He came out of his theories and clevernesses; his premature man-of-the-worldness, on which he had prided himself on his travels, 'shrank like a thing ashamed' before this real sorrow. Pride, wounded honour, pity and respect tussled together daily in his heart; and now he was within an ace of throwing himself upon his father's mercy, and now of slipping forth at night and coming back no more to Naseby House. He suffered from the sight of his father, nay, even from the neighbourhood of this familiar valley, where every corner had its legend, and he was besieged with memories of childhood. If he fled into a new land, and among none but strangers, he might escape his destiny, who knew? and begin again light-heartedly. From that chief peak of the hills, that now and then, like an uplifted finger, shone in an arrow of sunlight through the broken clouds, the shepherd in clear weather might perceive the shining of the sea. There, he thought, was hope. But his heart failed him when he saw the Squire; and he remained. His fate was not that of the voyager by sea and land; he was to travel in the spirit, and begin his journey sooner than he supposed.

For it chanced one day that his walk led him into a portion of the uplands which was almost unknown to him. Scrambling through some rough woods, he came out upon a moorland reaching towards the hills. A few lofty Scotch firs grew hard by upon a knoll; a clear fountain near the foot of the knoll sent up a miniature streamlet which meandered in the heather. A shower had just skimmed by, but now the sun shone brightly, and the air smelt of the pines and the grass. On a stone under the trees sat a young lady sketching. We have learned to think of women in a sort of symbolic transfiguration, based on clothes; and one of the readiest ways in which we conceive our mistress is as a composite thing, principally petticoats. But humanity has triumphed over clothes; the look, the touch of a dress has become alive; and the woman who stitched herself into these material integuments has now permeated right through and gone out to the tip of her skirt. It was only a black dress that caught Dick Naseby's eye; but it took possession of his mind, and all other thoughts departed. He drew near, and the girl turned round. Her face startled him; it was a face he wanted; and he took it in at once like breathing air.

'I beg your pardon,' he said, taking off his hat, 'you are sketching.'

'Oh!' she exclaimed, 'for my own amusement. I despise the thing.'

'Ten to one, you do yourself injustice,' returned Dick. 'Besides, it's a freemasonry. I sketch myself, and you know what that implies.'

'No. What?' she asked.

'Two things,' he answered. 'First, that I am no very difficult critic; and second, that I have a right to see your picture.'

She covered the block with both her hands. 'Oh no,' she said; 'I am ashamed.'

'Indeed, I might give you a hint,' said Dick. 'Although no artist myself, I have known many; in Paris I had many for friends, and used to prowl among studios.'

'In Paris?' she cried, with a leap of light into her eyes. 'Did you ever meet Mr. Van Tromp?'

'I? Yes. Why, you're not the Admiral's daughter, are you?'

'The Admiral? Do they call him that?' she cried. 'Oh, how nice, how nice of them! It is the younger men who call him so, is it not?'

'Yes,' said Dick, somewhat heavily.

'You can understand now,' she said, with an unspeakable accent of contented noble-minded pride, 'why it is I do not choose to show my sketch. Van Tromp's daughter! The Admiral's daughter! I delight in that name. The Admiral! And so you know my father?'

'Well,' said Dick, 'I met him often; we were even intimate. He may have mentioned my name - Naseby.'

'He writes so little. He is so busy, so devoted to his art! I have had a half wish,' she added laughing, 'that my father was a plainer man, whom I could help - to whom I could be a credit; but only sometimes, you know, and with only half my heart. For a

Tales and Fantasies Page 48

Robert Louis Stevenson

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