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man, delighted to exercise Elliot's patience. “The dark-eyed one's the best, and that's Clara.”
“Out of the way, Jones. Let me get at him. I'll Clara him."
“Hallo, Elliot! sit down,” cried Davis. “Dobbs, you young limb, if you cause this confusion again, I'll turn you out. Keep still, Elliot, and I'll tell you. They were his cousins, the Blake girls
, Clara and Georgy."
" That they were not,” said Mr. Dobbs. “They were the two Freers.” “Oh, the Freers," echoed Davis; “ they don't often show. Old Bagwig keeps them up tight. They are the prettiest girls in Nearford.”
Who's old Bagwig ?" demanded Elliot. “The papa Freer. As cute a lawyer as any judge on the bench. He sports a wig with a bag behind : the only relic of bygone days to be seen in the town."
“I intend to monopolise one of those girls for myself,” announced Elliot.
“ Phew! wish you joy of your chance. Bagwig's laying by sacks of gold, and designs those two female inheritors of it to marry on the top of the ladder. Nothing under a foreign prince. You'd never get admitted inside their house, if you tried for a year.”.
“ I tell you that girl's a prize, and shall be mine ; and I'll bet you two crowns to one that I'm inside their house within a week. Tell me I can't get in where I choose ! you can't perhaps," added the audacious Elliot, drawing his handsome figure up, in his vanity.
“ Done !” cried Jones.
" And I'll ke him too," echoed Davis. “ Which of the two is the prize ?"
“ There's one with piercing dark eyes, giving out wicked glances," answered Elliot. "And splendid black hair."
“ Yes. That's Clara.”
rosy pink colour.”
It must be the young one then, and that's Loo."
“ Hark ! hush! listen will you! There's Dicks's voice, as I'm alive!"
The metamorphosis was like magic. Certain overcoats of the pupils which lay in a heap in a corner of the room, were raised, and the pewter pots hidden under them; slops of beer, rather prevalent, were rubbed dry with handkerchiefs; cigars and pipes, all alight, were thrust into sidepockets ; tables, as sitting places, were abandoned; and when Mr. Dicks, M.R.C.S., entered, every student presented the appearance of sober industry; some with the operating knives, some buried deep in surgical books of reference.
If fortune ever favoured any venturesome layer of bets, Tom Elliot was certainly the one that day. On his return home in the afternoon, he found Mrs. Agatha Needham cutting most extraordinary capers. She was evidently in a desperate state of excitement and anger. Tom's conscience took 'alarm ; he believed something had come out about himself, and felt as if a cold bath had been dashed over him.
“Dear aunt, whatever is the matter?” he ventured to ask, finding she did not speak, and thinking silence might look like self-confession. “ You are surely not taken with St. Vitus's dance in the legs ?”
“Never was such a thing heard of! never was such a wicked act perpetrated ! Rachel-my bonnet and velvet mantle. Thomas, nephew, don't stand peering at my legs. It's not in them, it's in my mind.”
Mr. Thomas sat down, completely cowed. What on earth had come to light? The latch-key—or kissing Rachel—or smoking in his bedroom at night-or had that sexton- ? “By all that's awful, that must be it !” reasoned Tom. “ The bungling fool has mistaken me, and sent the thing home, and she and the girls have turned Bluebeard's wife, and opened the box.” Tom's face began to stream down. Whatever could he do?
“Has a—a case-been brought here, ma'am, a heavy one?” he stammered. I came home on
because there's been a mistake. It belongs to Mr. Davis, senior student, and ought to have gone to his lodgings. I'll get a man and have it moved directly."
Mercy, boy,” cried Mrs. Agatha, “ I don't know anything about
If they had sent a dozen here, I should never have seen them today. There has been a wicked man here, Thomas, that's what there has been. A lawyer I believe he calls himself, and—that's right, Rachel -I'll and consult mine now.” Tom's spirits went up like mercury.
« Then I have not offended you, dear aunt! I feared— I don't know what I didn't fear—that somebody might have been trying to traduce
character to you." “Child and woman have I lived in this house for sixt-over forty years," went on Mrs. Agatha, unheeding Mr. Tom's fears, “my own leasehold
father and mother's before me. And now an impious wretch comes forward and says there's a flaw in the lease, and I must turn out, and am responsible for back rent! I'll
and consult the first lawyer in the town. Come along with me, Thomas."
“It's impossible, dear aunt. I have got six hours work before me today: reading-up for Mr. Dicks.” The truth was he had made an appointment for billiards.
“ That's exceedingly vexatious. I should like to have had you with me for witness. But you are quite right, Thomas : never put your studies aside for anything. I'll wish you good afternoon. Rachel, if anybody comes, you don't know when I shall be at home, for I am gone to Lawyer Freer's.
“ Lawyer Freer's!" screamed Tom, rushing after his aunt, and nearly upsetting Rachel.
“Of course you must have a witness, aunt, if you are going there. Just wait one moment while I slip on another coat and waistcoat."
“What's the matter with those you have on?” demanded Mrs. Agatha. “Oh-this is my professional suit. And when I walk with
I like to look as your nephew ought."
“ Dutiful lad!" aspirated Mrs. Agatha. “He shall not be a loser by his attachment to me.
Lawyer Freer was at home, and enscónced Mrs. Agatha in his consulting-room. Her dutiful nephew slipped aside as they were going in, and shut the door on the old lady and the attorney. Mrs. Agatha was
too full of her subject to notice, at first, the absence of her nephew; and afterwards she would not disturb the consideration of her case by calling for him. They both.concluded Mr. Tom was exercising his patience in the company
of the clerks in the front office. Not he. He was as daring as he was high, and he went along the passage, peeping here and peeping there, till he came to a room where two young ladies were seated-his beauties of the previous night. Clara, the eldest, a splendid girl; Louisa (the prize), prettier still, with dancing eyes and shining curls.
“ I beg pardon,” cried Mr. Tom, as the young ladies rose in surprise; “ do not let me disturb you. I am sent here to wait, whilst my aunt holds a private consultation with Mr. Freer. Mrs. Agatha Needham."
The young ladies bowed. They had a speaking acquaintance with Mrs. Agatha, and hoped she was well
. Tom assured them she was very well, went on talking upon other subjects, and made himself entirely at home. Mr. Tom Elliot had won his bet.
TI. Mrs. AGATHA NEEDHAM found her lease and its flaw could not be settled by the lawyers. The cause, in due time, was entered for trial, at the March assizes, “Newcome versus Needham.” It caused an extraordinary sensation in Nearford: all the holders of leasehold property arguing that if Mrs. Agatha Needham was disturbed in her long and peaceful occupancy, where was their security? As to Mrs. Agatha, it may be questioned if she enjoyed a full night's rest during the period of suspense. Nothing could exceed the sympathy and interest evinced by Tom Elliot in the affair: as Mrs. Agatha observed, what she should have done without him, she did not know. Ilis legs were kept on the run between his aunt's house and Lawyer Freer's; and the numerous messages forwarded by Mrs. Agatha nearly drove the lawyer wild. She was fidgety, and Thomas pressed her on.
"Do you want my services with Mr. Freer, this morning, aunt ?"
No trouble to me. Those lawyers require perpetual looking-up. They are so apt to forget the interests of one client in those of another. It's out of sight, out of mind' with them."
“Very true, Thomas. Thank you. Go down then to Mr. Freer: my compliments, and I have sent to know if there's anything fresh. I am ashamed to give you this frequent trouble.”
“ Trouble's a pleasure, aunt, when you are concerned,” responded Thomas.
• The comfort of possessing such a nephew!" ejaculated Mrs. Agatha,
Tom flew off, but the stars were against him that day. Lawyer Freer was out; so much the better: for Tom could more safely find his way to the young ladies, as he had now done many and many a time. They had also taken to look for him, and they saw him coming down the street.
“ Here's Mr. Elliot, Loo,” observed Clara ; and a blush of satisfaction rose to her face, as she turned from the window to a mirror and smoothed her hair, here and there, with her finger. Louisa did not answer, but a
much brighter blush rose to her face, and she bent lower over the piece of drawing she was preparing for her master. For Louisa, scarcely eighteen, still had masters attending her, and Clara, who was two years older, looked upon her as a child. Child as she might be, though, she had grown
to love Tom Elliot. Why did they both blush ? somebody may ask ; surely they were not both in love with him ? Not exactly. Tom Elliot was a general admirer, and whilst he had become really attached to Louisa Freer, and had striven privately to gain her affections, he had evinced a very fair share of admiration for Clara, partly in homage of her beauty, partly to divert suspicion from her sister. And Clara Freer, who had no objection in the world to receive admiration from so handsome and popular a man as Tom Elliot, certainly did not repel him.
“He's over head and ears in love,” Clara was proceeding to add; but her sister interrupted her in a startling voice,
“ In love! With whom ?”
"With me,” complacently replied Miss Freer, “who else is there? His next move will be to make me an offer in his random
Louisa's heart beat fast against her side, and her blood tingled to her fingers' ends. Make
you an offer !" she gasped forth. “Would you marry him ?" “ Bless the child! I marry a medical student, an embryo surgeon! I look a little bigher than that, Loo. But if Tom Elliot were as rich in wealth as he is in attractions—why then you might stand a speedy chance of being a bridesmaid. I know he adores me.”
No more was said, for Tom entered, and began rattling away, after his own fashion. An attractive companion he undoubtedly was. Presently Miss Freer was called from the room by a servant, upon some domestic affair.
My dearest Loo,” he whispered, as soon as they were alone, “you look sad this morning. What is it?"
“Oh, nothing,” she answered, bursting into tears. And Tom, all alive with surprise and concern, clasped her in his arms,
and was in the very agreeable act of kissing off the tears, when Clara returned. It was sooner than they had expected her, and they were fairly caught.
Clara, her features naturally of a haughty cast, could put on a look when she liked. Mr. Elliot had never yet been favoured with it; but it shone out, in full force, as she imperiously demanded an explanation from both of them.
“ The truth is, Miss Freer," said Tom, speaking up like a man, " that I love your sister. Until I saw her, all young ladies were alike to me, that is, I was fond of them all. But now she is the only one I care for, or ever shall care for in the world. I did not intend this to come out yet : and I hope you will keep our secret."
“ And pray,” returned Clara, boiling over with rage and mortification, “when did you intend it to come out, sir ?".
“When ? Not till I was well established in my profession, and could ask for her as I ought to do, of Mr. Freer.”
«Clara," uttered the younger sister, her tears falling fast in agitation, for she had read the expression in the elder's eye, 6 for the love of Heaven do not betray me to papa. Dear Clara !"
“I shall acquaint your father instantly, as is my duty," was the cold
reply. “We shall have a baby in leading-strings entangling itself in a matrimonial engagement next !"
“Clara, my dear sister-let me call you so for the first, though I hope not for the last time, be reasonable, be kind,” said Mr. Elliot, trying his powers of persuasion. But effectual as they had hitherto proved with the young lady, they failed now.
“What I can do to oppose your views on my sister, I will do," she vehemently answered. “You have played a traitor's part, Mr. Elliot, in seeking her affections. I beg you to leave the house at once, and you will never be admitted to it again.”
“But, Clara," he remonstrated, “you—” “I have told you to leave the house,” she reiterated, pale with anger.
you do not quit it this instant I shall ring for the servants to show
ing to him.
“Very well, Miss Freer,” he said, all his customary equanimity return
“ Louisa, my darling," he impressively added, turning to her for a last farewell, “we may be obliged to bend to circumstances and temporarily separate, but remember-come what may, I will be true to you.
you so to me. Will you promise ?" “I will,” she whispered ; and Mr. Tom Elliot bent down, and sealed it on her lips, regardless of Miss Clara’s energetic appeal to the bell.
Clara Freer made her own tale good to her father, and Thomas made his good to Mrs. Agatha. For in the violent indignation of the attorney, he had informed that lady of her nephew's having presumed to make love to his daughter, and Mrs. Agatha, overwhelmed with the first shock of the news, wrote off an imperative summons to Tom's father, telling him to post to Nearford, upon a matter of life and death. Which summons brought the alarmed parent flying at express speed.
Everybody who heard of the affair pronounced them both a couple of simpletons. A medical pupil of twenty-one, without any definite hopes or money whatever, to have talked of marriage, was ridiculously absurd ; and for a young lady, with money and prospects, to listen to him, was more absurd still. The clergyman, when he arrived, and found what the matter was, wished to treat it as a joke, the lawyer outrageous to treat it any way but in earnest, while Tom strove to deny it to Mrs. Agatha.
“ There's nothing in it, dear aunt,” he pleaded ; “don't you believe any
of them." “ But Miss Freer affirms that she caught you kissing her sister," persisted Mrs. Agatha. “How do you account for that ?"
“ I'm sure I don't know how it is to be accounted for,” answered Tom, demurely." I believe I must have dropped asleep with my eyes open, and done it in a dream. I was sitting there, waiting for the lawyer to come in, and had got tired to death.”
Mrs. Agatha was staggered. She had not much faith in those sort of dreams, but she had great faith in Tom's word.
“ Kissing is very bad, Thomas,” she observed, doubtingly.
“ It's shocking,” promptly answered Thomas. “ You cannot believe, ma'am, I should be guilty of it-awake. Never tried to kiss any young lady in all my life-except my sisters.”
Not, however, to his father and Mr. Freer did Thomas Elliot make a similar defence. To them he told the truth boldly—that he was in love