that the captain looked strange. His lips were compressed as if with vengeance, but the muscles of his face were twitching.

Chapter LXV.

At home.

Clare followed, wondering, but nowise anxious. He saw nothing to make him anxious. The captain looked a good man, and a good man was a friend to Clare! But when he entered the state-room, and saw himself from head to foot in a mirror let into a bulkhead, he was both startled and ashamed: how could the captain take such a scarecrow into his room! he thought. He did not reflect that it was just the sort of thing he did himself. He had indeed felt dirty and disreputable, and been aware of the dry, rasping tongue of the panther on many patches of bare skin, but he had had no idea what a wretched creature he looked. Not one of the garments he saw in the mirror was his own, and they were disgracefully torn. His hair was sticking out every way, and his face smeared with blood. His feet were bare, and one trouser-leg