His mother’s sketches were far inferior to his own; but with the loving and faithful study of nature which they showed, perhaps, too, with the fact that they were chiefly gathered from homely and homelike scenes, from level horizons and gray skies, Jan felt a sympathy which stirred him to the heart. His delight in them touched Lady Adelaide even more than it moved his father. But then no personal inconvenience in the past, no long habits of suffering and selfishness, blunted her sense of the grievous wrong that had been done to her husband’s gifted son. Nor to him alone! It was with her husband’s dead wife that Lady Adelaide’s sympathies were keenest,—the mother, like herself, of an only child.
Mr. Ford’s client went almost unwillingly to his wife’s grave, by the side of which her old father’s bones now rested. But Jan and Lady Adelaide hastened thither, hand in hand, and the painter’s pledge was redeemed. Since the old man died, it had been little tended, and weeds grew rank where flowers had once been planted. Jan threw himself on the neglected grave. “My poor mother!” he cried, almost bitterly. For a moment the full sense of their common wrong seemed to overwhelm him, and he shrank even from Lady Adelaide. But when, kneeling beside him, she bent her face as if the wind that sighed among the grass stalks could carry her words to ears long dulled in death,—“My poor child! I will be a mother to your son!”—Jan’s heart turned back with a gush of gratitude to his good stepmother.
He had much reason to be grateful: then, and through many succeeding years, when her training fitted him to take his place without awkwardness in society, and her tender care atoned (so she hoped) for the hardships of the past.
The brotherly love between Jan and D’Arcy was a source of great comfort to her. Once only was it threatened with estrangement. It was when they had grown up into young men, and each believed that he was in love with Amabel. Jan had just prepared to sacrifice himself (and Amabel) with enthusiasm to his brother, when D’Arcy luckily discovered that he and the playmate of his childhood were not really suited to each other. It was the case. The conventionalities of English society in his own rank were part of D’Arcy’s very life, but to Amabel they had been made so distasteful in the hands of Lady Craikshaw that her energetic, straight-forward spirit was in continual revolt; and it was not the least of Jan’s merits in her eyes that his life had been what it was, that he was so different from the rest of the people amongst whom she lived, and that the interests and pleasures which they had in common were such as the world of fashion could neither give nor take away.
Withheld from sacrificing his affections to his brother, Jan joined with his father to cut off the entail of his property. “D’Arcy is your heir, sir,” he said. “I hope to live well by my art, and god forbid that I should disinherit Lady Adelaide’s son.”