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.

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