The first change that passed over the calm uniformity of the life at North Villa,
came in this manner:
One evening, on entering the drawing-room, I missed Mrs. Sherwin; and found to
my great disappointment that her husband was apparently settled there for the
evening. He looked a little flurried, and was more restless than usual. His first
words, as we met, informed me of an event in which he appeared to take the
"News, my dear sir!" he said. "Mr. Mannion has come back--at least two days
before I expected him!"
At first, I felt inclined to ask who Mr. Mannion was, and what consequence it
could possibly be to me that he had come back. But immediately afterwards, I
remembered that this Mr. Mannion's name had been mentioned during my first
conversation with Mr. Sherwin; and then I recalled to mind the description I had
heard of him, as "confidential clerk;" as forty years of age; and as an educated
man, who had made his information of some use to Margaret in keeping up the
knowledge she had acquired at school. I knew no more than this about him, and I
felt no curiosity to discover more from Mr. Sherwin.
Margaret and I sat down as usual with our books about us.
There had been something a little hurried and abrupt in her manner of receiving
me, when I came in. When we began to read, her attention wandered
incessantly; she looked round several times towards the door. Mr. Sherwin
walked about the room without intermission, except when he once paused on his
restless course, to tell me that Mr. Mannion was coming that evening; and that he
hoped I should have no objection to be introduced to a person who was "quite
like one of the family, and well enough read to be sure to please a great reader
like me." I asked myself rather impatiently, who was this Mr. Mannion, that his
arrival at his employer's house should make a sensation? When I whispered
something of this to Margaret, she smiled rather uneasily, and said nothing.
At last the bell was rung. Margaret started a little at the sound. Mr. Sherwin sat
down; composing himself into rather an elaborate attitude--the door opened, and
Mr. Mannion came in.
Mr. Sherwin received his clerk with the assumed superiority of the master in his
words; but his tones and manner flatly contradicted them. Margaret rose hastily,
and then as hastily sat down again, while the visitor very respectfully took her
hand, and made the usual inquiries. After this, he was introduced to me; and then
Margaret was sent away to summon her mother down stairs. While she was out
of the room, there was nothing to distract my attention from Mr. Mannion. I
looked at him with a curiosity and interest, Which I could hardly account for at
If extraordinary regularity of feature were alone sufficient to make a handsome
man, then this confidential clerk of Mr. Sherwin's was assuredly one of the
handsomest men I ever beheld. Viewed separately from the head (which was