The Two Guardians
"Where once we dwelt our name is heard no more,
Children not thine 'may tread' my nurseryfloor."
The way of life at Fern Torr parsonage was so quiet as to afford few subjects for
narration. Mrs. Wortley was a gentle, sensible person, very fond of Marian and Gerald,
both for their own sake and their mother's, and to be with her was to them as like being at
home as anything could be. Agnes was quite wrapped up in her friend, whom she pitied
so heartily, and was to lose so soon. She had known no troubles except through Marian,
she reverenced Marian's griefs, and in her respect for them was inclined to spoil her not a
little. Then, through nothing against the Lyddells had ever been said to Agnes, she had
caught all Marian's prejudiced dislike to them, and sometimes in lively exaggeration,
sometimes in grave condolence, talked of them "as these horrid people."
Marian felt every day was precious as it passed, and the time seemed to her far less than
two months, when one day there arrived a letter from Mrs. Lyddell to announce that the
family were about to leave London, and in the course of a week Mr. Lyddell would come
to fetch her and Gerald to Oakworthy.
The letter was kindly expressed, but this was lost upon Marian in the pain its purport
gave her, and the difficulty of composing an answer. She chose her smallest sheet of
writing-paper with the deepest black edge, wrote as widely as she could, and used the
longest words, but with all Mrs. Wortley's suggestions, she could not eke out what she
had to say beyond the first page. She would not even send her love to her cousins, for she
said she could have no particular affection for them, and to express any pleasure in the
prospect of seeing so many strangers would be an actual untruth.
What a week was that which followed! Marian loved her home with that enthusiasm
which especially belongs to the inhabitants of mountainous districts, and still more
acutely did she feel the separation from all that reminded her of her parents. If she had
not had Gerald to go with her she did not know how she could have borne it, but Gerald,
her own beautiful brother, with his chestnut curls, dark bright eyes, sweet temper, and
great cleverness and goodness, he must be a comfort to her wherever she was. Gerald was
one of those children who seem to have a peculiar atmosphere of bright grace and
goodness around them, who make beautiful earnest sayings in their simplicity which are
treasured up by their friends, who, while regarding them with joy and something like
veneration, watch them likewise with fear and trembling. Thus had his mother looked
upon Gerald, and thus in some degree did Mrs. Wortley; but Marian had nothing but
pride, joy, and confidence in him, unalloyed save now and then by the secret, half
superstitious fear that such goodness might mark him for early death.