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sell Square - and went down to Westmin- fellow, how she had listened at his door sev
There was a long day before her, so she took a minute's breathing space on Westminster Bridge, and watched the great current of London life ebbing and flowinglife on the river and life on the shore; everybody so busy and active and bright.
"Poor Tom, poor Tom!" she sighed, and wondered whether his ruined life would ever come to any happy ending, except death.
She hurried on, and soon found the street where she had taken his lodging. At the corner of it was, as is too usual in London streets, a public house, about which more than the usual number of disreputable idlers were hanging. There were also one or two policemen, who were ordering the little crowd to give way to a group of twelve men, coming out.
eral times during the first day, and heard him cough, that is, she thought she had, but toward night all was so very quiet; and there having come a letter by post, she thought she would take it up to him.
"And I went in, gentlemen, and I declare, upon my oath, I found him lying just as he is now, and as cold as a stone."
"Let me pass; I'm a doctor," said somebody behind; a young man, very shabbily dressed, with a large beard. He pushed aside the landlady and Elizabeth, till he saw the latter's face.
"Give that young woman a chair and a glass of water, will you?" he called out; and his authoritative manner impressed the jurymen, who gathered round him ready and eager to hear anything he could say.
He gave his name as John Smith, druggist's assistant; said that the young man who
"What is that ?" asked Elizabeth. "Coroner's inquest; jury proceeding to lodged up-stairs, whose death he had only view the body."
Elizabeth, who had never come into contact with anything of the sort, stood aside with a sense of awe, to let the little procession pass, and then followed it up the street. It stopped; ph, no! not at that door! But it was; there was no mistaking the number, nor the drawn-down blind in the upper room -Tom's room.
"Who is dead?" she asked, in a whisper that made the policeman stare.
"Oh! nobody particular; a young man, found dead in his bed; supposed to be a case of consumption; verdict will probably be, 'Died by the visitation of God.""
Ay, that familiar phrase, our English law's solemn recognition of our national religious feeling, was true here. God had "visited" poor Tom; he suffered no more.
Elizabeth leaned against the door-way, and saw the twelve jurymen go up-stairs with a clatter of feet, and come down again, one after the other, less noisily, and some of them looking grave. Nobody took any notice of her, until the lodging-house inistress appeared.
"Oh, here she is, gentlemen. This is the young woman as saw him last alive. She'll tell
you I'm not a bit to blame." And pulling Elizabeth after her the landlady burst into a torrent of explanation; how she had done her very best for the poor
just heard of, had been his patient for some months, and was in the last stage of consumption. He had no doubt the death had ensued from perfectly natural causes, as he explained in such technical language as completely to overpower the jury, and satisfy them accordingly. They quitted the parlor, and proceeded to the public house, where, after a brief consultation, they delivered their verdict, as the astute policeman had foretold, "Died by the visitation of God; " took pipes and brandy all round at the bar, and then adjourned to their several homes, gratified at having done their duty to their country.
Meantime, Elizabeth crept up-stairs. Nobody hindered or followed her; nobody cared anything for the solitary dead.
There he lay-poor Tom !-almost as she had left him; the counterpane was hardly disturbed, the candle she had placed on the chair had burned down to a bit of wick, which still lay in the socket. Nobody had touched him, or anything about him, as, in all cases of "Found dead," English law ex
Whether he had died soon after she quitted him that night, or whether he had lingered through the long hours of darkness, or of daylight following, alive and conscious perhaps, yet too weak to call any one, even had there been any one he cared to call—.
when, or how, the spirit had passed away | Mr. Ascott seemed a good deal shocked, unto Him who gave it, were mysteries that inquired from her a few particulars, and could never be known. again took out his purse, his one panacea But it was all over now; he lay at rest for all mortal woes. But Elizabeth dewith the death smile on his face. Elizabeth, clined; she said she would only ask him as she stood and looked at him, could not, for an advance of her next half-year's wages. dared not weep. She preferred burying her old friend herself.
'My poor Tom, my own dear Tom," was all she thought, and knew that he was all her own now; that she had loved him through everything, and loved him to the end.
ELIZABETH spent the greatest part of her holiday in that house, in that room. Nobody interfered with her; nobody asked in what relation she stood to the deceased, or what right she had to take upon herself the arrangements for his funeral. Everybody was only too glad to let her assume a responsibility, which would otherwise have fallen on the parish.
She buried him, herself the only mourner, on a bright summer's day, with the sun shining dazzlingly on the white gravestones in Kensal Green. The clergyman appeared, read the service, and went away again. A few minutes ended it all. When the undertaker and his men had also departed, she sat down on a bench near to watch the sexton filling up the grave-Tom's grave. She was very quiet, and none but a closely observant person watching her face could have penetrated into the truth of what your impulsive characters, always in the extremes of mirth or misery, never understand about quiet people, that "still waters run deep." While she sat there some one came past
The only person who appeared to remem- her, and turned round. It was the shabbyber either her or the dead man was the drug-looking chemist's assistant, who had apgist's assistant, who sent in the necessary peared at the inquest and given the satismedical certificate as to the cause of death. factory evidence which had prevented the Elizabeth took it to the Registrar, and necessity of her giving hers. thence proceeded to an undertaker hard by, with whom she arranged all about the funeral, and that it should take place in the new cemetery at Kensal Green. She thought she should like that better than a close, noisy London churchyard.
Before she left the house she saw poor Tom laid in his coffin, and covered up forever from mortal eyes. Then, and not till then, she sat herself down beside him and wept.
Nobody contested with her the possession of the few things that had belonged to him, which were scarcely more than the clothes he had on when he died; so she made them up into a parcel and took them away with her. In his waistcoat-pocket she found one book, a little Testament, which she had given him herself. It looked as if it had been a good deal read. If all his studies, all his worship of "pure intellect," as the one supreme good, had ended in that it was a blessed ending.
When she reached home Elizabeth went at once to her master, returned him his letter of recommendation, and explained to him that his kindness was not needed now.
Elizabeth rose and acknowledged him with a respectful courtesy; for under his threadbare clothes was the bearing of a gentleman, and he had been so kind to Tom.
"I am too late," he said; "the funeral is over. I meant to have attended it, and seen the last of the poor fellow."
"Thank you, sir," replied Elizabeth, gratefully.
The young man stood before her, looking at her earnestly for a minute or two, and then exclaimed, with a complete change of voice and manner,—
"Elizabeth! don't you know me ? What has become of my Aunt Johanna ? " It was Ascott Leaf.
But no wonder Elizabeth had not recognized him. His close-cropped hair, his large beard hiding half his face, and a pair of spectacles which he had assumed, were a sufficient disguise. Besides, the great change from his former "dandy" appearance to the extreme of shabbiness; his clothes being. evidently worn as long as they could possibly hold together, and his generally depressed air giving the effect of one who had gone down in the world, made him, even
unlikely to be identified with the Ascott Leaf of old.
without the misleading "John Smith," most Elizabeth, what relation was Tom to you? If I had known you were acquainted with him I should have been afraid to go near him; but I felt sure, though he came from Stowbury, he did not guess who I was; he only knew me as Mr. Smith; and he never once mentioned you. Was he your cousin, or what ?"
"I never should have known you, sir!" said Elizabeth, truthfully, when her astonishment had a little subsided; "but I am very glad to see you. Oh, how thankful your aunts will be!"
"Do you think so? I thought it was quite the contrary. But it does not matter; they will never hear of me, unless you tell them and I believe I may trust you. You would not betray me, if only for the sake of that poor fellow yonder ? "
Elizabeth considered a moment, and then told the simple fact; it could not matter now. "I was once going to be married to him, but he saw somebody he liked better, and married her.”
"Poor girl; poor Elizabeth!"
Perhaps nothing could have shown the
"Now, tell me something about my aunts, great change in Ascott more than the tone especially my Aunt Johanna."
in which he uttered these words; a tone of And sitting down in the sunshine, with his entire respect and kindly pity, from which arm upon the back of the bench, and his he never once departed during that converhand hiding his eyes, the poor prodigal lis-sation, and many, many others, so long as tened in silence to everything Elizabeth told their confidential relations lasted. him; of his Aunt Selina's marriage and death, and of Mr. Lyon's return, and of the happy home at Liverpool.
They are all quite happy, then ?" said he, at length; "they seem to have begun to prosper ever since they got rid of me. Well, I'm glad of it. I only wanted to hear | of them from you. I shall never trouble them any more. You'll keep my secret, I know. And now I must go, for I have not a minute more to spare. Good-by, Elizabeth." With a humility and friendliness, strange enough in Ascott Leaf, he held out his hand -empty, for he had nothing to give now to his aunt's old servant. But Elizabeth detained him.
"Don't go, sir; please, don't; not just yet." And then she added, with an earnest respectfulness that touched the heart of the poor, shabby man, "I hope you'll pardon the liberty I take. I'm only a servant, but I knew you when you were a boy, Mr. Leaf; and if you would trust me, if you would let me be of use to you in any way-if only because you were so good to him there."
"Poor Tom Cliffe; he was not a bad fellow; he liked me rather, I think; and I was able to doctor him, and help him a little. Heigh-ho; it's a comfort to think I ever did any good to anybody."
Ascott sighed, drew his rusty coat-sleeve across his eyes, and sat contemplating his boots, which were anything but dandy boots
THIRD SERIES. LIVING AGE. 962.
Now, sir, would you be so kind as to tell me something about yourself? I'll not repeat anything to your aunts, if you don't wish it."
Ascott yielded. He had been so long, so utterly forlorn. He sat down beside Elizabeth, and then, with eyes often averted, and with many breaks between, which she had to fill up as best she could, he told her all his story, even to the sad secret of all, which had caused him to run away from home, and hide himself in the last place where they would have thought he was, the safe wilderness of London. There, carefully disguised, he had lived decently while his money lasted, and then, driven step by step to the brink of destitution, he had offered himself for employment in the lowest grade of his own profession, and been taken as assistant by the not overscrupulous chemist and druggist in that not too respectable neighborhood of Westminster, with a salary of twenty pounds a year.
"And I actually live upon it!" added he, with a bitter smile. "I can't run into debt; for who would trust me? And I dress in rags almost, as you see. And I get my meals how and where I can; and I sleep under the shop-counter. A pretty life for Mr. Ascott Leaf, isn't it now? What would my aunts say if they knew it ? "
Ascott drew himself up a little, and his will not always remain as John Smith, druggist's shopman, throwing away all your good education and position and name ? "
chest heaved visibly under the close-buttoned, threadbare coat.
She thought the question over in her clear head; clear still, even at this hour, when she had to think for others, though all personal feeling and interest were buried in that grave over which the sexton was now laying the turf that would soon grow smoothly green.
"If I might advise, Mr. Leaf, I should say, save up all your money, and then go, just as you are, with an honest, bold front, right into my master's house, with the fifty pounds in handyour
head is! I've turned over scheme after scheme, but I never once thought of any so simple as that. Bravo, Elizabeth! You're a remarkable woman.”
Not with all natures does misfortune so work, but it did with his. He had sinned; "By Jove, you've hit it!" cried Ascott, he had paid the cost of his sin in bitter suf-starting up. "What a thing a woman's fering; but the result was cheaply bought, and he already began to feel that it was so. “Yes,” said he, in answer to a question of Elizabeth's, "I really am, for some things, happier than I used to be. I feel She smiled-a very sad smile-but still more like what I was in the old days, when she felt glad. Anything that she could posI was a little chap at Stowbury! Poor old sibly do for any creature belonging to her Stowbury! I often think of the place in a dear mistresses seemed to this faithful serway that's perfectly ridiculous. Still, if any-vant the natural and bounden duty of her thing happened to me, I should like my aunts life. to know it, and that I didn't forget them." Long after the young man, whose mercu"But, sir," asked Elizabeth, earnestly,rial temperament no trouble could repress, "do you never mean to go near your aunts had gone away in excellent spirits, leaving again P❞ her an address where she could always find him, and give him regular news of his aunts, though he made her promise to give them, as yet, no tidings, in return, Elizabeth sat still, watching the sun decline and the shadows lengthen over the field of graves. In the calmness and beauty of this solitary place an equal calm seemed to come over her; a sense of how wonderfully events had linked themselves together and worked themselves out; how even poor Tom's mournful death had brought about this meeting, which might end in restoring to her beloved mistresses their lost sheep, their outcast, miserable boy. She did not reason the matter out, but she felt it, and felt that in making her in some degree his instrument God had been very good to her in the midst of her desolation.
"I can't say; it all depends upon circumtances. I suppose," he added, "if, as is said, one's sin is sure to find one out, the same rule goes by contraries. It seems poor Cliffe once spoke of me to a district visitor, the only visitor he ever had; and this gentleman, hearing of the inquest, came yesterday to inquire about him of me; and the end was that he offered me a situation with a person he knew, a very respectable chemist in Tottenham Court Road."
“And shall you go?" "To be sure. I've learned to be thankful for small mercies. Nobody will find me out or recognize me. You didn't. Who knows? I may even have the honor of dispensing drugs to Uncle Ascott of Russell Square.
'But," said Elizabeth, after a pause, “you
It seemed Elizabeth's lot always to have
to put aside her own troubles for the trouble | could not. She hid herself partly behind
She noticed that every time he looked healthier, brighter, freer from that aspect of broken-down respectability which had touched her so much. He did not dress any better, but still "the gentleman" in him could never be hidden or lost, and he said his master treated him "like a gentleman," which was apparently a pleasant novelty.
"I have some time to myself also. Shop shuts at nine, and I get up at 5 P.M.-bless us! what would my Aunt Hilary say? And it's not for nothing. There are more ways than one of turning an honest penny, when a young fellow really sets about it. Elizabeth, you used to be a literary character yourself; look into the and the (naming two popular magazines), "and if you find a series of especially clever papers on sanitary reform, and so on, I did 'em!"
"Come a-begging, young man, I suppose? Wants a situation, as hundreds do, and think that I have half the clerkships in the city at my disposal, and that I am made of money besides. But it's no good, I tell you, sir; I never give nothing to strangers, exceptHere, Henry, my son, take that person there this half-crown."
And the little boy, in his pretty purple velvet frock and his prettier face, trotted across the room and put the money into poor Ascott's hand. He took it; and then, to the astonishment of Master Henry, and the still greater astonishment of his father, lifted up the child and kissed him.
"Young man, young fellow
"I see you don't know me, Mr. Ascott, and it's not surprising. But I have come to repay you this," he laid a fifty-pound note "down on the table. "Also to thank you earnestly for not prosecuting me, and to say
He slapped his chest with Ascott's merry laugh of old. It cheered Elizabeth for a long while afterward.
By and by she had to take little Henry to Brighton, and lost sight of "John Smith" for some time longer.
It was on a snowy February day, when, having brought the child home quite strong, and received unlimited gratitude and guineas from the delighted father, Master Henry's faithful nurse stood in her usual place at the dining-room door, waiting for the interminable grace of " only five minutes more to be over, and her boy carried ignominiously but contentedly to bed.
"Good God!"-the sole expletive Peter Ascott had been heard to use for long. "Ascott Leaf, is that you? I thought you were in Australia, or dead, or something!"
"No, I'm alive and here, more's the pity perhaps. Except that I have lived to pay you back what I cheated you out of. What you generously gave me I can't pay, though I may some time. Meantime, I have brought you this. It's honestly earned. Yes "-observing the keen, doubtful look, "though I have hardly a coat to my back, I assure you it's honestly earned."
Mr. Ascott made no reply. He stooped over the bank-note, examined it, folded it, and put it into his pocket-book; then, after another puzzled investigation of Ascott, cleared his throat.
"Mrs. Hand, you had better take Master Henry up-stairs."
An hour after, when little Henry had long been sound asleep, and she was sitting at her usual evening sewing in her solitary nursery, Elizabeth learned that the "shabby young man" was still in the dining-room with Mr. Ascott, who had rung for tea and some cold meat with it. And the footman stated, with undisguised amazement, that the shabby