ONLY MR. BROWNLOW’S CLERK

There was a pleasant bustle about the house that evening when the
dog-cart drove up. The sportsmen had been late of getting in, and nobody
as yet had gone to dress; the door was open, and in the hall and about
the broad door-steps pretty groups were lingering. Sara and her friends
on their way up stairs had encountered the gentlemen, fresh from their
sport, some of whom had no doubt strayed to the sideboard, which was
visible through the open door of the dining-room; but the younger ones
were about the hall in their shooting-dresses talking to the girls and
giving an account of themselves. There was about them all that sense of
being too late, and having no right to be there, which gives a zest to
such stolen moments. The men were tired with their day’s work, and, for
that matter, the ladies too, who, after the monotony of the afternoon
and their cup of tea, wanted a little amusement; and there was a sound
of talk and of laughter and pleasant voices, which could be heard
half-way down the avenue. They had all been living under the same roof
for some days at least, and people get to know each other intimately
under such circumstances. This was the scene upon which young Powys,
still bewildered with delight, alighted suddenly, feeling as if he had
fallen from the clouds. He jumped down with a light heart into the
bright reflection of the lamp which fell over the steps, but somehow his
heart turned like a piece of lead within his heart the moment his foot
touched the flags. It grew like a stone within him without any reason,
and he did not know why. Nobody knew him, it is true; but he was not a
shy boy to be distressed by that. He jumped down, and his position was
changed. Between him and Mr. Brownlow, who was so kind to him, and Jack,
who was so hostile yet sympathetic, and Sara, whom he loved, there were
unquestionable relations. But when he heard the momentary pause that
marked his appearance, the quick resuming of the talk with a certain
interrogative tone, “Who is he?” the glance at him askance, the sudden
conviction rushed into his mind that all the better-informed were
saying, “It is only his clerk”–and it suddenly occurred to Powys that
there existed no link of possible connection between himself and all
those people. He knew nobody–he had no right to know any body among
them. He was there only by Mr. Brownlow’s indiscreet favoritism, taken
out of his own sphere. And thus he fell flat out of his foolish elysium.
Mr. Brownlow, too, felt it as he stepped out into the midst of them all;
but his mind was preoccupied, and though it irritated, it did not move
him. He looked round upon his guests, and he said, with a smile which
was not of the most agreeable kind, “You will be late for dinner, young
people, and I am as hungry as an ogre. I shan’t give you any grace.
Sara, don’t you see Powys? Willis, send Mr. Powys’s things up to the
green room beside mine. Come along, and I’ll show you the way.”

To say Sara was not much startled would be untrue; but she too had been
aware of the uncomfortable moment of surprise and dismay among the
assembled guests, and a certain fine instinct of natural courtesy which
she possessed came to her aid. She made a step forward, though her
cheeks were scarlet, and her heart beating loud, and held out her hand
to the new visitor: “I am very glad to see you,” she said. Not because
she was really glad, so much as because these were the first words that
occurred to her. It was but a moment, and then Powys followed Mr.
Brownlow up stairs. But when Sara turned round to her friends again she
was unquestionably agitated, and it appeared to her that every body
perceived she was so. “How cross your papa looks,” said one of them; “is
he angry?–what have we done?” And then the clock struck seven. “Oh,
what a shame to be so late! we ought all to have been ready. No wonder
Mr. Brownlow is cross,” said another; and they all fluttered away like a
flock of doves, flying up the staircase. Then the young men marched off
too, and the pretty scene was suddenly obliterated, and nothing left but
the bare walls, and Willis the butler gravely superintending his
subordinates as they gave the finishing touches to the dinner-table. The
greater part of the company forgot all about this little scene before
five minutes had elapsed, but there were two or three who did not
forget. These were Powys, first of all, who was tingling to the ends of
his fingers with Sara’s words and the momentary touch of her little
hand. It was but natural, remembering how they parted, that he should
find a special meaning in what she said, and he had no way of knowing
that his arrival was totally unexpected, and that she was taken by
surprise. And as for Sara herself, her heart fluttered strangely under
the pretty white dress which was being put on. Madlle. Angelique could
not make out what it was that made her mistress so hard to manage. She
would not keep still as a lady ought when she is getting dressed. She
made such abrupt movements as to snatch her long bright locks out of
Angelique’s hands, and quite interfere with the management of her
ribbons. She too had begun to recollect what were the last words Powys
had addressed to her. And she to say she was glad to see him! Mr.
Brownlow had himself inducted his clerk into the green room, next door
to his own, which was one of the best rooms in the house; and his
thoughts would not bear talking of. They were inarticulate, though their
name was legion; they seemed to buzz about him as he made his rapid
toilette, so that he almost thought they must make themselves heard
through the wall. Things had come to a desperate pass, and there was no
time to be biased by thoughts. He had dressed in a few minutes, and then
he went to his daughter. Sara at the best of times was not so rapid. She
was still in her dressing-gown at that moment with her hair in
Angelique’s hands, and it was too late to send the maid away.

“Sara,” said Mr. Brownlow, very tersely, “you will take care that young
Powys is not neglected at dinner. Mind that you arrange it so–”

“Shall he take me in?” said Sara, with a sudden little outbreak of
indignation which did her good. “I suppose you do not mean that?”

“I am speaking in earnest,” said Mr. Brownlow, with some offense. “I
have put him in the green room. Recollect that I think nothing in the
house too good for this young man–nothing. I hope you will recollect
what I say.”

“Nothing?” said Sara, with a little surprise; and then the instinct of
mischief returned to her, and she added, demurely, “that is going a long
way.”

“It is going a very long way–as far as a man can go,” said Mr.
Brownlow, with a sigh–“farther than most men would go.” And then he
went away. As for Sara, her very ears thrilled with the significance of
his tone. It frightened her into her senses when perhaps she might have
been excused for being partly out of them. If she was kind to Powys–as
kind as her father’s orders required–what could he think? Would he
remember what he had ventured to say? Would he think she was giving him
“encouragement?” Notwithstanding this perplexity she allowed Angelique
to dress her very nicely with her favorite blue ribbons and ornaments;
and when she set out to go down stairs, perhaps there was a little touch
of Iphigenia in her air; but the martyrdom was not to call disagreeable.
He was in the drawing-room when she went in. He was in a corner looking
at photographs, which is the general fate of a poor man in a large party
who knows nobody. Sara had a little discussion with herself whether it
was her duty to go at once to Powys and take him under her protection.
But when she looked at him–as she managed to do, so to speak, without
looking–it became apparent to her that the young Canadian was too much
a man to be treated with any such condescension; he was very humble,
very much aware that his presumption in lifting his eyes to the height
on which she sat was unpardonable; but still, if she had gone to him and
devoted herself to his amusement, there is no telling what the results
might have been. He was not one to take it meekly. The room gradually
filled and grew a pretty sight as Sara made these reflections. The
ladies came down like butterflies, translated out of their warm close
morning-dresses into clouds of vapory white and rosy color and sparkles
of ornament like evening dew; and the sportsmen in their knickerbockers
had melted into spotless black figures, relieved with patches of
spotless white, as is the use of gentlemen. The talk scarcely began
again with its former freedom, for the moment before dinner is a grim
moment, especially when men have been out all day and are hungry.
Accordingly, the black figures massed themselves well up about the
fire-place, and murmured through their beards such scraps of
intelligence as suit the masculine capacity; while the ladies settled
all round like flower borders, more patient and more smiling. Nobody
took any particular notice of Powys in his corner, except, indeed, Mr.
Brownlow who stood very upright by the mantle-piece and did not speak,
but looked at Sara, sternly as she thought, and then at the stranger. It
was a difficult position for the young mistress of the house. When her
father’s glance became urgent she called a friend to her aid–a young
woman of a serviceable age, not young and not old–who happened to be
good-natured as well. “He is a friend of papa’s,” she said–“a _great_
friend, but he knows nobody.” And, strengthened by this companionship,
she ventured to draw near the man who, in that very room, not far from
that very spot, had told her he loved her. He was looking at a
picture–the same picture of the woman holding out bread to the
beggar–and he was thinking, Should he ever have that bread?–was it
possible? or only a mockery of imagination? As Sara approached him the
memory of that other scene came over her so strongly, and her heart
began to beat so loudly, that she could scarcely hear herself speaking.
“I want to introduce you to my friend Miss Ellerslie,” she said. “Mr.
Powys, Mary–you will take her in to dinner.” And then she came to a
dead stop, breathless with confusion. As for poor Powys, he made his new
acquaintance a bow, and very nearly turned his back upon her, not seeing
her for the dazzle in his eyes. This was about all the intercourse that
passed between them, until, for one minute, and one only, after dinner,
when he found himself by accident close to Sara’s chair. He stood behind
her, lingering, scarcely seeing her, for she was almost hidden by the
high back of the chair, yet feeling her all round him in the very air,
and melted, poor fellow, into the languor of a sweet despair. It was
despair, but yet it was sweet, for was he not there beside her? and
though his love was impossible, as he said to himself, still there are
impossibilities, which are more dear than any thing that can be
compassed by man. As he stood, not venturing to say any thing–not
knowing, indeed, what to say–Sara suddenly turned round and discovered
him. She looked up, and neither did she say any thing; but when their
eyes met, a sudden violent scorching blush flashed over her face. Was it
anger, indignation, displeasure? He could not tell–but one thing was
very clear, that it was recollection. She had not forgotten his wild
words any more than he had. They were tingling in her ears as in his,
and she did not look at him with the steady look of indignation putting
him down. On the contrary, it was her eyes which sank before his, though
she did not immediately turn away her face. That was all–and no
rational human creature could have said it meant any thing; but yet when
it came to be Powys’s fate to address himself once more to the
photographs, he did so with the blood coursing through all his veins,
and his life as it were quickened within him. The other people with whom
she was intimate, who were free to crowd around her, to talk to her, to
occupy her attention, were yet nothing to her in comparison with what he
was. Between these two there was a consciousness that existed between no
other two in the party, friendly and well-acquainted as they all were.
The Canadian was in such a state of mind that this one point in the
evening made every thing else comparatively unimportant. His companion
at dinner had been kind and had talked to him; but after dinner, when
the ladies left, the men had snubbed the intruder. Those who were near
him had rushed into talk about people and places of whom he had no
knowledge, as ill-bred persons are apt to do–and he had not found it
pleasant. They had made him feel that his position was an anomalous one,
and the backwoodsman had longed in his heart to show his sense of their
rudeness and get up and go away. But after he had seen Sara’s blush, he
forgot all about the young fellows and their impertinence. He was at the
time of life when such a thing can happen. He was for the moment quite
content with the photographs, though he had not an idea what they were
like. He was not hoping any thing, nor planning any thing, nor believing
that any thing could come of it. He was slightly delirious, and did not
know what he was about–that was all.

“Are you fond of this sort of thing?” Mr. Brownlow said, coming up. Mr.
Brownlow paid him an uneasy sort of attention, which made Powys more
uncomfortable than the neglect of the others, for it implied that his
host knew he was being neglected and wanted to make it up to him; “but
then you should have seen all these places before you can care for them.
And you have never been abroad.”

“No, except on the other side of the Atlantic,” said Powys, with
colonial pride; “and you don’t seem to think any thing of that.”

“Ah, yes, Canada,” said Mr. Brownlow; and then he was so anxious to keep
his young visitor in good-humor that he began to talk solidly and
heavily of Canada and its resources and future prospects. Mr. Brownlow
was _distrait_, and not very well informed, and Powys had not the heart
to laugh at Sara’s father even when he made mistakes, so that the
conversation was not very lively between them. This, however, was all
the amusement the stranger got on his first evening at Brownlows. The
proposal to go there had thrown him into a kind of ecstasy, but this was
all the result. When he got into his own room at night and thought it
all over, an impulse of good sense came to his aid. It was folly. In the
office at Masterton he was in his fit place, and nobody could object to
him; but this was not his fit place. It might be uncivil and bad manners
on their part to make him feel it, but yet the party at Brownlows was
right. He had nothing to do there. If he could think that Miss
Brownlow’s heart had softened a little toward him, it was his duty all
the more to deny himself and take himself out of her way. What had love
to do between her and him? It was monstrous–not to be thought of. He
had been insane when he came, but to-morrow he would go back, and make a
stern end of all those dreams. These were Powys’s thoughts within
himself. But there was a conversation going on about him down stairs of
a very different kind.

When the company had all retired, Jack detained his father and his
sister to speak to them. Jack was highly uncomfortable in his mind
himself, and naturally he was in a very rampant state of virtue. He
could not endure that other people should have their cakes and ale; and
he did not like his father’s looks nor Sara’s, and felt as if the honor
of his house was menaced somehow. He took Sara’s candle from her after
his father had lighted it, and set it down on the table. “The nuisance
of having all these people,” said Jack, “is, that one never has a moment
to one’s self, and I want to speak to you. I don’t mean to say any thing
against Powys, sir–nobody knows any thing about him. Has he told you
what he said to Sara when he was last here?”

“Jack! how dare you?” said Sara, turning on her brother; but Jack took
no notice of her beautiful blazing eyes.

“Did he tell you, that you are so well informed?” said Mr. Brownlow. If
either of his children had been cool enough to observe it, they would
have perceived that he was too quiet, and that his calm was unnatural;
but they suspected nothing, and consequently they did not observe.

“He told me enough to make me understand,” said Jack; “and I dare say
you’ve forgotten how young men think, and don’t suppose it’s of any
consequence. Sara knows. If it was a mere nothing, I should not take the
trouble,” added the exemplary brother; “but, in the circumstances, it’s
my duty to interfere. After what he said, when you bring him here again
it is giving him license to speak; it is giving him a kind of tacit
consent. She knows,” said Jack, pointing to his sister, who confronted
him, growing pale and growing scarlet. “It’s as good as saying you will
back him out; and, good heavens, when you consider who he is–”

“Do _you_ know who he is?” said Mr. Brownlow. He was very hard put to it
for that moment, and it actually occurred to him to deliver himself of
his secret, and throw his burden on their shoulders–the two who, in
their ignorance, were thus putting the last touch of exasperation to his
ordeal. He realized the blank amazement with which they would turn to
him, the indignation, the– Ah, but he could not go any farther. What
would have succeeded to the first shock of the news he dared not
anticipate–beggary probably, and utter surrender of every thing;
therefore Mr. Brownlow held his peace.

“I know he is in the office at Masterton,” said Jack–“I know he is your
clerk, and I don’t suppose he is a prince in disguise. If he is honest,
and is who he professes to be–I beg your pardon, sir, for saying
so–but he ought not to be brought into my sister’s society, and he has
no business to be here.”

“Papa!” cried Sara, breathless, “order him to be quiet! Is it supposed
that I can’t see any one without being in danger of–of–that any man
whom papa chooses to bring is to be kept away for me? I wonder what you
think of me? We girls are not such wretched creatures, I can tell you;
nor so easily led; nor so wicked and proud–nor– Papa! stop this
immediately, and let Jack mind his own affairs.”

“I have just one word to say, Jack,” said Mr. Brownlow,–“my darling, be
quiet–never mind;–Powys is more important to me than if he were a
prince in disguise. I know who he is. I have told your sister that I
think nothing in this house too good for him. He is my clerk, and you
think he is not as good as you are; but he is very important to me. I
give you this explanation, not because I think you have any right to it,
after your own proceedings. And as for you, my dear child,” he added,
putting his arm round her, with an involuntary melting of his heart,
“my pretty Sara! you are only to do what your heart suggests, my
darling. I once asked a sacrifice of you, but I have not the heart now.
If your heart goes this way, it will be justice. Yes, justice. I know
you don’t understand me; but if not, Sara, I will not interfere with
you. You are to do according to your own heart.”

“Papa!” said Sara, clinging to him, awed and melted and astonished by
the emotion in his eyes.

“Yes,” Mr. Brownlow repeated, taking her face in his hands, and kissing
it. If he had been a soft-hearted man he would have been weeping, but
there was something in his look beyond tears. “It will be just, and the
best way–but only if it’s after your own heart. And I know you don’t
understand me. You’ll never understand me, if all goes well; but all the
same, remember what I say.”

And then he took up the candle which Jack had taken out of Sara’s hand.
“Never understand me–never, if all goes well,” he muttered to himself.
He was strained to the last point, and he could not bear any more.
Before his children had recovered from their amaze he had gone away, not
so much as looking at them again. They might talk or speculate as they
would; he could bear no more.

Jack and Sara looked in each other’s faces as he disappeared. They were
both startled, but in a different way. Was he mad? his son thought; and
Jack grew pale over the possibility: but as for Sara, her life was bound
up in it. It was not the blank of dismay and wonder that moved her. She
did not speculate on what her father meant by justice. Something else
stirred in her heart and veins. As for Jack, he was thunderstruck. “He
must be going mad!” he said. “For heaven’s sake, Sara, don’t give any
weight to these delusions; he can’t be in his right mind.”

“Do you mean papa?” said Sara, stamping her foot in indignation; “he is
a great deal wiser than you will ever be. Jack, I don’t know what you
mean; it must be because you are wicked yourself that you think every
body else is going wrong; but you shall not speak so to me.”

“Yes; I see you are going to make a fool of yourself,” said Jack, in his
superiority. “You are shutting your eyes and taking your own way. When
you come to a downfall you will remember what I say. You are trying to
make a fool of him, but you won’t succeed–mind I tell you, you won’t
succeed. He knows what he is about too well for that.”

“If it is Mr. Powys you are speaking of–” said Sara; but she paused,
for the name betrayed her somehow–betrayed her even to herself,
bringing the color to her cheeks and a gleam to her eyes. Then she made
believe as if she scorned to say more, and held her little head high
with lofty contempt, and lighted her candle. “I am sure we should not
agree on that subject, and it is better we should not try,” said Sara,
and followed her father loftily up stairs, leaving Jack discomfited,
with the feeling of a prophet to whom nobody would listen. He said to
himself he knew how it would be–his father had got some wild idea in
his head! and Sara was as headstrong and fanciful as ever girl was, and
would rush to her own destruction. Jack went out with this sense of
approaching calamity in his mind, and lighted his cigar, and took a turn
down the avenue as far as the gate, where he could see the light in Mrs.
Preston’s window. It seemed to him that the world was losing its
balance–that only he saw how badly things were turning, and nobody
would listen to him. And, strangely enough, his father’s conduct seemed
so mad to him altogether that his mind did not fix on the maddest word
of it–the word which by this time had got into Sara’s head, and was
driving her half wild with wonder. Justice! What did it mean? Sara was
thinking in her agitation: but Jack, taking things in general as at
their worst, passed over that particular. And thus they all separated
and went to bed, as was to be supposed, in the most natural and seemly
way. People slept well at Brownlows in general, the air being so good,
and all the influences so healthful, after these long days out-of-doors;
and nobody was the wiser for it if “the family” were any way disturbed
among themselves.

As for Mr. Brownlow, he threw himself down on his bed in a certain lull
of despair. He was dead tired. It was pitiful to see him thus worn out,
with too little hope to make any exertion, driven to his last resource,
thinking of nothing but of how to forget it all for a little and get it
out of his mind. He tried to sleep and to be still, and when he found he
could not sleep, got up again and took some brandy–a large fiery
dose–to keep his thoughts away. He had thought so much that now he
loathed thinking. If he could but go on and let fortune bring him what
it might; if he could but fall asleep–asleep, and not wake again till
all was over–not awake again at all for that matter. There was nothing
so delightful in the world that he should wish very much to wake again.
Not that the faintest idea of putting an end to himself ever crossed his
mind. He was only sick of it all, tired to death, disgusted with every
thing–his own actions, and the frivolity and folly of others who
interfered with his schemes, and the right that stood in his way, and
the wrong that he was trying to do. At that moment he had not heart
enough to go on with any thing. Such moments of disgust come even to
those who are the most energetic and ready. He seemed to have thrown the
guidance of affairs out of his hands, and be trusting to mere blind
chance–if any thing is ruled by chance. If this boy and girl should
meet, if they should say to each other certain foolish words, if they
should be idiots enough, the one and the other, as to commit themselves,
and pledge their lives to an act of the maddest absurdity, not unmixed
with wickedness–for it would be wicked of Powys, poor as he was, and
burdened as he was, to ask Sara to marry him, and it would be insanity
on her part to consent–if this mad climax should arrive, then a kind of
salvation in ruin, a kind of justice in wrong, would be wrought. And to
this chance Mr. Brownlow, after all his plans and schemes, after all his
thought and the time he had spent in considering every thing, had come
as the sole solution of his difficulties. He had abdicated, as it were,
the throne of reason, and left himself to chance and the decision of two
ignorant children. What wind might veer their uncertain intentions, or
sudden impulse change them, he could not tell. He could not influence
them more, could not guide them, any farther. What could he do but
sleep? Oh, that he could have but slept, and let the crisis accomplish
itself and all be over! Then he put out his light and threw himself upon
his bed, and courted slumber like a lover. It was the only one thing in
the world Mr. Brownlow could now do, having transferred, as it were, the
responsibility and the power of action into other hands.

Continue Reading

THE REAL TRAITOR

While these things were going on at the gate of Brownlows, a totally
different scene was being enacted in Masterton. Mr. Brownlow was at his
office, occupied with his business and the people in his house, and the
hundred affairs which make up a man’s life. And as he had little time to
brood over it, it had very much gone out of his mind how near he was to
the crisis of his fate. An unexperienced sailor when he sees the port
near is apt to be lulled into a dream of safety, though the warier
seaman knows that it is the most dangerous moment. Mr. Brownlow was not
inexperienced, but yet he allowed himself to be deluded into this sense
of security after all his terrors. Young Powys came to business every
day, and was very steady and regular, and a little disconsolate,
evidently having nothing in his mind which could alarm his employer.
When Mr. Brownlow looked up and saw the young fellow going steadily and
sadly about his business, it sometimes gave him a sense of compunction,
but it no longer filled him with fear. He had come to think the youth
was harmless, and with the base instinct of human nature no longer cared
for him. At least he cared for him in a different way; he promised to
himself to make it all up to him afterward–to be his providence, and
looked after him and establish him in the world–to give him no reason
to repent having entrusted his fortunes to his hands. This was how Mr.
Brownlow was thinking; and he had succeeded in making himself believe
that this course was far the best for Powys. As for justice, it was
rarely to be had under any circumstances. This young fellow had no more
right to it than another; probably if mere justice had been dealt to him
it would have been the ruin of him, as well as the ruin of other people.
His _real_ advantage after all was what Mr. Brownlow studied. Such
thoughts by dint of practice became easier and more natural. The lawyer
actually began to feel and believe that for every body concerned he was
taking the best course; and the September days wore on, blazing, sultry,
splendid, with crack of guns over the stubble, and sound of mirth
in-doors, where every room was full and every association cheerful. It
would only have been making Powys uncomfortable (Mr. Brownlow reflected)
to have invited him at that moment among so many people, even if the
accident with Sara had not prevented it. By and by, when all was safe,
Sara should go away in her turn to visit her friends, and Powys should
be had out to Brownlows, and have the remains of the sport, and be
received with paternal kindness. This was the plan Mr. Brownlow had
formed, and in the mean time he was cheerful and merry, and no way
afraid of his fate.

Things were so when one morning he received a sudden message from old
Mrs. Fennell. He had not been to see her for a long time. He had
preferred, as far as possible, to ignore her very existence. His own
conduct appeared to him in a different light when he saw her. It was
blacker, more heinous, altogether vile, when he caught the reflection of
it as in a distorted mirror in the old woman’s suggestions. And it made
Mr. Brownlow very uncomfortable. But this morning the summons was
urgent. It was conveyed in a note from his mother-in-law herself. The
billet was written on a scrap of paper, in a hand which had never been
good, and was now shaky and irregular with old age. “I want to speak to
you particular.” Mrs. Fennell wrote. “It’s about old Nancy and her
goings on. There’s something astir that is against your advantage and
the children. Don’t waste any time, but come to me;” and across the
envelope she had written _Immediate_ in letters half an inch long. Mr.
Brownlow had a momentary thrill, and then he smiled to himself in the
imbecility of self-delusion. “Some fancy she has taken into her head,”
he said. Last time she had sent for him her fears had come to nothing,
and _his_ fears, which were exaggerated, as he now thought, had worn out
all his capabilities of feeling. He took it quite calmly now. When he
had freed himself of his more pressing duties, he took his hat, and went
leisurely across the market-place, to his mother-in-law’s lodgings. The
door was opened to him by Nancy, in whose looks he discovered nothing
particular; and it did not even strike him as singular that she followed
him up stairs, and went in after him to Mrs. Fennell’s sitting-room. The
old lady herself was sitting in a great chair, with her foot upon a high
footstool, and all her best clothes on, as for an occasion of great
solemnity. Her head was in continued palsied motion, and her whole
figure trembling with excitement. She did not even wait until Mr.
Brownlow had taken the chair which Nancy offered him with unusual
politeness. “Shut the door,” she cried. “Nancy, don’t you go near Mr.
Brownlow with your wiles, but shut the door and keep in your own place.
Keep in your own place–do; and don’t fuss about a gentleman as if that
was to change his opinion, you old fool, at your age.”

“I’m but doing my duty,” said Nancy; “it’s little change my wiles could
make on a gentleman–never at no age as I know on–and never with Mr.
Brownlow–”

“Hold your peace,” cried Mrs. Fennell. “I know your tricks. You’re old,
and you should know better; but a woman never thinks as it’s all over
with her. John Brownlow, you look in that woman’s face and listen to me.
You’ve given her food and clothes and a roof over her head for years and
years, and a wage that I never could see the reason for; and here she’s
been a-conspiring and a-treating with your enemies. I’ve found her out,
though I am old and feeble. Ne’er a one of them can escape me. I tell
you she’s been conspiring with your enemies. I don’t say that you’ve
been overkind to me; but I can’t sit by and see my Bessie’s children
wronged; and I’ve brought you here to set you face to face and hear what
she’s got to say.”

Mr. Brownlow listened to her without changing countenance; he held his
breath hard, and when she ceased speaking he let it go with a long
respiration, such as a man draws after a great shock. But that was the
only sign of emotion he showed; partly because he was stunned by the
unexpected blow; partly because he felt that her every word betrayed
him, and that nothing but utter self-command could do him any good.

“What does this mean?” he said, turning from Mrs. Fennell to Nancy. “Who
are my enemies? If you have any thing to say against Nancy, or if Nancy
has any thing to say–”

“She’s a traitor,” cried Mrs. Fennell, with a voice which rose almost to
a scream. “She’s a real traitor;–she eats your bread, and she’s
betrayed you. That’s what I mean and it’s as clear as day.”

All this time Nancy stood steadily, stolidly by, with her hand on the
back of the chair, not defiant but watchful. She had no wish to lose her
place, and her wages, and her comforts; but yet, if she were sent away,
she had a claim upon the other side. She had made herself a friend like
the unjust steward. And she stood and watched and saw all that passed,
and formed her conclusions.

Therefore she was in no way disturbed when Mr. Brownlow turned round and
looked her in the face. He was very steady and self-possessed, yet she
saw by the way that he turned round on his chair, by the grasp he took
of the back of it, by the movement of his eyelids, that every word had
told upon him. “You must speak a little more plainly,” he said, with an
attempt at a smile. “Perhaps you will give me your own account of it,
Nancy. Whom have you been conspiring with? Who are my enemies? I think I
am tolerably at peace with all the world, and I don’t know.”

Nancy paused with momentary hesitation, whether to speak the simple
truth, and see the earthquake which would ensue, which was a suggestion
made by the dramatic instinct within her–or whether to keep on the safe
side and deny all knowledge of it. If she had been younger, probably she
would have preferred the former for the sake of excitement; but being
old she chose the latter. She grew meek under Mr. Brownlow’s eyes, so
meek that he felt it an outrage on his good sense, and answered softly
as became a woman anxious to turn away wrath.

“Nor me, sir,” said Nancy, “_I_ don’t know. If I heard of one as was
your enemy, it would be reason enough to me for never looking nigh, him.
I’ve served you and yours for long, and it’s my place to be faithful.
I’ve been a-seeing of some old friends as lives a little bit out o’
Masterton. I’m but a servant, Mr. Brownlow, but I’ve some friends; and I
never heard as you was one to think as poor folks had no heart. It was a
widow woman, as has seen better days; it ain’t much I can do for her,
but she’s old, and she’s poor, and I go to see her a bit times and
times. I hope there ain’t nothing in _that_ that displeases you. If I
stayed longer than I ought last time–”

“What is all this to me?” said Mr. Brownlow. “Who is your widow woman?
Do you want me to do any thing for her? has she a family? There are
plenty of charities in Masterton if she belongs to the place. But it
does not seem worth while to have brought me here for this.”

“You know better than that, John Brownlow,” said Mrs. Fennel, in a kind
of frenzy. “If it was any poor woman, what would I have cared? Let ’em
starve, the hussies, as brings it all on themselves. There’s but one
woman as would trouble me, and you know who it is, John Brownlow; and
that old witch there, she knows, and it’s time to put a stop to it all.
It’s time to put a stop to it all, I say. She’s a-carrying on with that
woman; and my Bessie’s children will be robbed before my very eyes; and
I’m a poor old creature, and their own father as ought to take their
part! I tell you, it’s that woman as she’s a-carrying on with; and
they’ll be robbed and ruined, my pretty dears, my Bessie’s children! and
she’ll have it all, that wretch! I’d kill her, I’d strangle her, I’d
murder her, if it was me!”

Mrs. Fennell’s eyes were blood-shot, and rolled in their sockets
wildly–her head shook with palsied rage–her voice stammered and
staggered–and she lifted her poor old lean hands with wild, incoherent
gestures. She was half-mad with passion and excitement. She, who was so
terribly in earnest, so eager in her insane desire to save him, was in
reality the traitor whom he had most to fear; and Mr. Brownlow had his
senses sufficiently about him to perceive this. He exerted himself to
calm her down and soothe her. “I will see after it–I will see after
it,” he said. “I will speak to Nancy–don’t excite yourself.” As for
Mrs. Fennell, not his persuasion, but her own passion wore her out
presently, and reduced her to comparative calm; after awhile she sank
into silence, and the half doze, half stupor of extreme age. When this
re-action had come on, Mr. Brownlow left the room, making a sign to
Nancy to follow him, which the old woman did with gradually-rising
excitement, feeling that now indeed her turn had come. But he did not
take her apart, as she had hoped and supposed, to have a desperate
passage of arms. He turned round on the stair, though the landlady stood
below within hearing ready to open the door, and spoke to her calmly and
coldly. “Has she been long like this?” he said, and looked Nancy so
steadily in the face that, for the first time, she was discomfited, and
lost all clue to his meaning. She stood and stared at him for a minute,
not knowing what to say.

“Has she been long like this?” Mr. Brownlow repeated a little sharply.
“I must see after a doctor at once. How long has it lasted? I suppose no
one can tell but you?”

“It’s lasted–but I don’t know, sir,” said Nancy, “I don’t know; I
couldn’t say, as it was nothing the matter with her head. She thinks as
there’s a foundation. It’s her notion as I’ve found out–”

“That will do,” said Mr. Brownlow; “I have no curiosity about your
friends. It is your mistress’s health I am thinking of. I will call on
Dr. Bayley as I go back; and you will see that she is kept quiet, and
has every attention. I am grieved to see her in such an excited state.
And, by the way, you will have the goodness not to leave her again. If
your friends require your visits, let me know, and I will send a nurse.
If it has been neglect that has brought this on, you may be sure it will
tell on yourself afterward,” Mr. Brownlow added, as he went out. All
this was said in the presence of the mistress of the house, who heard
and enjoyed it. And he went away without another look at her, without
another word, without praying for her silence, or pleading with her for
her secret, as she had expected. Nancy was confounded, notwithstanding
all her knowledge. She stood and stared after him with a sinking heart,
wondering if there were circumstances she did not know, which held him
harmless, and whether after all it had been wise of her to attach
herself to the cause of his adversaries. She was disappointed with the
effect she had produced–disappointed of the passage of arms she had
expected, and the keen cross-examination which she had been prepared to
baffle. She looked so blank that the landlady, looking on, felt that she
too could venture on a passing arrow.

“You’ll take my word another time, Nancy,” she said. “I told you as it
was shameful neglect to go and leave her all by herself, and her so old
and weakly, poor soul! You don’t mind the likes of us, but you’ll have
to mind what your master says.”

“He ain’t no master of mine,” said Nancy, fiercely, “nor you ain’t my
mistress, Lord be praised. You mind your own business, and I’ll mind
mine. It’s fine to be John Brownlow, with all his grandeur; but pride
goes before a fall, is what I says,” the old woman muttered, as she went
back to Mrs. Fennell’s room. She had said so at Brownlows, looking at
the avenue which led to the great house, and at the cozy little lodge
out of which she had already planned to turn old Betty. That vision rose
before her at this trying moment, and comforted her a little. On the one
side the comfortable lodge, and an easy life, and the prospect of
unbounded tyranny over a new possessor, who should owe every thing to
her; but, on the other side, dismissal from her present post, which was
not unprofitable, an end of her good wages and all her consolations.
Nancy drew her breath hard at the contrast; the risk seemed to her as
great almost as the hope.

Mr. Brownlow left the door composed and serious, as a man does who has
just been in the presence of severe perhaps fatal illness, and he went
to Dr. Bayley, and told that gentleman that his mother-in-law’s brain
was, he feared, giving way, and begged him to see her immediately; and
then he went to the office, grave and silent, without a touch of
apparent excitement. When he got there, he stopped in the outer office,
and called Powys into his own room. “We have not seen you at Brownlows
for a long time,” he said. “Jack has some young fellows with him
shooting. You had better take a week’s holiday, and come up with me
to-night. I shall make it all right with Wrinkell. You can go home and
get your bag before the dog-cart comes.”

He said this quickly, without any pause for consideration, as if he had
been giving instructions about some deed drawing out; and it was some
time before Powys realized the prospect of paradise thus opening before
him. “I, sir–do you mean me?” he cried, in his amazement. “To-night?”
And Mr. Brownlow appeared to his clerk as if he had been an angel from
heaven.

“Yes,” he said, with a smile, “to-night. I suppose you can do it? You do
not want much preparation for pleasure at your age.”

Then poor Powys suddenly turned very pale. Out of the first glow of
delight he sank into despondency. “I don’t know, sir–if you may have
forgotten–what I once said to you–about–about my folly,” faltered the
young man, not daring to look into his employer’s face.

“About–?” said Mr. Brownlow; and then he made as though he suddenly
recollected, and laughed. “Oh, yes, I remember,” he said. “I suppose all
young men are fools sometimes in that respect. But I don’t see it is any
business of mine. You can settle it between you. Be ready for me at six
o’clock.”

And thus it was all arranged. Powys went out to get his things, not
knowing whether he walked or flew, in such a sudden amaze of delight as
few men ever experience; and when he was gone Mr. Brownlow put down his
ashy face into his clasped hands. Heaven! had it come to this? At the
last moment, when the shore was so near, the tempest well-nigh spent,
deliverance at hand, was there no resource but this, no escape? All his
precautions vain, his wiles, his struggle of conscience! His face was
like that of a dead man as he sat by himself and realized what had
happened. Why could not he fly to the end of earth, and escape the
Nemesis? Was there nothing for it but, like that other wretched father,
to sacrifice his spotless child?

Continue Reading

SUSPICION

Neither the next day, however, nor the next again, was Mrs. Preston able
to move. The doctor had to be brought at last, and he enjoined perfect
quiet and freedom from care. If she had any thing on her mind, it was to
be exorcised and put away, he ordered, speaking to Mrs. Swayne and
Pamela, who had not a notion what she had on her mind. As for the
patient, she made her effort to rise every morning, and failed, and
turned upon her watchers such looks of despair as bewildered them. Every
morning Jack Brownlow would come to ask for her, which was the only
moment of the day in which Pamela found a little comfort; but her mother
found it out instinctively, and grew so restless, and moaned so
pitifully when her child left her, that even that sorrowful pleasure had
to be given up. The young people did not know what to think. They
persuaded themselves sometimes that it was only the effect of illness,
and that a fancy so sudden and unexplainable would, when she was better,
vanish as unreasonably as it came; but then, what was it she had to do?
When she had lain for several days in this state of feebleness, always
making vain efforts after strength, another change came over Mrs.
Preston. The wild look went out of her eyes. One morning she called
Pamela to her with more than her usual energy. “I am going to be very
quiet and still for a week,” she said; “if I am not better then, I will
tell you what you must do, Pamela. You must send for the rector and for
Nancy Christian from old Mrs. Fennell’s in Masterton. This is Tuesday,
and it is the 30th; and I will try for a week. If I am not better next
Tuesday, you must send for the rector. Promise me to do exactly what I
say.”

“Yes, mamma,” said Pamela; “but oh! what for?–if you would only tell me
what it is for! You never kept any thing secret from me.”

Mrs. Preston turned a wistful look upon her child. “I must not tell
you,” she said; “I can not tell you. If I did you would not thank me.
You will know it soon enough. Don’t ask me any questions for a week. I
mean to try and get well to do it myself; but if I don’t get well, no
more time must be lost. You must not cross me, Pamela. What do you think
I should care if it was not for you?”

“And perhaps if I knew I should not care,” cried the poor little girl,
wringing her hands. She did not know what it was; but still it became as
clear as daylight to her that it was something against Jack.

“You would tell it to him,” Mrs. Preston said, with a deep sigh. Perhaps
Pamela did not hear her, for the words were spoken almost under her
breath; but the girl heard the sigh, and divined what it meant. It was
bitter to her, poor child, and hard to think that she could not be true
to both–that her mother was afraid of trusting her–and that Jack and
Mrs. Preston were ranged on different sides, with her love and faith, as
a bone of contention, between them. Perhaps it was all the harder that
she could not cry over it, or get any relief to her soul. Things by this
time had become too serious for crying. The little soft creature grew
without knowing into a serious woman. She had to give up such vain
pleasures as that of tears over her trouble. No indulgence of the kind
was possible to her. She sat by her mother’s bedside all day long, and
with her mother’s eye upon her, had to feign composure when she little
possessed it. Mrs. Preston was unreasonable for the first time in her
life as regarded Pamela. She forgot what was needful for the child’s
health, which was a thing she had never done in her life before. She
could not bear her daughter out of her sight. If she went down stairs
for half an hour, to breathe the fresh air, her mother’s eyes would
follow her to the door with keen suspicion and fear. Pamela was glad to
think that it must be her illness, and that only, which had this effect.
Even Mrs. Swayne was more considerate. She was ready to come as often as
it was possible to watch by the sick-bed and let the poor little nurse
free; but Mrs. Preston was not willing to let her free. As it happened,
however, Mrs. Swayne was in the room when her lodger gave Pamela
instructions about calling the rector if she were not better in a week,
and it startled the curious woman. She told it to her neighbor and
tenant in the next house, and she told it to old Betty; and the thing by
degrees grew so patent to the parish that at last, and that no later
than the Friday, it came to Mr. Hardcastle’s ears. Naturally it had
changed in the telling. Whereas Mrs. Preston had directed him to be sent
for in a certain desperate case, and as a last resource, the rector
heard that Mrs. Swayne’s inmate was troubled in her mind, and was
anxious to confide some secret to him. What the secret was was doubtful,
or else it would not have been a secret; but all Dewsbury believed that
the woman was dying, and that she had done something very bad indeed,
and desired the absolution of a priest before she could die in peace.
When he heard this, it was equally natural that Mr. Hardcastle should
feel a little excited. He was disposed toward High Church views, though
he was not a man to commit himself, and approved of people who wanted
absolution from a priest. Sometimes he had even a nibble at a
confession, though unfortunately the people who confessed to him had
little on their minds, and not much to tell. And the idea of a penitent
with a real burden on her conscience was pleasant. Accordingly he got
himself up very carefully on the Saturday, and set out for Mrs.
Swayne’s. He went with the wisdom of a serpent and the meekness of a
dove, not professedly to receive a confession, but to call, as he said,
on his suffering parishioner; and he looked very important and full of
his mission when he went up stairs. Mrs. Swayne had gone astray after
the new lights of Dissent, and up to this moment the dwellers under her
roof had received no particular notice from Mr. Hardcastle, so that it
was a little difficult to account for his solicitude now.

“I heard you were ill,” said the rector; “indeed I missed you from
church. As you are a stranger, and suffering, I thought there might be
something that we could do–”

“You are very kind,” said Mrs. Preston; and then she looked askance both
at Mrs. Swayne and Pamela, keenly searching in their eyes to see if they
had sent for him. And as Pamela, who knew nothing about it, naturally
looked the guiltiest, her mother’s heart was smitten with a sharp pang
at the thought that she had been betrayed.

“Not kind at all,” said Mr. Hardcastle, with animation. “It is my duty,
and I am never tired of doing my duty. If you have any thing to say to
me now–”

Once more Mrs. Preston cast a keen glance at her daughter. And she asked
slowly, “What should I have to say?” looking not at the rector, but
suspiciously into Pamela’s face.

“My dear friend, how can I tell?” said Mr. Hardcastle. “I have seen a
great deal of the world in my time, and come through a great deal. I
know how suffering tries and tests the spirit. Don’t be shy of speaking
to me. If,” the rector added, drawing a little nearer her pillow, “you
would like me to send your attendants away–”

“Am I dying?” said Mrs. Preston, struggling up upon her bed, and looking
so pale that Pamela ran to her, thinking it was so. “Am I so ill as
that? Do they think I can not last out the time I said?”

“Mamma, mamma, you are a great deal better–you know you are a great
deal better. How can you say such dreadful things?” said Pamela,
kneeling by the bedside.

“If I am not dying, why do you forestall my own time?” said Mrs.
Preston. “Why did you trouble Mr. Hardcastle? It was soon enough on the
day I said.”

“My dear friend,” said the rector, “I hope you don’t think it is only
when you are dying that you have need of good advice and the counsel of
your clergyman. I wish it was more general to seek it always. What am I
here for but to be at the service of my parishioners night and day? And
every one who is in mental difficulty or distress has a double claim
upon me. You may speak with perfect freedom–whatever is said to me is
sacred.”

“Then you knew I wanted to speak to you?” said Mrs. Preston. “Thank you,
you are very kind. I am not ungrateful. But you knew I wanted to ask
your assistance? Somebody sent for you, perhaps?”

“I can not say I was sent for,” said Mr. Hardcastle–with a little
confusion, “but I heard–you know, in a country place the faintest wish
you can express takes wings to itself, and becomes known everywhere. I
understood–I heard–from various quarters–that if I came here–I might
be of use to you.”

All the answer Mrs. Preston made to this was to turn round to the head
of the bed where Pamela stood, half hidden, in the corner. “That you
might have something to tell him a little sooner!” she said. Her voice,
though it was very low, so low as to be inaudible to the visitor, was
bitter and sharp with pain, and she cast a glance full of reproach and
anguish at her only child. She thought she had been betrayed. She
thought that, for the lover’s sake, who was dearer than father or
mother, her own nursling had forfeited her trust. It was a bitter
thought, and she was ill, and weak, and excited, and her mind distorted,
so that she could not see things in their proper light. The bitterness
was such that Pamela, utterly innocent as she was, sank before it. She
did not know what she had done. She did not understand what her mother’s
look meant; but she shrank back among the curtains as if she had been
really guilty, and it brought to a climax her sense of utter confusion
and dismay.

“I will tell you what the case is,” Mrs. Preston added quickly, the
color coming back to her cheek. “I am not in very good health, as you
see, but I have something very important to do before I die. It concerns
the comfort of my child. So far as I am involved, it would not
matter–it would not matter–for I shall not live long,” she added with
a certain plaintive tremor of self-pity in her voice. “It is all for
Pamela, sir–though Pamela–but lately I grew frightened, and thought
myself worse; and I told them–I told _her_–that if I was no better
next Tuesday, they were to send for you. I would not trouble you if I
were well enough myself. It was in case I should not be able, and I
thought of asking your help; that is how it was. I suppose it was their
curiosity. Curiosity is not a sin: but–they say I am not worse–they
say I am even a little better. So I will not trouble you, Mr.
Hardcastle. By that time I shall be able for what I have to do.”

“You must not be too sure of that,” said the rector; and he meant it
kindly, though the words had but a doubtful sound; “and you must not
think I am prying or intrusive. I was not sent for: but I
understood–that–I might be of use. It is not giving me trouble. If
there is any thing I can do for you if you have no friends–”

“We shall soon have plenty of friends,” said Mrs. Preston quickly, with
a certain mocking tone in her voice; “plenty of friends. We have not had
many hitherto; but all that will soon change. Yes, I shall be able for
what I have to do. I feel quite sure of it. You have done me a great
deal of good. After it is done,” she said, with that desolate look which
Pamela felt to the bottom of her heart, but could not understand, “there
will be time enough to be ill, and to die too, if God pleases. I will
not mind it much when I leave her with many friends.”

“Mamma!” cried Pamela, with a mingled appeal and reproach; but though
she bent over her she could not catch her mother’s eyes.

“It is true,” said Mrs. Preston. “I was like to break my heart when I
thought how old I was, and that I might die and leave you without any
body to care for you; but now you will have many friends–plenty of
friends. And it don’t so much matter.” She ended with such a sigh as
moved even the heart of the rector, and touched Mrs. Swayne, who was
not of a very sympathetic disposition, to tears.

“You must not talk of leaving your child without a protector,” said Mr.
Hardcastle; “if you knew what it was to have a motherless girl to bring
up, you would not speak of it lightly. That is my case. My poor little
Fanny was left motherless when she was only ten. There is no misfortune
like it to a girl. Nobody knows how to manage a young creature but a
mother. I feel it every day of my life,” said the rector, with a sigh.
It was very, very different from Mrs. Preston’s sigh. There was neither
depth in it nor despair like that which breathed in hers. Still, its
superficial sadness was pathetic to the women who listened. They
believed in him in consequence, more perhaps than he believed in
himself, and even Mrs. Swayne was affected against her will.

“Miss Fanny has got them as is father and mother both in one,” she said;
“but bless you, sir, she ain’t always like this. It’s sickness as does
it. One as is more fond of her child, nor prouder of her child, nor more
content to live and see her ’appy, don’t exist, when she’s in her
ordinary. And now, as the rector has come hisself, and ’as comforts at
hand, you’ll pluck up a spirit, that’s what you’ll do. Miss Pamela,
who’s as good as gold, don’t think of nothing but a-nursing and
a-looking after her poor dear mamma; and if so be as you’d make good use
o’ your time, and take the rector’s advice–”

Mrs. Preston closed her lips tight as if she was afraid that some words
would come through against her will, and faced them all with an
obstinate resolution, shaking her head as her only answer. She faced
them half seated on her bed, rising from among her pillows as if they
were all arrayed against her, and she alone to keep her own part. Her
secret was hers, and she would confide it to nobody; and already, in the
shock of this intrusion, it seemed to her as if the languid life had
been stirred in her veins, and her forces were mustering to her heart to
meet the emergency. When she had made this demonstration, she came down
from those heights of determination and responded to the rector’s claim
for sympathy as he knew well every woman would respond. “A girl is the
better of a mother,” she said, “even when she don’t think it. Many a one
is ungrateful, but we are not to look for gratitude. Yes, I know a
mother is still something in this world. Pamela, you’ll remember some
day what Mr. Hardcastle said; and if Miss Fanny should ever want a
friend–But I am getting a little tired. Good-by, Mr. Hardcastle;
perhaps you will come and see me again. And after a while, when I have
done what I have to do–”

“Good-by,” said the rector, after waiting vainly for the close of the
sentence; and he rose up and took his leave, feeling that he had been
dismissed, and had no right to stay longer. “If you should still want
assistance–though I hope you will be better, as you expect–”

Mrs. Preston waved her hand in reply, and he went down stairs much
confused, not knowing what to make of it. The talk he had with Mrs.
Swayne in the passage threw but little light on the matter. Mrs. Swayne
explained that they were poor; that she thought there was “something
between” Miss Pamela and Mr. John; that she herself had essayed
strenuously to keep the young people apart, knowing that nothing but
harm would come of it; but that it was only lately, very lately, that
Mrs. Preston had seemed to be of her opinion. A week ago she had
received a visit, and had shut the door upon the young man, and fallen
ill immediately after. “And all this talk o’ something to do has begun
since that,” she added; “she’s never had nothing to do as long as she’s
been here. There’s a bit of a pension as is paid regular, and there
never was no friends as I know of as could die and leave her money. It’s
some next-of-kin business, that’s my idea, Mr. Hardcastle–some o’ that
rubbish as is in the papers–folks of the name of Smith or such like as
is advertised for, and something to come to their advantage. But she’s
awful close and locked up, as you may say, in her own bosom, and never
said a rational word to me.”

“You don’t think it’s _this_?” said Mr. Hardcastle, putting his hand
significantly to his forehead.

“Oh, bless you, it ain’t that,” said Mrs. Swayne. “She’s as clear as
clear–a deal clearer, for the matter of that, than she was afore; the
first time as she had the sense to turn Mr. John from the door was the
night as she was took. It ain’t that. She’s heard o’ something, you take
my word, and it’s put fancies in her head; and as for that poor Pamela,
she’s as jealous of every look that poor child gives; and I don’t call
it no wonder myself, if you let a girl see a deal of a gentleman, that
she should think more of him than’s good for her. It should have been
stopped when it began; but nobody will ever listen to me.”

Mr. Hardcastle left the house with altogether a new idea in his mind. He
had lectured his neighbor about young Powys and Sara, but he had not
known any thing of this still more serious scandal about Jack. He
murmured to himself over it as he went away with a great internal
_chuchotement_. Poor Mr. Brownlow! both his son and his daughter thus
showing low tastes. And he could not refrain from saying a few words
about it to Jack, whom he met returning with his shooting-party–words
which moved the young man to profound indignation. He was very angry,
and yet it was not in nature that he should remain unmoved by the
suggestion that Pamela’s mother was either mad or had something on her
mind. He had himself seen enough to give it probability. And to call Mr.
Hardcastle a meddling parson, or even by some of those stronger and
still less graceful epithets which sometimes follow the course of a
clergyman’s beneficent career, did but little good. Jack was furious
that any body should have dared to say such words, but the words
themselves rankled in his heart. As soon as he could steal out after
dinner he did so, and went to the gate and saw the glimmering light in
Mrs. Preston’s window, and received Mrs. Swayne’s ungracious report. But
Pamela was not to be seen. She was never to be seen.

“They will kill her with this watching,” he said to himself, as he stood
and watched the light, and ground his teeth with indignation. But he
could do nothing, although she was his own and pledged to him. He was
very near cursing all mothers and fathers, as well as interfering
priests and ungracious women, as he lingered up the avenue going home,
and sucked with indignation and disgust at his extinguished cigar.

Poor little Pamela was no better off up stairs. She was doubted,
suspected, feared–she who had been nothing but loved all her life. The
child did not understand it, but she felt the bitterness of the cloud
into which she had entered. It made her pale, and weighed upon her with
a mysterious depth of distress which would not have been half so heavy
had she been guilty. If she had been guilty she would have known exactly
the magnitude of the offense, and how much she was suspected of; but
being utterly innocent she did not know. Her sweet eyes turned
deprecating, beseeching, to her mother’s but they won no answer. The
thought that her child had conspired against her, that she had planned
to entrap her secret from her and betray it to her lover, that she was a
traitor to the first and tenderest of affections, and that the new love
had engrossed and swallowed up every thing–was the bitter thought that
filled Mrs. Preston’s mind, and hid from her the wistful innocence in
Pamela’s eyes. When the girl arranged her pillows or gave her medicine,
her mother thanked her with formality, and answered her sharply when she
spoke. “Dear mamma, are you not tired?” the poor child would say; and
Mrs. Preston answered, “No, you need not think it, Pamela; people
sometimes balk their own purpose. I shall be able after all. Your rector
has done me good.”

“He is not my rector, mamma,” said Pamela. “I never spoke to him before.
Oh! if you would only tell me why you are angry with me.”

“I am not angry. I suppose it is human nature,” said Mrs. Preston, and
this was all the answer she would give. So that Pamela, poor child, had
nothing for it but to retire behind the curtains and cry. This time the
tears would well forth. She had been used to so much love, and it was
hard to do without it; and when her mother repulsed her, in her heart
she cried out for Jack. She cried out for him in her heart, but he could
not hear her, though at that very moment he was no farther off than in
the avenue, where he was lingering along very indignant and
heavy-hearted, with his cigar out, though he did not know. It might not
be a very deadly trouble to either of the young sufferers, but it was
sharp enough in its way.

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