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Miss Brown. Lee, Vernon, 1856–1935.
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page: 195

BOOK III.

page: 197

CHAPTER I.

A MONTH later, the little Perrys were being taken for their walk in the Boboli Gardens by a Swiss bonne in a quilted cap; and Anne Brown was unpacking her things in a room overlooking the yellowish‐green Rhine, with its oscillating bridge of boats, and facing the rocks and bastions of Ehrenbreitstein.

When Richard Brown had returned to England with the signed documents in his pocket, Hamlin had immediately written two letters,—one to his lawyers, instructing them to settle the capital of five hundred a‐year, that is to say, one quarter of his property, on Anne Brown; the other, narrating the history of his engagement (if engagement it might be called), to the widow of his former tutor, and asking page: 198 her to admit the young lady in whom he was interested into her school at Coblenz. It was the Easter holidays, and Mrs Simson had taken advantage of the fact to come to Florence in order to take back her pupil herself.

There was still a fortnight before the school would reopen, so Hamlin suggested that they should slowly travel north, and it was settled that he should accompany the schoolmistress and his ward. The greater part of that fortnight was spent at Venice, where Anne Brown had never been, and Hamlin parted company from them to return to England, only at Munich.

Mrs Simson was of that particular type of Englishwoman which, however much it may marry, always seems to remain an old maid; but an old maid whose old‐maidishness is an incapacity of feeling any difference of age between herself and her youngers, of maintaining any stateliness of superior age and experience: a hopeful, believing, shrewd, happy‐go‐lucky, enthusiastic creature, invariably making page: 199 one think of a remarkably good‐natured old grey mare. Youth was the greatest attraction in the world to her, and she identified herself completely with the young women that came under her influence. Hamlin had known her in his boyish days, and lately, passing along the Rhine, had stayed with her for a day or two in her old‐fashioned house by the confluence of the Rhine and the Mosel. The impression that this school was so utterly unlike any of the girls’ schools he had read of in novels; the impression that a young woman might develop there into whatever pleasant thing nature intended,—had been so strong, that from the moment of his first contemplating a possible marriage with the Perrys’ servant, Mrs Simson and her school at Coblenz had formed an essential part of his plans. The lady, on the other hand, was exactly the kind of woman to whom a situation like this would appeal: Hamlin, whom she had entertained on buns and ginger‐beer, and then, in later years, raved over after the first sonnet which he sent to page: 200 the ‘Athenæum,’ had always been her especial object of adoration; and his adoption of a beautiful and strange young woman, his preparation of a bride for himself, was for her the finishing touch to his perfection. She would indeed have preferred had Anne Brown been small and fair, and garrulous and impish, and shown a love for mathematics and flirtation; but, nevertheless, Anne Brown, inasmuch as she was the elect of Walter Hamlin, and inasmuch as she was a beautiful young creature, immediately won the facile but not fickle heart of Mrs Simson. The whole business seemed to her as natural as possible; and it was she who proposed that Hamlin should accompany her and his ward part of their way northwards.

What was Anne’s own condition? During those hours in the train, when Hamlin was for ever jumping out and overwhelming them with coffee and stale cakes and newspapers at every station; during those days at Venice, when they stayed at the same hotel (the headwaiter quite spontaneously wrote “Mrs Sim‐ page: 201 son Simson and niece” in the strangers’ book), and spent their days in picture‐galleries and churches and gondolas, and their evenings at theatres,—during all that journey Anne was as cold, and silent, and melancholy as she had been when first they had met at the Villa Arnolfini; indeed any man but Hamlin, and any woman except Mrs Simson, would probably have been disheartened and disgusted by this apparent stolidity of behaviour. But Mrs Simson had already made up her character of Anne Brown, and fallen in love with it quite independent of realities; and Hamlin was rather pleased that the creature whom he was going to teach how to think and how to feel, did not manifest any particular mode of thinking and feeling of her own. So they were both extremely assiduous to Anne Brown, and in reality thought much more about what she was going to be than about what she actually was.

The fact was that the poor girl was in a dazed condition—that all this journey seemed page: 202 to her unreal, and all the things around her unsubstantial. Her head felt hollow, she seemed to be informed about her feelings rather than to experience them, her own words sounded as if through a whispering‐gallery. A couple of weeks ago she had had so strong a consciousness of identity and existence, of her own desires and hopes; now she could not well understand how she came to be where she was. Sometimes, while mechanically talking with her companions or walking in their company, she used to ask herself how it had all come about, and then she could see no reason for it all; it seemed accidental, inexplicable, causeless, and almost incredible. Whenever, on the other hand, she awakened to the reality of things, she was depressed by a sense of transition; she was afraid of speaking, and almost of feeling. As long as she had been the Perrys’ servant, she had experienced no shyness with Hamlin; as far as her taciturn nature would allow, she had spoken out whatever she had thought or page: 203 felt, without considering whether or not it might surprise, annoy, or amuse him. Now, on the contrary, she gradually became conscious of a fear lest Hamlin should have cheated himself in choosing her. Unable to tell any one of this feeling, she let it overshadow her. One evening at Munich, two or three days before they parted company with Hamlin, Mrs Simson, coming into Anne’s room, found the girl seated with her head in the pillows of her bed, sobbing.

The excellent and somewhat romantic heart of the schoolmistress immediately melted at this sight.

“My dear child,” she cried, looking more than ever like a friendly grey old mare, “what is the matter with you?”

But Anne merely buried her head deeper in the pillows, and sobbed harder than before.

“What is the matter?” repeated Mrs Sireson, laying her hand on Anne’s shoulder.

“Oh, leave me, leave me!” moaned the girl.

Mrs Simpson gently passed her arm under page: 204 the prostrate girl’s breast, and lifted her up from the bed.

“What is the matter with you, my dear?” she asked.

“Nothing—nothing,” sobbed Anne, trying to hide her cried‐out eyes with her hands.

“Nonsense; nothing!” said Mrs Simson, briskly. “You are unhappy about something, you poor little thing.”

Girls, and especially girls in distress, invariably appeared little to Mrs Simson, even when, like Anne Brown, they overtopped her by a good head.

“Something is the matter with you,” she insisted. “Now just let us see together what it may be;” and she made the reluctant girl sit down by her side on the sofa. “Are you homesick?—do you feel very strange, poor dearie, with strange people?— are you frightened a little by the sudden change in your life?—it’s very natural, my dear little girl, but you’ll get over it soon.”

Anne shook her head. But the impossibil‐ page: 205 ity impossibility of making Mrs Simson understand what depressed her, sent the sobs once more into her voice.

“No, no,” she said; “oh no, no—you can’t understand. I don’t feel lonely—I don’t feel unhappy—but it’s only because Mr Hamlin—”

“Because Mr Hamlin is going away, my dear?” Mrs Simson smiled as she kissed Anne on the crisp iron‐black hair, for the girl would not loosen her hands from her face—“Because he is going away? That’s very natural too; but it won’t be for long, dearest.”

Anne broke loose from her embrace. “It’s not that! it’s not that!” she sobbed; “please go away—you can’t understand—it’s not that! Oh no, I shall be glad when he be gone away!”

Mrs Simson rose. At first she felt pained, disgusted; but her frigidness melted with the speedy reflection that girls don’t know what the matter is with them in such cases.

“Good‐bye, dear,” she said; “I shall send you up some tea in a few minutes; that will set you all right. But don’t fret because page: 206 Mr Hamlin is going. You will see him soon again.”

“I shall be glad when he is gone!” repeated Anne, in a paroxysm of grief.

It was not a mere foolish, hysterical falsehood. It was a real relief when, one morning at Frankfurt, Hamlin was standing on the platform of the station, speaking to them at the door of their carriage. The guard came to slam the door.

“Good‐bye, Mrs Simson,” said Hamlin. “Good‐bye, Miss Brown.”

“Good‐bye, sir,” she answered, extending her hand.

He kissed it hurriedly. The door was slammed. The train moved on slowly, and Hamlin walked along its side. Gradually it went quicker and quicker, and Anne Brown saw Hamlin for a minute on the platform; he was pale, but radiant. He waved his hand.

A rivederci !” he cried, waving his hat.

A pillar of the station hid him. Anne turned away from the window and opened a page: 207 book which he had given her. She read so assiduously all that day, that poor Mrs Simson, who was a sociable woman, resorted, in sheer despair, to talking with the other travellers, who stared in puzzled surprise at the tall girl with the melancholy pale face and masses of crimp black hair who sat opposite her.

When they had got out of the train, rattled over the round stones of Coblenz, and were finally following the obstreperously welcoming cook and housemaid up the stairs of Mrs Simson’s house, Anne felt relieved. And when she had been left alone in her room, she felt a weight off her. When she had taken some things out of her box, she went to the window. The last flare of sunset was on the marblelike brownish‐green swirls of the Rhine; and filaments of reddish gold streaked the sky above Ehrenbreitstein, whose windows gleamed crimson. A steamer was puffing and whistling by the wharf; the trumpets of the rappel shrieked through the streets and were reechoed from the opposite shore. From inside page: 208 the house rose the sound of a piano; some one was playing Bach’s “Mein gläubiges Herz.”

It was the beginning of a new life. Anne Brown left the window, hung her clothes in the wardrobe, folded her linen in the drawers. Then she took from her trunk a framed photograph of Hamlin, and stuck it on her dressing‐table; he was very handsome, with his straight, keen‐featured, almost beardless Norman face and waves of light hair: she looked at it long. Then she dived to the bottom of her trunk and brought out two little books; the “Petrarch” he had given her at Lucca, and the volume of his own poems. She sat down by the open window and began reading them, and glancing at the redness dying away from river and sky. She felt very solemn and happy.

“I must become worthy of him,” she thought.

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CHAPTER II.

LIFE was monotonous enough at Mrs Simson’s at Coblenz; but it was a kind of monotony which to Anne Brown was positively exciting. It was for her a process of absorption into another class of life; and as such, represented a daily influx of new ideas and habits, a daily surprise, effort, and adjustment. By virtue of her half‐Italian nature, Anne required but little to make her, in education and manners, a lady. With her wide‐open but rather empty mind, her seriousness and dignity of person, extreme simpleness, as the reverse of complexity of character, it was wholly unnecessary that she should unlearn anything, or even that she should absorb anything absolutely new; the only thing was to fill up the magnificent design page: 210 which already existed in her. No one ever required to say to Anne, “You must not do, or think, or say such or such a thing.” She surprised people only by her timidity, her silence, her passiveness, and by a sort of haughtiness which accompanied them strangely enough; a certain solemn, and, at the same time, abrupt way of judging of things and treating people, and which was the mental counterpart of her look, gait, nay, even of the folds which her dresses took on her. Ignorant though she was, she seemed at her ease with the new culture with which she was presented, just as, for all her habits of waiting on instead of being served, she seemed at ease in her behaviour. But it was difficult for Anne to tune herself or get herself tuned to the pitch of the everyday feelings and life of her companions; she could not understand these young ladies. The girls at Mrs Simson’s did not exceed half‐a‐dozen, and they were none of them schoolgirls in the ordinary sense. They were, like Anne, eccentrically placed young women; orphans, or girls page: 211 whose parents were in the colonies, or girls who could not get on at home,—girls, all of them, with a certain pretension to superiority, and a great habit of independence, which was fostered by the schoolmistress, whose theory was that women could not possibly be left too much to their own devices.

Mrs Simson was very fond of preaching this gospel of higher education, to the great scandal of the respectable German matrons whom she visited. “Narrow‐minded, vicious creatures,” she used to say, who shook their heads at the young ladies attending public lectures, walking about by themselves, and flirting in the most stalwart and open manner (quite unsentimental and unwomanly, said the Germans) with the Prussian officers. Of these girls two were orphans, and had been sent to Coblenz as a convenient riddance by their guardians; one had been deposited in Europe by her parents, to be called for when educated, and shipped off to New Zealand; one, a huge damsel approaching thirty, was studying eye‐ page: 212 surgery with a famous Rhenish oculist; the fifth was going to Girton and was studying German; the sixth had found her home too much for her, and was perpetually complaining of the hardness of her fate and the viciousness of her own character, aspiring to impossible ideals of knowledge and usefulness and self‐sacrifice, and spending her leisure making up frocks in which to disport herself at the garrison balls.

Each of them studied whatsoever she thought fit: Greek and Latin professors, piano and singing masters, German governesses, were perpetually going in and out of the house; the girls were continually running to lectures on botany or physiology or comparative philology, where the youth of the town eyed the Schöne Engländerinnen with rapture, sending them anonymous bouquets and verses, and bringing them serenades, and even, to poor Mrs Simson’s horror, slipping love‐letters of the most burning description into the door‐hinges. Among these girls poor Anne would have felt utterly lost, had she not been accustomed for years to be page: 213 her own sole company, letting her life brush by that of other folk, without ever mixing. It seemed to her quite natural to exchange one kind of isolation for another: to drudge on at improving her own mind as she had formerly drudged on at mending the clothes and making the beds of the little Perrys, interesting herself as little in, and awakening as little interest among, her companions as she had done among her fellow‐servants in Italy. Mrs Simson had received full instructions from Hamlin as to all the things which she was and was not to teach or have taught to his ward; and Anne would have been perfectly satisfied with working for her French and German masters, preparing her lessons of geography and history, and reading such books as Hamlin would send her, but the other girls were not at all so minded.

Anne Brown’s arrival created a tremendous sensation in Mrs Simson’s establishment. Her strange kind of beauty, which did not strike the conventional spectator as being beauty page: 214 at all, excluding, as it did, fairness, rosiness, youthfulness, daintiness, liveliness, voluptuousness, sentimentalness, or any of the orthodox ingredients of female charm,—her wholly unlike‐everyone‐else appearance, her silence, sullenness, haughtiness, all took the girls by surprise. Her shyness, ignorance, newness in her position, was obvious from the very first day. The knowledge of what she had been and what she was going to be, all this romance was quickly wheedled out of Mrs Simson by the misunderstood little girl who wished to turn sister of mercy, and carried on a simultaneous flirtation with a lieutenant, a Bonn student, a painter, and a piano‐master; and bullied out of her by the bouncing amazon who talked about nothing but retinal impressions and optic nerves. From that moment Anne became a subject of intense interest at the school: most of the girls had heard of Hamlin in England, and all of them had heard of him from the enthusiastic schoolmistress. To possess in their midst his chosen one was a great privilege, page: 215 although they sometimes made fun of Anne and him behind her back, drawing pictures of the solemn and tragic girl dressed in the most draggled æsthetic manner, surrounded by a circle of young æsthetes copied out of ‘Punch’ (Bunthome did not exist at that time) holding lilies and swinging censers as she went. They all thought Anne a strange, awe‐inspiring, and, at the same time, somewhat ridiculous person; but they all got to like her, although the misunderstood High Church flirt could never be got to see why Anne should despise officers and garrison balls; and the scientific girl of twenty‐eight thought æstheticism and æsthetic poets idiotic and immoral; and each of the others found some reservation to make about the Italian, as they called her. Yet, as I said, they did grow to like her; and Anne, who was unaccustomed to friendliness, was so touched by the familiarity and good‐nature of her companions, that she gradually began to take a great and serious interest in their concerns. She became quite enthusiastic about ocular page: 216 surgery, listening with scarcely any shudders to the narration of the most complicated operations; she let herself be overwhelmed with discourses about Middle High German and Gothic, and the connection with Sanskrit; she firmly believed in the mystical fervours, the desire of self‐sacrifice, the wasted passion of the little fair‐haired flirt, reasoning seriously about them, and trying to check what she believed to be a suicidal tendency; she was greatly touched by the home‐sickness and family squabbles of the other girls. Not that Anne was a fool, or made to be a dupe; on the contrary, she saw well enough the funniness of the contrasts between her friends’ words and their life; but Anne was so earnest, so simple, so homogeneous of nature, she was so fervent in all her feelings, that she always imagined that the serious things which people said or affected must be the reality; and, as in her own case, the levity, the frivolousness, the fickleness, must be the mere exterior clothing of social fictions. Thus she gave her sympathy wherever it was asked page: 217 for, while asking for no sympathy herself. The girls used often to remark upon this, and complain that for all they did, Anne Brown remained surrounded by a sort of moral moat, alone, isolated, impregnable in a kind of moral fortress.

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CHAPTER III.

AS Hamlin had fancied, while painting Anne’s portrait, so the girls at Mrs Simson’s used to fancy that there could not be much going on inside this taciturn and undemonstrative creature. But it was not so. While Anne looked so quiet, said so little (and least of all about herself) during those two years of school, a drama—nay, a whole life‐poem—was incessantly going on within her. She worked indefatigably at her lessons, read every book she could lay hold of, was taken to concerts, lectures, burgher tea‐parties and garrison balls, and on excursions up and down the Rhine and into the neighbouring hills; but all this was but as an exterior life surrounding an interior one, as the movement of the ship to the movement of the passengers on its deck.

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The real life was not with these girls and these teachers, but with Hamlin; not in this Rhineland town, but in the distant places where he travelled. He wrote to her very often, from London, from Italy, from Greece and Egypt, and wherever he roamed about. At first she was surprised by the frequency of his letters; then she became accustomed to it as to a necessity of her existence, but a necessity to which she had no right. It seemed to her wonderful that he should write so often, and yet that the time which elapsed between his letters should be intolerable. In her great desire for them she used to have recourse to all manner of unconscious sophistications. She tried to train herself to disappointment, to chastise her own impatience and greediness, saying to herself, on the days when she thought that a letter might come, “It is impossible that there should be one to‐day,” although her heart fell when the prophecy sometimes came true; and she stayed up‐stairs, her eyes pinned to her book, page: 220 when she heard the postman’s ring at the door, although that ring put her all into a tremble, and made her feel faint when she heard it. Thus with the letters from him. It was almost worse about her own answers. Often she could stand it no longer, and would begin a letter to Hamlin—only a few lines, which might be finished when his next letter should be received. The few lines turned to pages; yet the next day no letter would come, and she was unable to resist the temptation of writing even more; then, when the long‐wished letter at last came, there came with it such a number of new things to say, that her previous epistle must needs be torn up. Also, on re‐reading what she had written in answer to Hamlin, she was often filled with shame and fear. She had entertained him with such trifles, or been so pedantic, or put things in such a horrid way, she must needs tear it up and write once more. Then the length, the frequency of her letters frightened her: he would grow weary and impatient; she tried page: 221 to write briefly, but failed; she tried to write rarely, making solemn resolutions to let two, three, or four days pass without answering him; but it was not of much use. She was dreadfully afraid lest Hamlin should think her a drag upon him, lest he should write one single letter more than he would naturally have done, from goodness to her. She never told him with what tremulous expectancy she waited for the post; with what heartburn she saw it come empty‐handed; with what avidity she read his letters, re‐read them furtively by snatches, carried them about in her pocket, made them last over days, till she knew them by heart, and, even then, how she was for ever doing up and undoing again the packet in which she kept them: if he knew that, he might feel obliged, being so kind, to write oftener; and that must not be.

Any one who had seen these letters which were her soul’s food, would have been surprised how they could awaken such a longing, how they could produce such emotion and page: 222 keep alive such passion. In accordance with his whole plan of proceedings, Hamlin never once wrote to Anne as if there were any question of her ever becoming his wife. “My dear Miss Brown,” they all ceremoniously began, and ended off “Yours sincerely,” or “Your sincere friend, Walter Hamlin.” Affectionate they were, and even adoring, in the sense of looking up, or affecting to look up, at her as a sort of superhuman and wonderful creature, not quite conscious of its wonderfulness, perhaps, and certainly not responsible for it; the mental attitude of an artist before a beautiful model, of some Italian medieval poet before a Platonic mistress. There was not much perception of the reality of Anne Brown’s personality, nor indeed of her having any personality at all, being a thing with feelings, thoughts, hopes, interests of her own. Sometimes even poor Anne felt, on reading his letters, as if a lump of ice had been laid on her heart, when she came upon certain sentences; she could scarcely tell you why, but page: 223 those sentences made her feel numb and alone, like a wrecked sailor at the north pole, for days. Then a reaction came; a burning indignation with herself, a burning adoration of Hamlin. She felt as if she had done him some injury; and once or twice, amid tears of shame, she wrote that she had become unworthy of his friendship—why, she could not well explain. But she tore it all up, or left only dim hints which Hamlin misunderstood, and became more respectful and adoring than ever, imagining that he must have said something to slight her. He really was adoring; it was such a lovely Madonna this, that it seemed to him that all the most beautiful and precious things of his mind, and other men’s minds, must be heaped up before her, like offerings of flowers, and rich ointments, and jewels, and music. He copied out pages of poetry and prose in his letters, and wrote to her the most lovely descriptions of things he saw or things he felt. Whenever he recollected a fine poem, or saw a beautiful scene, page: 224 or was struck by a beautiful thought or a happy expression, he hastened to offer it to Anne, as the kings of the East offered gold and frankincense and embroidered raiment to the little Christ. That this was the result of his love, she never thought; for she never ventured to think that he condescended, or even would ever condescend, to love her; but it was in her eyes the result of his greatness, his generosity, the largesse, as it were, of his sublimity. About himself Hamlin would also write a great, great deal. Of singularly delicate mental fibre, and somewhat weak will, he was for ever tormented (or pretending to himself to be tormented, for to be so was pretty well a matter of choice) by unattainable ideals, by conflicts in his own nature: mysterious temptations of unspeakable things, beckoning his nobler nature into the mud, which he never at all specified, but which moved Anne to agonies of grief and admiration. The poor girl, not understanding how such things will shoot up in the poetic mind as a result of mere page: 225 reading, and be nurtured there for a day for the sake of their strange colour, would screw up all her might to help him, writing to him to be patient, to be strong and bold, to remember the nobility of his nature,—strange passionately earnest entreaties written in tears, or in moods like those which send people to the stake; and which, in their ludicrous disproportionateness to their cause, would bring the tears to almost any one’s eyes who should read them.

A strange correspondence; and of which Hamlin’s half, although beautiful with all manner of artistic prettinesses, would have struck one as the less beautiful and interesting part: the suppressed passionateness, unconscious of itself, of the girl’s letters, her mixture of prim literary daintiness, absorbed from her reading, and of homely, tragically‐hurled‐about imagery (Hamlin used, without revealing the author, to read out some of these metaphors of Anne’s to his friends, pointing out their Elizabethan, Webster‐like character), were much page: 226 more really striking. But Anne thought that what she wrote was unworthy to be seen by Hamlin; his condescension was mere goodness.

Hamlin, indeed, was very good to her—very gentle, courteous, generous, and assiduous. There was scarcely a book read by Anne Brown which was not of his selecting; and even in the midst of his journeys he used to elaborately select things for her reading, cutting out all but a very few pieces out of books of poetry, and copying and pasting into them all manner of extracts. “I should be grieved to think that anything save the very best should ever be read by you,” he often wrote. Thus, in the most singular way, Anne, only a nursemaid a few months before, became more deeply versed in poetry and poetical and picturesque history than most girls; Greek lyrism, Oriental mysticism, French æstheticism, but above all, things medieval and pseudo‐medieval; imbued with the imagery and sentiment of that strange eclectic school of our days which we still call pre‐Raphaelite. And page: 227 such an education, while putting her in complete harmony with Hamlin’s aspirations and habits, also brought home to her the merit of Hamlin’s own work. Of his pictures, she had, indeed, only vague recollections, besides the little sketches, wonderful jewel‐coloured things, full of poetic suggestion, which he would send her at Christmas and on her birthday, to the amazement of the whole school. But he sent her a good deal of his poetry, and that only of the best. She did not always understand exactly the things to which he alluded, seeing only the beauty, the vague passionate wistfulness, the delicate sadness of what he wrote. His greatness perfectly confounded her. She found allusions to it in everything: in reading of dead poets, of Shelley, Keats, Goethe, a kind of passionate interest thrilled through her, for she seemed to be reading about Hamlin. And the same held good as to artists; they were all his kinsmen, of his blood—nay, they all, in a mystic manner, foreshadowed him.

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Of these matters she never spoke to any of the girls. But often, while walking with them, her pride would swell with the thought that she belonged to him—that he had chosen her. And when the New Zealander, who was musical and had a fine voice, used sometimes to sing Schumann’s song, “Er der herrlichste von allen,” the words and the music sent a flood of love and pride to her heart; it was he, “he the most glorious of all,” who was thus gracious and good to her.

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CHAPTER IV.

THUS one year went by; and then, slowly, another, while Anne Brown was being transformed from a nursemaid into a lady. Hamlin saw her twice during that time. Once, while Mrs Simson and Anne were staying in Paris—for he had begged that her holidays might be spent either in Switzerland, or in some place where she might see pictures and statues—when he suddenly turned up for a day on his way from England to Greece; and once at Coblenz. Mrs Simson was giving a party: suddenly into the parlour, filled with German matrons and damsels, with a sprinkling of professors and soldiers, was introduced a slight, fair man, who looked very young till you saw him closely, and at whose sight that page: 230 sombre, quiet, strange, half‐Italian girl had suddenly turned crimson, and clutched a chair, as if afraid to fall, while the company stared and whispered. Hamlin left that same evening; and as the day in Paris had been spent in seeing and talking about pictures, so this afternoon passed in trifling conversation at Mrs Simson’s table. Alone, Anne scarcely saw him for an instant. Only, when he left Coblenz, he seized her hand as he stood at the door, and kissed it fervently. It seemed to her, during the long months of absence, that she would give all her life to see him again, to be able to tell him how grateful she was to him. Yet, in reality, his presence passed like the picture of a magic‐lantern on a wall; and she felt as if her lips were glued together: it was a vision, and no more. But on that second visit Hamlin had been dazzled. He had recognised from the first the exotic beauty and strangeness of the Perrys’ servant; he had seen in Paris that his judgment had been correct; but when, after eighteen months of schooling, he page: 231 suddenly saw Anne again, it was as if he had never seen her before, a fresh revelation. A year and a half of a lady’s life, without bodily fatigue or mental weariness, had developed to the full the girl’s marvellous beauty: strange, mysterious, amazonian it was as ever; but it was as the regalness of a triumphant queen by the side of the queenliness of a deposed Amazon chief. The haughtiness which had struck him in the nursemaid of the little Perrys, was not diminished, but softened, by a kind of quiet graciousness and goodness. Hamlin remarked that she seemed, now that she was no longer humbled and cramped, to have a much kindlier spirit and a sense of humour which had at first seemed scarcely to exist, or to exist only in bitterness. But what struck him most of all was an indefinable change in Anne’s expression: the soul, which had lain as a tiny germ at the bottom of her nature, had expanded and come to the surface. She was as beautiful and singular as ever, but more manifold and subtle: her mind had increased threefold. Hamlin page: 232 went away, intending that Anne should remain at Coblenz another year. But he found that his patience, hitherto inexhaustible, had suddenly departed. He found the time intolerably heavy on his hands. He travelled about in out‐of‐the‐way countries, having fragmentary love‐affairs, in a dreamy, irresponsible way, with other women; and sending Anne more letters than usual, and presents of all manner of outlandish stuffs—silver ornaments and so forth—which used to create great excitement at the school; but he fretted with impatience. Impatience, be it well understood, not to marry Anne, for he always thought of marriage as the return from, the end of, a sort of spiritual honeymoon; but impatience to commence that long courtship which had, from the beginning, been the object of his desires. He grew tired of their correspondence, found that he had exhausted all the delights of unconsciously revealed love, love budding and developing with the girl’s mind. It began to be mere repetition; and he scarcely knew page: 233 what to write about now: the prologue had lasted long enough; the piece must begin.

One day, some two years or so after her arrival at Coblenz, Anne Brown received a letter in which Hamlin reminded her that she was twenty‐one, and that his guardianship had consequently come to an end already some months before; and suggested that, as he heard that her education was now completed, at least in so far as Coblenz went, he thought that it might be wiser if she came to England, where she would have better opportunities of continuing any special studies. Moreover, that his aunt, Mrs Macgregor, a widow without any children, was coming to settle in London, and that he thought it might be a good arrangement that she and Anne should live together, as Anne could scarcely take a house by herself. What did Miss Brown think of this arrangement? And would she authorise him to settle everything for Mrs Macgregor and her? Faintly and vaguely Anne thanked him for his forethought, and acquiesced in page: 234 everything which he might be kind enough to decide upon. She had never realised her situation, she was not the sort of mind which has clear conceptions of the future, and she had been far too much absorbed, these two years, in the unreal present. Besides, Anne felt a confused pain, a disappointment, which prevented her attending to anything else. Hamlin had said nothing about himself, not a word as to whether he also would settle in London, or whether he intended continuing his wandering life. And she had not the courage to ask him. She was conscious of a coldness and emptiness in her heart, of the disappointment of some vague, unspoken hope. But why feel disappointed? or did she really feel disappointed at all? She believed that she cared for Hamlin only as for a benefactor, a divinity, a creature who might bestow affection but could not be asked for it; and this being the case, and knowing herself to have been perfectly satisfied and happy hitherto, page: 235 she persuaded herself that she really did not feel disappointed about anything, when Hamlin thus wrote about her education and her plans and nothing else.

But as the winter drew to a close, there came another letter from Hamlin (all the intermediate ones had been only the usual talk about himself, and about books and scenery) telling her that, with a view to her living with his aunt, he had, as her ex‐guardian (he always spoke of himself as her guardian, completely ignoring Richard Brown) deemed it wise to employ part of her capital, which had been accumulating in his hands, in the purchase of the lease of a house at Hammersmith, which he was having prepared and furnished against her coming in May. “It is in a pretty neighbourhood, with the river in front and old houses and gardens all round,” he wrote. “What determined my choice, as I am sure it would have determined yours also, is that the house is itself more than a century and a page: 236 half old, and has some fine trees in the garden. Flowers seem to grow well, as it is pretty well beyond reach of smoke. There are also some fine elms and poplars in front, all along the river‐side, which is old‐fashioned, and .not yet made into a modern embankment. It is rather far from the world; but the world is hideous, and the farther away from it the better, don’t you think? My aunt is busy about the practical household properties; I am getting in some of the more useless furniture. If you should dislike the arrangement, it can all be easily undone. I hope you will not disapprove of this step; the house is pretty well unique, and I had to decide on taking it, unless some one else was to snap it up; otherwise I should certainly have consulted you first. I trust you will forgive me.”

Anne put the letter down, and wondered whether she was dreaming. What was all this about buying and consulting her, employing her capital? What capital had she page: 237 got? What right to be consulted? For a moment she felt quite bewildered; and then the full consciousness of Hamlin’s goodness rushed out and overwhelmed her, and she let her head fall on her desk and cried for sheer happiness. Then she thought it must all be a dream, and snatched the letter where it lay all crumpled, and smoothed it out trembling. Yes, there it all was. And then, as postscript, came this sentence, which made her heart leap:—

“There are two rooms additional on the garden, having a separate entrance from the embankment, and which I think you will not at present require for yourself. Would you perhaps let me rent them for a studio? My own lodgings are a long way from St John’s House (that is its name, for it was a priory once); but if I had my workshop there, I might hope to see you almost every day, if you would let me.”

The first dinner‐bell rang, and Anne, having hastily washed her eyes and smoothed her page: 238 hair, ran down‐stairs, not knowing very well why the bell rang, or what it was all about. In the sitting‐room she found the girl from New Zealand, a little nervous creature, whom she had nursed through a bad fever, in her cold, absent way, and who had conceived a shy, intense passion for this beautiful strange creature, who seemed to her an unapproachable being from another world.

“I am going away,” cried Anne—she felt she must say it—“going away from school—to London, next month.”

The thin, nervous, anæmic little girl turned ashy‐white.

“Oh, are you really going?” she exclaimed faintly, for with Anne disappeared all the poor child’s sunshine and ideal from this dreary, worse than orphaned life, among girls who had too many occupations and interests to care for her.

“Are you really going, Annie? . . . Oh, I am so sorry!”

“Sorry?” cried Anne; “it is very nasty page: 239 of you to be sorry—I am glad; oh, so glad! so glad!”

The little New Zealander had gone to the window, and was looking through its panes at the rainy street; she gave a little suppressed sob.

Anne felt as if she had committed a murder. She ran to the window, and seized the struggling small creature in her powerful arms, and knelt down before her, clasping her round the waist.

“Oh, forgive me! forgive me!” cried Anne, as the consciousness of the girl’s love, which she had never before perceived, came upon her, together with the shame and remorse at her heartlessness; “forgive me, forgive—I am a brute—a beast —oh dear, oh dear, that happiness should make me so wicked!”

The New Zealander smiled and buried her thin yellow face in the masses of Anne’s dark crisp hair.

“Will you remember me sometimes?” she asked; “I love you so much.”

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Anne kissed the poor, pale, tear‐stained cheeks.

“Oh yes, I will always remember you,” she said.

But she was already thinking of Hamlin.

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CHAPTER V.

DURING that last month at school Anne was indefatigable: in the face of the vague future which was so rapidly approaching, she felt bound to clutch hold of the present, thinking that time which was employed in some way went less quickly. The fact was that she was in a state of great excitement—half impatience and half terror; she wished the days to go by quicker, and she wished them to go by slower; she was at once dragged wearisomely, and hurried along. At length it became a question no longer of weeks but of days. And then came another letter from Hamlin. He remembered the desire she had once expressed to go down the Rhine, to be on the sea: he proposed that she should come through Belgium and cross from Antwerp to page: 242 London. “I am sure you will enjoy it much more than the vile, vulgar, usual route,” he wrote. But he did not tell her that he was unwilling she should get any impressions of England before meeting him, however slight they might be; that he preferred to meet her, in the evening, on the Thames wharf, to receiving his Amazon Queen, his mysterious and tragic Madonna, rather than in the shed at Victoria or Charing Cross. Anne did not care how she was to go: she was to go, to embark on a new life, to see him, to be seen by him. This thought, which had never struck her before, began to haunt her now: if he should be disgusted with her? if he should recognise that he had been mistaken in his choice?

The morning before her departure, Mrs Sireson handed Anne a letter at breakfast.

“Mr Hamlin has sent a girl to fetch you, dear,” she said.

“To fetch me?” cried Anne, in astonishment.

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Mrs Simson opened the door—“Pray, come in,” she said.

A young woman entered, whose immaculate smartness and cheerful alertness never would have let one guess that she had just been travelling twenty‐four hours.

“This is Miss Brown,” said Mrs Simson. The girl curtsied, and waited for Miss Brown to speak. But Anne could not utter a word.

“Mrs Macgregor, Mr Hamlin’s aunt, engaged me as your travelling‐maid, miss,” said the young woman, handing a note to Anne.

It was from Hamlin, and ran briefly—

“MY DEAR MISS BROWN,—My aunt is unfortunately too delicate to admit of my asking her to fetch you from Coblenz; but she has engaged the bearer to be your maid, unless you have some previous. choice at Coblenz, in which case, please forgive our interference. She is highly recommended, and seems a good girl, and accustomed to travel. She will telegraph me how you are from Cologne and Ant‐ page: 244 werp Antwerp . I shall await you Thursday evening on the wharf. Till then, farewell.—Your sincere and impatient friend,

“WALTER HAMLIN.”

For some unaccountable reason Anne felt quite angry. She did not require any one to travel with her; she did not want a maid. The very word maid seemed to bring up her whole past.

“You had better go and rest yourself,” she said to the girl coldly.

“How sweet and considerate!” said Mrs Simson, reading Hamlin’s note.

“I don’t want a maid!” cried Anne, angrily.

“A young lady of your age cannot travel alone, my dear,” answered Mrs Simson, blandly. But Anne felt miserable, she knew not why, and hated the maid.

Presently she went up to her room to pack her trunk. On opening the door she discovered the maid—her maid—on her knees, emp‐ page: 245 tying emptying the chest of drawers, and folding thing after thing.

“Please don’t do that!” cried Anne, turning purple. “I will do it myself, please.”

The girl stared politely, and answered in a subdued, respectfully chiding tone—

“I was only packing your trunk, miss.”

“I will do it myself!” cried Anne, excitedly.

“As you wish, madam,” was the maid’s icy answer; and she rose.

“Can I do nothing for you?” she said, standing by the door, with a reproachful, prim little face.

Anne was ashamed.

“You can help me if you like,” she answered, rather humbled; and she began folding her things. But the girl was much quicker than she, and Anne soon remained with nothing to do, looking on vacantly. She felt as if she would give worlds to get the girl away; she felt as if she ought to say to her, “Don’t do that for me; I am not a real lady; I am no better than you; I am a servant, a maid, my‐ page: 246 self myself ,”—and as if every moment of silence were a kind of deceit. At last she could bear it no longer—

“Please,” she cried, “let me pack my things myself; I have always packed them myself; I should be so glad if you would let me.”

The girl rose and retired.

“As you like, miss,” she replied, fixing her eyes on Anne’s strange excited face.

“She knows I am only a servant like herself, and she thinks me proud and ungrateful,” thought Anne.

The next evening, among the lamentations of Mrs Simson’s establishment, Anne Brown set off for Cologne. This first short scrap of journey moved her very much: when the train puffed out of the station, and the familiar faces were hidden by outhouses and locomotives, the sense of embarking on unknown waters rushed upon Anne; and when, that evening, her maid bade her good night at the hotel at Cologne, offering to brush her hair and help her to undress, she was seized with intolerable home‐ page: 247 sickness homesickness for the school,—the little room she had just left,—and she would have implored any one to take her back. But the next days she felt quite different: the excitement of novelty kept her up, and almost made it seem as if all these new things were quite habitual; for there is nothing stranger than the way in which excitement settles one in novel positions, and familiarises one with the unfamiliar. Seeing a lot of sights on the way, and knowing that a lot more remained to be seen, it was as if there were nothing beyond these three or four days—as if the journey would have no end; that an end there must be, and what that end meant seemed a thing impossible to realise. She scarcely began to realise it when the ship began slowly to move from the wharf at Antwerp; when she walked up and down the deserted and darkened deck watching the widening river under the clear blue spring night, lit only by a ripple of moonlight, widening mysteriously out of sight, bounded only by the shore‐lights, with here or there the page: 248 white or blue or red light of some ship, and its long curl of smoke, making you suddenly conscious that close by was another huge moving thing, more human creatures in this solitude,—till at last all was mere moonlight‐permeated mist of sky and sea. And only as the next day—as the boat cut slowly through the hazy, calm sea—was drawing to its close, did Anne begin to feel at all excited. At first, as she sat on deck, the water, the smoke, the thrill of the boat, the people walking np and down, the children wandering about among the piles of rope, and leaning over the ship’s sides—all these things seemed the only reality. But later, as they got higher up in the Thames, and the unwonted English sunshine became dimmer, a strange excitement arose in Anne—an excitement more physical than mental, which, with every movement of the boat, made her heart beat faster and faster, till it seemed as if it must burst, and a lot of smaller hearts to start up and throb all over her body, tighter and tighter, till she had to press her page: 249 hand to her chest, and sit down gasping on a bench.

The afternoon was drawing to a close, and the river had narrowed; all around were rows of wharves and groups of ships; the men began to tug at the ropes. They were in the great city. The light grew fainter, and the starlight mingled with the dull smoke‐grey of London; all about were the sad grey outlines of the old houses on the wharves, the water grey and the sky also, with only a faint storm‐red where the sun had set. The rigging, interwoven against the sky, was grey also; the brownish sail of some nearer boat, the dull red sides of some steamer hard by, the only colour. The ship began to slacken speed and to turn, great puffs and pants of the engine running through its fibres; the sailors began to halloo, the people around to collect their luggage: they were getting alongside of the wharf. Anne felt the maid throw a shawl round her; heard her voice, as if from a great distance, saying, “There’s Mr Hamlin, miss;” felt herself walk‐ page: 250 ing walking along as if in a dream; and as if in a dream a figure come up and take her hand, and slip her arm through his, and she knew herself to be standing on the wharf, in the twilight, the breeze blowing in her face, all the people jostling and shouting around her. Then a voice said—“I fear you must be very tired, Miss Brown.” It was at once so familiar and so strange that it made her start; the dream seemed dispelled. She was in reality, and Hamlin was really by her side.

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