CHAPTER I. JOE BROWNLOW’S FANCY.
The lady said, “An orphan’s fate
Is sad and hard to bear."-Scott.
“Mother, you could do a great kindness.”
“If you would have the little teacher at the Miss Heath’s here for the holidays. After all the rest, she has had the measles last and worst, and they don’t know what to do with her, for she came from the asylum for officers’ daughters, and has no home at all, and they must go away to have the house purified. They can’t take her with them, for their sister has children, and she will have to roam from room to room before the whitewashers, which is not what I should wish in the critical state of chest left by measles.”
“What is her name?”
“Allen. The cry was always for Miss Allen when the sick girls wanted to be amused.”
“Allen! I wonder if it can be the same child as the one Robert was interested about. You don’t remember, my dear. It was the year you were at Vienna, when one of Robert’s brother-officers died on the voyage out to China, and he sent home urgent letters for me to canvass right and left for the orphan’s election. You know Robert writes much better than he speaks, and I copied over and over again his account of the poor young man to go with the cards. ’Caroline Otway Allen, aged seven years, whole orphan, daughter of Captain Allen, l07th Regiment;’ yes, that’s the way it ran.”
“The year I was at Vienna, and Robert went out to China. That was eleven years ago. She must be the very child, for she is only eighteen. They sent her to Miss Heath’s to grow a little older, for though she was at the head of everything at the asylum, she looks so childish that they can’t send her out as a governess. Did you see her, mother?”
“Oh, no! I never had anything to do with her; but if she is daughter to a friend of Robert’s-”
Mother and son looked at each other in congratulation. Robert was the stepson, older by several years, and was viewed as the representative of sober common sense in the family. Joe and his mother did like to feel a plan quite free from Robert’s condemnation for enthusiasm or impracticability, and it was not the worse for his influence, that he had been generally with his regiment, and when visiting them was a good deal at the United Service Club. He had lately married an heiress in a small way, retired from the army, and settled in a house of hers in a country town, and thus he could give his dicta with added weight.
Only a parent or elder brother would, however, have looked on “Joe” as a youth, for he was some years over thirty, with a mingled air of keenness, refinement, and alacrity about his slight but active form, altogether with the air of some implement, not meant for ornament but for use, and yet absolutely beautiful, through perfection of polish, finish, applicability, and a sharpness never meant to wound, but deserving to be cherished in a velvet case.