That night I went home with none of the reluctance or the apprehension which I
had felt on the last occasion, when I approached our own door. The assurance of
success contained in the events of the afternoon, gave me a trust in my own self-
possession--a confidence in my own capacity to parry all dangerous questions--
which I had not experienced before. I cared not how soon, or for how long a time,
I might find myself in company with Clara or my father. It was well for the
preservation of my secret that I was in this frame of mind; for, on opening my
study door, I was astonished to see both of them in my room.
Clara was measuring one of my over-crowded book-shelves, with a piece of
string; and was apparently just about to compare the length of it with a vacant
space on the wall close by, when I came in. Seeing me, she stopped; and looked
round significantly at my father, who was standing near her, with a file of papers
in his hand.
"You may well feel surprised, Basil, at this invasion of your territory," he said, with
peculiar kindness of manner--"you must, however, apply there, to the prime
minister of the household," pointing to Clara, "for an explanation. I am only the
instrument of a domestic conspiracy on your sister's part."
Clara seemed doubtful whether she should speak. It was the first time I had ever
seen such an expression in her face, when she looked into mine.
"We are discovered, papa," she said, after a momentary silence, "and we must
explain: but you know I always leave as many explanations as I can to you."
"Very well," said my father smiling; "my task in this instance will be an easy one. I
was intercepted, Basil, on my way to my own room by your sister, and taken in
here to advise about a new set of bookcases for you, when I ought to have been
attending to my own money matters. Clara's idea was to have had these new
bookcases made in secret, and put up as a surprise, some day when you were
not at home. However, as you have caught her in the act of measuring spaces,
with all the skill of an experienced carpenter, and all the impetuosity of an
arbitrary young lady who rules supreme over everybody, further concealment is
out of the question. We must make a virtue of necessity, and confess
Poor Clara! This was her only return for ten days' utter neglect--and she had
been half afraid to tell me of it herself. I approached and thanked her; not very
gratefully, I am afraid, for I felt too confused to speak freely. It seemed like a
fatality. The more evil I was doing in secret, evil to family ties and family
principles, the more good was unconsciously returned to me by my family,
through my sister's hands.
"I made no objection, of course, to the bookcase plan," continued my father.
"More room is really wanted for the volumes on volumes that you have collected
about you; but I certainly suggested a little delay in the execution of the project.
The bookcases will, at all events, not be required here for five months to come.
This day week we return to the country."