As this was Mr. Johnsen’s first visit to Sandsgaard, Mr. Martens took him round and introduced him to each guest in succession, beginning with the ladies. When they came to the fireplace, Uncle Richard received them with his usual affability; but Rachel only gave a momentary glance at the new acquaintance, and, almost without turning her head, continued her conversation with her uncle. To her astonishment, however, she remarked that the strange gentleman still remained standing by her side, and, raising her calm blue eyes, she looked fixedly at him. What followed was for her most unusual: she was obliged to withdraw her glance, for, contrary to her expectation, she did not find Mr. Johnsen shy, awkward, and impressed with the strange surroundings. It was plain, however, that he was conscious that his behaviour was unconventional, but he did not therefore desist. This caused Rachel to lose somewhat of her usual self-possession.
“Have you been on the west coast before?” said Uncle Richard, coming to her assistance.
“Never,” replied the young man; “all I have as yet seen of the sea has been Christiana Fjord.”
“And what do you think of our scenery?” continued the old gentleman. “I have no doubt that you have already seen some of the finest views in the neighbourhood.”
“It has made a deep impression on me,” answered Mr. Johnsen; “but Nature here is so grand and so impressive as to make one feel insignificant in its presence.”
“Perhaps you find it too dull here?” said Rachel, a little disappointed.
“Oh no, not exactly that,” replied he, quietly. “The idea I wished to convey is that Nature here has something—how shall I express it?—something exacting about it, by which one seems, as it were, impelled to activity, to perform some deed which will make a mark in the world.”
She looked at him with astonishment; but her uncle said good-humouredly—
“For my part, I find our desolate and weather-beaten coast tends rather to lead the mind to meditation and thought than to excite it to activity.”
“When I come to your years,” answered Mr. Johnsen, “and have done something in the world, I dare say I shall look upon life as you do.”
“I hope not,” sighed Uncle Richard, half smilingly and half sadly. “As to having done anything, I—”
At that moment the door opened and young Mrs. Garman entered the room. She looked so lovely that all eyes were turned upon her. Her French grey silk with its pink trimmings had a cut quite foreign to those parts, and it was difficult to look at her or her toilette without feeling that both were out of the common in that society.
But the first glance told that the beautifully fitting dress, and the graceful and bright-eyed woman who wore it, were well suited to each other; and as she stepped lightly across the room and gave a sprightly nod to her uncle, there was a natural ease about her gait and manner which contrasted favourably with the self-consciousness with which young ladies exhibit themselves and their smart dresses when first entering into society.