The Two Guardians
"With fearless pride I say
That she is healthful, fleet, and strong
And down the rocks will leap along,
Like rivulets in May."
Along a beautiful Devonshire lane, with banks of rock overhung by tall bowery hedges,
rode a lively and merry pair, now laughing and talking, now summoning by call or
whistle the spaniel that ran by their side, or careered through the fields within the hedge.
The younger was a maiden of about twelve years old, in a long black and white plaid
riding-skirt, over a pink gingham frock, and her dark hair hidden beneath a little cap
furnished with a long green veil, which was allowed to stream behind her in the wind,
instead of affording the intended shelter to a complexion already a shade or two darkened
by the summer sun, but with little colour in the cheeks; and what there was, only the pale
pink glow like a wild rose, called up for the moment by warmth and exercise, and soon to
pass away. Still there was no appearance of want of health; the skin was of a clear, soft,
fresh shade of brown; the large dark eyes, in spite of all their depth of melancholy
softness, had the wild, untamed animation of a mountaineer; the face and form were full
of free life and vigour, as she sat erect and perfectly at ease on her spirited little bay pony,
which at times seemed so lively that it might have been matter of surprise to a stranger
that so young a horsewoman should be trusted on its back.
Her companion was a youth some ten or eleven years her senior, possessing a handsome
set of regular features, with a good deal of family likeness to hers; dark eyes and hair, and
a figure which, though slight, was rather too tall to look suitable to the small, stout, strong
pony which carried him and his numerous equipments, consisting of a long rod-case, a
fishing-basket and landing-net, in accordance with the lines of artificial flies wreathed
round his straw hat, and the various oddly contrived pockets of his grey shooting-coat.
In the distance at the end of the lane there appeared two walking figures. "Mrs. Wortley!"
exclaimed the young lady.
"No, surely not out so soon!" was the answer. "She is in the depth of lessons."
"No, but Edmund, it is, look, and Agnes too! There, Ranger has better eyes than you; he
is racing to them."
"Well, I acknowledge my mistake," said Edmund, drawing up his rein as they came upon
the pair,--a pleasing lady, and a pretty blue-eyed girl of fourteen. "I did not believe my
eyes, Mrs. Wortley, though Marian tried to persuade me. I thought you were always
reading Italian at this time in the morning, Agnes".