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cuffs and collar, and of the small veil which fell backward over her high comb, was visibly mended; but rare jewels flashed on her hands, which lay on her folded black-clad arms like finely-cut onyx cameos.
Many times Mrs. Transome went to the door-steps, watching and listening in vain. Each time she returned to the same room: it was a moderate-sized, comfortable room, with low ebony book-shelves round it, and it formed an ante-room to a large library, of which a glimpse could be seen through an open doorway, partly obstructed by a heavy tapestry curtain drawn on one side. There was a great deal of tarnished gilding and dinginess on the walls and furniture of this smaller room, but the pictures above the book-cases were all of a cheerful kind : portraits in pastel of pearly-skinned ladies with hair-powder, blue ribbons, and low bodices; a splendid portrait in oils of a Transome in the gorgeous dress of the Restoration; another of a Transome in his boyhood, with his hand on the neck of a small pony; and a large Flemish battle-piece, where war seemed only a picturesque blue-and-red accident in a vast sunny expanse of plain and sky. Probably such cheerful pictures had been chosen because this was Mrs. Transome's usual sitting-room: it was certainly for this reason that, near the chair in which she seated herself each time she re-entered, there hung a picture of a youthful face which bore a strong resemblance to her own : a beardless but masculine face, with rich brown hair hanging low on the forehead, and undulating beside each cheek down to the loose white cravat. Near this same chair were her writing-table, with vellum-covered account-books on it, the cabinet in which she kept her neatly-arranged drugs, her basket for her embroidery, a folio volume of architectural engravings from which she took her embroidery patterns, a number of the “North Loamshire Herald,” and the cushion for her fat Blenheim, which was too old and sleepy to notice its mistress's restlessness. For, just now, Mrs. Transome could not abridge the sunny tedium
of the day by the feeble interest of her usual indoor occupations. Her consciousness was absorbed by memories and prospects, and except when she walked to the entrance-door to look out, she sat motionless with folded arms, involuntarily from time to time turning toward the portrait close by her, and as often, when its young brown eyes met hers, turning away again with self-checking resolution.
At last, prompted by some sudden thought or by some sound, she rose and went hastily beyond the tapestry curtain into the library. She paused near the door without speaking : apparently she only wished to see that no harm was being done. A man nearer seventy than sixty was in the act of ranging on a large library-table a series of shallow drawers, some of them containing dried insects, others mineralogical specimens. His pale, mild eyes, receding lower jaw, and slight frame could never have expressed much vigor, either bodily or mental; but he had now the unevenness of gait and feebleness of gesture which tell of a past paralytic seizure. His threadbare clothes were thoroughly brushed; his soft white hair was carefully parted and arranged: he was not a neglected-looking old man; and at his side a fine black retriever, also old, sat on its haunches, and watched him as he went to and fro. But when Mrs. Transome appeared within the doorway her husband paused in his work, and shrank like a timid animal looked at in a cage where flight is impossible. He was conscious of a troublesome intention, for which he had been rebuked before-that of disturbing all his specimens with a view to a new arrangement.
After an interval, in which his wife stood perfectly still, observing him, he began to put back the drawers in their places in the row of cabinets which extended under the : book-shelves at one end of the library. When they were
all put back and closed Mrs. Transome turned away, and the frightened old man seated himself with Nimrod the retriever on an ottoman. Peeping at him again, a few miin. utes after, she saw that he had his arm round Nimrod's neck, and was uttering his thoughts to the dog in a loud whisper, as little children do to any object near them when they believe themselves unwatched.
At last the sound of the church-bell reached Mrs. Transome's ear, and she knew that before long the sound of wheels must be within hearing; but she did not at once start up and walk to the entrance-door. She sat still, quivering and listening; her lips became pale, her hands were cold and trembling. Was her son really coming ? She was far beyond fifty; and since her early gladness in this best-loved boy the harvests of her life had been scanty. Could it be that now—when her hair was gray, when sight had become one of the day's fatigues, when her young accomplishments seemed almost ludicrous, like the tone of her first harpsichord and the words of the songs long browned with age--she was going to reap an assured joy? to feel that the doubtful deeds of her life were justified by the result, since a kind Providence had sanctioned them ? to be no longer tacitly pitied by her neighbors for her lack of money, her imbecile husband, her graceless eldest-born, and the loneliness of her life; but to have at her side a rich, clever, possibly a tender son ? Yes; but there were the fifteen years of separation, and all that had happened in that long time, to throw her into the background in her son's memory and affection. And yet—did not men sometimes become more filial in their feeling when experience had mellowed them, and they had themselves become fathers ? Still, if Mrs. Transome had expected only her son, she would have trembled less; she expected a little grandson also; and there were reasons why she had not been enraptured when her son had written to her only when he was on the eve of returning that he already had an heir born to him.
But the facts must be accepted as they stood, and, after all, the chief thing was to have her son back again. Such pride, such affection, such hopes as she cherished in this
fifty-sixth year of her life, must find their gratification in him or nowhere. Once more she glanced at the portrait. The young brown eyes seemed to dwell on her pleasantly; but, turning from it with a sort of impatience, and saying aloud, “ Of course he will be altered !” she rose almost with difficulty, and walkeď more slowly than before across the hall to the entrance-door.
Already the sound of wheels was loud upon the gravel. The momentary surprise of seeing that it was only a postchaise, without a servant or much luggage, that was passing under the stone archway and then wheeling round against the flight of stone steps, was at once merged in the sense that there was a dark face under a red travelingcap looking at her from the window. She saw nothing else; she was not even conscious that the small
of her own servants had mustered, or that old Hickes the butler had come forward to open the chaise door. She heard herself called “Mother !" and felt a light kiss on each cheek; but stronger than all that sensation was the consciousness which no previous thought could prepare her for, that this son who had come back to her was a stranger. Three minutes before she had fancied that, in spite of all changes wrought by fifteen years of separation, she should clasp her son again as she had done at their parting; but in the moment when their eyes met the sense of strangeness came upon her like a terror. It was not hard to understand that she was agitated, and the son led her across the hall to the sitting-room, closing the door behind them. Then he turned toward her and said, smiling,
“You would not have known me, ch, mother ?”
It was perhaps the truth. If she had seen him in a crowd she might have looked at him without recognition -not, however, without startled wonder; for though the likeness to herself was no longer striking, the years had overlaid it with another likeness which would have arrested her. Before she answered him his eyes, with a keen