Never, perhaps, were the functions of a Christian man of wealth more clearly comprehended, or the possibilities of blessedness involved in the possession of riches more fully realized, than by "Cobbler" Horn. He often told himself that, by making others happy with his money, he secured the highest benefit it was able to impart. Thus bestowed, his wealth afforded him infinitely greater satisfaction, than if he had devoted it entirely to his own personal ends.
But "the Golden Shoemaker" was not satisfied. His money was not going fast enough. The amounts he had already dispensed appeared but as a few splashes of foam from the sea. He wanted channels for his benevolence. His difficulty was rare. Most men of means find that they have not the wherewithal to supply the demands of their own many-handed need. He was able to satisfy almost unlimited necessities beyond his own, but was sadly troubled to know how it might be done. Yet he was determined that he would not rest, until he had found means of disposing, in his Lord's service, of every penny that remained to him, after his own modest wants had been supplied.
Actuated by this purpose, "Cobbler" Horn resolved to pay another visit to his minister. Mr. Durnford had helped him before, and would help him again. Of set purpose, he selected Monday morning for his visit. Unless his business had been very urgent indeed, he would not have run the risk of disturbing Mr. Durnford at his studies by going to see him on any other morning than this. But he knew that, on Monday morning, the minister was accustomed to throw himself somewhat on the loose, and was rather glad, than otherwise, to welcome a congenial visitor at that time.
Mr. Durnford, as usual, gave his friend a cordial greeting. There was not a member of his church who occupied a higher place in his regard than did "Cobbler" Horn.
"Glad to see you, Mr. Horn!" he said, entering the dining-room, whither his visitor had been shown by the maid; and he heartily shook "the Golden Shoemaker" by the hand. "This is a regular 'Blue Monday' with me, as, indeed, most of my Mondays are; and a little brotherly chat will give me a lift. How go the millions?"
By this time they were seated opposite to each other, in two comfortable chairs, before a cheerful fire. The minister's half-joking question touched so closely the trouble just then upon "Cobbler" Horn's mind, that he took it quite seriously, and returned a very grave reply.
"The 'millions,' sir, are not going fast enough; in fact, they go very slowly indeed. And, to make a clean breast of it, that is what has brought me here this morning."
"Ah!" exclaimed Mr. Durnford, with deep interest.
"But, sir," added "Cobbler" Horn, half-rising, and putting out his hand, "don't let me hinder you. I can come another time, if you are busy just now."
"Don't speak of such a thing, my dear friend!" cried the minister, putting out his hand in turn. "Keep your seat. I'm never busy on a Monday morning—if I can help it. I am always ready, between the hours of nine and one on Monday, for any innocent diversion that may come in my way. I keep what is called 'Saint Monday'—at least in the morning. If I am disturbed on any other morning, I—well, I don't like it. But any reasonable person who finds me at home on a Monday morning—against which, I must admit, the chances are strong, for I frequently go off on some harmless jaunt—is quite welcome to me for that time."
"I had an idea of that, sir," responded "Cobbler" Horn.
"Ah, you are a most considerate man! But now, about the millions?"
"The Golden Shoemaker" smiled.
"Not 'millions,' sir—hardly one million yet—indeed a great deal less now, actually in my own hands; though I am seriously afraid of what it may become. All my investments are turning out so well, that the money is coming in much faster than I can get rid of it! It's positively dreadful! I shall have to increase my givings very largely in some way."
The minister held up his hands in mock astonishment; and there was a twinkle of honest pleasure in his keen, grey eyes.
"Mr. Horn, I believe you are the first man, since the foundation of the world, who has been troubled because his money didn't go fast enough!"
"Well, sir, that is the case."
His unwieldy wealth weighed too heavily upon his heart and conscience to permit of his adopting the half-humorous view of the situation which Mr. Durnford seemed to take.
"But surely, Mr. Horn," urged the minister, becoming serious, "there are plenty of ways for your money. To get money is often difficult; it should be easy enough to get rid of it."
"Yes, sir, there are plenty of ways. My poor, devoted secretary knows that as well as I do. But the puzzle is, to find the right ways. If I merely wanted to get rid of my money, the letters of a single week would almost enable me to do that."
"Yes, yes," said Mr. Durnford, "of course. I know exactly how it is. You could make your money up in a bag, and toss it into the sea at one throw, if that were all."
"Yes," replied "Cobbler" Horn, with a quiet smile; and he sighed faintly, as though he wished it were permissible to rid himself thus easily of his golden encumbrance.
"But that is not all, Mr. Durnford," he then said.
"No, Mr. Horn, you feel that it would not do to cast your bread on the waters in that literal sense. You are constrained to cast it, not into the sea, but, like precious seed, into the soil of human hearts and lives—soil that has been prepared by the plough of poverty and the harrow of suffering. Isn't that it, my friend?"
"Cobbler" Horn leaned forward in his chair, with glistening eyes.
"Yes, sir; go on; you are a splendid thought reader."
"You feel that merely to dispose of your money anyhow—without discrimination—would be worse than hoarding it up?"
"That I do, sir!"
"It is not your money, but the Lord's; and you wish to dispose of every penny in a way He would approve?"
"Yes, sir," was "Cobbler" Horn's emphatic confirmation; "and I'm so anxious about it that often I can't sleep at nights. I expect the Lord gave me all this money because He knew I should want to use it for Him; and I'm determined not to disappoint Him. I feel the more strongly on the subject, because there's so much of the Lord's money in the world that he never gets the benefit of at all."
The minister listened gravely.
"So you want my advice?"
"Yes, sir; and your help. My difficulty is that it is the unworthy who are most eager to ask for help. Those who are really deserving are often the last to cry out; and many of them would rather die than beg. Now, sir, I want you to help me to find out cases of real need, to tell me of any good cause that comes to your knowledge; and suggest as many ways as you can of making a good use of my money. Will you do this for me, sir? Although you have helped me so much already, I don't think you will refuse my request."
The minister listened to this appeal from "the Golden Shoemaker" with a feeling of holy joy.
"No, my dear friend," he said, "I will not refuse your request. How can I? Believing, with you, that your wealth is a Divine trust, I regard your appeal as a call from God Himself. Besides, you could not have demanded from me a more congenial service. You shall have all the help I can give; and between us," he added, with a reviving flicker of his previous facetiousness, "we shall make the millions fly."
"Thank you, heartily, sir. But I must warn you that you have undertaken no light task. We shall have to dispose of many thou——"
"We will make them vanish," broke in the minister, "like half-pence in the hands of a conjuror."
"I know," said "Cobbler" Horn, with a smile, "that you ministers are well able to dispose of the money."
"Yes, I suppose we are. But, dear friend, let it be understood, at the outset, that I can be no party to your defrauding yourself."
"It is all the Lord's money," said "the Golden Shoemaker."
"Yes; but, if you employ it for Him, He means you to have your commission."
"Oh, as to that, a very little will serve. My wants are few."
"My dear friend," remonstrated the minister, "are you not in danger of falling into a mistake? God has given you the power to acquire a great deal of the good of this world; and I don't think it would be right for you not to make a pretty complete use of your opportunities. Though you should be ever so generous to yourself, and live a very full and abundant life, you will still be able to give immense sums of money away; and such a life would fit you all the better to serve God in your new sphere."
"You think that, do you, sir?" asked "Cobbler" Horn, evidently impressed.
"I certainly do."
"Well, I will consider it; for I dare say you are right. But to return to what we were talking about just now, perhaps, sir, you could give me a hint or two, this morning, with regard to my money?"
Thus invited, Mr. Durnford ventured to mention several cases of individual necessity with which he was acquainted, and to indicate various schemes of wide-spread benevolence in which a man of wealth might embark.
"Cobbler" Horn listened attentively; and, having entered in his note-book the names Mr. Durnford had given him, promised also to consider the more general suggestions he had made.
"I am very much obliged to you, sir," he said; "and shall often come to you for advice of this kind."
"As often as you like, Mr. Horn," laughed the minister; "it doesn't cost much to give advice. It is those who follow it that have to pay."
"Yes," rejoined "Cobbler" Horn; "and that will I do most gladly."
So saying, he rose from his seat, and held out his hand.
"Good morning, sir!"
"Good morning, my dear sir!" said the minister, grasping the proffered hand. "By the way, how is Miss Owen getting on?"
"My dear sir, I owe you eternal gratitude for having made me acquainted with that young lady!"
"I'm glad of that, but not a bit surprised."
"She is a greater help to me than I can tell. And what a sad history she seems to have had—in early life, that is! Her childhood appears to have been a sad time."
"Ah, she has told you, then?"
"Yes, it came out quite by accident. She didn't obtrude it in any way."
"I am sure she wouldn't."
"And the fact that she was once a little outcast girl increases my interest in her very much."
"That," said the minister, "is a matter of course."
"COBBLER" HORN'S CRITICS.
The months passed. Christmas came, and was left behind, and now spring had fairly set in.
"The Golden Shoemaker" had become a person of great consideration to the dignitaries of his church. It is true there were those amongst its wealthy members by whom he was unsparingly criticised behind his back. But this did not deter them from paying him all manner of court to his face. He was startled at the importance which he had suddenly acquired. His acquaintance was sought on every side; and he found himself the subject of a variety of polite attentions to which he had been an entire stranger until now. Men of wealth and position who, though they were his fellow-members in the church, had never yet shaken him by the hand, suddenly discovered that he was their dear friend.
There was one rich man whose pew in the church was next to that of "Cobbler" Horn. Though this man had sat side by side with his poor brother for many years, in the house of God, he had seemed unaware of his existence. But no sooner did "Cobbler" Horn become "the Golden Shoemaker" than the attitude of his wealthy neighbour underwent a change. The first sign of recognition he bestowed upon his recently-enriched fellow-worshipper was a polite bow as they were leaving the church; next he ventured to show "Cobbler" Horn the hymn, when the latter happened to come late one day; and, at length, on a certain Sunday morning, as they were going out, he stepped into the aisle, and proffered his hand to "the Golden Shoemaker," for a friendly shake. "Cobbler" Horn started, and drew back. It was not in his nature to be malicious; and to decline the offered civility was the furthest thing from his thoughts. He was simply lost in amazement. The gentleman who was offering to shake hands with him was one of the most important men in Cottonborough. But his great astonishment arose from the fact that this mighty personage, after sitting within reach of him in the house of God for so many years, without bestowing upon him the slightest sign of recognition, should suddenly desire to shake him by the hand! The man noticed his hesitation, and was turning away with offended dignity. But "Cobbler" Horn quickly recovered himself, and, taking the hand which had been offered to him, gave it a heartier shake than it had, perhaps, ever received before.
"It was not that, Mr. Varley," he said, "I'm glad enough to shake hands with you, as I should have been long ago. But it did seem such a queer thing that we should have been sitting side by side here all these years, and you should never have thought of shaking hands with me before. I suppose the reason why you do it now is that the Lord has seen fit to make me a rich man. Now I really don't think I'm any more fit to be shaken hands with on that account. Personally, I'm very much the same as I've been any time these twenty years past; and it does seem to me a bit strange that you and others should appear to think otherwise."
"Cobbler" Horn spoke in a pleasant tone, and there was a twinkle of amusement in his eye. But Mr. Varley was not amused. Regarding "Cobbler" Horn with an expression of countenance which was very much like a scowl, he turned upon his heel and withdrew; and, during the week, he arranged for a sitting in another part of the church.
Mr. Varley was not the only rich and influential member of the church who had recently discovered in "Cobbler" Horn a suitable object of friendly regard. But the most cordial and obsequious of his wealthy fellow-members were ready enough to criticise him behind his back.
With the advice and help of the minister, he had begun to "make the millions fly," in good earnest; and his phenomenal liberality—prodigality, it was called by some—could not, in the nature of things, escape notice. It soon became, in fact, the talk of the town and of the country round. But it was by the members of his church that "Cobbler" Horn's lavish benefactions were most eagerly discussed. Various opinions were expressed, by his fellow-Christians, of "the Golden Shoemaker," and of the guineas with which he was so free. Some few saw the real man in their suddenly-enriched friend, and rejoiced. Others shook their heads, and said the "Shoemaker" would not be "Golden" long at that rate; and some scornfully curled their lips, and declared the man to be a fool. But the most bitter of "Cobbler" Horn's critics were certain of his wealthy brethren who seemed to regard his abundant liberality as a personal affront.
There were many wealthy members in Mr. Durnford's church. The minister sometimes thought, in his inmost soul, that his church would have been but little poorer, in any sense of the word, for the loss of some of the rich men whose names were on its roll. With all their wealth, many of them were not "rich towards God." But Mr. Durnford was circumspect. It was his endeavour, without failing in his duty, either to his Divine Master, or to these gilded sheep of his, to make what use of them he might in connection with his sacred work.
There was little, it is true, to be got out of these wealthy men but their money, and they could not be persuaded to part with much of that; but the minister did not give them much rest.
One pleasant spring evening, Mr. Durnford set out on one of what he called his "financial tours" amongst this section of his members. The first house to which he went—and, as it proved, the last—was that of a very rich brewer, who was one of the main pillars of the Church. There were other members of Mr. Durnford's flock who were of the same trade. This was not gratifying to Mr. Durnford; but what could he do? The brewers were blameless in their personal behaviour, regular in their attendance in the sanctuary, and exact in their fulfilment of the conditions of church membership; and he could not unchurch them merely because they were brewers. If he began there, it would be difficult to tell where he ought to stop. Nor did he scorn their gifts of money to the cause of God. He was pleased that they were willing to devote some portion of their gains to so good a purpose; his regret was that the portion was so small.
Mr. Durnford did not hesitate to tell his rich members what he conceived to be the just claims of the cause of God upon their wealth; and, on the evening of which we speak, he called first, for this purpose, on the aforesaid brewer, Mr. Caske. This gentleman lived in a large, square, old-fashioned, comfortable house, surrounded with its own grounds, which were extensive and well laid out. The entire premises were encompassed with a high brick wall, which might well have been supposed to hide a workhouse or a prison, instead of the paradise it actually concealed. Perhaps Mr. Caske had selected this secluded abode from an instinctive disinclination to obtrude the abundance and comfort which he had derived from the manufacture and sale of beer; perhaps he had bought this particular house simply because it was in itself such a dwelling as he desired. At any rate, there he was, with his abundance and luxury, within his encircling wall; and one was tempted to wonder whether there was as much mystery in connection with the article of his manufacture, as seemed to be associated with his place of abode.
The minister let himself in at a small door in the boundary wall, and made his way, through the grounds, to the front-door of the house.
"Mr. Caske has company to-night, sir," said the maid who opened the door.
"Any one I know, Mary?"
"Yes, sir; Mr. Botterill and Mr. Kershaw."
"Oh, well, I want to see them too. Where are they?"
"In the smoke-room, sir."
"Well, show me in. It will be all right."
As Mr. Durnford was a frequent and privileged visitor, the girl promptly complied with his request.
The smoke-room was a good-sized, comfortable apartment, furnished with every convenience that smokers are supposed to require. It looked out, by two long windows, on a wide sweep of lawn which stretched away from the end of the house. In this room, in chairs of various luxurious styles, sat Mr. Caske and his two friends. Each of the three men was smoking a churchwarden pipe; and at the elbow of each stood a little three-legged, japanned smoker's table, on which was a stand of matches, an ash-tray, and a glass of whisky.
The three smokers slowly turned their heads, as the minister entered the room, and, on recognising him, they all rose to their feet.
"Good evening, sir," said Mr. Caske, advancing, with his pipe in his left hand, and his right hand stretched out; "you have surprised us at our devotions again."
"Which you are performing," rejoined the minister, "with an earnestness worthy of a nobler object of worship."
Mr. Caske laughed huskily; and the minister turned to greet Messrs. Botterill and Kershaw, who were waiting, pipes in hand, to resume their seats.
Mr. Botterill was a wine and spirit merchant, and Mr. Kershaw was a draper in a large way.
When they had all taken their seats, a few moments of silence ensued. This was occasioned by the necessity which arose for the three smokers vigorously to puff their pipes, which had burnt low; and perhaps there was some little reluctance, on the part of Mr. Caske and his friends, to resume the conversation which had been in progress previous to the entrance of Mr. Durnford. When the pipes had been blown up, and were once more in full blast, there was no longer any excuse for silence. Mr. Caske, being the host, was then the first to speak. He had known his minister too well to invite him to partake of the refreshment with which he was regaling his friends.
He was a small, rotund man, with shining, rosy cheeks, and a husky voice.
"All well with you, Mr. Durnford?"
"Yes, thank you, Mr. Caske; but I am afraid I intrude?"
He was conscious of some constraint on the part of the company.
"I fear," he resumed, "that I have interrupted some important business?" and he looked around with an air of enquiry.
Mr. Caske airily waved his long pipe.
"Oh no, sir," he said, lightly, "nothing of consequence"—here he glanced at his friends—"we were, ah—talking about our friend, ah—'the Golden Shoemaker.'"
Mr. Caske was secretly anxious to elicit the minister's opinion of "Cobbler" Horn.
"Ah," exclaimed Mr. Durnford, with an intonation in which sarcasm might not have been difficult to detect, "and what about 'the Golden Shoemaker'?"
Mr. Caske looked at Mr. Botterill and Mr. Kershaw; and Mr. Kershaw and Mr. Botterill looked first at each other, and then at Mr. Caske.
"Well," replied Mr. Caske, at length, "he's being more talked about than ever."
"Well, now," asked the minister, "as to what in particular?"
"Chiefly as to the way he's squandering his money."
"Oh, I wasn't aware Mr. Horn had become a spendthrift! You must have been misinformed, Mr. Caske," and Mr. Durnford looked the brewer intently in the face.
"Ah," said Mr. Caske, somewhat uneasily, "you don't take me, sir. It's not that he spends his money. It's the rate at which he gives it away. He's simply flinging it from him right and left!"
As he spoke, Mr. Caske swelled with righteous indignation. Money, in his eyes, was a sacred thing—to be guarded with care, and parted with reluctantly. No working man could have been more careful with regard to the disposal of each individual shilling of his weekly wages, than was Mr. Caske in the handling of his considerable wealth.
"He's simply tossing his money from him, sir," he reiterated, "as if it were just a heap of leaves."
"Yes," said Mr. Botterill, "and it doesn't seem right."
Mr. Botterill was a tall man, with glossy black hair and whiskers, and an inflamed face. He seemed never to be quite at ease in his mind, which, perhaps, was not matter for surprise.
Mr. Kershaw next felt that it was his turn to speak.
"Ah," he said, "this kind of thing makes a false impression, you know!"
Though a man of moderate bodily dimensions, Mr. Kershaw had a largeness of manner which seemed to magnify him far beyond his real proportions. He spread himself abroad, and made the most of himself. He had actually a large head, which was bald on the top, with dark bushy hair round about. His face, which was deeply pitted with small-pox, was adorned with mutton-chop whiskers, from between which a very prominent nose and chin thrust themselves forth.
"Yes," broke in Mr. Caske, "people will be apt to think that everybody who has a little bit of money ought to do as he does. But, if that were the case, where should I be, for instance?" and Mr. Caske swelled himself out more than ever.
Mr. Durnford had hitherto listened in silence. Though inclined to speak in very strong terms, he had restrained himself with a powerful effort. He knew that if he allowed these men to proceed, they would soon fill their cup.
"Well, gentlemen," he now remarked quietly, "there is force in what you say."
Mr. Caske and his two friends regarded their minister with a somewhat doubtful look. Mr. Caske seemed to think that Mr. Durnford's remark made it necessary for him to justify the attitude he had assumed with regard to "Cobbler" Horn.
"Perhaps, sir," he said, "you don't know in what a reckless fashion our friend is disposing of his money?"
"Well, Mr. Caske, let us hear," said the minister, settling himself to listen.
"Well, sir, you know about his having given up a great part of his fortune to some girl in America, because she was the sweetheart of a cousin of his who died."
"Yes," said Mr. Durnford, quietly, "I've heard of that."
"Well, there was a mad trick, to begin with," resumed Mr. Caske, in a severe tone. "And then there's that big house in the village which, it's said, all belongs to him. He's fitting it up to be a sort of home for street arabs and gipsy children; and it's costing him thousands of pounds that he'll never see again!"
"Yes, I know about that too."
"Then, you will, of course, be aware, sir, that he gives more to our church funds than any half-dozen of us put together."
"Yes," broke in Mr. Kershaw, with his obtrusive nose. "He thinks to shame the rest of us, no doubt. And they say now that he's going to employ two town missionaries and a Bible-woman out of his own pocket. Is it true, think you, sir?"
"It is not unlikely," was the quiet reply.
There was a note of warning in both Mr. Durnford's words and tone; but the admonitory sign passed unobserved.
"Well, then," resumed Mr. Caske, "think of the money he gave away during the winter. He seemed to want to do everything himself. There was hardly anything left for any one else to do."
Mr. Durnford smiled inwardly at the idea of Mr. Caske making a grievance of the fact that there had been left to him no occasion for benevolence.
"It was nothing but blankets, and coals, and money," continued Mr. Caske. "And then the families he has picked out of the slums and sent across the sea! And it's said he'll pay anybody's debts, and gives to any beggar, and will lend anybody as much money as they like to ask."
At this point Mr. Botterill once more put in his word.
"I heard, only the other day, that Mr. Horn had announced his intention of presenting the town with a Free Library and a Public Park."
"It's like his impudence!" exclaimed Mr. Kershaw.
"After that I can believe anything," cried Mr. Caske. "The man ought to be stopped. It's very much to be regretted that he ever came into the money. And what a fool he is from his own standpoint! When he has got rid of all his money, it will be doubly hard for him to go back to poverty again."
Mr. Caske was speaking somewhat at random.
"Don't you think, sir," he concluded, with a facetious air, "that Providence sometimes makes a mistake in these matters?"
The question was addressed to the minister.
"No, never!" exclaimed Mr. Durnford, with an emphasis which caused Mr. Caske to start so violently, that the stem of his pipe, which he had just replaced in his mouth, clattered against his teeth. "No, never! And least of all in the case of friend Horn."
The three critics of "the Golden Shoemaker" stared at the minister in amazement. They had been led to think Mr. Durnford was substantially in agreement with their views.
"No, gentlemen," he resumed, "my opinion is quite the reverse of yours. I believe this almost unlimited wealth has been given to our friend, because he is eminently fitted to be the steward of his Lord's goods."
This declaration was followed by an awkward pause, which Mr. Caske was the first to break.
"Perhaps you think, sir," he said, in an injured tone, "that this upstart fellow is an example to us?"
"Mr. Caske," responded the minister, "you have interpreted my words to a nicety."
The three critics shuffled uneasily in their chairs.
"Yes," continued Mr. Durnford, "an example and a reproach! Mr. Horn has the true idea of the responsibilities of a Christian man of wealth; you have missed it. He is resolved to use his money for God, to whom it belongs; you spend yours on yourselves—except in as far as you hoard it up you know not for whom or what. He is never satisfied that he is giving enough away; you grumble and groan over every paltry sovereign with which you are induced to part. He will be able to give a good account of his stewardship when the Lord comes; there will be an awkward reckoning for you in that day."
The three friends had ceased to smoke, and were listening to Mr. Durnford's deliverance open-mouthed. They respected their minister, and valued his esteem. They were rather conscience-stricken, than offended now.
"But, surely, sir," said Mr. Kershaw, presently, finding breath first of the three, "you wouldn't have us fling away our money, as he does?"
"I shouldn't be in haste to forbid you, Mr. Kershaw, if you seemed inclined to take that course," said the minister, with a smile. "But, if you come within measurable distance of the example of our friend, you will do very well."
"But," pleaded Mr. Botterill, "ought we not to consider our wives and families?"
"You do, Mr. Botterill, you do," was the somewhat sharp reply. "But there still remains ample scope for the claims of God."
Upon this, there ensued a pause, which was at length broken by Mr. Caske, who, whatever might be his shortcomings, was not an ill-natured man. "Well, sir," he remarked, good-humouredly, "you've hit us hard."
"I am glad you are sensible of the fact," was the pleasant reply.
"No doubt you are!" rejoined Mr. Caske, in a somewhat jaunty tone. "And I suppose you intend now to give us an opportunity of following your advice?"
"Why, yes," said Mr. Durnford, with a smile, "I really came to ask you for the payment of certain subscriptions now due. It is time I was making up some of the quarterly payments. But, perhaps, after what has been said, you would like to take a day or two——?"
"No, for my part," interposed Mr. Caske, "I don't want any time. I'll double my subscriptions at once."
"Same here," said Mr. Kershaw, concisely.
"Thank you, gentlemen!" said Mr. Durnford, briskly, entering the amounts in his note book. "Now, Mr. Botterill."
"Well," was the reluctant response, "I suppose I shall have to follow suit."
Mr. Durnford smiled.
"Thank you, gentlemen, all," he said. "Keep that up, and it will afford you more pleasure than you think."
When, shortly afterwards, the minister took his departure, the three friends resumed their smoking; but they did not return to their criticism of "the Golden Shoemaker."
"IN LABOURS MORE ABUNDANT."
Unlike many wealthy professors of religion, "the Golden Shoemaker" did not suppose that, in giving his money to the various funds of the church, he fulfilled, as far as he was concerned, all the claims of the Cause of Christ. He did not imagine that he could purchase, by means of his monetary gifts, exemption from the obligation to engage in active Christian work. He did not desire to be thus exempt. His greatest delight was to be directly and actively employed in serving his Divine Lord; and so little did he think of availing himself of the occasion of his sudden accession to wealth to withdraw from actual participation in the service of Christ, that he hailed with intense joy the richer opportunities of service with which he was thus supplied.
For some years "Cobbler" Horn had been a teacher in a small Mission Sunday School, which was carried on in a low part of the town by several members of Mr. Durnford's church. But, about a year previous to the change in his circumstances, he had been persuaded by the minister to transfer his services to the larger school. He always made the conversion of his scholars his chief aim; and very soon after he entered on his new sphere, one of the boys in his class, a bright little fellow about nine years old, named Willie Raynor, had been very remarkably converted to God. The boy was promising to become a very thorough-going Christian, and no one rejoiced more than he in the good fortune of "Cobbler" Horn.
There was considerable speculation, amongst the friends and fellow-teachers of "the Golden Shoemaker," as to whether his altered circumstances would lead to the relinquishment of his work in the school. Little Willie Raynor heard some whisper of this talk, and was much distressed. His relations with his beloved teacher were very close; and, without a moment's hesitation, he went straight to "Cobbler" Horn, and asked him what he was going to do.
"Mr. Horn, you won't leave the school now you are a rich man, will you? Because I don't think we can do without you!"
"Cobbler" Horn was taken by surprise. The idea of leaving the school had never occurred to his mind. For one moment, there was a troubled look in his face.
"Who has put such nonsense into your head, laddie?"
"Oh, I've heard them talking about it. But I said I was sure they were wrong."
"Why, of course they were, dear lad. Why should I leave the school? Haven't I more reason than ever to work for the Lord?"
"Oh, I'm so glad!" And Willie went home with a bounding heart.
Meanwhile curiosity continued to be felt and expressed on every hand, as to the course "the Golden Shoemaker" would actually pursue; and no little surprise was created as, Sunday after Sunday, he was still seen sitting in the midst of his class, as quietly and modestly as though he were still the poor cobbler whom everybody had known so well.
Nor was he content simply to continue the work he had been accustomed to do for Christ during his previous life. The larger leisure which his wealth had brought, enabled him to multiply his religious and benevolent activities to an almost unlimited extent. He went about doing good from morning to night. He rejoiced to exercise for God the all but boundless influence which his money enabled him to exert. His original plan—which he persistently followed—of mending, free of charge, the boots and shoes of the poorer portion of his former customers was but one amongst many means by which he strove to benefit his necessitous fellowmen. He never gave money for the relief of distress, without ascertaining whether there was anything that he could do personally to help. He made it a point also to offer spiritual consolation to those upon whom he bestowed temporal benefactions. Hardly a day but found him in the abode of poverty, or in the sick-room; and not one of his numberless opportunities of speaking the words which "help and heal" did he let slip.
One evening, as he was passing through a poor part of the town, he came into collision with a drunken man, who was in the act of entering a low public-house. The wretched creature looked up into "Cobbler" Horn's face, and "Cobbler" Horn recognised him as a formerly respectable neighbour of his own.
"Richard," he cried, catching the man by the arm, "don't go in there!"
"Shall if I like, Thomas," said the man, thickly, recognising "Cobbler" Horn in turn. "D'yer think 'cause ye're rich, yer has right t' say where I shall go in, and where I shan't go in?"
"Oh, no, Richard," said "Cobbler" Horn, with his hand still on the man's arm. "But you've had enough drink, and had better go quietly home."
As he spoke, he gradually drew his captive further away from the public-house. The man struggled furiously, talking all the time in rapid and excited tones.
"Let me a-be!" he exclaimed with a thickness of tone which was the combined result of indignation and strong drink. "You ha' no right to handle me like this! Ain't this a free country? Where's the perlice?"
"Come along, Richard; you'll thank me to-morrow," persisted "Cobbler" Horn quietly, moving his captive along another step or two. But, by this time, a crowd was beginning to gather; and it seemed likely that, although Richard himself might not be able effectually to resist his captor, "Cobbler" Horn's purpose would be frustrated in another way. In fact the crowd—a sadly dilapidated crew—had drawn so closely around the centre of interest, as to render almost impossible the further progress of the struggling pair.
At this point, some one recognised "Cobbler" Horn.
"Yah!" he cried, "it ain't a fight, after all! It's 'the Golden Shoemaker' a-collarin' a cove wot's drunk!"
At the announcement of "the Golden Shoemaker," the people crowded up more closely than ever. While all had heard of that glittering phenomenon, perhaps few had actually seen him, and the present opportunity was not to be lost.
"Cobbler" Horn grasped the situation, and resolved, under the inspiration of the moment, to turn it to good account. He was not afraid that these people would interfere with his present purpose. He could see that they were regarding him with too much interest and respect for that. Moreover, since Richard belonged to another part of the town, his fortunes would not awaken any special sympathy in the breasts of the crowd. On the other hand, there was a possibility that the delay caused by the gathering of the crowd might enable "Cobbler" Horn to make a deeper impression on his poor degraded friend, than if he had simply dragged him home from the public-house. Exerting, therefore, all his strength, he thrust the hapless Richard forth at arm's length, and, in emphatic tones, bespoke for him the attention of the crowd.
"Look at him!" he exclaimed. "Once he was a respectable man, tidy and bright; and he wasn't ashamed to look anybody in the face. And now see what he is!"
The crowd looked, and saw a slovenly and dissipated man, who hung his head, with a dull feeling of shame. The people gazed upon the wretched man in silence. They were awed by the solemn and impressive manner in which they had been addressed.
"This man," resumed "Cobbler" Horn, "once had a thriving business and a comfortable home. Now his business has gone to the dogs, and his home has become a den. His wife and children are ragged and hungry; and I question if he has a penny piece left that he can justly call his own. The most complete ruin stares him in the face, and he probably won't last another year."
The crowd still gazed, and listened in silence.
"And, do you ask," continued "Cobbler" Horn, "what has done all this? No, you don't; you know too well. It's drink—the stuff that many of you love so much. For there are many of you,"—and he swept the crowd with a scrutinizing glance—"who are far on the same downward way as this poor fool. He was my neighbour and friend; and he had as nice a little wife as ever brightened a home. But it would make the heart of a stone bleed to see her as I saw her but a few days ago. But, there; go home, Richard! And may God help you to become a man once more!"
So saying, he released his captive; and the wretched creature, partially sobered with astonishment and shame, crept through the crowd, which parted for him to pass, and staggered off on his way towards home.
Then, like some ancient prophet, upon whom the Spirit of the Lord had come, "the Golden Shoemaker" turned and preached, from the living text of his besotted friend, a telling impromptu Temperance sermon to the motley crowd. The whole incident was quite unpremeditated. He had never dreamt that he would do such a thing as he was doing now. But that by no means lessened the effect of his burning words, which went home to the hearts, and even to the consciences of not a few of those by whom they were heard.
When he had finished, he passed on, and left his hearers to their thoughts. But, for himself, there had been shown to him yet another way in which he might work for God; and, thereafter, "the Golden Shoemaker" was often seen at the corners of back streets, and in the recesses of the slums, preaching, to all who would hear, that glorious Gospel of which the message of mercy to the victims of strong drink is, after all, only a part.
TOMMY DUDGEON ON THE WATCH.
It will be remembered that, after bursting into the back-room with the declaration, "She's come back!" Tommy Dudgeon had suddenly pulled himself up and substituted the commonplace statement that he had "seen the sec'tary." In fact, though, on marking the manner in which Miss Owen had stepped out of the house and walked along the street, he had, for an instant, imagined that little Marian had actually returned, the calmer moments which followed had shown him what seemed the folly of such a supposition. What real resemblance could there be between a child of five and a young woman of eighteen? He had, indeed, seemed to see, this afternoon, the very same determined look, and the pretty purposeful step, with which the little maid whom he had loved had passed out of his sight so long ago. But he now assured himself that "it was only the sec'tary after all."
The child, for whom he had not ceased to mourn, would certainly come back, but not like that. It was inevitable that unimaginative Tommy Dudgeon should at first dismiss the possibility that little wild-flower Marian should have returned in the person of the lady-secretary. But, none the less, the sight of the secretary had brought back to him the vision of little Marian as he had seen her last; and thenceforth he was supplied with matter for much perplexing thought.
Fortunately the occupants of the room into which he had burst with his hasty exclamation, who consisted of his brother and his brother's wife alone, had but indistinctly caught his words. Consequently no one was any the wiser, and he was able to assure himself that his first impression with regard to the "sec'tary" was still the secret of his own breast.
It was a secret, however, which gave him no little trouble. The vanishing of the child had occasioned him bitter grief. He had not only mourned in respectful sympathy with the stricken father, but he had also sorrowed on his own account. He had very tenderly loved little Marian Horn. She had come to him like a fairy, scattering clouds of care, and diffusing joy; and, since her departure, it had seemed as though the sunshine had ceased to visit the narrow street upon which he looked out through the window, and from the doorway, of his little shop.
And Tommy's regret for the loss of the child was rendered keener by a haunting consciousness that a measure of responsibility for it belonged to himself. Might he not have prevented her departure? He could not, indeed, have been supposed to know that she was running away. But he did not allow himself to plead any excuse on that account. He ought to have known, was his continual reflection, that she would come to harm—going away by herself like that; and, at least, he might have questioned her as to where she was going. Through all the years, he had not ceased to afflict himself with such thoughts as these. Once he actually mentioned his self-accusing thoughts to "Cobbler" Horn. It was on one of the rare occasions when the afflicted father had spontaneously spoken of his lost child to his humble friend. He gazed blankly at the little huckster, for a moment, as though he had not understood. Then, perceiving his drift, he gently answered, "My dear friend, you could not help it. Please do not speak of it again."
Tommy had always yearned for the recovery of the child; and, the wish being father to the thought, he fully shared with "Cobbler" Horn himself the expectation that she would eventually return. This expectation kept him on the alert; and there is little cause to wonder that even so slight a sign as the poise of the secretary's head, or the manner in which she walked, should have induced him to think, for some passing moments, that his long-cherished desire had been fulfilled at last.
And now, although he had dismissed that belief, it had left him more vigilant than ever. It may be questioned, indeed, whether he had actually dismissed it, or whether, having been dismissed, it had really gone away. There are visitors who will take no hint to depart. It would seem that here was such a visitor. The discarded impression that little Marian had come back in the person of "Cobbler" Horn's secretary refused to be banished from Tommy Dudgeon's mind. Henceforth he would have no peace until he had set the fateful question at rest once for all.
To this end he watched for the young secretary day by day. A hundred times a day he went to the shop-door, to gaze along the street; and at frequent intervals he craned his neck to get a better view through the window. He would leave the most profitable customer, at the sound of a footstep without, or at the shutting of a neighbouring door. He gave himself to deep ponderings, in the midst of which he became oblivious of all around. His anxiety told upon his appetite, and affected his health. His friends became alarmed; but, when they questioned him, he only shook his head. His very character seemed to be changed. Hitherto he had been the most transparent of men; now he moved about with the air of a conspirator, and bore himself like one on whose heart some mysterious secret weighed.
It was a long time before Tommy's watching and pondering produced any definite result. Miss Owen seldom visited the street in which "the little Twin Brethren" had their shop. By the desire of her employer she never came to him in his old workshop, except upon business which could not be delayed. Two or three times only, hitherto, had Tommy Dudgeon been privileged to feast his eyes on the dainty little figure, which, on his first sight of it, had awakened such tender memories in his mind. On each occasion those memories had returned as vividly as before; but the only result had been that his perplexity was sensibly increased.
All through the winter, the perturbation of the little huckster's mind remained unallayed; but there came a day in early spring which set his questionings at rest. In that joyous season there was born to Mr. and Mrs. John Dudgeon an eighth child. The fact that, this time, the arrival did not consist of twins was no less gratifying to the happy father, than to his much-enduring spouse. But the child was a fine one, and his birth almost cost his mother's life. As may be supposed, "the Golden Shoemaker" did not forget his humble friends in their trouble. He engaged for them the ablest doctor, and the most efficient nurse, that money could command. Every day he sent messages of enquiry, and the messengers were never empty-handed. Sometimes it was a servant who came; and sometimes it was the coachman—not Bounder, but his successor, who was quite a different man—with the carriage.
On the day of which we speak, the carriage had stopped at the door, and Tommy Dudgeon, on the watch as usual, observed that a young lady was sitting amongst its cushions. It was the four-wheeler, and its fair occupant, basket in hand, alighted nimbly as soon as it stopped. Tommy vigorously rubbed his eyes. Yes, it was the "sec'tary!" Now, perhaps, his opportunity had come. As yet, he had never spoken to the "sec'tary," or heard her speak. He made his most polite bow, as she stepped into his shop. But how his heart thumped! He was shy with ladies at the best; but now, hope and fear, and a vague feeling that, with the entrance of this sprightly little lady, the past had all come back, increased his habitual nervousness a hundredfold. Surely it was not the first time that little tossing dusky head, with its black sparkling eyes, had presented itself in his doorway!
She paused a moment on the step, gazed around with a bewildered air, and shot a startled glance into the honest, eager face of the little man, who quivered from head to foot as he met her gaze. "That strange feeling again!" she thought, "I can never have been here before, at any rate!"
Tommy Dudgeon's own confusion prevented his perceiving the momentary discomposure of his visitor. The next minute, however, she was speaking to the little man in her cordial, unaffected way.
"You are Mr. Dudgeon, I expect," she said, holding out her neatly-gloved hand. "How are you, this afternoon? But," she continued after a pause, "which Mr. Dudgeon is it—the one with a wife, or the one without? My name," she added in her lively way, "is Owen—Mr. Horn's secretary, you know. You've heard of me, no doubt, Mr. Dudgeon?"
Tommy Dudgeon had not yet found his tongue.
"But," she broke out again, "I'm not giving you a chance to tell me who you are. Is it Mr. Dudgeon, or Mr. John? You see I know all about you."
Tommy Dudgeon was in no condition to answer Miss Owen's question, even yet, simple though it was. If the sight of her had brought back the past, what thronging memories crowded upon him at the sound of her voice—wooing, wilful, joyously insistent! But that she was so womanly and ladylike, and that he knew she was "only the sec'tary," he would have been ready to advance upon her with outstretched hands, and ask her if she had quite forgotten Tommy Dudgeon—her old friend, Tommy? As it was, he stood staring like one bewitched. Miss Owen, wondering at his silence, and his fixed gaze, repeated her question in another form.
"I don't wish to be rude; but are you the husband, or is it your brother?"
Tommy pulled himself together with a gasp.
"My name is Thomas, miss. It is my brother who is married, and whose wife is ill."
"Then, Mr. Thomas, I'm glad to make your acquaintance. How is your brother's wife to-day? I've brought a few little things from Miss Horn, with her respects."
Miss Owen herself would have said "love," rather than respects. But it was a great concession on the part of Miss Jemima to send anything at all to "those Dudgeons," with or without a message of any kind, and was quite a sign of grace.
"It's very kind of Miss Horn," said Tommy, who was still perturbed; "and of you as well, miss. Perhaps you will see my sister-in-law? She's much better, and sitting up—and able to converse."
As he spoke, he led the way into the kitchen, in the doorway of which the young girl once more paused, and looked around in the same bewildered way as before. But she instantly recovered herself; and, at the invitation of a woman who was in attendance, proceeded to mount the narrow stairs.
Miss Owen was performing a thoroughly congenial errand. It was her delight to be, in any way, the instrument of the wide-spread benevolence and varied Christian ministrations of her beloved employer. Nor was it an insignificant service which she therein performed. Her tender companionship had been of scarcely less benefit to the crippled girl than the almost daily rides which the generosity of "Cobbler" Horn enabled the poor invalid to enjoy; and her presence and sensible Christian talk were quite as helpful to Mrs. John Dudgeon, as were the delicacies from Miss Jemima's kitchen.
John Dudgeon, who was acting as temporary nurse, rose to his feet as the secretary entered, and stole modestly downstairs. Miss Owen followed him with her eyes in renewed perplexity. What could it all mean? These dear, funny little men! Had she known them in a former state of existence, or what? She came downstairs when she was ready to leave, and in the kitchen she paused once more. On one side of the fire-place was an old arm-chair with a leather cushion. Seized with a sudden fancy, Miss Owen addressed the woman, who was waiting to see her out.
"May I sit in that chair a moment?" she asked.
"Certainly, miss," was the civil reply; and, in another moment, the young secretary had crossed the room, and seated herself in the chair.
"How strange!" she murmured. "How familiar everything is!"
At that moment, Tommy Dudgeon came in from the shop; and, on seeing Miss Owen in the old arm-chair, he stopped short, and uttered a cry.
"I beg your pardon, miss; I thought——"
It was in that very chair, standing in exactly the same spot as now, that little Marian had been accustomed to sit, when she used to come in and delight the two little bachelors with her quaint sayings, and queen it over them in her pretty wilful way. For her sake, the old chair had been carefully preserved.
"You thought I was taking a liberty, no doubt, sir," said Miss Owen, jumping to her feet, with a merry laugh; "and quite right too."
Tommy was horrified at the bare suggestion of such a thing. He begged her to sit down again, and she laughingly complied, insisting that he should sit in the opposite chair. Presently John came in, and stood looking calmly on. He was visited by no disturbing memories. Having chatted gaily, for a few minutes, with the two little men, Miss Owen took her leave.
"It's all so strange!" she thought, as the carriage bore her swiftly away.
Then she knitted her brows, and clenched her hands in her lap.
"Oh," she half-audibly exclaimed, "what if I have been here before? What if——" and she shivered with the excitement of the thought.
* * * * *
As for Tommy Dudgeon, all his doubts were put to flight at last.
A "FATHER" AND "MOTHER" FOR THE "HOME."
About six weeks after this, the old Hall at Daisy Lane was ready for opening as a "Home" for waifs and strays. "Cobbler" Horn had visited Daisy Lane, from time to time, and he had also taken his sister and his young secretary to see the village and the old Hall. He had been much pleased with the progress of the improvements, and had marked with satisfaction the transformation which, in pursuance of his orders, was being effected in the Hall. It was clear that Mr. Gray was not only a most capable agent, but also a man after his employer's own heart; and it was evident that Messrs. Tongs and Ball had assisted the agent in every possible way.
The old Hall seemed likely to become an ideal Children's Home. The arrangements were most complete. A staff of capable nurses, and a bevy of maid-servants, had been engaged; to whom were added a porter and two boys, together with a head gardener and three assistants, to make, and keep, beautiful the spacious grounds.
A number of children had already been selected as inmates of the "Home." Setting aside the majority of the appeals, which had been many, from relatives who had children left on their hands by deceased parents, "Cobbler" Horn had adhered to his original purpose of receiving chiefly stray children—little ones with no friends, and without homes. With the aid of his lawyers, and of Mr. Durnford, he had much communication with workhouse and parish authorities, and even with the police; and, as the opening day of the "Home" drew near, he had secured, as the nucleus of his little family, some dozen tiny outcasts, consisting of six or seven boys, and about as many girls.
It now remained that a "father" and "mother" should be found. On this subject "the Golden Shoemaker" had talked much with his minister. He shrank from the thought of advertising his need. He was afraid of bringing upon himself an avalanche of mercenary applications. His idea was to fix upon some excellent Christian man and woman who might be induced to accept the post as a sacred and delightful duty. They must be persons who loved children, and who were not in search of a living; and it would be none the worse if it were necessary for them to make what would be considered a sacrifice, in order to accept the post.
"Cobbler" Horn looked around. He had no acquaintances in whom it seemed likely that his ideal would be realized. He mentioned his views to his lawyers, and they smiled in their indulgent way. Messrs. Tongs and Ball had already learnt to respect their eccentric client. But it was difficult for their legal minds to regard the question of the appointment of a master and matron to the "Home" exactly in the light in which it presented itself to "Cobbler" Horn. He spoke of his cherished desire to Mr. Durnford.
"If I get the right man and woman, you know, sir, I shall be willing to pay them almost any amount of money. But I don't want them to know this beforehand. I must have a father and mother for my little family. It would be just as well," he added in faltering tones, "if they had lost a little one of their own. And I should like them to be some good Christian man and his wife, who would undertake the work without asking about salary at all, and would leave it to me to make that all right. Do you think they would trust me so far, Mr. Durnford?"
Mr. Durnford smiled in his shrewd way.
"If they knew you, Mr. Horn, they would rather trust you in the matter than suggest an amount themselves."
"No doubt," responded "the Golden Shoemaker," with a smile. "But now, Mr. Durnford," he persisted for the twentieth time, "do you know of such a couple as I want?"
They were in the minister's study. Mr. Durnford sat musing, with his arms resting upon his knees, and his hands together at the finger-tips. Suddenly he looked up.
"You want a couple who have lost a child, Mr. Horn? I can tell you of some good people who have found one."
"Cobbler" Horn gave a slight start. "Found a child! What child?" Such were the thoughts which darted, like lightning, through his brain. Then he smiled sadly to himself. Of course what he had imagined, for an instant, could not be.
"Well" he said calmly, "who are they? Let me hear!"
For one moment only, Mr. Durnford hesitated to reply.
"You will, perhaps, be startled, Mr. Horn, but must not misunderstand me, if I say that they are the excellent friends who have been as father and mother to your secretary, Miss Owen."
"Cobbler" Horn was indeed startled. His thoughts had not turned in the direction indicated by the minister's suggestion—that was all. But he was not displeased.
"Ah!" he exclaimed. "Well, if they are anything like my little secretary, they will do."
"Mr. and Mrs. Burton do not know that I have any thought of suggesting them to you, Mr. Horn. Nor have I the least idea whether or not they would accept the post. Mr. Burton holds a good position on the railway, in Birmingham, which I know he has no present intention of relinquishing. But there is not another couple of my acquaintance who would be likely to meet your wishes as well as these good friends of mine. You know, of course, that Miss Owen was found and rescued by them, when she was quite a little thing?"
"Yes," was the thoughtful reply; "and you really think they are the kind of persons I want?"
"I do, indeed."
"Well, well! But might I ask them, do you think?"
"Perhaps," said Mr. Durnford, "it would be as well to mention it to Miss Owen first."
"Might I do that, think you?"
"By all means!"
"Then I will."
He spoke to his secretary that very day. Miss Owen was delighted with the proposal, and approved of it with all her heart. She hoped Mr. and Mrs. Burton would consent, and felt almost sure that they would. After that the minister agreed to convey the request of "the Golden Shoemaker" to his good friends. For this purpose, he made a journey to Birmingham, and, on the evening of his return, called on "Cobbler" Horn.
"Well?" enquired the latter eagerly, almost before the minister had taken his seat.
"Our friends are favourably disposed," replied Mr. Durnford; "but they would like to have a personal interview first."
"By all means. When can they see me? And where?"
"Well, it would be a great convenience to Mr. Burton if you would go there. He cannot very well get away. But he could arrange to meet you at his own house."
Acting upon this suggestion, "Cobbler" Horn paid a visit to Birmingham, the outcome of which was the engagement of Mr. and Mrs. Burton as "father" and "mother" of the "home."
THE OPENING OF THE "HOME."
At length the day arrived for the opening of the "Home." It was early in June, and the weather was superb. All the inhabitants of Daisy Lane, whether tenants of "Cobbler" Horn or not, were invited to the opening ceremony, and to the festivities which were to occupy the remainder of the day. There was to be first a brief religious service in front of the Hall, after which Miss Jemima was to unlock the great front door with a golden key. Then would follow a royal feast in a marquee on the lawn; and, during the afternoon and evening, the house and grounds would be open to all.
The religious service was to be conducted by Mr. Durnford. The parish clergyman had been invited to take part, but had declined. Many of his brother-clergymen would have hailed with joy such an opportunity of fulfilling the spirit of their religion; but the Vicar of Daisy Lane regarded the matter in a different light.
In due course "Cobbler" Horn, Miss Jemima, the young secretary, Tommy Dudgeon—to whom had been given a very pressing invitation to join the party,—and Mr. Durnford, alighted from the train at the station which served for Daisy Lane, and were met by Mr. Gray.
"Well, Mr. Gray," said "the Golden Shoemaker," who was in a buoyant, and almost boisterous mood, "How are things looking?"
"Everything promises well, sir," replied the agent, who was beaming with pleasure. "The arrangements are all complete; and everybody will be there—that is, with the exception of the vicar. Save his refusal to be present, there has not, thus far, been a single hitch."
"I wish," said "Cobbler" Horn, "that we could have got the poor man to come—for his own sake, I mean."
"Yes, sir; he will do himself no good. It's well they're not all like that."
Mr. Gray had brought his own dog-cart for the gentlemen; and he had provided for the ladies a comfortable basket-carriage, of which his son, a lad of fifteen, had charge. The dog-cart was a very different equipage from the miserable turn-out with which the agent had met his employer on the occasion of his first visit. Everything was of the best—the highly-finished trap, the shining harness, the dashing horse; and "Cobbler" Horn was thankful to mark the honest pride with which the agent handled the reins.
A few minutes brought them to Daisy Lane. Here indeed was a change! An unstinted expenditure of money, the toil of innumerable workmen, and the tireless energy and ever-ready tact of Mr. Gray, had converted the place into a model village. Instead of dropsical and rotting hovels, neat and smiling cottages were seen on every side. The vicarage, and the one farm-house not included in the property of "Cobbler" Horn, which had, aforetime, by their respectability and good repair, aggravated the untidiness and dilapidation of the rest of the village, were now rendered almost shabby by the fresh beauty of the renovated property of "the Golden Shoemaker."
On every hand there were signs of rejoicing. It was evidently a gala day at Daisy Lane. Over almost every garden gate there was an arch of flowers. Streamers and garlands were displayed at every convenient point. Such a quantity of bunting had never before fluttered in the breezes of Daisy Lane.
As they approached the farm-house which "Cobbler" Horn had inspected on the occasion of his first visit, their progress was stayed by the farmer himself, who was waiting for them at his gate, radiant and jovial, a farmer, as it seemed, without a grievance! He advanced into the road with uplifted hand, and Mr. Gray and his son reined in their horses. The farmer approached the side of the dog-cart.
"Let me have a shake of your fist, sir," he said, seizing the hand of "the Golden Shoemaker." "You're a model landlord. No offence; but it's hard to believe that you're anyways related to that 'ere old skin-flint as was owner here afore you."
The farmer wore on his breast a huge red rosette, almost as big as a pickling cabbage, as though the occasion had been that of an election day, or a royal wedding, or some other celebration equally august.
"I'm glad you're satisfied with what Mr. Gray has done, Mr. Carter," said "Cobbler" Horn.
"Satisfied! That ain't the word! And, as for Gray—well, he's a decent body enough. But it's little as he could ha' done, if you hadn't spoke the word."
Then they drove on, and the farmer followed in their wake, occupying, with the roll of his legs, and the flourish of his big stick, as much of the road as the carriages themselves.
As they proceeded, they passed several groups of villagers, in gala dress, who were making their way towards the gates of the Hall grounds.
"These are the laggards," explained the agent, "the bulk of the people are already on the ground."
"Cobbler" Horn was recognised by the people, most of whom knew him well by sight; and, while the men touched their hats, and the boys made their bows, the women curtseyed, and each girl gave a funny little bob. Of all the novel sensations which his wealth had brought to "the Golden Shoemaker," this was the most distinctly and entirely new. It had not seemed to him more strange, though it had been less agreeable, to be the object of Bounder's obsequious attentions, than it did now to receive the worship of these simple villagers.
In due course they reached the Hall gates, and entered the grounds. A large marquee, with its fluttering flags, had been erected on one side of the lawn, which was almost like a small field. The people were dispersed about the grass in gaily-coloured groups, though few of them had wandered very far from the gates. When the carriages were seen approaching, the various parties gathered more closely together; and the people arranged themselves in lines on either side of the drive. The horses were immediately brought to a walking pace; and then, a jolly young farmer leading off, the villagers rent the air with their shouts of welcome. It was the spontaneous tribute of these simple people to the man, whose coming had restored long unaccustomed comfort to their lives, and awakened new hope in their despondent breasts.
"The Golden Shoemaker" raised his hat and waved his hand; and, inasmuch as the acclamations of the people were evidently intended for the ladies also, the young secretary nodded around with beaming smiles, and even Miss Jemima perceptibly bent her rigid neck.
At length the joyous procession arrived in front of the Hall steps. Here Mr. and Mrs. Burton were waiting to receive them. In response to their smiling welcome, "Cobbler" Horn shook these good people heartily by the hand, and, having introduced them to Miss Jemima, turned aside for a moment, that they might greet their adopted daughter.
In a few moments, he turned to them again, and enquired if everything was to their mind.
"Everything, sir," said Mr. Burton. "The arrangements are perfect."
"And our little family are all here," added Mrs. Burton, pointing, with motherly pride, to a row of clean and radiant boys and girls, who were ranged at the top of the steps.
"Cobbler" Horn's face was illumined with a ray of pleasure, as he looked up, at Mrs. Burton's words; and yet there was a pensive shade upon his brow. Miss Jemima scrutinised the little regiment, and actually uttered a grunt of satisfaction. Miss Owen glanced from the happy child-faces to that of "Cobbler" Horn with eyes of reverent love. The children were not uniformly dressed; and they might very well have passed for the actual offspring of the kindly man and woman whom they were to know as "father" and "mother" from henceforth.
"Is everything ready, Mr. Gray?" asked "Cobbler" Horn.
"Then let us begin."
At a signal from Mr. Gray, the people drew more closely up to the foot of the steps; and it was noticeable that Tommy Dudgeon had withdrawn to a modest position amongst the crowd. A hymn was then announced by Mr. Durnford, and sung from printed papers which had been distributed amongst the people. Then, while every head was bowed, the minister offered a brief, but fervent and appropriate prayer. Next came an address from "Cobbler" Horn, in which, after explaining the purpose to which the Hall was to be devoted, he took the opportunity of assuring those of his tenants who were present that he would, as their landlord, do his utmost to promote their welfare. His hearty words were received with great applause, which was redoubled when he led Miss Jemima to the front. The minister then stepped forward, and presented Miss Jemima with a golden key, with which she deftly unlocked the great door, and, having pushed it open, turned to the people, and bowing gravely in response to their cheers, made, for the first and last time in her life, a public speech. She had much pleasure, she said, in declaring the old Hall open for the reception of friendless children, many of whom, she trusted, would find a happy home within its walls, and be there trained for a useful life. Here Miss Jemima stopped abruptly, and looked straight before her, with a very stern face, as though angry with herself for what she had done. And then, under cover of the renewed cheers of the people, she withdrew into the background.
The simple ceremony being over, the people were invited to enter the building and pass through the rooms. This invitation was freely accepted; and soon the various apartments of the renovated Hall were filled with people, who did not hesitate to express their admiration of what they saw.
When all the visitors had passed through the rooms, and admired to their hearts' content, the ringing of a large hand-bell on the lawn announced that dinner was ready. At the four long tables which ran the whole length of the marquee there was room for all, and very soon every seat was occupied. The grace was announced by Mr. Durnford, and sung by the people, with a heartiness which might have been expected of hungry villagers, who had been summoned to an unaccustomed and sumptuous feast. Then the carvers got to work, and, as the waiters carried round the laden plates, comparative quiet reigned; but, when the plates began to reach the guests, the clatter of crockery, the rattle of knives and forks, and the babel of voices, made such a festive hubbub as was grateful to the ear.
After dinner, there was speech-making and merriment; and then the people left the tent, and dispersed about the grounds. While the former part of this process was in progress, Miss Owen heard a fragment of conversation which caused her to tingle to her finger-tips. She had just moved towards one of the tables for the purpose of helping an old woman to rise from her seat, and her presence was not perceived by the speakers, whose faces were turned the other way. They were two village gossips, a middle-aged woman and a younger one.
"Is she his daughter?" were the words that fell upon the young secretary's ears, spoken by the elder woman in a stage whisper.
"No," replied the other, in a similar tone. "He never had but one child—her as was lost. This one's the secretary, or some such."
"Well, I do say as she'd pass for his own daughter anywhere."
Miss Owen was not nervous; but her heart beat tumultuously at the thoughts which this whispered colloquy suggested to her mind. She placed her hand upon the table to steady herself, as the two women, all unconscious of the effect of their gossiping words, moved slowly away.
"The Golden Shoemaker" and his friends arrived at Cottonborough late that night. A carriage was waiting for them at the station; and, having said "good night" to Mr. Durnford and Tommy Dudgeon, they were soon driven home. They were a quiet—almost silent—party. The events of the day had supplied them with much food for thought. The image of his little lost Marian presented itself vividly to the mind of "Cobbler" Horn to-night. Miss Jemima's thoughts dwelt on what was her one tender memory—that of the tiny, dark-eyed damsel who had so mysteriously vanished from the sphere of her authority so long ago.
And Miss Owen? Well, when she had at last reached her room, her first act was to lock the door. Then she knelt before her small hair-covered travelling trunk, and, having unlocked it, she slowly raised the lid and placed it back against the wall. For a moment she hesitated, and then, plunging her arm down at one corner of the trunk, amongst its various contents, she brought up, from the hidden depths, a small tissue paper parcel. This she opened carefully, and disclosed a tiny shoe, homely but neat, a little child's chemise, and an old, faded, pink print sun-bonnet, minus a string. In the upper leather of the shoe were several cuts, the work of some wanton hand. Sitting back upon her heels, she let the open parcel fall into her lap.
"What would I not give," she sighed, "to find the fellow of this little shoe! But no doubt it has long ago rotted at the bottom of some muddy ditch!"
Then, for the hundredth time, she examined the little chemise, at one corner of which were worked, in red cotton, the letters "M.H."
"They have told me again and again that I had this chemise on when I was found. Of course that doesn't prove that it was my own, and I have never supposed that those two letters stand for my name. But now—well, may it not be so, after all? It was really no more than a guess, on the part of Mr. and Mrs. Burton, that my name was Mary Ann Owen; and, from what I can see, it's just as likely to have been anything else. Let me think; what name might 'M.H.' stand for? Mary Hall? Margaret Harper? Mari——. No, no, I dare not think that—at least, not yet!"
Once more she wrapped up her little parcel of relics, and returned it to its place at the bottom of her trunk.
"Heigho!" she exclaimed, as, having closed and locked the trunk, she sprang to her feet. "How I do wonder who I am!"
TOMMY DUDGEON UNDERTAKES A DELICATE ENTERPRISE.
The time which had elapsed since the first visit of Miss Owen to the house of "the little Twin Brethren" had constituted, for Tommy Dudgeon, a period of mental unrest. If he had been perturbed before, he was twice as uneasy now. He had made the joyous discovery which he had been expecting to make almost ever since he had seen the young secretary walking in her emphatic way along the street. But, joyous as the discovery was, the making of it had actually increased the perturbation of his mind. His trouble was that he could not tell how he would ever be able to make his discovery known. He did not doubt that, to his dear friend, "Cobbler" Horn, and to the young secretary, the communication of it would impart great joy. But he was restrained by a fear, which would arise, notwithstanding his feeling of certainty, lest he should prove to be mistaken after all; and his fear was reinforced by an inward persuasion which he had that he was the most awkward person in the world by whom so delicate a communication could be made.
Yet he told himself he was quite sure that the young secretary was no other than little Marian come back. His doubts had vanished when he had seen her sitting in the old arm-chair, just as when she was a child; and every time he had seen her since that day his assurance had been made more sure. But, as long as he was compelled to keep his discovery to himself, it was almost the same as though he had not made it at all.
Tommy almost wished that some one else had made the great discovery, as well as himself. His thoughts had turned to his brother John; and he had resolved to put him to the test, which he had subsequently done with considerable tact. On the evening of the day following that of the first visit of Miss Owen to their house, the brothers had been sitting by the fire before going to bed.
"John," Tommy had said, seizing his opportunity, "you saw the young lady who was here the other day?"
"She's the secretary, you know."
"Yes," said John again, yawning; for he was sleepy.
"Well, what did you think of her?"
John started, and regarded his brother with a stare of astonishment. It was the first time Tommy had ever asked his opinion on such a subject. Was he thinking of getting married, or what? John Dudgeon had a certain broad sense of humour which enabled him to perceive such ludicrous elements of a situation as showed themselves on the surface.
"Ah!" he exclaimed slyly; "are you there?"
Tommy put out his hands in some confusion.
"No, no," he said, "not what you think! But did you notice anything particular about the young lady?"
"Well no," replied John, "except that I thought she was a very nice young person. But, Tommy, isn't she rather too young? If you really are thinking of getting married, wouldn't it be better to choose some one a little nearer your own age?"
John would not be dissuaded from the idea that his brother was intent on matrimonial thoughts. Tommy waved his hand, in a deprecatory way, and rising from his chair, said "good night," and betook himself to bed.
It was plain that he was quite alone in his discovery. What was he to do? To speak to Miss Owen on the subject was out of the question. The only alternative was to communicate the good news to "Cobbler" Horn himself. But there seemed to be stupendous difficulties involved in such a course. He was aware that there was nothing his friend would more rejoice to know than that which he had to tell. From various hints thrown out by "Cobbler" Horn, Tommy knew that he regarded Miss Owen with much of the fondness of a father; and it was not likely that the joy of finding his lost child would be diminished in the least by the fact that she had presented herself in the person of his secretary. But this consideration did not relieve the perplexity with which the little huckster contemplated the necessity of making known his secret to "Cobbler" Horn. For, to say nothing of the initial obstacle of his own timidity, he feared it would be almost impossible to convince his friend that his strange surmise was correct. If "Cobbler" Horn had not discovered for himself the identity of his secretary with his long-lost child, was it likely that he would accept that astounding fact on the testimony of any other person?
It is needless to say that Tommy Dudgeon made his perplexity a matter of prayer. He prayed and pondered, night and day; and, at length a thought came to him which seemed to point out the way of which he was in search. Might he not give "Cobbler" Horn some covert hint which would put him on the track of making the great discovery for himself? Surely some such thing, though difficult, might be done! He must indeed be cautious, and not by any means reveal his design. The suggestion must seem to be incidental and unpremeditated. There must be no actual mention of little Marian, and no apparently intentional indication of Miss Owen. Something must be said which might induce "Cobbler" Horn to associate the idea of his little lost Marian with that of his young secretary—to place them side by side before his mind. And it must all arise in the course of conversation, the order of which—he Tommy Dudgeon, must deliberately plan. The audacity of the thought made his hair stand up.
It was a delicate undertaking indeed! The little man felt like a surgeon about to perform a critical operation upon his dearest friend. He was preparing to open an old wound in the heart of his beloved benefactor. True, he hoped so to deal with it that it should never bleed again. But what if he failed? That would be dreadful! Yet the attempt must be made. So he set himself to his task. His opportunity came on the afternoon of the day following that of the opening of the "Home." Watching from the corner of his window, as he was wont, about three o'clock, Tommy saw "the Golden Shoemaker" come along the street, and enter his old house. Then the little man turned away from the window, and became very nervous. For quite two minutes he stood back against the shelves, trying to compose himself. When he had succeeded, in some degree, in steadying his quivering nerves, he reached from under the counter a brown-paper parcel containing a pair of boots, which had, for some days, been lying in readiness for the occasion which had now arrived, and, calling John to mind the shop, slipped swiftly into the street. A minute later he was standing in the doorway of "Cobbler" Horn's workshop. "The little Twin Brethren" had, at first, been disposed to refrain from availing themselves of the gratuitous labours of their friend; but, perceiving that it would afford him pleasure, they had yielded with an easy grace, and now Tommy was glad to have so good an excuse for a visit to "the Golden Shoemaker," as was supplied by the boots in the parcel under his arm.
"Cobbler" Horn perceived the nervousness of his visitor, and thinking it strange that the bringing of a pair of boots to be mended should have occasioned his humble little friend so much trepidation, he did his best, by adopting a specially sociable tone, to put him at his ease.
"Ah, Tommy, what have we there?" he asked. "More work for the 'Cobbler,' eh?"
"Just an old pair of boots which want mending, Mr. Horn," said Tommy, in uncertain tones, as he unwrapped the boots and held them out with a shaking hand—"that is, if you are not too busy."
"Not by any means," said "Cobbler" Horn, with a smile. "Put them down."
There stood against the wall, a much-worn wooden chair from which the back had been sawn off close.
"I'll sit down, if you don't mind," gasped Tommy, depositing himself upon this superannuated seat.
"By all means," said "Cobbler" Horn cordially; "make yourself quite at home."
"Thank you," said Tommy, drawing from his pocket a red and yellow handkerchief, with which he vigorously mopped his brow.
"Cobbler" Horn waited calmly for his perturbed visitor to become composed; and Tommy sat for some minutes, staring helplessly at "Cobbler" Horn, and still rubbing his forehead. What had become of the astute plan of operations which the little man had laid down?
"You have surely something on your mind, friend?" said "Cobbler" Horn, in an enquiring tone.
"Yes, I have," said Tommy, somewhat relieved; "it's been there for some time."
"Well, what is it? Can I help you in any way?"
"Oh, no; I don't want help."
His utterly incapacitated demeanour belied him; but he was speaking of financial help.
"I've been thinking of the past, Mr. Horn," he managed to say, making a faint effort to direct the conversation according to his original design.
"Ah!" sighed "Cobbler" Horn. "Of the past!" With the word, his thoughts darted back to that period of his own past towards which they so often sadly turned.
"I somehow can't help it," continued Tommy, gathering courage. "There seems to be something that keeps bringing it up."
"Cobbler" Horn fixed his keen eyes on the agitated face of his visitor. He knew what it was in the past to which Tommy referred, and appreciated his delicacy of expression.
"Yes, Tommy," he said, "and I, too, often think of the past. But is there anything special that brings it to your mind just now?"
Upon this, all Tommy Dudgeon's clever plans vanished into air. His scheme for leading the conversation up to the desired point utterly broke down. He cast himself on the mercy of his friend.
"Oh," he cried, in thrilling tones, "can't you see it? Can't you feel it—every day? The sec'tary! The sec'tary! If it is so plain to me, how can you be so blind?"
Then he darted from the room, and betook himself home with all speed.
BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH.
"Cobbler" Horn's first thought was that the strain of eccentricity in his humble little friend had developed into actual insanity. But, on further consideration, he was disposed to take another view. He felt bound to admit that, though there had been a strangeness in the behaviour of the little man throughout his visit, it had not afforded any actual ground for the suspicion of insanity, until he had so suddenly rushed away home. It was, therefore, possible that there might prove to be some important meaning in what he had said. At first "Cobbler" Horn had gathered nothing intelligible from the impassioned apostrophe of his excited little friend; but, by degrees, there dawned upon him some faint gleam of what its meaning might be. "The sec'tary!" That was the quaint term by which Tommy was wont to designate Miss Owen. But their conversation had been drifting in the direction of his little lost Marian. Why, then, should Miss Owen have been in Tommy's mind? Ah, he saw how it was! His humble friend had perceived that Miss Owen was a dear, good girl; and he had noticed her evident attachment to him—"Cobbler" Horn, and his fondness for her, and no doubt the little man had meant to suggest that she should take the place of the lost child. It was characteristic of his humble friend that he should seek, by such a hint, to point out a course which, no doubt, seemed to him, likely to afford satisfaction to all concerned; and "Cobbler" Horn could not help admiring the delicacy with which it had been done.
"The Golden Shoemaker" was quite persuaded that he had hit upon the right interpretation of the little huckster's words; and he was not altogether displeased with the suggestion he supposed them to convey. Of course Marian would ultimately come back; and no one else could be permitted permanently to occupy her place. But there was no reason why he should not let his young secretary take, for the time being, as far as possible, the place which would have been filled by his lost child. In fact, Miss Owen was almost like a daughter to him already; and he was learning to love her as such. Well, he would adopt the suggestion of his little friend. His secretary should fill, for the time, the vacant place in his life. Yet he would never leave off loving his precious Marian; and her own share of love, which could never be given to another, must be reserved for her against her return, when he would have two daughters instead of one.
Thus mused "the Golden Shoemaker," until, suddenly recollecting himself, he started up. He had promised to visit one of his former neighbours, who was sick, and it was already past the time at which the visit should have been made. He hastily threw off his leathern apron, and put on his coat and hat. At the same moment, he observed that heavy rain was beating against the window. It was now early summer; and, misled by the fair face of the sky, he had left home without an umbrella. What was he to do? He passed into the kitchen, and opening the front door, stood looking out upon the splashing rain. Behind him, in the room, sat, at her sewing, the good woman whom he had placed in charge of the house. She was small, and plump, and shining, the very picture of content. Her manner was respectful, and, as a rule, she did not address "Cobbler" Horn until he had spoken to her. To-day, however, she was the first to speak.
"Surely, sir, you won't go out in such a rain!"
As she spoke, the shower seemed suddenly to gather force, and the rain to descend in greater volume than ever.
"Thank you, Mrs. Bunn," replied "Cobbler" Horn, looking round. "I think I will wait for a moment or two; but I have no time to spare, and must go soon, in any case."
The rain had turned the street into a river, upon the surface of which the plumply-falling drops were producing multitudes of those peculiar gleaming white splashes which are known to childhood as "sixpences and half-crowns." All at once the downpour diminished. The sky became lighter, and the sun showed a cleared face through the thinning clouds.
"I think I may venture now," said "Cobbler" Horn.
"Better wait a little longer, sir; it 'ull come on again," said Mrs. Bunn, with the air of a person to whom the foibles of the weather were fully known. But "Cobbler" Horn was already in the street, and had not heard her words. It was some distance to the house of his sick friend, and he walked along at a rapid pace. But before he had proceeded far, the prophecy of Mrs. Bunn was fulfilled. In a moment, the sky grew black again; and, after a preliminary dash of heavy drops, the rain came down in greater abundance than before. It almost seemed as though a water-spout had burst. In two minutes, "the Golden Shoemaker" was wet to the skin. He might have returned to the house, from which he was distant no more than a few hundred yards; but he thought that, as he was already wet through, he might as well go on. Besides, "Cobbler" Horn's promise was sacred, and it had been given to his sick friend. So he plunged on through the flooded and splashing streets.
When he reached his destination, he was glad that he had not turned back. His poor friend was much worse, and it was evident that he had not many hours to live. Forgetful of his own discomfort, and heedless of danger from his wet clothes, "Cobbler" Horn took his place at the bedside, and remained for many hours with the dying man. His friend was a Christian, and did not fear to die. He had never been married, was almost without relatives, and had scarcely a friend. As, hour after hour, he held the hand of the dying man, "Cobbler" Horn whispered in his ear, from time to time, a cheering word, or breathed a fervent prayer. The feeble utterances of the dying man, which became less frequent as the hours crept away, left no doubt as to the reality of his faith in God, and, about midnight, he passed peacefully away.
"Cobbler" Horn lingered a few moments' longer, and set out for home. The rain had long ceased, and the sky was without a cloud. The semi-tropical shower had been followed by a rapid cooling of the atmosphere, and he shivered in his still damp clothes, as he hurried along.
He found Miss Jemima and the young secretary anxiously awaiting his return. They knew of his intention of visiting his sick friend, and were not much surprised that he was so late. But his sister was greatly concerned to find that he had remained so long with his clothes damp. He went at once to bed, and Miss Jemima insisted upon bringing to him there a steaming basin of gruel. He took a few spoonfuls, and then lay wearily back upon the bed. Miss Jemima shook up his pillows, arranged the bed-clothes, and reluctantly left him for the night.
In the morning it was evident that "the Golden Shoemaker" was ill. The wetting he had received, followed by the effect of the chill night air, had found out an unsuspected weakness in his constitution, and symptoms of acute bronchitis had set in. The doctor was hastily summoned, and, after the manner of his kind, gravely shook his head, by way of intimating that the case was much more serious than he was prepared verbally to admit. The condition of the patient, indeed, was such as to justify the most alarming interpretation of the doctor's manner and words.
Now followed a time of painful suspense. In spite of all that money could do, "Cobbler" Horn grew worse daily. The visits of the doctor, though repeated twice, and even three times a day, produced but little appreciable result. Could it be that this man, into whose possession such vast wealth had so recently come, was so early to be called to relinquish it again? Was it possible that all this money was so soon to drop from the hands which had seemed more fit to hold it than almost any other hands to which had ever been entrusted the disposal of money?
Miss Jemima did not ask herself such questions as these. She moved about the house, trying, in her grim way, to crush down within her heart the anguished thought that her beloved and worshipped brother lay at the point of death.
And Miss Owen—with what emotions did she contemplate the possibility of that dread event the actual occurrence of which became more probable every day? She went about her duties like one in a dream. What would it mean to her if he were to die? She would lose a great benefactor, and a dear friend; and that would be grief enough. But was there not something more that she would lose—something which had seemed almost within her grasp, which it had hitherto been the hope, and yet the fear, of her life that she might find, but which, of late, she had desired to find with an ardent and unhalting hope? It was with a sick heart that the young secretary discharged, from day to day, her now familiar duties. She was now so well acquainted with the mind of her employer, that she could deal with the correspondence almost as well without, as with, his help. But she missed him every moment, and the thought that he might never again take his place over against her at the office table filled her with bitter grief.
There were others who were anxious on account of the peril which threatened the life of "the Golden Shoemaker."
Mr. Durnford was weighted with grave concern. He called every day to see his friend; and each time he left the sick-chamber, he was uncertain whether his predominant feeling was that of sorrow for the illness and danger of so good a man, or rejoicing that, in his pain and peril, "Cobbler" Horn was so patient and resigned.
In the breasts of many who were accustomed to receive benefits at the hands of "the Golden Shoemaker," there was great distress. Every day, and almost every hour, there were callers, chiefly of the humbler classes, with anxious enquiries on their lips. Not the least solicitous of these were "the Little Twin Brethren." Tommy Dudgeon almost continually haunted the house where his honoured friend lay in such dire straits. The anxiety of the little man was intensified by a burning desire to know whether his desperate appeal on the subject of the "sec'tary" had produced its designed effect on the mind of "Cobbler" Horn.
Public sympathy with "Cobbler" Horn and his anxious friends ran deep; and every one who could claim, in any degree, the privilege of a friend, made frequent enquiry as to the sufferer's state. But neither public sympathy nor private grief were of much avail; and it seemed, for a time, as though the earthly course of "the Golden Shoemaker" was almost run. There came a day when the doctors confessed that they could do no more. A few hours must decide the question of life or death. Dreadful was the suspense in the stricken house, and great the sorrow in many hearts outside. Mr. Durnford, who had been summoned early in the morning, remained to await the issue of the day. Little Tommy Dudgeon, who had been informed that the crisis was near, came, and lingered about the house, on one pretence or another, unable to tear himself away.