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under the head of idleness to which he would lend no countenance.
"Eeturn to your office and labour honestly (you know that I mean nothing else) for your living, and I will make no difficulty concerning your religious convictions, however much I may disapprove them and regret them; but I must decline to supply you with means of helping forward these religious demonstrations, which I feel to be injurious and a scandal, rather than the manifestation of godliness which you think them. I am older than you, and can assure you that all this violent fervour will certainly die out and disappoint those who fancy such extravagance to be the signs of the kingdom of heaven begun on earth."
It was a sad affair altogether, but George did not see how sad it was. He was absorbed in his religious pursuits, which gave him more satisfaction than anything which he had followed for a very long while, and he could not, in his wilfulness, be brought to see the folly and ingratitude of so suddenly and unreflectingly—although he did not think it unreflectingly — breaking with his uncle and best friend. To do him justice, he was never violent in his religious demonstrations, although he was very earnest. His mother thought the only way was to wait, and things must come round. She had an idea which she thought must be everybody's idea—Mr Bateman included—that George represented the porcelain part of the family, which a delf vessel, like his quiet uncle, must be, and would be, very sure not to separate from.
Meanwhile, Ned Roberts had had a stool assigned him in Mr Briefs office, where he was to write for a time; then he was to go into a London office; but all this, he now came to understand, was preparatory to his filling an appointment in the service of Government, which some mysterious influence was to provide for him. It would have been better for Ned if he had not yet known about this future appointment, as he was sufficiently inclined to do his work superficially without such knowledge; and now that he understood that he was not to make his living by this dry work, he became indifferent about it; studying Mr Brief, however, and attending to his fancies, so as to manage with him pretty well as he had formerly done with the masters at school. Ned was a great favourite and very sociable, a cricketer in much request, a companion desired at picnics and all meetings of young people, a good dancer and choice partner—withal such a good-natured undesigning young man! There was only one difficulty about Ned Eoberts's participation in every amusement that went on in Gravelshire, and that was the paucity of his finances. Ned's pockets were never full and very frequently empty. He had no difficulty whatever in getting assistance if he wished for it; and indeed he had one or two small obligations about; but he knew that much of that sort of thing would soon interfere with his popularity, and so he refrained.
Now about the time of his going into the office, Ned had a little adventure. He happened to be returning from a cricket match late in the evening, and to be passing along a lane outside Gritvale which skirted the grounds of a private residence, when he heard a sudden cry of pain. It was not very melodramatic in its character, and was not repeated; yet it was of a kind to make Ned Eoberts feel sure that something was wrong. So he sprang up the bank and vaulted over the fence, when he came straight upon a youth who was making also for the fence, but from the inside. This youth was a juvenile shoemaker, well known as a bad character. He had his apron twisted about his waist in a wisp, and his Lands were full of flowers of many kinds. So sudden was Ned's appearance that the other had not a chance of turning but was captured on the spot; while a colleague, who was coming on a few paces behind him, altered his course, and cleared the fence at another point.
"Not so fast, my young friend," said Ned Eoberts, laying a firm grasp on the shoemaker; "you've been after some villany. Who was it that screamed?"
"What do I know 'bout your screaming?" answered the ungracious youth; "you let me go, will yer, or you'll wish you had."
Whereupon Ned smote him on the ear and repeated his question, making as though he had another box ready if it should not be immediately answered.
"Tou mind who you're striking of. How can I tell who was screaming? P'raps 'twas she there."
In the direction indicated Ned perceived the outline of a female figure among the shrubs, not very distinct in the twilight. Twisting his hand into the youth's collar so that his knuckles went well into the sinews of the neck, he forced his prize along towards the "she there " who was supposed to have screamed.
"There has been some mischief here, madam," said Ned, as he got near. "I hope no injury has been done. You are bleeding from the wrist . Miss Maine, is it?"
"Yes, it is," answered Patty Maine, for it was she. "I am quite ashamed of having screamed, but that wretched boy threw a piece of a flower-pot ac me. It hurt for the moment, yet it is really nothing."
"Is that all that has happened?"
"Well, I was at home alone, my mother being in town, and heard some one in the garden . When I ran down there were two lads stealing the flowers, and I called to them. Then one turned and threw something at me, which struck my arm, and I screamed."
"You rascal!" said Ned, turning to the boy.
"There is a gala, you know, to-morrow," continued Patty, "and I suppose they came to steal the flowers, and were angry at my catching them."
"I suppose so. Now here, young man, hand me the flowers: I know you both—you'll be before the mayor in the morning; so now make the best of your way home and sleep if you can."
It need not be added that Ned saw Miss Maine safely to the house, and put her in proper charge to