For there came a day

Within six months all these changes had actually taken place,
occasioning a greater amount of gossip and animadversion in the county
than any other modern event has been known to do. Even that adventure of
young Keppel’s of Ridley, when he ran away with the heiress, was nothing
to it. Running away with heiresses, if you only can manage it, is a
natural enough proceeding. But when a family melts somehow out of the
position it has held for many years, and I glides uncomplainingly into a
different one, and gives no distinct explanation, the neighborhood has
naturally reason to feel aggrieved. There was nothing sudden or painful
about the change. For half a year or so they all continued very quietly
at Brownlows, seeing few people by reason of Pamela’s mourning, yet not
rejecting the civilities of their friends; and then Pamela and Jack were
married. Nobody knew very distinctly who she was. It was a pretty name,
people said, and not a common name–not like the name of a girl he had
picked up in the village, as some others suggested; and if that had been
the case, was it natural that his father and sister should have taken up
his bride so warmly, and received her into their house? Yet why should
they have received her into their house? Surely she must have some
friends. When the astounding events which followed became known, the
county held its breath, and not without reason. As soon as the stir of
the wedding was over, and the young people departed, it became known
suddenly one morning that Mr. Brownlow and his daughter had driven down
quietly in the carriage with the greys for the last time, and had
settled themselves–heaven knew why!–in the house at Masterton for
good. Brownlows was not to be sold: it was to be Jack’s habitation when
he came home, or in the mean time, while he was away, it might be let if
a satisfactory tenant should turn up. There was no house in the county
more luxuriously fitted up or more comfortable; and many people invented
friends who were in want of a house simply in order to have an excuse
for going over it, and investigating all its details, unsubdued by the
presence of any of the owners. And Sara Brownlow had gone to
Masterton!–she, the young princess, for whom nothing was too good–who
had taken all the dignities of her position as mistress of her father’s
house so naturally–and who was as little like a Masterton girl, shut up
in an old-fashioned town house, as can be conceived. How was she to bear
it? Why should Jack have a residence which was so manifestly beyond his
means and beyond his wants? Why should Mr. Brownlow deprive himself, at
his age–a man still in the vigor and strength of life–of the handsome
house and style of living he had been used to? It was a subject very
mysterious to the neighborhood. For a long time no little assemblage of
people could get together anywhere near without a discussion of these
circumstances; and yet there was no fuss made about the change, and none
of the parties concerned had a word of complaint or lamentation to say.

But when the two, who thus exiled themselves out of their paradise, were
in the carriage together driving away after all the excitements of the
period–after having seen Jack and his bride go forth into the world
from their doors only two days before–Mr. Brownlow’s heart suddenly
misgave him. They were rolling out of the familiar gates at the moment,
leaving old Betty dropping her courtesy at the roadside. It was
difficult to keep from an involuntary glance across the road to Mrs.
Swayne’s cottage. Was it possible to believe that all this was over
forever, and a new world begun? He looked at Sara in all her spring
bravery–as bright, as fearless, as full of sweet presumption and
confidence as ever–nestled into the corner of the carriage, which
seemed her natural position, and casting glances of involuntary
supervision and patronage around her, as became the queen of the place.
He looked at her, and thought of the house in the High Street, and his
heart misgave him. How could she bear it? Had she not miscalculated her
strength?

“Sara,” he said, taking her hand in his, as he sat by her side, “this
will be a hard trial for you–you don’t know how hard it will be.”

Sara looked round at him, having been busy with very different thoughts.
“What will be a hard trial?” she said. “Leaving Brownlows? oh, yes!
especially if it is let; but that can only be temporary, you know, papa.
Jack and Pamela don’t mean to stay away forever.”

“But your reign is over forever, my poor child,” said Mr. Brownlow; and
he clasped her hand between his, and patted and caressed it. “When
Pamela comes back it will be a very different matter. You are saying
farewell, my darling, to all your past life.”

When he said this, Sara stood up in the carriage suddenly, and looked
back at Brownlows, and across the field to where the spire of Dewsbury
church rose up among the scanty foliage of the trees. She waved her hand
to them with a pretty gesture of leave-taking. “Then farewell to all my
past life!” said Sara, gayly. She had a tear in her eye, but that she
managed to hide. “I like the present best of all. Papa, you must be
satisfied that I am most happy with you.”

With him! was that indeed the explanation of all? Mr. Brownlow looked at
her anxiously, but he could not penetrate into the mysteries that lay
under Sara’s smile. If she thought of some one else besides her father,
his thoughts too were traveling in the same direction. Thus they took
possession of the house in the High Street. Whether Sara suffered from
the change nobody could tell. She was full of delight in the novelty and
all the quaint half-remembered details of the old family house. She was
never done making discoveries–old portraits, antique bits of
furniture–things that had been considered old-fashioned lumber, but
which, under her touch, became gracious heir-looms and relics of the
past. Old Lady Motherwell, having recovered her temper, took the lead in
visiting the fallen princess. The old lady felt that a sign of her
approval was due to the girl who had been so considerate and
Christian-minded as to refuse Sir Charles when she lost her fortune. She
went full of condolences, and found to her consternation nothing but
gayety. Sara was so full of the excellence and beauty of her new
surroundings that she was incapable of any other thought. Even Lady
Motherwell allowed that her satisfaction was either real or so very
cleverly feigned as to be as good as real; and the county finally grew
bewildered, and asked itself whether the removal was really a downfall
at all, or simply a new caprice on the part of a capricious girl, whose
indulgent father could never say her nay?

All the time Powys kept steadily at work. Six months had passed, and he
had seen her only in the company of others. They had never met alone
since that moment in the dining-room at Brownlows, when Sara’s fortitude
had given way, and he had comforted her. In the mean time his position
too had changed. Old Lady Powys, who once had lived near Masterton, had
put the whole matter into Mr. Brownlow’s hands. She had written volumes
of letters to him, and required from him not only investigation into the
circumstances, but full details, moral and physical, about her son’s
family–their looks, their manners, their character, every thing about
them. It is too late to introduce Lady Powys here; perhaps an occasion
may arise for presenting her ladyship to the notice of persons
interested in her grandson’s fortunes. She was as much a miser as was
consistent with the character and habits of a great lady; if, indeed,
she was not, as she asserted herself to be, a poor woman. But anyhow she
was prepared to do her duty toward her grandchildren. She had little to
leave them, she declared. All the family possessions were in the hands
of Sir Alberic Powys, her other grandson, who was like his mother’s
family, and no favorite with the old lady; but her poor Charley’s son
should have something if she had any interest left; and as for the girls
and their mother, she had a cottage vacant in her own immediate
neighborhood, where they could live and be educated. Mr. Brownlow, for
the moment, kept the greater part of this information to himself. He
said nothing about it to his daughter. He did not even profess to notice
the wistful looks which Sara, sometimes in spite of herself, cast at the
office. He never invited Powys, though he was so near at hand; and the
young man himself, still more tantalized and doubtful than Sara, did not
yet venture to storm the castle in which his princess was confined. She
saw him from her window sometimes, and knew what the look meant which he
directed wistfully at the house, scanning it all over, as if every red
brick in its wall, and every shining twinkling pane, had become precious
to him. Perhaps such a moment of suspense has a certain secret sweetness
in it, if not to the man involved, at least to the woman, who is in no
doubt about the devotion she inspires, and knows that she can reward it
when she so pleases. Perhaps Sara had come to be tacitly aware that no
opposition was to be expected from her father. Perhaps it was a sudden
impulse of mingled compassion and impatience which moved her at last.

For there came a day on which the two met face to face, without the
presence of witnesses. Sara was coming in from a walk. She was arrayed
in bright muslin, clouds of white, with tinges of rosy color, and the
sunshine outside caught the ripple of gold in her hair under her hat,
just as it had done the day Powys saw her first and followed her up the
great staircase at Brownlows to see the Claude. She had time to see him
approaching, and to make up her mind what she should do; and found an
excuse for lingering ten minutes at least on the broad step at the front
door, talking with some passer-by. And old Willis, who had more to do in
the High Street than he had at Brownlows, had grown tired of waiting,
and had left the door open behind her–

Sara was standing all alone on the threshold when Powys came up. His
heart too was beating loud. The sun was in the west, and she was
standing in the full blaze of the light, with one hand on the open door.
Powys was too much excited to think of the fine images that might have
been appropriate to the occasion. He stopped short when he came to the
steps which alone parted her from him. He had his hat off, and his face
was flushed and anxious. There was a moment’s pause–a pause during
which the world and their hearts stood still, and the very breath failed
upon their lips. And even then she did nothing that she might not have
done to a common acquaintance, as people say. She made a step back into
the house, and then she held out her hand to him. “It is so long since I
have seen you–come in!” said Sara. And Powys made but one stride, and
was within beside her. He closed the door, thrusting it to with his
disengaged arm; and I suppose it was time.

When Sara stood in the sunshine, blinded with the light, blushing like a
rose, and said “Come in!” to her lover, she knew very well, of course,
that she had decided her fate. The picture was so pretty that it was
disconcerting to have it shut out all at once by the impetuous young
fellow who went in like a bomb, blazing and ardent, and thrust to the
door upon that act of taking possession. The sunshine went in with them
in a momentary flood. The clouds and the storms and the difficulties
were over. I think that here the historian’s office ends:— there is no
more to say.

Continue Reading

PAMELA’S MIND

The Brownlow family scarcely met again until after Mrs. Preston’s
funeral. Sara did not even attempt to leave her forlorn charge, or to
bring her away from Mrs. Swayne’s on the funeral day. On the first
dreary night after all was over the two girls sat alone in the darkened
rooms, and clung to each other. Poor little Pamela had no more tears to
shed. She looked like the shadow of herself, a white transparent
creature, fragile as a vision. She had no questions to ask, no curiosity
about any thing. She was willing that Sara should arrange and decide,
and take every thing upon herself. She did not care to know, or even
seem to remember, the mysteries her mother had talked of on her
death-bed. When Sara began to explain to her, Pamela had stopped the
explanation. She had grown pale and faint, and begged that she might
hear no more. “I don’t want to know,” she cried hoarsely, with a kind of
sick horror; “if you knew how it changed her, Sara. Oh, if you knew what
she used to be!” And then she would burst into fits of sobbing, which
shook her delicate frame. It had changed her tender mother into a
frantic woman. It had clouded and obscured her at the end, and made her
outset on that last lonely journey such a one as Pamela could not dwell
upon. And there was nobody but Pamela who would ever know how different
she had once been–how different all her life had been to these few days
or weeks. Accordingly the poor child allowed herself to be guided as
Sara pleased, and obeyed her, to spare herself an explanation. She went
into the carriage next morning without a word, and was driven up the
avenue to the great house which she had once entered as an humble
visitor, and from which she had been so long absent. Now she entered it
in very different guise, no longer stealing up the stairs to Sara’s
room, to wait for her young patroness there. It was she now who was
every body’s chief object. Mr. Brownlow himself came to meet her, and
lifted her out of the carriage, and kissed her on the forehead like a
father. He said, “My poor child!” as he looked at her white little face.
And Jack stood behind watching. She saw him and every thing round her as
in a dream. She did not seem to herself to have any power of independent
speech or movement. When she tried to make a step forward, she staggered
and trembled. And then all at once for one moment every thing grew clear
to Pamela, and her heart once more began to beat. As she made that
faltering uncertain step forward, and swayed as if she would have
fallen, Jack rushed to her side. He did not say a word, poor fellow; he
too had lost his voice–but he drew her arm through his and pressed it
trembling to his side, and led her into the place that was to be her
home. It was all clear for a moment, and then it was all dark, and
Pamela knew no more about it until she woke up sometime later and found
herself lying on a sofa in a large, lofty, quiet room. She woke up to
remember her troubles anew, and to feel all afresh as at the first
moment, but yet her life was changed. Her heart was wounded and bleeding
with more than mere natural grief–she was alone in the world. Yet there
was a certain sweetness–a balm in the air–a soothing she knew not what
or how. He had carried her there and laid her down out of his arms, and
kissed her in her swoon, with an outburst of love and despair. It seemed
to him as if he ought to leave her and go away and be seen no more–but
yet he was not going to leave her. His principles and his pride gave way
in one instant before her wan little face. How could any man with a
heart in his breast desert such a tender fragile creature in the moment
of her necessity? Jack went out and wandered about the woods after that,
and spoke to nobody. He began to see, after all, that a man can not
arbitrarily decide on his own conduct; that, in fact, a hundred little
softenings or hardenings–a multitude of unforeseen circumstances are
always coming in. And he ventured to make no new resolutions; only time
could decide what he was to do.

When Pamela had rested for a few days, and regained her self-command,
and become capable of looking at the people who surrounded her, Mr.
Brownlow, who considered an explanation necessary, called together a
solemn meeting of every body concerned. It was Sara’s desire too, for
Sara felt the responsibilities of her guardianship great, and was rather
pleased that they should be recognized. They met round the fire in the
drawing-room, as Pamela was not able yet to go down stairs. Mr.
Brownlow’s dispatch-box in which he had kept his papers lately was
brought up and put on the table; and Jack was there, not sitting with
the rest, but straying about the other end of the room in an agitated
way, looking at the pictures, which he knew by heart. He had scarcely
exchanged a word with Pamela since she came to Brownlows. They had never
seen each other alone. It was what he had himself thought proper and
necessary under the circumstances, but still it chafed him
notwithstanding. Pamela sat by the fire in her deep mourning, looking a
little more like herself. Her chair was close to the bright fire, and
she held out her hands to it with a nervous shiver. Sara too was in a
black dress, and stood on the other side, looking down with a certain
affectionate importance upon her ward. She was very sorry for Pamela,
and deeply aware of the change which had taken place in the
circumstances of all the party. But Sara was Sara still. She was very
tender, but she was important. She felt the dignity of her position; and
she did not mean that any one should forget how dignified and
authoritative that position was.

“Papa, I have brought Pamela as you told me,” said Sara; “but there must
not be too much said to her. She is not strong enough yet. Only what is
indispensable must be said.”

“I will try not to weary her,” said Mr. Brownlow, and then he went to
Pamela’s side in his fatherly way, and took one of her chilly little
hands. “My dear,” he said, “I have some things to speak of that must be
explained to you. You must know clearly why you have been brought here,
and what are your prospects, and the connection between us. You have
been very brave, and have trusted us, and I thank you; but you must hear
how it is. Tell me if I tire you; for I have a great deal to say.”

“Indeed I am quite content, quite content!” cried Pamela; “why should
you take all this trouble? You brought me here because you are very
kind. It is I who have to thank you.”

“That is what she wants to think,” said Sara. “I told her we were not
kind, but she will not believe me. She prefers her own way.”

“Oh, please!” said poor little Pamela; “it is not for my own way. If you
liked me, that would be the best. Yes, that was what I wanted to
think–”

She broke off faltering, and Jack, who had been at the other end of the
room, and whom her faint little voice could not have reached, found
himself, he did not know how, at the back of her chair. But he did not
speak–he could not speak, his lips were sealed.

“You must not be foolish, Pamela,” said her guardian, solemnly; “of
course we love you, but that has nothing to do with it. Listen to papa,
and he will tell you every thing. Only let me know when you are tired.”

Then Mr. Brownlow tried again. “You are quite right,” he said, soothing
the trembling girl; “in every case this house would have been your
proper shelter. Do you know you are Sara’s cousin, one of her relations?
Perhaps that will be a comfort to you. Long ago, before you were born,
your grandmother, whom you never saw, made a will, and left her money to
me in trust for your mother. My poor child! She is not able to be spoken
to yet.”

“Oh, no, I am not able, I will never be able,” cried Pamela, before any
one else could interfere. “I don’t want ever to hear of it. Oh, Mr.
Brownlow, if I am Sara’s cousin, let me stay with her, and never mind
any more. I don’t want any more.”

“But there must be more, my dear child,” said Mr. Brownlow, again taking
her cold little hand into his. “I will wait, if you prefer it, till you
are stronger. But we must go through this explanation, Pamela, for every
body’s sake. Would you rather it should be on another day?”

She paused before she answered, and Sara, who was watching her, saw,
without quite understanding, a pathetic appealing glance which Pamela
cast behind her. Jack would have understood, but he did not see. And
though he was still near her, he was not, as he had been for a moment,
at the back of her chair. Pamela paused as if she were waiting for help.
“If there was any one you could say it to for me–” she said,
hesitating; and then the sudden tears came dropping over her white
cheeks. “I forgot I was alone and had nobody,” she continued in a voice
which wrung her lover’s heart. “I will try to listen now.”

Then Mr. Brownlow resumed. He told her the story of the money truly
enough, and with hearty belief in his story, yet setting every thing, as
was natural, in its best light. He was not excusing himself, but he was
unconsciously using all his power to show how naturally every thing had
happened, how impossible it was that he could have foreseen, and how
anxious he had always been for news of the heir. It was skillfully told,
and yet Mr. Brownlow did not mean it to be skillful. Now that it was all
over, he had forgotten many things that told against himself, and his
narrative was not for Pamela only, but for his own children. His
children listened with so great an interest, that they did not for the
moment observe Pamela. She sat with her hands clasped on her knees,
bending forward toward the fire. She gave no sign of interest, but
listened passively without a change on her face. She was going through
an inevitable and necessary trial. That was all. Her thoughts strayed
away from it. They strayed back into the beaten paths of grief; they
strayed into wistful wonderings why Jack did not answer her; why he did
not assume his proper place, and act for her as he ought to do. Could he
have changed? Pamela felt faint and sick as that thought mingled with
all the rest. But still she could bear it, whatever might be required of
her. It was simply a matter of time. She would listen, but she had never
promised to understand. Mr. Brownlow’s voice went on like the sound of
an instrument in her ears. He was speaking of things she knew nothing
about, cared nothing about. Jack would have understood, but Jack had not
undertaken this duty for her. Even Sara, no doubt, would understand. And
Pamela sat quiet, and looked as if she were listening. That was all that
could be expected of her. At last there came certain words that roused
her attention in spite of herself.

“My poor child, I don’t want to vex you,” Mr. Brownlow said; “if your
mother had lived we should probably have gone to law, for she would have
accepted no compromise, and I should have been obliged to defend myself.
You inherit all her rights, but not her prejudices, Pamela. You must
try to understand what I am saying. You must believe that I mean you
well, that I will deal honorably with you. If she had done so, she might
have been–”

Pamela started up to her feet, taking them all utterly by surprise. “I
don’t want to know any thing about it,” she cried. “Oh, you don’t know,
you don’t know! It changed her so. She was never like that before. She
was as kind, and as tender, and as soft! There never was any one like
her. You don’t know what she was! It changed her. Oh, Jack,” cried the
poor girl, turning round to him and holding out her hands in appeal,
“you can tell! She never was like that before. You know she never was
like that before!”

Sara had rushed to Pamela’s aid before Jack. She supported her in her
arms, and did all she could to soothe her. “We know that,” she said,
with the ready unquestioning partisanship of a woman. “_I_ can tell. I
have seen her. Dear Pamela, don’t tremble so. We were all fond of her;
sit down and listen to papa.”

Then poor Pamela sat down again to undergo the rest of her trial. She
dried her eyes and grew dull and stupid in her mind, and felt the words
flowing on without any meaning in them. She could bear it. They could
not insist upon her understanding what they meant. When Mr. Brownlow
came to an end there followed a long pause. They expected she would say
something, but she had nothing to say; her head was dizzy with the sound
that had been in her ears so long. She sat in the midst of them, all
waiting and looking at her, and was silent. Then Mr. Brownlow touched
her arm softly, and bent over her with a look of alarm in his eyes.

“Pamela,” he said, “you have heard all? You know what I mean? My dear,
have you nothing to say?”

Pamela sat upright and looked round the room, and shook off his hand
from her arm. “I have nothing to say,” she cried, with a petulant
outburst of grief and wretchedness, “if _he_ has nothing. He was to have
done every thing for me. He has said so hundreds and hundreds of times.
But now–And how can I understand? Why does not he speak and say he has
given me up, if he has given me up? And what does it all matter to me?
Let me go away.”

“_I_ give you up!” cried Jack. He made but one step to her from the
other end of the room, and caught her as she turned blindly to the door.
It was with a flush of passion and confusion that he spoke, “_I_ give
you up? Not for my life.”

“Then why don’t you speak for me, and tell them?” cried Pamela, with the
heat of momentary desperation. Then she sank back upon his supporting
arm. She had no need now to pretend to listen any longer. She closed her
eyes when they laid her on the sofa, and laid down her head with a
certain pleasant helplessness. “Jack knows,” she said softly. It was to
herself rather than to others she spoke. But the words touched them all
in the strangest way. As for Jack, he stood and looked at her with an
indescribable face. Man as he was, he could have wept. The petulance,
the little outburst of anger, the blind trust and helplessness broke up
all the restraints in which he had bound himself. In a moment he had
forgotten all his confused reasonings. Natural right was stronger than
any thing conventional. Of course it was he who ought to speak for
her–ought to act for her. Sara’s guardianship, somewhat to Sara’s
surprise, came to an instant and summary end.

Mr. Brownlow was as much relieved as Pamela, and as glad as she was when
the conference thus came to an end. He would have done his duty to her
now in any circumstances, however difficult it might have been, but
Jack’s agency of course made every thing easier. They talked it all over
afterward apart, without the confusing presence of the two girls; and
Jack had his own opinions, his own ideas on that subject as on most
others. It was all settled about the fifty thousand pounds, and the
changed life that would be possible to the heiress and her husband.
Jack’s idea was, that he would take his little bride abroad, and show
her every thing, and accustom her to her altered existence, which was by
no means a novel thought. And on his return he would be free to enter
upon public life, or any thing else he pleased. But he was generous in
his prosperity. His sister had been preferred to him all his life–was
she to be sacrificed to him now? He interfered, with that natural sense
of knowing best, which comes so easily to a young man, and especially to
one who has just had a great and unlooked-for success in the world–on
Sara’s behalf.

“I don’t like to think of Sara being the sufferer,” he said. “I feel as
if Pamela was exacting every thing, or I at least on her behalf. It
would not be pleasant either for her or me to feel so. I don’t think we
are considering Sara as much as we ought.”

Mr. Brownlow smiled. He might have been offended had he not been amused.
That any one should think of defending his darling from his
thoughtlessness! “Sara is going with me,” he said.

“But she can not carry on the business,” insisted Jack. “Pamela’s claims
are mine now. I am not going to stand by and see Sara suffer.”

“She shall not suffer,” said Mr. Brownlow, with impatience; and he rose
and ended the consultation. By degrees a new and yet an old device had
stolen into his mind. He had repulsed and shut it out, but it had come
back like a pertinacious fairy shedding a curious light over his path.
He could not have told whether he most liked or disliked this old-new
thought. But he cherished it secretly, and never permitted himself to
breathe a word about it to any one. And under its influence it began to
seem possible to him that all might be for the best, as people say–that
Brownlows might melt away like a vision and yet nobody suffer. Sara was
going to Masterton with her father to the old house in which she was
born. She had refused Sir Charles and his title, and all the honors and
delights he could have given her. Perhaps another kind of reward which
she could prize more might be awaiting her. Perhaps, indeed–it was just
possible–she might like better to be happy and make every body happy
round her, than to have a fine house and a pair of greys. Mr. Brownlow
felt that such an idea was almost wicked on his part, but yet it would
come, thrilling him with anticipations which were brighter than any
visions he had ventured to entertain for many a long year. “Sara is
going with me,” he said to every body who spoke to him on the subject.
And grew a little irritated when he perceived the blank looks with which
every body received the information. He forgot that he had thought it
the most dreadful downfall that could overwhelm him once. That was not
his opinion now.

Brownlows lost its agitated aspect from the moment when Mr. Brownlow and
Jack came out of the library, having finished their consultation. Jack
went off, whistling softly, taking three steps at a time, to the
drawing-room, where Pamela still lay on the sofa under Sara’s care. Mr.
Brownlow remained down stairs, but when he rung for lights the first
glance at him satisfied Willis that all was right. Nothing was said, but
every body knew that the crisis was over; and in a moment every thing
fell, as if by magic, into its usual current. Willis went down to his
cellar very quietly and brought the plate out of it, feeling a little
ashamed of himself. And though the guests were dismissed, the house
regained its composure, its comfort, and almost its gayety. The only
thing was that the family had lost a relation, whose daughter had come
to live at Brownlows–and were in mourning accordingly–a fact which
prevented parties, or any special merry-making, when Christmas came.

Though indeed before Christmas came the little invalid of the party–she
whom they all petted, and took care of–began to come out from behind
the clouds with the natural elasticity of her youth. Pamela would shut
herself up for a whole day now and then, full of remorse and
compunction, thinking she had not enough wept. But she was only
eighteen–her health was coming back to her–she was surrounded by love
and tenderness, and saw before her, daily growing brighter and brighter,
all the promises and hopes of a new life. It was not in nature that
sorrow should overcome all these sweet influences. She brightened like a
star over which the clouds come and go, and at every break shone
sweeter, and got back the roses to her cheeks, and the light to her
eyes. It was a pretty sight to watch her coming out of the shadows, and
so Jack thought, who was waiting for her and counting the weeks. When
the ice was bearing on Dewsbury Mere–which was rather late that year,
for it was in the early spring that the frosts were hardest–he took her
by the crisp frozen paths across the park to see the skaters. The world
was all white, and Pamela stood in her mourning, distinct against the
snow, leaning on Jack’s arm. As they stood and looked on, the carrier’s
cart came lumbering along toward the Mere. Hobson walked before cracking
his whip, with his red comforter, which was very effective in the frosty
landscape; and the breath of the horses rose like steam into the chill
air. Pamela and Jack looked at each other. They said both together, “You
remember?” Little more than a year before they had looked at each other
there for the first time. The carrier’s cart had been coming and going
daily, and was no wonder to behold; and Hobson could not have been more
surprised had the coin spun down upon his head out of the open sky, than
he was when Jack tossed a sovereign at him as he passed. “For bringing
me my little wife,” he said; but this was not in Hobson’s, but in
Pamela’s ear.

Continue Reading

THE LIGHT OF COMMON DAY

Next morning Mr. Brownlow resumed his regular habits, and went down to
the office, reassuring the household a little by this step, which seemed
a return to ordinary life. He looked wistfully and with a certain
solemnity at the closed windows of Mrs. Swayne’s cottage as he passed.
The chief point of interest to him was that Sara was there; and yet it
was impossible not to think at the same time of the woman who had
crossed his path so fatally, and now had been taken out of his way. In
one sense she was taken out of his way. It was not to be supposed that
the lawyer could look at the situation in which he found himself with
any sentimental or superlative resolutions. His mind was quieted out of
all the terrors which had at first overwhelmed him. It was no longer
ruin that stared him in the face. The mother could have exacted interest
and compound interest; the daughter, who was Jack’s betrothed bride,
could, of course, be dealt with in a different way. Jack’s sense that he
was no longer her lover, but the guardian of her interests–that his
business was to win every penny of her fortune for her, and then leave
her to its enjoyment–did not, of course, affect Mr. Brownlow. He was
thinking of nothing fantastical, nothing exaggerated. Pamela was Jack’s
betrothed. She was in Sara’s guardianship. From this day he considered
her as a member of his family; and after all the troubles he had
undergone, this solution on the whole seemed to Mr. Brownlow a very
easy, a very seemly and becoming one. She should have, as Jack’s wife,
her mother’s fifty thousand pounds; and when he himself died, every
thing except a moderate portion for Sara should go into his son’s hands.
It was an arrangement which made his heart ache; for Sara would have to
come down from all her grandeur, to become only what her father’s
daughter had a right to be in the Masterton house, to have but an humble
provision made for her, and to relinquish all her luxurious habits and
ambitions. If it had been Jack upon whom such a necessity had fallen,
Mr. Brownlow could have borne it; but Sara! Nevertheless it was just and
right and necessary. There was nothing else to be done, nothing else to
be thought of. And both Sara and her father would have to submit,
unless, indeed, Sir Charles Motherwell–Mr. Brownlow’s eye kindled a
little as he thought of his late visitor, and then he shook his head
sadly in a kind of self-communing. If any thing had come of that, could
Sara have been silent on the subject? Would Sir Charles himself have
gone away without a sign? Yet every moment since then had been so full
of excitement and occupation, that he still retained a hope. In the
midst of the awe and agitation attending Mrs. Preston’s death his child
could scarcely have paused to tell him of a love-tale. When he entered
the familiar office and saw every thing going on just as it had done,
Mr. Brownlow felt like a man fallen from the skies. It seemed to him
years since he had been there, and he could not but feel a thrill of
wonder to find all his papers in their places, and to listen to Mr.
Wrinkell’s questions about business matters which seemed to have stood
still while his own destiny was getting decided. “Are you still at that
point?” he said, almost peevishly. “I should have thought that would
have been decided long ago.”

“It is only three days, if you recollect, since I consulted you about
it,” Mr. Wrinkell replied, with offended dignity, “and you gave me no
distinct answer.” Only three days! It might have been three centuries,
for any thing Mr. Brownlow knew.

Then he sat down at his desk and addressed himself very heartily to his
business. A mass of work had accumulated of course, and he took it up
with an energy he had not felt for ages. He had been working in the dark
all this time, working languidly, not knowing who might be the better
for it. Now his whole soul was in his occupation; every additional
shilling he could make would be so much for his child. More and more as
he became accustomed to the thought his mind cleared and courage and
steadiness returned to him. It was true that he was at the age when men
think of retiring from work, but he was a strong and vigorous man still,
in possession of all his powers. Jack would withdraw, would marry, would
enter on his independent career, and carry out probably the very
programme his father had drawn out for him before that midnight visitor
arrived whose appearance had changed every thing. Poor creature, after
all she had not changed every thing. She had changed but little. Sara
only had lost by her appearance. That was the sting of the whole matter;
and Mr. Brownlow applied himself with double energy, with the eager
impulse and vigor of a young man, to the work before him. Every thing he
could add to his store would be the better for Sara, and he felt that
this was motive sufficient for any man worthy of the name.

When it came to be time for luncheon he went out–not to refresh himself
with food, for which he had little appetite, but to make a visit which
perhaps was a kind of ill-natured relief to him amid the pressure of his
many thoughts. He went to Mrs. Fennell’s lodgings to pay one of his
generally unwilling but dutiful visits. This time he was not unwilling.
He went with an unaffected quietness which was very different from the
forced calm of his last appearance there. Mrs. Fennell was seated as
usual in her great chair, but she had not on her best cap, and was
accordingly cowed and discouraged to begin with; and Nancy, who was with
her, made a pretense of leaving the room. “Stay,” said Mr. Brownlow, “I
want you. It is best that you too should hear what I am going to say.”

“At your service, sir,” said Nancy, dropping him a defiant courtesy. As
for Mrs. Fennell, she had begun to tremble immediately with excitement
and curiosity.

“What is it, John Brownlow?” she said. “What’s happened? It’s a sight to
see you so soon again. It isn’t for nothing, we may be sure. What do you
want of me and Nancy now?”

“I want nothing of you,” said Mr. Brownlow. “I came to tell you
something you ought to know. Phœbe Thomson is found, Mrs. Fennell.
She came to me the other night.”

“Good Lord!” cried the old woman; and then a wild light got up in her
eyes and she looked at him fiercely. “Came to you?–and you let her
come, and let her go, and owned her, you coward! Tell me next you have
given her up the children’s money–my Bessie’s children? That’s what you
call a man! Oh, good Lord–good Lord! You owned her, and you tell it to
my very face!”

Then there was a little pause. The two old women looked at him, one with
impotent fury, the other with suppressed exultation. “I always said so!”
said Nancy. His simple words had produced effect enough, if that was
what he wanted. He looked at them both, and a faint smile came over his
face, a smile in which there was no mirth and which lasted but a moment.
He felt ashamed of himself next minute that he could have been tempted
to smile.

“John Brownlow,” said Mrs. Fennell, rising in her exasperation, “I’m an
old poor failing woman, and you’re a fine strong man, but I’d have
fought different for my Bessie’s children. Didn’t I tell you she came to
me, that you might be on your guard. And you a lawyer? Oh, good
Lord–good Lord! I’d have kept it safer for them if it had been me. I’d
have turned her out of my door for an impostor and a vagabond! I’d have
hunted her to death first if it had been me. And you to tell me her name
clean out as quiet as a judge and look me in the face! Oh you coward!
you poor creature! Never, if she had torn me with wild horses, would she
have got it out of me.”

“He could not have acted different,” said Nancy, with suppressed
excitement. “Sit down, mistress, or you’ll do yourself a harm. The best
lawyer in the world couldn’t turn a woman away as knowed her rights.”

Mr. Brownlow held up his hand to prevent the angry exclamation that was
on Mrs. Fennell’s lips. “Hush,” he said, “my story is not done. It is a
very sad story. Poor soul, she will never get much good of the money.
Phœbe Thomson is dead.”

They both turned on him with a look which all his life he never forgot.
Would they themselves have been capable of such a deed? Was it the
natural suggestion of the crisis? The look made him sick and faint. He
turned so as to confront both the old women. “I don’t know who her
counselor was,” he said, with unconscious solemnity, “but it must have
been some one who believed me a knave and a liar. Had she come to me and
proved to me who she was, she might have been living now. Poor soul, she
did not do that. She was sent to London instead to find out for herself
about her mother’s will, and she came down in haste, finding there was
not a moment to lose. And she was driven mad with fright and suspicion
and fatigue; an old woman too–she could not bear it. And now, instead
of enjoying what was hers, she is dead. This is what comes of evil
counsel. She might have lived and had some comfort of her life had she
been honest and straightforward and come to me.”

Mr. Brownlow said this with the conviction and fervor of an upright man.
All the evil thoughts he had himself entertained, all his schemes to
baffle his unknown adversary, had faded from his mind. It was not a
fictitious but a real forgetfulness. He spoke in the superiority of high
principle and of a character above reproach. He did not remember that he
had tacitly conspired with Mrs. Fennell, or that he had willfully
rejected the opportunity of finding Phœbe Thomson out after her visit
to his mother-in-law. Perhaps his excuse to himself was that, at the
moment, his suspicions were all directed to a wrong point. But I don’t
think he felt any occasion to excuse himself–he simply forgot. If she
had lived she should have had all, every penny, though it cost him his
ruin; and now she was dead by the visitation of God, and every thing was
changed. It is strange and yet it was true. He looked at them both with
a superiority which was not assumed, and he believed what he said.

As for his hearers, they were both stunned by this solemn address. Mrs.
Fennell dropped into her chair, and in her surprise and relief and
consternation began to cry. As for Nancy, she was completely cowed and
broken down for some minutes. It was she who had done all this, and
every word told upon her. She was overwhelmed by Mr. Brownlow’s
rectitude, by his honor and truth, which owing to her had been thus
fatally distrusted. And she was struck at the same time by a cruel
disappointment which gave force to every word. She stood and looked at
Mr. Brownlow, quailing before him. Then a faint gleam of returning
courage came over her. She drew a deep breath to give herself the power
of speech. “There is her child still,” she said, with a gasp, and faced
him with a certain bravado again.

“Ah, I see you know!” he said; “that is the strangest part of all. For a
long time past, before we knew who they were, and much against my will,
her child had taken Jack’s fancy; he was determined to marry her, though
I told him he should have nothing from me; now in the strange
arrangements of Providence–” said Mr. Brownlow. But there he stopped;
something seemed to stifle him; he could not go on speaking about the
dispensations of Providence; he got up when he had reached this point,
with a sudden sense that after all he had no right to speak as if God
and himself–or Providence, as he preferred to say–were in partnership;
his hands were not clean enough for that. He stopped, and asked after
Mrs. Fennell, if she had all the comforts she wanted, and then he made
what haste he could away. He even felt half ashamed of himself as he
went down stairs. His mother-in-law, excited as she had been by the
first piece of news he told her, had but half understood the second. He
left her sobbing weakly over her Bessie’s children who were being robbed
and ruined. Nancy went to the door with him in a servile despair. She
understood it all well enough. There was no more hope for her, no more
dazzling expectations of such a retirement as Betty’s lodge and its ease
and independence. To serve old Mrs. Fennell’s whims all the rest of her
days; to be pensioned on some pittance, or turned out upon the world for
her misdeeds in her old age when Mrs. Fennell should die–this was all
that she had before her now.

When Mr. Brownlow went back after having fulfilled this duty, he went up
stairs into the house instead of going to the office, and with a caprice
which he himself scarcely understood, called Powys, who was standing at
the door, to follow him. It seemed to him as if, it was so long ago,
Powys too must have recovered from his heart-break. He took the young
man with him over the silent, empty, echoing house. “This is where I
began my married life,” he said, stopping on the cold hearth in the
drawing-room, and looking round him. It was a pretty old-fashioned room,
running all the breadth of the house, with windows at each end, and a
perpetual cross-light, pale at one side, rosy and full of sunshine at
the other. It was not a lofty room, like the drawing-room at Brownlows,
nor was it rich with gold and dainty colors; but yet there was something
in the subdued tone of the old curtains, the old Turkey carpet, the
japanned screens and little tables, the old-world look of every thing,
which was neither ungraceful nor unrefined. “I am coming back to live
here,” he said after an interval, with a sigh. He could not tell why he
made this confidential communication to the young man, who grew pale,
and gazed at him eagerly, and could not find a word to say in reply. Mr.
Brownlow was not thinking of Powys’s looks, nor of his feelings; he was
occupied with himself, as was natural enough; he took the young fellow
into his confidence, if that could be called confidence, because he
liked him, and had seen more of him than any body else near. What the
intelligence might be to Powys Mr. Brownlow did not stop to think; but
he went over the house in his company, consulting him about the
alterations to be made. Somehow he had returned to his first feeling
toward Powys–and he wanted to be kind to him, to make up to him for not
being Phœbe Thomson’s son; they were fellow-sufferers so far as that
was concerned–at least such was the feeling in Mr. Brownlow’s mind,
though he could not well have explained how.

Later in the afternoon he had some visitors. Altogether it was an
exciting day. The first who came to him was Sir Charles Motherwell, who
had ridden in from Ridley, where he was staying, to see him, and whose
appearance awoke a certain surprise and expectation in Mr. Brownlow’s
mind; he thought Sara must have accepted him after all. But the
baronet’s looks did not justify his hope; Sir Charles was very glum,
very rueful, and pulled at his mustache more than ever. He came in, and
held out his hand, and put down his hat, and then pulled off his gloves
and threw them into it, as if he were about to perform some delicate
operation; when he had got through all these ceremonies, he sank into
the chair which stood ready for Mr. Brownlow’s clients, and heaved a
profound sigh.

“I thought I’d come and tell you,” he said, “though it ain’t pleasant
news; I tried my luck, as I said I would–not that I’ve got any luck.
She–she–wouldn’t hear of it, Brownlow. I’d have done any thing in the
world she liked to say–you know I would; she might have sold the old
place, or done what she pleased; but she wouldn’t, you know, not if I’d
gone down on my knees–it was all of no use.” He had never uttered so
many sentences all on end in his life before, poor fellow. He got up
now, and walked as far as the office wall would let him, and whistled
dolefully, and then he returned to his chair, and breathed another deep
sigh. “It was all of no use.”

“I am very sorry,” said Mr. Brownlow–“very sorry; she would have chosen
a good man if she had chosen you; but you know I can’t interfere.”

“Do you think I want any one to interfere?” said Sir Charles, with
momentary resentment. “Look here, Brownlow, I’ll tell you how it is; she
said she liked some one else better than me–I’d like to wring the
fellow’s neck!” said the disappointed lover, with a little outburst;
“but if there’s money, or any thing in the way, I thought I might lend
him a hand–not in my own name, you know. I suppose a girl ain’t the
master to like whom she ought to like, no more than I am,” said Sir
Charles, disconsolately, “but she’s got to be given in to, Brownlow. I’d
lend him a hand, if that was what was wanting. As long as she’s happy
and has her way, a man can always pull through.”

Mr. Brownlow started a little at this strange speech, but in the end the
confused generosity of the speaker carried him out of himself. “You are
a good fellow, Motherwell,” he said heartily, holding out his hand–“you
are the best fellow I know.”

“Ah, so she said,” said poor Sir Charles, with a hoarse little laugh–he
was not bright, poor fellow, but he felt the sarcasm; “I’d a deal rather
she had praised me less and liked me more–”

And he ended with another big sigh. Mr. Brownlow had to make himself
very uncomfortable by way of discouraging Sir Charles’s generosities. He
had to protest that he knew no one whom Sara could prefer. He had to say
at last peremptorily that it was a matter which he could not discuss,
before his anxious and melancholy visitor could be got rid of. It was
not a pleasant thought to Mr. Brownlow. He did not like to hear of Sara
preferring any man. He could have given her to Charley Motherwell, who
would have been her slave, and could have assured her position, and
endowed her with a title such as it was; but Sara in love was not an
idea pleasant to her father, besides the uneasy wonder who could be the
object of her preference. He tried to go back and recollect, but his
memory failed him. Then there came a dim vision to his mind of a moment
when his child had turned from him–when she had wept and rejected his
embrace and his sympathy. How long was that ago? But he did not seem
able to tell. It was before–that was all he knew. Every thing had
happened _since_. He had told her she was free, and she had turned upon
him and upbraided him–for what? Years seemed to lie between him and
that half-forgotten scene. He tried in vain to resume the thread of his
plans and arrangements. In spite of himself his reluctant yet eager
thoughts kept going back and back to that day. How long was it since he
had thought Powys the heir? How long since the moment of unlooked-for
blessedness when he believed himself free? It was on that day that Sara
had turned from him and cried–that day when he was so full of comfort,
so anxious to show his gratitude to God–when he had drawn that check
for the Masterton charities, which–by, the way, how had he distributed
the money? Catching at this point of circumstance, Mr. Brownlow made an
effort to escape from his recollections. He did not want to recall that
foolish premature delight. It might have been years ago, to judge by his
feelings; but he knew that could not be the case. It had become late in
the afternoon by this time, and the clerks were mostly gone. There was
nobody whom he could ask what had been done about the check for the
charities; and he had just drawn toward him the dispatch-box with his
papers which had been brought from Brownlows with him, to ascertain for
himself, when the office-boy came pulling his forelock to ask if he
would see a lady who was waiting. Mr. Brownlow said No, at first, for it
was past office hours, and then he said Yes, no longer feeling any
tremor at the prospect of a strange visitor. He could believe it was a
simple client now, not a messenger of fate coming to ruin and betray, as
for a long time he had been in the way of feeling. Such ease of mind
would be cheaply purchased even with fifty thousand pounds. The lady
came in, accordingly, and Mr. Brownlow received her with his usual
courtesy, which was, however, a little disturbed when he looked at her.
Not that he had any real occasion to be disturbed. A far-off flutter of
his past anxieties, a kind of echo, came over him at the sight of her
pleasant homely face. He had thought she was Phœbe Thomson the last
time he had seen her. He had shrunk from her, and lost his
self-possession altogether. Even now a minute had elapsed before he
could quite command himself, and remember the real condition of affairs.

“Good day, Mrs. Powys,” he said; “I am sorry to have’ kept you waiting.
Why did not you send me word who it was?”

“I thought you might have been engaged, sir,” said Mrs. Powys; “I wasn’t
sure if you would remember me, Mr. Brownlow. I came to you once before,
when I was in trouble, and you were very kind–too kind,” she added,
with a sigh. “No, no, it is not the same thing. If my poor boy has
troubles still, he does not hide his heart from me now.”

“That is well,” said Mr. Brownlow, coldly. He thought some appeal was
going to be made to him on behalf of Powys and his folly. Though he was
in reality fond of Powys, he stiffened instinctively at the thought. “It
is growing late,” he went on; “I was just going. Is there any thing in
which I can be of use to you?” He laid his hand on his dispatch-box as
he spoke. His manner had been very different when he was afraid of her;
and yet he was not unkind or unreasonable. She was his clerk’s mother;
he would have exerted himself, and done much to secure the family any
real benefit; but he did not mean that they should thrust themselves
into his affairs.

“It is something my poor boy didn’t like to ask,” said Mrs. Powys, with
a little timidity. “He had offended you that day, or he thought he had
offended you; and he would not do any thing to bring it back to your
mind. I am sure if he went wrong, Mr. Brownlow, he didn’t mean
to–There’s nothing in this world he would not do for you.”

“Went wrong–offended me?” said Mr. Brownlow; “I don’t think he ever
offended me. What is it he wants? There are certain subjects which I can
not enter upon either with him or you–”

“Oh, not that–not that,” said Mrs. Powys, with tears. “If he’s been
foolish he’s punished for it, my poor boy! And he would not ask you for
his papers, not to bring it back to your mind.” ‘Mother,’ he said, ‘he’s
worried, and I can’t vex him.’ He would lose all his own hopes for that.
But I’m his mother, Mr. Brownlow. I have a feeling for my son’s
interests as you have for yours. His papers, poor boy, are no good to
you.”

“His papers?” said Mr. Brownlow, with amaze, looking at her. For the
moment his old confusion of mind came back to him; he could not quite
feel yet that Powys’s papers could be innocent of all reference to
himself.

“My poor husband’s letters, sir,” said Mrs. Powys, drying her eyes; “the
papers he took to you when he thought–; but that is neither here nor
there. I’ve found my poor Charley’s mother, Mr. Brownlow; she’s living,
though she’s an old woman. I have been tracing it out to the best of my
ability, and I’ve found her. Likely enough she’ll have nothing to say to
me. I am but a poor woman, never brought up to be a lady; but it’s
different with my boy.”

“Ah, his papers!” said Mr. Brownlow. This, too, belonged to his previous
stage of existence. It was clear that he had to be driven back to that
day of vain terror and equally vain relief. It came back to him now in
every particular–the packet he had found on his writing-table; his long
confused poring over it; his summons to Powys in the middle of the
night, and discovery of the mistake he had been making; even the blue
dawn of the morning through the great window in the staircase as he went
up to bed, a man delivered. All this rushed back on his memory. He took
his keys and opened the dispatch-box, which he had been about to open
when Mrs. Powys came in. Probably the papers would be there. He began
even to recollect what these papers were as he opened the box. “So you
have found your husband’s family?” he said; “I hope they are in a
position to help you. I should be very glad to hear that, for your son’s
sake.”

“You are very kind, Mr. Brownlow,” said Mrs. Powys. “I have found my
poor Charley’s mother. She’s old now, poor lady, and she’s lost all her
children: and at long and last she’s bethought herself of us, and wrote
a letter to Canada to inquire. I got it sent on this morning–only this
morning. I don’t know what she can do for my boy; but she’s Lady Powys,
and that counts for something here.”

“Lady Powys?” cried Mr. Brownlow, looking up with a handful of papers in
his hand, and struck with consternation. “She used to live near
Masterton; if you knew she was your husband’s mother, why did not you
apply to her before? Are you sure you are making no mistake? Lady Powys!
I had no idea your relations were–”

“My husband was a gentleman, sir,” said Mrs. Powys proudly. “He gave up
his friends and his family, poor fellow, for me. I don’t pretend I was
his equal–and it might have been better for him if he’d thought more of
himself; but he was always known for a gentleman wherever he went; and
my boy is his father’s son,” said the proud mother. She would have been
glad to humble the rich lawyer who had sent her boy away from his house,
and forbidden him, tacitly at least, his daughter’s presence. “We did
not know that his grandmamma was a lady of title,” she added, with
candor. “My poor Charley used to say it was in the family; but his folks
have come to it, poor fellow, since his time.”

“Lady Powys!” Mr. Brownlow said to himself, with a curious confusion of
thoughts. He knew Lady Powys well enough, poor old woman. She had
accumulated a ghostly fortune by surviving every body that belonged to
her. He remembered all about her, and the look of scared dismay and
despair that came into her eyes as death after death among her own
children made her richer, and left her more desolate. And what if this
was an heir for her–this young fellow whom he had always liked even in
spite of himself? He had always liked him. He was glad to remember
that. He sought out his papers with his heart softening more and more.
Lady Powys’s grandson was a very different person from his nameless
Canadian clerk.

“Here they are,” he said. “I have been much occupied, and I have never
had time to look at them; but I am very glad to hear you have friends
who can be of use to you. I know Lady Powys. You should send your boy to
her, that would be the best way. And, by the bye, he told me your name
was Christian. If you are the same as I suppose, we are a kind of
connections too.”

Mrs. Powys was so utterly amazed by this statement, that Mr. Brownlow
had to enter deeply into details to satisfy her. Possibly he would not
have mentioned it at all but for Lady Powys. Such inducements work
without a man being aware of them. He said afterward, and he believed,
that his reference to the family connection between them was drawn out
“in the course of conversation.” When she went away, he felt as if there
could never cease to be something extraordinary raining down upon him
out of heaven. Lady Powys! that was different. And before he closed his
dispatch-box, he looked at his check-book which was there, to see if
there were any particulars about the charities on the counter-foil. The
first thing that met his eyes was the check itself, left there, never so
much as torn out of the book; and, could it be possible, good heavens?
it was dated only four days before. When he had mastered this
astonishing fact, Mr. Brownlow paused over it a minute, and then tore it
into little pieces with a sigh. He could not afford such benefactions
now.

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