"If I don't come back, Jemima," said "Cobbler" Horn, as though he had read his sister's thoughts, "you will know what my will contains soon enough. If I do—of which I have little doubt—I will tell you all about it myself."
After dinner, "Cobbler" Horn retired, with his secretary, to the office, for the purpose of dealing with the letters which had accumulated during his absence from home. As they proceeded with their work, Miss Owen learnt that, while her employer was away in America, she was to have discretionary powers with regard to the whole of the correspondence. With all her self-confidence, the young secretary was rather staggered by this announcement; but she could obtain no release from the firm decree.
"You see, I have perfect confidence in you, Miss Owen," explained "Cobbler" Horn, simply; "and besides, you know very well that, in most cases, you are better able to decide what to do than I am myself. But, if there are any of the letters that you would rather not deal with till I come back, just let them wait."
This matter had been arranged during the first half-hour, in the course of a dropping conversation, carried on in the pauses of their work. They had put in a few words here and there in the crannies and crevices of their business so to speak. In the same manner, "Cobbler" Horn now proceeded to tell his secretary of his interview with his lawyers, and of the making of his will.
"The Golden Shoemaker" had already become wonderfully attached to his young secretary. She had exercised no arts; she had practised no wiles. She was a sincere, guileless, Christian girl. Shrewd enough she was, indeed, but utterly incapable of scheming for any manner of selfish or sordid end. With her divine endowment of good looks and her consecrated good nature, she could not fail to captivate; and there is small room for wonder that she had made large inroads upon "Cobbler" Horn's big heart.
The degree to which his engaging young secretary had won the confidence of "Cobbler" Horn will appear from the fact that he was about to reveal to her, this afternoon, those particulars with regard to his recently-made will the communication of which to his sister he had avowedly postponed. It was not his intention to treat Miss Jemima with disrespect. He felt that he could freely talk to Miss Owen; with his sister it would be a matter of greater delicacy to deal. He often fancied that his young secretary was just such as his darling Marian would have been; and quite naturally, and very simply, he told her about his will, and even spoke of the money that was to be invested for his lost child. He was quite able now to talk calmly of the great sorrow of his life. The gentle and continued rubbing of the hand of time had allayed its sharper pang.
"What do you think of it all, Miss Owen?"
"I think, Mr. Horn," said the secretary, with the end of her penholder between her ruby lips, and a wistful look in her dark eyes, "that your daughter would be a very fortunate young lady, if she only knew it; and that there are not many fathers like you."
"Then you think I have done well?"
"I think, sir, that you have done better than well."
After another spell of work, Miss Owen looked up again with an eager face.
"What was your little Marian like, Mr. Horn?" she asked, in a tender and subdued tone.
"Well, she was——" But the ardent girl took him up before he could proceed.
"Would she have grown to be anything like me? I suppose she would be about my age."
She was leaning forward now, with her elbows on the table, and her hands supporting her chin. Her richly-tinted cheeks glowed with interest; her large, dark eyes shone like two bright stars. The question she had asked could not be to her more than a subject of amiable curiosity; but no doubt the enthusiastic nature of the girl fully accounted for the eagerness with which she had spoken. Her sudden enquiry wafted "Cobbler" Horn back into the past; and there rose before him the vision of a bonny little nut-brown damsel of five summers, with eyes like sloes, and a mass of dusky hair. For an instant he caught his breath. He was startled to see, in the face of his young secretary what he would probably never have detected, if her question had not pointed it out.
"Well, really, Miss Owen," he said, simply, "now you speak of it, you are something like what my little Marian may have grown to be by this time."
"How delicious!" exclaimed Miss Owen.
"Cobbler" Horn was gazing intently at his young secretary. What vague surmisings, like shadows on a window-blind—were flitting through his brain? What dim rays of hope were struggling to penetrate the gloom? Suddenly he started, and shook himself, with a sigh. Of course it could only be a fancy. How strange the frequent inability to perceive the significance of circumstances plainly suggestive of the fulfilment of some long-cherished hope! The joy, deferred so long comes, at last, in an hour when we are not aware, only to find us utterly oblivious that it is so near!
"Well, Miss Owen," said "Cobbler" Horn, rising to his feet, "I must be going to my cobbling. If you want me, you will know where to come."
"Yes, Mr. Horn."
She was aware of his custom of resorting now and then to his old workshop. When he was gone, she paused for a moment, with her penholder once more between her lips.
"How nice to think that I am like what that dear little Marian would have been! I wonder whether we should have been friends, if she had lived? Poor little thing, she's almost sure to be dead! Though, perhaps not—who can tell? How queer that Mr. Horn should have lost a little girl, just as I must have been lost, and about the same time too! As for my being like her—perhaps, after all, that's only a fancy of his. Well, at any rate, I must comfort and help him all I can. I can't step into his daughter's place exactly; but God has put it into my power to be to him, in many things, what little Marian would have been if he had not lost her; and for Christ's sake——"
At this point, the young secretary's thoughts became too sacred for prying eyes. Very soon she turned to her writing again. Half an hour later, the afternoon post arrived, bringing, amongst other letters, one or two which necessitated an immediate interview with "Cobbler" Horn. To trip up to her bedroom and dress herself for going out was the work of a very few moments; and in a short time she was entering the street where "Cobbler" Horn and his sister had lived so long, and whence the hapless little Marian had so heedlessly set out into the great world, on that bright May morning so many years ago.
As Miss Owen entered the narrow street, she involuntarily raised her hand to her forehead. The weird feeling of familiarity with the old house and its vicinity, of which she had already been conscious more than once, had crept over her again.
"How very strange!" she said to herself. "But there can't be anything in it!"
As she approached the house, she became aware of the unconcealed scrutiny of a little man who was standing in the doorway of a shop on the other side of the street.
It was Tommy Dudgeon, who had just then come to the door to show a customer out, a civility which he was wont to bestow, if possible, upon every one who came to the shop. Lingering for a moment, in the hope of descrying another customer, he saw Miss Owen coming down the street. Tommy knew about "Cobbler" Horn's secretary; but he had not, as yet, had a fair view of the young lady. He had not even thought much about her, and he did not suspect that it was she who was now coming along the street, until she passed into the old house. But, as he saw her now, with her black hair and dark glowing face, walking along the pavement in her decided way, he felt, as he afterwards said, "quite all-overish like." It was, at first, the vaguest of impressions that he received. Then, as he gazed, he began to think that he had seen that figure before—though he continued to assure himself that he had not; and then, as Miss Owen drew nearer, he concluded that there must be some one of whom she reminded him—some one whom he had known long ago. Then, with a flash, came back to him the scene—never to be forgotten—on that long-ago May morning; and Tommy Dudgeon heaved a sigh, for he had obtained his clue.
"What a rude little man!" thought Miss Owen. "And yet he looks harmless enough. Why he must be one of the little twin shopkeepers of whom I have heard Mr. Horn speak. That will account for his interest in me."
The absorption of the young secretary in the duties of her office, during her stay in the old house, no doubt fully accounted for the fact that she had not become more familiar with the appearance of Tommy Dudgeon.
By this time Tommy had withdrawn into his shop. But he continued to watch. Standing partly concealed behind some of the merchandise displayed in the shop window, he saw Miss Owen enter "Cobbler" Horn's former abode, and then waited for her once more to emerge.
In ten minutes the young secretary again appeared. Pausing on the door-step, she looked this way and that, and then, with emphatic tread, stepped out in the very track of the little twinkling feet which Tommy had watched in their last departure on that ill-fated spring morning so long ago. The little man craned his neck to see the better through the window, and then, unable to restrain himself, he hurried to the doorway of the shop once more, and, with enlightened eyes, watched the figure of the girl till it passed out of sight. Then he turned, and rushed into the kitchen behind the shop. His brother was trying to put one of the twins to sleep by carrying it to and fro; his brother's wife was making bread. He raised his hands.
"She's come back!" he cried. Then, recollecting himself, he said, more quietly, "I mean I've seen the sec'tary."
ON THE OCEAN.
The evening of the next day saw "the Golden Shoemaker" steaming out of the Mersey, on board the first-rate Atlantic liner on which his passage had been taken by Messrs. Tongs and Ball. Miss Jemima had bidden her brother a reluctant farewell. In her secret soul, she nursed a doubt, of which, indeed, she was half-ashamed, as to the prospect of his safe return; and she endeavoured to fortify her timorous heart by the utterance of sundry sharp speeches concerning the folly of his enterprise.
The voyage across the great ocean, in the splendid floating hotel in which he had embarked was a new and delightful experience to "Cobbler" Horn. But his peace of mind sustained brief disturbance on his being shown to his quarters on board the vessel. His lawyers had, as a matter of course, taken for their wealthy client a first-class passage. It had not occurred to him to give them any instructions on the point, and they had taken it for granted that they were doing what he would desire. Perhaps, if they had asked him, he might, in his ignorance of such matters, have said, "Oh yes, first-class, by all means." But when he saw the splendid accommodation which his money had procured, he started back, and said to the attendant:
"This is much too grand for me. Can't I make a change?"
The attendant stared in surprise.
"'Fraid not sir," he said, "every second-class berth is taken."
"I don't mind about the money," said "Cobbler" Horn hastily. "But I should be more comfortable in a plainer cabin," and he looked around uneasily at the luxurious and splendid appointments of the quarters which had been assigned to him, as his home, for the next few days.
The attendant, regarding with a critical eye the modest attire and unassuming demeanour of "Cobbler" Horn, inwardly agreed with what this somewhat eccentric passenger had said.
"The only way, sir," said the man, at length, "is to get some one to change with you."
"Ah, the very thing! How can it be managed?"
The attendant mused with hand on chin.
"Well, sir," he said, gliding into an interrogative tone, "if you really mean it——?"
"Most certainly I do."
"Then I think I can arrange it for you, sir. There is one second-class passenger who would probably jump at such a chance. He is an invalid; and it would be a great comfort to him to get into such quarters as these. I've heard a good bit about him since he came on board."
"Then he's our man," said "Cobbler" Horn; and then, he added hesitatingly, "there'll be a sovereign for you, if you manage it at once. I'll wait here till you let me know."
The attendant sped on his errand, and, before night, the desired exchange had been duly made—"Cobbler" Horn was established in the comfortable and congenial accommodation afforded by a second-class cabin, and the invalid passenger was blessing his unknown benefactor, as he sank to rest amidst the luxury of his new surroundings.
It was late autumn, and the sea, though not stormy, was sufficiently restless to make the commencement of the passage unpleasant for all who were not good sailors. "Cobbler" Horn was not one of these; and, when, upon the second day out, he observed the deserted appearance of the decks and saloons, and, on making enquiry of an official, learnt that most of the passengers were sick, he realized with a healthy and grateful thrill of pleasure, that he was blessed with immunity from the almost universal tribulation which waylays the landsman who ventures on the treacherous deep.
It will, therefore, be readily believed that "the Golden Shoemaker" keenly enjoyed the whole of the voyage. He breathed the fresh, briny air with much relish; the wonders of the sea furnished him with many instructive and pious thoughts; and the ship itself supplied him with an inexhaustible fund of interest. In particular, he paid frequent visits to the steerage, where large numbers of emigrants were bestowed. He spent many hours amongst these poor people; and, by entering into conversation with such of them as were disposed to talk, he became acquainted with many cases of necessity, which he was not slow to relieve. Nor did the gifts of money, which he bestowed with his usual large generosity, constitute the only form of help he gave. In a thousand nameless ways he ministered to the wants and relieved the difficulties of his humble fellow-passengers, who quickly came to look upon him as the good genius of the ship. As a matter of course, the whisper soon went round, "Who is he?" And when, in some inscrutable way, the truth leaked out, the poor people regarded him with a kind of awe. Some, indeed, criticised, and said he did not look much like a millionaire; but there were many in that motley crowd in whose hearts, during those few brief days on the ocean, "Cobbler" Horn made for himself a very sacred place.
In the course of a day or two, the decks and saloons began to assume a more animated appearance. Hitherto "Cobbler" Horn had not greatly attracted the attention of the passengers with whom he was more immediately associated; but now that they were in a condition to think of something other than their own concerns, their interest in him began to awake. Who had not heard of "the Golden Shoemaker"—"The Millionaire Cordwainer"—"The Lucky Son of Crispin"—as he had been variously designated in the newspapers of the day? When it became known that so great a celebrity was on board, there was a general desire to make his acquaintance. Some vainly asked the captain to give them an introduction; some boldly introduced themselves.
"Cobbler" Horn was courteous to all, in his homely way; but he showed no anxiety to become further acquainted with these obtrusive persons. The simplicity of his manners and the plainness of his dress caused much surprise; and the public interest concerning him sensibly quickened when whispers floated forth of the giving up of his berth to the invalid passenger, and of his charitable doings amongst the poor emigrants.
During the voyage, "the Golden Shoemaker" spent much time in close and prayerful study of his Bible, which had ever been, and still was, his dearest, and well nigh his only, book. He was induced to do this not only by his love of the Book itself, but also by a definite desire to absorb, and transfuse into his own experience, all those teachings of the Word of God which bore upon the new position in which he had been so strangely placed.
First of all, he turned to certain notable passages of Scripture which shot up before his memory like well-known beacon-lights along a rocky coast. There glared upon him, first of all, the lurid denunciation which opens the fifth chapter of the Epistle of James, commencing, "Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you!" "God forbid," he cried, "that my 'gold and silver' should ever become 'cankered!' It would be a terrible thing for their 'rust' to 'witness against me,' and eat my 'flesh as it were fire'; and it would be yet more dreadful for the money which has such power for good to be itself given up to canker and rust!" Then he would meditate on the uncompromising declarations of Christ—"How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of God!" "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God." He trembled as he read; but, pondering, he took heart again. Though hard, it was not impossible, for a man of wealth to enter into the Kingdom of God. "Camel!" "Eye of a Needle!" He did not know exactly what this strange saying meant; but he thought he had heard the minister say that it was intended to show the great difficulty involved in the salvation of a rich man. Then he read further, "How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the Kingdom of God," and that seemed to make the matter plain. "Ah," he thought, "may I be saved from ever trusting in my riches!"
He plucked an ear of wholesome admonition from the parable of the Sower. "The deceitfulness of riches!" he murmured. "How true!" And he subjected himself to the most vigilant scrutiny, lest he should be beguiled by the unlimited possibilities of self-indulgence which his wealth supplied. He turned frequently to the emphatic declaration of Paul to Timothy. "They that will be rich," it runs, "fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." "Ah!" he would exclaim, "I didn't want to be rich. At the very most Agur's prayer would have been mine: 'Give me neither poverty nor riches.' But it's quite true that riches bring 'temptations' and are a 'snare,' whether people 'will' be rich or become rich against their will; and I must be on the watch. And then there's that about 'the love of money' being 'the root of all evil!'" As he spoke, he drew a handful of coins from his pocket, and eyed them askance. "Queer things to love!" he mused. And then, as he thought of his balance at the bank, his large rent-roll, and his many profitable investments, his face grew very grave. "Ah," he sighed, letting copper, silver, and gold, slide jingling back into his pocket, "I think I have an idea how some people get to love their money. Lord save me."
He was very fond of the book of Proverbs. Its short, sententious sentences were altogether to his mind. "There is that scattereth," he read, "and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty." "I scatter," he said; "but I don't want to increase. Lord, spare me the consequences of my scattering! 'Withholdeth more than is meet'! Lord, by Thy grace, that will not I! I have no objection to poverty; but I would not have it come in that way!"
"There is that maketh himself rich," he read again, "Yet hath nothing; there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches." "Ah," he sighed, "to possess such riches, I would gladly make myself poor!" But there was one text in the book of Proverbs which "Cobbler" Horn could never read without a smile. "The poor," it ran "is hated even of his own neighbour; but the rich hath many friends." He thought of his daily shoals of letters, of the numerous visiting cards which had been left at the door of his new abode, and of the obsequious attentions he had begun to receive from the office-bearers and leading members of his church; and he called to mind the eagerness of his fellow-voyagers to make his acquaintance. "Ah" he mused shrewdly, "friends, like most good things, are chiefly to be had when you don't need them!"
In these sacred studies, the days passed swiftly for "the Golden Shoemaker." Very different were the methods by which the majority of his fellow-passengers endeavoured to beguile the time. Amongst the least objectionable of these were concerts, theatricals, billiards, and all kinds of games. Much time was spent by the ladies in idle chat, to which the gentlemen added the seductions of cigar and pipe. There were not a few of the passengers, moreover, who resorted to the vicious excitement of betting; and "Cobbler" Horn marked with amazement and horror the eagerness with which they staked their money on a variety of unutterably trivial questions. The disposition of really large sums of money was made to depend, on whether a certain cloud would obscure the sun or not; whether a large bird, seen as they neared the land, would sweep by on one side of the ship or the other; whether the pilot would prove to be tall or short; and upon a multitude of other matters so utterly unimportant, that "the Golden Shoemaker" began to think he was voyaging with a company of escaped lunatics.
To one gentleman, who proposed to take a bet with him as to the nationality of the next vessel they might happen to meet, he gave a characteristic reply.
"Thank you," he said gravely, "I am not anxious on that subject; and, if I were, I should wait for the appearance of the vessel itself. Besides, I cannot think it right to risk my money in the way you propose. I dare not throw away upon a mere frivolity what God has given me to use for the good of my fellows. And then, if we were to bet, as you suggest, the one who happened to win would be receiving what he had no moral right to possess. I don't——"
Thus far the would-be better had listened patiently. But it was a bet he wanted, and not a sermon.
"I beg your pardon," he therefore said, at this point, "I see I have made a mistake;" and with a polite bow, he moved hastily away.
One fine evening, towards the end of the voyage, as "Cobbler" Horn was taking the air on deck, he was accosted by the attendant who had arranged the transfer of his berth from first to second-class.
"The gentleman, sir," he said, touching his cap, "who took your cabin——he——"
"Yes," interrupted "Cobbler" Horn; "how is he? Better, I hope."
"Much better, sir; and he thought, perhaps you would see him."
"Do you know what he wants?" asked "Cobbler" Horn, in a hesitating tone.
"Well, sir," replied the man, "he didn't exactly say; but I rather suspect it's a little matter of thanks. And, begging your pardon, sir, it's very natural."
"Cobbler" Horn was not offended at the man's freedom of address, as another in his place might have been.
"If that is all, then," he said, "I think he must excuse me. I deserve no thanks. I consulted my own inclination, as much as his comfort. I am glad he is better. Tell him he is heartily welcome, and ask him if there is anything more I can do."
The next morning, as "Cobbler" Horn stood talking, for a minute or so, to the captain, the obsequious attendant once more appeared. Touching his cap with double emphasis, in honour of the captain, he handed a letter to "Cobbler" Horn.
"From the gentleman in your cabin, sir. No answer, sir——I was told to say," and, once more touching his cap, the polite functionary marched sedately away.
"I must leave you to read your letter, Mr. Horn," said the captain; and, with the word, he withdrew to attend to his duties in another part of the ship.
"Cobbler" Horn's letter was brief, and ran as follows:
"Though I may not in person express my gratitude for your great kindness, I have that to tell which you ought to know. Poverty, sickness, loss of dear ones, perfidy of professed friends, and ills of all imaginable kinds, have fallen to my lot. I am an American. I have a young wife, and a dear little girl in New York. I have been to Europe upon what has turned out a most disastrous business trip. I came on board this vessel a battered, broken man, not knowing, and scarcely caring, whether I should live to reach the other side. Faith in Christianity, in religion, in God Himself, I had utterly renounced. But I want to tell you that all that is changed. I now wish, and hope, to live; my health is vastly improved; and—will you let me say it without offence?—I find myself able once more to believe in God, and in such religion as yours. I will not again ask you to see me; but if, after reading this letter, you should feel inclined to pay me a visit, I need not tell you how delighted I should be.
"THADDEUS P. WALDRON."
"Cobbler" Horn read this gratifying letter over and over again, with a secret joy. But it was not till the next day that he could bring himself to comply with the invitation of its closing sentence, and pay a visit to the writer. He found the young man, who was far on his way to recovery, full of thankfulness to him and of gratitude to God. It seemed that, previous to the accumulation of troubles beneath which his faith had given away, the young fellow had been a zealous Christian. "Cobbler" Horn found him sincerely penitent; and, during this, and succeeding interviews, he had the joy of leading him back to the Saviour.
As "Cobbler" Horn was leaving the vessel at New York, he witnessed the meeting of Thaddeus P. Waldron and his wife. Mrs. Waldron had come on board the steamer. She was a wholesome, glowing little woman, encumbered with no inconvenient quantity of reserve. She flung her arms impulsively around her husband's neck, and kissed him with a smack like the report of a pistol.
"Why, Thad," she cried, "do tell! You've completely taken me in! I expected a scarecrow. What for did you frighten me with that letter I got last week? It might have been my death!"
Then, with a little trill of a laugh, the happy woman hugged once more the equally delighted "Thad," and gave him another resounding kiss.
By this time the attention of those who were passing to and fro around them began to be attracted; and, amongst the rest, "Cobbler" Horn, who was held for a few moments in the crowd, was watching them with deep interest.
"Hold hard, little woman," exclaimed Thaddeus, "or I guess I sha'n't have breath left to tell you my news! And," he added, "it's better even than you think."
"Oh, Thad, do tell!" she cried, still regarding her husband with admiring eyes.
"Well, my health has been fixed up by the sea air, and the comfort and attention I've had during the voyage, which is all through the goodness of one man. I calculate that man 'ull have to show up before we leave this vessel. He wasn't out of sight five minutes ago."
As he spoke, he looked round, and saw the figure of "Cobbler" Horn, who, evidently in dread of a demonstration on the part of his grateful friend, was modestly moving away amongst the crowd. One stride of Thaddeus P. Waldron's long legs, and he had his benefactor by the arm.
"Here, stranger—no, darn it all, you aren't a stranger, no how you fix it—this way sir, if you please."
"Now, little woman," he exclaimed, triumphantly dragging his reluctant captive towards his wife, "this is the man you have to thank—this man and God! He gave up——"
"Oh," interrupted "Cobbler" Horn, "you mustn't allow him to thank me for that, ma-am. I did it quite as much for my own sake."
"Hear him!" exclaimed Thaddeus, with incredulous admiration. "Anyhow he made me think, little wife, that there was some genuine religion in the world after all. And that helped me to get better too. And the long and short of it is, I've been made a new man of, inside and out; and we're going to have some real good times! And now, old girl, you've just got to give the man whose done it all a hug and a buss, and then we'll come along."
"Cobbler" Horn started back in dismay. But Mrs. Thaddeus was thoroughly of her husband's mind. What he had been, as she knew from his letters, and what she found him now, passed through her mind in a flash. She was modest enough, but not squeamish; and the honest face of "Cobbler" Horn was one which no woman, under the circumstances, need have hesitated to kiss. So, in a moment, to the amusement of the crowd, to the huge delight of the grateful Thaddeus, and to the confusion of "the Golden Shoemaker" himself, the thing was done.
The next minute, the happy and grateful couple were gone, and "Cobbler" Horn had scarcely time to recover his composure before he found himself greeted by the agent of Messrs. Tongs and Ball, who, having been furnished by those gentlemen with a particular description of the personal appearance of their eccentric client, had experienced but little difficulty in singling him out. From this gentleman "Cobbler" Horn learnt that his ill-fated cousin had been removed from the wretched lodgings where he was found to the best private hospital in New York, where he was receiving every possible care. The agent had also engaged apartments for "Cobbler" Horn himself in a first-class hotel in the neighbourhood of the hospital. It was a great relief to "Cobbler" Horn that his conductor had undertaken the care of his luggage, and the management of everything connected with his debarkation. He was realizing more and more the immense advantages conferred by wealth. On being shown into the splendid apartments which had been engaged for him in the hotel, he shrank back as he had done from the first-class accommodation assigned to him on board the steam-boat. But this time he was obliged to submit. Wealth has its penalties, as well as its advantages.
It was early in the forenoon when the vessel arrived; and, when "the Golden Shoemaker" was duly installed in his luxurious quarters at the hotel, the agent left him, having first promised to come back at three o'clock, and conduct him to the bedside of his cousin.
At the appointed time the agent returned.
"Cobbler" Horn was eager to be going, and they at once set out. A few minutes brought them to the hospital where his cousin lay. They were immediately shown in, and "Cobbler" Horn found himself entering a bright and airy chamber, where he presently stood beside his cousin's bed.
The sick man had been apprised of the approaching visit of his generous relative from over the water, and he regarded "Cobbler" Horn now with a kind of dull wonder in his hollow eyes. At the same time he held out a hand which was wasted almost to transparency. "Cobbler" Horn took the thin fingers in his strong grasp; and, as he looked, with a great pity, on the sunken cheeks, the protruding mouth, the dark gleaming eyes, and the contracted forehead with its setting of black damp hair, he thought that, if ever he had seen the stamp of death upon a human face, he saw it now.
"Well, cousin Jack," he said sadly, "it grieves me that our first meeting should be like this."
Cousin Jack, struggling with strong emotion, regarded his visitor with a fixed look. His mouth worked convulsively, and it was some moments before he could speak. At length he found utterance, in hollow tones, and with laboured breath.
"Have you—come all this way—across the water—on purpose to see me?"
"Yes," replied "Cobbler" Horn, simply, "of course I have. I wanted you to know that you are to have your honest share of our poor uncle's money. And because I was determined to make sure that everything was done for you that could be done, and because I wished to do some little for you myself, I did not send, but came."
"Uncle's money! Ah, yes, they told me about it. Well, you might have kept it all; and it's very good of you—very. But money won't be much use to me very long. It's your coming that I take so kindly. You see, I hadn't a friend; and it seemed so dreadful to die like that. Oh, it was good of you to come!"
In his wonder at the loving solicitude which had brought his cousin across the water to his dying bed, he almost seemed to undervalue the act of rare unselfishness by which so much money had been relinquished which might have been kept without fear of reproach. "Cobbler" Horn was not hurt by the seeming insensibility of his poor cousin to the great sacrifice he had made on his behalf. He did not desire, nor did he think that he deserved, any credit for what he had done. He had simply done his duty, as a matter of course. But he was much gratified that his poor cousin was so grateful for his coming. He sat down, with shining eyes, by the bedside, and took the wasted hand in his once more.
"Cousin," he asked, "have they cared for you in every way?"
"Yes, cousin, they have done what they could, thanks to your goodness!"
"Not at all. Your own money will pay the bill, you know."
For a moment cousin Jack was perplexed. His own money? He had not a cent. in the world! He had actually forgotten that his cousin had made him rich.
"My own money?"
"Yes; the third part of what uncle left you know."
A slight flush mantled the hollow cheeks.
"Oh yes; what a dunce I am! I'm afraid I'm very ungrateful. But you see I seem to have done with such things. And yet the money is going to be of some use to me after all."
"Yes, that it is! It shall bring you comfort, ease, and, if possible, health and life."
The sick man shook his head.
"No," he said, wistfully; "a little of the first two, perhaps, but none of the last. I know I can't live many weeks; and it's no use deceiving myself with false hopes."
As "Cobbler" Horn looked at his cousin, he knew that he was not mistaken in his forecast.
"Cobbler" Horn did not remain long with his sick cousin at this time.
"There is one thing I should like," he said gravely, as he rose from his seat.
"There is not much that I can deny you," replied Jack; "what is it?"
He spoke without much show of interest.
"I should like to pray with you before I go."
Cousin Jack started, and again his pale face flushed.
"Certainly," he said, "if you wish it; but it will be of no use. Nothing is of any use now."
"The Golden Shoemaker" knelt down beside the bed, and prayed for his dying cousin, in his own simple, fervent way. Then, with a promise to come again on the following day, he passed out of the room.
The prayer had been brief, and poor Jack had listened to it with heedless resignation; but it had struck a chord in his bruised heart which continued to vibrate long after his visitor was gone.
The next day "Cobbler" Horn found his cousin in a more serious mood. The poor young man told him something of his sad history; and "Cobbler" Horn spoke many earnest and faithful words. It became increasingly evident to "Cobbler" Horn, day by day, that life was ebbing fast within his cousin's shattered frame; and he grew ever more anxious to bring the poor young fellow to the Saviour. But somehow the work seemed to drag. Jack would express a desire for salvation; and yet, somehow he seemed to be holding back. The hindrance was revealed, one day, by a stray question asked by "Cobbler" Horn.
"How about your will, Jack?"
Jack stared blankly.
"My will? Why should I make a will?"
"Because you have some money to leave."
"Ah! Whose will it be, if I die without a will?"
"Mine, I suppose," said "Cobbler" Horn reluctantly, after a moment's thought.
"Well, then, let it be; nothing could be better."
"But is there no one to whom you would like to leave your money?"
Jack looked fixedly at the already beloved face of his cousin. Then his own face worked convulsively, and he covered it with his wasted fingers.
"Yes, yes," he said, in tones of distress; "there is some one. That is—— You are sure the money is really my own?"
He seemed all eagerness now to possess his share of the money.
"To be sure it is," responded "Cobbler" Horn. "That is quite settled."
"Well, then, there is a poor girl who would have given her life for mine; but I have behaved to her like a brute. She shall have every penny of it."
"Cobbler" Horn listened with intense interest, and at once gave expression to a burning apprehension which had instantly pierced his mind.
"Behaved like a brute!" he exclaimed. "Not in the worst way of all, I hope, Jack?"
"No, no, not that!" cried Jack, in horror.
"Thank God! But now, do you know where this poor girl is to be found?"
"I think so. Her name is Bertha Norman, and her parents live in a village only a few miles from here. When I gave her up, I believe she left her situation, here in the city, and went home with a broken heart."
"Well, Jack, your decision will meet with the approval of God. But, in the meantime, we must try to find this poor girl."
"If you only would!"
"Of course. But, with regard to the other matter—you would like to have the thing done at once?"
"Oh yes; it would be better so."
"Then we'll arrange, if possible, for this afternoon. Perhaps you know a lawyer?"
"No. Amongst all my follies, I have kept out of the hands of the lawyers. But there is the gentleman who rescued me from that den, where I should have been dead by now. Perhaps he would do?"
"Ah, the agent of my lawyers in London! Well, I'll see him at once."
So the thing was done. That afternoon the lawyer came to receive instructions, and the next morning the will was presented and duly signed.
When the lawyer was gone, Jack turned feebly to "Cobbler" Horn.
"There's just one thing more," he said. "I must see her, and tell her about it myself."
"Would she come" asked "Cobbler" Horn. "And do you think it would be well?"
"'Come'? She would come, if I were dying at North Pole. And there will be no peace for me, till I have heard from her own lips that she has forgiven me."
"Ah!" ejaculated "Cobbler" Horn. "Do you say so?"
"Yes, cousin; I feel that it's no use to ask pardon of God, till Bertha has forgiven me. You know what I mean."
"Yes," said "Cobbler" Horn gently; "I know what you mean, and I'll do what I can."
"Thank you!" said Jack, fervently. "But it mustn't be by letter. You must go and see her yourself, if you will; and I don't think you will refuse."
"Cobbler" Horn shrank, at first, from so delicate and difficult a mission, for which he pronounced himself utterly unfit. But the pathetic appeal of the dark, hollow eyes, which gleamed upon him from the pillow, ultimately prevailed.
"Tell her," said Jack, as "Cobbler" Horn wished him good night, "that I dare not ask pardon of God, till I have her forgiveness from her own lips."
In a village almost English in its rural loveliness "Cobbler" Horn found himself, the next morning, face to face, in the little front-room of a humble cottage, with a pale, sorrowful maiden, on whose pensively-beautiful face hope and fear mingled their lights and shadows while he delivered his tender message.
"Would she go with him?"
"Go?" she exclaimed, with trembling eagerness, "of course I will! But how good it is of you, sir—a stranger, to come like this!"
So Bertha Norman came back with "Cobbler" Horn to the private hospital in New York. He put her into her cousin's room, closed the door, and then quietly came downstairs. Bertha did not notice that her conductor had withdrawn. She flew to the bedside. The dying man put out a trembling hand.
"Forgive——" he began in broken tones.
But she stifled his words with gentle kisses, and, sitting down by the bed, clasped his poor thin hand.
"Ask God to forgive you, dear Jack. I've never stopped loving you a bit!"
"Yes, I will ask God that," he said. "I can now. But I want to tell you something first, Bertha. I am a rich man."
Then he told her the wonderful story.
"Ah!" she exclaimed, "that was your friend who brought me here. I felt that he was good."
"He is," said Jack. "And now Bertha, it's all yours. I've made my will, and the money is to come to you when I'm gone. You know I'm going, Bertha?"
She tightened the grasp of her hand on his with a convulsive movement, but did not speak.
"It 'ull be your very own, Bertha," he said.
"Yes, thank you, dear Jack. But forgive me, if I don't think much about that just now."
Then there was a brief silence, which was presently broken by Jack.
"You won't leave me, yet, Bertha? You'll stay with me a little while?"
"Jack I shall never leave you any more!" and there was a world of love in her gentle eyes.
"Thank God!" murmured the dying man. "Till——till——you mean?"
"Yes; but, Jack, you must come back to God!"
"Yes, I will. But call cousin Thomas in."
She found "the Golden Shoemaker" in a small sitting-room downstairs; and, having brought him up to the sick-chamber, stood before him in the middle of the room, and, taking his big hand, gently lifted it, with both her tiny white ones, to her lips.
"In the presence of my dear Jack," she said, "I thank you. But, dear friend, I think you should take the money back when he is gone."
"My dear young lady," protested "Cobbler" Horn, with uplifted hand, "how can I take it, seeing it is not mine? But," he added softly, "we will not speak of it now."
True to her promise, Bertha did not leave her beloved Jack until the end; and the regular attendants, supplied by the house, so far from regarding her presence as an intrusion, were easily induced to look upon her as one of themselves. "Cobbler" Horn was rarely absent during the day-time; and, in the brief remaining space of poor Jack's chequered life, his gentle lover, and his high-souled cousin, had the great joy of leading him to entertain a genuine trust in the Saviour. The end came so suddenly, that they had no time for parting words; but they had good hope, as they reverently closed his eyes. When all was over, and he had been laid to rest in the cemetery, "Cobbler" Horn took Bertha back to her village home, and then set his face once more towards England, bearing in his heart a chastened memory, and the image of a sweet, pensive face.
It was with feelings of deep gratitude to God that "Cobbler" Horn set foot once more upon his native land. After having been away no longer than four weeks, he landed at Liverpool on a bright winter's morning, and, taking an early train, reached Cottonborough about mid-day. He had telegraphed the time of his arrival, and Bounder, the coachman, was at the station to meet him with the dog-cart. He had sent his message for the purpose of preparing his sister for his arrival; for he knew she preferred not to be taken unawares by such events. If he had given the matter a thought, he would have told them not to send to meet him at the station. He would much rather have walked, than ridden, a distance so short. And then he shrank, at all times, from the idea of making a public parade of his newly-acquired state. And, if all the truth must be told, he was—not awed, but mildly irritated, by the imposing presence, and reproachful civility, of the ideal Bounder.
Here was Bounder now, with his dignified salute. "Cobbler" Horn yearned to give the man a hearty shake of the hand, and ask him sociably how he had been getting on. This was obviously out of the question; but, just then, little Tommy Dudgeon happened to come up, on his way into the station. Here was an opportunity not to be let slip, and "Cobbler" Horn seized with avidity on his humble little friend, and gave him the hearty hand-shake which he would fain have bestowed upon the high and mighty Bounder. It was a means of grace to "the Golden Shoemaker" once more to clasp the hand of a compatriot and a friend. He stood talking to Tommy for a few minutes, while Bounder waited in his seat with an expression of very slightly veiled scorn on his majestic face.
At length, quite oblivious of the contemptuous disapproval of his coachman, and greatly refreshed in spirit, "Cobbler" Horn bade his little friend "good day," and mounted to his seat.
They drove off in silence. "Cobbler" Horn scarcely knew whether his exacting coachman would think it proper for his master to enter into conversation with him; and the coachman, on his part, would not be guilty of such a breach of decorum as to speak to his master when his master had not first spoken to him.
Miss Jemima was standing in the doorway to receive her brother; and behind her, with a radiant face, modestly waited the young secretary. Miss Jemima presented her cheek, as though for the performance of a surgical operation, and "Cobbler" Horn kissed it with a hearty smack. At the same time he grasped her hand.
"Well, Jemima," he exclaimed, "I'm back again safe and sound, you see!"
"Yes," was the solemn response, "I'm thankful to see you, brother,—and relieved."
"Cobbler" Horn laughed heartily, and kissed her on the other cheek.
"Thankful enough, Jemima, let us be. But 'relieved'! well, I had no fear. You see, my dear sister, the whole round world lies in the hand of God. And, then, I didn't understand the way the Lord has been dealing with me of late to mean that he was going to allow me to be cut off quite so soon as that."
This was said cheerily, and not at all in a preaching tone; and having said it, "Cobbler" Horn turned, with genuine pleasure, to exchange a genial greeting with his young secretary, who had remained sedately in the background.
"Dinner is almost ready," said Miss Jemima, as they entered the house; "so you must not spend long in your room."
"I promise you," said her brother, from the stairs, "that I shall be at the table almost as soon as the dinner itself."
During dinner, "Cobbler" Horn talked much about his voyage to and fro, and his impressions of America. He had sent, by letter, during his absence, a regular report, from time to time, of the progress of the sorrowful business which had taken him across the sea; and with regard to that neither he nor his sister was now inclined to speak at large.
After dinner, "Cobbler" Horn, somewhat to his sister's mortification, retired to the office, for the purpose of receiving, from his secretary, a report of the correspondence which had passed through her hands during his absence.
Let it not be supposed that Miss Jemima was capable of entertaining suspicion with regard to her brother. She would frown upon his doings and disapprove of his opinions, with complete unreserve; but she would not admit concerning him a shadow of mistrust. When, therefore, it is recorded that his frequent and close intercourse with his young secretary occasioned his sister uneasiness of mind, it must not be supposed that any evil imagining intruded upon her thoughts. Miss Jemima was simply fearful lest this young girl should, perhaps inadvertently, steal into the place in her brother's heart which belonged to her. As "Cobbler" Horn and his secretary sat in counsel, from time to time, in their respective arm-chairs, at the opposite ends of the office table, neither of them had any suspicion of Miss Jemima's jealous fears.
Miss Owen had dealt diligently, and with much shrewdness, with the ever-inflowing tide of letters. Her labour was much lightened now by reason of "Cobbler" Horn's having provided her with the best type-writer that could be obtained for money. With regard to some of the letters, she had ventured to avail herself of the advice of the minister; and she had also, with great tact, consulted Miss Jemima on points with reference to which the opinion of that lady was likely to be sound and safe. The consequence was that the letters which remained to be considered were comparatively few.
First, Miss Owen gave her employer an account of the letters of which she had disposed; then she unfolded such matters as were still the subjects of correspondence; and lastly she laid before him the letters with which she had not been able to deal.
The most important of all the letters were two long ones from Messrs. Tongs and Ball and Mr. Gray, respectively, relating to the improvements in progress at Daisy Lane in general, and in particular to the work of altering and fitting up the old Hall for the great and gracious purpose on which its owner had resolved. "The Golden Shoemaker" was gratified to learn, from these letters, that the work of renovating his dilapidated property had been so well begun, and that already, amongst his long-suffering tenants, great satisfaction was beginning to prevail. The remaining letters were passed under review, and then "Cobbler" Horn lingered for a few moment's chat.
"I mean to take my sister and you to see the village and the Hall one day soon, Miss Owen," he said.
"Oh, thank you, Mr. Horn!" enthusiastically exclaimed the young secretary.
"You would like to go?"
"I should love it dearly! I can't tell you, Mr. Horn, how much I am interested in that kind and generous scheme of yours for the old Hall."
In her intercourse with her employer, "Cobbler" Horn's secretary was quite free and unreserved, as indeed he wished her to be.
"It's to be a home for orphans, isn't it?" she asked.
"Not for orphans only," he replied, tenderly, as he thought of his own lost little one. "It's for children who have no home, whether orphans or not,—little waifs, you know, and strays—children who have no one to care for them."
"I'm doing it," he added, simply, "for the sake of my little Marian."
"Oh, how good of you! And, do you know, Mr. Horn, its being for waifs and strays makes me like it all the more; because I was a waif and stray once myself."
She was leaning forward, with her elbows on the table, and her pretty but decided chin resting on her doubled hands. As she spoke, her somewhat startling announcement presented itself to her in a serio-comic light, and a whimsical twinkle came into her eyes. The same impression was shared by "Cobbler" Horn; and, regarding his young secretary, with her neatly-clothed person, her well-arranged hair, and her capable-looking face, he found it difficult to regard as anything but a joke the announcement that she had once been, as she expressed it, "a waif and stray."
"You!" he exclaimed, with an indulgent smile.
"Yes, Mr. Horn, I was indeed a little outcast girl. Did not Mr. Durnford tell you that the dear friends who have brought me up are not my actual parents?"
"Yes," replied "Cobbler" Horn, slowly, "he certainly did. But I did not suspect——"
"Of course not!" laughed the young girl. "You would never dream of insulting me by supposing that I had once been a little tramp!"
"No, of course not," agreed "Cobbler" Horn, with a perplexed smile.
"It's true, nevertheless," affirmed Miss Owen. "Mr. and Mrs. Burton have been like parents to me almost ever since I can remember, and I always call them 'father' and 'mother'; but they are no more relations to me than are you and Miss Horn. They found me in the road, a poor little ragged mite; and they took me home, and I've been just like their own ever since. I remember something of it, in a vague sort of way."
"Cobbler" Horn was regarding his secretary with a bewildered gaze.
"You may well be astonished, Mr. Horn. But, do you know, sometimes I almost feel glad that I don't know my real father and mother. They must have been dreadful people. But, whatever they were, they could never have been better to me than Mr. and Mrs. Burton have been. They have treated me exactly as if I had been their own child."
Many confused thoughts were working in the brain of "Cobbler" Horn.
"But," said Miss Owen, resuming her work, "I must tell you about it another time."
"Yes, you shall," said "Cobbler" Horn, rousing himself. "I shall want to hear it all."
So saying, he left the room, and betook himself to his old workshop for an hour or two on his beloved cobbler's bench. He had placed the old house under the care of a widow, whom he permitted to live there rent free, and to have the use of the furniture which remained in the house, and to whom, in addition, he paid a small weekly fee.
As he walked along the street, he could not fail to think of what his secretary had just said with reference to her early life. His thoughts were full of pathetic interest. Then she too had been a little homeless one! The fact endeared to him, more than ever, the bright young girl who had come like a stream of sunshine into his life. For to "Cobbler" Horn his young secretary was indeed becoming very dear. It could not be otherwise. She was just filling his life with the gentle and considerate helpfulness which he had often thought would have been afforded to him by his little Marian. And now, it seemed to draw this young girl closer to him still, when he learnt that she had once been homeless and friendless, as he had too much reason to fear that his own little one had become. He had a feeling also that the coincidence therein involved was strange.
COMING INTO COLLISION WITH THE PROPRIETIES.
It is not surprising that, in his new station, "Cobbler" Horn should have committed an occasional breach of etiquette. It was unlikely that he would ever be guilty of real impropriety; but it was inevitable that he should, now and again, set at nought the so-called "proprieties" of fashionable life. In the genuine sense of the word, "Cobbler" Horn was a Christian gentleman; and he would have sustained the character in any position in which he might have been placed. But he had a feeling akin to contempt for the punctilious and conventional squeamishness of polite society.
It was, no doubt, largely for this reason that "society" did not receive "the Golden Shoemaker" within its sacred enclosure. Not that it rejected him. He had too much money for that; half his wealth would have procured him the entree to the most select circles. But the attitude he assumed towards the fashionable world rendered impossible his admission to its charmed precincts. He made it evident that he would not, and could not, conform to its customs or observe its rules. The world, indeed, courted him, at first, and would gladly have taken him within its arms. Fashion set to work to woo him, as it would have wooed an ogre possessed of his glittering credentials. But he repelled its advances with an amused indifference verging on contempt.
"Cobbler" Horn foiled, by dint of sheer unresponsiveness, the first attempt to introduce itself to him made by the world. On his return from America, one of the first things which attracted his attention was a pile of visiting cards on a silver salver which stood on the hall table. Some of these bore the most distinguished names which Cottonborough or its vicinity could boast. There were municipal personages of the utmost dignity, and the representatives of county families of the first water. It had taken the world some little time to awake to a sense of its "duty" with regard to the "Cobbler" who had suddenly acceded to so high a position in the aristocracy of wealth. But when, at length, it realized that "the Golden Shoemaker" was indeed a fact, it set itself to bestow upon him as full and free a recognition as though the blood in his veins had been of the most immaculate blue.
It was during his absence in America that the great rush of the fashionable world to his door had actually set in. But Miss Jemima had not been taken unawares. She had supplied herself betimes with a manual of etiquette, which she had studied with the assiduity of a diligent school-girl. She had also, though not without trepidation, ordered a quantity of visiting cards, and had them inscribed respectively with her own and her brother's names. And thus, when Society made its first advances, it did not find Miss Jemima unprepared.
When "Cobbler" Horn espied the visiting cards on his hall table, he said to his sister:
"What, more of these, Jemima?"
"Yes, Thomas," she responded, with evident pride; "and some of them belong to the best people in the neighbourhood!"
"And have all these people been here?" he asked, taking up a bunch of the cards between his finger and thumb, and regarding them with a mingling of curiosity and amusement.
"Yes," replied Miss Jemima, in exultant tones, "they have all been here; but a good many of them happened to come when I was out."
"Cobbler" Horn sighed.
"Well," he said, "I suppose this is another of 'the penalties of wealth!'"
"Say rather privileges, Thomas," Miss Jemima ventured delicately to suggest.
"No, Jemima. It may appear to you in that light; but I am not able to regard as a privilege the coming to us of all these grand people. How much better it would be, if they would leave us to live our life in our own way! Do you suppose they would ever have taken any notice of us at all, if it had not been for this money?"
Miss Jemima was unable to reply; for it was impossible to gainsay her brother's words. And yet it was sweet to her soul to have all the best people in the neighbourhood calling and leaving their cards. For the present, she let the matter rest. But, a day or two afterwards, the course of events brought the question to the surface again. Miss Jemima was brushing her brother's coat, in the dining-room, after dinner, previous to his setting out for his old workshop, when they saw a carriage drive up to the gate.
"Here are some more of your grand friends, Jemima," said "Cobbler" Horn, with a sigh. "How ever am I to get out?"
Miss Jemima was peeping out from behind the window-curtain, with the eagerness of a girl.
"Why," she exclaimed, as the occupants of the carriage began to alight, "it's Mr. and Mrs. Brownlow, the retired b——." "Brewer" she was going to say but checked herself. "Surely you will not think of going out now, Thomas?"
"Cobbler" Horn knew Mr. and Mrs. Brownlow very well by sight. He had known them before they rode in their carriage, and when they were much less splendid people than they had latterly become. He had never greatly desired their acquaintance when it was unattainable; and, now that it was being thrust upon him, he desired it even less than before. There was no reason why he should be intimate with this man. On what grounds had he called? "Cobbler" Horn could not refrain from regarding the visit as being an impertinence.
"My dear Jemima," he said, "I must be going at once. These people cannot have any business with me; and I have a good deal of work to do. You have received the other people; and you can manage these. But, Jemima, do not encourage them to come again!"
So saying, he moved towards the door; but Miss Jemima placed an agitated hand upon his arm.
"Thomas," she cried, "what shall I say to them?"
"Tell them I am obliged to go out. Do you think it would be right to keep my poor people waiting for their boots and shoes, while I spent the time in idle ceremony?"
Miss Jemima ceased to remonstrate, and her brother again moved towards the door. But, before he reached it, a servant appeared with the cards of Mr. and Mrs. Brownlow, who were by this time installed in the drawing-room. Miss Jemima took the cards, and "Cobbler" Horn made for the front-door.
"Not that way, Thomas!" she cried after him. "They'll see you!"
"Cobbler" Horn looked around in surprise.
"Why not, my dear? They will thus perceive that I have really gone out."
The next moment he was gone, and Miss Jemima was left to face the visitors with the best excuses she could frame.
The question of returning the numerous calls they had received occasioned much perplexity to Miss Jemima's mind. Nothing would induce her brother to accompany her on any expedition of the kind. While, therefore, in some cases, she was able to go by herself, in others she was obliged to refrain from going altogether, and, as a matter of course, offence was given. The natural consequence was that the number of callers rapidly diminished, and "the Golden Shoemaker's" reputation for eccentricity was thoroughly established.
"Cobbler" Horn very rarely consented to see any company who came merely to pay a call. But one afternoon, when his sister was out, he went into the drawing-room to excuse her absence, and, in fact, to dismiss the callers.
"My sister is not at home, ma'am," he said, addressing the buxom and magnificent lady, who, with her two slender and humble-looking sons, had awaited his coming.
Having delivered his announcement, he stood at the open door, as though to show his visitors out. The lady, however, quite unabashed, retained her seat.
"May I venture to say," she asked, "that, inasmuch as the absence of Miss Horn has procured us the pleasure of making the acquaintance of her brother, it is not entirely a matter of regret?"
"Cobbler" Horn bowed gravely.
"It is very good of you to say that, ma'am; but I'm afraid I must ask you to excuse me too. I'm very busy; and, besides, these ceremonies are not at all in my way."
The lady, who bore a title, changed countenance, and rose to her feet. She was conscious that she had been dismissed.
"Certainly, sir," she said, in accents of freezing politeness; "no doubt you have many concerns. We will retire at once."
The lady's sons also rose, moving as she moved, like the satellites of a planet.
"There is no need for you to go, ma'am," "Cobbler" Horn hastened to say, quite unaware that he had committed a grave breach of etiquette. "If you will only excuse me, and stay here by yourselves, for a little while, no doubt my sister will soon be back; and I'm sure she will be glad to see you."
"Thank you," was the haughty response of the angered dame; "we have already remained too long. Be good enough, sir, to have us shown out."
"Cobbler" Horn rang the bell; and, as the lady, followed by her sons, swept past him with a stately and disdainful bow, he felt that, in some way, he had grievously transgressed.
Miss Jemima, on her return, a few moments later, heard, with great consternation, what had taken place.
"I asked the good lady to wait till you came, Jemima; but she insisted on going away at once."
"Oh, Thomas, what have you done!" cried Miss Jemima, in piteous tones.
"What could I do?" was the reply. "You see, I could not think of wasting my time; and I thought they would not mind staying by themselves, for a few minutes, till you came in."
"Oh, dear," cried Miss Jemima, "I'm afraid she'll never come again!"
"Well, never mind, Jemima," said her brother; "I don't suppose it will matter very much."
The foreboding of Miss Jemima was fulfilled; the outraged lady returned no more. And there were many others, who, when they found that the master of the house had little taste for fashionable company, discontinued their calls. Some few of her new-made acquaintances only Miss Jemima was able, by dint of her own careful and eager politeness, to retain.
There were also other points at which "Cobbler" Horn came into collision with the customs of society. He persisted in habitually going out with his hands ungloved. He possessed a hardy frame, and, even in winter, he had rarely worn either gloves or overcoat; and now, as ever, almost his only preparation for going out was to take his hat down from its peg, and put it on his head. Miss Jemima pathetically entreated that he would at least wear gloves. But he was obdurate. His hands, he said, were always warm enough when he was out of doors; and he would try to keep them clean.
Another of the whims of "Cobbler" Horn was his fondness for doing what his sister called "common" work. One morning, for example, on coming down to breakfast, the good lady, looking through the window, saw her brother, in his shirt sleeves, engaged in trimming the grass of the lawn. With a little scream, she ran out at the front-door, and caught him by the arm.
"Thomas! Thomas!" she cried, "if you don't care about yourself, have a little thought for me!"
"What is it, Jemima?" he asked straightening himself. "Is breakfast ready? I'm very sorry to have kept you waiting. I'll come at once."
"No, no," exclaimed Miss Jemima; "it's not that! But for a man in your position to be working like a common gardener—it's shameful! Pray come in at once, before you are seen by any one going by! Without your coat too, on a sharp winter's morning like this!"
"My dear Jemima," said "Cobbler" Horn, as he turned with her towards the house, "if I were a common gardener, there would be no disgrace, any more than in my present position. There's no shame in a bit of honest work, anyhow, Jemima; and it's a great treat to me."
Miss Jemima's chief concern was to get her unmanageable brother into the house as quickly as possible, and she paid little heed to what he said.
BOUNDER GIVES WARNING.
There was another personage to whom the unconventional ways of "the Golden Shoemaker" gave great offence; and that was Mr. Bounder, the coachman. As a coachman, Bounder was faultless. His native genius had been developed and matured by a long course of first-class experience. In matters of etiquette, within his province, Bounder was precise. Right behaviour between master and coachman was, in his opinion, "the whole duty of man." He held in equal contempt a presuming coachman and a master who did not keep his place.
Bounder soon discovered that, in "Cobbler" Horn, he had a master of whom it was impossible to approve. Bounder "see'd from the fust as Mr. Horn warn't no gentleman." It was always the way with "them as was made rich all of a suddint like." And Bounder puffed out his red cheeks till they looked like two toy balloons. It was "bad enough to be kept waiting outside the station, while your master stood talking to a little feller as looked as like a rag and bone man as anythink; but when you was required to stop the kerridge and pick up every tramp as you overtook on the road, it was coming it a little too strong." This last was a slight exaggeration on the part of Bounder. The exact truth was that, on one occasion, his master had stopped the carriage for the purpose of giving a lift to a respectable, though not well-to-do, pedestrian, and in another instance, a working-class woman and her tired little one had been invited to take their seats on Bounder's sacred cushions, Bounder's master himself alighting to lift the bedusted child to her place.
But this was not the worst. The woman who lived in the little cottage past which Marian had trotted so eagerly, on the morning of her disappearance so long ago, had a daughter who was a cripple from disease of the spine. She was the only daughter, and, being well up in her teens, would have been a great help to her mother if she had been well. "Cobbler" Horn was deeply moved by the pale cheeks and frail bent form of the invalid girl. He induced his sister to call at the cottage, and they took the poor suffering creature under their care. It was not unnatural that the young secretary should also be enlisted in this kindly service. First she was sent to the cottage with delicacies to tempt the appetite of the sick girl; and then she began to go there of her own accord. During one of her visits, the mother happened to say:
"You see, miss, what she wants is fresh air. But how's she to get it? She can't walk only a few yards at a time; and even a mild winter's not the time for sitting out."
The woman spoke without any special design; but her words suggested to the mind of Miss Owen a happy thought. The young secretary was so firmly established, by this time, in the regard of her employer that she was able to approach him with the least degree of reserve. So she spoke out her thought to him with the frankness of a favourite daughter. An actual daughter would have thrown her arms around his neck, and emphasized her suggestion with a kiss. Miss Owen did not do this; but the tone of respectful yet affectionate confidence in which she spoke served her purpose just as well.
"Mr. Horn"—they were in the midst of their daily grapple with the correspondence—"the doctor says poor Susie Martin ought to have a great deal of fresh air. Don't you think a carriage drive now and then would be a good thing?"
Her knowledge of "Cobbler" Horn assured her that her suggestion would be adopted. Otherwise she would have hesitated to throw it out.
"Cobbler" Horn laid down the pen with which he had been making some jottings for the guidance of his secretary, and regarded her steadfastly for a moment or two. Then his face lighted up with a sudden glow.
"To be sure! Why didn't I think of that? My dear young lady, you are my good angel!"
That evening Miss Owen was desired to take a message to the cottage; and the next day Bounder was confounded by being ordered to convey Miss Owen and the invalid girl for a country drive, in the pony carriage. Bounder stared, became apoplectic in appearance, and stutteringly asked to have the order repeated. His master complied with his request; and Bounder turned away, with haughty mien, to do as he was bid. He was consumed with fierce mortification. He would bear it this time, but not again. He was like the proverbial camel, which succumbs beneath the last straw. Very soon the point would be reached at which long-suffering endurance must give way.
It was a deep grievance with Bounder that he was seldom ordered to drive to big houses. He was required to turn the heads of his horses into many strange ways. He was almost daily ordered to drive down streets where he was ashamed to be seen, and to stop at doors at which he felt it to be an indignity to be compelled to pull up his prancing steeds. Bounder hailed with relief the occasions on which he was required to take Miss Jemima out. Then he was sure of not receiving an order to obey which would be beneath the dignity of a coachman who, until now, had known no service but of the highest class. Such occasions supplied salve to his wounded spirit. But his wound was reopened every day by some fresh insult at the hands of his master. He had submitted to the odious necessity of driving out in his carriage the crippled girl, and that not only once or twice. But the tide of rebellion was rising higher and higher in his breast, and gathering strength from day to day; and, at length, Bounder resolved to give his master "warning," and remove himself from so uncongenial a sphere. He did not quite like to make his master's kindness to the poor invalid girl his ostensible reason for desiring a change; and, while he was looking around for a plausible pretext, the course of events supplied him with exactly such an occasion as he sought.
Bounder had not as yet become aware of the daily visits of his master to his old workshop. He had been kept in ignorance of the matter merely because there was no special reason why he should be informed. One afternoon, on leaving home, "Cobbler" Horn had left word with Miss Jemima for the coachman to come to the old house, with the dog-cart, at three o'clock. Bounder received the order with a feeling of apathetic wonder as to what new freak he was expected to countenance and aid. At the entrance of the street in which the old house stood, he involuntarily pulled up his horse. Then, with an air of ineffable disdain, he drove slowly on, and proceeded to the number at which he had been directed to call.
Summoning a passing boy, he ordered him to knock at the door. The boy contemplated disobedience; but a glance at Bounder's whip induced him to change his mind, and he gave the door a sounding rap. The door speedily opened, and Bounder's master appeared. But such was his disguise that Bounder was necessitated to rub his eyes. Divested of his coat, and enfolded in a leathern apron, "the Golden Shoemaker" stood in the doorway, with bare arms, holding out a pair of newly-mended hob-nailed boots.
"That's right," he said; "I'm glad you're punctual. Will you kindly take these boots to No. 17, Drake Street, round the corner; and then come back here;" and, stepping out upon the pavement, he placed the boots on the vacant cushion of the dog-cart, close to Bounder's magnificent person.
Bounder touched his hat as usual; but there was an evil fire in his heart, and, as he drove slowly away, a lava-tide of fierce thought coursed through his mind. That he, Bounder, "what had drove real gentlemen and ladies, such as a member of Parliament and a barrow-knight," should have been ordered to drive home a pair of labourer's boots! This was "the last straw," indeed!
Arrived at No. 17, Drake Street, Bounder altogether declined to touch the offending boots. He simply indicated them with his whip to the woman who had come to the door in some surprise, and ignoring her expression of thanks, turned the head of his horse, and drove gloomily away.
That night, "Cobbler" Horn's outraged coachman sought speech with his master.
"I wish to give you warning, sir," he said, touching his hat, and speaking in tones of perfect respect.
Bounder's master started. He had intended to make the best of his coachman.
"Why so, Bounder?" he asked. "Don't I give you money enough, or what?"
"Oh," replied Bounder, "the money's all right; but, to make a clean breast of it, the service ain't ezactly what I've been used to. I ain't been accustomed to drive about in back streets, and stop at cottages and such; and to take up every tramp as you meets; and to carry labourer's boots on the seat of the dog-cart."
"I'm afraid, Mr. Bounder," said "Cobbler" Horn, with a broad smile, "that I've hurt your dignity."
"Well, as to that, sir," said the coachman, uneasily, "all as I wishes to say is that I've been used to a 'igh class service; and I took this place under a mis-happrehension."
"Very well, Bounder," rejoined "Cobbler" Horn, more gravely, "then we had better part. For I can't promise you any different class of service, seeing it is my intention to use my carriages quite as much for the benefit of other people as for my own; and it is not at all likely that I shall drive about much amongst fashionable folks. When do you wish to go, Mr. Bounder?"
This was business-like indeed. Bounder was in no haste to reply.
"Because," resumed his master, "I will release you next week, if you wish."
"Well, sir," replied Bounder slowly, "I shouldn't wish to go under the month."
"Very well. But, you must know, Bounder, that I have no fault to find with you. It's you who have given me notice, you know."
Bounder drew himself up to his full height. "Fault to find" with him! The mere suggestion was an insult. But Bounder put it into his pocket.
"If you are in want of a character, now," resumed "Cobbler" Horn, "I shall——"
"Thank you, sir," interposed Bounder with hauteur, "I am provided as to that. There's more than one gentleman who will speak for me," and Bounder faced about, and marched away with his nose turned towards the stars.
The feeling of familiarity with the previous abode of her employer, and its surroundings, of which Miss Owen had been conscious at first, had become modified as the weeks went by. The removal to the new house had, no doubt, in part contributed to this result; and, very soon, if she did not forget the impression of revived remembrance of which she had been aware at first, she ceased to be conscious that any trace of it remained. She did not, indeed, forget that it had been; she remembered vividly the fact that, when she first entered the old house, she had almost felt as if she had come home. That feeling had now almost passed away. But she was beginning to ponder certain things which seemed to be connected with it in some vague way.
Though she had often been told of the circumstances under which she had been rescued from a life of poverty and possible shame, her own recollection of the matter was very dim. She seemed to remember a time of great trouble, and then a sudden change, since which all had been happy and bright; and certainly, if she had not been definitely informed of the fact, she would never have suspected that the kind friends to whom she owed so much were not her actual parents. That vague reminiscence of early distress would have lingered with her as the memory of a troubled dream, and nothing more.
Hitherto she had not been anxious for further information concerning her parentage and early life. There were times when she felt some small measure of dissatisfaction at the thought that she did not know who she really was. But this feeling was held in check by the consideration that, if her parents had been good and kind, she would probably not have been in a position to need the loving service which had been rendered to her by Mr. and Mrs. Burton; and she felt that she would a thousand times rather have them for her father and mother, than be compelled to give those dear names to such persons as it was more than likely her actual parents had been. For the most part, therefore, she had feared, rather than hoped, that her real father and mother might appear.
Now, however, vague surmisings were being awakened in the mind of the young secretary. Her kind employer had mysteriously lost a little girl. This suggested to her a new set of possibilities as to her own past. It came to her mind that perhaps she also had been lost, and that the misery she vaguely remembered, had been inflicted by other hands than those of her parents. If, like little Marian, she had actually wandered away, it was probably no fault of theirs, and perhaps they had been mourning for her all these years. Then, almost for the first time, she was conscious of an ardent desire to know who her parents had been. Over this question she pondered often and long. She could do nothing more—except pray. And pray she did. She asked that, if it were right and best, the cloud of obscurity might be lifted from her earlier years. And yet, as day by day she persisted in this prayer, she had a feeling that the prayer itself, and the desire from which it proceeded, might, perhaps, constitute a species of disloyalty to the only parents she seemed ever to have known. To this feeling her great love and strong conscientiousness gave birth. Yet she could neither repress her desire nor refrain from her prayer.
But there was another thing which "Cobbler" Horn had said. When his secretary asked him what little Marian would probably be like, if she were still alive, he, in all simplicity, and without perceiving the possible direction that might be given to her thoughts, had replied that his lost child, if living, would be not unlike what his secretary actually was. He probably intended no more than that there might be a general resemblance between the two girls; and he might be mistaken even in that. Miss Owen herself took such a view of the matter at the time, and passed it lightly by. But, afterwards, in the course of her ponderings, it came back again. The unpremeditated words, in which her employer had admitted the probability of a resemblance between herself and what his own lost child might most likely have become, seemed to find their place amongst the other strange things which were perplexing her mind.
Very deeply Miss Owen pondered these many puzzling things, from day to day. A momentous possibility seemed to be dawning on her view; but she was like one who, being but half-awake, cannot decide whether the brightness of coming day may not, after all, be merely a dim dream-light which will presently fade away. It appeared to her sometimes as though she were on the verge of the momentous discovery which she had often wondered whether she would ever make. Could it be that the mystery of her parentage was about to be solved, and that with a result which would be altogether to her mind? But, as often as she reached this point, she pulled herself sharply up. Her name was Mary Ann Owen: that settled the question at once. But was it so? There came a time when she began to have doubts even as to her name. Perhaps the wish was father to the thought. At any rate, she had never liked the name by which she was known; and now she was conscious of a very definite reason for wishing that it might, in some way, turn out not to be her name after all. Was it certain that her name was Mary Ann Owen? She had a strange, weird feeling at the thought of what the question implied. And there was distinct ground for doubt. When she had been found by her adopted parents, her baby tongue, in answer to their questioning, had pronounced her name as best it could. But, as her speech was less distinct than is usually that of a child of her apparent years, they had never felt quite sure about her name. The name by which she forthwith became known to them was the best interpretation they could put upon her broken words, and it had been accepted by the child herself without objection; but in the minds of Mr. and Mrs. Burton there had always been a lingering doubt. Miss Owen had been aware of this, but had given it little heed. Now, however, the fact that there was uncertainty as to her name came vividly to her mind. And yet, if her name was not Mary Ann Owen, it might be something else quite as far from her desires. But stay, might it not be supposed that her real name, whatever it might be, was similar in sound to the name her baby tongue had been thought to pronounce? She had tried to tell her kind friends her name; and they had understood her to say that it was Mary Ann Owen. If they were mistaken, what other name was there of similar sound? Ah, there was one! Then she thrilled with almost a delirium of delight, which quickly gave place to a guilty feeling—as though she had put forth her hand towards that which was too sacred for her touch.
"What silly day-dreams have come into my head!" she cried.
"The Golden Shoemaker" too had his ponderings, in these days. Of late he had been thinking more about his little Marian than for many years past; and, if he had searched for the reason of this, he would have discovered it in the fact that his young girl secretary daily reminded him, in various ways, of his long lost child. Miss Owen was—or so he fancied—very much like what his darling would have become. There was, to be sure, not much in that, after all; and the same might have been the case with many another young girl. But the points of resemblance between the history of his young secretary and the early fate of his little Marian constituted another circumstance of strange import. Like his own child, Miss Owen had been an outcast. Kind friends had given her a home. Might it not be that similar happiness had fallen to the lot of his little Marian? If he could think so, he would almost be reconciled to the prospect of never seeing her again. And every day he felt that his young secretary was making for herself a larger place in his heart.
A NOVEL DIFFICULTY FOR A MAN OF WEALTH.
The trouble with most people, rich and otherwise, is to know how to keep their money; how to get rid of it was the difficulty with which "the Golden Shoemaker" was beset. "Cobbler" Horn's unalterable purpose was to retain no more than a comparatively small portion of his wealth for his own use. Since he had entered upon his fortune, he had already given away a great deal of money; but it seemed to him a very trifling amount in proportion to the vast sum he possessed. He was, moreover, aware that he was getting richer every day. Since the property had come into his hands, the investments it comprised were yielding better than ever before; and he could not endure that such vast sums of money should be accumulating upon him, while there was so much misery and want in the world. He believed that his immense wealth had been given him, in trust, by God; and that it was not absolutely his own. The purpose of God, in bestowing it upon him, was that he should use it for the benefit of all who had any need which might be supplied by its means; and, by so much, it belonged, not to "Cobbler" Horn himself, but, under God, to those who possessed any such claim to its use. He was convinced that no preacher had ever been more definitely or solemnly called to the ministration of the "Word" than was he, "the Golden Shoemaker," to the ministry of wealth. And it was a ministry after his own heart. Full of Christ-like love and pity for the needy, the sad, and the sinful, he revelled in the gracious opportunities which now crowded his life. He had few greater pleasures, in these days, than that afforded him by the signing of cheques. To negotiate a contribution from him for some worthy object was a means of grace;—so hearty and joyous was his response to the appeal, and so thankful did he seem for the opportunity it had brought.