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"Certainly, if Powys likes, let him see the Claude; but I should think he would prefer the horses," said Mr. Brownlow; and then Sara rose and shook out her long skirt, and made a little sign to the stranger, to follow her. When the two young creatures disappeared, Mr. Hardcastle, who had been staring at them, open-mouthed, turned round aghast and pale with consternation upon his friend.
Sara started a little, and became suddenly | with a certain mixture of horror and amusegilent, looking at the unexpected interpreter she ment. "Well, how was I to know?" she said had got; and as for the Rector, he stared with to berself, although, to be sure, she had been the air of a man who asks himself, What next? sitting at the same table with him for about an The sudden pause thus made in the conver-hour. sation by his inadvertent reply, confused the young man most of all. He felt it down to the very tips of his fingers. It went tingling through and through him, as if he were the centre of the electricity as indeed he was. His first impulse, to get up and run away, of course could not be yielded to; and as luncheon was over by this time, and the servants gone, and the business of the meal over, it was harder than ever to find any shelter to retire behind. Despair at last, however, gave him a little courage. "I think, sir," he said, turning to Mr. Brownlow, "if you have no commands for me that I had better go. Mr. Wrinkell will want to know your opinion; unless, indeed'
"I am not well enough for work," said Mr. Brownlow, "and you may as well take a holiday as you are here. It will do you good. Go and look at the horses, and take a stroll in the park. Of course you are fond of the country. I don't think there is much to see in the house"
"If Mr. Powys would like to see the Claude, I will take him into the drawing-room," said Sara with all her original benignity. Powys, to tell the truth, did not very well know whether he was standing on his head, or on the other and more ordinary extremity. He was confounded by the grace showed to him. And being a backwoodsman by nature, and knowing not much more than Masterton in the civilised world, the fact is that at first, before he considered the matter, he had not an idea what a Claude was. But that made no difference; he was ready to have gone to Pandemonium if the same offer had been made to show the way. Not that he had fallen in love at first sight with the young mistress of Brownlows. He was too much dazzled, too much surprised for that; but he had understood what she meant, and the finest little delicate thread of rapport had come into existence between them. As for Sara's condescension and benignity, he liked it. Her brother would have driven him frantic with a tithe of the affability which Sara thought her duty under the circumstances; but from her it was what it ought to be. The young man did not think it was possible that such a privilege was to be accorded to him, but he looked at her gratefully, thanking her with his eyes. And Sara looked at him, and for an instant saw into those eyes, and became suddenly sensible that it was not her father's clerk, but a man, a young man, to whom she had made this obliging offer. It was not an idea that had entered her head before; he was a clerk whom Mr. Brownlow chose to bring in to luncheon. He might have been a hundred for anything Sara cared. Now, all at once it dawned upon her that the clerk was a man, and young, and also well-looking, a discovery which filled her
"Brownlow, are you mad?" he said; "good heavens! if it was anybody but you I should think it was softening of the brain."
"It may be softening of the brain," said Mr. Brownlow, cheerfully; "I don't know what the symptoms are. What's wrong?"
"What's wrong?" said the Rector- he had to stop to pour himself out a glass of wine to collect his faculties "why it looks as if you meant it. Send your clerk off with your child, a young fellow like that, as if they wereequals! Your clerk! I should not permit it with my Fanny, I can tell you that.'
"Do you think Sara will run away with him?" said Mr. Brownlow, smiling. "I feel sure I can trust him not to do it. Why, what nonsense you are speaking! If you have no more confidence in my little friend Fanny, I have. She would be in no danger from my clerk if she were to see him every day, and show him all the pictures in the world."
Oh, Fanny, that is not the question," said the Rector, half suspicious of the praise, and half pleased. "It was Sara we were talking of. I don't believe she would care if a man was a chimney-sweep. You have inoculated her with your dreadful Radical ideas"
"I? I am not a Radical," said Mr. Brown. low; and he still smiled, though he entered into no further explanation. As for the Rector, he gulped down his wine subsided into his neckcloth, as he did when he was disturbed in his mind. He had no parallel in his experience to this amazing indiscretion. Fanny?-no; to be sure Fanny was a very good girl and knew her place better- she would not have offered to show the Claude, though it had been the finest Claude in the world, even to a curate, much less to a clerk. And then it seemed to Mr. Hardcastle that Mr. Brownlow's eyes looked very heavy, and that there were many tokens half visible about him of softening of the brain.
Meanwhile Sara went sweeping along the great wide fresh airy passages, and through the hall, and up the grand staircase. Her dress was of silk, and rustled not a vulgar rustle, like that which announces some women offensively wherever they go, but a soft satiny silvery ripple of sound which harmonised her going like a low accompaniment. Young Powys had only seen her for the first time that day, and he was a reasonable young fellow, and had not a thought of love or love-making in his mind.
don't you think it is less
"I should like to be a policeman and tell them to move on," said Sara. "That woman there, who is giving the bread to the beggarshe has been the vexation of my life; why can't she give it and have done with it? I think I hate pictures - I don't see what we want with them. I always want to know what happened next."
"But nothing need happen at all here," said Powys with unconscious comprehension, turning to the Claude again. He was a little out of his depth, and not used to this kind of talk, but more and more it was going to his head, and that intoxication carried him on. ! "That is the worst of all," said Sara. Why doesn't there come a storm?-what is the good of everything always being the same? That was what I meant down-stairs when you pretended you did not understand."
Love! as if anything so preposterous could | Powys-"but yetever arise between this young princess and a natural still to see one everlasting attitudepoor lawyer's clerk, maintaining his mother and like that, for instance, on the other wall? peohis little sisters on sixty pounds a-year. But ple don't keep doing one particular thing all yet, he was a young man, and she was a girl; their lives." and following after her as he did, it was not in human nature not to behold and note the fair creature with her glistening robes and her shining hair. Now and then, when she passed through a patch of sunshine from one of the windows, she seemed to light up all over, and reflect it back again, and send forth soft rays of responsive light. Though she was so slender and slight, her step was as steady and free as his own, Canadian and backwoodsman as he was; and yet, as she moved, her pretty head swayed by times like the head of a tall lily upon the breeze, not with weakness, but with the flexile grace that belonged to her nature. Powys saw all ! this, and it bewitched him, though she was altogether out of his sphere. Something in the atmosphere about her went to his head. It was the most delicate intoxication that ever man felt, and yet it was intoxication in a way. He went up stairs after her, feeling like a man in a What was the poor young fellow to say? dream, not knowing what fairy palace, what He was penetrated to his very heart by the new event she might be leading him to; but sweet poison of this unprecedented flattery. quite willing and ready, under her guidance, for it was flattery, though Sara meant nothing to meet any destiny that might await him. more than the freemasonry of youth. She had The Claude was so placed in the great drawing-forgotten he was a clerk, standing there before room that the actual landscape, so far as the the Claude; she had even forgotten her own mild greenness of the park could be called horror at the discovery that he was a man. He landscape, met your eye as you turned from was young like herself, willing to follow her the immortal landscape of the picture. Sara lead, and he "understood;" which after all, went straight up to it without a pause, and though Sara was not particularly wise, is the showed her companion where he was to stand. true test of social capabilities. He did know "This is the Claude," she said, with a majestic what she meant, though in that one case he little wave of her hand by way of introduction. had not responded; and Sara, like everybody And the young man stood and looked at the else of quick intelligence and rapid mind, met picture, with her dress almost touching him. with a great many people who stared and did If he did not know much about the Claude at not know what she meant. This was why she the commencement, he knew still less now. did the stranger the honour of a half reproach; But he looked into the clear depths of the pic- -it brought the poor youth's intoxication to its ture with the most devout attention. There height. was a ripple of water, and a straight line of light gleaming down into it, penetrating the stream, and casting up all the crisp cool glistening wavelets against its own glow. But as for the young spectator, who was not a connoisseur, his head got confused somehow between the sun on Claude's ripples of water, and the sun as it had fallen in the hall upon Sara's hair and her dress.
"But I don't think you understand," he said, ruefully, apologetically, pathetically, laying himself down at her feet, as it were, to be trod upon if she pleased you don't know how hard it is to be poor; so long as it was only one's self, perhaps, or so long as it was mere hardship; but there is worse than that; you have to feel yourself mean and sordid-you have to do shabby things. You have to put yourself under galling obligations; but I ought not to speak to you like this- that is what it really is to be poor."
Sara stood and looked at him, opening her eyes wider and wider. This was not in the least like the cottage with the roses, but she had forgotten all about that; what she was thinking of now was whether he was referring to his own case- - whether his life was like thatwhether her father could not do something for him; but for the natural grace of sympathy which restrained her, she would have said so right out; but in her simplicity she said some
Then he woke up and came to himself. It was like falling from a great height, and finding one's feet, in a very confused, sheepish sort of way, on the common ground. And the thought crossed his mind, also, that she might think he was referring to himself, and made him still more sheepish and confused. But yet, now that he was roused, he was able to answer for himself. "" 'No, Miss Brownlow," he said; my mother and my little sisters are with me. I don't live alone."
'Oh, I beg your pardon," said Sara whose turn it now was to blush. "I hope you like Masterton? " This very faltering and uncomfortable question was the end of the interview; for it was very clear no answer was required. And then she showed him the way down-stairs, and he went his way by himself, retracing the very steps which he had taken when he was following her. He felt, poor fellow, as if he had made a mistake someliow, and done something wrong, and went out very rueful into the park, as he would have gone to his desk, in strict obedience to his employer's commands.
LATE in the afternoon Mr. Brownlow did really look as if he were taking a holiday. He came forth into the avenue as Sara was going out and joined her, and she seized her opportunity, and took his arm and led him up and down in the afternoon sunshine. It is a pretty sight to see a girl clinging to her father, pouring all her guesses and philosophies into his ears, and claiming his confidence. It is a different kind of intercourse, more picturesque, more amusing, in some ways even more touching, than the intercourse of a mother and daughter, especially when there is, as with these two, no mother in the case, and the one sole parent has both offices to fulfil. Sara clung to her father's arm, and congratulated herself upon having got him out, and promised herself a good long talk. "For I never see you, papa," she said; you know I never see you. You are at that horrid office the whole long day."
Only all the mornings and all the evenings," said Mr. Brownlow, "which is a pretty good proportion, I think, of life."
"Oh, but there is always Jack or somebody," said Sara tightening her clasp of his arm; "and sometimes one wants only you."
"Have you something to say to me, then?" said her father, with a little curiosity, even anxiety, for of course his own disturbed thoughts accompanied him everywhere, and put meanings into every word that was said. Something!" said Sara, with indignation; "heaps of things. I want to tell you and I want to ask you; -but, by the by, answer me first, before I forget, is this Mr. Powys very poor?"
"Powys!" said Mr. Brownlow, with a suppressed thrill of excitement. "What of Powys? It seems to me I hear of nothing else. Where has the young fellow gone ?
I did not do anything to him," said Sara, turning her large eyes full of mock reproach upon her father's face. "You need not ask him from me in that way. I suppose he has gone home to his mother and his little sisters," she added dropping her voice.
"And what do you know about his mother and his little sisters?" said Mr. Brownlow, startled yet amused by her tone.
"Well, he told me he had such people belonging to him, papa," said Sara; "and he gave me a very grand description before that of what it is to be poor. I want to know if he is very poor? and could I send anything to them, or do anything? or are they too grand for that? or couldn't you raise his salary, or something? You ought to do something, since he is a favourite of your own."
"Did he complain to you ? said Mr. Brownlow, in consternation; "and I trust in goodness, Sara, you did not propose to do anything for them, as you say?"
No, indeed; I had not the courage," said Sara. "I never have sense enough to do such things. Complain! oh, dear no; he did not complain. But he was so much in earnest about it, you know, apropos of that silly speech I made at luncheon, that he made me quite uncomfortable. Is he aa gentleman, papa?
"He is my clerk," said Mr. Brownlow, shortly; and then the conversation dropped. Sara was not a young woman to be stopped in this way in ordinary cases, though she did stop this time, seeing her father fully meant it; but all the same she did not stop thinking which indeed, in her case, was a thing very difficult to do.
Then Mr. Brownlow began to nerve himself for a great effort. It excited him as nothing had excited him for many a long year. He drew his child's arm more closely through his own, and drew her nearer to him. They were going slowly down the avenue, upon which the afternoon sunshine lay warm, all marked and lined across by columns of trees, and the light shadows of the half-developed foliage. you know," he said, "I have been thinking a great deal lately about a thing you once said to me. I don't know whether you meant it
"I never say anything I don't mean," said Sara, interrupting him; but she too felt that something more than usual was coming, and did not enlarge upon the subject. "What was it, papa? " she said, clinging still closer to his
not refuse him. I only contrived, you know, | gush of tears, such as had not refreshed them that he should not speak."
Well, I suppose it comes to about the same thing," said Mr. Brownlow. "What I am going to say now is very serious. You once told me you would marry the man I asked you to marry. Hush, my darling, don't speak yet. I daresay you never thought I would ask such a proof of confidence from you; but there are strange turns in circumstances. I am not going to be cruel, like a tyrannical father in a book; but if I were to ask you to do such a great thing for me to do it blindly without asking questions, to try to love and to marry a man, not of your own choice, but mine Sara, would you do it? Don't speak yet. I would not bind you. At the last moment you should be free to withdraw from the bargain "Let me speak, papa! cried Sara. "Do you mean to say that you need this-that you really want it? Is it something that can't be done any other way? first tell me that." "I don't think it can be done any other way," said Mr. Brownlow, sadly, with a sigh.
Then, of course, I will do it," said Sara. She turned to him as she spoke, and fixed her eyes intently on his face. Her levity, her lightness, her careless freedom were all gone. No doubt she had meant the original promise, as she said, but she had made it with a certain gay bravado, little dreaming of anything to follow. Now she was suddenly sobered and silenced. There was no mistaking the reality in Mr. Brownlow's face. Sara was not a careful thoughtful woman: she was a creature who leapt at conclusions, and would not linger over the most solemn decision. And then she was not old enough to see both sides of a question. She jumped at it, and gave her pledge, and fixed her fate more quickly than another temperament would have chosen a pair of gloves. But for all that she was very grave. She looked up in her father's face questioning him with her eyes. She was ready to put her life in his hands, to give him her future, her happiness, as if it had been a flower for his coat. But yet she was sufficiently roused to see that this was no laughing matter. "Of course I will do it," she repeated, without any grandeur of expression; but she never looked so grave, or had been so serious all her life.
As for her father, he looked at her with a gaze that seemed to devour her. Ho wanted to see into her heart. He wanted to look through and through those two blue spheres into the soul which was below, and he could not do it. He was so intent upon this that he did not even perceive at the first minute that she had consented. Then the words caught his car and went to his heart-'Of course I will do it." When he caught the meaning strangely enough his object went altogether out of his mind, and he thought of nothing but of the half pathetic, unhesitating, magnificent generosity of his child. She had not asked a question, why or wherefore, but had given herself up at once with a kind of prodigal readiness. A sudden
for years, came into Mr. Brownlow's eyes. Not that they ran over, or fell, or displayed themselves in any way, but they came up under the bushy eyebrows like water under reeds, making a certain glimmer in the shade. "My dear child!" he said, with a voice that had a jar in it such as profound emotion gives; and he gathered up her two little hands into his, and pressed them together, holding her fast to him. He was so touched that his impulse was to give her back her word, not to take advantage of it; to let everything go to ruin if it would, and keep his child safe. But was it not for herself? It was in the moment when this painful sweetness was going to his very heart, that he bent over her and kissed her on the forehead. He could not say anything, but there are many occasions, besides those proper to lovers, when that which is inexpressible may be put into a kiss. The touch of her father's lips on Sara's fore head told her a hundred things; love, sorrow, pain, and a certain poignant mixture of joy and humiliation. He could not have uttered a word to save his life. She was willing to do it, with a lavish youthful promptitude; and he, was he to accept the sacrifice? This was what John Brownlow was thinking when he stooped over her and pressed his lips on his child's brow. She had taken from him the power of speech.
Such a supreme moment cannot last. Sara, too, not knowing why, had felt that serrement du cœur, and had been pierced by the same poig nant sweetness. But she knew little reason for it, and none in particular why her father should be so moved, and her spirits came back to her long before his did. She walked along by his side in silence, feeling by the close pressure of her hands that he had not quite come to himself, for some time after she had come back to herself. With every step she took the impres sion glided off Sara's mind; her natural lightheartedness returned to her. Moreover, she was not to be compelled to marry that very day, so there was no need for being miserable about it just yet at least. She was about to speak half-a-dozen times before she really ventured on utterance; and when at last she took her step out of the solemnity and sublimity of the situa tion, this was how Sara plunged into it, without any interval of repose.
"I beg your pardon, papa; I would not trouble you if I could help it. But please, now it is all decided, will you just tell me -am I to marry anybody that turns up? or is there any one in particular? I beg your pardon, but one likes to know."
Mr. Brownlow was struck by this demand, as was to be expected. It affected his nerves, though nobody had been aware that he had any nerves. He gave an abrupt, short laugh, which was not very merry, and clasped her hands tighter than ever in his.
"Sara " he said, "this is not a joke. Do you know there is scarcely anything I would not have done rather than ask this of you? It is a very serious matter to me."
Once more Mr. Brownlow pressed in his own the soft, slender hands, he held. "You shall know in time-you shall know in good time," he said, "if it is inevitable; " and he gave a sort of moan over her as a woman might have done. His beautiful child! who was fit for a prince's bride, if any prince were good enough. Perhaps even yet the necessity might be escaped.
"I am sure I am treating it very seriously," | Her thoughts were of a very different tenor said Sara. "I don't take it for a joke; but you from his. She was not taking the matter tragisee papa, there is a difference. What you care cally as he supposed-no blank veil had been for is that it should be settled. It is not you thrown over Sara's future by this intimation, that have the marrying to do; but for my part though Mr. Brownlow, walking absorbed by it is that that is of the most importance. I should her side, was inclined to think so. On the conrather like to know who it was, if it would be trary, her imagination had begun to play with the same to you." the idea lightly, as with a far-off possibility in which there was some excitement, and even some amusement possible. While her father relapsed into painful consideration of the whole subject, Sara went on demurely by his side, not without the dawnings of a smile about the corners of her mouth. There was nothing said between them for a long time. It seemed to Mr. Brownlow as if the conversation had broken off at such a point that it would be hard to recommence it. He seemed to have committed and betrayed himself without doing any good whatever by it; and he was wroth at his own weakness. Softening of the brain! There might be something in what the Rector said. Perhaps it was disease, and not the pressure of circumstances, which had made him to take seriously the first note of alarm. Perhaps his own scheme to secure Brownlows and his fortune to Sara was premature, if not unnecessary. It was while he was thus opening up anew the whole matter, that Sara at last ventured to betray the tenor of her thoughts.
"But I should like to know now," said Sara; and then she gave a little start, and coloured suddenly, and looked him quickly, keenly in the face! Papa!" she said; you don't mean- do you mean- - this Mr. Powys, perhaps?" Mr. Brownlow actually shrank from her eye. He grew pale, almost green; faltered, dropped her hands -"My darling!" he said feebly. He had not once dreamt of making any revelation on this subject. He had not even intended to put it to her at all, had it not come to him, as it vere, by necessity; and consequently he was quite unprepared to defend himself. As for Sara, she clung to him closer, and looked him still more keenly in the eyes.
"Papa," she said, "I asked you a question just now, and you did not answer me; but answer me now, for I want to know. This - this Mr. Powys. Is he -a gentle
"I told you he was my clerk, Sara," said Mr. Brownlow, much annoyed by the question.
Tell me," she said; "I will keep my word-gentleman all the same. It will make no difference to me. man, papa? Papa, tell me! it is better I should know at once.' "You ought not to have asked me that question, Sara,' said Mr. Brownlow, recovering himself; "If I ask such a sacrifice of you, you shall know all about it in good time. I can't tell, my own scheme does not look so reasonable to me as it did I may give it up altogether. But in the mean time don't ask me any more questions. And if you should repent, even at the last moment 99
"But if it is necessary to you, papa ?" said Sara, opening her eyes "if it has to be done, what does it matter whether I repent or not? Nothing is necessary to me that would cost your happiness," said Mr. Brownlow. And then they went on again for some time in siAs for Sara, she had no inclination to have the magnificence of her sacrifice thus in terfered with. For the moment her feeling was that, on the whole it would even be better that the marriage to which she devoted herself should be an unhappy and unfit one. If it were happy it would not be a sacrifice; and to be able to repent at the last, like any commonplace young woman following her own inclinations, was not at all according to Sara's estimation of the contract. She went on by her father's side, thinking of that and of some other things in silence.
*The fact was, Sara was not beautiful. There was not the least trace of perfection about her; but her father had prepossessions and prejudices, such as parents are apt to have, unphilosophical as it may be.
"I know you did, but that is not quite enough. A man may be a gentleman though he is a clerk. I want a plain answer," said Sara, looking up again into her father's face.
And he was not without the common weakness of Englishmen for good connections very far from that. He would not have minded, to tell the truth, giving a thousand pounds or so on the spot to any known family of Powys which would have adopted the young Canadian into its bosom. "I don't know what Powys has to do with the matter," he said; and then unconsciously his tone changed. "It is a good name; and I think I imagine- he must belong somehow to the Lady Powys who once lived near Masterton. His father was well born, but, I believe," added Mr. Brownlow, with a slight shiver," that he married- - beneath him. I think so. I can't say I am quite sure."