+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

of my disordered imagination. On the third
day I fancied from his nervous behaviour
that he was about to make some explanatory
disclosure, and I was not disappointed. After
much hesitation and preamble, which he, poor
fellow, was little adept in, it came out at
last; Tom was in love,—deeply, earnestly in
love. When he had secured me as his confidant
a load seemed to have departed from his
mind, and he was happier and gayer than I
had ever known him before. As to myself,
I was lost in various reflections. I laughed
the first and last unkind laugh at Tom's
expense, when I thought of him ogling his
chosen one through those eternal green
glasses. I wondered if the strong olive tint
which her face of necessity bore, stood to
Tom as the rose upon the damask cheek of
beauty seen through the naked eye. Did he
kiss those taper-fingers which must have
appeared to him as if they were fresh from
the dye-tub, or the task of walnut picking?
Did nature, which had appeared to his faint
vision, for so many years, a gloomy picture
clad in one solemn tint, brighten up with a
more cheerful glow, now that this new light
had fallen on his heart? Poor Tom, when I
looked at him sitting there before me, his
awkward shape and disfigured countenance,
I dreaded lest his choice should have fallen
upon some thoughtless, selfish girl, and felt
a foreboding that his passion would only end
in misery and bitter disappointment.

Tom was too happy to notice my abstraction,
and his only desire was to consult me
about the capabilities of his scanty income
to support a wife. Here, with hard figures
to deal with, I was obliged to reason severely,
but every objection that I started was
overruled by Tom's explanation of the personal
privations he could undergo for the attainment
of domestic happiness. It was needless
for him to enter into details with me, who
knew his qualities so well, to prove what a
considerate, devoted husband he would be.
I knew that his income was inadequate, and
the tone of my advice was to dissuade him
from nourishing an affection that, I felt
assured, must be hopeless.

The next morning, poor Tom appeared
with a long list of figures, with which he had
been working out a problem over-night, and
had arrived at the conclusion, that if he
could obtain another twenty pounds a-year
from old Biddles, he might attempt the step
he was anxious to take, with perfect
propriety. When he consulted me as to whether
I thought he would get the advance, I felt
that his mind was made up, and knowing
that his long and faithful services merited
even a greater reward, I told him to go
boldly to old Biddles and ask at once. It
was Saturday morning; old Biddles was
late, and when he came, he was very busy;
he went out several times, a very unusual
thing with him, and when he returned, many
people were waiting to see him. All this
threw poor Tom into a fever of excitement;
he kept running in and out of Biddles'
private room in such an unceremonious manner,
and upon such frivolous pretexts, that at last
the old fellow asked him if he was ill? This
brought Tom to a stand, and he timidly
made his proposal. Old Biddies took time
to consider. Tom augured favourably from
this, and the next day, Sunday, he prevailed
upon me to join him in a visit to the family
of his intended wife.

She was much younger than Tom, stout,
florid, and rather vulgar-looking. I watched
her closely, and her treatment of him, though
at times flighty and inconsiderate, did not
appear unkind. Tom was so absorbed in the
contemplation of his happiness, that I was
left pretty much to my own resources, and
conversation with a sister. When the visit
closed, although I had my doubts, I was
unable to form a conclusion whether the
affection on the part of the girl was real or
simulated. Monday passed over in silence;
on Tuesday the blow fell. About ten o'clock
a letter was delivered to Tom, which told him
that she for whom he was ready to give up
all the comforts he so much needed, for whom
he was even then planning out some little,
thoughtful present, and to whom he had
given all the great affection of his kind and
noble heart, had encouraged his passion like
a cruel, wayward girl, and now threw it
aside without pity or remorse.

Close upon this shock followed a formal
discharge from old Biddles. He had weighed
Tom's proposal. Virtue and fidelity which
were endurable at fifty pounds a-year, were
not to be tolerated at seventy. The supply
was greater than the demand. Biddles was
a practical, business man.

Some few years afterwards, when poor
Tom's shattered frame and broken heart were
lying peaceably in the grave, and his clerkly
successor at forty pounds a-year had
embezzled money to a considerable extent, old
Biddles felt that for once he had made a
mistake, and thought of an awkward, green-
spectacled clerk who used to sit in his office,
and who, if not brilliant, was trustworthy.

"Do you know Craddock's address? " he
asked, one morning, as I entered his room.
(Though I know his addresssomewhere in
Heaven, poor dear Tom!—I didn't say so).

"He has been dead some time," I

"Hum! Put an advertisement in the
TIMES for somebody like him."

We did put an advertisement in the TIMES
for somebody like him; but old Biddles found
he could not get another Tom Craddock
merely by drawing a cheque for him.