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.