Page:Court Royal.djvu/129

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

‘It must have been a hard matter for your poor widowed mother to make up her mind to part with you. Sad also for you to have to leave her in her bereavement and desolation. Well, you have the comfort of knowing that a Hand is extended over the widow and the fatherless. Don’t cry, child.’

Joanna was strangely agitated. The kind tone touched her, conscious of, and beginning to be ashamed of, her false position. Her cheeks darkened and her eyes clouded. She hung her head to conceal her face.

‘You must write to your mother by this evening’s post. Tell her you have arrived here quite safely, and—I think you may add you are in a house where you will be treated with consideration. Oh! I forgot—you cannot write. I beg you a thousand pardons; it had escaped me. Shall I drop your mother a line? It would comfort her. Or, if you prefer it, get your fellow-servant, Emily, to write. I will let you have paper and envelope and stamp from the office shortly.’

‘Thank you, sir,’ said Joanna, looking up. She had recovered herself. ‘My mother—I do not know where she is. She is not dead, but lost!’

‘Good God!—poor child!—Lord bless me!—what tragedies are played in the depths below the surface on which we swim serene! But, for the matter of that,’ he added with a sigh, ‘there are sad enough stories, cares, and breakdowns about and above us. I suppose happiness and sorrow are pretty equally distributed through all the strata of life—only differing in kind, hardly in intensity. You look very young, my child; I should not have thought you as old as Mrs. Delany affirms.’

‘I have had more experience than many who are much older.’

‘I have no doubt about that. Trouble and responsibility ripen the character prematurely. Sit down, Joanna; you must be tired with your long journey. I hope Emily has given you something to eat. The drive from the station is long and cold, over exposed moor. Lord bless me! when shall we have a junction line?’

‘Thank you kindly, sir, I am not hungry. The cook is going to give me some dinner presently.’

‘That is right. I will not detain you long. I must put you in the way of things at the outset, and then all will go smoothly afterwards. I dare say your attention was called to a wall for nearly two miles along the roadside?’

‘Yes, sir.’