Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

MR BROWNLOW, perhaps, did not fully into it at once ; and yet he know very well what he meant did not in the least know what he when he called young Powys into wanted, nor what question he was his room. He was in one of those to ask, nor what he was to say the strange states of mental excitement next moment; the only thing that in which a man is at once confused helped him was, that as he looked and clear; incapable of seeing be- out of his office to call Powys, he fore him what he is about to do, could see him pick up hastily and yet as prompt and distinct in the put in his pocket the bits of paper doing of it as if it had been pre- all dotted over with calculations, meditated to the last detail. He which he had already remarked on could not have explained why nor the young man's desk. told what it was he proposed to him- Sit down,” said Mr Brownlow, self; in short, he had in his own “I have something to say to you; mind proposed nothing to himself. and he resumed his own seat at his He was swayed only by a vague, writing-table as if there had been intense, and overwhelming neces- nothing particular in the confersity to have the matter before him ence, and began mechanically to set straight somehow, and, confused arrange the papers before him : as as his own mind was, and little as for Powys, he put his hand upon he knew of his own intentions, he the back of the chair which stood yet went on, as by the directest in- on the other side of the table, and spiration, marching boldly, calmly, waited, but did not sit down, being yet wildly, in a kind of serious bewildered a little, though not half madness, into the darkness of this so much as his employer was, by unknown way.

He called the this sudden summons. young man to him in sharp, decided “Sit down," said Mr Brownlow, tones, as if he knew exactly what _"sit down; I want to speak to he wanted, and was ready to enter you : I hope you know that I VOL CII.-NO. DCXXI.



" What are

have always intended to be your feet, looking down, red with emfriend

barrassment, confusion, and shame. “Intended ! sir," said Powys, Was it that he felt himself a traitor? “I know that you have been my eating the Brownlows' bread, refriend, and a far better friend than ceiving their kindness, and plotting I deserved -" Here he made one against them? It seemed to his of those pauses of embarrassment companion as clear as day. which sometimes mean so much, Sit down," said Mr Brownlow, and often mean

so little.

Mr feeling his advantage, “ let us talk Brownlow, who knew more than of it as friends- " and then he Powys did, took it to siguify a great himself made a pause, and clenched deal, and the idea gave him strength his hand unawares, and felt his to proceed; and the fact is, that for heart contract as he put the last once the two, unknown to each decisive question. other, were thinking of the same those calculations you have been thing—of the bits of paper covered making all day ?" with figures that were in Powys's Young Powys started, and became pocket,-only their thoughts ran in violently red, and looked up suda very different strain.

denly into his employer's face. No “That must be decided rather doubt this was what he had been by the future than by the past," thinking of; but the question was so said Mr Brownlow. “I can say sudden, so point blank, that it disfor myself without any doubt thus persed all theinvoluntary softenings far, that I have meant to be your of which he had been conscious, and friend—but I must have your confi- brought back to him all his youthdence in return; I do not think ful pride and amour propre and you can have any more trustworthy reserve about his own affairs. He counsellor.” As Mr Brownlow said looked Mr Brownlow full in the this, it seemed to him that some face, and his agitation took a difone else, some unseen third party, ferent form. Calculations, sir?" was putting the words into his he said, with even a touch of indigmouth; and his heart gave a flutter nation in his voice; and then he too as he said them, though it was stopped, lest he should be uncourlittle in accordance either with his teous to his employer, who he was age or character that the heart confident wished him well though should take any such prominent he was so strangely curious. “The part in his concerns.

only calculations I have made are As for the young man, there about my own affairs," he went came over his face a quick flush, as “ They are of no interest to of shame. He touched with his any one. I am sorry you should hand instinctively, and without have thought I was taking up my knowing it, the breast-pocket in time which these papers were—all of “I did not think of your time,” which actions were distinct and full said Mr Brownlow, with an impaof meaning to the anxious eyes tient sigh. “I have seen many that were watching him—and he young men like you who have faltered as he spoke. “I know who have—gone wrong-from lack that you would be my most trust- of experience and knowledge of worthy counsellor – and I don't the world. I wish to serve you. know how to thank you,” he said; Perhaps—it is possible—I may but he had lowered his voice and have partly divined what is on cast down his eyes. He stood your mind. Can't you see that it holding the back of the chair, and would be best in every way to make it trembled in his grasp. He could a confidant of me?" not meet the gaze that was fixed All this the lawyer said involunupon him. He stood shuffling his tarily as it were, the words being


[ocr errors]

put into his mouth. They were and made him in his own eyes a false words, and yet they were true. monster. “Divined !” he said half He wanted to cheat and ruin the to himself, with a look of horror. young man before him, and yet he If Mr Brownlow had divined it, it wanted to serve him. He desired seemed to Powys that he never his confidence that he might betray could hold up his head before him it, and yet he felt disposed to guide again. Shame would stand between and counsel him as if he had been them, or something he thought his son. The confusion of his mind shame. He had not done much was such that it became a kind of that was wrong, but he could have exaltation. After all he meant him shrunk into the very ground at the well—what he would do for him idea that his thoughts and calculawould be the best. It might not be tions were known. In spite of him. justice-justice was one thing; kind self he cast a piteous glance at the ness, friendship, bounty, another-- whiteness of his elbows—was that and these last he was ready to give. how it came about that Mr BrownThus, in the bewilderment of mo- low divined? Pride, shame, gratitives and sentiments that existed tude, compunction, surged up in his in his mind, he came to find himself mind, into his very eyes and throat, again as it were, and to feel that he so that he could not speak or look did really mean well to the boy at the patron who was so good to “I wish to serve you," he repeated, him, yet whom he could not yield with a kind of eagerness. Would to. Sir,” he stammered, when he not this be to serve him better than had got a little command of himby giving to his inexperienced bands self — “ you are mistaken. a fairy fortune of which he would I have nothing on my mind-nonot know how to make use ? These thing more than every man has who thoughts went vaguely but power- has a—a—life of his own. Indeed, fully through Mr Brownlow's mind sir," the poor youth continued with as he spoke. And the result was eagerness,

“ don't think I am unthat he looked up in the young grateful—but I-I-can't tell you. man's face with a sense of upright. I can't tell my own mother. It is ness which had for some time de- my own fault. It is nothing to any serted him. It would be best in other creature. In short,” he added, every way that there should be breaking off with an effort, and confidence between them- best for forcing a smile, “it is nothingthe youth, who, after all, had he ever nothing !-only I suppose that I 80 good a case, would probably be am unaccustomed to the worldquite unaware how to manage it- “Sit down,” said Mr Brownlow; and best, unquestionably, best, for come nearer to me, and sit down himself, as showing at once what upon this chair.

You are very he had to hope or fear.

Of this young there could be no doubt.

I am five- and - twenty,” said As for Powys, he was touched, Powys. He said it hastily, answerand at the same time alarmed. It ing what he thought was a kind of was the same subject which occu- accusation; and the words struck pied them both, but yet they looked the lawyer like a blow. It was not upon it with very different eyes. new to him, and yet the very stateThe Canadian knew what was in ment of that momentous number those scraps of paper with their seemed to carry a certain signifilines of figures and awful totals, cance. The ill-omened fortune and it seemed to him that sooner which made these two adversaries than show them to any one, sooner had come to the one just when than make a clean breast of what the other was born. was in them, he would rather die. “Well,” said Mr Brownlow, who Yet the kindness went to his heart, felt his utterance stopped by these innocent words, “it does not mat- seemed an insult to him. Yet he ter. Sit down; I have still a great paused, and after a few moments deal to say

felt as if a truce had been proAnd then he stopped with a claimed. It had not come yet to gasp, and there was a pause like a the last struggle for death or life. pause in the midst of a battle. If There was still time to carry on Powys had not been preoccupied negotiations, to make terms, to by the subject which to him was convert the enemy into a firm so absorbing, though he denied its friend and supporter.

This coninterest to any other, he could not viction brought comfort to his have failed to be struck by the mind, notwithstanding that half earnestness, and suppressed excite- an hour before he had started up ment, and eager baffled looks of in the temerity of despair, and his employer. But he was blind- vowed to himself that, for good ed by his own anxieties, and by or evil, the decisive step must be that unconscious self - importance taken at once. Now the clouds of youth which sees nothing won- of battle rolled back, and a soft derful in the fact of other people's sensation of peace fell upon Mr interest in its own fortunes. He Brownlow's soul — peace at least thought Mr Brownlow was kind. for a time. It melted his heart It did not occur to him that a in spite of himself. It made him stronger motive was necessary for think of his home, and his child, these persistent questions and for and the gentle evening that awaited this intense interest. He was not him after the excitement of the vain—but yet it came natural to day; and then his eye fell upon receive such attention, and his Powys again. mind was not sufficiently disen- “I have still a great deal to say," gaged to be surprised.

he went on - and his voice had As for the lawyer, he paused changed and softened beyond all and took breath, and looked into doubt, and Powys, himself surthe frank yet clouded face which prised, had perceived the change, was so open and communicative, though he had not an idea what and yet would not, could not, re- it meant—"I have been pleased veal to him the secret he wanted with you, Powys. I am not sure to seize. It was not skill, it was that you have quite kept up during not cunning, that preserved the the last few weeks; but you began young man's secret—was it inno- very well, and if you choose to cence? Had he been mistaken ?- steady yourself, and put away any was there really in Powys's consci- delusion that may haunt you" pusness at least no such secret, but here Mr Brownlow made a little only some youthful trouble, some pause to give full force to his boyish indiscretion, that was“on his words—"you may be of great sermind.” As Mr Brownlow paused, vice to me. I took you only on and looked at his young companion, trial, you know, and you had the this thought gradually shaped itself junior clerk's place; but now I within him, and for the moment think I am justified in treating it gave him a strange relief. He you better-after this your salary too was absorbed and preoccupied, shall be double-" and thrust out of the region of Powys gave a great start in his such light as might have been seat, and looked at Mr Brownthrown on the subject by the low with a look of stupefaction. whiteness of the seams of the “Double!” he cried, with an alyoung fellow's coat; and then he most hysterical gasp. He thought had come to be in such deadly his ears or his imagination were earnest that any lighter com- deceiving him. His wonder took monplace explanation would have all the expression, almost all the

« PreviousContinue »