Wakem in a New Light

BEFORE three days had passed after the conversation you have just overheard between Lucy and her father, she had contrived to have a private interview with Philip during a pre-arranged absence of Maggie's at her aunt Glegg's. For a day and a night Philip turned over in his mind with restless agitation all that Lucy had told him in that interview, till he had thoroughly resolved on a course of action. He thought he saw before him now a possibility of altering his position with respect to Maggie and removing at least one obstacle between them. He laid his plan and calculated all his moves with the fervid deliberation of a chess-player in the days of his first ardour, and was amazed himself at his sudden genius as a tactician. His plan was as bold as it was thoroughly calculated. Having watched for a moment when his father had nothing more urgent on his hands than the newspaper, he went behind him, laid a hand on his shoulder, and said, `Father, will you come up into my sanctum, and look at my new sketches? I've arranged them now.'

`I'm getting terribly stiff in the joints, Phil, for climbing those stairs of yours,' said Wakem, looking kindly at his son as he laid down his paper. `But come along, then.'

`This is a nice place for you, isn't it, Phil? - a capital light that from the roof, eh?' was, as usual, the first thing he said on entering the painting room. He liked to remind himself and his son too that his fatherly indulgence had provided the accommodation. He had been a good father. Emily would have nothing to reproach him with there, if she came back again from her grave.

`Come, come,' he said, putting his double eye-glass over his nose, and seating himself to take a general view while he rested, `you've got a famous show here. Upon my word, I don't see that your things aren't as good as that London artist's - what's his name - that Leyburn gave so much money for.'

Philip shook his head and smiled. He had seated himself on his painting-stool, and had taken a lead pencil in his hand, with which he was making strong marks to counteract the sense of tremulousness. He watched his father get up, and walk slowly round, goodnaturedly dwelling on the pictures much longer than his amount of genuine taste for landscape would have prompted, till he stopped before a stand on which two pictures were placed - one much larger than the other - the smaller one in a leather case.

`Bless me! what have you here?' said Wakem, startled by a sudden transition from landscape to portrait. `I thought you'd left off figures. Who are these?'

`They are the same person,' said Philip, with calm promptness, `at different ages.'

`And what person?' said Wakem, sharply, fixing his eyes with a growing look of suspicion on the larger picture.

`Miss Tulliver. The small one is something like what she was when I was at school with her brother at King's Lorton: the large one is not quite so good a likeness of what she was when I came from abroad.'

Wakem turned round fiercely, with a flushed face, letting his eye-glass fall, and looking at his son with a savage expression for a moment as if he was ready to strike that daring feebleness from the stool. But he threw himself into the armchair again and thrust his hands into his trouser-pockets, still looking angrily at his son, however. Philip did not return the look but sat quietly watching the point of his pencil.

`And do you mean to say, then, that you have had any acquaintance with her since you came from abroad?' said Wakem, at last, with that vain effort which rage always makes, to throw as much punishment as it desires to inflict into words and tones, since blows are forbidden.

`Yes: I saw a great deal of her for a whole year before her father's death. We met often, in that thicket - the Red Deeps - near Dorlcote Mill. I love her dearly: I shall never love any other woman. I have thought of her ever since she was a little girl.'

`Go on, sir! - And you have corresponded with her all this while?'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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