Yet I had an appreciator. One afternoon, as I was busy on my geographical operations, a good-looking middle-aged lady, with a soft pink cheek and a sparkling hazel eye, paused and asked me if my name was not what it was. I had seen her before; a stranger to our parts, with a voice without a trace in it of the Devonshire drawl. I knew, dimly, that she came sometimes to the meeting, that she was lodging at Upton with some friends of ours who accepted paying guests in an old house that was simply a basket of roses. She was Miss Brightwen, and I now conversed with her for the first time.
Her interest in my harbours and islands was marked; she did not smile; she asked questions about my peninsulas which were intelligent and pertinent. I was even persuaded at last to leave my creations and to walk with her towards the village. I was pleased with her voice, her refinements, her dress, which was more delicate, and her manners, which were more easy, than what I was accustomed to, We had some very pleasant conversation, and when we parted I had the satisfaction of feeling that our intercourse had been both agreeable to me and instructive to her. I told her that I should be glad to tell her more on a future occasion; she thanked me very gravely, and then she laughed a little. I confess I did not see that there was anything to laugh at. We parted on warm terms of mutual esteem, but I little thought that this sympathetic Quakerish lady was to become my mother.
I SLEPT in a little bed in a corner of the room, and my Father in the ancestral four-poster nearer to the door. Very early one bright September morning at the close of my eleventh year, my Father called me over to him. I climbed up, and was snugly wrapped in the coverlid; and then we held a momentous conversation. It began abruptly by his asking me whether I should like to have a new mamma. I was never a sentimentalist, and I therefore answered, cannily, that that would depend on who she was. He parried this, and announced that, anyway, a new mamma was coming; I was sure to like her. Still in a noncommittal mood, I asked: ‘Will she go with me to the back of the lime-kiln?’ This question caused my Father a great bewilderment. I had to explain that the ambition of my life was to go up behind the lime-kiln on the top of the hill that hung over Barton, a spot which was forbidden ground, being locally held one of extreme danger. ’Oh! I daresay she will,’ my Father then said, ’but you must guess who she is.’ I guessed one or two of the less comely of the female ‘saints’, and, this embarrassing my Father,—since the second I mentioned was a married woman who kept a sweet-shop in the village,—he cut my inquiries short by saying, ’It is Miss Brightwen.’