Read CHAPTER XI - BROOKE’S DISCIPLE of Brooke's Daughter A Novel , free online book, by Adeline Sergeant, on ReadCentral.com.

Lesley was sitting in a low chair near a small wood fire, which the chillness of the October day made fully acceptable. She had a book on her lap, but she did not look as if she were reading: her chin was supported by her hand, and her brown eyes were gazing out of the window, with, as Maurice Kenyon could not fail to see, a slightly blank and saddened look. The girl had been now a fortnight in London, and her face had paled and thinned since her arrival; there was an anxious fold between her brows, and her mouth drooped at the corners. If her old friends Sister Rose of the convent, for instance had seen her, they could hardly have recognized this spiritless, brooding maiden for the joyous “Lisa” of their thoughts.

Mr. Kenyon had only one moment in which to note the significance of her attitude, for Lesley changed it as soon as she heard his name. He gave her Ethel’s message at once and Ethel’s parcel, and then stood, a little confused and unready for she had risen and was looking as if, when his errand was accomplished, he ought to go. Fortunately, Doctor Sophy came in and invited him cordially to sit down; rang for tea and scolded him roundly for not coming oftener; then suddenly remembered that one of her everlasting committees was at that moment sitting in a neighboring house, and started off at once to join her fellows, calling out to Lesley as she went to give Mr. Kenyon some tea, and tell her father, who was in the library.

“My father is out: Aunt Sophy does not know that,” said Lesley to her visitor.

“Then I ought to go?” said Maurice, smiling.

“Oh, no!” Lesley looked disturbed. “I did not mean to be so inhospitable. The tea is just coming up.”

“Thank you,” said Maurice, accepting the unspoken invitation and seating himself. “I shall be very glad of a cup.”

She sat down too, veiling the real embarrassment of a school-girl by an assumption of great dignity. Maurice looked at her and felt perplexed. Somehow he could not believe that Brooke’s daughter was such a very frivolous girl when he came to look at her. She had a fine brow, expressive eyes, a very eloquent mouth. He wondered what she was reading. Glancing at the title of the book, his heart sank within him. She had a yellow-backed novel in her hand, of a profoundly light and frivolous type. Maurice was fond of certain kinds of novels, but there were others that he disliked and despised, and, as it happened, Lesley had got hold of one of these.

“You are reading?” he said. “Am I interrupting you very much?”

“Oh, no,” Lesley answered, smiling and shutting the book. “Tea is coming up, you see. I am falling into English habits, and beginning to love the hour of tea.”

Sarah brought in the tea-tray as she spoke; and even Sarah’s sour visage relaxed a little at the sight of the young doctor. She went downstairs, and presently returned with a plate of small, sweet cakes, which she placed rather ostentatiously upon the table.

“Sarah must have brought those cakes especially for me,” said Mr. Kenyon lightly, when she had left the room. “She knows they are my especial favorites. And your father’s too. I don’t know how many dozen your father and I have not eaten, with our coffee sometimes in an evening! I suppose you are learning to like them for his sake!”

He was talking against time for the sake of giving her back the confidence that she seemed to have lost, for her face had flushed and paled again more than once since his entry. But perhaps he was wrong, for she answered him with a quietness of tone which showed no perturbation.

“These little macaroon things, you mean? I like them very much already. I did not know that my father cared about them. I have been away so long” smilingly “that I know but little of his tastes.”

“I could envy you the pleasure you will have, then?” said Maurice, quickly.

Lesley opened her brown eyes. “The the pleasure?” she faltered in an inquiring tone.

“Yes, the pleasure of discovering what are the tastes and feelings of a man like your father,” said Maurice.

Then, as she looked disconcerted still, and as if she did not know quite what he meant, he went on, ardently:

“You have the privilege, you know, of being the only daughter of a man who is not only very widely known, but very much respected and admired. That doesn’t seem much to you perhaps?” for he thought he saw Lesley’s lip curl, and his tone became a little sharp. “I assure you it means a great deal in a world like ours in the world of London. It means that your father is a man of great ability and of unimpeachable honesty I mean honesty of thought, honesty of purpose intellectual honesty. You have no idea how rare that quality is amongst public men or literary men or journalists. Indeed it is a wonder that Brooke is so successful as he is, considering that he never wrote or said a word that he did not mean. No doubt that seems a small thing to you: it is not a small thing to say of a journalist now-a-days.”

“I don’t know much about journalists,” said Lesley. “But all that you are saying would be taken as a matter of course amongst gentlemen.”

There was a snub for Maurice, and a sly hit at her father, too. Maurice began to wax warm.

“Miss Brooke,” he said, “you entirely fail to understand me; and I can imagine that you, perhaps, fail to understand your father also.”

“If I do,” said Lesley, proudly, “I hardly need to be set right by a stranger.”

The young doctor sprang to his feet. “I a stranger!” he said. “I, who have known and appreciated and worked with Caspar Brooke for the last half dozen years I to be called a stranger by his daughter? I don’t think that’s fair: I don’t indeed.”

He paused and put his tea-cup down upon the table. “If you’ll only think for a minute, Miss Brooke,” he said, entreatingly, with such a sudden softening of voice and manner that Lesley sat amazed, “I cannot believe but that you’ll pardon me. I owe so much to your father he has been a guide, a helper, almost a prophet to me, ever since I came across him when I was a medical student at King’s College Hospital, and I only want everybody to see him with my eyes loving and reverent eyes, I can tell you, though I wouldn’t say so to everybody, seeing that love and reverence seem to have gone out of fashion! But to his daughter

“His daughter surely does not need to be taught how to think of him by another, whether he be an old friend or a comparative stranger,” said Lesley. “She can learn to know him for herself.”

“But can she?” Maurice Kenyon’s Irish strain, which always led him to be more eager and explicit in speech than if he had been entirely of Anglo-Saxon nationality, was running away with him. “Are you sure that she can? Look here, Miss Brooke: you come to your father’s house straight from a French convent, I believe. What can you know of English life? of the strife of political parties, of literary parties, of faiths and theories and passions? You are plunged into the midst of a new world it can’t help but be strange to you at first, and you must feel a trifle forlorn and miserable at least I should think so

Lesley was in a dilemma. Kenyon’s words were so true, so apt, that they brought involuntary tears to her eyes. She could get rid of the lump in her throat only by working herself up into a rage: she could dissipate the tears only by making her eyes flash with anger. The melting mood was not to her taste. She chose the more hostile tone.

“Mr. Kenyon, excuse me, but you have no right at all to talk about my being miserable. You may know my father: you do not know me.”

“But knowing your father so well

“That has nothing to do with it. Am I not a separate human being? What have you to do with me and my feelings? You say that I do not know English ways is it an English way,” cried Lesley, indignantly, “to try to thrust yourself into a girl’s confidence, and intrude where you have not been asked to enter? Then English ways are not those that I approve.”

Maurice Kenyon felt that his cause was lost. He had gone rather white about the lips as he listened to Lesley’s protest. Of course, he had offended her by his abominable want of tact, he told himself his intrusive proffer of unneeded sympathy and help. But it was not in his nature to acknowledge himself beaten, and to take his leave without a word. His ardor impelled him to speak.

“Miss Brooke, I most sincerely beg your pardon,” he said, in tones of deep humility. “I see that I have made a mistake but I assure you that it was from the purest motives. I don’t” forgetting his apologetic attitude for a moment “I don’t think that you realize what a truly great man your father is how good, as well as great. I don’t think you understand him. But I beg your pardon for seeming to think that I could enlighten you. Of course, it must seem like impertinent interference to you. But if you knew” with a tremor of disappointment in his voice “what your father has been to me, you would not perhaps be so surprised at my wanting his daughter to sympathize with me in my feelings. I had no idea” this was intended to be a Parthian shot “that my admiration would be thought insulting.”

He bowed very low, and turned to depart, vowing to himself that nothing would induce him ever to enter that drawing-room again; but Lesley, pale and wide-eyed, called him back.

“Stay, Mr. Kenyon,” she said, rising from her seat.

He halted, his hat in one hand, his fingers still on the knob of the door.

“I never meant to say,” said Lesley, confronting him, “that I was incapable of sympathy with you in admiration for my father. With my feeling towards him you have nothing to do that is all. I am not angry because you express your own sentiments, but because

She stopped and bit her lip.

“Because I dared divine what yours might be?” asked Maurice, boldly, and with an accent of reproach. “Is it possible that yours can be like mine? and am I to blame for saying so? How can you estimate the worth of his work? You, a girl fresh from school! I know it is very rude to say so, but I cannot help it. If you were more of a woman, Miss Brooke, if you had had a wider experience of life and mankind, you would acknowledge that you could not possibly know very much of what your father had done, and you would be glad of the opportunity of learning!”

This was just the speech calculated to make Lesley furiously angry, and it was with great difficulty that she restrained the words that rose impetuously to her lips. She stood motionless and silent, and Maurice mistook her silence for that of stupid obstinacy, when it was the silence of wounded feeling and passionate resentment. He went on hotly, for he began to feel himself once more in the right.

“Of course you may know all about him: you may know as much as I who have lived and worked at his side, so to speak, for the last six years! You may be familiar with his writings: you may have seen the Tribune every week, and you may know that wonderful book of his ’The Unexplored’ I mean, not the essays by heart; there may be nothing that I can tell you, even about his gallant fight for one of the hospitals last year, or the splendid work he has set going at the Macclesfield Buildings in North London, or the way in which his name is blessed by hundreds yes hundreds of men and women and children whom he has helped to lead a better life! You may know all about these things, and plenty more, but you can’t know coming here without having seen him since you were a baby you can’t know the beauty of his character, or the depths of his sympathy for the erring, or the tremendous efforts that he has made, and is still making, for the laboring poor. You can’t know this, or else I’d tell you, Miss Brooke, what you would be doing! You would be working heart and soul to lighten his burdens and relieve him of the incessant drudgery that interferes with his higher work, instead of sitting here day after day reading yellow-backed novels in a drawing-room.”

And then, in a white heat of indignation, Mr. Maurice Kenyon took his leave. But he did not know the consternation that he had created in Lesley’s mind. She was positively frightened by his vehemence. But she had never seen an angry man before never been spoken to in strong masculine tones of reprobation and disgust, such as it seemed to her that Maurice Kenyon had used. And for what? She did not know. She was not aware that she had behaved in an unfilial manner to her father. She did not realize that her cold demeanor, her puzzled and bewildered looks, had told Mr. Kenyon far more than she would have cared to confess about the state of her feelings. For the rest, Ethel’s words and Maurice’s vivid imagination were to blame. And, angry as Lesley was, she felt with a thrill of dismay that Mr. Kenyon’s discourteous words were perfectly true. She did not appreciate her father; she did not know anything about him. All that she had hitherto surmised was bad. And here came a young man, apparently sane, certainly handsome and clever, although disagreeable to tell her that Caspar Brooke was a hero, a man among ten thousand, an intellectual giant, an uncrowned king. It was too ridiculous; and Lesley laughed aloud although as she laughed she found that her eyes were wet with tears.