Pamela could make nothing of her companion. Nancy was very willing to
talk, and indeed ran on in an unceasing strain; but what she said only
confused the more the girl’s bewildered faculties; and she saw her mount
at last into the carrier’s cart, and left her with less perception than
ever of what had happened. Then she went straying home in the early
dusk, for already the days had begun to grow short, and that night in
especial a thunder-storm was brewing, and the clouds were rolling down
darkly after the sultry day. Pamela crossed over to the shade of the
thick hedge and fence which shut in the park, that nobody might see her,
and her thoughts as she went along were not sweet. She thought of Jack
and the ladies at Brownlows, and then she thought of the wish her mother
had uttered–Had she but known this a month ago! and between the
terrible suspicion of a previous love, and the gnawing possibility of
present temptation, made herself very miserable, poor child. Either he
had deceived her, and was no true man; or if he had not yet deceived
her, he was in hourly peril of doing so, and at any moment the blow
might come. While she was thus lingering along in the twilight,
something happened which gave Pamela a terrible fright. She was passing
a little stile when suddenly a man sprang out upon her and caught hold
of her hands. She was so sure that Jack was dining at Brownlows, and
yielding to temptation then, that she did not recognize him, and
screamed when he sprang out; and it was dark, so dark that she
could scarcely see his face. Jack, for his part, had been so
conscience-stricken when Mrs. Preston refused him entrance that he had
done what few men of this century would be likely to do. He had gone in
with the other men, and gulped down some sherry at the sideboard, and
instead of proceeding to his dressing-room as they all did after, had
told a very shocking fib to Willis the butler, for the benefit of his
father and friends, and rushed out again. He might have been proof
against upbraiding, but compunction seized him when Mrs. Preston closed
the door. He had deserved it, but he had not expected such summary
measures; and “that woman,” as he called her in his dismay, was capable
of taking his little love away and leaving him no sign. He saw it in her
eye; for he, too, saw the change in her. Thus Jack was alarmed, and in
his fright his conscience spoke. And he had seen Pamela go out, and
waylaid her; and was very angry and startled to see she did not
recognize him. “Good heavens, do you mean to say you don’t know me?” he
cried, almost shaking her as he held her by the hands. To scream and
start as if the sight of him was not the most natural thing in the
world, and the most to be looked for! Jack felt it necessary to begin
the warfare, to combat his own sense of guilt.

“I thought you were at dinner,” said Pamela, faintly. “I never thought
it could be you.”

“And you don’t look a bit glad to see me. What do you mean by it?” said
Jack. “It is very hard, when a fellow gives up every thing to come and
see you. And your mother to shut the door upon me! She never did it
before. A man has his duties to do, whatever happens. I can’t go and
leave these fellows loafing about by themselves. I must go out with
them. I thought you were going to take me for better for worse, Pamela,
not for a month or a week.”

“Oh, don’t speak so,” said Pamela. “It was never me. It must have been
something mamma had heard. She does not look a bit like herself; and it
is all since that old woman came.”

“What old woman?” said Jack, calming down. “Look here, come into the
park. They are all at dinner, and no one will see; and tell me all about
it. So long as you are not changed, nothing else is of any consequence.
Only for half an hour–”

“I don’t think I ought,” said Pamela; but she was on the other side of
the stile when she said these words; and her hand was drawn deeply
through Jack’s arm, and held fast, so that it was clearly a matter of
discreet submission, and she could not have got away had she wished it.
“I don’t think I ought to come,” said Pamela, “you never come to us now;
and it must have been something that mamma had heard. I think she is
going away somewhere; and I am sure, with all these people at Brownlows,
and all that old Nancy says, and you never coming near us, I do not mind
where we go, for my part.”

“As if I cared for the people at Brownlows!” said Jack, holding her hand
still more tightly. “Don’t be cruel to a fellow, Pamela. I’ll take you
away whenever you please, but without me you shan’t move a step. Who is
old Nancy, I should like to know? and as for any thing you could have
heard–Who suffers the most, do you suppose, from the people at
Brownlows? To know you are there, and that one can’t have even a look at

“But then you can have a great many looks at other people,” said Pamela,
“and perhaps there was somebody else before me–don’t hold my hand so
tight. We are poor, and you are rich–and it makes a great difference.
And I can’t do just what I like. You say _you_ can’t, and you are a man,
and older than I am. I must do what mamma says.”

“But you know you can make her do what you like; whereas, with a lot of
fellows–” said Jack. “Pamela, don’t–there’s a darling! You have me in
your power, and you can put your foot upon me if you like. But you have
not the heart to do it. Not that I should mind your little foot. Be as
cruel as you please; but don’t talk of running away. You know you can
make your mother do whatever you like.”

“Not now,” said Pamela, “not now–there is such a change in her; and oh,
Jack, I do believe she is angry, and she will make me go away.”

“Tell me about it,” said Jack, tenderly; for Pamela had fallen into
sudden tears, without any regard for her consistency. And then the
dialogue became a little inarticulate. It lasted a deal longer on the
whole than half an hour, and the charitable clouds drooped lower, and
gave them shade and shelter as they emerged at last from the park, and
stole across the deserted road to Swayne’s cottage. They were just in
time; the first drops of the thunder-shower fell heavy and big upon
Pamela before they gained shelter. But she did not mind them much. She
had unburdened her heart, and her sorrows had flown away; and the ladies
at Brownlows were no longer of any account in her eyes. She drew her
lover in with her at the door, which so short a time before had been
closed on him. “Mamma, I made him come in with me, not to get wet,” said
Pamela; and both the young people looked with a little anxiety upon Mrs.
Preston, deprecating her wrath. She was seated by the window, though it
had grown dark, perhaps looking for Pamela; but her aspect was rather
that of one who had forgotten every thing external for the moment, than
of an anxious mother watching for her child. They could not see the
change in her face, as they gazed at her so eagerly in the darkness; but
they both started and looked at each other when she spoke.

“I would not refuse any one shelter from a storm,” she said, “but if Mr.
Brownlow thinks a little, he will see that this is no place for him.”
She did not even turn round as she spoke, but kept at the window,
looking out, or appearing to look out, upon the gathering clouds.

Jack was thunderstruck. There was something in her voice which chilled
him to his very bones. It was not natural offense for his recent
short-comings, or doubt of his sincerity. He felt himself getting red in
the darkness. “It was as if she had found me out to be a scoundrel, by
Jove,” he said to himself afterward, which was a very different sort of
thing from mere displeasure or jealousy. And in the silence that ensued,
Mrs. Preston took no notice of anybody. She kept her place at the
window, without looking round or saying another word; and in the
darkness behind stood the two bewildered, trying to read in each other’s
faces what it could mean.

“Speak to her,” said Pamela, eagerly whispering close to his ear; but
Jack, for his part, could not tell what to say. He was offended, and he
did not want to speak to her; but, on the contrary, held Pamela fast,
with almost a perverse desire to show her mother that the girl was his,
and that he did not care. “It is you I want, and not your mother,” he
said. They could hear each other speak, and could even differ and argue
and be impassioned without anybody else being much the wiser. The only
sound Mrs. Preston heard was a faint rustle of whispers in the darkness
behind her. “No,” said Jack, “if she will be ill-tempered, I can’t help
it. It is you I want,” and he stood by and held his ground. When the
first lightning flashed into the room, this was how it found them.
There was a dark figure seated at the window, relieved against the
gleam, and two faces which looked at each other, and shone for a second
in the wild illumination. Then Pamela gave a little shriek and covered
her face. She was not much more than a child, and she was afraid. “Come
in from the window, mamma! do come, or it will strike you; and let us
close the shutters,” cried Pamela. There was a moment during which Mrs.
Preston sat still, as if she did not hear. The room fell into blackness,
and then blazed forth again, the window suddenly becoming “a glimmering
square,” with the one dark outline against it. Jack held his little love
with his arm, but his eyes were fascinated by that strange sight. What
could it mean? Was she mad? Had something happened in his absence to
bring about this wonderful change? The mother, however, could not resist
the cry that Pamela uttered the second time. She rose up, and closed the
shutters with her own hands, refusing Jack’s aid. But when the three
looked at each other, by the light of the candles, they all looked
excited and disturbed. Mrs. Preston sat down by the table, with an air
so different from her ordinary looks, that she seemed another woman. And
Jack, when her eyes fell upon him, could not help feeling something like
a prisoner at the bar.

“Mr. Brownlow,” she said, “I dare say you think women are very ignorant,
especially about business–and so they are; but you and your father
should remember–you should remember that weak folks, when they are put
to it–Pamela! sit down, child, and don’t interfere; or, if you like,
you can go away.”

“What have I done, Mrs. Preston!” said Jack. “I don’t know what you
mean. If it is because I have been some days without coming, the reason
is–But I told Pamela all about it. If that is the reason–”

“That!” cried Mrs. Preston, and then her voice began to tremble; “if you
think your coming or–or going is–any–any thing–” she said, and then
her lips quivered so that she could articulate no more. Pamela, with a
great cry, rushed to her and seized her hands, which were trembling too,
and Jack, who thought it was a sudden “stroke,” seized his hat and
rushed to the door to go for a doctor; but Mrs. Preston held out her
shaking hands to him so peremptorily that he stopped in spite of
himself. She was trembling all over–her head, her lips, her whole
frame, yet keeping entire command of herself all the time.

“I am not ill,” she said; “there is no need for a doctor.” And then she
sat resolutely looking at him, holding her feet fast on the floor and
her hand flat on the table to stop the movement of her nerves. It was a
strange sight. But when the two who had been looking at her with alarmed
eyes, suddenly, in the height of their wonder, turned to each other with
a glance of mutual inquiry and sympathy, appealing to each other what it
could mean, Mrs. Preston could not bear it. Her intense self-command
gave way. All at once she fell into an outbreak of wailing and tears.
“You are two of you against me,” she said. “You are saying to each
other, What does she mean! and there is nobody on earth–nobody to take
my part.” The outcry went to Jack Brownlow’s heart. Somehow he seemed to
understand better than even Pamela did, who clung to her mother and
cried, and asked what was it–what had she done! Jack was touched more
than he could explain. The thunder was rolling about the house, and the
rain falling in torrents; but he had not the heart to stay any longer
and thrust his happiness into her face, and wound her with it. Somehow
he felt ashamed; and yet he had nothing to be ashamed about, unless, in
presence of this agitation and pain and weakness, it was his own
strength and happiness and youth.

“I don’t mind the storm,” he said. “I am sure you don’t want any one
here just now. Don’t let your mother think badly of me, Pamela. You know
I would do any thing–and I can’t tell what’s wrong; and I am going
away. Good-night.”

“Not till the storm is over,” cried Pamela. “Mamma, he will get
killed–you know he will, among those trees.”

“Not a bit,” said Jack, and he waved his hand to them and went away,
feeling, it must be confessed, a good deal frightened–not for the
thunder, however, or the storm, but for Mrs. Preston’s weird look and
trembling nerves, and his poor little Pamela left alone to nurse her.
That was the great point. The poor woman was right. For herself there
was nobody to care much. Jack was frightened because of Pamela. His
little love, his soft little darling, whom he would like to take in his
arms and carry away from every trouble–that she should be left alone
with sickness in its most terrible shape, perhaps with delirium,
possibly with death! Jack stepped softly into Mrs. Swayne’s kitchen, and
told her his fears. He told her he would go over to Betty’s lodge and
wait there, in case the doctor should be wanted, and that she was not to
let Miss Pamela wear herself out. As for Mrs. Swayne, though she made an
effort to be civil, she scoffed at his fears. When she had heard what he
had to say she showed him out grimly, and turned with enjoyment the key
in the door. “The doctor!” she said to herself in disdain; “a fine
excuse! But I don’t hold with none o’ your doctors, nor with gentlemen
a-coming like roaring lions. I ain’t one to be caught like that, at my
time of life; and you don’t come in here no more this night, with your
doctors and your Miss Pamelas.” In this spirit Mrs. Swayne fastened the
house up carefully, and shut all the shutters, before she knocked at the
parlor door to see what was the matter. But when she did take that
precaution she was not quite so sure of her own wisdom. Mrs. Preston was
lying on the sofa, shivering and trembling, with Pamela standing
frightened by her. She had forbidden the girl to call any one, and was
making painful efforts by mere resolution to stave it off. She said
nothing, paid no attention to any body, but with her whole force was
struggling to put down the incipient illness, and keep disease at bay.
And Pamela, held by her glittering eye, too frightened to cry, too
ignorant to know what to do, stood by, a white image of terror and
misery, wringing her hands. Mrs. Swayne was frightened too; but there
was some truth in her boast of experience. And, besides, her character
was at stake. She had sent Jack away, and disdained his offer of the
doctor, and it was time to bestir herself. So they got the stricken
woman up stairs and laid her in her bed, and chafed her limbs, and
comforted her with warmth. Jack, waiting in old Betty’s, saw the light
mount to the higher window and shine through the chinks of the shutters,
until the storm was over, and he had no excuse for staying longer. It
was still burning when he went away, and it burned all night through,
and lighted Pamela’s watch as she sat pale at her mother’s bedside. She
sat all through the night and watched her patient–sat while the
lightning still flashed and the thunder roared, and her young soul
quaked within her; and then through the hush that succeeded, and through
the black hours of night and the dawning of the day. It was the first
vigil she had ever kept, and her mind was bewildered with fear and
anxiety, and the confusion of ignorance. She sat alone, wistful and
frightened, afraid to move lest she should disturb her mother’s restless
sleep, falling into dreary little dozes, waking up cold and terrified,
hearing the furniture, and the floor, and the walls and windows–every
thing about her, in short–giving out ghostly sounds in the stillness.
She had never heard those creaks and jars before with which our
inanimate surroundings give token of the depth of silence and night. And
Mrs. Preston’s face looked grey in the faint light, and her breathing
was disturbed; and by times she tossed her arms about, and murmured in
her sleep. Poor Pamela had a weary night; and when the morning came with
its welcome light, and she opened her eyes after a snatch of unwitting
sleep, and found her mother awake and looking at her, the poor child
started up with a sharp cry, in which there was as much terror as

“Mamma!” she cried. “I did not mean to go to sleep. Are you better?
Shall I run and get you a cup of tea?”

“Come and speak to me, Pamela,” said Mrs. Preston. “I am quite well–at
least I think I am well. My poor darling, have you been sitting up all

“It does not matter,” said Pamela; “it will not hurt me; but I was
frightened. Are you sure you are better? Poor mamma, how ill you have
been! You looked–I can not tell you how you looked. But you have your
own eyes again this morning. Let me go and get you some tea.”

“I don’t want any tea,” said Mrs. Preston. “I want to speak to you. I am
not so strong as I used to be, and you must not cross me, Pamela. I have
something to do before I die. It upset me to hear of it, and to think of
all that might happen. But I must get well and do it. It is all for your
sake; and you must not cross me, Pamela. You must think well of what I

“No,” said Pamela, though her heart sank a little. “I never did any
thing to cross you, mamma; but Mrs. Swayne said you were not to talk;
and she left the kettle by the fire that you might have some tea.”

“I do not care for tea; I care for nothing but to get up and do what has
to be done,” said her mother. “It is all for your sake. Things will be
very different, Pamela, from what you think: but you must not cross me.
It is all for you–all for you.”

“Oh, mamma, don’t mind me,” said Pamela, kissing her grey cheek. “I am
all right, if you will only be well; and I don’t know any thing you can
have to do. You are not fit for any thing but to lie still. It is very
early yet. I will draw the curtains if you will try to go to sleep.”

“I must get up and go,” said Mrs. Preston. “This is no time to go to
sleep; but you must not cross me–that is the chief thing of all; for
Pamela, every thing will be yours–every thing; and you are not to be
deceived and taken in, and throw it all away.”

“Oh, mamma dear, lie still and have a little more rest,” cried Pamela,
ready to cry with terror and distress. She thought it was delirium, and
was frightened and overwhelmed by the unexpected calamity. Mrs. Preston,
however, did not look like a woman who was raving; she looked at the old
silver watch under her pillow, drawing it out with a feeble hand, which
still trembled, and when she saw how early it still was, she composed
herself again as with an effort. “Come and lie down, my poor darling,”
she said. “We must not spend our strength; and my Pamela will be my own
good child and do what I say.”

“Yes, mamma,” said the poor child, answering her mother’s kiss; but all
the while her heart sank in her breast. What did it mean? What form was
her submission to take? What was she pledging herself to? She lay down
in reluctant obedience, trembling and agitated; but she was young and
weary, and fell fast asleep in spite of herself and all her fears. And
the morning light, as it brightened and filled the little room, fell
upon the two together, who were so strange a contrast–the young round
sweet face, to which the color returned as the soft sleep smoothed and
soothed it, with eyes so fast closed, and the red lips a little apart,
and the sweet breath rising and falling: and the dark, weary
countenance, worn out of all freshness, now stilled in temporary
slumber, now lighting up with two big dark eyes, which would wake
suddenly, and fix upon the window, eager with thought, and then veil
over again in the doze of weakness. They lay thus till the morning had
advanced, and the sound of Mrs. Swayne’s entrance made Pamela wake, and
spring ashamed from her dead sleep. And finally, the cup of tea, the
universal cordial, was brought. But when Mrs. Preston woke fully, and
attempted to get up, with the eager look and changed manner which
appalled her daughter, it was found to be impossible. The shock,
whatever it was, had been too much for her strength. She fell back again
upon her bed with a look of anguish which went to Pamela’s heart. “I
can’t do it–I can’t do it,” she said to herself, in a voice of despair.
The convulsive trembling of the previous night was gone; but she could
not stand, could not walk, and still shook with nervous weakness. “I
can’t do it–I can’t do it,” she said over and over, and in her despair
wept; which was a sight overwhelming even to Mrs. Swayne, who was
standing looking on.

“Hush, hush,” said that surprised spectator. “Bless your poor soul,
don’t take on. If you can’t do it to-day, you’ll do it to-morrow; though
I don’t know, no more than Adam, what she’s got to do, Miss Pamela, as
is so pressing. Don’t take on. Keep still, and you’ll be better
to-morrow. Don’t go and take no liberties with yourself. You ain’t fit
to stand, much less to do any thing. Bless you, you’ll be as lively as
lively to-morrow, if you lie still and take a drop of beef-tea now and
again, and don’t take on.”

“Yes, I’ll do it to-morrow. It’ll do to-morrow; a day don’t signify,”
said Mrs. Preston; and she recovered herself, and was very quiet, while
Pamela took her place by the bedside. Either she was going to be ill,
perhaps to die, or something had happened to change her very nature, and
turn the current of her life into another channel. Which of these things
it was, was beyond the discrimination of the poor girl who watched by
her bedside.

Continue Reading


It was the beginning of September, as we have said, and the course of
individual history slid aside as it were for the moment, and lost itself
in the general web. Brownlows became full of people–friends of Jack’s,
friends of Mr. Brownlow, even friends of Sara–for ladies came of course
to break the monotony of the shooting-party–and in the press of
occupation personal matters had to be put aside. Mr. Brownlow himself
almost forgot, except by moments when the thought came upon him with a
certain thrill of excitement, that the six weeks were gliding
noiselessly on, and that soon his deliverance would come. As for Sara,
she did not forget the agitating little scene in which she had been only
a passive actor, but which had woven a kind of subtle link between her
and the man who had spoken to her in the voice of real passion. The
sound of it had scared and perplexed her at first, and it had roused her
to a sense of the real difference, as well as the real affinities,
between them; but whatever she might feel, the fact remained that there
was a link between them–a link which she could no more break than the
Queen could–a something that defied all denial or contradiction. She
might never see him again, but–he loved her. When a girl is fancy-free,
there is no greater charm; and Sara was, or had been, entirely
fancy-free, and was more liable than most girls to this attraction. When
the people around her were stupid or tiresome, as to be sure the best of
people are sometimes, her thoughts would make a sudden gleam like
lightning upon the man who had said he would never see her face again.
Perhaps he might have proved tiresome too, had he gone out in the
morning with his gun, and come home tired to dinner; but he was absent;
and there are times when the absent have the best of it, notwithstanding
all proverbs. She was much occupied, and by times sufficiently well
amused at home, and did not feel it in the least necessary to summon
Powys to her side; but still the thought of him came in now and then,
and gave an additional zest to her other luxuries. It was a supreme odor
and incense offered up to her, as he had thought it would be–a flower
which she set her pretty foot upon, and the fragrance of which came up
poignant and sweet to her delicate nostril. If any body had said as much
to Sara it would have roused her almost to fury; but still such were the
facts of the case.

Jack, for his part, was less excusable if he was negligent, and he was
rather negligent just then, in the first fervor of the partridges, it
must be allowed–not that he cared a straw for the ladies of the party,
and their accomplishments, and their pretty dresses, and their wiles,
poor Pamela believed in her heart. Apart from Pamela, Jack was a stoic,
and wasted not a thought on womankind; but when a man is shooting all
day, and is surrounded by a party of fellows who have to be dined and
entertained in the evening, and is, besides, quite confident in his mind
that the little maiden who awaits him has no other seductive voice to
whisper in her ear, he may be pardoned for a little carelessness or
unpunctuality–at least Jack thought he ought to be pardoned, which
comes very much to the same thing. Thus the partridges, if they did not
affect the affairs of state, as do their Highland brethren the grouse,
at least had an influence upon the affairs of Brownlows, and put a stop,
as it were, to the undivided action of its private history for the time.

It was during this interval that the carrier’s cart once more deposited
a passenger on the Brownlows road. She did not get down at the gate,
which, she already knew, was a step calculated to bring upon her the
eyes of the population, but was set down at a little distance, and came
in noiselessly, as became her mission. It was a September afternoon,
close and sultry. The sky was a whitish blue, pale with the blaze that
penetrated and filled it. The trees looked parched and dusty where they
overhung the road. The whole landscape round Brownlows beyond the line
of these dusty trees was yellow with stubble, for the land was rich, and
there had been a heavy crop. The fields were reaped, and the kindly
fruits of earth gathered in, and there seemed no particular need for all
that blaze of sunshine. But the sun blazed all the same, and the
pedestrian stole slowly on, casting a long oblique shadow across the
road. Every thing was sleepy and still. Old Betty’s door and windows
were open, but the heat was so great as to quench even curiosity; or
perhaps it was only that the stranger’s step was very stealthy, and
until it suddenly fell upon a treacherous knot of gravel, which
dispersed under her weight and made a noise, had given no sign of its
approach. Betty came languidly to her door when she heard this sound,
but she went in again and dropped back into her doze upon her big chair
when she saw it was but the slow and toiling figure of a poor woman, no
way attractive to curiosity. “Some poor body a-going to Dewsbury,” she
said to herself; and thus Nancy stole on unnoticed. The blind was down
in the parlor window of Mrs. Swayne’s neighbor, and her door closed, and
Mrs. Swayne herself was out of the way for the moment, seeing to the
boiling of the afternoon kettle. Nancy crept in, passing like a vision
across Mrs. Preston’s open window. Her step made no appreciable sound
even in the sleepy stillness of the house, and the sole preface they had
to her appearance in the parlor was a shadow of something black which
crossed the light, and the softest visionary tap at the door. Then the
old woman stood suddenly before the mother and the daughter, who were
sitting together dull enough. Mrs. Preston was still poorly, and
disturbed in her mind. And as for Pamela, poor child, it was a trying
moment for her. As from a watch-tower, she could see what was going on
at Brownlows, and knew that they were amusing themselves, and had all
kinds of pleasant parties, in which Jack, who was hers and no other
woman’s, took the chief part; and that amid all these diversions he had
no time to come to see her though she had the only right to him, and
that other girls were by, better born, better mannered, better dressed,
and more charming than her simple self. Would it be his fault if he were
fickle? How could he help being fickle with attractions so much greater
around him? This was how Pamela was thinking as she sat by the sofa on
which her mother lay. It was not weather for much exertion, and in the
peculiar position of affairs, it was painful for these two to run the
risk of meeting anybody from Brownlows; therefore they did not go out
except furtively now and then at night, and sat all day in the house,
and brooded, and were not very cheerful. Every laugh she heard sounding
down the avenue, every carriage that drove out of or into the gates,
every stray bit of gossip about the doings at the great house, and the
luncheon parties at the cover-side, and the new arrivals, sounded to
poor little Pamela like an injury. She had meant to be so happy and she
was not happy. Only the sound of the guns was a little comfort to her.
To be sure when he was shooting he was still amusing himself away from
her; but at the same time he was not near the fatal beauties whom every
evening Pamela felt in her heart he must be talking to, and smiling
upon, and growing bewitched by. Such was the tenor of her thoughts as
she sat by the sofa working, when old Nancy came in so suddenly at the

Pamela sprang up from her seat. Her nerves were out of order, and even
her temper, poor child! and all her delicate organization set on edge
“It is _her_ again! and oh, what do you want?” said Pamela, with a
little shriek. As for Mrs. Preston, she too sat bolt upright on the sofa
and started not without a certain fright, at the sudden apparition.
“Nancy Christian!” she said, clasping her hands together; “Nancy
Christian! Is this _you_?”

“Yes, it’s me,” said Nancy; “I said I would come, and here I am, and
I’ve a deal to say. If you don’t mind, I’ll take a chair, for it’s a
long way walking in this heat, all the way from Masterton.” This she
said without a blush, though she had been set down not fifty yards off
from the carrier’s cart.

“Sit down,” said Mrs. Preston, anxiously, herself rising from the sofa.
“It is not often I lie down,” (though this was almost as much a fiction
as Nancy’s), “but the heat gets the better of one. I remember your name
as long as I remember any thing; I always hoped you would come back.
Pamela, if there is any thing that Nancy would like after her long

“A cup of tea is all as I care for,” said Nancy. “It’s a many years
since we’ve met, and you’ve changed, ma’am,” she added, with a
cordiality that was warmer than her sincerity; “but I could allays see
as it was you.”

“I have reason to be changed,” said Mrs. Preston. “I was young when you
saw me last, and now I’m an old woman. I’ve had many troubles. I’ve had
a hard fight with the world, and I’ve lost all my children but this one.
She’s a good child, but she can’t stand in the place of all that I’ve
lost–And oh, Nancy Christian, you’re a woman that can tell me about my
poor old mother. Many a thought I have had of her, and often, often it
seemed a judgment that my children should be taken from me. If you could
but tell me she forgave me before she died!”

Nancy made no direct answer to this appeal, but she looked at Pamela,
and then at her mother, with a significant gesture. The two old women
had their world to go back into of which the young creature knew
nothing, and where there were many things which might not bear her
inspection; while she, on the other hand, was absorbed in her own new
world, and scarcely heard or noticed what they were saying. She stood
between them in her youth, unaware of the look they exchanged, unaware
that she was in the way of their confidences–thinking, in fact, nothing
of much importance in the world except what might be going on in the
great house over the way.

“Pamela,” said Mrs. Preston, “go and see about the tea, and run out to
the garden, dear, and get a breath of air; for I have a deal to ask, and
Nancy has a deal to tell me; and there will be no one passing at this
time of the day.”

“If they were all passing it would not matter to me,” said Pamela, and
she sighed, and put down her languid work, and went away to make the
tea. But she did not go out to the garden; though she said it did not
matter, it did matter mightily. She went up stairs to the window and sat
down behind the curtain, and fixed her hungry eyes upon the gate and the
avenue beyond; and then she made little pictures to herself of the
ladies at Brownlows, and how Jack must be enjoying himself, and gathered
some big bitter tears in her eyes, and felt herself forsaken. It was
worse than the Peri at the gate of Eden. So long as Jack had come to the
cottage, it mattered little to Pamela who was at the great house. In
those days she could think, “They are finer than I am, and better off,
and even prettier, but he likes me best;” but now this was all
changed–the poor little Peri saw the blessed walking in pairs and
pleasant companies, and her own young archangel, who was the centre of
the Paradise, surrounded and taken possession of by celestial sirens–if
such things can be. To be sure Jack Brownlow was not much like an
archangel, but that mattered little. What a change it was! and all to
come about in a week or two. She, too, was like the flower upon which
the conqueror set his foot; and Pamela was not passive, but resisted and
struggled. Thus she was not curious about what old Nancy could be saying
to her mother. What could it be? some old gossip or other, recollections
of a previous state of existence before any body was born–talk about
dead things and dead people that never could affect the present state of
being. If Pamela thought of it at all, she was half glad that poor mamma
should have some thing to amuse her, and half jealous that her mother
could think of any thing except the overwhelming interest of her own
affairs. And she lingered at the window unawares, until the tea was
spoiled oblivious of Nancy’s fatigue; and saw the gentlemen come in from
their shooting, with their dogs and guns and keepers, and the result of
their day’s work, and was aware that Jack lingered, and looked across
the road, and waited till everybody was gone; then her heart jumped up
and throbbed loudly as he came toward the house. She was about to rush
down to him, to forget her griefs, and understand how it was and that he
could not help it. But Pamela was a minute too late. She was on her way
to the door, when suddenly her heart stood still and the color went out
of her face, and she stopped short like one thunderstruck. He was going
away again, astonished, like a man in a dream, with the birds in his
hand which he had been bringing as a peace-offering. And Pamela heard
her mother’s voice, sharp and harsh, speaking from the door. “I am much
obliged to you, Mr. Brownlow, but I never eat game, and we are both very
much engaged, and unable to see any one to-day;” these were the words
the poor girl heard; and then the door, which always stood open–the
fearless hospitable cottage door, was closed sharply, and with a
meaning. Pamela stood aghast, and saw him go away with his rejected
offering; and then the disappointment and wonder and quick change of
feeling came raining down from her eyes in big tears. Poor Jack! It was
not his fault–he was not unfaithful nor careless–but her own; and her
mother to send him away! It all passed, in a moment, and she had not
time or self-possession to throw open the window and hold out her hands
to him and call him back, but only stood speechless and watched him
disappearing, himself speechless with amazement, crossing the road
backward with his birds in his hand. Then Pamela’s dreams came suddenly
to an end. She dried her eyes indignantly–or rather the sudden hot
flush on her cheeks dried them without any aid–and smoothed back her
hair, and went down flaming in youthful wrath to call her mother to
account. But Mrs. Preston too was a changed creature. Pamela did not
know what to make of it when she went into the little parlor. Old Nancy
was sitting on a chair by the wall, just as she had done when she came
in, and looking the same; but as for Mrs. Preston, she was a different
woman. If wings had suddenly budded at her shoulders the revolution
could scarcely have been greater. She stood upright near the window,
with no stoop, no headache, no weariness–ten years younger at
least–her eyes as bright as two fires, and even her black dress hanging
about her in different folds. Pamela’s resentment and indignation and
rebellious feelings came to an end at this unwonted spectacle. She could
only stand before her mother and stare at her, and wonder what it could

“It is nothing,” said Mrs. Preston. “Mr. Brownlow, who brought us some
game–you know I don’t care for game; and then people change their minds
about things. Sit down, Pamela, and don’t stare at me. I have been
getting too languid about every thing, and when one rouses up every body
wonders what one means.”

“Mamma,” said Pamela, too much astonished to know what to answer, “you
sent him away!”

“Yes, I sent him away; and I will send any one away that I think
mercenary and selfish,” said Mrs. Preston. Was it she who spoke? Could
it be her mild uncertain lips from which such words came; and then what
could it mean? How could he be mercenary–he who was going to give up
every thing for his love’s sake? No words could express Pamela’s
consternation. She sat down weak with wonder, and gazed at her mother.
The change was one which she could not in any way explain to herself.

“Old Mrs. Fennell was very rude to me,” said Mrs. Preston. “I fear you
have not a very comfortable place, Nancy Christian; but we can soon
change that. You that were so faithful to my poor mother, you may be
sure you’ll not be forgotten. You are not to think of walking back to
Masterton. If I had known you were coming I would have spoken to Hobson
the carrier. I never was fond of the Fennells from the earliest I
remember; though Tom, you know, poor fellow–but he was a great deal
older than me.”

“He was nigh as old as your mother,” said Nancy; “many’s the time I’ve
heard her say it. ‘He wanted my daughter,’ she would say; ‘her a slip of
a girl, and him none so much younger than I am myself; but now he’s
catched a tartar;’ and she would laugh, poor old dear; but when she knew
as they were after what she had–that’s what drove her wild you may

“Yes, yes,” said Mrs. Preston; “yes, yes; you need say no more Nancy; I
see it all–I see it all. Wherever there’s money it’s a snare, and no
mortal that I can see escapes. If I had but known a month ago! but after
this they shall see they can’t do what they please with me. No; though
it may be hard upon us–hard upon us. Oh, Nancy Christian,” she said,
flinging up her arms into the air, “if you had but come to tell me a
month ago!”

Pamela listened to this conversation with gradually increasing dismay.
She did not know what it meant; but yet by some instinctive sense, she
knew that it concerned herself–and Jack. She rose up and went to her
mother with vague terrors in her heart. “Mamma, what is it? tell me what
it is,” she said, putting two clinging hands around her arm.

At these words Mrs. Preston suddenly came to herself. “What is what?”
she said. “Sit down, Pamela, and don’t ask foolish questions; or rather
go and see after the tea. It has never come, though I told you Nancy was
tired. If you left it by Mrs. Swayne’s fire it will be boiled by this
time; and you know when it stands too long I can’t bear it. Go, dear,
and get the tea.”

“But, mamma,” said Pamela, still clinging to her, and speaking in her
ear, “mamma! I know there must be something. Why did you send him away?”

Mrs. Preston gave her child a look which Pamela, driven to her wits’
end, could not interpret. There was pity in it and there was defiance,
and a certain fierce gleam as of indignation. “Child, you know nothing
about it,” she said, with suppressed passion; “nothing; and I can’t tell
you now. Go and get us the tea.”

Pamela gazed again, but she could make nothing of it. It was, and yet it
was not her mother–not the old, faded, timid, hesitating woman who had
nothing in the world but herself; but somebody so much younger, so much
stronger–with those two shining, burning eyes, and this sudden
self-consciousness and command. She gave a long look, and then she
sighed and dropped her mother’s arm, and went away to do her bidding. It
was the first appeal she had ever made in vain, and naturally it filled
her with a painful amaze. It was such a combination of events as she
could not understand. Nancy’s arrival, and Jack’s dismissal and this
curious change in Mrs. Preston’s appearance. Her little heart had been
full of pain when she left the room before, but it was pain of a very
different kind. Now the laggard had come who was all the cause of the
trouble then, and he had been sent away without reason or explanation,
and what could it mean? “If I had but known a month ago!” What could it
be that she had heard? The girl’s heart took to beating again very loud
and fast, and her imagination began to work, and it is not difficult to
divine what sort of theories of explanation rose in her thoughts. The
only thing that Pamela could think of as raising any fatal barrier
between herself and Jack was unfaithfulness or a previous love on his
part. This, without doubt, was Nancy’s mission. She had come to tell of
his untruthfulness; that he loved somebody else; perhaps had pledged
himself to somebody else; and that between him and his new love, instant
separation, heartbreak, and despair must ensue. “He need not have been
afraid to tell me,” Pamela said to herself, with her heart swelling till
it almost burst from her breast. All her little frame, all her sensitive
nerves, thrilled with pain and pride. This was what it was. She was not
so much stunned by the blow as roused up to the fullest consciousness.
Her lip would have quivered sadly had she been compelled to speak; her
voice might have broken for any thing she could tell, and risen into
hard tones and shrieks of pain. But she was not obliged to speak to any
one, and so could shut herself in and keep it down. She went about
mechanically, but with nervous haste and swiftness, and covered the
little table with its white cloth, and put bread on it, and the tea for
which Nancy and her mother sighed; and she thought they looked at her
with cruel coldness, as if it was they who were concerned and not she.
As if it could be any thing to any body in comparison to what it was to
her! As if she must not be at all times the principal in such a matter!
Thus they sat down at the little round table. Nancy, who was much in her
ordinary, ate, drank and was very comfortable, and pleased with the
country cream in her tea; but the mother and the daughter neither ate
nor drank. Mrs. Preston sat, saying now and then a word or two to Nancy
which Pamela could not understand, but mostly was silent, pondering and
full of thoughts, while Pamela, with her eyes cast down, and a burning,
crimson color on her cheeks, sat still and brooded over the cruelty she
thought they were showing her. Nancy was the only one who “enjoyed,” as
she said, “her tea.”

“You may get a drop of what’s called cream in a town, but it ain’t
cream,” said Nancy. “It’s but skim-milk frothed up, and you never get
the taste of the tea. It’s a thing as I always buys good. It’s me as
lays in all the things, and when there ain’t a good cup o’ tea at my age
there ain’t nothing as is worth in life. But the fault’s not in the tea.
It’s the want of a drop of good cream as does it. It’s that as brings
out the flavor, and gives it a taste. A cup o’ good tea’s a cheering
thing; but I wouldn’t say as you was enjoying it, Mrs. Preston, like

“I have other things in my mind,” said Mrs. Preston; “you’ve had a long
walk, and you must want it. As for me, my mind’s all in a ferment. I
don’t seem to know if it’s me, or what has happened. You would not have
come and told me all this if you had not been as sure as sure of what
you had to say!”

“Sure and sure enough,” said Nancy. “I’ve knowed it from first to last,
and how could I go wrong! If you go to London, as you say, you can judge
for yourself, and there won’t be nothing for me to tell; but you’ll
think on as I was the first–for your old mother’s sake–”

“You’ll not be forgot,” said Mrs. Preston; “you need not fear. I am not
the one to neglect a friend–and one that was good to my poor mother;
you may reckon on me.” She sat upright in her chair, and every line in
her face had changed. Power, patronage, and protection were in her
tone–she who had been herself so poor and timid and anxious. Her very
words were uttered more clearly, and with a distincter intonation. And
Pamela listened with all her might, and grew more and more bewildered,
and tried vainly to make out some connection between this talk and the
discovery which she supposed must have been made. But what could Jack’s
failure in good faith have to do with any body’s old mother! It was only
Nancy who was quite at her ease. “I will take another cup, if you
please, Miss Pamela,” said Nancy, “and I hope as I’ll live to see you in
your grandeur, feasting with lords and ladies, instead of pouring out an
old woman’s tea–for them as is good children is rewarded. Many’s the
day I’ve wished to see you, and wondered how many of you there was. It’s
sad for your mother as there’s only you; but it’s a fine thing for
yourself, Miss Pamela–and you must always give your mind to do what
your mamma says.”

“How should it be a fine thing for me!” said Pamela; “or how should I
ever feast with lords and ladies? I suppose you mean to make fun of us.
As for doing what mamma says, of course I always do–and she never tells
me to do any thing unreasonable,” the girl added, after a momentary
pause, looking doubtfully at her mother. If she were told to give up
Jack, Pamela felt that it would be something unreasonable, and she had
no inclination to pledge herself. Mrs. Preston was changed from all her
daughter’s previous knowledge of her; and it might be that her demands
upon Pamela’s obedience would change too.

“It’s nigh my time to go,” said Nancy. “I said to the carrier as he was
to wait for me down the road. I wouldn’t be seen a-getting into the
wagon here. Folks talks awful when they’re so few; and thank you kindly,
Mrs. Preston, for the best cup of tea as I’ve tasted for ten years. Them
as can get cream like that, has what I calls some comfort in this life.”

“Pamela,” said Mrs. Preston, “you can walk along with Nancy as far as
Merryfield Farm, and give my compliments; and if they’d put a drop of
their best cream in a bottle–It’s all I can do just now, Nancy
Christian; but I am not one that forgets my friends, and the time may

“The time _will_ come, ma’am,” said Nancy, getting up and making her
patroness a courtesy, “and I’m none afraid as you’ll forget; and thank
you kindly for thinking o’ the cream–if it ain’t too much trouble to
Miss Pamela. If you go up there, as you think to do, and find all as I
say, you’ll be so kind as to let me know?”

“I’ll let you know, you may be sure,” said Mrs. Preston, in her short
decisive tones of patronage. And then the girl, much against her will,
had to put on her hat and go with Nancy. She did it, but it was with an
ill grace; for she was longing to throw herself upon her mother and have
an explanation of all this–what had happened, and what it meant. The
air had grown cool, and old Betty had come out to her door, and Mrs.
Swayne was in the little garden watering the mignonnette. And it was not
easy to pass those two pairs of eyes and preserve a discreet incognito.
To do her justice, Nancy tried her best; but it was a difficult matter
to blind Mrs. Swayne.

“I thought as it was you,” said that keen observer. “I said as much to
Swayne when he told me there was a lady to tea in the parlor. I said,
‘You take my word it’s her as come from Masterton asking after them.’
And I hope, mum, as I see you well. Mrs. Preston has been but poorly;
and you as knows her constitootion and her friends–”

“She knows nothing about us,” said Pamela, with indignation; “not now; I
never saw her in my life before. And how can she know about mamma’s
constitution, or her friends either? Nancy, come along; you will be too
late for Hobson if you stand talking here.”

“It’s never no loss of time to say a civil word, Miss Pamela,” said
Nancy. “It’s years and years since I saw her, and she’s come through a
deal since then. And having a family changes folks’ constitootions. If
it wasn’t asking too much, I’d ask for a bit o’ mignonnette. Town folks
is terrible greedy when they comes to the country–and it’s that sweet
as does one’s heart good. Nice cream and butter and new-laid eggs, and a
bit o’ lad’s love, or something as smells sweet–give me that, and I
don’t ask for none o’ your grandeurs. That’s the good o’ the country to

“They sends all that country stuff to old Mrs. Fennell, don’t they?”
said Betty, who in the leisure of the evening had crossed the road. “I
should have thought you’d been sick of all them things–and the fruit
and the partridges as I see packed no later then this very afternoon. I
should have said you had enough for six, if any one had asked me.”

“When the partridges is stale and the fruit rotten,” said Nancy,
shrugging her shoulders; “and them as has such plenty, where’s the merit
of it? I suppose there’s fine doings at the house, with all their
shootings and all the strangers as is about–”

“They was at a picnic to-day,” said Betty. “Mr. John, he’s the one! He
makes all them ladies leave their comfortable lunch, as is better than
many a dinner, and down to the heath with their cold pies and their
jellies and such like. Give me a bit of something ’ot. But they think
he’s a catch, being the only son; and there ain’t one but does what he

Pamela had been standing plucking a bit of mignonnette to pieces,
listening with tingling ears. It was not in human nature not to listen;
but she roused herself when Betty’s voice ceased, and went softly on,
withdrawing herself from the midst of them. Her poor little heart was
swelling and throbbing, and every new touch seemed to add to its
excitement; but pride, and a sense of delicacy and dignity, came to her
aid. Jack’s betrothed, even if neglected or forsaken, was not in her fit
place amid this gossip. She went on quietly, saying nothing about it,
leaving her companion behind. And the three women gave each other
significant glances as soon as she had turned her back on them. “I told
’em how it would be,” said Mrs. Swayne, under her breath, “it’s allays
the way when a girl is that mad to go and listen to a gentleman.” And
Betty, though she sneered at her employers with goodwill, had an idea of
keeping up their importance so far as other people were concerned. “Poor
lass!” said Betty, “she’s been took in. She thought Mr. John was one as
would give up every thing for the like of her; but he has her betters to
choose from. He’s affable like, but he’s a deal too much pride for

“Pride goes afore a fall,” said Nancy, with meaning; “and the Brownlows
ain’t such grand folks after all. Nothing but attorneys, and an old
woman’s money to set them up as wasn’t a drop’s blood to them. I don’t
see no call for pride.”

“The old squires was different, I don’t deny,” said Betty, with candor;
“but when folks is bred gentlefolks, and has all as heart can desire–”

“There’s gentlefolks as might do worse,” said Nancy, fiercely; “but it
ain’t nothing to you nor me–”

“It ought to be a deal to both of you,” said Mrs. Swayne, coming in as
moderator, “eating their bread as it were, and going on like that. And
both of you with black silks to put on of a Sunday, and sure of your
doctor and your burial if you was to fall ill. I wouldn’t be that
ungrateful if it was me.”

“It’s no use quarreling,” said Nancy; “and I’ll say good-night, for I’ve
a long way to go. If ever you should want any thing in Masterton, I’d do
my best to serve you. Miss Pamela’s a long way on, and walking fast
ain’t for this weather; so I’ll bid you both good-night. We’ll have time
for more talk,” she added significantly, “next time I come back; and I’d
like a good look at that nice lodge you’ve got.” Old Betty did not know
what the woman meant, but those black eyes “went through and through
her,” she said; and so Nancy’s visit came to an end.

Continue Reading


It was nearly two hours after this when Jack Brownlow met Powys at the
gate. It was a moonlight night, and the white illumination which fell
upon the departing visitor perhaps increased the look of excitement and
desperation which might have been apparent even to the most indifferent
passer-by. He had been walking very quickly down the avenue; his boots
and his dress gleamed in the moonlight as if he had been burying himself
among the wet grass and bushes in the park. His hat was over his brows,
his face haggard and ghastly. No doubt it was partly the effect of the
wan and ghostly moonlight, but still there must have been something more
in it, or Jack, who loved him little, would not have stopped as he did
to see what was the matter. Jack was all the more bent upon stopping
that he could see Powys did not wish it, and all sorts of hopes and
suspicions sprang up in his mind. His father had dismissed the intruder,
or he had so far forgotten himself as to betray his feelings to Sara,
and she had dismissed him. Once more curiosity came in Powys’s way. Jack
was so resolute to find out what it was, that, for the first time in his
life, he was friendly to his father’s clerk. “Are you walking?” he said;
“I’ll go with you a little way. It is a lovely night.”

“Yes,” said Powys; and he restrained his headlong course a little. It
was all he could do–that, and to resist the impulse to knock Jack down
and be rid of him. It might not have been so very easy, for the two were
tolerably well matched; but poor Powys was trembling with the force of
passion, and would have been glad of any opportunity to relieve himself
either in the way of love or hatred. Nothing of this description,
however, seemed practicable to him. The two young men walked down the
road together, keeping a little apart, young, strong, tall, full of
vigor, and with a certain likeness in right of their youth and strength.
There should even have been the sympathy between them which draws like
to like. And yet how unlike they were! Jack had taken his fate in his
hand, and was contemplating with a cheerful daring, which was half
ignorance, a descent to the position in which his companion stood. It
would be sweetened in his case by all the ameliorations possible, or so
at least he thought; and, after all, what did it matter? Whereas Powys
was smarting under the miserable sense of having been placed in a false
position in addition to all the pangs of unhappy love, and of having
betrayed himself and the confidence put in him, and sacrificed his
honor, and cut himself off forever from the delight which still might
have been his. All these pains and troubles were struggling together
within him. He would have felt more keenly still the betrayal of the
trust his employer had placed in him, had he not felt bitterly that Mr.
Brownlow had subjected him to temptations which it was not in flesh and
blood to bear. Thus every kind of smart was accumulated within the poor
young fellow’s spirit–the sense of guilt, the sense of being hardly
used, the consciousness of having shut himself out from paradise, the
knowledge, beyond all, that his love was hopeless and all the light gone
out of his life. It may be supposed how little inclination he had to
enter into light conversation, or to satisfy the curiosity of Jack.

They walked on together in complete silence for some minutes, their
footsteps ringing in harmony along the level road, but their minds and
feelings as much out of harmony as could be conceived. Jack was the
first to speak. “It’s pleasant walking to-night,” he said, feeling more
conciliatory than he could have thought possible; “how long do you allow
yourself from here to Masterton? It is a good even road.”

“Half an hour,” said Powys, carelessly.

“Half an hour! that’s quick work,” said Jack. “I don’t think you’ll
manage that to night. I have known that mare of mine do it in twenty
minutes; but I don’t think you could match her pace.”

“She goes very well,” said the Canadian, with a moderation which nettled

“Very well! I never saw any thing go like her,” he said–“that is, with
a cart behind her. What kind of cattle have you in Canada? I suppose
there’s good sport there of one kind or another. Shouldn’t you like to
go back?”

“I _am_ going back,” said Powys. He said it in the depth of his despair,
and it startled himself as soon as it was said. Go back? yes! that was
the only thing to do–but how?

“Really?” said Jack with surprise and no small relief, and then a
certain human sentiment awoke within him. “I hope you haven’t had a row
with the governor?” he said; “it always seemed to me he had too great a
fancy for you. I beg your pardon for saying so just now, especially if
you’re vexed; but look here–I’m not much of a one for a peace-maker;
but if you don’t mind telling me what it’s about–”

“I have had no row with Mr. Brownlow; it is worse than that,” said
Powys; “it is past talking of; I have been both an ass and a knave, and
there’s nothing for me but to take myself out of every body’s way.”

Once more Jack looked at him in the moonlight, and saw that quick heave
of his breast which betrayed the effort he was making to keep himself
down, and a certain spasmodic quiver in his lip.

“I wouldn’t be too hasty if I were you,” he said. “I don’t think you can
have been a knave. We’re all of us ready enough to make fools of
ourselves,” the young philosopher added, with a touch of fellow-feeling.
“You and I haven’t been over-good friends, you know, but you might as
well tell me what it’s all about.”

“You were quite right,” said Powys, hastily. “I ought never to have come
up here. And it was not my doing. It was a false position all along. A
man oughtn’t to be tempted beyond his strength. Of course I have nobody
to blame but myself. I don’t suppose I would be a knave about money or
any thing of that sort. But it’s past talking of; and besides I could
not, even if it were any good, make a confidant of you.”

It was not difficult for Jack to divine what this despair meant, and he
was touched by the delicacy which would not name his sister’s name. “I
lay a hundred pounds it’s Sara’s fault,” he said to himself. But he gave
no expression to the sentiment. And of course it was utterly beyond
hope, and the young fellow in Powys’s position who should yield to such
a temptation must indeed have made an ass of himself. But in the
circumstances Jack was not affronted at the want of confidence in

“I don’t want to pry into your affairs,” he said. “I don’t like it
myself; but I would not do any thing hastily if I were you. A man mayn’t
be happy, but, so far as I can see, he must live all the same.”

“Yes, that’s the worst,” said Powys; “a fellow can’t give in and get
done with it. Talk is no good; but I shall have to go. I shall speak to
your father to-morrow, and then–Good-night. Don’t come any farther.
I’ve been all about the place to say good-bye. I am glad to have had
this talk with you first. Good-night.”

“Good-night,” said Jack, grasping the hand of his fellow. Their hands
had never met in the way of friendship before. Now they clasped each
other warmly, closely, with an instinctive sympathy. Powys’s mind was so
excited with other things, so full of supreme emotion, that this
occurrence, though startling enough, did not have much effect upon him.
But it made a very different impression upon Jack, who was full of
surprise and compunction, and turned, after he had made a few steps in
the direction of Brownlows, with a reluctant idea of “doing something”
for the young fellow who was so much less lucky than himself. It was a
reluctant idea, for he was prejudiced, and did not like to give up his
prejudices, and at the same time he was generous, and could not but feel
for a brother in misfortune. But Powys was already far on his way, out
of hearing, and almost out of sight. “He will do it in the half-hour,”
Jack said to himself, with admiration. “By Jove! how the fellow goes!
and I’ll lay you any thing it’s all Sara’s fault.” He was very hard upon
Sara in the revulsion of his feelings. Of course she could have done
nothing but send her presumptuous admirer away. But, then, had she not
led him on and encouraged him? “The little flirt!” Jack said to himself;
and just then he was passing Swayne’s cottage, which lay in the deep
blackness of the shadow made by the moonlight. He looked up tenderly at
the light that burned in the upper window. He had grown foolish about
that faint little light, as was only natural. There was one who was no
flirt, who never would have tempted any man and drawn him on to the
breaking of his heart. From the height of his own good fortune Jack
looked down upon poor Powys speeding along with despair in his soul
along the Masterton road. Something of that soft remorse which is the
purest bloom of personal happiness softened his thoughts. Poor Powys!
And there was nothing that could be done for him. He could not compel
his fate as Jack himself could do. For him there was nothing in store
but the relinquishment of all hope, the giving up of all dreams. The
thought made Jack feel almost guilty in his own independence and
well-being. Perhaps he could yet do or say something that would smooth
the other’s downfall–persuade him to remain at least at Masterton,
where he need never come in the way of the little witch who had beguiled
him, and afford him his own protection and friendship instead. As Jack
thought of the little house that he himself, separated from Brownlows
and its comforts, was about to set up at Masterton, his benevolence
toward Powys grew still stronger. He was a fellow with whom a man could
associate on emergency; and no doubt this was all Sara’s fault. He went
home to Brownlows disposed to stand Powys’s friend if there was any
question of him. But when Jack reached home there was no question of
Powys. On the whole it was not a cheerful house into which he entered.
Lights were burning vacantly in the drawing-room, but there was nobody
there. Lights were burning dimly down stairs. It looked like a deserted
place as he went up and down the great staircase, and through the silent
rooms, and found nobody. Mr. Brownlow himself was in the library with
the door shut, where, in the present complexion of affairs, Jack did not
care to disturb him; and Miss Sara had gone to bed with a headache, he
was told, when, after searching for her everywhere, he condescended to
inquire. Sara was not given to headaches, and the intimation startled
her brother. And he went and sat in the drawing-room alone, and stared
at the lights, and contrasted this solitary grandeur with the small
house whose image was in his mind. The little cozy, tiny, sunshiny
place, where one little bright face would always smile; where there
would always be some one ready to listen, ready to be interested, ready
to take a share in every thing. The picture looked very charming to him
after the dreariness of this great room, and Sara gone to bed, and poor
Powys banished and broken-hearted. That was not to be his own fate, and
Jack grew pious and tender in his self-gratulations. After all, poor
Powys was a very good sort of fellow; but as it happened, it was Jack
who had drawn all the prizes of life. He did think at one time of going
down stairs notwithstanding the delicate state of his own relations with
his father, and making such excuses as were practicable for the
unfortunate clerk, who had permitted himself to be led astray in this
foolish manner. “Of course it was a great risk bringing him here at
all,” Jack thought of saying, that Mr. Brownlow might be brought to a
due sense of his own responsibility in the matter; but after long
consideration, he wisely reflected that it would be best to wait until
the first parties to the transaction had pronounced themselves. If Sara
did not mean to say any thing about it, nor Powys, why should he
interfere? upon which conclusion, instead of going down stairs, he went
to bed, thinking again how cheerless it was for each member of the
household to start off like this without a single good-night, and how
different it would be in the new household that was to come.

Sara came to breakfast next morning looking very pale. The color had
quite gone out of her cheeks, and she had done herself up in a warm
velvet jacket, and had the windows closed as soon as she came into the
room. “They never will remember that the summer’s over,” she said, with
a shiver, as she took her place; but she made no farther sign of any
kind. Clearly she had no intention of complaining of her rash lover;–so
little, indeed, that when Mr. Brownlow was about to go away, she held
out a book to him timidly, with a sudden blush. “Mr. Powys forgot to
take this with him last night; would you mind taking it to him, papa?”
she said, very meekly; and as Jack looked at her, Sara blushed redder
and redder. Not that she had any occasion to blush. It might be meant as
an olive-branch or even a pledge of hope; but still it was only a book
that Powys had left behind him. Mr. Brownlow accepted the charge with a
little surprise, and he, too, looked at her so closely that it was all
she could do to restrain a burst of tears.

“Is it such a wonder that I should send back a book when it is left?”
she cried, petulantly. “You need not take it unless you like, papa; it
can always go by the post.”

“I will take it,” said Mr. Brownlow; and Jack sat by rather grimly, and
said nothing. Jack was very variable and uncertain just at that moment
in his own feelings. He had not forgotten the melting of his heart on
the previous night; but if he had seen any tokens of relenting on the
part of his sister toward the presumptuous stranger, Jack would have
again hated Powys. He even observed with suspicion that his father took
little notice of Sara’s agitation; that he shut his eyes to it, as it
were, and took her book, and evaded all farther discussion. Jack himself
was not going to Masterton that day. He had to see that every thing was
in order for the next day, which was the 1st of September. So far had
the season wheeled round imperceptibly while all the variations of this
little domestic drama were ripening to their appointed end.

Jack, however, did not go to inspect his gun, and consult with the
gamekeeper, immediately on his father’s departure. He waited for a few
minutes, while Sara, who had been so cold, rushed to the window, and
threw it open. “There must be thunder in the air–one can scarcely
breathe,” she said. And Jack watched her jealously, and did not lose a
single look.

“You were complaining of cold just now,” he said. “Sara, mind what you
are about. If you think you can play that young Powys at the end of your
line, you’re making a great mistake.”

“Play whom?” cried Sara, blazing up. “You are a nice person to preach to
me! I am playing nobody at the end of my line. I have no line to play
with; and you that are making a fool of that poor little simple

“Be quiet, will you?” said Jack, furious. “That poor little simple
Pamela, as you call her, is going to be my wife.”

Sara gazed at him for a moment thunderstruck, standing like something
made into stone, with her velvet jacket, which she had just taken off,
in her hands. Then the color fled from her cheeks as quickly as it had
come to them, and her great eyes filled suddenly, like crystal cups,
with big tears. She threw the jacket down out of her hands, and rushed
to her brother’s side, and clasped his arm. “You don’t mean it,
Jack?–do you mean it?” she cried, piteously, gazing up into his face;
and a crowd of different emotions, more than Jack could discriminate or
divine, was in her voice. There was pleasure and there was sorrow, and
sharp envy and pride and regret. She clasped his arm, and looked at him
with a look which said–“How could you?–how dare you?–and, oh, how
lucky you are to be able to do it!”–all in a breath.

“Of course I mean it,” said Jack, a little roughly; but he did not mean
to be rough. “And that is why I tell you it is odious of you, Sara, to
tempt a man to his destruction, when you know you can do nothing for him
but break his heart.”

“Can’t I?” said Sara, dropping away from his arm, with a faint little
moan; and then she turned quickly away, and hid her face in her hands.
Jack, for his part, felt he was bound to improve the occasion, though
his heart smote him. He stood secure on his own pedestal of virtue,
though he did not want her to copy him. Indeed, such virtue in Sara
would have been little short of vice.

“Nothing else,” said Jack, “and yet you creatures do it without ever
thinking of the sufferings you cause. I saw the state that poor fellow
was in when he left you last night; and now you begin again sending him
books! What pleasure can you have in it! It is something inconceivable
to me.”

This Jack uttered with a superiority and sense of goodness so lofty that
Sara’s tears dried up. She turned round in a blaze of indignation, too
much offended to trust herself to answer. “You may be an authority to
Pamela, but you are not an authority to me,” she cried, drawing herself
up to her fullest state. But she did not trust herself to continue the
warfare. The tears were lying too near the surface, and Sara had been
too much shaken by the incident of the previous night. “I am not going
to discuss my own conduct; you can go and talk to Pamela about it,” she
added, pausing an instant at the door of the room before she went out.
It was spiteful, and Jack felt that it was spiteful; but he did not
guess how quickly Sara rushed up stairs after her dignified progress to
the door, nor how she locked herself in, nor what a cry she had in her
own room when she was safe from all profane eyes. She was not thinking
of Pamela, and yet she could have beaten Pamela. _She_ was to be happy,
and have her own way; but as for Sara, it was an understood duty that
the only thing she could do for a man was to break his heart! Her tears
fell down like rain at this thought. Why should Jack be so free and she
so fettered? Why should Pamela be so well off? Thus a sudden and wild
little hail-storm of rage and mortification went over Sara’s head, or
rather heart.

Meanwhile Mr. Brownlow went very steadily to business with the book in
his pocket. He had been a little startled by Sara’s look, but by this
time it was going out of his mind. He was thinking that it was a lovely
morning, and still very warm, though the child was so chilly; and then
he remembered, with a start, that next day was the 1st of September.
Another six weeks, and the time of his probation was over. The thought
sent the blood coursing through his veins, as if he had been a young
man. Every thing had gone on so quietly up to that moment–no farther
alarms–nothing to revive his fears–young Powys lulled to indifference,
if indeed he knew any thing; and the time of liberation so near. But
with that thrill of satisfaction came a corresponding excitement. Now
that the days were numbered, every day was a year in itself. It occurred
to him suddenly to go away somewhere, to take Sara with him and bury
himself in some remote corner of the earth, where nobody could find him
for those fated six weeks; and so make it quite impossible that any
application could reach him. But he dismissed the idea. In his absence
might she not appear, and disclose herself? His own presence somehow
seemed to keep her off, and at arm’s length; but he could not trust
events for a single day if he were gone. And it was only six weeks.
After that, yes, he would go away, he would go to Rome or somewhere, and
take Sara, and recover his calm after that terrible tension. He would
need it, no doubt;–so long as his brain did not give way.

Mr. Brownlow, however, was much startled by the looks of Powys when he
went into the office. He was more haggard than he had ever been in the
days when Mr. Wrinkell was suspicious of him. His hair hung on his
forehead in a limp and drooping fashion–he was pale, and there were
circles round his eyes. Mr. Brownlow had scarcely taken his place in his
own room when the impatient young man came and asked to speak to him.
The request made the lawyer’s hair stand up on his head, but he could
not refuse the petition. “Come in,” he said, faintly. The blood seemed
to go back on his heart in a kind of despair. After all his
anticipations of approaching freedom, was he to be arrested after all,
before the period of emancipation came?

As for Powys, he was too much excited himself to see any thing but the
calmest composure in Mr. Brownlow, who indeed, throughout all his
trials, though they were sharp enough, always looked composed. The young
man even thought his employer methodical and matter of fact to the last
degree. He had put out upon the table before him the book Sara had
intrusted him with. It was a small edition of one of the poets which
poor Powys had taken with him on his last unhappy expedition to
Brownlows; and Mr. Brownlow put his hand on the book, with a constrained
smile, as a school-master might have put his hand on a prize.

“My daughter sent you this, Powys,” he said, “a book which it appears
you left last night; and why did you go away in such a hurry without
letting me know?”

“Miss Brownlow sent it?” said Powys, growing crimson; and for a minute
the poor young fellow was so startled and taken aback that he could not
add another word. He clutched at the book, and gazed at it hungrily, as
if it could tell him something, and then he saw Mr. Brownlow looking at
him with surprise, and his color grew deeper and deeper. “That was what
I came to speak to you about, sir,” he said, hot with excitement and
wretchedness. “You have trusted me, and I am unworthy of your trust. I
don’t mean to excuse myself; but I could not let another day go over
without telling you. I have behaved like an idiot–and a villain–”

“Stop, stop!” said Mr. Brownlow. “What is all this about? Don’t be
excited. I don’t believe you have behaved like a villain. Take time and
compose yourself, and tell me what it is.”

“It is that you took me into your house, sir, and trusted me,” said
Powys, “and I have betrayed your trust. I must mention her name. I saw
your daughter too often–too much. I should have had the honor and
honesty to tell you before I betrayed myself. But I did not mean to
betray myself. I miscalculated my strength; and in a moment, when I was
not thinking, it gave way. Don’t think I have gone on with it,” he
added, looking beseechingly at his employer, who sat silent, not so much
as lifting his eyes. “It was only last night–and I am ready at the
moment, if you wish it, to go away.”

Mr. Brownlow sat at his table and made no reply. Oh, those hasty young
creatures, who precipitated every thing! It was, in a kind of way, the
result of his own scheming, and yet his heart revolted at it, and in six
weeks’ time he would be free from all such necessity. What was he to do?
He sat silent, utterly confounded and struck dumb–not with surprise and
horror, as his young companion in the fullness of his compunction
believed, but with confusion and uncertainty as to what he ought to say
and do. He could not offend and affront the young man on whose quietness
and unawakened thoughts so much depended. He could not send Powys away,
to fall probably into the hands of other advisers, and rise up against
himself. Yet could he pledge himself, and risk Sara’s life, when so
short a time might set him free? All this rushed through his mind while
he sat still in the same attitude in which he had listened to the young
fellow’s story. All this pondering had to be done in a moment, for Powys
was standing beside him in all the vehemence of passion, thinking every
minute an hour, and waiting for his answer. Indeed he expected no
answer. Yet something there was that must be said, and which Mr.
Brownlow did not know how to say.

“You betrayed yourself?” he said, at last; “that means, you spoke. And
what did Sara say?”

The color on Powys’s face flushed deeper and deeper. He gave one wild,
half-frantic look of inquiry at his questioner. There was nothing in the
words, but in the calm of the tone, in the naming of his daughter’s
name, there was something that looked like a desperate glimmer of hope;
and this unexpected light flashed upon the young man all of a sudden,
and made him nearly mad. “She said nothing,” he answered, breathlessly.
“I was not so dishonorable as to ask for any answer. What answer was
possible? It was forced out of me, and I rushed away.”

Mr. Brownlow pushed his chair away from the table. He got up and went to
the window, and stood and looked out, he could not have told why. There
was nothing there that could help him in what he had to say. There was
nothing but two children standing in the dusty road, and a pale, swarthy
organ-grinder, with two big eyes, playing “_Ah, che la morte_” outside.
Mr. Brownlow always remembered the air, and so did Powys, standing
behind, with his heart beating loud, and feeling that the next words he
should listen to might convey life or death.

“If she has said nothing,” said Mr. Brownlow at last from the window,
speaking with his back turned, “perhaps it will be as well for me to
follow her example.” When he said this he returned slowly to his seat,
and took his chair without ever looking at the culprit before him. “Of
course you were wrong,” he added; “but you are young. You ought not to
have been placed in such temptation. Go back to your work, Mr. Powys. It
was a youthful indiscretion; and I am not one of those who reject an
honorable apology. We will forget it for ever–we, and every body

“But, sir–” cried Powys.

“No more,” said Mr. Brownlow. “Let by-gones be by-gones. You need not go
up to Brownlows again till this occurrence has been forgotten. I told
you Sara had sent you the book you left. It has been an unfortunate
accident, but no more than an accident, I hope. Go back to your work,
and forget it. Don’t do any thing rash. I accept your apology. Such a
thing might have happened to the best of us. But you will be warned by
it, and do not err again. Go back to your work.”

“Then I am not to leave you?” said Powys, sorely tossed between hope and
despair, thinking one moment that he was cruelly treated, and the next
overwhelmed by the favor shown him. He looked so wistfully at his
employer, that Mr. Brownlow, who saw him though he was not looking at
him, had hard ado not to give him a little encouragement with his eyes.

“If you can assure me this will not be repeated, I see no need for your
leaving,” said Mr. Brownlow. “You know I wish you well, Powys. I am
content that it should be as if it had never been.”

The young man did not know what to say. The tumult in his mind had not
subsided. He was in the kind of condition to which every thing which is
not despair is hope. He was wild with wonder, bewilderment, confusion.
He made some incoherent answer, and the next moment he found himself
again at his desk, dizzy like a man who has fallen from some great
height, yet feels himself unhurt upon solid ground after all. What was
to come of it all? And Sara had sent him his book. Sara? Never in his
wildest thoughts had he ventured to call her Sara before. He did not do
it wittingly now. He was in a kind of trance of giddiness and
bewilderment. Was it all real, or had it happened in a dream?

Meanwhile Mr. Brownlow too sat and pondered this new development. What
was it all to come to? He seemed to other people to be the arbiter of
events; but that was what he himself asked, in a kind of consternation,
of time and fate.

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