and where the dusty nettles grow, and where a scrap or two of hedge may yet be seen, and where the bird-catcher still comes occasionally, though he swears every time to come no more--this second home is to be found.
She who inhabits it, is she who left the first in her devotion to an outcast brother. She withdrew from that home its redeeming spirit, and from its master's breast his solitary angel: but though his liking for her is gone, after this ungrateful slight as he considers it; and though he abandons her altogether in return, an old idea of her is not quite forgotten even by him. Let her flower-garden, in which he never sets his foot, but which is yet maintained, among all his costly alterations, as if she had quitted it but yesterday, bear witness!
Harriet Carker has changed since then, and on her beauty there has fallen a heavier shade than Time of his unassisted self can cast, all-potent as he is--the shadow of anxiety and sorrow, and the daily struggle of a poor existence. But it is beauty still; and still a gentle, quiet, and retiring beauty that must be sought out, for it cannot vaunt itself; if it could, it would be what it is, no more.
Yes. This slight, small, patient figure, neatly dressed in homely stuffs, and indicating nothing but the dull, household virtues, that have so little in common with the received idea of heroism and greatness, unless, indeed, any ray of them should shine through the lives of the great ones of the earth, when it becomes a constellation and is tracked in Heaven straightway--this slight, small, patient figure, leaning on the man still young but worn and grey, is she, his sister, who, of all the world, went over to him in his shame and put her hand in his, and with a sweet composure and determination, led him hopefully upon his barren way.
`It is early, John,' she said. `Why do you go so early?'
`Not many minutes earlier than usual, Harriet. If I have the time to spare, I should like, I think--it's a fancy-- to walk once by the house where I took leave of him.'
`I wish I had ever seen or known him, John.'
`It is better as it is, my dear, remembering his fate.'
`But I could not regret it more, though I had known him. Is not your sorrow mine? And if I had, perhaps you would feel that I was a better companion to you in speaking about him, than I may seem now.'
`My dearest sister! Is there anything within the range of rejoicing or regret, in which I am not sure of your companionship?'
`I hope you think not, John, for surely there is nothing!'
`How could you be better to me, or nearer to me then, than you are in this, or anything?' said her brother. `I feel that you did know him, Harriet, and that you shared my feelings towards him.'
She drew the hand which had been resting on his shoulder, round his neck, and answered, with some hesitation:
`No, not quite.'
`True, true!' he said; `you think I might have done him no harm if I had allowed myself to know him better?'
`Think! I know it.'
`Designedly, Heaven knows I would not,' he replied, shaking his head mournfully; `but his reputation was too precious to be perilled by such association. Whether you share that knowledge, or do not, my dear-- '
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