THE GOLDEN SHOEMAKER:
or, "Cobbler" Horn.
Author of "Mother Freeman," "The Churchwarden's Daughter," &c., &c.
London: J. Williams Butcher, 2 & 3, Ludgate Circus Buildings, Farringdon Street, E.C.
I. BEREAVED! 1
II. AUNT JEMIMA 8
III. HOW MISS JEMIMA MANAGED HER BROTHER'S HOUSE 13
IV. "ME LUN AWAY" 19
V. "THE LITTLE TWIN BRETHREN" 22
VI. THE FATHER'S QUEST 25
VII. WHAT HAD BECOME OF THE CHILD? 36
VIII. THE SHOEMAKER BECOMES "GOLDEN" 41
IX. A STRANGE CLIENT FOR MESSRS. TONGS AND BALL 47
X. MISS JEMIMA IS VERY MUCH ASTONISHED 52
XI. "COBBLER" HORN ANSWERS HIS LETTERS, AND RECEIVES THE CONGRATULATIONS OF HIS FRIENDS 58
XII. "COBBLER" HORN PAYS A VISIT TO HIS LANDLORD 65
XIII. FREE COBBLERY 72
XIV. "THE GOLDEN SHOEMAKER" WAITS UPON HIS MINISTER 76
XV. "COBBLER" HORN ENGAGES A SECRETARY 85
XVI. THE ATTACK ON THE CORRESPONDENCE 91
XVII. A PARTING GIFT FOR "THE LITTLE TWIN BRETHREN" 98
XVIII. THE NEW HOUSE 105
XIX. A TALK WITH THE MINISTER ABOUT MONEY 110
XX. "COBBLER" HORN'S VILLAGE 116
XXI. IN NEED OF REPAIRS 123
XXII. "THE GOLDEN SHOEMAKER" INSTRUCTS HIS LAWYERS 129
XXIII. MEMORIES 138
XXIV. ON THE OCEAN 149
XXV. COUSIN JACK 163
XXVI. HOME AGAIN 176
XXVII. COMING INTO COLLISION WITH THE PROPRIETIES 184
XXVIII. BOUNDER GIVES WARNING 193
XXIX. VAGUE SURMISINGS 201
XXX. A NOVEL DIFFICULTY FOR A MAN OF WEALTH 207
XXXI. "COBBLER" HORN'S CRITICS 217
XXXII. "IN LABOURS MORE ABUNDANT" 232
XXXIII. TOMMY DUDGEON ON THE WATCH 239
XXXIV. A "FATHER" AND "MOTHER" FOR THE "HOME" 249
XXXV. THE OPENING OF THE "HOME" 255
XXXVI. TOMMY DUDGEON UNDERTAKES A DELICATE ENTERPRISE 267
XXXVII. BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH 275
XXXVIII. A LITTLE SHOE 285
XXXIX. A JOYOUS DISCOVERY 293
XL. TOMMY DUDGEON'S CONTRIBUTION 305
XLI. NO ROOM FOR DOUBT! 313
XLII. FATHER AND DAUGHTER 326
XLIII. THE TRAMP'S CONFESSION 339
THE GOLDEN SHOEMAKER.
In a small house, in a back street, in the large manufacturing town of Cottonborough, the young wife of "Cobbler" Horn lay dying. It was the dusk of a wild evening in early winter; and the cruel cough, which could be heard every now and then, in the lulls of the wind, from the room upstairs, gave deepening emphasis to the sad fact that the youthful wife and mother—for such also she was—had fallen a victim to that fell disease which sweeps away so much of the fair young life of our land.
"Cobbler" Horn himself was engaged just now in the duties of his calling, in the little workshop behind the kitchen. The house was very small. The kitchen and workshop were the only rooms downstairs, and above them were three small chambers. The one in which the dying woman lay was over the workshop, and the sound of her coughing came down with sharp distinctness through the boarded floor, which was the only ceiling of the lower room.
"Cobbler" Horn knew that the death of his wife was probably a question of a few hours at most. But he had promised that the boots on which he was at work should be finished that night; and he had conscientiously withdrawn from his wife's bedside that he might keep his word.
"Cobbler" Horn was a man of thirty or so. He was tall, and had somewhat rugged features and clear steadfast eyes. He had crisp black hair, and a shaven face. His complexion was dark, and his bare arms were almost as brown as his leathern apron. His firmly set lips and corrugated brow, as he bent now over his work, declared him to possess unusual power of will. Indeed a strength of purpose such as belongs to few was required to hold him to his present task. Meanwhile his chief misgiving was lest the noise he was compelled to make should distress his dying wife; and it was touching to see how he strove to modify, to the utmost degree which was consistent with efficient workmanship, the tapping of the hammer on the soles of the boots in hand.
Sorrowing without bitterness, "Cobbler" Horn had no rebellious thoughts. He did not think himself ill-used, or ask petulantly what he had done that such trouble should come to him. His case was very sad. Five years ago he had married a beautiful young Christian girl. Twelve months later she had borne their little dark-eyed daughter Marian. Two years thereafter a baby boy had come and gone in a day; and, from that time, the mother had drooped and faded, day by day, until, at length, the end was close at hand. But "Cobbler" Horn was a Christian, and did not repine.
His task was finished at last, and, with a sigh of relief, he rose to his feet. In that moment, he became aware of a tiny figure, standing in the open doorway of the kitchen. It was that of a little four-year-old girl, clad in a ruby-coloured dress, which matched to perfection her dark skin and black hair. Her crimson cheeks were dashed with tears, and she looked like a damask rose just sprinkled by a shower of rain. The light in her dark eyes, which glistened with intense excitement beneath her jet-black hair, indicated that her tears were those of indignation rather than grief. How long she had been standing there he could not tell; but, as soon as she saw that her father had finished his work, little Marian—for she it was—darted forward, and throwing her arms around his neck, with a sob, let her small dusky head fall upon the polished breast-piece of his leathern apron.
"What's amiss with daddy's poppet?" asked the father tenderly, as he clasped the quivering little form more closely to his breast.
The only answer was a convulsive movement of the little body within his arms.
"Come, darling, tell daddy." Strange strugglings continued within the strong, encircling arms. This little girl of four had as strong a will as her father; and she was conquering her turbulent emotions, that she might be able to answer his questions. In a moment she broke away from his clasp, and, dashing the tears from her eyes with her little brown hands, stood before him with glowing face and quivering lip.
"Me 'ant to see mammy!" she cried—the child was unusually slow of speech for her age. "Dey 'on't 'et Ma-an do upstairs."
"Cobbler" Horn took the child upon his knee, and gently stroked the small dusky head.
"Mammy is very ill, Marian," he said gently.
"Me 'ant to see mammy," was the emphatic response.
"By and bye, darling," replied the father huskily.
"What 'oo going to c'y for, daddy?" demanded the child, looking up hastily into her father's face. "Poor daddy!" she continued, stroking his cheek with her small brown hand, "Isn't 'oo very well?"
"I'm not going to cry, darling," said the father, bowing his head over his child, and taking into his strong hand the little fingers which still rested against his face. "You don't understand, my poor child!"
There followed a brief pause.
"P'ease, daddy," pleaded Marian presently, "Ma-an must see mammy. Dere's such pitty fings in se shops, and me 'ants to do with mammy to see dem—in morning."
The shops were already displaying their Christmas decorations.
Marian's father gave a great gasp.
"Marian shall see mammy now," he said solemnly, as he rose from his stool still holding the child to his breast.
"I'se so glad!" and she gave a little jump in his arms. "Good daddy!"
"But father's little poppet must be quiet, and not talk, or cry."
"No," said Marian with childhood's readiness to make a required promise.
The child had not seen her mother since the previous day, and the altered face upon the pillow was so strange to her, that she half turned away, as though to hide her face upon her father's shoulder.
The gleaming eyes of the dying mother were turned wistfully towards her child.
"See, poppet; look at mammy!" urged the father, turning the little face towards the bed.
There was less change in the mother's voice than in her face; and the next moment the little dark head lay on the pillow, and the tiny, nut-brown hand was stroking the hollow cheek of the dying woman.
"'oo is my mammy, isn't 'oo?"
"Yes, darling; kiss mammy good-bye," was the heart-breaking answer.
"Me tiss 'oo," said the child, suiting the action to the word; "but not dood-bye. Me see 'oo aden. Mammy, se shops is so bootiful! Will 'oo take Ma-an to see dem? 'nother day, yes 'nother day."
"Daddy will take Marian to see the shops," said the dying mother, in labouring tones. "Mammy going to Jesus. Jesus will take care of mother's little lamb."
The mother's lips were pressed in a last lingering kiss upon the face of her child, and then Marian was carried downstairs.
When the child was gone, "Cobbler" Horn sat down by the bedside, and took and held the wasted hand of his wife. It was evident that the end was coming fast; and urgent indeed must be the summons which would draw him now from the side of his dying wife. Hour after hour he sat waiting for the great change. As the night crept on, he watched the deepening shadow on the beloved face, and marked the gathering signs which heralded the brief triumph of the king of terrors. There was but little talk. It could not be otherwise; for, every moment, utterance became more difficult to the dying wife. A simple, and affectionate question and answer passed now and then between the two. At infrequent intervals expressions of spiritual confidence were uttered by the dying wife; and these were varied with a few calmly-spoken directions about the child. From the husband came, now and then, words of tender encouragement, mingled with morsels of consolation from the good old Book, with, ever and anon, a whispered prayer.
The night had almost passed when the end came. The light of the grey December dawn was struggling feebly through the lattice, when the young wife and mother, whose days had been so few, died, with a smile upon her face; and "Cobbler" Horn passed out of the room and down the stairs, a wifeless husband and the father of a motherless bairn.
It was Aunt Jemima who stepped into the vacant place of Marian's mother. She was the only sister of "Cobbler" Horn, and, with the exception of a rich uncle in America, from whom they never heard, and a wandering cousin, a sad scapegrace, she was her brother's only living relative.
"Cobbler" Horn's sister was not the person to whom he would have chosen to entrust the care of his motherless child, or the management of his house. But he had no choice. He had no other relative whom he could summon to his help, and Aunt Jemima was upon him before he had had time to think. She was hurt that she had not been called to the death-bed of her sister-in-law. But the omission rather increased, than diminished, the promptitude with which she wrote to announce that she would come to her bereaved brother without delay, and within a week she was duly installed as mistress of his house.
"I thought I had better come at once," she said, on the night of her arrival. "There's no telling what might have happened else."
"Very good of you, Jemima," was her brother's grave response.
And so it was. The woman meant well. She loved her brother sincerely enough; and she had resolved to sacrifice, for his sake and his child's, the peace and freedom of her life. But Aunt Jemima's love was wont to show itself in unlovely ways. The fact of meaning well, though often a good enough excuse for faulty doing, is not a satisfactory substitute for the doing of that which is well. Your toleration of the rough handling inflicted by the awkwardness of inconsiderate love does not counteract its disastrous effects on the susceptible spirit and the tender heart, especially if they be those of a child. It is, therefore, not strange that, though "Cobbler" Horn loved his sister, he wished she had stayed away. She was his elder by ten years; and she lived by herself, on the interest of a small sum of money left to her by their father, at his death, in a far off village, which was the family home.
"You'll be glad to know, Thomas," she said, "that I've made arrangements to stay, now I'm here."
They were sitting by the fire, towards supper-time; and the attention of "Cobbler" Horn was divided between what his sister was saying and certain sounds of subdued sobbing which proceeded from upstairs. Very early in the evening Aunt Jemima had unceremoniously packed Marian off to bed, and the tiny child was taking a long time to cry herself to sleep in the cold, dark room.
"Never mind the child," said Aunt Jemima sharply, as she observed her brother's restless glances towards the staircase door; "on no account must she be allowed to have her own way. It was high time she went to bed; and she'll soon be fast asleep."
"Yes, Jemima," said the troubled father; "but I wish you had been more gentle with the child."
"Fiddlesticks!" was the contemptuous exclamation of Aunt Jemima, as she regarded her brother severely through her spectacles; and she added, "Since you have wished me to take the oversight of your house and child, you must leave me to manage them as I think fit."
"Cobbler" Horn did not venture to remind his sister that he had not expressed any such wish. Being so much his senior, and having at least as strong a will as his own, Jemima Horn had always maintained a certain predominance over her brother, and her ascendancy still prevailed to some extent. Making no further reference to the child, he sat listening by turns to a prolonged exposition of his sister's views on the management of children, and to the continued wailings which floated down from the room above, until, at length, as a more piteous cry than all frantically voiced his own name, "faver," his self-restraint gave way, and he rose hastily and went upstairs.
Aunt Jemima watched him in grim silence to the foot of the stairs.
"Mind," she then called after him, "she is not to come down."
"Cobbler" Horn did not so far set his sister at defiance as to act in flat contradiction to her decree. Perhaps he himself did not think it well that the child should be brought downstairs again, after once having been put to bed. But, if Marian might not come down, Marian's father might stay up. As soon as his step sounded on the stairs the child's wailing ceased.
"Zat zoo, daddy?" and the father felt, in the darkness, that two tiny arms were stretched out towards him in piteous welcome. Lighting the candle, which stood on the table by the window, he sat down on the edge of the bed, and, in a moment, Marian's little brown arms were tightly clasped about his neck. For a brief space he held the child to his breast; and then he gently laid her back upon the pillow, and having tucked the bed-clothes well about her, he kissed the little tear-stained face, and sat talking in the soothing tones which a loving parent can so well employ.
Leaving him there, let us make a somewhat closer inspection of Miss Jemima, as she sits in solitary state before the fire downstairs. You observe that she is tall, angular, and rigid. Her figure displays the uprightness of a telegraph pole, and her face presents a striking arrangement of straight lines and sharp points. Her eyes gleam like points of fire beneath her positively shaggy brows. Her complexion is dark, and her hair, though still abundant, is already turning grey. Her dress is plainness itself, and she wears no jewelry, all kinds of which she regards with scorn. Her old-fashioned silver watch is a family heirloom, and a broad black ribbon is her only watch-guard.
Yet there is nothing of malice or evil intent in Aunt Jemima's soul. She is no less strictly upright in character than in form. She cannot tolerate wickedness, folly, or weakness of any kind. So far well. The lack of her character is the tenderness which is woman's crowning grace. When she is kind it is in such a way that one would almost prefer for her to be unkind.
Such is Aunt Jemima, as we see her sitting in front of her brother's fire, and as we know her to be. Need we wonder that, "Cobbler" Horn's heart misgave him as to the probable fate of his little Marian in such rough, though righteous, hands?
When "Cobbler" Horn at length came downstairs, his sister was still sitting before the fire. On his appearance, she rose from her seat.
"Thomas, I am ashamed of you," she said, as she began, in a masterful way, to make preparations for supper. "Such weakness will utterly spoil the child. But you were always foolish."
"I am afraid, sister," was the quiet reply, "that we shall hardly agree with one another—you and I—on that point."
HOW MISS JEMIMA MANAGED HER BROTHER'S HOUSE.
On entering upon the management of her brother's house, Aunt Jemima laid down two laws, which were, that the house was to be kept spotlessly clean, and that everything was always to be in its right place; and her severe, and even fierce, insistence on the minute fulfilment of these unexceptionable ordinances soon threatened utterly to banish comfort from her brother's house.
The restrictions this masterful lady placed upon her patient brother constituted a state of absolute tyranny. Lest her immaculate door-step should be soiled, she would rarely allow him to enter the house by the front-door. She placed a thick mat inside his workshop, at the doorway leading into the front-room; and she exercised a lynx-eyed supervision to ensure that he always wiped his feet before coming in. She would never permit him to go upstairs without putting off his boots. She removed his hat from the wall of the front-room, and hung it on a nail in a beam, which was just over his head as he sat at work in his shop; and whenever she walked, with her policeman-like tread, in the room above, the hat would fall down, and strike him on the head. He bore this annoyance for a day or two, and then quietly removed hat and nail to one of the walls.
Strong-natured though he was, "Cobbler" Horn felt it no weakness to yield to his sister in trifles; and he bore with exhaustless patience such vexations as she inflicted on him alone. But he was firm as a rock where the comfort of any one else was concerned. It was beautiful to see his meek submission to every restriction which she laid upon him; it was sublime to behold his stern resistance to such harsh requirements as she proposed to lay upon others.
More than one battle was fought between the brother and sister on this latter point. But it was on Marian's account that the contention was most frequent and severe. Sad to say, the coming of Aunt Jemima seemed likely to drive all happiness from the lot of the hapless child. Rigid and cruel rules were laid upon the tiny mite. Requirements were made, and enforced, which bewildered and terrified the little thing beyond degree. She was made to go to bed and get up at preternaturally early hours; and her employment during the day was mapped out in obedience to similarly senseless rules. Her playthings, which had all been swept into a drawer and placed under lock and key, were handed out by Aunt Jemima, one at a time, at the infrequent intervals, during which, for brief periods, and under strict supervision, the child was permitted to play. Much of the day was occupied with the doing of a variety of tasks few of which were really within the compass of her childish powers. Aunt Jemima herself undertook to impart to Marian elementary instruction in reading, writing, and kindred acts. Occasionally also the child was taken out by her grim relative for a stately walk, during which, however, she was not permitted, on any account, to linger in front of a shop window, or stray from Aunt Jemima's side. And then, in the evening, after their early tea, while Aunt Jemima sat at her work at the table, the poor little infant was perched on a chair before the fire, and there required to sit till her bed-time, with her legs dangling till they ached again, while the tiny head became so heavy that it nodded this way and that in unconquerable drowsiness, and, on more occasions than one, the child rolled over and fell to the floor, like a ball.
One lesson which Aunt Jemima took infinite pains to lodge in Marian's dusky little head was that she must never speak unless she was first spoken to; and if, in the exuberance of child-nature, she transgressed this rule, especially at meal-times, Aunt Jemima's mouth would open like a pair of nut-crackers, and she would give utterance to a succession of such snappish chidings, that Marian would almost be afraid she was going to be swallowed up. A hundred times a day the child incurred the righteous ire of this cast-iron aunt. From morning to night the little thing was worried almost out of her life by the grim governess of her father's house; and Aunt Jemima even haunted her dreams.
Marian had one propensity which Aunt Jemima early set herself to repress. The child was gifted with an innate love of rambling. More than once, when very young indeed, she had wandered far away from home, and her father and mother had thought her lost. But she had always, as by an unerring instinct, found her way back. This propensity it was, indeed, necessary to restrain; but Aunt Jemima adopted measures for the purpose which were the sternest of the stern. She issued a decree that Marian was never to leave the house, except when accompanied by either her father or Miss Jemima herself. In order that the object of this restriction might be effectually secured, it became necessary that Miss Jemima should take the child with her on almost every occasion when she herself went out. These events were intensely dreaded by Marian; and she would shrink into a corner of the room when she observed Aunt Jemima making preparations for leaving the house. But she made no actual show of reluctance; and it would be difficult to tell whether she was the more afraid of going out with Aunt Jemima, or of letting Aunt Jemima see that she was afraid.
It was a terrible time for the poor child. On every side she was checked, frowned upon, and kept down. If she was betrayed into the utterance of a merry word she was snapped at as though she had said something bad; and ebullitions of childish spirits were checked again and again, until their occurrence became rare. And yet this woman thought herself a Christian, and believed that, in subjecting to a system of such complicated tyranny the bright little child who had been committed to her charge, she was beginning to train the hapless mite in the way she should go.
It was a very simple circumstance which first indicated to "Cobbler" Horn the kind of training his child was beginning to receive. Happening to go, one morning, into the living-room, he found that his sister had gone out, and, for once, left Marian a prisoner in the house. The child was seated on a chair, with her chubby legs hanging wearily down, and a woe-begone expression on her face. Taking courage from the absence of her dreadful aunt, Marian asked her father to give her some of her toys, and to let her play. Finding, to his surprise, on questioning the child, that she had been forbidden to touch her playthings without express permission, and that they were put away in the drawer, he readily gave her such of them as she desired, and crowned her happiness by remaining to play with her till Aunt Jemima returned.
This incident created a feeling of uneasiness in the father's mind; but it was a circumstance of another kind which fully revealed to him the actual state of things. Passing through the room one evening when Marian was on the point of going to bed, he paused to listen to the evening prayer of his child. She knelt, in her little night-clothes, at Aunt Jemima's knee. The father sighed, as he waited for the sound of the simple words which had been learnt at the dictation of the tender mother-voice which was now for ever still. What, then, were his astonishment and pain when Marian, instead of repeating her mother's prayer, entered upon the recital of a string of theological declarations which Aunt Jemima dictated to her one by one!
"Cobbler" Horn strode forward, and laid a strong repressive hand upon the child; and Aunt Jemima will never forget the flash of his eye and the stern tones of his voice, as he demanded that Marian should be permitted to pray her mother's prayer.
After this he noticed frequent signs of the tyranny of which Marian was the victim, and interposed at many points. But it was only in part that he was able to counteract the cruel discipline to which Aunt Jemima was subjecting his child.
"ME LUN AWAY."
Winter passed drearily away—a wet one, as it happened, with never once the white gleam of snow, and scarcely a touch of the healthy sting of frost. "Cobbler" Horn had not ceased to sorrow for his dead wife; and, when the spring was well advanced, there befell him another, and scarcely less severe bereavement, though of a different kind.
There had been no improvement in the relations between Aunt Jemima and the child. Aunt Jemima still maintained the harsh system of discipline which she had adopted at first; and the result was that the child had been led to regard her father's sister with as near an approach to hatred as was possible to her loving little heart. Marian's heart was big, almost to bursting, with concealed sorrow. Like her father, young as she was, she found it easier to bear grief than to tell it out. She did not want her father to know how miserable she was. Her childish soul was filled with bitterness, and her young life was being spoiled. Such of her pleasures as had not been taken from her were divested of all their charm. Almost her sole remaining joy was to snatch, now and then, a bit of clandestine love with her father, when, on some rare occasion, Aunt Jemima happened to be out of the way.
Recognising the uselessness of resisting a hand so hard and strong as that of Aunt Jemima, Marian had lately meditated another way of escape from the wretchedness of her lot. She contemplated an expedient which occurs more readily than any other to the youthful victim of oppression, but which had probably never before presented itself to the mind of a child so young. The expedient is one, indeed, which seldom effects its purpose, and is usually productive of a plentiful crop of troubles. But Marian had no fear. She was full of one thought. She could not any longer endure Aunt Jemima; and she must make it impossible for Aunt Jemima to scold, or smack, or restrain her any more. She must escape, without delay, from the sound of Aunt Jemima's harsh voice, and place herself beyond the reach of Aunt Jemima's rough hand. True, there was her father. How could she leave him? This would have been impossible to her if she had realised what she was about to do. But it seemed so easy and pleasant to slip out into the bright spring morning, and trot away into the mysterious and delightful country, which lay outside the town. Nor did she dream of the hardships and danger which might be awaiting her out in the strange, unloving world, into which she had so lightly resolved to launch her little life. So it came to pass that, on a certain bright May morning, Marian took her opportunity, and went out into the world.
Marian's opportunity was furnished by the fact that Aunt Jemima had gone out, leaving Marian at home, and, for once, had forgotten to lock the door. As soon as Aunt Jemima's back was turned, the child huddled her little pink print sun-bonnet upon her small black head, and, with one furtive glance over her shoulder towards her father's workshop, whence she could distinctly hear the quick "tap-tap" of his hammer, she opened the front-door, and slipped into the street. Her first action was to shoot a keen glance, from her sharp little eyes, to right and left. There was no one to be seen but one of the funny little twin men who kept a huckster's shop across the way. This little man was a great friend of Marian's, and he called to her now in joyous tones, as he stood in the doorway of his shop, to come over and see what he had in his pocket. Marian gave a decided shake of her head.
"No; Ma-an going away. Tum another time."
Then, murmuring to herself, "Me lun away," she set off down the street, with a defiant swagger of her small person, and her bonnet-strings streaming out upon the wind; and the little huckster watched her with an admiring gaze, little thinking into what wilds of sorrow those tiny twinkling feet had set off to run.
"THE LITTLE TWIN BRETHREN."
The name of the little hucksters across the way was Dudgeon. As to age, they were on the verge of thirty—Tommy having entered the world a few minutes previous to John. They were so much alike that it was difficult to distinguish them when apart. John was just a shade lighter in complexion than Tommy, and Tommy overtopped his brother by something like an inch. The twins were so small as to seem insignificant; but their meek amiability was an efficient set off against their physical deficiencies. If there was any measure of self-assertiveness between them, it belonged chiefly to Tommy. Though both the little men were kind to Marian, Tommy was her especial friend; and it was he who had watched her as she ran away. The twins were both bachelors; though John had kept company for several years with a young woman of exemplary patience. Tommy, who was a sincere Christian, was a member of the church to which "Cobbler" Horn belonged. John occasionally attended the services at the same place, but could not be persuaded to join the church.
The close resemblance between the brothers was the cause of many ludicrous mistakes. In their boyhood, they had frequently been blamed for each other's faults and misdeeds; and it was characteristic of Tommy that he had quietly suffered more than one caning which his brother ought to have received. But, when it had been proposed to administer to him a dose of medicine which had been prescribed for John, he had quietly protested and explained the mistake.
When the twins grew up, similar blunders continued to occur; and the little men had frequent opportunities of unlawfully profiting by the errors in which their close resemblance to each other often involved their friends. But, to the credit of these worthy little men be it said, they conscientiously declined to avail themselves of the opportunities of illegitimate benefit thus thrown in their way.
It was a curious sight to see these two queer little men standing, sitting, or walking, side by side. The minister of their chapel would often speak of the first occasion on which he had seen John Dudgeon. It was one Sunday evening, shortly after he had assumed the pastorate of the church. The service had just commenced, and the eye of the minister happened to rest, for a moment, on the humble figure of Tommy Dudgeon, who was, as usual, in his place. The minister had already made the acquaintance of Tommy, but of the existence of John he was not yet aware. What, then, was his astonishment, the next moment, to see another Tommy Dudgeon, as it seemed, come in and take his place beside the one already in the pew! For a breathing space the new pastor imagined himself the victim of an optical illusion; and then he rubbed his eyes, and concluded that Tommy Dudgeon had a twin brother, and that this was he.
It was not surprising that these two peculiar little men should have excited the amusement of those to whom they were known. Their amazing and almost indistinguishable resemblance to each other, and the consequent unconscious mutual mimicry of tone and gesture which prevailed between them, while they were a source of frequent perplexity, were also irresistibly provocative of mirth. What wonder that those who saw the little hucksters for the first time should have felt strongly inclined to regard them in a comic light; or that the mere mention of their names should have unfailingly brought a smile to the faces of those to whom their peculiarities were known!
The boys of the Grammar School, which was situated in a neighbouring street, had, from time immemorial, furnished Tommy and John Dudgeon with an epithet accommodated from classic lore, and dubbed them, "the little Twin Brethren."
THE FATHER'S QUEST.
When Aunt Jemima came home, she was surprised, in no small degree, at the absence of Marian. With gathering indignation she called up the stairs, then searched the house, and finally presented herself before her brother, who was quite alone in his workshop, and sat calmly working on his stool.
"Then she is not here?"
"Who? Marian?" responded "Cobbler" Horn in no accent of concern, looking up for a moment from his work. "No, I thought she was with you."
"No; I left her in the room for a moment, and now she is nowhere to be found."
There seemed to "Cobbler" Horn no reason for alarm, and, as his sister returned to the kitchen, he quietly went on with his work. But Aunt Jemima's mind was ill at ease. Once more she searched the house, and called and called again. There was no response, and the silence which followed was profound and ominous. Swiftly she passed, with growing alarm, through her brother's workshop, and out into the yard. A glance around, and then a closer search; but still no sign of the missing child. The perturbed woman re-entered her brother's presence, and stood before him, erect and rigid, and with outstretched hands.
"The child's gone!" was her gloomy exclamation.
"Gone!" echoed "Cobbler" Horn blankly, looking up. "Where?"
"I don't know; but she's gone quite away, and may never come back."
Then "Cobbler" Horn perceived that his sister was alarmed; and, notwithstanding the occasion, he was comforted by the unwonted tenderness she had expressed. As for Marian, he knew her for a born rambler; and it was not the first time she had strayed from home.
"Perhaps," he said placidly, "she has gone to the little shop over the way."
Then he resumed his work, as though he had simply told his sister where she would be likely to find her spectacles.
Aunt Jemima took the hint, as a drowning person catches at a straw. She made her way to the front-door, and having opened it, was on the point of crossing the street, when Tommy Dudgeon emerged from the shop, and came over towards where she stood.
"Good morning, ma-am," he said, halting at a respectful distance. "You are looking for little miss?"
"Well," snapped Aunt Jemima, "and if I am, what then? Do you know where she is?"
"No, ma-am; but I saw her go away."
Miss Jemima seized the arm of the little man with an iron grip.
"Man! you saw her go away, and you let her go?"
With difficulty Tommy freed his arm.
"Well, ma-am, perhaps I ought——"
"Of course you ought," rapped out the lady, sharply. "You must be a gabey."
"No doubt, ma-am. But little miss will come back. She knows her way about. She will be home to dinner."
Having spoken, Tommy was turning to recross the street.
Tommy stopped and faced around once more.
"Which way did she go?"
"That way, ma-am," replied Tommy, pointing along the street, to Aunt Jemima's left-hand, and his own right.
The troubled lady instantly marched, in the direction indicated, to the end of the street; but, finding that five ways branched off therefrom, she returned baffled to her brother's house, and sought his presence once more.
"Thomas," she cried, almost fiercely, "the child has certainly run away!"
Still "Cobbler" Horn was not alarmed.
"Well," he said calmly, "never mind, Jemima. She has a habit of going off by herself. She knows her way about, and will not stray far. She will be back by dinner-time, no doubt."
Though by no means satisfied, Miss Jemima was fain to accept this view of the case for the time. With a troubled mind, she resumed her suspended domestic duties. Unlikely as it might seem, she could not banish the dread that Marian had actually run away; and, as the morning passed, the fear grew stronger and stronger in the troubled lady's breast that she would see her little niece no more. Accordingly when dinner-time arrived, Aunt Jemima was not surprised that Marian did not appear. The dinner consisted of Irish stew—Marian's favourite dish. On the stroke of twelve it was smoking on the table. For the twentieth time the perturbed lady went to the door, and gazed wistfully up and down the street. Then, with a sigh, she re-entered the house, and called her brother to dinner.
"Cobbler" Horn, feeling sure that Marian would soon return, had dismissed the fact of her disappearance from his mind; and when, on coming in to dinner, he found that she was still absent, he was taken by surprise.
In reply to his inquiry, Aunt Jemima jerked out the opinion that the child would not come back at all.
"Why shouldn't she?" he asked. "I've known her stay away longer than this, and there's no occasion for alarm."
So saying, he addressed himself to his dinner with his usual gusto; but Miss Jemima had no appetite, and the show of eating that she made was but a poor pretence.
"Don't be so much alarmed, Jemima," said her brother, making progress with his dinner. "I've no doubt the child is amongst her friends. By and bye I'll go out and hunt her up."
He still had no fear that his little daughter would not soon return. He accordingly finished his dinner with his usual deliberation; and it was not until he had completed one or two urgent pieces of work, that he, at last, put on his hat and coat, and taking his stout blackthorn stick, set out in search of his missing child.
All the weary afternoon, he went from house to house, amongst friends and friendly neighbours; but no one had seen Marian, or knew anything as to her whereabouts. Every now and then he returned home, to see if the child had come back. But each time he found only Aunt Jemima, sitting before the fire like an image of grim despair. She would look up with fierce eagerness, on his entrance, and drop her gaze again with a gasp when she saw that he was alone.
Long before the afternoon was over the father's unconcern had given place to serious alarm. He was not greatly surprised that he had failed to find Marian in the house of any of their friends; but he wondered that she had not yet come home of her own accord. While he would not, even now, believe that Marian had run away, he was compelled to admit that she was lost. But what was that? He had turned once more towards home, and had entered his own street, and there was Marian, playing with some other children, on the pavement, just in front. Her back was towards him, as she bent down over her play. But there was no mistaking that thick, night-black hair, and the little plump brown legs which peeped out beneath the small frock. With the promptitude of absolute certainty, he put out his strong hands and lifted the child from the ground. Then he uttered a cry. It was not Marian after all! He put her down—he almost let her drop, and the startled child began to cry. "Cobbler" Horn hastily pushed a penny into her hand, and strode on. He staggered like one who has received a blow. It seemed almost as if he had actually had his little one in his arms, and she had slipped away again.
When he reached home, his sister was still sitting in grim silence, before the now fireless grate. On her brother's entrance, she looked up as aforetime. "Cobbler" Horn sank despondently into a chair.
"Nowhere to be found!" he said, with a deep sigh.
"We must have the tea ready," he added, as though at the dictate of a sudden thought.
"Ah, you are tired, and hungry."
Aunt Jemima hesitated on the last word. Could her brother be hungry? She thought she would never wish to taste food again.
"No," he said quickly; "but Marian will want her tea. Put the dinner away. It is cold, Jemima."
"I put her plate in the oven," said Aunt Jemima, in a hollow voice, as she rose from her seat.
"Ah!" gasped the father. The little plate had become hot and cold again, and its contents were quite dried up. Aunt Jemima put the plate upon the oven-top; and then turned, and looked conscience-stricken into her brother's face. Severe towards herself, as towards others, she unflinchingly acknowledged her great fault.
"Brother, your child is gone; and I have driven her away."
She lifted her hands on either side of her head, and gently swayed herself to and fro once—a grim gesture of despair.
"I do not ask you to forgive me. It is not to be expected of you—unless she comes back again. If she does not, I shall never forgive myself."
"Jemima," said "Cobbler" Horn, rising from his seat, and placing his hand lightly on her shoulder, "You are too severe with yourself. That the child is lost is evident enough; but surely she may be found! I will go to the police authorities: they will help us."
He turned to the door, but paused with his hand on the latch.
"Jemima," he said, gently, "you must not talk about my not forgiving you. I would try to forgive my greatest enemy, much more my own sister, who has but done what she believed to be best."
The authorities at the police-station did what they could. Messages were sent to every police centre in the town; and very soon every policeman on his beat was on the look-out for the missing child. At the same time, an officer was told off to accompany the anxious father on a personal search for his little girl. First of all, they visited the casual ward at the workhouse, and astonished its motley and dilapidated occupants by waking them to ask if they had fallen in with a strayed child on any of the roads by which they had severally approached the town. When they had recovered from their first alarm beneath the gleam of the policeman's bulls-eye, these waifs of humanity, one and all, declared their inability to supply the desired information. The officer next conducted his companion into the courts and bye-ways of the town. Many a den of infamy was filled with a quiver of alarm, and many a haunt of poverty was made to uncover its wretchedness before the horrified gaze of "Cobbler" Horn. But the missing child was not in any of these. Next they went a little way out on one or two of the country roads. But here all was dark: and they soon retraced their steps.
Having ascertained that nothing had been heard at the police-station of his child, "Cobbler" Horn at length turned homeward, in the early morning, with a weary heart. Miss Jemima was still sitting where he had left her, and he sadly shook his head in response to the appeal of her dark hollow eyes. During the hour or so which remained before dawn, "Cobbler" Horn restlessly paced the house, pausing, now and then, to open the front-door and step out into the street, that he might listen for the returning patter of the two little feet that had wandered away.
Before it was fairly light, he left his sister, still distraught and rigid in her chair, and went into the streets once more. What could he do which he had not already done? From the first his heart had turned to God in prayer, and this seemed now his sole remaining resource. Yes, he could still pray; and, as he did so now, his belief grew stronger and stronger that, if not now, yet sometime, he would surely find his child again.
Not many streets from his own he met a woman whom he knew. She lived, with her husband, in a solitary cottage on the London Road—the road into which "Cobbler" Horn's street directly led, and she was astir thus early, she explained, to catch the first train to a place some miles away. But what had brought Mr. Horn out so soon? "Cobbler" Horn told his sorrowful story, and the woman gave a sudden start.
"Why," she said, "that reminds me. I saw the child yesterday morning. She passed our house, trotting at a great rate. It was washing day, and, besides, I had my husband's dinner in the oven, or I think I should have gone after her."
"Cobbler" Horn regarded the woman with strange, wide-open eyes.
"If you had only stopped her!" he cried. "But of course you didn't know."
With that, he left the woman standing in the street, and hurried away. Very soon he was walking swiftly along the London Road. The one thought in his mind was that he was on the track of his child at last. He passed the wayside cottage where the woman lived who had seen Marian go by, and went on until, moved by a sudden impulse, he paused to rest his arms upon the top of a five-barred gate, and look upon the field into which it led. Then he uttered a cry, and, tearing open the gate, strode into the field. Lying amidst the grass was a little shoe. It was one of Marian's without a doubt. Had he not made it himself? He picked it up and hid it away in the pocket of his coat. Marian had evidently wandered that way, and was lost in the large wood which lay on the other side of the field. To reach the wood was the work of a few moments. Plunging amongst the trees, he soon came upon a pool, near the margin of which were some prostrate tree trunks. Near one of these the ground was littered with shreds of what might have been articles of clothing; and amongst them was a long strip of print, which had a familiar look. He picked it up and examined it closely. Then the truth flashed upon him. It was one of the strings of Marian's sun-bonnet! Holding it loosely between his finger and thumb, he gazed upon the foul green waters of the pond. Did they cover the body of his child? He had no further thought of searching the wood. With a shudder he turned away, and hurried home.
Aunt Jemima had bestirred herself, and was moving listlessly about the house.
"Jemima, do you know this?" She took the strip of print into her hand.
"Yes," she said, "it is——"
He finished her sentence. "——the string of her bonnet."
He told her where he had found it, and showed her the shoe.
The pond was dragged, but nothing was discovered. They searched the wood, and scoured the country for miles around; but they came upon no further trace of the missing child.
WHAT HAD BECOME OF THE CHILD?
When Marian left her father's house, she had but one idea in her mind. Her sole desire was to escape from Aunt Jemima; and it seemed to her that the most effectual method of doing so was to get into the country as fast as she could. It was not likely, she thought, that there would be any Aunt Jemimas in so pleasant a region as she had always understood the country to be. She knew vaguely which direction to take, and supposed that if she kept on long enough, she would ultimately reach her destination. What she would do when she got there she had not paused to think. At present she was simply thrilling with the sweet consciousness of liberty, and enjoying her scamper in the fresh spring morning air. It was not likely, perhaps, that Marian would run right away from home, and stay away. Like any other little chick, she would make for home at roosting time, if hunger did not constrain her to turn her steps thitherward at a much earlier hour.
Marian's surmise that the way she had taken led into the country proved to be correct. The street widened out into a road, the houses became fewer and brighter till they ceased altogether; and the child realized, with a little tremor, that, at last, she was out in the country all alone. Her feeling was one of timid joy. All around her were the green fields and waving trees; and the only house in sight was a little white-washed cottage far on in front. It cost Marian an effort to pass a man with a coal cart who presently loomed in view; but when she found that he slouched by without taking any notice of her, she took heart again and tripped blithely on.
Presently she found herself opposite to the little white-washed cottage; and she remembered that she had been there once or twice with her father. She would have been better pleased, just now, if the cottage had been on some other road. How could she pass it without being seen? This was plainly impossible; for there was the woman of the house—being the same whom Marian's father met the following morning—hanging out the clothes in the garden, close to the hedge. Marian trotted on, pretending not to know that there was any one near. Then she felt hot all over, as she became aware the woman had seen her, and was calling across the road. But she just gave her dusky little head a determined shake, and pursued her way. The woman, being weighted with an accumulation of domestic cares, without a second thought, and much to her subsequent regret, let the little runaway go by.
When Marian had left the cottage out of sight behind, she began to feel lonely, and to be very much afraid. There was not a human being in sight, except herself; and the only dwelling she could see was a farm-house, perched on the top of a hill, away across the fields. She slackened her pace, and looked furtively around. Then she went on more quickly again; but, in a few moments, a slight bend in the road brought before her a sight at which she stopped short and uttered a cry of alarm. An exceedingly ill-favoured man, and a no more prepossessing woman, were sitting upon the bank, by the road-side, discussing a dinner of broken victuals. They were thorough-going tramps, of middle age. Marian would have fled; but their evil eyes held her to the spot.
"What a pretty little lady!" said the man, holding out a very dirty hand. "Come here, missy!"
But Marian shrank back with a smothered cry.
"I've finished my dinner, I have," said the man, getting up.
"So have I," echoed the woman, following his example; "and we'll go for a walk with little miss."
"What a precious lonely road!" she remarked, when she had glanced this way and that, to make sure that no prying eyes were near. "Catch hold o' the little 'un, Jake; and we'll take a stroll in the fields."
There was a perfect understanding between this precious pair; and Marian was promptly lifted over a five-barred gate, and led by the woman across a grass field, towards a wood on the other side, while the man followed stolidly in the rear. A few paces from the gate Marian's shoe came off; but she was as much too frightened to say anything about it, as she was to ask any questions of her captors, or to resist their will. Having reached the wood, they plunged into its recesses, and at length halted before a large pool, at the edge of which there lay upon the ground the trunks of some trees which had been cut down. Taking her seat on one of these, the woman drew Marian to her side, and, while the man stood by with an evil smile, proceeded to strip off some of the child's clothes. Marian began to cry, but was silenced with a rough shake and a threat of being thrown into the pond. Having divested the child of most of her garments, the woman took from a dirty bundle which she carried a draggled grey wool shawl, which she wrapped tightly, crosswise, around Marian's body, and tied in a hard knot behind her back.
Perceiving that Marian had lost one of her shoes, the hag sent her husband back to look for it, while she proceeded with the metamorphosis of the hapless infant who had fallen into her hands. She smeared the little face with muddy water from the margin of the pool; she jerked out the semi-circular comb which held back Marian's cloud of dusky hair, and let the thick locks fall in disorder about her head and face; she dragged the little sun bonnet in the green slime at the margin of the pool, and, on pretence of tying it on the child's head, wrenched off one of the strings, which she heedlessly left lying on the ground.
At this point the man returned without the missing shoe.
"It doesn't matter," said his spouse. "Lend me your knife."
She then proceeded to cut and slash Marian's remaining shoe in a most remorseless manner, after which she replaced it on the child's foot, and wrapped around the other foot a piece of dirty rag.
"Come now," said the woman, having rolled up Marian's clothes with the rubbish in her bundle; "we wanted a little girl, and you'll just do." So saying, she took tight hold of the child's hand.
"I want my daddy!" cried Marian, finding her voice at last.
"That's your daddy now," said the woman, pointing to the man: "and I'm your mammy. Come along!" and, with the word, she set off at a vigorous pace, dragging the child, and, followed heavily by her husband, through the wood, and across the field, and then out upon the road, away and away, with their backs turned towards Marian's home.
THE SHOEMAKER BECOMES "GOLDEN."
One morning, about twelve years after the disappearance of Marian, there came to her father a great, and almost overwhelming surprise.
It is not necessary to dwell on the manner in which the twelve years had passed. Nothing had ever been heard of Marian. The most thorough search was made, but without result; and at length, the stricken father was constrained to accept the conviction that his child was indeed gone from him into the great world, and, bowing his head in the presence of his God, he covered his bruised heart with the fair sheet of a dignified self-control, and settled down to his work again, like a man and a Christian.
Yet he did not cease inwardly to grieve. If his child had gone to her dead mother, there would have been strong consolation, and, perhaps, in time, contentment might have come. But she was gone, not to her mother, but out into the cold, pitiless world; and his imagination dwelt grimly on the nameless miseries into which she might fall.
Miss Jemima still kept her brother's house; but she had been greatly softened by her self-accusing grief. And now, as the brother and sister sat at breakfast one autumn morning, came the surprise of which we speak. It came in the form of a letter, which, before opening it, "Cobbler" Horn regarded, for some moments, with a dubious air. The arrival of a letter at his house was a rare event; and but for the fact that the missive bore his name and address, he would have thought there was a mistake, and, even now, the addition of the sign, "Esq." to his name left the matter in some doubt. The stoutness of the blue envelope, and the bold character of the handwriting, gave the packet a business-like look. For a moment, "Cobbler" Horn thought of his lost child. A slight circumstance was sufficient, even yet, to re-awaken his hopes; and he still clung to the conviction that, some day, his child would return. The letter, however, contained no reference to the great sorrow of his life; and, indeed, its contents were such that he forgot, for the time being, Marian, and everything else. He looked up with a gasp of astonishment; and then, turning his attention again to the letter, deliberately read it through, and, when he had finished, calmly handed it to his sister. She read a few words, and broke off with a cry.
"Yes, Jemima, I am a rich man, it seems. Read on, and say what you think;" and "Cobbler" Horn rose from his seat, and went quietly into his workshop.
Miss Jemima devoured her brother's letter with greedy eyes. It was from a firm of London lawyers, and contained a brief announcement that the rich uncle of "Cobbler" Horn had died, in America, without a will; that "Cobbler" Horn was the lawful owner of all his wealth; and that they, the lawyers, awaited "Cobbler" Horn's commands. Would he call upon them at their office in London, or should they attend him at his private, or any other, address? In the meantime, he would oblige by drawing upon them for any amount of money he might require.
With what breath she had left Miss Jemima hurried into her brother's workshop.
"Thomas," she demanded, flourishing the letter in his face, "what are you going to do?"
"Think," he answered concisely, without looking up from the hob-nailed boot between his knees, "and pray, and get on with my work."
"But this letter requires an answer! And," with a glance of disgust around the rough shop with its signs of toil, "you are a rich man now, Thomas."
"That," was the quiet reply, "does not alter the fact that I have half-a-dozen pairs of boots to mend, and two of them are promised for dinner-time. Leave me, now, Jemima, and we'll talk the matter over this evening. I don't suppose the gentlemen will be in a hurry."
Miss Jemima withdrew as she was bidden, thinking that there was one gentleman, at least, who was not in a hurry.
All day long "Cobbler" Horn quietly worked on in the usual way. He did this partly because he loved his work and was loath to give it up, partly because he had so much work on hand, and partly that he might think and pray, which he could always do best on his cobbler's stool. He found it difficult to realize what had taken place; but when, at last, he fairly grasped the fact that he was now a rich man, mingled feelings of joy and dread filled his breast. There was little taint of selfishness in "Cobbler" Horn's joy. It was no gratification to him to be relieved of the necessity to work. Nor was he fascinated with the prospect of luxury. His joy arose chiefly from the thought of the amount of good he would now be able to do. It was impossible that he should form anything like an adequate conception of the vast power for good which had been placed in his hands. The boundless ability to benefit his fellowmen with which he had been so suddenly endowed could not be realized in the first moments of his great surprise, yet he perceived faint glimmerings of possibilities of benevolence beyond his largest-hearted dreams.
Thoughts of his long-lost child stole over him ever and anon. If she had been left to him, he would have rejoiced in his good fortune the more, on her account. But she was gone.
The joy of "Cobbler" Horn was chastened by a solemn dread. A great responsibility had been laid upon him from which he would have infinitely rather been free. He prayed, with trembling, that he might prove worthy of so great a trust.
At dinner-time Miss Jemima questioned her brother as to his intentions. His answers were brief and indefinite. The matter could not be settled in a moment. In the evening they would talk things over, and decide what to do.
The evening came, and brother and sister sat before the fire.
"Jemima," said "Cobbler" Horn, "I must accept this great responsibility."
"You surely did not think of doing anything else?" exclaimed the startled lady.
"Well—yes—I did. The burden seemed so great that, for a time, I shrank. But the Lord has shown me my duty. I could have desired that we might have remained as we were. But there is much consolation in the thought of all the good we shall be able to do; and—well, the will of the Lord be done!"
Miss Jemima was astounded. Her brother had become rich beyond the dreams of avarice, and he talked of resignation to the will of God!
"Then you will answer the letter at once?" she said.
"And you will go to London?"
"Yes, next week, I think."
"Next week! Why not this week? It's only Monday."
"There is no need to hurry, Jemima. There might be some mistake. And it's as well to give the gentlemen time to prepare."
"Lawyers don't make mistakes," said Miss Jemima: "And as for preparing, you may be sure they have done that already."
But nothing could induce "Cobbler" Horn to hasten his movements; and his sister was fain to content herself with his promise to write to the lawyers the next day, which he duly fulfilled.
A STRANGE CLIENT FOR MESSRS. TONGS AND BALL.
The day on which "Cobbler" Horn had proposed to the lawyers to pay them his promised visit, was the following Monday, at three o'clock in the afternoon, and by return of post there came a letter from the lawyers assenting to the arrangement. During the week which intervened, "Cobbler" Horn did not permit either himself or his sister to mention to a third person the change his circumstances had undergone. Nor did he encourage conversation between his sister and himself on the subject of his suddenly acquired wealth. And neither his manner of life nor the ordering of his house gave any indication of the altered position in which he was placed. He did not permit the astounding news he had received to interfere with the simple regularity of his life. Miss Jemima might have been inclined to introduce into her domestic arrangements some outward and visible sign of the altered fortunes of the house; but her brother's will prevailed, and all things continued as before. The "golden shoemaker" even continued to work at his trade in the usual way. And all the time he was thinking—thinking and praying; and many generous purposes, which afterwards bore abundant fruit, began to germinate in his mind.
At length the momentous day arrived, and "Cobbler" Horn travelled by an early train to London, and, having dined frugally at a decent eating-house, presented himself in due time at the offices of Messrs. Tongs and Ball. The men of law were both seated in the room into which their new client was shown. One of them was a very little, round, rosy, middle-aged man, with an expression of countenance so cherubic that no one would have suspected him of being a lawyer; and the other was a tall, large-boned, parchment-faced personage, of whom almost any degree of heartlessness might have been believed. The two lawyers rose and bowed as "Cobbler" Horn was shown in.
"Thomas Horn, at your service, gentlemen."
"This is Mr. Tongs," said the tall lawyer with a waive of his hand towards his rotund partner; "and I am Mr. Ball," he added, drawing himself into an attitude which caused him to look much more like a bat than a ball, and speaking in a surprisingly agreeable tone. Upon this there was bowing all around, and then a pause.
"Pray take a seat, Mr. Horn," besought Mr. Ball.
"Cobbler" Horn modestly obeyed.
"And now, my dear sir," said Mr. Ball, when he himself and his partner had also resumed their seats, "let us congratulate you on your good fortune."
"Thank you, gentlemen," said "Cobbler" Horn gravely. "But the responsibility is very great. I am only reconciled to it by the thought that I shall now be able to do many things that I have long desired to do."
"Ah," said Mr. Ball, "it is one of the gratifications of wealth that a man is able to follow his bent—whether it be travelling, collecting pictures, keeping horses, or what not."
"Of course," echoed Mr. Tongs.
"No, no, gentlemen," dissented "Cobbler" Horn, "I was thinking of the good I shall now be able to do. But let us get to business; for I should be sorry to waste your time."
Both lawyers protested. Waste their time! They could not be better employed!
"You are very kind, gentlemen."
"Not at all," was the candid reply.
"You have come into a very large fortune, Mr. Horn," continued Mr. Ball, as he began to untie a bundle of documents. "You are worth very many thousands; in fact you are almost a millionaire. I think I am right, Mr. Tongs?"
"Yes," assented Mr. Tongs, "oh yes, certainly."
"All the documents are here," resumed Mr. Ball, as he surveyed a sea of blue and white paper which covered the table; "and, with your permission, Mr. Horn, we will give you an account of their contents."
The lawyer then proceeded to give his client a statement of the particulars of the fortune of which he had so unexpectedly become possessed.
"We hope, Mr. Horn," he said, in conclusion, "that you may do us the honour to continue the confidence reposed in us by your late uncle."
"I beg your pardon, sir?" said "Cobbler" Horn.
"I ventured to hope that my partner and I might be so fortunate as to retain the management of your affairs. I believe you will find that since—"
"Oh yes, of course," "Cobbler" Horn hastened to interpose. He had not dreamt of making any change. The lawyers bowed their thanks.
"May we now ask," said Mr. Ball, "whether you have any special commands?"
"I think there are one or two requests I should like to make. I have a sister, and I believe my uncle left another nephew."
"A sad scrapegrace, my dear sir," interposed Mr. Ball, whose keen legal instinct gave him some scent of what was coming next.
"Cobbler" Horn held up his hand.
"Can you tell me, gentlemen, whether there are any other relatives of my uncle's who are still alive?"
"We have every reason to believe that there are not."
"Very well, then, I wish my uncle's property to be divided into three equal portions. One third I desire to have made over to my sister, and another to be reserved for my cousin. The remaining portion I will retain myself."
"But, my dear sir," cried Mr. Ball, "the whole of the property is legally yours!"
"True," was the quiet reply; "but the law cannot make that right which is essentially wrong, and my sister and cousin are as much entitled to my uncle's money as I am myself."
Mr. Ball was dumfounded.
"My dear sir," he gasped, "this is very strange!"
But "Cobbler" Horn was firm.
"You will find this scapegrace cousin of mine?" he asked.
The lawyers said they would do their best; and, when some further arrangements had been made, with regard to the property, "Cobbler" Horn took his departure, leaving his two legal advisers to assure one another, as they stood together on the hearthrug, that he was the strangest client they had known.
MISS JEMIMA IS VERY MUCH ASTONISHED.
Miss Jemima Horn was sufficiently curious as to the result of her brother's visit to the lawyers, to render her restlessly eager for his return. He came back the same night. He had work to finish in the cobbling line; and besides he had no fancy for any bed but his own.
After supper, the brother and sister sat down before the fire, for the talk to which Miss Jemima had been looking forward all day long.
"Well, brother," she queried, "I suppose you've heard all about it?"
"Yes, in a general way."
"And what is the amount?"
"I'm almost afraid to say. The gentlemen said little short of a million!"
Miss Jemima threw up her hands with a little jerk of wonder, and gazed at her brother with incredulous surprise.
"Where is it all?" was her next enquiry.
"Some in England, and some in America."
"It's not all in money, of course?" she asked, in doubtful tones.
"No," said her brother, opening his eyes: "it's in all sorts of ways. A great deal of it is in house property. There's one whole village—or nearly so."
"A whole village!"
"Yes, the village of Daisy Lane. It was the family home at one time, you know."
This was true. The village of Daisy Lane, in a Midland county, had been the cradle of the race of Horn. "Cobbler" Horn and his sister, however, had never visited the ancestral village.
"Well?" queried Miss Jemima.
"Well, uncle had a fancy for owning the village; so he bought it up bit by bit."
"Only to think!" exclaimed Miss Jemima. "And what else is there?"
"Well, there's money in all sorts of forms that I understand very little about."
"It's simply wonderful!" declared Miss Jemima.
"And then there's the old hall at Daisy Lane. Uncle meant to end his days there; but God has ordered otherwise, you see."
"And you will go to live there?"
"No," answered her brother, slowly; "I think not, Jemima."
"Sister, I don't think we should be happy in a grand house—at any rate not all at once. But there's something else I want to talk about."
Of late years the ascendancy had completely passed from Miss Jemima to her brother; and now, though she would fain have talked further about the old family mansion, she submissively turned her attention to what her brother was about to say.
"It is probable, Jemima," he begun, "that there has never been a rich man who had so few relatives to whom to leave his wealth as had our uncle."
"Yes: father and Uncle Ira were the only members of Uncle Jacob's family who ever married; and the brothers and sisters are all dead now. We are almost alone in the world."
"Except one cousin, you know," said "Cobbler" Horn.
"You mean Uncle Ira's scapegrace, Jack. But no one knows where he is. He may be dead for all we know."
Somehow Miss Jemima did not seem to desire that there should be any other relatives of her uncle to the front, just now, but her brother and herself.
"If Jack is dead," said "Cobbler" Horn, "there will be no more to say. But if he is alive, he must have his share of uncle's money; and I have left it with the legal gentlemen to find him if they can."
"Thomas," protested Miss Jemima, "do you think it would be right to hand over uncle's hard-earned money to that poor wastrel?"
"His right to the money, Jemima, is as good as ours."
"Perhaps so; but I feel convinced that uncle would not have wished for any part of his money to go to Jack. It would be like flinging it into the sea."
"Yes; but that cuts both ways, Jemima. Uncle would never have willed his money to me, any more than to Jack. But God has given it to me, and I mean to use it in the way of which I believe He will approve."
"And that is not all," he hastily resumed. "I have another relative;" and he directed a look of loving significance towards his sister's face. "Do you think that, if I admit the claim of our poor scapegrace cousin to a share of our uncle's money, I shall overlook the right of the dear sister who has been my stay and comfort all these sorrowing years?"
"But—but——" began Miss Jemima, in bewildered tones.
"Yes, you are to have your share too, Jemima."
"But, brother I don't desire it. If you have the money, it's all the same as though I had it myself."
With all her severity, there was not an atom of selfishness in Miss Jemima Horn.
"It's all arranged," was her brother's reply. "I instructed the lawyers to divide the property into three equal portions."
Miss Jemima, supposing that an arrangement with the lawyers was like the laws of the Medes and Persians, which "altered not," felt compelled to submit; but it was with the understanding that her brother took entire management of her portion of the money, as well as his own.
There was little further talk between "Cobbler" Horn and his sister that evening. Their early bed-time had arrived; and "Cobbler" Horn, having read a chapter in the Bible, offered a fervent prayer, in which he asked earnestly that his sister and himself might receive grace to use rightly the great wealth which had been entrusted to their charge.
"If we should prove unfaithful, Lord," he said, "take it from us as suddenly as Thou hast given it."
"Oh, brother," cried Miss Jemima, as they were going up to bed, "some letters came for you this morning."
"Cobbler" Horn took the four or five letters, which his sister was holding out to him, with a bewildered air.
"Are they really for me?" he asked.
"Small doubt of that," said Miss Jemima.
The opening of letters was, as yet, to "Cobbler" Horn, a ceremony to be performed with care. He drew a chair to the table, and deliberately took his seat. He took up the first letter, and, having read it slowly through, placed it in Miss Jemima's eager hand. It was a request, from a "gentleman in distress," for a loan of twenty pounds—a "trifle" to the possessor of so much wealth, but, to the writer "a matter of life or death."
"This will never do!" pronounced Miss Jemima; and the lady's lips emitted a gentle whistling sound.
"How soon it seems to have got wind!" exclaimed "Cobbler" Horn.
"It's been in the papers, no doubt."
"So it has," he said; "I saw it myself in a newspaper that I bought this evening, to read in the train. It called me the 'Golden Shoemaker.'"
"Ah!" cried Miss Jemima. "I've no doubt it will go the round." The good lady was not greatly averse to such a pleasant publication of the family name.
"Well," she resumed, "what do the other letters say?"
They were all similar to the first. One was from a man who had invented a new boot sewing-machine, and would take out a patent; another purported to came from a widow with six young children, and begged for a little—ever so little—timely help: and the other two were appeals on behalf of religious institutions.
"Penalty of wealth!" remarked Miss Jemima, as she took the letters from her brother's hand.
"I suppose I must answer them to-morrow," groaned "Cobbler" Horn.
"Answer them!" exclaimed Miss Jemima. "If you take my advice, you'll throw them into the fire. There will be plenty more of the same sort soon. Though," she added thoughtfully, "you'll have to read your letters, I suppose; for there'll be some you'll be obliged to answer."
"Well," said "Cobbler" Horn quietly, as they turned to the stairs, "we shall see."
"COBBLER" HORN ANSWERS HIS LETTERS, AND RECEIVES THE CONGRATULATIONS OF HIS FRIENDS.
When, after a somewhat troubled night, "Cobbler" Horn came down next morning, his attention was arrested by the letters lying, as he had left them, on the table, the night before.
"Yes," he said, in answer to his thoughts; "I think I'll deal with them straight away." So saying, he drew a chair to the table, and, having found a few sheets of time-stained note paper, together with a penny bottle of ink, and an old crippled pen, he sat down to his unwelcome task. The undertaking proved even more troublesome than he had thought it would be. The pen persisted in sputtering at almost every word; and when, at crucial points, he took special pains to make the writing legible, the too frequent result was an indecipherable blotch of ink. When the valiant scribe had wrestled with his uncongenial task for half an hour or more, his sister came upon the scene. Quietly she stepped across the floor.
"Ah!" she exclaimed, peeping over her brother's shoulder, "so you are answering them already!"
"Cobbler" Horn started, and a huge blot fell from his pen into the midst of his half-finished letter.
"I'm afraid I shall not be able to send this, now," he said, with a patient sigh.
"No," said Miss Jemima, laconically, "I'm afraid not. You are writing to the 'widow,' I see; and you are promising her some help. That's very well. But, in nine cases out of ten, what strangers say of themselves requires confirmation—especially if they are beggars; so don't you think that, before sending money to this 'widow,' it would be as well to ask for the name of some reliable person who will vouch for the truth of her statements? You must not forget, what you often say, you know, that you are the steward of your Lord's goods."
This was an argument which was sure to prevail with "Cobbler" Horn.
"No doubt you are right, Jemima," he said; "and, however reluctantly, I must take your advice."
"That's right," said Miss Jemima.
"You haven't answered the other letters?" she then asked, with a glance over the table.
"Well, hadn't you better put them away now, and get to your work? After breakfast you must get a new pen and a fresh bottle of ink. Then we'll see what we can do together."
In an emergency which demanded the exercise of the practical good sense, of which she had so large a share, Miss Jemima regained, to some extent, her old ascendency over her brother. He quietly gathered up his letters, and, placing them on the chimney-piece, retired to his workshop.
At breakfast-time Miss Jemima's prognostication began to receive fulfilment in the arrival of the postman with another batch of letters. This time the number had increased to something like a dozen. Having received them from the hands of the postman, "Cobbler" Horn carried them towards his sister with a somewhat comical air of dismay.
"So many!" exclaimed she. "Your cares are accumulating fast. You will have to engage a secretary. Well, we'll look at them by and bye."
Scarcely was breakfast over than there came a modest knock at the door, which, on being opened by Miss Jemima, revealed the presence of the elder of the little twin hucksters, who still carried on business across the way.
Miss Jemima drew herself up like a sentry; and little Tommy Dudgeon, finding himself confronted by this formidable lady, would have beaten a hasty retreat. But it was too late.
"I beg your pardon, ma'am," he began humbly; "I came to see your brother."
"I don't know," was the lady's lofty reply. "My brother has much business on hand."
"No doubt, ma'am; but—but—"
At this point "Cobbler" Horn himself came to the door, and Miss Jemima retreated into the house.
"Good morning, Tommy," said "Cobbler" Horn heartily, "step in."
"Thank you, Mr. Horn," was the modest reply, "I'm afraid I can't. Business presses, you know. But I've just come to congratulate you if I may make so bold. Brother would have come too; but he's minding the twins. It's washing day, you see. He'll pay his respects another time."
John Dudgeon had been married for some years, and amongst the troubles which had varied for him the joys of that blissful state, there had recently come the crowning calamity of twins—an affliction which would seem to have run in the Dudgeon family.
"We are glad you have inherited this vast wealth, Mr. Horn," said Tommy Dudgeon. "We think the arrangement excellent. The ways of Providence are indeed wonderful."
"Cobbler" Horn made suitable acknowledgment of the congratulations of his humble little friend.
"There is only one thing we regret," resumed the little man; "and that is that your change of fortune will remove you to another sphere."
"Cobbler" Horn smiled.
"Well, well," he said, "we shall see."
Whereupon Tommy Dudgeon, feeling comforted, he scarcely knew why, said "Good morning" and ambled back to his shop.
About the middle of the morning "Cobbler" Horn and his sister sat down to deal with the letters. First they glanced at those which had arrived that morning, and then laid them aside for the time, until, in fact, they had dealt with those previously received. First came that of the assumed widow, to which Miss Jemima induced her brother to write a cautious reply, asking for a reference. To the man who asked for the loan of twenty pounds, Miss Jemima would have sent no reply at all; but "Cobbler" Horn insisted that a brief but courteous note should be sent to him, expressing regret that the desired loan could not be furnished. It did not need the persuasion of his sister to induce "Cobbler" Horn to decline all dealings with the importunate inventor; but it was with great difficulty that she could dissuade him from making substantial promises to the religious institutions from which he had received appeals.
"I think I shall consult the minister about such cases," he said.
The investigation of the second batch of letters was postponed until the afternoon.
During the morning, and at intervals throughout the day, others of "Cobbler" Horn's neighbours came to offer their congratulations, and were astonished to find him seated on his cobbler's stool, and quietly plying his accustomed task. To their remonstrances he would reply, "You see this work is promised; and if I am rich, I must keep my word. And then the habits of a lifetime are not to be given up in a day. And, to be honest with you, friends, I am in no haste to make the change. I love my work, and would as lief be sitting on this stool as anywhere else in the world."
There came some of his poorer customers, who greatly bewailed what they regarded as his inevitable removal from their midst. They could not congratulate him as heartily as they desired. They would rather he had remained the poor, kind-hearted, Christian cobbler whom they had always known. Many a pair of boots had he mended free of charge for customers who could ill afford to pay; not a few were the small debts of poor but honest debtors which he had forgiven; and not seldom had clandestine gifts of money or food found their way from his hands to one or another of these regretful congratulators. Perceiving the grief upon the faces of his friends, "Cobbler" Horn contrived, by means of various hints, to let them know that he would still be their friend, and to remind them that his enrichment would conduce to their more effectual help at his hands.
On one point all his visitors were agreed. Great wealth, they said, could not have come to any one by whom it was more thoroughly deserved, or who would put it to a better use. "The Lord," affirmed one quaint individual, "knew what He was about this time, anyhow."
In the afternoon, "Cobbler" Horn and his sister set about the task of answering the second batch of letters. They were all, with one exception, of a similar character to those of the first. The exception proved to be a badly-written, ill-spelled, but evidently sincere, homily on the dangers of wealth, and ended with a fierce warning of the dire consequences of disregarding its admonition. It was signed simply—"A friend."
"You'll burn that, I should think!" was Miss Jemima's scornful comment on this ill-judged missive.
"No," said "Cobbler" Horn, putting the letter into his breast pocket; "I shall keep it. It was well meant, and will do me good."
By tea-time their task was finished; and "Cobbler" Horn heaved a sigh of relief as he rose from his seat. But just then the postman knocked at the door, and handed in another and still larger supply of letters, at the sight of which the "Golden Shoemaker" staggered back aghast. The fame of his fortune had indeed got wind.
"Ah," exclaimed his sister, who was setting the tea-things, "you'll have to engage a secretary, as I said."
"COBBLER" HORN PAYS A VISIT TO HIS LANDLORD.
The day following his trip to London "Cobbler" Horn paid a visit to his landlord. His purpose was to buy the house in which he lived. Though he realized that he must now take up his actual abode in a house more suited to his altered circumstances, he wished to retain the possession and use of the one in which he had lived so long. The humble cottage was endeared to him by many ties. Here the best part of his life had been passed. Here his brief but blissful married life had been spent, and here his precious wife had died. Of this house his darling little Marian had been the light and joy; and her blithe and loving spirit seemed to haunt it still. These memories, reinforced by a generous purpose on behalf of the poor neighbours whom he had been wont to help, decided him to endeavour to make the house absolutely his own.
"Cobbler" Horn did not tell his sister of his intention with regard to the house. He simply said, after breakfast, that he was going out for an hour; and, though Miss Jemima looked at him very hard, she allowed him to depart unquestioned.
"Cobbler" Horn's landlord who was reputed to be enormously rich, lived in one of the most completely hidden parts of the town, which was approached by a labyrinth of very narrow and dirty streets. As "Cobbler" Horn pursued his tortuous way to this secluded abode, he pondered, with some misgiving, the chances that his errand would succeed. He knew his landlord to be a man of stubborn temper and of many whims; and he was by no means confident as to the reception with which his intended proposal would meet. It was characteristic that, as he thought of the difficulties of his enterprise, he prayed earnestly that, if God willed, he might obtain the gratification of his present desire. Then, with growing confidence and quickened step, he proceeded on his way, until, at length, he stood before his landlord's house.
The house was a low, dingy building of brick, which stood right across the end of a squalid street, and completely blocked the way. Over the door was a grimy sign-board, on which could faintly be distinguished the vague yet comprehensive legend:
"D. FROUD, DEALER."
The paint upon the crazy door was blistered and had peeled off in huge mis-shapen patches; the door-step was almost worn in two; the windows were dim with the dust of many years.
The door was opened by a withered crone, who, to his question whether Mr. Froud was in, answered in an injured tone, "Yes, he was in; he always was;" and, as she spoke, she half-pushed the visitor into a room on the left side of the entrance, and vanished from the scene. The room was very dark, and it was some time before "Cobbler" Horn could observe the nature of his surroundings. But, by degrees, as his eyes became accustomed to the gloom, he perceived that the centre of the apartment was occupied with an old mahogany table, covered with a litter of books and papers. There stood against the wall opposite to the window an ancient and dropsical chest of drawers. Facing the door was a fire-place, brown with rust, innocent of fire-irons, and piled up with heterogeneous rubbish. The walls and chimney-piece were utterly devoid of ornaments. The paper on the walls was torn and soiled, and even hung in strips. On the chimney-piece were several empty ink and gum bottles, an old ruler, and a further assortment of similar odds and ends. The only provision for the comfort of visitors consisted of two battered wooden chairs.
At first "Cobbler" Horn thought he was alone; but, the next moment, he heard himself sharply addressed, though not by name.
"Well, it's not rent day yet. What's your errand?"
It was a snarling voice, and came from the corner between the window and fire-place, peering in which direction, "Cobbler" Horn perceived dimly the figure of the man he had come to see. Mr. Daniel Froud had turned around from a high desk at which he had been writing in the gloom. How he contrived to see in so dark a corner was a mystery which belonged to the wider question as to the penetrating power of vision in general which he was known to possess. The small boys of the neighbourhood declared that he could see in the dark like a cat. He now moved a step nearer to "Cobbler" Horn, and stood revealed, an elderly, and rather undersized, grizzled, gnarled, and knotted man, dressed in shabby and antiquated clothes.
"Good morning, Mr. Froud," said "Cobbler" Horn, extending his hand, "I've come to see you on a little business."
"Of course you have," was the angry retort; and taking no notice of his visitor's proffered hand, the man stamped his foot impatiently on the uncarpeted floor. "No one ever comes to see me about anything else but business. And I don't want them to," he added with a grim chuckle. "Well, let us get it done. My time is valuable, if yours is not."
"My time also is not without value," was the prompt reply. "I want to ask you, Mr. Froud, if you will sell me the house in which I live."
If Daniel Froud was surprised, he completely concealed the fact.
"If I would sell it," was his coarse rejoinder, "you, 'Cobbler' Horn, would not be able to buy it."
"I am well able to buy the house, Mr. Froud," was the quiet response.
Daniel Froud keenly scrutinized his visitor's face.
"I believe you think you are telling the truth," he said. "Mending pauper's boots and shoes must be a profitable business, then?"
"I have had some money left to me," said "Cobbler" Horn.
The interest of Daniel Froud was awakened at once.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, "that is it, is it? But sit down, Mr. Horn," and the grizzled reprobate pushed towards his visitor, who had hitherto remained standing, one of his rickety and dust-covered chairs.
"Cobbler" Horn looked doubtfully at the proffered seat, and said that he preferred to stand.
"If you are willing to sell me the house, Mr. Froud," he said, "name your price. It is not my intention to waste your time."
Daniel Froud still pondered. It was no longer a question whether he should sell "Cobbler" Horn the house: he was beginning already to consider how much he should ask for it.
"So you really wish to buy the house, Mr. Horn?" he asked.
"Such is my desire."
"And you think you can pay the price?"
"I have little doubt on that point."
"Well"—with a sudden jerk forward of his forbidding face—"what do you say to L600?"
Unsophisticated as he was, "Cobbler" Horn felt that the proposal was exorbitant.
"You are surely joking?" he said.
"You think the price too small?"
"I consider it much too large."
"Well, perhaps I was joking, as you said. What do you think of L500?"
"I'm afraid even that is too much. I'll give you L450."
Daniel Froud hesitated for some minutes, but at last said, "Well, I'll take your offer, Mr. Horn; but it's a dreadful sacrifice."
A few minutes sufficed to complete the agreement; and then, in taking his departure, "Cobbler" Horn administered a word of admonition to his grasping landlord.
"Don't you know, friend," he said, "that it is a grievous sin to try to sell anything for more than it is worth? And how contemptible it is to be so greedy of money! It does not seem to me that money is to be so eagerly desired, and especially if it does one no more good than yours seems to be doing you. Good morning, friend; and God give you repentance."
Mr. Froud had listened open-mouthed to this plain-spoken homily. When he came to himself, he darted forward, and aimed a blow with his fist, which just failed to strike the back of his visitor, who was in the act of leaving the room.
Confronting him in the doorway was the old crone who kept his house.
"Was that Horn, the shoemaker?" she asked.
"Horn as has just come into the fortune?"
"'Somewhat!' It's said to be about a million of money! Look here!" and she showed him a begrimed and crumpled scrap of newspaper, containing a full account of "Cobbler" Horn's fortune.
With a cry, Daniel Froud seized the woman, and shook her till it almost seemed as though the bones rattled in her skin.
"You hell-cat! Why didn't you tell me that before?"
The wretched creature fell back panting against the door on the opposite side of the passage.
"Daniel Froud," she said, when she had sufficiently recovered her breath, "the next time you do that I shall give you notice."
With which dreadful threat, she gathered herself together, and hobbled back to her own quarter of the dingy house, leaving Mr. Froud to bemoan the absurdly easy terms he had made with "the Golden Shoemaker."
"If I had only known!" he moaned; "if I had only known!"
That evening "Cobbler" Horn told his sister what he had done, and why he had done it; and she held up her hands in dismay.
"First," she said, "I don't see why you should have bought the house at all; and, secondly, you have paid far more for it than it is worth."
"I suppose you'll be looking out for a tenant for this house, when you've found somewhere for us to go?" queried Miss Jemima, at breakfast the next morning.
"Well, no," replied her brother, "I think not." "Why," cried Miss Jemima, "I hope we are not to go on living in this poky little place!"
"No, that is not exactly my intention, either," said "Cobbler" Horn. "We must, I suppose, remove to another house. But I wish this one to remain very much as it is; I shall want to use it sometimes."
"Want to use it sometimes!" echoed Miss Jemima, in a mystified tone.
"Yes; you see I don't feel that I can give up my lifelong employment all at once. So I've been thinking that I'll come to the old workshop, now and then, and do a bit of cobbling just for a change."
Here he paused, and moved uneasily in his chair.
"It wouldn't do to charge anything for my work now, of course," he continued; "so I've made up my mind to do little bits of jobs, now and again, without any pay, for some of the poor people round about, just for the sake of old times, you know."
Miss Jemima's hands went up with their accustomed movement of dismay.
"Why, that will never do," she cried. "You'll have all the thriftless loons in the town bringing you their boots and shoes to mend."
"I must guard against that," was the quiet reply.
"Well," continued Miss Jemima, in an aggrieved tone, "I altogether disapprove of your continuing to work as if you were a poor man. But you ought, at least, to make a small charge. Otherwise you will be imposed upon all round."
Finding, however, that she could not move her brother from his purpose, Miss Jemima relinquished the attempt.
"Well, Thomas," she concluded, "you can never have been intended for this world and its ways. There is probably a vacancy in some quite different one which you ought to have filled."