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and with kind words dismissed him.

Things returned to their old way at Miss Tempest's. Her friends never
doubted she would now at last commit her plate to her banker's strong
room, but they found themselves mistaken: she was convinced that, with
such servants and Abdiel, it was safe where it was.

The leader of the gang, injured by Clare's water-jug, was soon after
captured, and the gang was broken up.

Chapter LVII.

Ann Shotover.

So void of self-assertion was Clare, so prompt at the call of whoever
needed him, so quiet yet so quick, so silent in his sympathetic
ministrations, so studious and so capable, that, after two years, Miss
Tempest began to feel she ought to do what she could to "advance his
prospects," even at the loss to herself of his services.

He never came to regard Miss Tempest as he did the other women who had
saved him: he never thought of her as his fourth mother. Truly good
and kind she was, but she had a certain manner which prevented him
from feeling entirely comfortable with her. It did not escape him,
however, that Abdiel was thoroughly at his ease in her company; and he
believed therefore that the dog knew her better, or at least was more
just to her, than he.

The fact was Miss Tempest kept down all her feelings, with a vague
sense that to show them would be to waste her substance: it was the
one shape that the yet lingering selfishness of a very unselfish
person took. Thus she kept him at a distance, and he stayed at a
distance, she on her part wondering that he did not open out to her
more, but neither doubting that all was right between them. Nothing,
indeed, was wrong - only they might have come a little nearer. Perhaps,
also, Miss Tempest was a little too conscious of being his patroness,
his earthly saviour.

It was natural that, after the defeated robbery, Clare should become a
little known to the friends of the mistress he had so well served;
when, therefore, Miss Tempest spoke to her banker concerning the
ability of her page, mentioning that, in his spare time, he had been
reading hard, as well as attending an evening-school for mathematics,
where he gained much approbation from his master, she spoke of one
already known by him to one accustomed to regard character.

The banker listened with a solemn listening from which she could not
tell what he was thinking. No one ever could tell what Mr. Shotover
was thinking: his face was not half a face; it was more a mask than a
face. High in the world's regard, rich, and of unquestioned integrity,
he was believed to have gathered a large fortune; but he kept his
affairs to himself. That he liked his own way so much as never to
yield it, I give up to the admiration of such as himself: often
kind - when the required mode of the kindness pleased him, a constant
church-goer and giver of money, always saying less the more he made up
his mind, he had generally no trouble in getting it.

Priding himself on his moral discrimination, he had, now and then, as
suited his need, taken from a lower position a young man he thought
would serve his purpose, and modelled him to it. He had had his eye on
Clare ever since reading the magistrate's eulogy of his contrivance
and courage; but when Miss Tempest spoke, he had not made up his mind
about him, for something in the boy repelled him. He had scarcely
troubled himself to ask what it was, nor do I believe he could have
discovered, for the root of the repulsion lay in himself.

Moved in part, however, by the representations of Miss Tempest, in
part also, I think, by a desire to discover that the boy was a
hypocrite, Mr. Shotover consented to give him a trial, whereupon Miss
Tempest made haste to disclose to her _protegé_ the grand thing she
had done for him.

She was disappointed at the coolness and lack of interest with which
Clare heard her great news. She could not but be gratified that he did
not want to leave her, but she was annoyed that he seemed unaware of
any advantage to be gained in doing so - high as the social ascent from
servitude to clerkship would by most be considered. But Clare's
horizon was not that of the world. He had no inclination to more of
figures and less of persons. Miss Tempest, however, insisting that she
knew what was best for him, and what it was therefore his duty to do,
he listened in respectful silence to all she had to say. But what she
counted her most powerful argument - that he owed it to himself to rise
in the world - did not even touch him, did not move the slightest
response in a mind nobly devoid of ambition. Her argument was in truth
nonsense; for a man owes himself nothing, owes God everything, and
owes his neighbour whatever his own conscience goes on to require of
him for his neighbour. Feeling at the same time, however, that she had
a huge claim on his compliance with her wishes, Clare consented to
leave her kitchen for her friend's bank, where he had of course to
take the lowest position, one counted by the rest of the clerks,
especially the one just out of it, _menial_, requiring him to be in
the bank earlier by half an hour than the others, to be the last to go
away at night, and to sleep in the house - where a not uncomfortable
room in the attic story was appointed him.

Mr. Shotover himself lived above the bank - with his family, consisting
of his wife and two daughters. Mrs. Shotover suffered from a terrible
disease - that of thinking herself ill when nothing was the matter with
her except her paramount interest in herself - the source of at least
half the incurable disease among idle people. The elder daughter was a
high-spirited girl about twenty, with a frank, friendly manner,
indicating what God meant her to be, not what she was, or had yet
chosen to be. She was not really frank, and seemed far more friendly
than she was, being more selfish than she knew, and far more selfish
than she seemed: she was merry, and that goes a great way in
seeming. Her mother spent no regard upon her; her heart was too full
of herself to have in it room for a grown-up daughter as well, with
interests of her own. The younger was a child about six, of whom the
mother took not so much care by half as a tigress of her cub.

One morning, a little before eight o'clock, as Clare was coming down
from his room to open the windows of the bank, he just saved himself
from tumbling over something on the attic stair, which was dark, and
at that point took rather a sharp turn. The something was a child, who
gave a low cry, and started up to run away: there was not light enough
for either to discern easily what the other was like. But Clare, to
whom childhood was the strongest attraction he yet knew, bent down his
face from where he stood on the step above her, and its moonlight glow
of love and faith shone clear in the eyes of the little girl. The
moment she saw his smile, she knew the soul that was the light of the
smile, and her doll dropped from her hands as she raised them to lay
her arms gently about his neck.

"Oh!" she said, "you're come!"

He saw now, in the dusk, a pale, ordinary little face, with rather
large gray eyes, a rather characterless, tiny, up-turned nose, and a
rather pretty mouth.

"Yes, little one. Were you expecting me?" he returned, with his arms
about her.

"Yes," she answered, in the tone of one stating what the other must

"How was it I frightened you, then?"

"Only at first I thought you was an ogre! That was before I saw
you. Then I knew!"

"Who told you I was coming?"

"Nobody. Nobody knew you was coming but me. I've known it - oh, for
such a time! - ever since I was born, I think!"

She turned her head a little and looked down where the doll lay a step
or two below.

"You can go now, dolly," she said. "I don't want you any more." Here
she paused a while, as if listening to a reply, then went on: "I am
much obliged to you, dolly; but what am I to do with you? You won't
never speak! It has made me quite sad many a time, you know very well!
But you can't help it! So go away, please, and be nobody, for you
never would be anybody! I did my best to get you to be somebody, but
you wouldn't! Thank you all the same! I will take you and put you
where you can be as dull as you please, and nobody will mind." - Here
she left Clare, went down, and lifted her plaything. - "Dolly, dolly,"
she resumed, "he's come! I knew he would! And you don't know it
because you're nobody!"

Without looking back, or a word of adieu to Clare, she went slowly
down the steps, one by one, with the doll in her arms, manifesting for
it neither contempt nor tenderness. Many a child would have carried
the discrowned favourite by one leg; she carried her in both hands.

Clare waited a while on the narrow, closed-in, wooden stair, not a
little wondering, and full of thought. His wonder, however, had no
puzzlement in it. The child's behaviour involved no difficulty. The
two existences came together, and each understood the other in virtue
of its essential nature. In after years Clare could put the thing into
such words; he sought none at the time. The child was lonely. She had
done her best with her doll, but it had failed her. It was not
companionable. The moment she looked in Clare's face, she knew that he
loved her, and that she had been waiting for _him_! She was not
surprised to see him; how should it be otherwise than just so! He was
come: good bye, dolly! The child had imagination - next to conscience
the strongest ally of common sense. She knew, like St. Paul, that an
idol is nothing. As men and women grow in imagination and common
sense, more and more will sacred silly dolls be cast to the moles and
the bats. But pretty Fancy and limping Logic are powerful usurpers in
commonplace minds.

Clare saw nothing more of her that day, neither tried to see her; but
he did his work in an atmosphere of roses. The work was not nearly so
interesting as house-work, but Clare was an honest gentleman,
therefore did it well: that it was not interesting was of no account;
it was his work! But to know that a child was in the house, not merely
a child for him to love, but a child that already loved him so that he
could be her servant indeed, changed the stupid bank almost into the
dome of the angels.

His fellow clerks took little notice of him beyond what, in the
routine of the day, was unavoidable. He had been a page-boy: the less
they did with him the better! Were they not wronged by his
introduction into their company? The poorest creature of them believed
he would have served out the burglars better if the chance had been

Chapter LVIII.


As Clare came down the next morning but one, there was the child again
on the dark narrow stair. She had no doll. Her hands lay folded in her
lap. She sat on the same step, the very image of child-patience. As he
approached she did not move. I believe she held solemn revel of
expectation. He laid his hand on the whitey-brown hair smoothed flat
on her head with a brush dipped in water. Not much dressing was wasted
on Ann - common little name!

She rose, turned to him, and again laid her arms about his neck. No
kiss followed: she had not been taught to kiss.

"Where's dolly?" asked Clare.

"Nowhere. Buried," answered the child.

"Where did you bury her? In the garden?"

"No. The garden wouldn't be nowhere!"

"Where, then?"

"Nowhere. I threw her out of the window."

"Into the street?"

"Yes. She did fell on a horse's back, and he jumped. I was sorry."

"It didn't hurt him. I hope it didn't hurt dolly!"

The moment he said it, Clare's heart reproached him: he was not
talking true! he was not talking out of his real heart to the child!
Almost with indignation she answered: -

"_Things_ don't be hurt! Dolly was a thing! She's _no_ thing now!"


"Because she fell under the horse, and was seen no more."

"Is she old enough," thought Clare, "to read the Pilgrim's Progress?"

"Will you tell me, please," he said, "_when_ a thing is only a thing?"

"When it won't mind what you do or say to it."

"And when is a thing no thing any more?"

"When you never think of it again."

"Is a fly a thing?"

"I _could_ make a fly mind, only it would hurt it!"

"Of course we wouldn't do that!"

"No; we don't want to make a fly mind. It's not one of our creatures."

Clare thought that was far enough in metaphysics for one morning.

"I waited for you yesterday," he said, "but you didn't come!"

"Dolly didn't like to be buried. I mean, I didn't like burying
dolly. I cried and wouldn't come."

"Then why did you bury dolly?"

"She _had_ to be buried. I told you she couldn't _be_ anybody! So I
_made_ her be buried."

"I see! I quite understand. - But what have you to amuse yourself with

"I don't want to be mused now. You's come! I'm growed up!"

"Yes, of course!" answered Clare; but he was puzzled what to say next.

What could he do for her? Glad would he have been to take her down to
the sea, or to the docks, or into the country somewhere, till
dinner-time, and then after dinner take her out again! But there was
his work - ugly, stupid work that had to be done, as dolly _had_ to be
buried! Alas for the child who has discarded her toys, and is suddenly
growed up! What is she to do with herself? Clare's coming had caused
the loss of Ann's former interests: he felt bound to make up to her
for that loss. But how? It was a serious question, and not being his
own master, he could not in a moment answer it.

"I wish I could stay with you all day!" he said. "But your papa wants
me in the bank. I must go."

Clare had not had a good sight of the child, and was at a loss to
think what must be her age. Her language, both in form and utterance,
was partly precise and _grown-up_, and partly childish; but her wisdom
was child-like - and that is the opposite both of precise and
childish. It was the wisdom that comes of unity between thought and

"Is there anything I can do for you before I go - for I must go?" said

"Who says _must_ to you? Nurse says _must_ to me."

"Your papa says _must_ to me."

"If you didn't say _yes_ when papa said _must_, what would come next?"

"He would say, 'Go out of my house, and never come in again.'"

"And would you do it?"

"I must: the house is his, not mine."

"If I didn't say _yes_ when papa said _must_, what would happen?"

"He would try to make you say it."

"And if I wouldn't, would he say, 'Go out of my house and never come
in again'?"

"No; you are his little girl!"

"Then I think he shouldn't say it to you. - What is your name?"


"Then, Clare, if my papa sends you out of his house, I will go with
you. - You wouldn't turn me out, would you, when I was a _little_

"No; neither would your papa."

"If he turned you out, it would be all the same. Where you go, I will
go. I must, you know! Would you mind if he said 'Go away'?"

"I should be very sorry to leave you."

"Yes, but that's not going to be! Why do you stay with papa? Were you
in the house always - ever so long before I saw you?"

"No; a very little while only."

"Did you come in from the street?"

"Yes; I came in from the street. Your papa pays me to work for him."

"And if you wouldn't?"

"Then I should have no money, and nothing to eat, and nowhere to sleep
at night."

"Would that make you uncomfable?"

"It would make me die."

"Have you a papa?"

"Yes, but he's far away."

"You could go to him, couldn't you?"

"One day I shall."

"Why don't you go now, and take me?"

"Because he died."

"What's _died_?"

"Went away out of sight, where we can't go to look for him till we go
out of sight too."

"When will that be?"

"I don't know."

"Does anybody know?"


"Then perhaps you will never go?"

"We must go; it's only that nobody knows when."

"I think the when that nobody knows, mayn't never come. - Is that why
you have to work?"

"Everybody has to work one way or another."

"I haven't to work!"

"If you don't work when you're old enough, you'll be miserable."

"_You're_ not old enough."

"Oh, yes, indeed I am! I've been working a long time now."

"Where? Not for papa?"

"No; not for papa."

"Why not? Why didn't you come sooner? Why didn't you come _much_
sooner - _ever_ so much sooner? Why did you make me wait for you all
the time?"

"Nobody ever told me you were waiting."

"Nobody ever told me you were coming, but I knew."

"You had to wait for me, and you knew. I had to wait for you, and I
didn't know! When we have time, I will tell you all about myself, and
how I've been waiting too."

"Waiting for me?"


"Who for?"

"For my father and mother - and somebody else, I think."

"That's me."

"No; I'm waiting yet. I didn't know I was coming to you till I came,
and there you were!"

The child was silent for a moment. Then she said thoughtfully,

"You will tell me _all_ about yourself! That _will_ be nice! - Can you
tell stories?" she added. " - Of course you can! You can do

"Oh, no, I can't!"

"Can't you?"

"No; I can do _some_ things - not many. I can love you, little
one! - Now I must go, or I shall be late, and nobody ever ought to be

"Go then. I will go to my nursery and wait again."

She went down the stair without once looking behind her. Clare
followed. On the next floor she went one way to her nursery, and he
another to the back-stairs.

One of the causes and signs of Clare's manliness was, that he never
aimed at being a man. Many men continue childish because they are
always trying to act like men, instead of simply trying to do
right. Such never develop true manliness, Clare's manhood stole upon
him unawares. That which at once made him a man and kept him a child,
was, that he had no regard for anything but what was real, that is,

All the day the thought kept coming, what could he do for the little
girl Perhaps what stirred his feeling for her most, was a suspicion
that she was neglected. But the careless treatment of a nurse was
better for her than would have been the capricious blandishments and
neglects of a mother like Mrs. Shotover. Clare, however, knew nothing
yet about Ann's mother. He knew only, by the solemnly still ways of
the child, that she must be much left to her own resources, and was
wonderfully developed in consequence - whether healthily or not, he
could not yet tell. The practical question was - how to contrive to be
her occasional companion; how to offer to serve her.

After much thinking, he concluded that he must wait: opportunity might
suggest mode; and he would rather find than make opportunity!

Chapter LIX.

Lovers' walks.

He had not long to wait. That very afternoon, going a message for the
head-clerk, he met Ann walking with a young lady - who must be Miss
Shotover. Neither sister seemed happy with the other. Ann was very
white, and so tired that she could but drag her little feet after
her. Miss Shotover, flushed with exertion, and annoyed with her part
of nursemaid, held her tight and hauled her along by the hand. She
looked good-natured, but not one of the ministering sort. Every now
and then she would give the little arm a pull, and say, though not
_very_ crossly, "Do come along!" The child did not cry, but it was
plain she suffered. It was plain also she was doing her best to get
home, and avoid rousing her sister's tug.

Keen-sighted, Clare had recognized Ann at some distance, and as he
approached had a better opportunity than on the dark stair of seeing
what his little friend was like. He saw that her eyes were unusually
clear, and, paces away, could distinguish the blue veins on her
forehead: she looked even more delicate than he had thought her. The
lines of her mouth were straightened out with the painful effort she
had to make to keep up with her sister. Her nose continued
insignificant, waiting to learn what was expected of it.

For Miss Shotover, there was not a good feature in her face, and even
to a casual glance it might have suggested a measure of meanness. But
a bright complexion, and the youthful charm which vanishes with youth,
are pleasant in their season. Her figure was lithe, and in general she
had a look of fun; but at the moment heat and impatience clouded her

Clare stopped and lifted his hat. Then first the dazed child saw him,
for she was short-sighted, and her observation was dulled by
weariness. She said not a word, uttered no sound, only drew her hand
from her sister's, and held up her arms to her friend - in dumb prayer
to be lifted above the thorns of life, and borne along without pain.
He caught her up.

"I beg your pardon, ma'am," he said, "but the little one and I have
met before: - I live in the house, having the honour to be the youngest
of your father's clerks. If you will allow me, I will carry the
child. She looks tired!"

Miss Shotover was glad enough to be relieved of her clog, and gave
smiling consent.

"If you would be so kind as to carry her home," she said, "I should be
able to do a little shopping!"

"You will not mind my taking her a little farther first, ma'am? I am
on a message for Mr. Woolrige. I will carry her all the way, and be
very careful of her."

Miss Shotover was not one to cherish anxiety. She already knew Clare
both by report and by sight, and willingly yielded. Saying, with one
of her pleasant smiles, that she would hold him accountable for her,
she sailed away, like a sloop that had been dragging her anchor, but
had now cut her cable. Clare thought what a sweet-looking girl she
was - and in truth she was sweet-_looking_. Then, all his heart turned
to the little one in his arms.

What a walk was that for both of them! Little Ann seemed never to have
lived before: she was actually happy! She had been long waiting for
Clare, and he was come - and such as she had expected him! It was bliss
to glide thus along the busy street without the least exertion,
looking down on the heads of the people, safe above danger and fear
amid swift-moving things and the crowding confusions of life! To be in
Clare's arms was better than being in the little house on the
elephant's back in her best picture-book! True, little one! To be in
the arms of love, be they ever so weak, is better than to ride the
grandest horse in all the stables of God - and God would have you know
it! Never mind your pale little face and your puny nose! While your
heart is ready to die for love-sake, you are blessed among women!
Only remember that to die of disappointment is not to die either of or
for love!

And to Clare, after all those days upon days during which only a dog
would come to his arms, what a glory of life it was to have a human
child in them, the little heart of the pale face beating against his
side! He was not going to forget Abdiel. Abdiel was not a fact to be
forgotten. Abdiel was not a doll, Abdiel was not a thing that would
not come alive. Abdiel was a true heart, a live soul, and Clare would
love him for ever! - not an atom the less that now he had one out upon
whom a larger love was able to flow! All true love makes abler to
love. It is only false love, the love of those who take their own
meanest selfishness, their own pleasure in being loved, for love, that
shrinks and narrows the soul.

To the pale-faced, listening child, Clare talked much about the
wonderful Abdiel, and about the kind good Miss Tempest who was keeping
him to live again at length with his old master; and Ann loved the dog
she had never seen, because the dog loved the Clare who was come at

When they returned, Clare rang the house-bell, and gave up his charge
to the man who opened the door. Without word or tone, gesture or look
of objection, or even of disinclination, the child submitted to be
taken from Clare's loving embrace, and carried to a nurse who was
neither glad nor sorry to see her.

He had been so long gone that Mr. Woolrige found fault with him for
it. Clare told him he had met Miss Shotover with her sister, and the
child seemed so tired he had asked leave to carry her with him,
Mr. Woolrige was not pleased, but he said nothing; on the spot the
clerks nicknamed him _Nursie_; and Clare did his best to justify the
appellation-he never lost a chance of acting up to it, and always
answered when they summoned him by it.

Before the week was ended, he sought an interview with Miss Shotover,
and asked her whether he might not take little Ann out for a walk
whenever the evening was fine. For at five o'clock the doors of the
bank were shut, and in half an hour after he was free. Miss Shotover

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Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldA Rough Shaking → online text (page 21 of 24)