Mr. Brownlow, perhaps, did not know very well what he meant when he
called young Powys into his room. He was in one of those strange states
of mental excitement in which a man is at once confused and clear;
incapable of seeing before him what he is about to do, yet as prompt and
distinct in the doing of it as if it had been premeditated to the last
detail. He could not have explained why nor told what it was he proposed
to himself; in short, he had in his own mind proposed nothing to
himself. He was swayed only by a vague, intense, and overwhelming
necessity to have the matter before him set straight somehow, and,
confused as his own mind was, and little as he knew of his own
intentions, he yet went on, as by the directest inspiration, marching
boldly, calmly, yet wildly, in a kind of serious madness, into the
darkness of this unknown way. He called the young man to him in sharp,
decided tones, as if he knew exactly what he wanted, and was ready to
enter fully into it at once; and yet he did not in the least know what
he wanted, nor what question he was to ask, nor what he was to say the
next moment; the only thing that helped him was, that as he looked out
of his office to call Powys, he could see him pick up hastily and put in
his pocket the bits of paper all dotted over with calculations, which he
had already remarked on the young man’s desk.

“Sit down,” said Mr. Brownlow; “I have something to say to you;” and he
resumed his own seat at his writing-table as if there had been nothing
particular in the conference, and began mechanically to arrange the
papers before him: as for Powys, he put his hand upon the back of the
chair which stood on the other side of the table, and waited, but did
not sit down, being bewildered a little, though not half so much as his
employer was, by this sudden summons.

“Sit down,” said Mr. Brownlow–“sit down; I want to speak to you: I hope
you know that I have always intended to be your friend–”

“Intended! sir,” said Powys; “I know that you have been my friend, and a
far better friend than I deserved–” Here he made one of those pauses of
embarrassment which sometimes mean so much, and often mean so little.
Mr. Brownlow, who knew more than Powys did, took it to signify a great
deal, and the idea gave him strength to proceed; and the fact is that
for once the two, unknown to each other, were thinking of the same
thing–of the bits of paper covered with figures that were in Powys’s
pocket–only their thoughts ran in a very different strain.

“That must be decided rather by the future than by the past,” said Mr.
Brownlow. “I can say for myself without any doubt thus far, that I have
meant to be your friend–but I must have your confidence in return; I do
not think you can have any more trustworthy counselor.” As Mr. Brownlow
said this, it seemed to him that some one else, some unseen third party,
was putting the words into his mouth; and his heart gave a flutter as he
said them, though it was little in accordance either with his age or
character that the heart should take any such prominent part in his

As for the young man, there came over his face a quick flush, as of
shame. He touched with his hand instinctively, and without knowing it,
the breast-pocket in which these papers were–all of which actions were
distinct and full of meaning to the anxious eyes that were watching
him–and he faltered as he spoke. “I know that you would be my most
trustworthy counselor–and I don’t know how to thank you,” he said; but
he had lowered his voice and cast down his eyes. He stood holding the
back of the chair, and it trembled in his grasp. He could not meet the
gaze that was fixed upon him. He stood shuffling his feet, looking down,
red with embarrassment, confusion, and shame. Was it that he felt
himself a traitor? eating the Brownlow’s bread, receiving their
kindness, and plotting against them? It seemed to his companion as clear
as day.

“Sit down,” said Mr. Brownlow, feeling his advantage; “let us talk of it
as friends–” and then he himself made a pause, and clenched his hand
unawares, and felt his heart contract as he put the last decisive
question. “What are those calculations you have been making all day?”

Young Powys started, and became violently red, and looked up suddenly
into his employer’s face. No doubt this was what he had been thinking
of; but the question was so sudden, so point-blank, that it dispersed
all the involuntary softenings of which he had been conscious, and
brought back to him all his youthful pride and _amour propre_ and
reserve about his own affairs. He looked Mr. Brownlow full in the face,
and his agitation took a different form. “Calculations, sir!” he said,
with even a touch of indignation in his voice; and then he too stopped,
lest he should be uncourteous to his employer, who he was confident
wished him well, though he was so strangely curious. “The only
calculations I have made are about my own affairs,” he went on. “They
are of no interest to any one. I am sorry you should have thought I was
taking up my time–”

“I did not think of your time,” said Mr. Brownlow, with an impatient
sigh. “I have seen many young men like you who have–who have–gone
wrong–from lack of experience and knowledge of the world. I wish to
serve you. Perhaps–it is possible–I may have partly divined what is
on your mind. Can’t you see that it would be best in every way to make a
confidant of me?”

All this the lawyer said involuntarily, as it were, the words being put
into his mouth. They were false words, and yet they were true. He wanted
to cheat and ruin the young man before him, and yet he wanted to serve
him. He desired his confidence that he might betray it, and yet he felt
disposed to guide and counsel him as if he had been his son. The
confusion of his mind was such that it became a kind of exaltation.
After all he meant him well–what he would do for him would be the best.
It might not be justice–justice was one thing; kindness, friendship,
bounty, another–and these last he was ready to give. Thus, in the
bewilderment of motives and sentiments that existed in his mind, he came
to find himself again, as it were, and to feel that he did really mean
well to the boy. “I wish to serve you,” he repeated, with a kind of
eagerness. Would not this be to serve him better than by giving to his
inexperienced hands a fairy fortune of which he would not know how to
make use? These thoughts went vaguely but powerfully through Mr.
Brownlow’s mind as he spoke. And the result was that he looked up in the
young man’s face with a sense of uprightness which had for some time
deserted him. It would be best in every way that there should be
confidence between them–best for the youth, who, after all, had he ever
so good a case, would probably be quite unaware how to manage it–and
best, unquestionably best, for himself, as showing at once what he had
to hope or fear. Of this there could be no doubt.

As for Powys, he was touched, and at the same time alarmed. It was the
same subject which occupied them both, but yet they looked upon it with
very different eyes. The Canadian knew what was in those scraps of paper
with their lines of figures and awful totals, and it seemed to him that
sooner than show them to any one, sooner than make a clean breast of
what was in them, he would rather die. Yet the kindness went to his
heart, and made him in his own eyes a monster. “Divined!” he said half
to himself, with a look of horror. If Mr. Brownlow had divined it, it
seemed to Powys that he never could hold up his head before him again.
Shame would stand between them, or something he thought shame. He had
not done much that was wrong, but he could have shrunk into the very
ground at the idea that his thoughts and calculations were known. In
spite of himself he cast a piteous glance at the whiteness of his
elbows–was that how it came about that Mr. Brownlow divined? Pride,
shame, gratitude, compunction, surged up in his mind, into his very eyes
and throat, so that he could not speak or look at the patron who was so
good to him, yet whom he could not yield to. “Sir,” he stammered, when
he had got a little command of himself–“you are mistaken. I–I have
nothing on my mind–nothing more than every man has who has a–a–life
of his own. Indeed, sir,” the poor youth continued with eagerness,
“don’t think I am ungrateful–but I–I–_can’t_ tell you. I can’t tell
my own mother. It is my own fault. It is nothing to any other creature.
In short,” he added, breaking off with an effort, and forcing a smile,
“it _is_ nothing–nothing!–only I suppose that I am unaccustomed to the

“Sit down,” said Mr. Brownlow; “come nearer to me, and sit down upon
this chair. You are very young–”

“I am five-and-twenty,” said Powys. He said it hastily, answering what
he thought was a kind of accusation; and the words struck the lawyer
like a blow. It was not new to him, and yet the very statement of that
momentous number seemed to carry a certain significance. The ill-omened
fortune which made these two adversaries had come to the one just when
the other was born.

“Well,” said Mr. Brownlow, who felt his utterance stopped by these
innocent words, “it does not matter. Sit down; I have still a great deal
to say–”

And then he stopped with a gasp, and there was a pause like a pause in
the midst of a battle. If Powys had not been preoccupied by the subject
which to him was so absorbing, though he denied its interest to any
other, he could not have failed to be struck by the earnestness, and
suppressed excitement, and eager baffled looks of his employer. But he
was blinded by his own anxieties, and by that unconscious
self-importance of youth which sees nothing wonderful in the fact of
other people’s interest in its own fortunes. He thought Mr. Brownlow was
kind; it did not occur to him that a stronger motive was necessary for
these persistent questions and for this intense interest. He was not
vain–but yet it came natural to receive such attention, and his mind
was not sufficiently disengaged to be surprised.

As for the lawyer, he paused and took breath, and looked into the frank
yet clouded face which was so open and communicative, and yet would not,
could not, reveal to him the secret he wanted to seize. It was not
skill, it was not cunning, that preserved the young man’s secret–was it
innocence? Had he been mistaken? was there really in Powys’s
consciousness at least no such secret, but only some youthful trouble,
some boyish indiscretion, that was “on his mind.” As Mr. Brownlow
paused, and looked at his young companion, this thought gradually shaped
itself within him, and for the moment it gave him a strange relief. He
too was absorbed and preoccupied, and thrust out of the region of such
light as might have been thrown on the subject by the whiteness of the
seams of the young fellow’s coat; and then he had come to be in such
deadly earnest that any lighter commonplace explanation would have
seemed an insult to him. Yet he paused, and after a few moments felt as
if a truce had been proclaimed. It had not come yet to the last struggle
for death or life. There was still time to carry on negotiations, to
make terms, to convert the enemy into a firm friend and supporter. This
conviction brought comfort to his mind, notwithstanding that half an
hour before he had started up in the temerity of despair, and vowed to
himself that, for good or evil, the decisive step must be taken at once.
Now the clouds of battle rolled back, and a soft sensation of peace fell
upon Mr. Brownlow’s soul–peace at least for a time. It melted his heart
in spite of himself. It made him think of his home, and his child, and
the gentle evening that awaited him after the excitement of the day; and
then his eye fell upon Powys again.

“I have still a great deal to say,” he went on–and his voice had
changed and softened beyond all doubt, and Powys, himself surprised, had
perceived the change, though he had not an idea what it meant–“I have
been pleased with you, Powys. I am not sure that you have quite kept up
during the last few weeks; but you began very well, and if you choose to
steady yourself, and put away any delusion that may haunt you”–here Mr.
Brownlow made a little pause to give force to his words–“you may be of
great service to me. I took you only on trial, you know, and you had the
junior clerk’s place; but now I think I am justified in treating you
better–after this your salary shall be double–”

Powys gave a great start in his seat, and looked at Mr. Brownlow with a
look of stupefaction. “Double!” he cried, with an almost hysterical
gasp. He thought his ears or his imagination were deceiving him. His
wonder took all the expression, almost all the intelligence, out of his
face. He sat gazing with his mouth open, waiting to hear what it could

“I will double your salary from the present time,” said Mr. Brownlow,
smiling in spite of himself.

Then the young man rose up. His face became the color of fire. The tears
sprang into his eyes. “This was why you said you divined!” he said, with
a voice that was full of tears and an ineffable softness. His gratitude
was beyond words. His eyes seemed to shoot arrows into Mr. Brownlow’s
very soul–arrows of sharp thanks, and praise, and grateful applause,
which the lawyer could not bear. The words made him start, too, and
threw a sudden flood of light upon the whole subject; but Mr. Brownlow
could not get the good of this, for he was abashed and shame-struck by
the tender, undoubting, half-filial gratitude in the young man’s eyes.

“But I don’t deserve it,” cried Powys, in his eagerness–“I don’t
deserve it, though you are so good. I have not been doing my work as I
ought–I know I have not. These bills have been going between me and my
wits. I have not known what I was doing sometimes. Oh! sir, forgive me;
I don’t know what to say to you, but I don’t deserve it–the other
fellows deserve it better than I.”

“Never mind the other fellows,” said Mr. Brownlow, collecting himself;
“I mean to make a different use of you. You may be sure that it is not
out of goodness I am doing this,” he added, with a strange smile that
Powys could not understand–“you may be sure it is because I see in you

Mr. Brownlow paused, for his lips were dry; he was telling the truth,
but he did not mean it to be received as truth. This was how he went on
from one step to another. To tell a lie, or to tell a truth as if it
were a pleasant fiction, which was worst? The lie seemed the most
straightforward, the most innocent of the two; and this was why his lips
were dry, and he had to make a pause in his speech.

Powys sat down again, and leaned on the table, and looked across at his
master, his benefactor. That was how the young man was calling him in
his heart. His eyes were shining as eyes only do after they have been
moistened by tears. They were soft, tender, eager, moved by those last
words into a deeper gratitude still, an emotion which awoke all his
faculties. “If I have any capabilities,” he said, “I wish they were a
hundred and a hundred times more. I can’t tell you, sir–you can’t
imagine–how much you have done for me in a moment. And I was ashamed
when you said you had divined! I have been very miserable. I have not
known what to do.”

“So that was all,” said Mr. Brownlow, drawing a long breath. “My young
friend, I told you you should confide in me. I know sixty pounds a year
is very little, and so you must remember is twice sixty pounds a year–”

“Ah, but it is double,” said young Powys, with a tremulous smile. “But I
have not worked for it,” he went on, clouding over–“I have not won it,
I know I don’t deserve it; only, sir, if you have something special–any
thing in this world, I don’t care how hard–that you mean to give me to

“Yes,” said Mr. Brownlow, “I have something very special; I can’t enter
upon the details just now. The others in the office are very well; but I
want some one I can depend upon, who will be devoted to me.”

Upon this the young man smiled; smiled so that his face lighted up all
over–every line in it answering as by an individual ray. “Devoted!” he
said, “I should think so indeed–not to the last drop of blood, for that
would do you no good–but to the last moment of work, whatever, however,
you please–”

“Take care,” said Mr. Brownlow, “you may be too grateful; when a man
promises too much he is apt to break down.”

“But I shall not break down,” said the Canadian. “You took me in first
when I had nobody to speak for me, and now you save from what is worse
than starving–from debt and hopeless struggles. And I was beginning to
lose heart; I felt as if we could not live on it, and nobody knew but
me. I beg your pardon sir, for speaking so much about myself–”

“No, no; go on about yourself,” said Mr. Brownlow. He was leaning back
on his chair like a man who had had a fit and was recovering from it.
His whole countenance had relaxed in a manner wonderful to behold. He
listened to the young fellow’s open-hearted babble as if it had been
celestial music. It was music to his ears. It distilled upon him like
the dew, as the Bible says, penetrating through and through, pervading
his whole being with a sense of blessed ease, and relief and repose. He
lay back in his chair and was content to listen. He did not care to move
or think, but only to realize that the crisis had passed over; that for
the moment all was still rest and security and peace. It was the best
proof how much his nerves had been tried in the former part of the day.

“But you must recollect,” he said at last, “that this great fortune you
have come into is, after all, only a hundred and twenty pounds a year;
it is a very small income. You will have to be careful; but if you get
into any difficulties again, the thing you ought to do is to come to me.
I will always be ready to give you my advice, and perhaps help, if you
want it. Don’t thank me again; I shall have a great many things for you
to do, which will make up.”

“Nothing will ever make up for the kindness,” said young Powys; and then
he perceived that his audience was over. Already even the lines were
beginning to tighten in Mr. Brownlow’s face. The young man withdrew and
went back to his desk, walking on air as he thought. It was a very small
matter to be so glad about, but yet there are circumstances in which ten
pounds to pay and only five pounds to pay it with will make as much
anguish as the loss of a battle or a kingdom–especially to the
inexperienced, the sensitive, and proud. This awful position he was
suddenly relieved from when he saw no hope. And no wonder that he was
elated. It was not a chronic malady to which he had grown accustomed.
The truth was he had never been in debt before all his life. This may be
accounted for by the fact that he had never had any money to speak of,
and that he had been brought up in the backwoods.

Mr. Brownlow did not change his position for some time after his clerk
had left him. Passion was new to him, though he was on the declining
side of life. The sharp tension, the sudden relief, the leap from
anxiety, suspicion, and present danger into calm and tranquillity, was
new to him. His mind had never been disturbed by such conflicts while he
was young, and accordingly they came now in all their freshness, with a
power beyond any thing in his experience, to his soul. Thus he continued
motionless, leaning back in his chair, taking the good of his respite.
He knew it was only a temporary respite; he knew the danger was not
past; but withal it was a comfort to him. And then, as he had this time
disquieted himself in vain, who could tell if perhaps his other fears
might vanish in the same way? God might be favorable to him, even though
perhaps his cause was not just such a cause as could with confidence be
put into God’s hands. It was not always justice that prevailed in this
world; and perhaps–So strangely does personal interest pervert the
mind, that this was how John Brownlow, an upright man by nature and by
long habit, calculated with himself. It seemed to him natural somehow
that God should enter into the conspiracy with him–for he meant no harm
even to the people who were to be his victims. Far from that; he meant,
on the contrary, bit by bit, to provide for them, to surround them with
comforts, to advance and promote in every way the young man whose
inheritance he had so long enjoyed. He meant to be as good to him as any
father, if only he could be successful in alienating forever and ever
his just right from him. Possibly he might still even carry out the plan
he had conceived and abandoned, and give the crown of all his
possessions, his beautiful child, to the lucky youth. Any thing but
justice. As he sat and rested, a certain sense of that satisfaction
which arises from happiness conferred came into Mr. Brownlow’s mind. In
the mean time, he had been very good to Powys. Poor young fellow! how
grateful, how elated, how joyous he was–and all about a hundred and
twenty pounds a year! His trouble had involved only a little money, and
how easy it was to make an end of that! It was not by a long way the
first time in Mr. Brownlow’s life at which this opportunity of bringing
light out of darkness had occurred to him. There were other clerks, and
other men not clerks, who could, if they would, tell a similar tale. He
had never been a hard man; he had been considerate, merciful, lending
like the righteous man, and little exacting as to his recompense. He had
served many in his day, and though he never boasted of it, he knew it.
Was it in reason to give up without a struggle his power of serving his
neighbors, all the admirable use he had made of his fortune, when he
might keep his fortune, and yet withal do better for the real heir than
if he gave it up to him? The sense of coming ruin, and the awful
excitement of that conflict for life and death which he had anticipated
when he called Powys into his office, had exhausted him so entirely that
he allowed himself to be soothed by all those softer thoughts. The
danger was not over–he knew that as well as any one; but he had a
reprieve. He had time to make of his adversary a devoted friend and
vassal, and it was even for his adversary’s good.

Such were the thoughts that went softly, as in a veiled and twilight
procession, through his mind. After a while he raised himself up, and
gathered together all the calculations at which he had been working so
hard, and locked all his private drawers, and put all his memorandums
by. As he did so, his halcyon state by degrees began to be invaded by
gleams of the every-day day-light. He had doubled Powys’s salary, and he
had a right to do so if he pleased; but yet he knew that when he told it
to Mr. Wrinkell, that functionary would be much surprised, and that a
sense of injury would be visible upon the countenances of the other
clerks. Certainly a man has a right to do what he likes with his own,
but then every man who does so must make up his mind to certain little
penalties. He will always be able to read the grudge of those who have
borne the burden and heat of the day in their faces, however silent they
may be; and even an emperor, much less a country lawyer, can not fail to
be conscious when he is tacitly disapproved of. How was he to tell
Wrinkell of it even? how to explain to him why he had taken so unusual a
step? The very fact was a kind of confession that something more was in
it than met the eye. And Jack–; but Jack and Wrinkell too would have
greater cause of astonishment still, which would throw even this into
the shade. Mr. Wrinkell knocked at Mr. Brownlow’s door when he had come
this length in his thoughts. The manager had not troubled him so long as
he had been alone and apparently busy; but after the long audience
accorded to young Powys, Mr. Wrinkell did not see how he could be shut
out. He came in accordingly, and already Mr. Brownlow saw the
disapproval in his eye. He was stately, which was no doubt a deportment
becoming a head clerk, but not precisely in the private office of his
principal; and he did not waste a single word in what he had to say. He
was concise almost to the point of abruptness; all of which particulars
of disapprobation Mr. Brownlow perceived at once.

“Wrinkell,” he said, when they had dismissed in this succinct way the
immediate business in hand, “I want to speak to you about young Powys. I
am interested in that young fellow. I want to raise his salary. But I
should like to know first what you have got to say.”

It was a hypocritical speech, but Mr. Wrinkell happily was not aware of
that; he pursed up his lips and screwed them tight together, as if, in
the first place, he did not mean to say any thing, but relented after a
moment’s pause.

“At the present moment, sir,” said Mr. Wrinkell, “I am doubtful what to
say. Had you asked me three months since, I should have answered, ‘By
all means.’ If you had asked me one month since, I should have said,
‘Certainly not.’ Now, I avow my penetration is baffled, and I don’t know
what to say.”

“You mean he is not doing so well as he did at first?” said Mr.
Brownlow. “Nobody ever does that I know of. And better than he did
later? Is that what you mean to say?”

“Being very concise,” said Mr. Wrinkell, slowly, “I should say that was
a sort of a summary. When he came first he was the best beginner I ever
had in hand; and I did not leave him without signs of my approval. I had
him to my ’umble ’ome, Mr. Brownlow, as perhaps you are aware, and gave
him the opportunity of going to chapel with us. I don’t hesitate to
avow,” said Mr. Wrinkell, with a little solemnity, “that I had begun to
regard him as a kind of son of my own.”

“And then there was a change?” said the lawyer, with a smile.

“There was a great change,” said Mr. Wrinkell. “It was no more the same
young man–a cheerful bright young fellow that could laugh over his tea
of a Sunday, and walk steadily to chapel after with Mrs. Wrinkell and
myself. We are not of those Christians who think a little cheerfulness
out of season of a Sunday. But he changed of that. He would have no tea,
which is a bad sign in a young man. He yawned in my very pew by Mrs.
Wrinkell’s side. It grieved me, sir, as if he had been my own flesh and
blood; but of course we had to give up. The last few weeks he has been
steadier,” Mr. Wrinkell added, quickly; “there can’t be any doubt about

“But he might decline tea and yawn over a sermon without going to the
bad,” said Mr. Brownlow. “I hope so at least, for they are two things I
often do myself.”

“Excuse me,” said Mr. Wrinkell, who liked now and then to take high
ground. “There is all the difference. I fully admit the right of private
judgment. You judge for yourself; but a young man who has kind friends
anxious to serve him–there is all the difference. But he has been
steady of late,” the head clerk added, with candor; “I gladly
acknowledge that.”

“Perhaps he had something on his mind,” said Mr. Brownlow. “At all
events, I don’t think much harm has come of it. I take an interest in
that young fellow. You will double his salary, Mr. Wrinkell, next

“Double it!” said Mr. Wrinkell, with a gasp. He fell back from his
position by the side of the table, and grew pale with horror. “Double
it?” he added, after a pause, inquiringly. “Did I understand, sir? was
_that_ what you said?”

“That was what I said,” said Mr. Brownlow; and, after the habit of
guilty men, he began immediately to defend himself. “I trust,” he said,
unconsciously following the old precedent, “that I have a right to do
what I like with my own.”

“Certainly–certainly,” said Mr. Wrinkell; and then there was a pause.
“I shall put these settlements in hand at once,” he resumed, with what
the lawyer felt was something like eagerness to escape the subject. “Mr.
Robinson is waiting for the instructions you have just given me. And the
Wardell case is nearly ready for your revision–and–May I ask if
the–the–increase you mention in Mr. Powys’s salary is to begin from
next quarter-day, or from the last?”

“From the last,” said Mr. Brownlow, with stern brevity.

“Very well, sir,” said Mr. Wrinkell. “I can not conceal from you that it
may have a bad effect–a painful effect.”

“Upon whom?” said Mr, Brownlow.

“Upon the other clerks. They are pretty steady–neither very good nor
very bad; and he has been both good and bad,” said Mr. Wrinkell,
stoutly. “It will have an unpleasant effect. They will say we make
favorites, Mr. Brownlow. They have already said as much in respect to

“They had better mind their own affairs,” was all Mr. Brownlow said;
but, nevertheless, when he went out into the office afterward, he
imagined (prematurely, for it had not yet been communicated to them)
that he read disgust in the eyes of his clerks; and he was not unmoved
by it, any more than General Haman was by the contempt of the old man
who sat in the gate.

Continue Reading


It was only two days after this when Mr. Brownlow received that message
from old Mrs. Fennell which disturbed him so much. The message was
brought by Nancy, who was in the office waiting for him when he made his
appearance in the morning. Nancy, who had been old Mrs. Thomson’s maid,
was not a favorite with Mr. Brownlow, and both she and her present
mistress were aware of that; but Mrs. Fennell’s message was urgent, and
no other messenger was to be had. “You was to come directly, that was
what she said.” Such was Nancy’s commission. She was a very tall gaunt
old woman, and she stood very upright and defiant, as in an enemy’s
country, and no questions could draw any more from her. “She didn’t tell
me what she was a-wanting of. I’m not one as can be trusted,” said
Nancy. “You was to go directly, that was what she said.”

“Is she ill?” said Mr. Brownlow.

“No, she ain’t ill. She’s crooked; but she’s always crooked since ever I
knew her. You was to come directly; that’s all as I know.”

“Is it about something she wants?” said Mr. Brownlow again; he was
keeping himself down, and trying not to allow his anxiety to be
reawakened. “I am very busy. My son shall go over. Or if she will let me
know what it is she wants.”

“She wants you,” said Nancy. “That’s what she wants. I can’t say no
more, for, I scorn to deny it, I don’t know no more; but it ain’t Mr.
John she wants, it’s you.”

“Then tell her I will come about one o’clock,” said Mr. Brownlow; and he
returned to his papers. But this was only a pretense. He would not let
even such a despicable adversary as old Nancy see that the news
disturbed him. He went on with his papers, pretending to read them, but
he did not know what he was reading. Till one o’clock! It was but ten
o’clock then. No doubt it might be some of her foolish complaints, some
of the grievances she was constantly accumulating; or, on the other
hand, it might be–Mr. Brownlow drew his curtain aside for a minute, and
he saw that young Powys was sitting at his usual desk. The young man had
fallen back again into the cloud from which he had seemed to be
delivered at the time of his visit to Brownlows. He was not working at
that moment; he was leaning his head on his hand, and gazing with a very
downcast look at some minute characters on a bit of paper before
him–calculations of some kind it seemed. Looking at him, Mr. Brownlow
saw that he began to look shabby–white at the elbows, as well as
clouded and heavy over the eyes. He drew back the curtain again and
returned to his place, but with his mind too much agitated even for a
pretense at work. Had the old woman’s message any thing to do with this
youth? Had his calculations which he was attending to when he ought to
have been doing his work any connection with Mrs. Fennell’s sudden
summons? Mr. Brownlow was like a man surrounded by ghosts, and he did
not know from what quarter or in what shape they might next assail him.
But he had so far lost his self-command that he could not wait and fight
with his assailants till the hour he mentioned. He took up his hat at
last, hurriedly, and called to Mr. Wrinkell to say that he was going
out. “I shall be back in half an hour,” Mr. Brownlow said. The
head-clerk stood by and watched his employer go out, and shook his head.
“He’ll retire before long,” Mr. Wrinkell said to himself. “You’ll see he
will; and I would not give a sixpence for the business after he is
gone.” But Mr. Brownlow was not aware of this thought. He was thinking
nothing about the business. He was asking himself whether it was the
compound interest that young Powys was calculating, and what Mrs.
Fennell knew about it. All his spectres, after a moment of ineffectual
repression, were bursting forth again.

Mrs. Fennell had put on her best cap. She had put it on in the morning
before even she had sent Nancy with her message. It was a token to
herself of a great emergency, even if her son-in-law did not recognize
it as such. And she sat in state in her little drawing-room, which was
not adorned by any flowers from Brownlows at that moment, for Sara had
once more forgotten her duties, and had not for a long time gone to see
her grandmother. But there was more than the best cap to signalize the
emergency. The fact was, that its wearer was in a very real and genuine
state of excitement. It was not pretense but reality which freshened her
forehead under her grim bands of false hair, and made her eyes shine
from amid their wrinkles. She had seated herself in state on a high
arm-chair, with a high foot-stool: but it was because, really and
without pretense, she had something to say which warranted all her
preparations. A gleam of pleasure flashed across her face when she heard
Mr. Brownlow knock at the door. “I thought he’d come sooner than one,”
she said, with irrepressible satisfaction, even though Nancy was
present. She would not betray the secret to the maid whom she did not
trust, but she could not but make a little display to her of the power
she still retained. “I knew he’d come,” she went on, with exultation; to
which Nancy, on her part, could not but give a provoking reply.

“Them as plots against the innocent always comes early,” said Nancy.
“I’ve took notice of that afore now.”

“And who is it in this house that plots against the innocent?” said Mrs.
Fennell, with trembling rage. “Take you care what you say to them that’s
your mistress, and more than your mistress. You’re old, and you’d find
it harder than you think to get another home like this. Go and bring me
the things I told you of. You’ve got the money. If it wasn’t for
curiosity and the key-hole, you’d been gone before now.”

“And if it wasn’t as there’s something to be cur’us about it you
wouldn’t have sent me, not you,” said Nancy, which was so near the truth
that Mrs. Fennell trembled in her chair. But Nancy did not feel disposed
to go to extremities, and as Mr. Brownlow entered she disappeared. He
had grown pale on his way up the stairs. The moment had come when,
perhaps, he must hear his own secret discovery proclaimed as it were on
the housetop, and it can not be denied that he had grown pale.

“Well?” he said, sitting down opposite to his mother-in-law on the
nearest chair. His breath and his courage were both gone, and he could
not find another word to say.

“Well, John Brownlow,” she said, not without a certain triumph mingled
with her agitation. “But before I say a word let us make sure that Nancy
and her long ears is out of the way.”

Mr. Brownlow rose with a certain reluctance, opened the door, and looked
up and down the stair. When he came in again a flush had taken the place
of his paleness, and he came and drew his chair close to Mrs. Fennell,
bending forward toward her. “What is the matter?” he said; “is it any
thing you want, or any thing I can do for you? Tell me what it is!”

“If it was any thing as I wanted it might pass,” said Mrs. Fennell, with
a little bitterness; “you know well it wasn’t that you were thinking of.
But I don’t want to lose time. There’s no time to be lost, John
Brownlow. What I’ve got to say to you is that _she’s_ been to see me.
I’ve seen her with my own eyes.”

“Who?” said Mr. Brownlow.

Then the two looked at each other. She, keen, eager, and old, with the
cunning of age in her face, a heartless creature beyond all impressions
of honesty or pity–he, a man, very open to such influences, with a
heart both true and tender, and yet as eager, more anxious than she.
They faced each other, he with eyes which, notwithstanding their present
purpose, “shone clear with honor,” looking into her bleared and
twinkling orbs. What horrible impulse was it that, for the first time,
united two such different beings thus?

“I’ve seen her,” said Mrs. Fennell. “There’s no good in naming names.
She’s turned up at last. I might have played you false, John Brownlow,
and made better friends for myself, but I thought of my Bessie’s bairns,
and I played you true. She came to see me yesterday. My heart’s beating
yet, and I can’t get it stopped. I’ve seen her–seen her with my own

“That woman? Phœbe–?” Mr. Brownlow’s voice died away in his throat;
he could not pronounce the last word. Cold drops of perspiration rose to
his forehead. He sank back in his chair, never taking his eyes from the
weird old woman who kept nodding her head at him, and gave no other
reply. Thus it had come upon him at last without any disguise. His face
was as white as if he had fainted; his strong limbs shook; his eyes were
glassy and without expression. Had he been any thing but a strong man,
healthy in brain and in frame, he would have had a fit. But he was
healthy and strong; so strong that the horrible crisis passed over him,
and he came to himself by degrees, and was not harmed.

“But you did not know her,” he said, with a gasp. “You never saw her;
you told me so. How could you tell it was she?”

“Tell, indeed!” said Mrs. Fennell, with scorn; “me that knew her mother
so well, and Fennell that was her blood relation! But she did not make
any difficulty about it. She told me her name, and asked all about her
old mother, and if she ever forgave her, and would have cried about it,
the fool, though she’s near as old as me.”

“Then she did not know?” said Mr. Brownlow, with a great jump of his
laboring breast.

“Know! I never gave her time to say what she knew or what she did not
know,” cried Mrs. Fennell; “do you think I was going to have her there,
hanging on, a-asking questions, and may be Nancy coming in that knew her
once? I hope I know better than that, for my Bessie’s children’s sake. I
packed her off, that was what I did. I asked her how she could dare to
come nigh me as was an honest woman, and had nothing to do with fools
that run away. I told her she broke her mother’s heart, and so she
would, if she had had a heart to break. I sent her off quicker than she
came. You have no call to be dissatisfied with me.”

Here John Brownlow’s heart, which was in his breast all this time, gave
a great throb of indignation and protest. But he stifled it, and said
nothing. He had to bring himself down to the level of his
fellow-conspirator. He had no leisure to be pitiful: a little more
courtesy or a little less, what did it matter? He gave a sigh, which was
almost like a groan, to relieve himself a little, but he could not

“Oh yes, she came to me to be her friend,” said the old woman, with
triumph: “talking of her mother, indeed! If her mother had had the heart
of a Christian she would have provided for my poor Fennell and me. And
to ask me to wrong my Bessie’s children for a woman I never saw–”

“What did she ask you?” said Mr. Brownlow, sternly; “better not to talk
about hearts. What did she know? what did she say?”

“John Brownlow,” said Mrs. Fennell, “you’ve not to speak like that to
me, when I’ve just been doing you a service against myself, as it were.
But it was not for you. Don’t you think it was for you. It was for my
Bessie’s bairns. What do you think she would know? She’s been away for
years and years. She’s been a-soldiering at the other side of the world.
But I could have made her my friend forever, and got a good provision,
and no need to ask for any thing I want. Don’t you think I can’t see
that. It was for their sake.”

Mr. Brownlow waved his hand impatiently; but still it was true that he
had brought himself to her level, and was in her power. After this there
was a silence, broken only by the old woman’s exclamations of triumph.
“Oh yes; I sent her away. I am not one that thinks of myself, though I
might have made a kind friend,” said Mrs. Fennell; and her son intently
sat and listened to her, gradually growing insensible to the honor,
thinking of the emergency alone.

“Did she say any thing about her son?” he asked at last; he glanced
round the room as he did so with a little alarm. He would scarcely have
been surprised had he seen young Powys standing behind him with that
calculation of compound interest in his hand.

“I don’t know about no son,” said Mrs. Fennell. “Do you think I gave her
time to talk? I tell you I packed her off faster, a deal faster, than
she came. The impudence to come to me! But she knows you, John Brownlow,
and if she goes to you, you had best mind what you say. Folk think
you’re a good lawyer, but I never had any opinion of your law. You’re a
man that would blurt a thing out, and never think if it was prudent or
not. If she goes to you, she’ll get it all out of you, unless you send
her to me–ay, send her to me. To come and cry about her mother, the old
fool, and not far short of my age!”

“What was she like?” said Mr. Brownlow again. He did not notice the
superfluous remarks she made. He took her answer into his mind, and that
was all; and as for her opinion of himself, what did that matter to
him? At any other time he would have smiled.

“Like? I don’t know what she was like,” said Mrs. Fennell; “always a
plain thing all her life, though she would have made me think that
Fennell once–stuff and nonsense, and a pack of lies–like? She was
like–Nancy, that kind of tall creature. Nancy was a kind of a relation,
too. But as for what she was like in particular, I didn’t pay no
attention. She was dressed in things I wouldn’t have given sixpence for,
and she was in a way–”

“What sort of a way? what brought her here? How did she find you out?”
said Mr. Brownlow. “Afterward I will listen to your own opinions. I beg
of you to be a little more exact. Tell me simply the facts now. Remember
of how much importance it is.”

“If I had not known it was of importance I should not have sent for
you,” said Mrs. Fennell; “and as for my opinions, I’ll give them when I
think proper. You are not the man to dictate to me. She was in a way,
and she came to me to stand her friend. She thought I had influence,
like. I didn’t tell her, John Brownlow, as she was all wrong, and I
hadn’t no influence. It’s what I ought to have, me that brought the
mother of these children into the world; but folks forget that, and also
that it was of us the money came. I told her nothing, not a word. It’s
least said that’s soonest mended. I sent her away, that’s all that you
want to know.”

Mr. Brownlow shook his head. It was not all he wanted to know. He knew
it was not over, and ended with this one appearance, though his dreadful
auxiliary thought so in her ignorance. For him it was but the beginning,
the first step in her work. There were still five months in which she
could make good her claims, and find them out first if she did not know
them, prove any thing, every thing, as people did in such cases. But he
did not enter into vain explanations.

“It is not all over,” he said. “Do not think so. She will find something
out, and she will turn up again. I want to know where she lives, and how
she found you out. We are not done with her yet,” said Mr. Brownlow,
again wiping the heavy moisture from his brow.

“You are done with her if you are not a fool to go and seek her,” said
Mrs. Fennell. “I can’t tell you what she is, nor where she is. She’s
Phœbe Thomson. Oh, yes, you’re frightened when I say her
name–frightened that Nancy should hear; but I sent Nancy out on
purpose. I am not one to forget. Do you think I got talking with her to
find out every thing? I sent her away. That’s what I did for the
children, not asking and asking, and making a talk, and putting things
into her head as if she was of consequence. I turned her to the door,
that’s what I did; and if you’re not a fool, John Brownlow, or if you
have any natural love for your children, you’ll do the same.”

Again Mr. Brownlow groaned within himself, but he could not free himself
from this associate. It was one of the consequences of evil-doing, the
first obvious one which had come in his way. He had to bear her insults,
to put himself on her level, even to be, as she was, without
compunction. Their positions were changed, and it was he now who was in
the old woman’s power; she had a hundred supposed injuries hoarded up in
her mind to avenge upon him, even while she did him substantial service.
And she was cruel with the remorseless cold-blooded cruelty of a
creature whose powers of thought and sympathy were worn out. He wondered
at her as he sat and saw her old eyes glisten with pleasure at the
thought of having sent this poor injured robbed woman away. And he was
her accomplice, her instigator, and it was for Bessie’s children. The
thought made him sick and giddy. It was only with an effort that he
recovered himself.

“When a woman comes back after twenty-five years, she does not disappear
again,” he said. “I am not blaming you. You did as was natural to you.
But tell me everything. It might have been an impostor–you never saw
her. How can you be sure it was Phœbe Thomson? If Nancy even had been

“I tell you it _was_ Phœbe Thomson,” said Mrs. Fennell, raising her
voice. And then all of a sudden she became silent. Nancy had come
quietly up stairs, and had opened the door, and was looking in upon her
mistress. She might have heard more, she might not even have heard that.
She came in and put down some small purchases on the table. She was
quite self-possessed and observant, looking as she always did, showing
no signs of excitement. And Mr. Brownlow looked at her steadily. Like
Nancy! but Mrs. Powys was not like Nancy. He concluded as this passed
through his mind that Mrs. Fennell had named Nancy only as the first
person that occurred to her. There was no likeness–not the slightest.
It went for nothing, and yet it was a kind of relief to him all the

“Why do you come in like that, without knocking, when I’ve got some one
with me?” said Mrs. Fennell, with tremulous wrath. “It’s like a common
maid-of-all-work, that knows no better. I have told you that before.”

“It’s seldom as one of the family is here,” said Nancy, “or I’d think
on’t. When things happen so rare, folks forgets. Often and often I say
as you’re left too much alone; but what with the lady yesterday and Mr.
Brownlow to-day–”

“What lady yesterday?” cried Mrs. Fennell. “What do you know about a
lady yesterday? Who ever said there was a lady yesterday? If you speak
up to me bold like that, I’ll send you away.”

“Oh, it’s nothing to me,” said Nancy. “You know as I was out. They most
always comes when I’m out. Fine folks is not partial to me; but if
you’re a-going to be better looked to, and your own flesh and blood to
come and see you, at your age, it will be good news to me.”

“My own flesh and blood don’t think a great deal about an old woman,”
said Mrs. Fennell, swallowing the bait. “I’m little good to any body
now. I’ve seen the day when it was different. And I can still be of use
to them that’s kind to me,” she said, with significance. Mr. Brownlow
sat and listened to all this, and it smote him with disgust. He got up,
and though it cost him an effort to do so, held out his hand to the old
woman in her chair.

“Tell me, or tell Jack, if you want anything,” he said. “I can’t stay
now; and if any thing occurs let me know,” he added. He took no notice
of the vehement shaking of her hand as she turned toward Nancy. He
looked at Nancy again, though he did not like her. She at least was not
to be in the conspiracy, and he had a satisfaction in showing that at
least he was not afraid of her. “If there is any thing that can make
your mistress more comfortable,” he said, sternly, “I have already
desired you to let me know; and you understand that she is not to be
bullied either by you or any one else–good-day.”

“Bullied!” said Nancy, in consternation; but he did not condescend to
look at her again. He went away silently, like a man in a dream. Up to
this moment he had been able to doubt. It was poor comfort, yet there
was some comfort in it. When the evidence looked the most clear and
overwhelming, he had still been able to say to himself that he had no
direct proof, that it was not his business, that still it might all be a
mistake. Now that last standing-ground was taken from under his feet.
Mrs. Thomson’s heir had made herself known, she had told her name and
her parentage, and claimed kindred with his mother-in-law, who, if she
had been an impostor, could have convicted her; and the old woman, on
the contrary, had been convinced. It was a warm summer day, but Mr.
Brownlow shivered with cold as he walked along the familiar streets. If
she had but come twenty years, five-and-twenty years ago! If he had but
followed his own instincts of right and wrong, and left this odious
money untouched! It was for Bessie’s sake he had used it, to make his
marriage practicable, and now the whirligig of time had brought about
its revenges. Bessie’s daughter would have to pay for her mother’s good
fortune. He felt himself swing from side to side as he went along, so
confused was he with the multitude of his thoughts, and recovered
himself only with a violent effort. The decisive moment had come. It had
come too soon–before the time was out at which Phœbe Thomson would
be harmless. He could not put himself off any longer with the pretext
that he was not sure. And young Powys in the office, whom he had taken
in, partly in kindness and partly with evil intent, sat under his eyes
calculating the amount of that frightful interest which would ruin him.
Mr. Brownlow passed several of his acquaintances in the street without
noticing them, but not without attracting notice. He was so pale that
the strangers who passed turned round to look at him. No farther
delay–no putting off–no foolish excuses to himself. Whatever had to be
done must be done quickly. Unconsciously he had quickened his pace, and
went on at a speed which few men could have kept up with. He was strong,
and his excitement gave him new strength. It must be done, one thing or
another; there was no way of escaping the alternative now.

There are natures which are driven wild and frantic by a great
excitement, and there are others which are calmed and steadied in face
of an emergency. Mr. Brownlow entered his private office with the
feeling of a man who was about to die there, and might never come out
alive. He did not answer any one–even waved Wrinkell away, who was
coming to him with a bag of papers. “I have some urgent private
business,” he said; “take every thing to my son, and don’t let me be
disturbed.” He said this in the office, so that every one heard him; and
though he looked at nobody, he could see Powys look up from his
calculations, and Jack come in some surprise to the open door of his
room. They both heard him, both the young men, and wondered. Jack, too,
was dark and self-absorbed, engaged in a struggle with himself. And they
looked at the master, the father, and said to themselves, in their
youthful folly, that it was easy for him to talk of not being disturbed.
What could he have to trouble him–he who could do as he liked, and whom
nobody interfered with? Mr. Brownlow, for his part, saw them both
without looking at them, and a certain bitter smile at his son’s reserve
and silence came to him inwardly. Jack thought it a great matter to be
checked in his boyish love-making; while, good heavens! how different
were the burdens, how much harder the struggles of which the boy was
ignorant! Mr. Brownlow went in and shut the door. He was alone
then–shut out from every body. No one could tell or even guess, the
conflict in his mind–not even his young adversary outside, who was
reckoning up the compound interest. He paused a little, and sat down,
and bent his head on his hands. Was he praying? He could not have told
what it was. It was not prayer in words. If it had been, it would have
been a prayer for strength to do wrong. That was what he was struggling
after–strength to shut out all compunctions–to be steadily cruel,
steadily false. Could God have granted him that? but his habits were
those of a good man all the same. He paused when he was in perplexity,
and was silent, and collected his thoughts, not without a kind of mute
customary appeal; and then flung his hands away from his face, and
started to his feet with a thrill of horror. “Help me to sin!” was that
what it had been in his heart to say?

He spent the whole day in the office, busy with very hard and heavy
work. He went minutely into all those calculations which he supposed
young Powys to be making. And when he had put down the last cipher, he
opened all his secret places, took out all his memorandums, every
security he possessed, all his notes of investments, the numberless
items which composed his fortune. He worked at his task like a clerk
making up ordinary accounts, yet there was something in his silent
speed, his wrapt attention, the intense exactness of every note, which
was very different from the steady indifference of daily work. When he
had put every thing down, and made his last calculation, he laid the two
papers together on his desk. A little glimmering of hope had, perhaps,
awakened in him, from the very fact of doing something. He laid them
down side by side, and the little color that had come into his face
vanished out of it in an instant. If there had been but a little over!
If he could have felt that he had something left, he might still, at the
eleventh hour, have had strength to make the sacrifice; but the figures
which stared him in the face meant ruin. Restitution would cost him
every thing–more than every thing. It would leave him in debt; it would
mortgage even that business which the Brownlows of Masterton had
maintained so long. It would plunge his children down, down in an
instant out of the place they had been educated to fill. It would take
from himself the means of being as he was–one of the benefactors of the
county, foremost in all good works. Good works! when it was with the
inheritance of the widow and the orphans that he did them. All this came
before him as clearly as if it had been written in lines of light–an
uneducated, imprudent woman–a creature who had run away from her
friends, abandoned her mother–a boy who was going to the bad–a family
unaccustomed to wealth, who would squander and who would not enjoy it.
And, on the other hand, himself who had increased it, used it well,
served both God and man with it. The struggle was long, and it was hard,
but in the end the natural result came. His half-conscious appeal was
answered somehow, though not from on high. The strength came to him
which he had asked for–strength to do wrong. But all the clerks
started, and Mr. Wrinkell himself took off his spectacles, and seriously
considered whether he should send for a doctor, when in the evening,
just before the hour for leaving the office, Mr. Brownlow suddenly
opened the door and called young Powys into his private room.

Continue Reading


It may be imagined after this with what sort of feelings the unhappy
Jack turned up the avenue in cold blood, and walked home to dinner. He
thought he knew what awaited him, and yet he did not know, for up to
this moment he had never come seriously in collision with his father. He
did not know what was going to be said to him, what line of reproach Mr.
Brownlow would take, what he could reply; for in reality he himself had
made as great or a greater discovery than his father had done. He was as
totally unaware what he meant as Mr. Brownlow was. What did he mean?
Nothing–to be happy–to see the other fair little creature happy, to
praise her, to admire her, to watch her pretty ways–to see her look up
with her dewy eyes, tender and sweet, into his face. That was all he had
meant; but now that would answer no longer. If he had been a little less
brave and straightforward, Jack would have quailed at the prospect
before him. He would have turned his back upon the awful dinner-table,
the awful hour after dinner, which he felt awaited him. But at the same
time his spirit was up, and he could not run away. He went on doggedly,
seeing before him in the distance his father still walking slowly, very
slowly he thought, up to the house. Jack had a great respect for his
father, but he had been so differently educated, his habits and ways of
thinking were so different, that perhaps in ordinary cases the young man
was a little impatient of paternal direction; and he did not know now
how he could bear it, if Mr. Brownlow took matters with a high hand.
Besides, even that was not the most urgent question. How could he answer
any one? what could he say for himself? He did not know what he meant.
He could not acknowledge himself a fool, and admit that he meant
nothing. His thoughts were not pleasant as he went slowly after his
father up the avenue. Perhaps it would convey but an uncomfortable
impression of Jack were I to say that he had been quite sincere, and was
quite sincere even now in what he had said about marriage. He had no
particular desire to change his own condition in any way. The idea of
taking new responsibilities upon him had not entered into his mind. He
had simply yielded to a very pleasurable impulse, meaning no harm; and
all at once, without any warning, his pleasure had turned into something
terrible, and stood staring at him with his father’s eyes–with eyes
still more severe and awful than his father’s. In an hour or two,
perhaps even in a minute or two, he would be called to account; and he
could not tell what to answer. He was utterly confounded and stupefied
by the suddenness of the event, and by the startling revelation thus
made to him; and now he was to be called up to the bar, and examined as
to what he meant. These thoughts were but necessary companions as he
went home, where all this awaited him; and he did not know whether to be
relieved or to feel more disconcerted still, when he met a messenger at
the door, who had just been sent in hot haste to the Rectory to ask Mr.
Hardcastle to join the Brownlows party–a kind of thing which the
Rector, in a general way, had no great objection to do. Was Mr.
Hardcastle to be called in to help to lecture him? This was the thought
that crossed Jack’s mind as he went–it must be acknowledged, very
softly and quietly–up stairs to his own room. He met nobody on the way,
and he was glad. He let the bell ring out, and made sure that every body
was ready, before he went down stairs. And he could not but feel that he
looked like a culprit when finally he stole into the drawing-room, where
Mr. Hardcastle was waiting along with his father and sister. Mr.
Brownlow said, “You are late, Jack,” and Jack’s guilty imagination read
volumes in the words; but nothing else was said to him. The dinner
passed on as all dinners do; the conversation was just as usual. Jack
himself was very silent, though generally he had his own opinion to give
on most subjects. As he sat and listened, and allowed the talk to float
over his head, as it were, a strong conviction of the nothingness of
general conversation came over him. He was full to brimming with his own
subject, and his father at least might be also supposed to be thinking
more of that than of any thing else. Yet here they were talking of the
most trifling matters, feeling bound to talk of any thing but the one
thing. He had known this before, no doubt, in theory, but for the first
time it now appeared to him in reality. When Sara left the room, it is
not to be denied that his heart gave a jump, thinking now perhaps they
would both open upon him. But still not a word was said. Mr. Hardcastle
talked in his usual easy way, and with an evident unconsciousness of any
particular crisis. Mr. Brownlow was perhaps more silent than usual, and
left the conversation more in the hands of his guest. But he did not
speak _at_ his son, or show him any displeasure. He was grave, but
otherwise there was no difference in him. Thus the evening passed on,
and not a word was said. When Mr. Hardcastle went away Jack went out
with him to walk part of the way across the park, and then only a
certain consciousness showed itself in his father’s face. Mr. Brownlow
gave his son a quick warning look–one glance, and no more. And when
Jack returned from his walk, which was a long and not a comfortable one,
his father had gone to his room, and all chances of collision were over
for that evening at least. He had escaped, but he had not escaped from
himself. On the contrary, he sat half the night through thinking over
the matter. What was he to do?–to go away would be the easiest, perhaps
in every way the best. But yet, as he sat in the silence of the night, a
little fairy figure came and stood beside him. Could he leave her, give
her up, let her remain to wake out of the dream, and learn bitterly by
herself that it was all over? He had never seen any one like her. Keppel
might rave about his beauties, but not one of them was fit to be named
beside Pamela. So sweet too, and fresh and innocent, with her dear
little face like a spring morning. Thinking of that, Jack somehow glided
away from his perplexities. He made a leap back in his mind to that
frosty, icy day on which he had seen her in the carrier’s cart–to the
moment when she sprained her ankle–to all the trifling pleasant events
by which they had come to this present point. And then all at once, with
a start, he came back to their last meeting, which had been the sweetest
of all, and upon which hard fate, in the shape of Mr. Brownlow, had so
solemnly looked in. Poor Jack! it was the first time any thing of the
kind had ever happened to him. He had gone through a little flirtation
now and then before, no doubt, as is the common fate of man; but as for
any serious crisis, any terrible complication like this, such a thing
had never occurred in his life; and the fact was, after all, that the
experienced-man-of-the-world character he was in the habit of putting on
did him no service in the emergency. It enabled him to clear his brow,
and dismiss his uncomfortable feelings from his face during the evening,
but it did him no good now that he was by himself; and it threw no light
upon his future path. He could talk a little polite cynicism now and
then, but in his heart he was young, and fresh, and honest, and not
cynical. And then Pamela. It was not her fault. She had suffered him to
lead her along those primrose paths, but it was always he who had led
the way, and now was he to leave her alone to bear the disappointment
and solitude, and possibly the reproach? She had gone home confused, and
near crying, and probably she had been scolded when she got home, and
had been suffering for him. No doubt he too was suffering for her; but
still the sternest of fathers can not afflict a young man as a
well-meaning mother can afflict a girl. Poor little Pamela! perhaps at
this moment her pretty eyes were dim with tears. And then Jack melted
altogether and broke down. There was not one of them all that was fit to
hold a candle to her–Sara! Sara was handsome, to be sure, but no more
to be compared to that sweet little soul–So he went on, the foolish
young fellow. And if he did not know what he meant at night, he knew
still less in the morning, after troublous hours of thought, and a great
deal of discomfort and pain.

In the morning, however, what he had been dreading came. As bad luck
would have it he met his father on the stairs going down to breakfast;
and Mr. Brownlow beckoned his son to follow him into the library, which
Jack did with the feelings of a victim. “I want to speak to you, Jack,”
Mr. Brownlow said; and then it came.

“When I met you yesterday you were walking with the–with Mrs. Swayne’s
young lodger,” said Mr. Brownlow, “and it was evidently not for the
first time. You must know, Jack, that–that–this sort of thing will
not do. It puts me out as much–perhaps more than it can put you out–to
have to speak to you on such a subject. I believe the girl is an
innocent girl–”

“There can be no doubt about that, sir,” cried Jack, firing up suddenly
and growing very red.

“I hope not,” said Mr. Brownlow, “and I hope–and I may say I
believe–that you don’t mean any harm. But it’s dangerous playing with
edge-tools; harm might come of it before you knew what you were doing.
Now look here, Jack; I know the time for sermons is passed, and that you
are rather disposed to think you know the world better than I do, but I
can’t leave you without warning. I believe the girl is an innocent girl,
as I have said; but there are different kinds of innocence–there is
that which is utterly beyond temptation, and there is that which has
simply never been tempted.”

“It is not a question I can discuss, sir,” cried Jack. “I beg your
pardon. I know you don’t mean to be hard upon me, but as for calling in
question–her–innocence, I can’t have it. She is as innocent as the
angels; she doesn’t understand what evil means.”

“I am glad you think so,” said Mr. Brownlow; “but let me have out my
say. I don’t believe in seduction in the ordinary sense of the word–”

“Sir!” cried Jack, starting to his feet with a countenance flaming like
that of an angry angel. Mr. Brownlow only waved his hand and went on.

“Let me have out my say. I tell you I don’t believe in seduction; but
there are people in the world–and the most part of the people in the
world–who are neither good nor bad, and to such a sudden impulse one
way or other may be every thing. I would not call down upon a young
man’s foolish head all the responsibility of such a woman’s misery,”
said Mr. Brownlow, thoughtfully, “but still it would be an awful thought
that somebody else might have turned the unsteady balance the right way,
and that your folly had turned it the wrong. See, I am not going into it
as a question of personal vice. That your own heart would tell you of;
but I don’t believe, my boy–I don’t believe you mean any harm. I say
this to you once for all. You could not, if you were a hundred times the
man you are, turn one true, good, pure-hearted girl wrong. I don’t
believe any man could; but you might develop evil that but for you would
only have smouldered and never come to positive harm. Who can tell
whether this poor child is of the one character or the other? Don’t
interrupt me. You think you know, but you can’t know. Mind what you are
about. This is all I am going to say to you, Jack.”

“It is too much,” cried Jack, bursting with impatience, “or it is not
half, not a hundredth part enough. I, sir–do you think I would harm
her? Not for any thing that could be offered me–not for all the world!”

“I have just said as much,” said Mr. Brownlow, calmly. “If I had thought
you capable of a base intention, I should have spoken very differently;
but intention is one thing and result another. Take care. You can’t but
harm her. To a girl in her position every word, every look of that kind
from a young man like you is a kind of injury. You must know that. Think
if it had been Keppel–ah, you start–and how is it different, being

“It may not be different, sir,” exclaimed Jack, “but this I know, I
can’t carry on this conversation. Keppel! any man in short–that is what
you mean. Good heavens, how little you know the creature you are talking
of! She talk to Keppel or to any one! If it was not you who said it–”

Mr. Brownlow’s grave face relaxed for one half moment. It did not come
the length of a smile, but it had unawares the same effect upon his son
which a momentary lightening of the clouds has, even though no break is
visible. The atmosphere, as it were, grew lighter. The young man stopped
almost without knowing it, and his indignation subsided. His father
understood better than he thought.

“If all you say is true,” said Mr. Brownlow, “and I am glad to see that
you believe it at least, how can you reconcile yourself to doing such a
girl such an injury? You and she belong to different spheres. You can do
her nothing but harm, she can do you no good. What result can you look
for? What do you mean? You must see the truth of what I say.”

Upon which Jack fell silent, chilled in the midst of his heat, struck
dumb. For he knew very well that he had not meant any thing; he had no
result to propose. He had not gone so far as to contemplate actual
practical consequences, and he was ashamed and had nothing to say.

“This is the real state of the case,” said Mr. Brownlow, seeing his
advantage. “You have both been fools, both you and she, but you the
worst, as being a man and knowing better; and now you see how matters
stand. It may give you a little pang, and I fear it will give her a pang
too; but when I say you ought to make an immediate end of it, I know I
advise what is best for both. I am not speaking to you as your judge,
Jack. I am speaking to you as your friend.”

“Thanks,” said Jack, briefly; his heart was full, poor fellow, and to
tell the truth, he said even that much reluctantly, but honesty drew it
out of him. He felt that his father was his friend, and had not been
dealing hardly with him. And then he got up and went to the window, and
looked out upon the unsuspicious shrubberies full of better thoughts.
Make an end of it! make an end of the best part of his life–make an end
of her probably. Yes, it was a very easy thing to say.

“I will not ask any answer or any promise,” said Mr. Brownlow. “I leave
it to your own good sense and good feeling, Jack. There, that is enough;
and if I were you I would go to the office to-day.”

This was all he said. He went out of the library leaving his son there,
leaving him at liberty to follow out his own reflections. And poor
Jack’s thoughts were not pleasant. When his father was gone he came from
the window, and threw himself into the nearest chair. Make an end of it!
Yes, that was it. Easy to say, very easy to advise, but how to do it?
Was he simply to skulk away like a villain, and leave her to pine and
wonder–for she would wonder and pine, bless her! She believed in him,
whatever other people might do. Keppel, indeed! as if she would look at
Keppel, much less talk to him, walk with him, lift her sweet eyes to him
as she had begun to do. And good heavens, this was to end! Would it not
be better that life itself should end? That, perhaps, would please every
body just as well. Poor Jack! this was the wild way he got on thinking,
until the solemn butler opened the door and begged his pardon, and told
him breakfast was ready. He could have pitched something at poor
Willis’s head with pleasure, but he did not do it. He even got up and
thrust back his thoughts into the recesses of his brain, as it were, and
after a while settled his resolution and went to breakfast. That was one
good of his higher breeding. It did not give him much enlightenment as
to what he should do, but it taught him to look as if nothing was the
matter with him and to put his trouble in his pocket, and face the
ordinary events of life without making a show of himself or his
emotions, which is always a triumph for any man. He could not manage to
eat much, but he managed to bear himself much as usual, though not
entirely to conceal from Sara that something had happened; but then she
was a woman, and knew every change of his face. As for Mr. Brownlow, he
was pleased by his son’s steadiness. He was pleased to see that he bore
it like a man, and bore no malice; and he was still more pleased when
Jack jumped into the dogcart and took the reins without saying any thing
about his intention. It is true the mare had her way that morning, and
carried them into Masterton at the speed of an express train, scattering
every body on her route as if by magic. Their course was as good as a
charge of cavalry through the streets of the suburb they had to go
through. But notwithstanding his recklessness, Jack drove well, and
nobody came to any harm. When he threw the reins to the groom the mare
was straining and quivering in every muscle, half to the admiration,
half to the alarm of her faithful attendant, whose life was devoted to
her. “But, bless you, she likes it,” he said in confidence to his
friends, when he took the palpitating animal to her stable at the Green
Man. “Nothing she likes better, though he’s took it out of her this
morning, he have. I reckon the governor have been a-taking it out of

The governor, however, was a man of honor, and did not once again recur
to the subject-matter on the way, which would have been difficult, nor
during the long day which Jack spent in the office within his father’s
reach. In the afternoon some one came in and asked him suddenly to
dinner, somewhere on the other side of Masterton, and the poor young
fellow consented in a half despair which he tried to think was prudence.
He had been turning it over and over in his mind all day. Make an end of
it! These words seemed to be written all over the office walls, as if it
was so easy to make an end of it! And poor Jack jumped at the invitation
in despairing recklessness, glad to escape from himself anyhow for the
moment. Mr. Brownlow thus went home alone. He was earlier than usual,
and he found Sara at Mrs. Swayne’s door, praying, coaxing and teasing
Pamela to go up the avenue with her. “Oh, please, I would rather not,”
Mr. Brownlow heard her say, and then he caught the quiet upward glance,
full of a certain wistful disappointment, as she looked up and saw that
Jack was not there. Poor Pamela did not know what to say or what to
think, or how to look him in the face for confusion and shame, when he
alighted at the gate and came toward the two girls. And then for the
first time he began to talk to her, though her mind was in such a
strange confusion that she could not tell what he said. He talked and
Sara talked, drawing her along with them, she scarcely could tell how,
to the other side of the road, to the great open gates. Then Mr.
Brownlow gave his daughter suddenly some orders for old Betty; and
Pamela, in utter consternation and alarm, found herself standing alone
by his side, with nobody to protect her. But he did not look unkind. He
looked down upon her, on the contrary, pitifully, almost tenderly, with
a kind of fatherly kindness. “My poor child,” he said, “you live with
your mother, don’t you? I dare say you must think it dull sometimes. But
life is dull to a great many of us. You must not think of pleasure or
amusement that is bought at the expense of better things.”

“I?” said Pamela, in surprise; “indeed I never have any amusement;” and
the color came up hotly in her cheeks, for she saw that something was in
the words more than met the ear.

“There are different kinds of amusement,” said Mr. Brownlow. “Does not
your mother come out with you when you come to walk? You are too young
to be left by yourself. Don’t be vexed with me for saying so. You are
but a child;–and I once knew some one who was like you,” he said,
looking at her again with friendly compassionate eyes. He was thinking
as he looked at her that Jack had been right. He was even sorry in an
inexorable way for her disappointment, her inevitable heart-break, which
he hoped, at her age, would be got over lightly. Yes; no doubt she was
innocent, foolish, poor little thing, and it was she who would have to
pay for that–but spotless and guileless all through, down to the very
depths of her dewy eyes.

Pamela stood before her mentor with her cheeks blazing and burning and
her eyes cast down. Then she saw but too well what he had meant. He had
seen her yesterday with his son, and he had sent Mr. John away, and it
was all ended forever. This was what it meant, as Pamela thought. And it
was natural that she should feel her heart rise against him. He was very
kind, but he was inexorable. She stood by him with her heart swelling so
against her bosom that she thought it would burst, but too proud to make
any sign. This was why he had addressed her, brought her away from her
mother’s door, contrived to speak to her alone. Pamela’s heart swelled,
and a wild anger took possession of her; but she stood silent before
him, and answered not a single word. He had no claim upon her that she
should take his advice or obey him. To him at least she had nothing to

“It is true, my poor child,” he said again, “there are some pleasures
that are very costly, and are not worth the cost. You are angry, but I
can not help it. Tell your mother, and she will say the same thing as I
do–and go with her when you go out. You are very young, and you will
find this always the best.”

“I don’t know why you should speak to me so,” said Pamela, with her
heart beating, as it were, in her very ears. “Miss Brownlow goes out by
herself–I–I–am a poor girl–I can not be watched always–and, oh, why
should I, why should I?” cried the girl, with a little burst of
passion. Her cheeks were crimson, and her eyes were full, but she would
not have dropped the tears that were brimming over her eyelids, or let
him see her crying–not for the world.

“Poor child!” said Mr. Brownlow. It was all he said; and it gave the
last touch to her suppressed rage and passion–how did he dare call her
poor child? But Sara came out just then from old Betty’s, and stood
stock-still, confounded by her friend’s looks. Sara could see that
something had happened, but she could not tell what it was. She looked
from Pamela to her father, and from her father to Pamela, and could make
nothing of it. “What is the matter?” she asked, in surprise; and then it
was Pamela’s turn to bethink herself, and defend her own cause.

“There is nothing the matter,” she said, “except that you have left me
standing here, Miss Brownlow, and I must go home. I have my own business
to think of, but I can’t expect you to think of that. There is nothing

“You are angry because I left you,” said Sara in dismay. “Don’t be so
foolish, Pamela. I had something to say to old Betty–and then papa was

“And mamma is waiting for me,” said Pamela in her passion. “Good-bye.
She wants me, and you don’t. And I dare say we shall not be very long
here. Good-night, good-night.” Thus she left them, running, so that she
could not hear any call, though indeed her heart was beating too loud to
let any thing else be audible, jarring against her ears like an
instrument out of tune. “She has got her father–she doesn’t want me.
Nobody wants me but mamma. We will go away–we will go away!” Pamela
said to herself: and she ran passionately across the road, and
disappeared before any thing could be done to detain her. The father and
daughter looked after her from the gate with different thoughts: Sara
amazed and a little indignant–Mr. Brownlow very grave and
compassionate, knowing how it was.

“What ails her?” said Sara–“papa, what is the matter? Is she frightened
for you? or what have I done? I never saw her like this before.”

“You should not have left her so long by herself,” said Mr. Brownlow,
seizing upon Pamela’s own pretext.

“You told me to go,” cried Sara, injured. “I never thought little Pamela
was so quick-tempered. Let me go and tell her I did not mean it. I will
not stay a moment–wait for me, papa.”

“Not now,” said Mr. Brownlow, and he took his daughter’s arm and drew it
within his own with quiet decision. “Perhaps you have taken too much
notice of little Pamela. It is not always kind, though you mean it to be
kind. Leave her to herself now. I have something to say to you,” and he
led her away up the avenue. It was nothing but the promise of this
something to say which induced Sara, much against her will, to leave her
little friend unconsoled; but she yielded, and she was not rewarded for
yielding. Mr. Brownlow had nothing to say that either explained Pamela’s
sudden passion or threw any light upon other matters which might have
been still more interesting. However, she had been taken home, and
dinner was impending before Sara was quite aware of this, and Pamela,
poor child, remained unconsoled.

She was not just then thinking of consolation. On the contrary, she
would have refused any consolation Sara could have offered her with a
kind of youthful fury. She rushed home, poor child, thinking of nothing
but of taking refuge in her mother’s bosom, and communicating her griefs
and injuries. She was still but a child, and the child’s impulse was
strong upon her; notwithstanding that all the former innocent mystery of
Mr. John’s attentions had been locked in her own bosom, not so much for
secrecy’s sake as by reason of that “sweet shamefacedness” which made
her reluctant, even to herself, to say his name, or connect it anyhow
with her own. Now, as was natural, the lesser pressure yielded to the
greater. She had been insulted, as she thought, her feelings outraged in
cold blood, reproach cast upon her which she did not deserve, and all by
the secret inexorable spectator whose look had destroyed her young
happiness, and dispelled all her pleasant dreams. She rushed in just in
time to hide from the world–which was represented by old Betty at her
lodge window, and Mrs. Swayne at her kitchen door–the great hot
scalding tears, big and sudden, and violent as a thunder-storm, which
were coming in a flood. She threw the door of the little parlor open,
and rushed in and flung herself down at her mother’s feet. And then the
passion of sobs that had been coming burst forth. Poor Mrs. Preston in
great alarm gathered up the little figure that lay at her feet into her
arms, and asked, “What was it?–what was the matter?” making a hundred
confused inquiries; until at last, seeing all reply was impossible, the
mother only soothed her child on her bosom, and held her close, and
called her all the tender names that ever a mother’s fancy could invent.
“My love, my darling, my own child,” the poor woman said, holding her
closer and closer, trembling with Pamela’s sobs, beginning to feel her
own heart beat loud in her bosom, and imagining a thousand calamities.
Then by degrees the short broken story came. Mr. John had been very
kind. He used to pass sometimes, and to say a word or two, and Mr.
Brownlow had seen them together. No, Mr. John had never said any
thing–never, oh, never any thing that he should not have said–always
had been like–like–Rude! Mamma! No, never, never, never! And Mr.
Brownlow had come and spoken to her. He had said–but Pamela did not
know what he had said. He had been very cruel, and she knew that for her
sake he had sent Mr. John away. The dog-cart had come up without him.
The cruel, cruel father had come alone, and Mr. John was banished–“And
it is all for my sake!” This was Pamela’s story. She thought in her
heart that the last was the worst of all, but in fact it was the thing
which gave zest and piquancy to all. If she had known that Mr. John was
merely out to dinner, the chances are that she would never have found
courage to tell her pitiful tale to her mother. But when the
circumstances are so tragical the poor little heroine-victim becomes
strong. Pamela’s disappointment, her anger, and the budding sentiment
with which she regarded Mr. John, all found expression in this outburst.
She was not to see him to-night, nor perhaps ever again. And she had
been seeing him most days and most evenings, always by chance, with a
sweet unexpectedness which made the expectation always the dearer. When
that was taken out of her life, how grey it became all in a moment. And
then Mr. Brownlow had presumed to scold her, to blame her for what she
had been doing, she whom nobody ever blamed, and to talk as if she
sought amusement at the cost of better things. And Pamela was virtuously
confident of never seeking amusement. “He spoke as if I were one to go
to balls and things,” she said through her tears, not remembering at the
moment that she did sometimes think longingly of the youthful
indulgences common enough to other young people from which she was shut
out. All this confused and incoherent story Mrs. Preston picked up in
snatches, and had to piece them together as best she could. And as she
was not a wise woman, likely to take the highest ground, she took up
what was perhaps the best in the point of view of consolation at least.
She took her child’s part with all the unhesitating devotion of a
partisan. True, she might be uneasy about it in the bottom of her heart,
and startled to see how much farther than she thought things had gone;
but still in the first place and above all, she was Pamela’s partisan,
which was of all devices that could have been contrived the one most
comforting. As soon as she had got over her first surprise, it came to
her naturally to pity her child, and pet and caress her, and agree with
her that the father was very cruel and unsympathetic, and that poor Mr.
John had been carried off to some unspeakable banishment. Had she heard
the story in a different way, no doubt she would have taken up Mr.
Brownlow’s _rôle_, and prescribed prudence to the unwary little girl;
but as soon as she understood that Pamela had been blamed, Mrs. Preston
naturally took up arms in her child’s defense. She laid her daughter
down to rest upon the horse-hair sofa, and got her a cup of tea, and
tended her as if she had been ill; and as she did so all her faculties
woke up, and she called all her reason together to find some way of
mending matters. Mr. John! might he perhaps be the protector–the best
of all protectors–with whom she could leave her child in full security?
Why should it not be so? When this wonderful new idea occurred to her,
it made a great commotion in her mind, and called to life a project
which she had put aside some time before. It moved her so much, and took
such decided and immediate form, that Mrs. Preston even let fall hints
incomprehensible to Pamela, and to which, indeed, absorbed as she was,
she gave but little attention. “Wait a little,” Mrs. Preston said, “wait
a little; we may do better than you think for. Your poor mother can do
but little for you, my pet, but yet we may find friends–” “I don’t know
who can do any thing for us,” Pamela answered, disconsolately. And then
her mother nodded her head as if to herself, and went with the gleam of
a superior constantly in her eye. The plan was one that could not be
revealed to the child, and about which, indeed, the child, wrapped up in
her own thoughts, was not curious. It was not a new intention. It was a
plan she had been hoarding up to be made use of should she be
ill–should there be any danger of leaving her young daughter alone in
the world. Now, thank heaven, the catastrophe was not so appalling as
that, and yet it was appalling, for Pamela’s happiness was concerned.
She watched over her child through all that evening, soothed, took her
part, adopted her point of view with a readiness that even startled
Pamela; and all the time she was nursing her project in her own heart.
Under other circumstances, no doubt, Mrs. Preston would have been
grieved, if not angry, to hear of the sudden rapid development of
interest in Mr. John and all their talks and accidental meetings of
which she now heard for the first time. But Pamela’s outburst of grief
and rage had taken her mother by storm; and then, if some one else had
assailed the child, whom had she but her mother to take her part? This
was Mrs. Preston’s reasoning. And it was quite as satisfactory to her as
if it had been a great deal more convincing. She laid all her plans as
she soothed her little daughter, shaking as it were little gleams of
comfort from the lappets of her cap, as she nodded reasoningly at her
child. “We may find friends yet, Pamela,” she would say; “we are not so
badly off as to be without friends.” Thus she concealed her weakness
with a mild hopefulness, knowing no more what results they were to bring
about, what unknown wonders would come out of them, than did the little
creature by her side, whose narrow thoughts were bounded by the narrow
circle which centred in Mr. John. Pamela was thinking, where was he now?
was he thinking of her? was he angry because it was through her he was
suffering? and then with bitter youthful disdain of the cruel father who
had banished him and reproved her, and who had no right–no right! Then
the little girl, when her passion was spent, took up another kind of
thought–the light of anger and resistance began to fade out of her
eyes. After all, she was a poor girl–they were all poor, every body
belonging to her. And Mr. John was a rich man’s son. Would it, perhaps,
be right for the two poor women to steal away, softly, sadly, as they
came; and go out into the world again, and leave the man who was rich
and strong and had a right to be happy to come back and enjoy his good
things? Pamela’s tears and her looks both changed with her thoughts–her
wavering pretty color, the flush of agitation and emotion went off her
cheeks, and left her pale as the sky is when the last sunset tinge has
disappeared out of it. Her tears became cold tears, wrung out as from a
rock, instead of the hot, passionate, abundant rain. She did not say any
thing, but shivered and cried piteously on her mother’s shoulders, and
complained of cold. Mrs. Preston took her to bed, as if she had been
still a child, and covered her up, and dried her eyes, and sat by the
pale little creature till sleep stepped in to her help. But the mother
had not changed this time in sympathy with her child. She was supported
by something Pamela heard not of. “We may find friends–we are not so
helpless as that,” she said to herself; and even Pamela’s sad looks did
not change her. She knew what she was going to do. And it seemed to her,
as to most inexperienced plotters, that her plan was elaborate and wise
in the extreme, and that it must be crowned with success.

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