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GUILD COURT ***




Produced by Mary Glenn Krause, MFR, University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill,Graeme Mackreth and the Online
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GEORGE MACDONALD'S WRITINGS.

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"_A mine of original and quaint similitudes. Their deep perceptions of
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Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood.

The Seaboard Parish. A Sequel to Annals of a Quiet
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Guild Court. A London Story.

Alec Forbes of Howglen.

Robert Falconer.

The Vicar's Daughter. An Autobiographical Story.

Paul Faber. Surgeon.

Thomas Wingfold, Curate.

Wilfrid Cumbermede. An Autobiographical Story.

Sir Gibbie.

St. George and St. Michael. A Novel.

{ The Portent. A Story.
{ Phantastes. A Faerie Romance for Men and Women.

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Adela Cathcart.

Malcolm.

The Marquis of Lossie.

Warlock O' Glenwarlock. A Homely Romance.

Mary Marston.

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[Illustration:

p. 351. "SHE FELL INTO A DREAMY STUDY OF THE FIRE."]




GUILD COURT
A LONDON STORY

_By GEORGE MACDONALD_

Author of "ANNALS OF A QUIET NEIGHBORHOOD," "THE SEABOARD
PARISH," Etc., Etc., Etc.

NEW YORK:
GEORGE ROUTLEDGE & SONS,
9 Lafayette Place.
1883.




GUILD COURT.




CHAPTER I.

THE WALK TO THE COUNTING-HOUSE.


[Illustration]

In the month of November, not many years ago, a young man was walking
from Highbury to the City. It was one of those grand mornings that dawn
only twice or thrice in the course of the year, and are so independent
of times and seasons that November even comes in for its share. And
it seemed as if young Thomas Worboise had at his toilet felt the
influences of the weather, for he was dressed a trifle more gayly
than was altogether suitable for the old age of the year. Neither,
however, did he appear in harmony with the tone of the morning, which
was something as much beyond the significance of his costume as the
great arches of a cathedral upheaving a weight of prayer from its
shadowed heart toward the shadowless heavens are beyond the petty
gorgeousness of the needlework that adorns the vain garments of its
priesthood. It was a lofty blue sky, with multitudes of great clouds
half way between it and the earth, among which, as well as along the
streets, a glad west wind was reveling. There was nothing much for
it to do in the woods now, and it took to making merry in the clouds
and the streets. And so the whole heaven was full of church windows.
Every now and then a great bore in the cloudy mass would shoot a sloped
cylinder of sun-rays earthward, like an eye that saw in virtue of the
light it shed itself upon the object of its regard. Gray billows of
vapor with sunny heads tossed about in the air, an ocean for angelic
sport, only that the angels could not like sport in which there was
positively no danger. Where the sky shone through it looked awfully
sweet and profoundly high. But although Thomas enjoyed the wind on his
right cheek as he passed the streets that opened into High Street, and
although certain half sensations, half sentiments awoke in him at its
touch, his look was oftenest down at his light trowsers or his enameled
boots, and never rose higher than the shop windows.

As he turned into the church-yard to go eastward, he was joined by an
acquaintance a few years older than himself, whose path lay in the same
direction.

"Jolly morning, ain't it, Tom?" said he.

"Ye-es," answered Thomas, with something of a fashionable drawl, and in
the doubtful tone of one who will be careful how he either praises or
condemns anything. "Ye-es. It almost makes one feel young again."

"Ha, ha, ha! How long is it since you enjoyed the pleasing sensation
last?"

"None of your chaff, now, Charles."

"Well, upon my word, if you don't like chaff, you put yourself at the
wrong end of the winnower."

"I never read the Georgics."

"Yes, I know I was born in the country - a clod-hopper, no doubt; but I
can afford to stand your chaff, for I feel as young as the day I was
born. If you were a fast fellow, now, I shouldn't wonder; but for one
like you, that teaches in the Sunday-school and all that, I am ashamed
of you, talking like that. Confess now, you don't believe a word of
what you cram the goslings with."

"Charles, you may make game of me as you like, but I won't let you
say a word against religion in my presence. You may despise me if you
like, and think it very spoony of me to teach in the Sunday-school,
but - well, you know well enough what I mean."

"I can guess at it, old fellow. Come, come, don't think to humbug me.
You know as well as I do that you don't believe a word of it. I don't
mean you want to cheat me or any one else. I believe you're above that.
But you do cheat yourself. What's the good of it all when you don't
feel half as merry as I do on a bright morning like this? I never
trouble my head about that rubbish. Here am I as happy as I care to
be - for to-day, at least, and 'sufficient unto the day,' you know."

Thomas might have replied, had he been capable of so replying, that
although the evil is sufficient for the day, the good may not be. But
he said something very different, although with a solemnity fit for an
archbishop.

"There's a day coming, Charles, when the evil will be more than
sufficient. I want to save my soul. You have a soul to save, too."

"Possibly," answered Charles, with more carelessness than he felt; for
he could not help being struck with the sententiousness of Thomas's
reply, if not with the meaning contained in it. As he was not devoid
of reverence, however, and had been spurred on to say what he had
said more from the sense of an undefined incongruity between Thomas's
habits, talk included, and the impression his general individuality
made upon him, than from any wish to cry down the creed in which he
took no practical interest, he went no farther in the direction in
which the conversation was leading. He doubled.

"If your soul be safe, Tom, why should you be so gloomy?"

"Are there no souls to save but mine? There's yours now."

"Is that why you put on your shiny trot-boxes and your lavender
trousers, old fellow? Come, don't be stuck up. I can't stand it."

"As you please, Charles: I love you too much to mind your making game
of me."

"Come, now," said Charles Wither, "speak right out as I am doing to
you. You seem to know something I don't. If you would only speak right
out, who knows if you mightn't convert me, and save my soul, too, that
you make such a fuss about. For my part, I haven't found out that I
have a soul yet. What am I to do with it before I know I've got it? But
that's not the point. It's the trousers. When I feel miserable about
myself - "

"Nonsense, Charles! you never do."

"But I do, though. I want something I haven't got often enough; and,
for the life of me, I don't know what it is. Sometimes I think it's a
wife. Sometimes I think it's freedom to do whatever I please. Sometimes
I think it's a bottle of claret and a jolly good laugh. But to return
to the trousers."

"Now leave my trousers alone. It's quite disgusting to treat serious
things after such a fashion."

"I didn't know trousers were serious things - except to old grandfather
Adam. But it's not about your trousers I was talking. It was about my
own."

"I see nothing particular about yours."

"That's because I'm neither glad nor sorry."

"What _do_ you mean?"

"Now you come to the point. That's just what I wanted to come to
myself, only you wouldn't let me. You kept shying like a half-broke
filly."

"Come now, Charles, you know nothing about horses, I am very sure."

Charles Wither smiled, and took no other notice of the asseveration.

"What I mean is this," he said, "that when I am in a serious,
dull-gray, foggy mood, you know - not like this sky - "

But when he looked up, the sky was indeed one mass of leaden gray.
The glory of the unconditioned had yielded to the bonds of November,
and - _Ichabod_.

"Well," Charles resumed, looking down again, "I mean just like this
same sky over St. Luke's Work-house here. Lord! I wonder if St. Luke
ever knew what kind of thing he'd give his medical name to! When I feel
like that, I never dream of putting on lavender trousers, you know,
Tom, my boy. So I can't understand you, you know. I only put on such
like - I never had such a stunning pair as those - when I go to Richmond,
or - "

"Of a Sunday, I believe," said Worboise, settled.

"Of a Sunday. Just so. The better day, the better deed, you know, as
people say; though, I dare say, you don't think it."

"When the deed is good, the day makes it better. When the deed is bad,
the day makes it worse," said Tom, with a mixture of reproof and "high
sentence," which was just pure nonsense.

How much of Thomas's depression was real, and how much was put on - I
do not mean outwardly put on without being inwardly assumed - in order
that he might flatter himself with being in close sympathy and harmony
with Lord Byron, a volume of whose poems was at the time affecting the
symmetry of his handsome blue frock-coat, by pulling down one tail
more than the other, and bumping against his leg every step he took - I
cannot exactly tell. At all events, the young man was - like most men,
young and old - under conflicting influences; and these influences he
had not yet begun to harmonize in any definite result.

By the time they reached Bunhill Fields, they were in a gray fog; and
before they got to the counting-house, it had grown very thick. Through
its reddish mass the gaslights shone with the cold brilliance of pale
gold.

The scene of their daily labor was not one of those grand rooms with
plate-glass windows which now seem to be considered, if not absolutely
necessary to commercial respectability, yet a not altogether despicable
means of arriving at such. It was a rather long, rather narrow, rather
low, but this morning not so dark room as usual - for the whole force
of gas-burners was in active operation. In general it was dark, for it
was situated in a narrow street, opening off one of the principal city
thoroughfares.

As the young men entered, they were greeted with a low growl from
the principal clerk, a black-browed, long-nosed man. This was the
sole recognition he gave them. Two other clerks looked up with a
_good-morning_ and a queer expression in their eyes. Some remarks had
been made about them before they entered. And now a voice came from the
_penetralia_:

"Tom, I want you."

Tom was disposing of his hat and gloves with some care.

"You hear the governor, Mr. Worboise, I suppose?" said Mr. Stopper, the
head clerk, in the same growling voice, only articulated now.

"Yes, I hear him," answered Thomas, with some real and some assumed
nonchalance. "I do hear him, Mr. Stopper."

Through a glass partition, which crossed the whole of the room, Mr.
Boxall, "the governor," might be seen at a writing-table, with his face
toward the exoteric department. All that a spectator from without could
see, as he went on writing, was a high forehead, occupying more than
its due share of a countenance which, foreshortened, of course, from
his position at the table, appeared otherwise commonplace and rather
insignificant, and a head which had been as finely _tonsured_ by the
scythe of Time as if the highest ecclesiastical dignity had depended
upon the breadth and perfection of the vacancy. The corona which
resulted was iron-gray.

When Thomas was quite ready he walked into the inner room.

"Tom, my boy, you are late," said Mr. Boxall, lifting a face whose full
view considerably modified the impression I have just given. There was
great brilliance in the deep-set eyes, and a certain something, almost
merriment, about the mouth, hovering lightly over a strong upper lip,
which overhung and almost hid a disproportionately small under one.
His chin was large, and between it and the forehead there was little
space left for any farther development of countenance.

"Not very late, I believe, sir," answered Thomas. "My watch must have
misled me."

"Pull out your watch, my boy, and let us see."

Thomas obeyed.

"By your own watch, it is a quarter past," said Mr. Boxall.

"I have been here five minutes."

"I will not do you the discredit of granting you have spent that time
in taking off your hat and gloves. Your watch is five minutes slower
than mine," continued Mr. Boxall, pulling out a saucepan of silver,
"and mine is five minutes slower than the Exchange. You are nearly half
an hour late. You will never get on if you are not punctual. It's an
old-fashioned virtue, I know. But first at the office is first at the
winning-post, I can tell you. You'll never make money if you're late."

"I have no particular wish - I don't want to make money," said Thomas.

"But I do," rejoined Mr. Boxall, good-naturedly; "and you are my
servant, and must do your part."

Thereat Thomas bridled visibly.

"Ah! I see," resumed the merchant; "you don't like the word. I will
change it. There's no masters or servants nowadays; they are all
governors and _employees_. What they gain by the alteration, I am sure
I don't know."

I spell the italicized word thus, because Mr. Boxall pronounced
_employés_ exactly as if it were an English word ending in _ees_.

Mr. Worboise's lip curled. He could afford to be contemptuous. He had
been to Boulogne, and believed he could make a Frenchman understand
him. He certainly did know two of the conjugations out of - I really
don't know how many. His master did not see what the curl indicated,
but possibly his look made Thomas feel that he had been rude. He sought
to cover it by saying -

"Mr. Wither was as late as I was, sir. I think it's very hard I should
be always pulled up, and nobody else."

"Mr. Wither is very seldom late, and you are often late, my boy.
Besides, your father is a friend of mine, and I want to do my duty by
him. I want you to get on."

"My father is very much obliged to you, sir."

"So he tells me," returned Mr. Boxall, with remarkable good humor. "We
expect you to dine with us to-morrow, mind."

"Thank you, I have another engagement," answered Thomas, with dignity,
as he thought.

Now at length Mr. Boxall's brow fell. But he looked more disappointed
than angry.

"I am sorry for that, Tom. I wished you could have dined with us. I
won't detain you longer. Mind you don't ink your trousers."

Was Thomas never to hear the last of those trousers? He began to wish
he had not put them on. He made his bow, and withdrew in chagrin,
considering himself disgraced before his fellows, to whom he would
gladly have been a model, if he could have occupied that position
without too much trouble. But his heart smote him - gently, it must be
confessed - for having refused the kindness of Mr. Boxall, and shown so
much resentment in a matter wherein the governor was quite right.

Mr. Boxall was a man who had made his money without losing his money's
worth. Nobody could accuse him of having ever done a mean, not to say
a dishonest thing. This would not have been remarkable, had he not
been so well recognized as a sharp man of business. The more knowing
any jobber about the Exchange, the better he knew that it was useless
to dream of getting an advantage over Mr. Boxall. But it was indeed
remarkable that he should be able to steer so exactly in the middle
course that, while he was keen as an eagle on his own side, he should
yet be thoroughly just on the other. And, seeing both sides of a
question with such marvelous clearness, in order to keep his own hands
clean he was not driven from uncertainty to give the other man anything
more than his right. Yet Mr Boxall knew how to be generous upon
occasion, both in time and money: the ordinary sharp man of business
is stingy of both. The chief fault he had was a too great respect for
success. He had risen himself by honest diligence, and he thought
when a man could not rise it must be either from a want of diligence
or of honesty. Hence he was _a priori_ ready to trust the successful
man, and in some instances to trust him too much. That he had a family
of three daughters only - one of them quite a child - who had never
as yet come into collision with any project or favorite opinion of
his, might probably be one negative cause of the continuance of his
openheartedness and justice of regard.

Thomas Worboise's father had been a friend of his for many years - at
least so far as that relation could be called friendship which
consisted in playing as much into each other's hands in the way of
business as they could, dining together two or three times in the
course of the year, and keeping an open door to each other's family.
Thomas was an only son, with one sister. His father would gladly have
brought him up to his own profession, that of the law, but Thomas
showing considerable disinclination to the necessary studies, he had
placed him in his friend's counting-house with the hope that that might
suit him better. Without a word having been said on the subject, both
the fathers would have gladly seen the son of the one engaged to any
daughter of the other. They were both men of considerable property,
and thought that this would be a pleasant way of determining the
future of part of their possessions. At the same time Mr. Boxall was
not quite satisfied with what he had as yet seen of Tom's business
character. However, there had been no signs of approximation between
him and either of the girls, and therefore there was no cause to be
particularly anxious about the matter.




CHAPTER II.

THE INVALID MOTHER.


To account in some measure for the condition in which we find Tom at
the commencement of my story, it will be better to say a word here
about his mother. She was a woman of weak health and intellect, but
strong character; was very religious, and had a great influence over
her son, who was far more attached to her than he was to his father.
The daughter, on the other hand, leaned to her father, an arrangement
not uncommon in families.

On the evening of the day on which my story commences, office hours
were long over before Tom appeared at home. He went into his mother's
room, and found her, as usual, reclining on a couch, supported by
pillows. She was a woman who never complained of her sufferings, and
her face, perhaps in consequence of her never desiring sympathy, was
hard and unnaturally still. Nor were her features merely still - they
looked immobile, and her constant pain was indicated only by the
absence of all curve in her upper lip. When her son entered, a gentle
shimmer of love shone out of her eyes of troubled blue, but the words
in which she addressed him did not correspond to this shine. She was
one of those who think the Deity jealous of the amount of love bestowed
upon other human beings, even by their own parents, and therefore
struggle to keep down their deepest and holiest emotions, regarding
them not merely as weakness but as positive sin, and likely to be most
hurtful to the object on which they are permitted to expend themselves.

"Well, Thomas," said his mother, "what has kept you so late?"

"Oh! I don't know, mother," answered Tom, in whose attempted
carelessness there yet appeared a touch of anxiety, which caught her
eye.

"You do know, Tom; and I want to know."

"I waited and walked home with Charles Wither."

He did not say, "I waited to walk home."

"How was he so late? You must have left the office hours ago."

"He had some extra business to finish."

It was business of his own, not office business; and Tom finding out
that he would be walking home a couple of hours later, had arranged to
join him that he might have this account to give of himself.

"You know I do not like you to be too much with that young man. He is
not religious. In fact, I believe him to be quite worldly. Does he ever
go to church?"

"I don't know, mother. He's not a bad sort of fellow."

"He is a bad sort of fellow, and the less you are with him the better."

"I can't help being with him in the office, you know, mother."

"You need not be with him after office hours."

"Well, no; perhaps not. But it would look strange to avoid him."

"I thought you had more strength of character, Thomas."

"I - I - I spoke very seriously to him this morning, mother."

"Ah! That alters the case, if you have courage to speak the truth to
him."

At that moment the door opened, and the curate of St. Solomon's was
announced. Mrs. Worboise was always at home to him, and he called
frequently, both because she was too great an invalid to go to church,
and because they supposed, on the ground of their employing the same
religious phrases in their conversation, that they understood each
other. He was a gentle, abstracted youth, with a face that looked as
if its informing idea had been for a considerable period sat upon by
something ungenial. With him the profession had become everything,
and humanity never had been anything, if not something bad. He walked
through the crowded streets in the neighborhood with hurried step
and eyes fixed on the ground, his pale face rarely brightening with
recognition, for he seldom saw any passing acquaintance. When he did,
he greeted him with a voice that seemed to come from far-off shores,
but came really from a bloodless, nerveless chest, that had nothing to
do with life, save to yield up the ghost in eternal security, and send
it safe out of it. He seemed to recognize none of those human relations
which make the blood mount to the face at meeting, and give strength to
the grasp of the hand. He would not have hurt a fly; he would have died
to save a malefactor from the gallows, that he might give him another
chance of repentance. But mere human aid he had none to bestow; no
warmth, no heartening, no hope.

Mr. Simon bowed solemnly, and shook hands with Mrs. Worboise.

"How are you to-night, Mrs. Worboise?" he said, glancing round the
room, however. For the only sign of humanity about him was a certain
weak admiration of Amy Worboise, who, if tried by his own tests, was
dreadfully unworthy even of that. For she was a merry girl, who made
great sport of the little church-mouse, as she called him.

Mrs. Worboise did not reply to this question, which she always treated
as irrelevant. Mr. Simon then shook hands with Thomas, who looked on
him with a respect inherited from his mother.

"Any signs of good in your class, Mr. Thomas?" he asked.

The question half irritated Tom. Why, he could not have explained even
to himself. The fact was that he had begun to enter upon another phase
of experience since he saw the curate last, and the Sunday-school was
just a little distasteful to him at the moment.

"No," he answered, with a certain slightest motion of the head that
might have been interpreted either as of weariness or of indifference.

The clergyman interpreted it as of the latter, and proceeded to justify
his question, addressing his words to the mother.

"Your son thinks me too anxious about the fruits of his labor, Mrs.
Worboise. But when we think of the briefness of life, and how soon the
night comes when no man can work, I do not think we can be too earnest
to win souls for our crown of rejoicing when He comes with the holy
angels. First our own souls, Mr. Thomas, and then the souls of others."

Thomas, believing every word that the curate said, made notwithstanding
no reply, and the curate went on.

"There are so many souls that might be saved, if one were only in
earnest, and so few years to do it in. We do not strive with God in
prayer, Mrs. Worboise. We faint and cease from our prayers and our
endeavors together."

"That is too true," responded the lady.

"I try to do my best," said Thomas, in a tone of apology, and with a
lingering doubt in his mind whether he was really speaking the absolute
truth. But he comforted himself with saying to himself, "I only said 'I
try to do my best;' I did not say, 'I try my best to do my best.'"

"I have no reason to doubt it, my young friend," returned the curate,
who was not ten years older than his young friend. "I only fancied - no



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