Read CHAPTER IX of Adam Johnstone's Son , free online book, by F. Marion Crawford, on ReadCentral.com.

Brook Johnstone had never been in the habit of observing his sensations nor of paying any great attention to his actions.  He was not at all an actor, as Clare believed him to be, and the idea that he could ever have taken pleasure in giving pain would have made him laugh.  Possibly, it would have made him very angry, but it certainly had no foundation at all in fact.  He had been liked, loved, and made much of, not for anything he had ever taken the trouble to do, but partly for his own sake, and partly on account of his position.  Such charm as he had for women lay in his frankness, good humour, and simplicity of character.  That he had appeared to be changeable in his affection was merely due to the fact that he had never been in love.  He vaguely recognised the fact in his inner consciousness, though he would have said that he had been in love half a dozen times; which only amounted to saying that women he had liked had been in love with him or had thought that they were, or had wished to have it thought that he loved them or had perhaps, like poor Lady Fan, been willing to risk a good deal on the bare chance of marrying one of the best of society’s matches in the end.  He was too young to look upon such affairs very seriously.  When he had been tired of the game he had not lacked the courage to say so, and in most cases he had been forgiven.  Lady Fan might prove an exception, but he hoped not.  He was enormously far removed from being a saint, it is true, but it is due to him to repeat that he had drawn the line rigidly at a certain limit, and that all women beyond that line had been to him as his own mother, in thought and deed.  Let those who have the right to cast stones ­and the cruelty to do so ­decide for themselves whether Brook Johnstone was a bad man at heart, or not.  It need not be hinted that a proportion of the stone-throwing Pharisees owe their immaculate reputation to their conspicuous lack of attraction; the little band has a place apart and they stand there and lapidate most of us, and secretly wish that they had ever had the chance of being as bad as we are without being found out.  But the great army of the pure in heart are mixed with us sinners in the fight, and though they may pray for us, they do not carp at our imperfections ­and occasionally they get hit by the Pharisees just as we do, being rather whiter than we and therefore offering a more tempting mark for a jagged stone or a handful of pious mud.  You may know the Pharisee by his intimate knowledge of the sins he has never committed.

Besides, though the code of honour is not worth much as compared with the Ten Commandments, it is notably better than nothing, in the way of morality.  It will keep a man from lying and evil speaking as well as from picking and stealing, and if it does not force him to honour all women as angels, it makes him respect a very large proportion of them as good women and therefore sacred, in a very practical way of sacredness.  Brook Johnstone always was very careful in all matters where honour and his own feeling about honour were concerned.  For that reason he had told Clare that he had never done anything very bad, whereas what she had seen him do was monstrous in her eyes.  She had not reflected that she knew nothing about Lady Fan; and if she had heard half there was to be known she would not have understood.  That night on the platform Lady Fan had given her own version of what had taken place on the Acropolis at sunset, and Brook had not denied anything.  Clare did not reflect that Lady Fan might very possibly have exaggerated the facts very much in her statement of them, and that at such a time Brook was certainly not the man to argue the case, since it had manifestly been his only course to take all the apparent blame on himself.  Even if he had known that Clare had heard the conversation, he could not possibly have explained the matter to her ­not even if she had been an old woman ­without telling all the truth about Lady Fan, and he was too honourable a man to do that, under any conceivable circumstances.

He was decidedly and really in love with the girl.  He knew it, because what he felt was not like anything he had ever felt before.  It was anything but the pleasurable excitement to which he was accustomed.  There might have been something of that if he had received even the smallest encouragement.  But, do what he would, he could find none.  The attraction increased, and the encouragement was daily less, he thought.  Clare occasionally said things which made him half believe that she did not wholly dislike him.  That was as much as he could say.  He cudgelled his brains and wrung his memory to discover what he could have done to offend her, and he could not remember anything ­which was not surprising.  It was clear that she had never heard of him before he had come to Amalfi.  He had satisfied himself of that by questions, otherwise he would naturally enough have come near the truth and guessed that she must have known of some affair in which he had been concerned, which she judged harshly from her own point of view.

He was beginning to suffer, and he was not accustomed to suffering, least of all to any of the mental kind, for his life had always gone smoothly.  He had believed hitherto that most people exaggerated, and worried themselves unnecessarily, but when he found it hard to sleep, and noticed that he had a dull, unsatisfied sort of misery with him all day long, he began to understand.  He did not think that Clare could really enjoy teasing him, and, besides, it was not like mere teasing, either.  She was evidently in earnest when she repeated that she did not like him.  He knew her face when she was chaffing, and her tone, and the little bending of the delicate, swan-like throat, too long for perfect beauty, but not for perfect grace.  When she was in earnest, her head rose, her eyes looked straight before her, and her voice sank to a graver note.  He knew all the signs of truth, for with her it was always very near the surface, dwelling not in a deep well, but in clear water, as it were, open to the sky.  Her truth was evidently truth, and her jesting was transparent as a child’s.

It looked a hopeless case, but he had no intention of considering it without hope, nor any inclination to relinquish his attempts.  He did not tell himself in so many words that he wished to marry her, and intended to marry her, and would marry her, if it were humanly possible, and he assuredly made no such promises to himself.  Nor did he look at her as he had looked at women in whom he had been momentarily interested, appreciating her good points of face and figure, cataloguing and compiling her attractions so as to admire them all in turn, forget none, and receive their whole effect.

He had a restless, hungry craving that left him no peace, and that seemed to desire only a word, a look, the slightest touch of sympathy, to be instantly satisfied.  And he could not get from her one softened glance, nor one sympathetic pressure of the hand, nor one word spoken more gravely than another, except the assurance of her genuine dislike.

That was the only thing he had to complain of, but it was enough.  He could not reproach her with having encouraged him, for she had told him the truth from the first.  He had not quite believed her.  So much the worse for him.  If he had, and if he had gone to Naples to wait for his people, all this would not have happened, for he had not fallen in love at first sight.  A fortnight of daily and almost hourly intercourse was very good and reasonable ground for being in love.

He grew absent-minded, and his pipe went out unexpectedly, which always irritated him, and sometimes he did not take the trouble to light it again.  He rose at dawn and went for long walks in the hills, with the idea that the early air and the lofty coolness would do him good, and with the acknowledged intention of doing his walking at an hour when he could not possibly be with Clare.  For he could not keep away from her, whether Mrs. Bowring were with her or not.  He was too much a man of the world to sit all day long before her, glaring at her in shy silence, as a boy might have done, and as he would have been content to do; so he took immense pains to be agreeable, when her mother was present, and Mrs. Bowring liked him, and said that he had really a most extraordinary talent for conversation.  It was not that he ever said anything very memorable; but he talked most of the time, and always pleasantly, telling stories about people and places he had known, discussing the lighter books of the day, and affecting that profound ignorance of politics which makes some women feel at their ease, and encourages amusing discussion.

Mrs. Bowring watched him when she was there with a persistency which might have made him nervous if he had not been wholly absorbed in her daughter.  She evidently saw something in him which reminded her of some one or something.  She had changed of late, and Clare was beginning to think that she must be ill, though she scouted the suggestion, and said that she was growing daily stronger.  She had altogether relaxed her vigilance with regard to the two young people, and seemed willing that they should go where they pleased together, and sit alone together by the hour.

“I dare say I watched him a good deal at first,” she said to her daughter.  “But I have made up my mind about him.  He’s a very good sort of young fellow, and I’m glad that you have a companion.  You see I can’t walk much, and now that you are getting better you need exercise.  After all, one can always trust the best of one’s own people.  He’s not falling in love with you, is he, dear?  I sometimes fancy that he looks at you as though he were.”

“Nonsense, mother!” and Clare laughed intentionally.  “But he’s very good company.”

“It would be very unfortunate if he did,” said Mrs. Bowring, looking away, and speaking almost to herself.  “I am not sure that we should not have gone away ­”

“Really!  If one is to be turned out of the most beautiful place in the world because a young Englishman chooses to stop in the same hotel!  Besides, why in the world should he fall in love with me?  He’s used to a very different kind of people, I fancy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh ­the gay set ­’a’ gay set, I suppose, for there are probably more than one of them.  They are quite different from us, you know.”

“That is no reason.  On the contrary ­men like variety and change ­change, yes,” repeated Mrs. Bowring, with an odd emphasis.  “At all events, child, don’t take a fancy to him!” she added.  “Not that I’m much afraid of that.  You are anything but ‘susceptible,’ my dear!” she laughed faintly.

“You need not be in the least afraid,” answered Clare.  “But, after all, mother ­just supposing the case ­I can’t see why it should be such an awful calamity if we took a fancy to each other.  We belong to the same class of people, if not to the same set.  He has enough money, and I’m not absolutely penniless, though we are as poor as church mice ­”

“For Heaven’s sake, don’t suggest such a thing!” cried Mrs. Bowring.

Her face was white, and her lips trembled.  There was a frightened look in her pale eyes, and she turned her face quickly to her daughter, and quickly away again.

“Mother!” exclaimed the young girl, in surprise.  “What in the world is the matter?  I was only laughing ­besides ­” she stopped, puzzled.  “Tell me the truth, mother,” she continued suddenly.  “You know about his people ­his father is some connection of ­of your first husband ­there’s some disgraceful story about them ­tell me the truth.  Why shouldn’t I know?”

“I hope you never will!” answered Mrs. Bowring, in a low voice that had a sort of horror in it.

“Then there is something?” Clare herself turned a little paler as she asked the question.

“Don’t ask me ­don’t ask me!”

“Something disgraceful?” The young girl leaned forward as she spoke, and her eyes were wide and anxious, forcing her mother to speak.

“Yes ­no,” faltered Mrs. Bowring.  “Nothing to do with this one ­something his father did long ago.”

“Dishonourable?” asked Clare, her voice sinking lower and lower.

“No ­not as men look at it ­oh, don’t ask me!  Please don’t ask me ­please don’t, darling!”

“Then his yacht is named after you,” said the young girl in a flash of intelligence.

“His yacht?” asked the elder woman excitedly.  “What?  I don’t understand.”

“Mr. Johnstone told me that his father had a big steam yacht called the ’Lucy’ ­mother, that man loved you, he loves you still.”

“Me?  Oh no ­no, he never loved me!” She laughed wildly, with quivering lips.  “Don’t, child ­don’t!  For God’s sake don’t ask questions ­you’ll drive me mad!  It’s the secret of my life ­the only secret I have from you ­oh, Clare, if you love me at all ­don’t ask me!”

“Mother, sweet!  Of course I love you!”

The young girl, very pale and wondering, kneeled beside the elder woman and threw her arms round her and drew down her face, kissing the white cheeks and the starting tears and the faded flaxen hair.  The storm subsided, almost without breaking, for Mrs. Bowring was a brave woman and, in some ways, a strong woman, and whatever her secret might be, she had kept it long and well from her daughter.

Clare knew her, and inwardly decided that the secret must have been worth keeping.  She loved her mother far too well to hurt her with questions, but she was amazed at what she herself felt of resentful curiosity to know the truth about anything which could cast a shadow upon the man she disliked, as she thought so sincerely.  Her mind worked like lightning, while her voice spoke softly and her hands sought those thin, familiar, gentle fingers which were an integral part of her world and life.

Two possibilities presented themselves.  Johnstone’s father was a brother or near connection of her mother’s first husband.  Either she had loved him, been deceived in him, and had married the brother instead; or, having married, this man had hated her and fought against her, and harmed her, because she was his elder brother’s wife, and he coveted the inheritance.  In either case it was no fault of Brook’s.  The most that could be said would be that he might have his father’s character.  She inclined to the first of her theories.  Old Johnstone had made love to her mother and had half broken her heart, before she had married his brother.  Brook was no better ­and she thought of Lady Fan.  But she was strangely glad that her mother had said “not dishonourable, as men look at it.”  It had been as though a cruel hand had been taken from her throat, when she had heard that.

“But, mother,” she said presently, “these people are coming to-morrow or the next day ­and they mean to stay, he says.  Let us go away, before they come.  We can come back afterwards ­you don’t want to meet them.”

Mrs. Bowring was calm again, or appeared to be so, whatever was passing in her mind.

“I shall certainly not run away,” she answered in a low, steady voice.  “I will not run away and leave Adam Johnstone’s son to tell his father that I was afraid to meet him, or his wife,” she added, almost in a whisper.  “I’ve been weak, sometimes, my dear ­” her voice rose to its natural key again, “and I’ve made a mistake in life.  But I won’t be a coward ­I don’t believe I am, by nature, and if I were I wouldn’t let myself be afraid now.”

“It would not be fear, mother.  Why should you suffer, if you are going to suffer in meeting him?  We had much better go away at once.  When they have all left, we can come back.”

“And you would not mind going away to-morrow, and never seeing Brook Johnstone again?” asked Mrs. Bowring, quietly.

“I?  No!  Why should I?”

Clare meant to speak the truth, and she thought that it was the truth.  But it was not.  She grew a little paler a moment after the words had passed her lips, but her mother did not see the change of colour.

“I’m glad of that, at all events,” said the elder woman.  “But I won’t go away.  No ­I won’t,” she repeated, as though spurring her own courage.

“Very well,” answered the young girl.  “But we can keep very much to ourselves all the time they are here, can’t we?  We needn’t make their acquaintance ­at least ­” she stopped short, realising that it would be impossible to avoid knowing Brook’s people if they were stopping in the same hotel.

“Their acquaintance!” Mrs. Bowring laughed bitterly at the idea.

“Oh ­I forgot,” said Clare.  “At all events, we need not meet unnecessarily.  That’s what I mean, you know.”

There was a short pause, during which her mother seemed to be thinking.

“I shall see him alone, for I have something to say to him,” she said at last, as though she had come to a decision.  “Go out, my dear,” she added.  “Leave me alone a little while.  I shall be all right when it is time for luncheon.”

Her daughter left her, but she did not go out at once.  She went to her own room and sat down to think over what she had seen and heard.  If she went out she should probably find Johnstone waiting for her, and she did not wish to meet him just then.  It was better to be alone.  She would find out why the idea of not seeing him any more had hurt her after she had spoken.

But that was not an easy matter at all.  So soon as she tried to think of herself and her own feelings, she began to think of her mother.  And when she endeavoured to solve the mystery and guess the secret, her thoughts flew off suddenly to Brook, and she wished that she were outside in the sunshine talking to him.  And again, as the probable conversation suggested itself to her, she was glad that she was not with him, and she tried to think again.  Then she forced herself to recall the scene with Lady Fan on the terrace, and she did her best to put him in the worst possible light, which in her opinion was a very bad light indeed.  And his father before him ­Adam ­her mother had told her the name for the first time, and it struck her as an odd one ­old Adam Johnstone had been a heart-breaker, and a faith-breaker, and a betrayer of women before Brook was in the world at all.  Her theory held good, when she looked at it fairly, and her resentment grew apace.  It was natural enough, for in her imagination she had always hated that first husband of her mother’s who had come and gone before her father; and now she extended her hatred to this probable brother, and it had much more force, because the man was alive and a reality, and was soon to come and be a visible talking person.  There was one good point about him and his coming.  It helped her to revive her hatred of Brook and to colour it with the inheritance of some harm done to her own mother.  That certainly was an advantage.

But she should be very sorry not to see Brook any more, never to hear him talk to her again, never to look into his eyes ­which, all the same, she so unreasonably dreaded.  It was beyond her powers of analysis to reconcile her like and dislike.  All the little logic she had said that it was impossible to like and dislike the same person at the same time.  She seemed to have two hearts, and the one cried “Hate,” while the other cried “Love.”  That was absurd, and altogether ridiculous, and quite contemptible.

There they were, however, the two hearts, fighting it out, or at least altercating and threatening to fight and hurt her.  Of course “love” meant “like” ­it was a general term, well contrasting with “hate.”  As for really caring, beyond a liking for Brook Johnstone, she was sure that it was impossible.  But the liking was strong.  She exploded her difficulty at last with the bomb of a splendidly youthful quibble.  She said to herself that she undoubtedly hated him and despised him, and that he was certainly the very lowest of living men for treating Lady Fan so badly ­besides being a black sinner, a point which had less weight.  And then she told herself that the cry of something in her to “like” instead of hating was simply the expression of what she might have felt, and should have felt, and should have had a right to have felt, had it not been for poor Lady Fan; but also of something which she assuredly did not feel, never could feel, and never meant to feel.  In other words, she should have liked Brook if she had not had good cause to dislike him.  She was satisfied with this explanation of her feelings, and she suddenly felt that she could go out and see him and talk to him without being inconsistent.  She had forgotten to explain to herself why she wished him not to go away.  She went out accordingly, and sat down on the terrace in the soft air.

She glanced up and down, but Johnstone was not to be seen anywhere, and she wished that she had not come out after all.  He had probably waited some time and had then gone for a walk by himself.  She thought that he might have waited just a little longer before giving it up, and she half unconsciously made up her mind to requite him by staying indoors after luncheon.  She had not even brought a book or a piece of work, for she had felt quite sure that he would be walking up and down as usual, with his pipe, looking as though he owned the scenery.  She half rose to go in, and then changed her mind.  She would give him one more chance and count fifty, before she went away, at a good quick rate.

She began to count.  At thirty-five her pace slackened.  She stopped a long time at forty-five, and then went slowly to the end.  But Johnstone did not come.  Once again, she reluctantly decided ­and she began slowly; and again she slackened speed and dragged over the last ten numbers.  But he did not come.

“Oh, this is ridiculous!” she exclaimed aloud to herself, as she rose impatiently from her seat.

She felt injured, for her mother had sent her away, and there was no one to talk to her, and she did not care to think any more, lest the questions she had decided should again seem open and doubtful.  She went into the hotel and walked down the corridor.  He might be in the reading-room.  She walked quickly, because she was a little ashamed of looking for him when she felt that he should be looking for her.  Suddenly she stopped, for she heard him whistling somewhere.  Whistling was his solitary accomplishment, and he did it very well.  There was no mistaking the shakes and runs, and pretty bird-like cadences.  She listened, but she bit her lip.  He was light-hearted, at all events, she thought.

The sound came nearer, and Brook suddenly appeared in the corridor, his hat on the back of his head, his hands in his pockets.  As he caught sight of Clare the shrill tune ceased, and one hand removed the hat.

“I’ve been looking for you everywhere, for the last two hours,” he cried as he came along.  “Good morning,” he said as he reached her.  “I was just going back to the terrace in despair.”

“It sounded more as though you were whistling for me,” answered Clare, with a laugh, for she was instantly happy, and pacified, and peaceful.

“Well ­not exactly!” he answered.  “But I did hope that you would hear me and know that I was about ­wishing you would come.”

“I always come out in the morning,” she replied with sudden demureness.  “Indeed ­I wondered where you were.  Let us go out, shall we?”

“We might go for a walk,” suggested Brook.

“It is too late.”

“Just a little walk ­down to the town and across the bridge to Atrani, and back.  Couldn’t we?”

“Oh, we could, of course.  Very well ­I’ve got a hat on, haven’t I?  All right.  Come along!”

“My people are coming to-day,” said Brook, as they passed through the door.  “I’ve just had a telegram.”

“To-day!” exclaimed Clare in surprise, and somewhat disturbed.

“Yes, you know I have been expecting them at any moment.  I fancy they have been knocking about, you know ­seeing Paestum and all that.  They are such queer people.  They always want to see everything ­as though it mattered!”

“There are only the two?  Mr. and Mrs. Johnstone?”

“Yes ­that’s all.”  Brook laughed a little as though she had said something amusing.

“What are you laughing at?” asked Clare, naturally enough.

“Oh, nothing.  It’s ridiculous ­but it sounded funny ­unfamiliar, I mean.  My father has fallen a victim to knighthood, that’s all.  The affliction came upon him some time ago, and his name is Adam ­of all the names in the world.”

“It was the first,” observed Clare reassuringly.  “It doesn’t sound badly either ­Sir Adam.  I beg his pardon for calling him ‘Mr.’” She laughed in her turn.

“Oh, he wouldn’t mind,” said Brook.  “He’s not at all that sort.  Do you know?  I think you’ll like him awfully.  He’s a fine old chap in his way, though he is a brewer.  He’s much bigger than I am, but he’s rather odd, you know.  Sometimes he’ll talk like anything, and sometimes he won’t open his lips.  We aren’t at all alike in that way.  I talk all the time, I believe ­rain or shine.  Don’t I bore you dreadfully sometimes?”

“No ­you never bore me,” answered Clare with perfect truth.

“I mean, when I talk as I did yesterday afternoon,” said Johnstone with a shade of irritation.

“Oh, that ­yes!  Please don’t begin again, and spoil our walk!”

But the walk was not destined to be a long one.  A narrow, paved footway leads down from the old monastery to the shore, in zigzag, between low whitewashed walls, passing at last under some houses which are built across it on arches.

Just as they came in sight a tall old man emerged from this archway, walking steadily up the hill.  He was tall and bony, with a long grey beard, shaggy bent brows, keen dark eyes, and an eagle nose.  He wore clothes of rough grey woollen tweed, and carried a grey felt hat in one long hand.

A moment after he had come out of the arch he caught sight of Brook, and his rough face brightened instantly.  He waved the grey hat and called out.

“Hulloa, my boy!  There you are, eh!”

His voice was thin, like many Scotch voices, but it carried far, and had a manly ring in it.  Brook did not answer, but waved his hat.

“That’s my father,” he said in a low tone to Clare.  “May I introduce him?  And there’s my mother ­being carried up in the chair.”

A couple of lusty porters were carrying Lady Johnstone up the steep ascent.  She was a fat lady with bright blue eyes, like her son’s, and a much brighter colour.  She had a parasol in one hand and a fan in the other, and she shook a little with every step the porters made.  In the rear, a moment later, came other porters, carrying boxes and bags of all sizes.  Then a short woman, evidently Lady Johnstone’s maid, came quietly along by herself, stopping occasionally to look at the sea.

Clare looked curiously at the party as they approached.  Her first impulse had been to leave Brook and go back alone to warn her mother.  It was not far.  But she realised that it would be much better and wiser to face the introduction at once.  In less than five minutes Sir Adam had reached them.  He shook hands with Brook vigorously, and looked at him as a man looks who loves his son.  Clare saw the glance, and it pleased her.

“Let me introduce you to Miss Bowring,” said Brook.  “Mrs. Bowring and Miss Bowring are staying here, and have been awfully good to me.”

Sir Adam turned his keen eyes to Clare, as she held out her hand.

“I beg your pardon,” he said, “but are you a daughter of Captain Bowring who was killed some years ago in Africa?”

“Yes.”  She looked up to him inquiringly and distrustfully.

His face brightened again and softened ­then hardened singularly, all at once.  She could not have believed that such features could change so quickly.

“And my son says that your mother is here!  My dear young lady ­I’m very glad!  I hope you mean to stay.”

The words were cordial.  The tone was cold.  Brook stared at his father, very much surprised to find that he knew anything of the Bowrings, for he himself had not mentioned them in his letters.  But the porters, walking more slowly, had just brought his mother up to where the three stood, and waited, panting a little, and the chair swinging slightly from the shoulder-straps.

“Dear old boy!” cried Lady Johnstone.  “It is good to see you.  No ­don’t kiss me, my dear ­it’s far too hot.  Let me look at you.”

Sir Adam gravely introduced Clare.  Lady Johnstone’s fat face became stony as a red granite mummy case, and she bent her apoplectic neck stiffly.

“Oh!” she ejaculated.  “Very glad, I’m sure.  Were you going for a walk?” she asked, turning to Brook, severely.

“Yes, there was just time.  I didn’t know when to expect you.  But if Miss Bowring doesn’t mind, we’ll give it up, and I’ll install you.  Your rooms are all ready.”

It was at once clear to Clare that Lady Johnstone had never heard the name of Bowring, and that she resented the idea of her son walking alone with any young girl.