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and racked his brains night and day to discover what it was Patricia ought to have to perfect her education and condition—"the cats being of no more good—and when he had found it he would give it, let it cost what it would.
Meanwhile Patricia lived on, blithe as bird in bower, conscious of no loss in her life, feeling no pain, foreseeing no sorrow. Youth, health, a conscience as clear as the sky and love as warm as the sun, made up the glad catalogue of her days. She knew no evil and she feared none. Her duty was plain before her and her path had neither thorns nor dubious turns. Truth, reverence, obedience; there was nothing hard nor difficult in these ; bred as she had been, the contrary lines would have been the difficulties. No falsehood had ever passed her lips; no shadow of subterfuge, of sly pretence, of fair-seeming which was seeming only, of disloyalty to her word, of insincerity to herself, of irreverent questioning or comment on others, had ever sullied the stainless innocence of her soul. Frank and free, loyal and loving, with the sea and the rocks, the wild flowers and the wild birds, as her playmates, Gordon as her friend, her uncle to reverence, to obey, and God, who was never her tyrant to fear-only her Father Invisible to worship—what more could she want? Had she been asked, she would have said “ Nothing." Her life was one of absolute contentment, of cloudless joy; and strong of heart and energy, rich in vitality, in cheerfulness, in youth, she felt as if nothing could ever touch or harm her; as if she could neither die out of existence nor be crushed by circumstance; as if she must always be as she was nowhappy, free, and fearless, and with a conscience void of offence towards God and man.
IN THE SUNSHINE.
The Captain was sitting in the porch of the cottage, which gave to the south and looked on the sea. The wind stirred the fringe of curly snow-white hair that hung about his ruddy weather-beaten face, and blew out the folds of the Union Jack flying from the flagstaff before his house. The white clouds scudded over the bright blue sky; the white waves leaped about the feet of the old grey cliffs and broke into backward streams of spray as they came tumbling in-shore; the birds sang as if they thought the spring had come again ; a few brave bees hummed over the latest flowers; and the golden leaves of the autumn trees shook and rustled in the sunshine as the wind passed through the branches. Everywhere was movement, everywhere freshness and the sentiment of life and freedom. And this bright October day, this blithe and genial farewell of the golden autumn time, was in true harmony with the cheerful spirit of the old man sitting in the porch, and feeling-past seventy as he was—how good a thing it was to live. If only he knew what was best for Patricia ! When once this problem was solved he should not have a care left. It was his only anxiety; and she, dear child—God bless her!-how unconscious she was that he was bearing this cross for her!
In a life so uneventful as his, and with a temperament the reverse of indifferent-given indeed, to exaggerate rather than reduce—any question whatsoever took enormous proportions, and a difficulty of decision became a moral burden grievously oppressive with a sense of responsibility, though never making him downcast nor ill-tempered.
Sitting there in the porch, touched by the sun and stirred by the wind, whiles sweeping the horizon with his glass, whiles fingering his round rasped chin as if counsel lurked among the stubbly beardroots, suddenly the solution struck him. It came like an inspiration born of the sunshine and the wind on this swift and hurrying October day. A lady companion! That was it. A lady companion who would teach her all those little feminine graces he could not supply; nor, for the matter of that, could the Miss Pritchards, with all their pretensions and “parlyvouing”; who would put the supreme touch on this jewel which nature had fashioned so nobly and over which he had wrought so tenderly with such ability as had been given him. Yes, that was just it; and his thought was the Eureka over again.
He heard Patricia's fresh young voice trilling out the 'Minstrel Boy' as she was industriously fighting her way upstairs through a refractory bit of sewing. It was a rent in her gown, made yesterday when she climbed the apple-tree and came down with a run, as a practical lesson on the folly of trusting to rotten branches.
“Hi there, my love!” he shouted.
“Yes, uncle," said Patricia, thrusting her head out of the window which was framed in by the crimson leaves of a Virginia creeper. It was like a picture by Jordaens, only better done.
“Come down, I want to speak to you,” said Captain Kemball; and Patricia, throwing her work on the floor, came down the stairs two at a time, and jumped across the hall like a school-boy into the porch.
Yes, uncle,” she said in her clear voice, louder than most girls' voices because the Captain was a trifle deaf. “What do you want ?"
“I want to speak to you, my dear,” said Captain Kemball gravely.
She looked at him with a little surprise. The unusual solemnity of his voice struck her.
“ All right, I am ready,” she answered ; and sat herself down on the opposite bench, her hands folded on her lap, and her attitude attention.”
He raised his eyes to her fondly. There was nothing that pleased him more than this ready, heartsome acquiescence which was one of Patricia's characteristics. There was no skulking about her. Whatever she might have in hand she left it at a word or a sign from him ; always with that sunny smile on her fresh fair face, always with that
frank look in her dark grey eyes, and that air of almost soldierly attention in her upright, supple figure, which gave the value of meaning to please to all she did. She was alive, body and soul, heart and brain; and even her silence was more active than many people's words.
“Patricia,” said Captain Kemball, “I have found it.” “Yes, uncle,” she repeated for the third time.
“What have you found ?"
“What you want, my dear.”
“Oh! But I did not know I wanted anything,” she said, with a pretty perplexity on her face.
“Yes you do, my dear,” he answered positively.
“Very well.” She smiled. “If you say so, I suppose I do; but I did not know it. What is it?"
“A lady companion.”
“A lady what?" said Patricia with the air of one who has heard and has not understood.
“A lady companion,” repeated the Captain gallantly sticking to his guns. She was not going to be “ nasty” surely—and for the first time in her life?
“What on earth can have put that notion into your head, uncle ?" asked Patricia in amazement. " What do I want with a lady companion ? She would be horribly in our way-yours as well as mine."
“As for mine,” he said resignedly, “I should not object to anything that was for your good.”
There was no affectation in this. He too thought this lady companion would be horribly in his way; but he would bear this cross as cheerfully as he had borne that of his own perplexity before.
“But what do I want with a lady companion at all ?” reiterated his niece. “I am very happy as I am; as happy as the day is long; and I am sure we should not get on better with a third person in the house. Why, uncle dear, what a funny idea!”
“But you would like it, Pat ?" he said.
"I am sure I should not,” said Patricia; " and I cannot think why you should say so. There would be nothing to like in having a stranger always with one. Fancy never being able to be alone to our two selves again! Oh, uncle, how horrid !” And here she asked again : "Who can have put such an idea into your head ?”
“ Providence," said the Captain gravely. And Patricia did not laugh.
“ Very well, uncle dear,” she answered after a short pause. “ You know best, of course. If you really think it right that we should have a lady companion here for my sake, we will get one; but I hope you will be quite sure that it is the right thing to do before you decide, because it will be difficult, look at it how we will. You see the house is so small, and the spare bedroom wants furnishing, and
we ought to have a new carpet in the sitting-room ; Sarah and I have darned that old thing till we can darn it no more. And we want some cups and saucers, and lots of things in the kitchen, and a coalscoop; Sarah says she scatters the small coals through the holes in the old one. And the dinner-set is all chipped and half of it broken. Oh dear! there is no end to it all when we once begin! And a lady -companion is an awfully expensive thing, I have heard ; and, of course, though we can go on very well as we are, she must have everything ship-shape and nice when she comes. But you know best,” she repeated cheerfully, leaning forward and laying her hand on his ; whatever you wish, you are very sure I shall say yes, are you not, dear ?"
“God bless you ! to be sure I am, my girl,” answered the Captain warmly. “And now that you tell me all this, I'll look into my balance and think of it.”
“Meanwhile, I must go and finish my mending,” said Patricia with a kind of conscientious solemnity.
Needlework was about the most sobering occupation she knew; it kept her so still and took so much time.
"All right, dear. But I say, Pat, I do not like to know that things are wanting in the house which we should be obliged to have if the lady companion came. My girl ought to be as well found as any lady companion that ever stepped. Eh ! how have you let things go so far adrift ? Have you had a cat, child-vean ?”
Patricia laughed. “No; our cat has been time and wear,” she answered. “ That's enough too, Sarah says."
“Well, well, we'll see to it,” he said, adjusting his glass. “ Was that all you wanted with me, dear ?"
“ Yes, for the present,” said Captain Kemball, his glass to his eye. “There's a fine Prussian, Pat!” he cried. “She'll give those poor mounseers some trouble if ever she comes across them. Bad sailors, those mounseers. Lord ! what a fine ship !"
Patricia went over to him and looked through the glass too. “Yes, she's a beauty," she said as she handed him back his telescope.
Then she kissed the top of the dear bald head, as was her wont, and went back to her own room to darn her skirt. But she sang no more of the Minstrel Boy.' A chord beside those of his own harp was broken for to-day.
Presently her uncle called to her again. He had come out of the porch and was standing on the gravel-walk, whence he could see her as she sat by the window sewing.
“I have it, my girl,” he said in a cheery voice. This was his second Eureka within the hour.
“Yes, uncle ?” she answered looking up, her bright face slightly flushed,
“I will write to your Aunt Hamley and be guided by her advice."
For a few seconds Patricia did not speak. She was apparently too much occupied with a rebellious length of hair that would fall over her face to be able to give her full mind to Aunt Hamley; but she soon cleared her eyes and said, bravely enough if not quite in her usual key: “Do so, dear ; you know best.”
“I knew you would say that,” cried Captain Kemball triumphantly. “Bless your dear innocent heart. I can read you like a book! Always the same steady discipline in the ship, and the old uncle's command submitted to without a murmur. If you know how we old folks prize this ready obedience, Pat!"
“Well, I should be very ungrateful else,” said Patricia. “And that would not be like you," he said.
I hope not,” she answered gravely. “Now, I'll go and write to your Aunt Hamley,” said the Captain. “She'll understand this matter, and I do not.”
On which he turned and went into the house, and Patricia heard him knocking things about downstairs-opening half a dozen drawers for one, fighting over split pens and dried-up ink, and making as much noise and as many preparations before settling down to write a letter of a few lmes to his sister as if he was going to board an enemy.
Now, Aunt Hamley was Patricia's one standing dread in life. She was her uncle's, consequently her dead father's, only sister ; but since her marriage with Jabez Hamley, the rich brower of Milltown and possessor of Abbey Holme, which had relieved him from the necessity of her further support, she had kept up very little intercourse with her surviving brother. Both men had been objectionable persons, each in his own way, to her mind. The one was a long-haired artist who declined to go into the Church on conscientious (she called them unconscientious) grounds; the other was a sailor of democratic habits, with no manners to speak of, and promotion cut short by the loss of his limb. Had Reginald, Patricia's father, been even successful in his questionable career, and employed to paint the Queen and the Royal Family, instead of being a wretched dreamer who threw away his time over his ideas—ideas, indeed! as if a man could live by ideas ! or had Captain Robert not met with that accident and so had gone on to be an admiral and a K.C.B. like his father before him, she would not have minded so much; but an unsuccessful painter and a shunted captain—they were vessels if not of wrath yet of very unrefined clay, and she declined handling them save at a distance.
When Reginald died, twelve years ago, she did certainly offer to take the penniless little girl to her own childless home and bring her up to ladylike habits and womanly refinements. She would have done her duty by her, had her offer been accepted, and she would have liked