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In a pleasant room above a quiet street were Mr Sebastian Archer and his daughter. The windows were open, and the morning sunlight came in bright but not glaring. Breakfast had been cleared away; and the gentleman, placed in the easiest chair where he could catch a glimpse of cool green trees, was smoking an exquisite cigar. The Manetti was busy. She had suddenly remembered a neglected duty, and was washing the delicate china which her father loved. Sebastian was a very Don Giovanni of expensive tastes.
"I did better last night, padre ?” said Miss Marion, careful over the bowl.
“You were good,” said her father, slowly: "you sang with more heart.” He took out his cigar, dropped the ash into an old Dresden saucer which
stood at his elbow, and added, softly, “ Irvine Dale was there."
"I saw him," said she, as she stooped over a choice piece. “It is very strange, padre."
“What is strange, Bellina ?”
“I was thinking of him in the overture—I don't know why—and when I went on, I saw him first of all; and I think I knew that I should see him."
"You think,” said Mr Archer, drily; and added, after a pause, “ He looked uncommonly wild.”
“You saw it too? I was quite frightened for him. Mr Kerisen promised to find him. Where is Mr Kerisen? why is he not here?” She spoke sharply, and with that abruptness and slight foreign accent which often came when she was moved.
Her father smiled. “You task our poor Kerisen," he said. “Will he bring Dale here?"
“No, no,” she answered, quickly; "he must not come till I am perfect in Lisa. He helps me to sing, but he would hinder my study."
“As you wish, Carina,” murmured Sebastian, with lips more seriously busy with his cigar. “Poor Irvie! you should have tamed him to your hand at Amalfi, my little one."
“What should I have been now?" she asked, dreamily. “I have done something. I can do something. Can't I, padre mio ?” She came to him, and passed her hand over the silky hair, in which few silver threads were visible.
“ You can support a useless old father,” he answered, looking up with smiling eyes.
She bent down and kissed his forehead. She seemed in need of affection that morning. “But the people ?." she said; “I help them, do I not? I sing true? It is good as far as it goes ?” She asked the questions eagerly, with the simplicity of a child, but did not wait for the answers. Indeed the questions were answered before asked, and she went back to her china. Presently a quick step was heard on the stairs, and Kerisen entered with an unusual air of animation. · He went straight to Miss Marion, who had paused in her work, and was regarding him with little head in air and expectation in her eyes. The sleeve of her print frock was carefully pinned back, and the fingers, with rosy tips bent slightly backward, had been just dried on her big rough apron. Kerisen noted for the thousandth time with fresh surprise the beauty of the expressive hand, over which he bowed with half-serious deference, and the lovely
moulding of the wrist. “Gretchen,” he murmured, apologetically, to this most artistic housewife.
" Gallio converted," muttered Sebastian, smiling on his cigar.
“Have you found him ?” asked the lady, with something imperious in her manner.
“I know where he is," said Kerisen. “Having received my orders from the most triumphant lady of the world "
“No, no,” said she, checking a smile.
“I went,” he continued, “ on the wings of the wind, or rather in a hansom, to Sir Joseph Harefel's. There they knew nothing of our friend Irvine. I then tried three likely hotels, without success. It was now past midnight; my cabman began to doubt my sanity; but I was afraid to give up the search. I was afraid to face your majesty. Suddenly I remembered an old-fashioned house which the wild youth affected. I went there; found a night-porter three parts asleep, and for the rest speechless with sulks and whisky. He pushed a paper at me when I asked for Dale. On it was scrawled an address in his handwriting. He went by the twelve o'clock,' grunted the porter. I copied the address, and here it is.”
She thanked him warmly. “But what is this place ?” she asked, holding the paper.
“The place is Sunleigh-on-Thames, a charming village. The house is kept by a good woman, who knows Irvine, and will take care of him. The air is a tonic; there is no noise."
She nodded her head at each item of the description, and, when it was ended, she stood looking meditatively at the paper. Mr Sebastian Archer regarded his daughter with unobtrusive attention. Then he crossed his legs, deposited the stump of his cigar in the Dresden saucer, assumed a position even more comfortable, and hazarded a proposition : "Let us take a holiday, and pay a visit to this enchanting village. I need some fresh air. We might look in on poor Irvine, and see if all goes well. What say you, little one ? and you, Great Indifferent, who don't even deign to recognise my existence ?”
“I beg your pardon,” said Kerisen, coming forward with an embarrassed laugh. Then he looked to Miss Archer for an answer. There was certainly a change in the Great Indifferent. There was even a trace of anxiety in his look. His absolute serenity was impaired, for he had found a purpose in life.