[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

Sara started a little, and became suddenly, with a certain mixture of horror and amusesilent, 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 “ Certainly, if Powys likes, let him see the young man most of all. He felt it down to the Claude; but I should think he would prefer very tips of his fingers. It went ingling the horses,” said Mr. Brownlow; and then through and through him, as if he were the Sara rose and shook out her long skirt, and centre of the electricity -- as indeed he was. made a little sign to the stranger, to follow her. His first impulse, to get up and run away, of When the two young creatures disappeared, course could not be yielded to ; and as luncheon Mr. Hardcastle, who had been staring at them, was over by this time, and the servants gonc, open-mouthed, turned round aghast and pale and the business of the meal over, it was hard- with consternation upon his friend. er than ever to find any shelter to retire behind. “Brownlow, are you mad?” he said ; "good Despair at last, however, gave him a little heavens! if it was anybody but you I should courage. “I think, sir," he said, turning to think it was softening of the brain." Mr. Brownlow, "if you have no commands for “It may be softening of the brain,” said Mr. me that I had better go. Mr. Wrinkell will Brownlow, cheerfully ; “I don't know what

to know your opinion; unless, in the symptoms are. What's wrong?” deed”

What's wrong?” said the Rector - he had "I am not well enough for work,” said Mr. to stop to pour himself out a glass of wine to Brownlow, “and you may as well take a holi. collect bis faculties — “why it looks as if you day as you are here. It will do you good. Go meant it. Send your clerk off with your child, and look at the horses, and take a stroll in the a young fellow like that, as if they wer,cequals ! park. Of course you are fond of the country. Your clerk! I should not permit it with my I don't think there is much to see in the Fanny, I can tell you that.” house?

“Do you think Sara will run away with "If Mr. Powys would like to see the Claude, him?” said Mr. Brownlow, smiling. «I feel I will take him into the drawing-room,” said sure I can trust him not to do it. Why, what Sara with all her original benignity. Powys, nonsense you are speaking! If you have no to tell the truth, did not very well know more confidence in my little friend Fanny, I whether he was standing on his head, or on the have. She would be in no dunger from my other and more ordinary extremity. He was clerk if she were to see him every day, and confounded by the grace showed to him. And show him all the pictures in the world.” being a backwoodsman by nature, and knowing Oh, Fanny, that is not the question," not much more than Masterton in the civilised said the Rector, half suspicious of the praise, world, the fact is that at first, before he con- and half pleased. It was Sara we were talk sidered the matter, he had not an idea what a ing of. I don't believe she would care if a man Claude was. But that ipade no difference; he was a chimney-sweep. You have inoculated was ready to have gone to Pandemonium if the her with your dreadful Radical ideas” same offer had been made to show the way. I? I am not a Radical,” said Mr. BrownNot that he had fallen in love at first sight with low; and he still smiled, though he entered into the young mistress of Brownlows. He was too no further explanation. As for the Rector, he much dazzled, too much surprised for that; but gulped down his wine subsided into his neckhe had understood what she meant, and the cloth, as he did when he was disturbed in his finest little delicate thread of rapport had come inind. He had no parallel in his experience to into existence between them. As for Sara's this amazing indiscretion. Fanny ? - no; to condescension and benignity, he liked it. Her be sure Fanny was a very good girl and knew brother would have driven hin frantic with a her place better — she would not have offered tithe of the affability which Sara thought her to show the Claude, though it had been the daty under the circumstances; but from her it finest Claude in the world, even to a curate, was what it ought to be. The young man did much less to a clerk. And then it seemed to not think it was possible that such a privilege Mr. Hardcastle that Mr. Brownlow's eyes lookwas to be accorded to him, but he looked at cd very heavy, and that there were many tokens her gratefully, thanking her with his eyes. half visible about him of softening of the brain. And Sara looked at him, and for an instant Meanwhilo Sara went sweeping along the saw into those eyes, and became suddenly sen- great wide fresh airy passages, and through the sible that it was not her father's clerk, but a hall, and up the grand staircase. Her dress man, a young man, to whom she had made this was of silk, and rustled — not a vulgar rustle, obliging offer. It was not an idea that had en- like that which announces some women offentered her head before; he was a clerk wlom sively wherever they go, but a soft satiny silvery Mr. Brownlow chose to bring in to luncheon. ripple of sound which harmonised her going He might have been a hundred for anything like a low accompaniment. Young Powys bad Sara cared. Now, all at once it dawned upon only seen her for the first time that day, and her that the clerk was a man, and young, and he was a reasonable young fellow, and had not also well-looking, a discovery which filled her a thought of love or love-making in his mind.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Love! as if anything so preposterous could Powys —" but yet — don't you think it is less ever arise between this young princess and a natural still to see one everlasting attitude poor 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 “I should like to be a policeman and tell human nature not to behold and note the fair them to move on,” said Sara. “That woman creature with her glistening robes and her shin- here, who is giving the bread to the beggaring hair. Now and then, when she passed through she has been the vexation of my life; why a patch of sunshine from one of the windows, she can't she give it and have done with it? I seemed to light up all over, and reflect it back think I hate pictures - I don't see what we again, and send forth soft rays of responsive want with them. I always want to know what light. Though she was so slender and slight, happened next.” her step was as steady and free as his own, “But nothing need happen at all here," said Canadian and backwoodsman as he was; and Powys with unconscious comprehension, tuin. yet, as she moved, her pretty head swayed by ing to the Claude again. He was a little out of times like the head of a tall lily upon the breeze, his depth, and not used to this kind of talk, not with weakness, but with the flexile grace but more and more it was going to his head, that belonged to her nature. Powys saw all ! and that intoxication carried him on. this, and it bewitched him, though she was " That is the worst of all,” said Sara. “Why altogether out of his sphere. Something in the doesn't there come a storm ? - what is the atmosphere about her went to his head. It was good of everything always being the same? the most delicate intoxication that ever man That was what I meant down-stairs when you felt, and yet it was intoxication in a way. He pretended you did not understand.” went upstairs 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 "But I don't think you understand," he said, light gleaming down into it, penetrating the ruefully, apologetically, pathetically, laying himstream, and casting up all the crisp cool glisten self down at her feet, as it were, to be trod upon ing wavelets against its own glow. But as for if she pleased — "you don't know how hard it the young spectator, who was not a connoisseur, is to be poor; so long as it was only one's self, his head got confused somehow between the perhaps, or so long as it was mere hardship; sun on Claude's ripples of water, and the sun but there is worse than that; you have to feel as it had fallen in the hall upon Sara's hair and yourself mean and sordid - you have to do lier dress.

shabby things. You have to put yourself under “It is very lovely,” he said, rather more be: galling obligations; but I ought not to speak to cause he thought it was the thing he ought to you like this — that is what it really is to be say than from any other causo.

poor.” “Yes,” said Sara ; “we are very proud of Sara stood and looked at him, opening her our Claude; but I should like to know why eyes wider and wider. This was not in the least active men like papa should like those sort of like the cottage with the roses, but she had forpictures; he prefers landscapes to everything gotten all about that; what she was thinking else — whereas they make me impatient. I of now was whether he was referring to his want something that lives and broathes. I like own case — whether his life was like that pictures of life — not that one everlasting line whether her father could not do something for of light fixed down upon tho canvas with no him; but for the natural grace of sympathy possibility of change.'

which restrained her, she would have said so I don't know much about pictures,” said right out; but in her simplicity she said some

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]




[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

thing very near as bad. “Mr. Powys,” she “ Powys !” said Mr. Brownlow, with a supsaid, quite earnestly,“ do you live in Masterton pressed thrill of excitement. “What of Powys ? all alone?

It seems to me I hear of nothing else. Where Then he woke up and came to himself. It has the young fellow gone ?” was like falling from a great height, and find- I did not do anything to him,” said Sara, ing one's feet, in a very confused, sheepish sort turning her large eyes full of mock reproach of way, on the common ground. And the upon her father's face. “You need not ask thought crossed his mind, also, that she might him from me in that way. I suppose he has think he was referring to himself, and made him gone home to his mother and his little sisstill more sheepish and confused. But yet, cow ters,” she added dropping her voice. that he was roused, he was able to answer for And what do you know about his mother himself. “No, Miss Brownlow," he said; and his little sisters ? said Mr. Brownlow,

my mother and my little sisters are with me. startled yet amused by her tone. I don't live alone.”

Well, he told me he had such people belong. Oh, I beg your pardon,” said Sara whose ing to him, papa,” said Sara;

and he gave turn it now was to blush. “I hope you like me a very grand description before that of Masterton ? This very faltering and uncom- what it is to be poor. I want to know if he is fortable question was the end of the interview ; very poor? and could I send anything to them, for it was very clear no answer was required. or do anything? or are they too grand for that? And then she showed him the way down-stairs, or couldn't you raise bis salary, or something? and he went his way by himself, retracing the You ought to do something, since he is a favourvery steps which he had taken when he was fol- ite of your own." lowing her. He felt, poor fellow, as if he had Did he complain to you ?” said Mr. Brownmade a mistake somehow, and done something low, in consternation; and I trust in goodness, wrong, and went out very rueful into the park, Sara, you did not propose to do anything for as he would have gone to his desk, in strict them, as you say? obedience to his employer's commands.

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 LATE in the afternoon Mr. Brownlow did I mado at luncheon, that he made me quite really look as if he were taking

a holiday. He uncomfortable. Is he a – a gentleman, papa ? ' came forth into the avenue as Sara was going “ He is my clerk,” said Mr. Brownlow, shortout and joined her, and she seized her oppor- ly; and then the conversation dropped. Sara tunity, and took his arm and led him up and was not a young woman to be stopped in this down in the afternoon sunshine. It is a pretty way in ordinary cases, though she did stop this sight to see a girl clinging to her father, pouring time, sceing her father fully meant it; but all all her guesses and philosophies into his ears, the same she did not stop thinking which inand claiming his confidence. It is a different deed, in her case, was a thing very difficult to kind of intercourse, more picturesque, more do. amusing, in some ways even more touching, Then Mr. Brownlow began to nerve himself than the intercourse of a mother and daughter, for a great effort. It excited him as nothing especially when there is, as with these two, no had excited him for many a long year. He mother in the case, and the one sole parent has drew his child's arm more closely through his both offices to fulfil. Sara clung to her father's own, and drew her nearer to him. They were arm, and congratulated herself upon having going slowly down the avenue, upon which the got him out, and promised herself a good loos afternoon sunshine lay warm, all marked and talk. "For I never see you, papa,” she said; lined across by columns of trees, and the light you know I never see you.

You are at that shadows of the half-developed foliage. horrid office the whole long day.”

you know,” he said, “I have been thinking a Only all the mornings and all the cvenings,” great deal lately about a thing you once said to said Mr. Brownlow, " which is a pretty good ine. I don't know whether you meant it”. proportion, I think, of life.”

I never say anything I don't mean," said Oh, but there is always Jack or somebody," Sara, interrupting him ; but she too felt that said Sara tightening her clasp of his arm; something more than usual was coming, and “and sometimes one wants only you.”

did not enlarge upon the subject.

“ What was Have you something to say to me, then ? it, papa ? sho said, clinging still closer to his said her father, with a little curiosity, even anxiety, - for of course his own disturbed You refused Motherwell,” said Mr. Brownthoughts accompanied him everywhere, and low, “ though he could have given you an exput meanings into every word that was said. cellent position, and is, they tell me, a very

Something !” said Sara, with indignation ; honest fellow. "I told you to consider it, but heaps of things. I want to tell you and I you refused him, Sara.” want to ask you ; —but, by the by, answer me “ Well, no,” said Sara, candidly; " refusing first, before I forget, is tħis Mr. Powys very people is very clumsy sort of work, unless you poor?

want to tell of it after, and that is mean, I did

“ Do

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

[ocr errors]

not refuse bim. I only contrived, you know, gush of tears, such as had not refreshed them that he should not speak.”

for years, came into Mr. Brownlow's eyes. Not Well, I suppose it comes to about the same that they ran over, or fell, or displayed themthing,” said Mr. Brownlow. What I am go. selves in any way, but they came up under the ing to say now is very serious. You once told bushy eyebrows like water under reeds, making me you would marry the man I asked you to a certain glimmer in the shade. “My dear marry. Hush, my darling, don't speak yet. I child !” he said, with a voice that had a jar in daresay you never thought I would ask such a it such as profound emotion gives; and he proof of confidence from you ; but there are gathered up her two little hands into his, and strange turns in circumstances. I am not go- pressed them together, holding her fast to him. ing to be cruel, like a tyrannical father in a He was so touched that his impulse was to give book; but if I were to ask you to do such a her back her word, not to take advantage of it; great thing for me to do it blindly without to let everything go to ruin if it would, and asking questions, to try to love and to marry a keep his child safe. But was it not for herself? man, not of your own choice, but mine - Sara, It was in the moment when this painful sweetwould you do it? Don't speak yet. I would ness was going to his very heart, that he bent not bind you. At the last moment you should over her and kissed her on the forehead. He be free to withdraw from the bargain

could not say anything, but there are many oc“Let me speak, papa!” cried Sara. “Do casions, besides those proper to lovers, when that you mean to say that you need this — that you which is inexpressible may be put into a kiss. really want it? Is it something that can't be The touch of her father's lips on Sara's fore. done any other way? first tell me that." head told her a hundred things; love, sorrow,

“I don't think it can be done any other way,” pain, and a certain poignant mixture of joy and said Mr. Brownlow, sadly, with a sigh. humiliation. He could not have uttered a

“Then, of course, I will do it,” said Sara. word to save his life. She was willing to do it, She turned to him as she spoke, and fixed her with a lavish youthful promptitude ; and he, eyes intently on his face. Her levity, her light- was he to accept the sacrifice? This was what ness, her careless freedom were all gone. No John Brownlow was thinking when he stooped doubt she had meant the original promise, as over her and pressed his lips on his child's brow. she said, but she had made it with a certain gay She had taken from him the power of speech. bravado, little dreaming of anything to follow. Such a supreme moment cannot last. Sara, Now she was suddenly sobered and silenced. too, not knowing why, had felt that serrement du There was no mistaking the reality in Mr. caur, and had been pierced by the same poig. Brownlow's face.

Sara was

not a careful nant sweetness. But she knew little reason for thoughtful woman : she was a creature who it, and none in particular why her father should leapt at conclusions, and would not linger over be so moved, and her spirits came back to her the most solemn decision. And then she was long before his did. She walked along by his not old enough to see both sides of a question. side in silence, feeling by the close pressure of She jumped at it, and gave her pledge, and her hands that he had not quite come to him. fixed her fate more quickly than another tem- self

, for some time after she had come back to perament would have chosen a pair of gloves. herself. With every step she took the impresBut for all that she was very grave. She sion glided off Sara's mind; her natural lightlooked up in her father's face questioning him heartedness returned to her. Moreover, she with her eyes. She was ready to put her life was not to be compelled to marry that very day, in his hands, to give him her future, her happi- so there was no need for being miserable about ness, as if it had been a flower for his coat. it just yet at least. She was about to speak But yet she was sufficiently roused to see that half-a-dozen times before she really ventured on this was no laughing matter. “Of course I utterance; and when at last she took her step will do it,” she repeated, without any grandeur out of the solemnity and sublimity of the situaof expression; but she never looked so grave, tion, this was how Sara plunged into it, with. or had been so serious all her life.

out any interval of repose. As for her father, he looked at her with a gaze “I beg your pardon, papa; I would not that seemed to devour her. Ho wanted to see trouble you if I could help it. But please, now into her heart. He wanted to look through and it is all decided, will you just tell me through those two blue spheres into the soul to marry anybody that turns up? or is there which was below, and he could not do it. Ho any one in particular ? I beg your pardon, but was so intent upon this that he did not even one likes to know.” perceive at the first minute that she had con- Mr. Brownlow was struck by this demand, sented. Then the words canght his car and as was to be expected. It affected his nerves, went to his heart-''Of course I will do it.” though nobody had been aware that he had any When he caught the meaning strangely enough nerves. He gave an abrupt, short laugh, which his object went altogether out of his mind, and was not very merry, and clasped her hands he thought of nothing but of the half pathetic, tighter than ever in his. unhesitating, magnificent generosity of his « Sara” he said, “this is not a joke. Do you child. She had not asked a question, why or know there is scarcely anything I would not wherefore, but had given herself up at once have done rather than ask this of you? It is a with a kind of prodigal readiness. A sudden very serious matter to me."

[ocr errors]

- am I

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“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 Once more Mr. Brownlow pressed in his own which there was some excitement, and even the soft, slender hands, he held. “You shall some amusement possible. While her father know in time - you shall know in good time,” relapsed into painful consideration of the whole he said, "if it is inevitable ; and he gave a subject, Sara went on demurely by his side, not sort of moan over her as a woman might have without the dawnings of a smile about the cordone. His beautiful * child ! who was fit for a ners of her mouth. There was nothing said prince's bride, if any prince were good enough. between them for a long time. It seemed to Mr. Perhaps even yet the necessity might be es- Brownlow as is the conversation had broken off caped.

at such a point that it would be hard to recom7. "But I should like to know now," said Sara ; menco it." He seemed to have committed and and then she gave a little start, and coloured betrayed bimself without doing any good whatsuddenly, and looked him quickly, keenly in the ever by it; and he was wroth at his own weakface ! 'Papa !” she said ; you don't ness. Softening of the brain ! There might be

do you mean this Mr. Powys, per. something in what the Rector said. Perhaps it haps?

was disease, and not the pressure of circumMr. Brownlow actually shrank from her eye. stances, which had made him to take seriously the He grew pale, almost green ; faltered, dropped first note of alarm. Perhaps his own scheme to her hands — “My darling!” he said feebly. He secure Brownlows and his fortune to Sara was had not once dreamt of making any revelation premature, if not unnecessary. It was while he on this subject. He had not even intended to was thus opening up anew the whole matter, put it to her at all, had it not come to him, as it that Sara at last ventured to betray the tonor of vere, by necessity; and consequently he was her thoughts. quite unprepared to defend himself. As for Sara, “Papa,” she said, "I asked you a question the clung to him closer, and looked him still just now, and you did not answer me; but anmore keenly in the eyes.

swer me now, for I want to know. This — this “ Tell me," she said ; "I will keep my word - gentleman – Mr. Powys. Is he -- a gentleall the same. It will make no difference to me. man, papa ?” Papa, tell me! it is better I should know at once.' “I told you he was my clerk, Sara," said Mr.

“You ought not to have asked me that ques. Brownlow, much annoyed by the question. tion, Sara,” raid Mr. Brownlow, recovering I know you did, but that is not quite enongh. himself; “ If I ask such a sacrifice of you, you A man may be a gentleman thongli he is a clerk. shall know all about it in good time. I can't I want a plain answer," said Sara, looking up tell, my own scheme does not look so reasonable again into her father's face. to me as it did - 1 may give it up altogether.

And he was not without the common weakBut in the mean time don't ask me any more ness of Englishmen for good connections questions. And if you should repent, even at very far from that. He would not have minded, the last moment

to tell the truth, giving a thousand pounds or "But if it is necessary to yon. papa ?” said so on the spot to any known family of Powys Sara, opening her eyes ." if it has to be done, which would have adopted the young Canadian what does it matter whether I repent or not?”

into its bosom. “I don't know what Powys hus “ Nothing is necessary to me that would cost to do with the matter,” he said; and then unyour happiness," said Mr. Brownlow. And consciously his tone changed. “ It is a good then they went on again for some time in si nanc; and I think - limngino – ho must belence. As for Sara, she had no inclination to long somehow to the Lady Powys who onco have the magnificence of her sacrifice thus in. lived near Masterton. Ilis father was well born, terfered with. For the moment her foeling was but, I believe," added Mr. Brownlow, with a that, on the whole it would even be better that slight shiver, “ that he married — beneath him. the marriage to which she devoted herself shonla I think so. I can't say I am quite sure.” be an unhappy and unfit onc. If it were happy “I should have thought you would have it would not be a sacrifice; and to be able to known •everything,” said Sara.

“ Of course, repent at the last, like any commonplace young papa, you know I am dying to ask you a lunwoman following her own inclinations, was not dred questions, but I won't, if you will only At all according to Sara's estimation of the con. just toll me one thing: A girl may promise to tract. She went on by her father's side, think accept any one

whom whom her people ing of that and of some other things in silence. wish her to have; but is it as certain,” sail

Sara, solemnly, “that he — will have me?* The fact was, Sara was not beautiful. There was not the least trace of perfection about her; but lier

Then Mr. Brownlow stood still for a mofather had prepossessions and prejudices, such as pa. ment, looking with wonder, incomprehension, rents are apt to have, unphilosophical as it may be. and a certain mixture of awe and dismay upon


[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »