The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte Mary Yonge - HTML preview
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A cloud was o'er my childhood's dream, I sat in solitude;
I know not how--I know not why,
But round my soul all drearily
There was a silent shroud.
THOUGHTS IN PAST YEARS
Mrs. Edmonstone was anxious to hear Mr. Lascelle's opinion of his pupil, and in time she learnt that he thought Sir Guy had very good abilities, and a fair amount of general information; but that his classical knowledge was far from accurate, and mathematics had been greatly neglected. He had been encouraged to think his work done when he had gathered the general meaning of a passage, or translated it into English verse, spirited and flowing, but often further from the original than he or his tutor could perceive. He had never been taught to work, at least as other boys study, and great application would be requisite to bring his attainments to a level with those of far less clever boys educated at a public school.
Mr. Lascelles told him so at first; but as there were no reflections on his grandfather, or on Mr. Potts, Guy's lip did not suffer, and he only asked how many hours a day he ought to read. 'Three,' said Mr. Lascelles, with a due regard to a probable want of habits of application; but then, remembering how much was undone, he added, that 'it ought to be four or more, if possible.''Four it _shall_ be,' said Guy; 'five if I can.'
His whole strength of will was set to accomplish these four hours, taking them before and after breakfast, working hard all the morning till the last hour before luncheon, when he came to read the lectures on poetry with Charles. Here, for the first time, it appeared that Charles had so entirely ceased to consider him as company, as to domineer over him like his own family.
Used as Guy had been to an active out-of-doors life, and now turned back to authors he had read long ago, to fight his way through the construction of their language, not excusing himself one jot of the difficulty, nor turning aside from one mountain over which his own efforts could carry him, he found his work as tough and tedious as he could wish or fear, and by the end of the morning was thoroughly fagged. Then would have been the refreshing time for recreation in that pleasant idling-place, the Hollywell drawing-room. Any other time of day would have suited Charles as well for the reading, but he liked to take the hour at noon, and never perceived that this made all the difference to his friend of a toil or a pleasure. Now and then Guy gave tremendous yawns; and once when Charles told him he was very stupid, proposed a different time; but as Charles objected, he yielded as submissively as the rest of the household were accustomed to do. To watch Guy was one of Charles's chief amusements, and he rejoiced greatly in the prospect of hearing his history of his first dinner- party. Mr., Mrs. and Miss Edmonstone, and Sir Guy Morville, were invited to dine with Mr. and Mrs. Brownlow. Mr. Edmonstone was delighted as usual with any opportunity of seeing his neighbours; Guy looked as if he did not know whether he liked the notion or not; Laura told him it would be very absurd and stupid, but there would be some good music, and Charles ordered her to say no more, that he might have the account, the next morning, from a fresh and unprejudiced mind.The next morning's question was, of course, 'How did you like your party?' 'O, it was great fun.' Guy's favourite answer was caught up in the midst, as Laura replied, 'It was just what parties always are.' 'Come, let us have the history. Who handed who in to dinner? I hope Guy had Mrs. Brownlow.' 'Oh no,' said Laura; we had both the honourables.' 'Not Philip!' 'No,' said Guy; 'the fidus Achetes was without his pious Aeneas.' 'Very good, Guy,' said Charles, enjoying the laugh.
'I could not help thinking of it,' said Guy, rather apologising, 'when I was watching Thorndale's manner; it is such an imitation of Philip; looking droller, I think, in his absence, than in his presence. I wonder if he is conscious of it.''It does not suit him at all,' said Mrs. Edmonstone; because he has no natural dignity.' 'A man ought to be six foot one, person and mind, to suit with that grand, sedate, gracious way of Philip's,' said Guy. 'There's Guy's measure of Philip's intellect,' said Charles, 'just six foot one inch.' 'As much more than other people's twice his height,' said Guy. 'Who was your neighbour, Laura?' asked Amy. 'Dr. Mayerne; I was very glad of him, to keep off those hunting friends of Mr. Brownlow, who never ask anything but if one has been to the races, and if one likes balls.'
'And how did Mrs. Brownlow behave?' said Charles. 'She is a wonderful woman,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, in her quiet way; and Guy with an expression between drollery and simplicity, said, 'Then there aren't many like her.''I hope not,' said Mrs. Edmonstone. 'Is she really a lady?'
'Philip commonly calls her "that woman,"' said Charles. 'He has never got over her one night classing him with his "young man" and myself, as three of the shyest monkeys she ever came across.''She won't say so of Maurice,' said Laura, as they recovered the laugh. 'I heard her deluding some young lady by saying he was the eldest son,' said Mrs. Edmonstone. 'Mamma!' cried Amy, 'could she have thought so?' 'I put in a gentle hint on Lord de Courcy's existence, to which she answered, in her quick way, 'O ay, I forgot; but then he is the second, and that's the next thing.'
'If you could but have heard the stories she and Maurice were telling each other!' said Guy. 'He was playing her off, I believe; for whatever she told, he capped it with something more wonderful. Is she really a lady?''By birth,' said Mrs. Edmonstone. It is only her high spirits and small judgment that make her so absurd.' 'How loud she is, too!' said Laura. 'What was all that about horses, Guy?'
'She was saying she drove two such spirited horses, that all the grooms were afraid of them; and when she wanted to take out her little boy, Mr. Brownlow said "You may do as you like my dear, but I won't have my son's neck broken, whatever you do with your own." So Maurice answered by declaring he knew a lady who drove not two, but four-inhand, and when the leaders turned round and looked her in the face, gave a little nod, and said, 'I'm obliged for your civility.''Oh! I wish I had heard that,' cried Laura. 'Did you hear her saying she smoked cigars?' Everyone cried out with horror or laughter.
'Of course, Maurice told a story of a lady who had a cigar case hanging at her chatelaine, and always took one to refresh her after a ball.'
Guy was interrupted by the announcement of his horse, and rode off at once to Mr. Lascelles.
The next evening, on coming in from a solitary skating, he found the younger party in the drawing-room, Charles entertaining the Miss Harpers with the story of the cigars. He hastily interposed--'I told you it was but one.' 'Ay, tried one, and went on. She was preparing an order for Havannah.' 'I thought I told you I repeated the conversation incorrectly.' 'If it is not the letter, it is the spirit,' said Charles, vexed at the interference with his sport of amazing the Miss Harpers with outrageous stories of Mrs. Brownlow. 'It is just like her,' said one of them. 'I could believe anything of Mrs. Brownlow.' 'You must not believe this,' said Guy, gently. 'I repeated incorrectly what had better have been forgotten, and I must beg my foolish exaggeration to go no further.' Charles became sullenly silent; Guy stood thoughtful; and Laura and Amabel could not easily sustain the conversation till the visitors took their leave. 'Here's a pother!' grumbled Charles, as soon as they were gone. 'I beg your pardon for spoiling your story,' said Guy; but it was my fault, so I was obliged to interfere.' 'Bosh!' said Charles. 'Who cares whether she smoked one or twenty? She is Mrs. Brownlow still.' The point is, what was truth?' said Laura. 'Straining at gnats,' said Charles.
'Little wings?' said Guy, glancing at Amabel. 'Have it your won way,' said Charles, throwing his head back; 'they must be little souls, indeed that stick at such trash.'Guy's brows were contracted with vexation, but Laura looked up very prettily, saying-- 'Never mind him. We must all honour you for doing such an unpleasant thing.' 'You will recommend him favourably to Philip,' growled Charles.
There was no reply, and presently Guy asked whether he would go up to dress? Having no other way of showing his displeasure, he refused, and remained nursing his illhumour, till he forgot how slight the offence had been, and worked himself into a sort of insane desire--half mischievous, half revengeful--to be as provoking as he could in his turn.
Seldom had he been more contrary, as his old nurse was wont to call it. No one could please him, and Guy was not allowed to do anything for him. Whatever he said was intended to rub on some sore place in Guy's mind. His mother and Laura's signs made him worse, for he had the pleasure of teasing them, also; but Guy endured it all with perfect temper, and he grew more cross at his failure; yet, from force of habit, at bedtime, he found himself on the stairs with Guy's arm supporting him.'Good night,' said Charles; 'I tried hard to poke up the lion to-night, but I see it won't do.'
This plea of trying experiments was neither absolutely true nor false; but it restored Charles to himself, by saving a confession that he had been out of temper, and enabling him to treat with him wonted indifference the expostulations of father, mother, and Laura.
Now that the idea of 'poking up the lion' had once occurred, it became his great occupation to attempt it. He wanted to see some evidence of the fiery temper, and it was a new sport to try to rouse it; one, too, which had the greater relish, as it kept the rest of the family on thorns.
He would argue against his real opinion, talk against his better sense, take the wrong side, and say much that was very far from his true sentiments. Guy could not understand at first, and was quite confounded at some of the views he espoused, till Laura came to his help, greatly irritating her brother by hints that he was not in earnest. Next time she could speak to Guy alone, she told him he must not take all Charles said literally.'I thought he could hardly mean it: but why should he talk so?'
'I can't excuse him; I know it is very wrong, and at the expense of truth, and it is very disagreeable of him--I wish he would not; but he always does what he likes, and it is one of his amusements, so we must bear with him, poor fellow.'
From that time Guy seemed to have no trouble in reining in his temper in arguing with Charles, except once, when the lion was fairly roused by something that sounded like a sneer about King Charles I.
'Ungenerous, unmanly,' said Guy, his voice low, but quivering with indignation; 'ungenerous to reproach him with what he so bitterly repented. Could not his penitence, could not his own blood'--but as he spoke, the gleam of wrath faded, the flush deepened on the cheek, and he left the room.
'Ha!' soliloquized Charles, 'I've done it! I could fancy his wrath something terrific when it was once well up. I didn't know what was coming next; but I believe he has got himself pretty well in hand. It is playing with edge tools; and now I have been favoured with one flash of the Morville eye, I'll let him alone; but it _ryled_ me to be treated as something beneath his anger, like a woman or a child.'In about ten minutes, Guy came back: 'I am sorry that I was hasty just now,' said he. 'I did not know you had such personal feelings about King Charles.' 'If you would do me a kindness,' proceeded Guy, 'you would just say you did not mean it. I know you do not, but if you would only say so.' 'I am glad you have the wit to see I have too much taste to be a roundhead.' 'Thank you,' said Guy; 'I hope I shall know your jest from your earnest another time. Only if you would oblige me, you would never jest again about King Charles.'
His brow darkened into a stern, grave expression, so entirely in earnest, that Charles, though making no answer, could not do otherwise than feel compliance unavoidable. Charles had never been so entirely conquered, yet, strange to say, he was not, as usual, rendered sullen.At night, when Guy had taken him to his room, he paused and said--'You are sure that you have forgiven me?' 'What! You have not forgotten that yet?' said Charles. 'Of course not.' 'I am sorry you bear so much malice,' said Charles, smiling. 'What are you imagining?' cried Guy. 'It was my own part I was remembering, as I must, you know.' Charles did not choose to betray that he did not see the necessity. 'I thought King Charles's wrongs were rankling. I only spoke as taking liberties with a friend.'
'Yes,' said Guy, thoughtfully, 'it may be foolish, but I do not feel as if one could do so with King Charles. He is too near home; he suffered to much from scoffs and railings; his heart was too tender, his repentance too deep for his friends to add one word even in jest to the heap of reproach. How one would have loved him!' proceeded Guy, wrapped up in his own thoughts,--'loved him for the gentleness so little accordant with the rude times and the part he had to act--served him with half like a knight's devotion to his lady-love, half like devotion to a saint, as Montrose did--
'Great, good, and just, could I but rate My grief, and thy too rigid fate, I'd weep the world in such a strain,As it should deluge once again.' 'And, oh!' cried he, with sudden vehemence, 'how one would have fought for him!' 'You would!' said Charles. 'I should like to see you and Deloraine charging at the head of Prince Rupert's troopers.'
'I beg your pardon,' said Guy, suddenly recalled, and colouring deeply; 'I believe I forgot where I was, and have treated you to one of my old dreams in my boatings at home. You may quiz me as much as you please tomorrow. Good night'
'It was a rhapsody!' thought Charles; 'yes it was. I wonder I don't laugh at it; but I was naturally carried along. Fancy that! He did it so naturally; in fact, it was all from the bottom of his heart, and I could not quiz him--no, no more than Montrose himself. He is a strange article! But he keeps one awake, which is more than most people do!'
Guy was indeed likely to keep every one awake just then; for Mr. Edmonstone was going to take him out hunting for the first time, and he was half wild about it. The day came, and half an hour before Mr. Edmonstone was ready, Guy was walking about the hall, checking many an incipient whistle, and telling every one that he was beforehand with the world, for he had read one extra hour yesterday, and had got through the others before breakfast. Laura thought it very true that, as Philip said, he was only a boy, and moralized to Charlotte on his being the same age as herself--very nearly eighteen. Mrs. Edmonstone told Charles it was a treat to see any one so happy, and when he began to chafe at the delay, did her best to beguile the time, but without much success. Guy had ever learned to wait patiently, and had a custom of marching up and down, and listening with his head thrown back, or, as Charles used to call it, 'prancing in the hall.'
If Mrs. Edmonstone's patience was tried by the preparation for the hunt in the morning, it was no less her lot to hear of it in the evening. Guy came home in the highest spirits, pouring out his delight to every one, with animation and power of description giving all he said a charm. The pleasure did not lose by repetition; he was more engrossed by it every time; and no one could be more pleased with his ardour than Mr. Edmonstone, who, proud of him and his riding, gave a sigh to past hopes of poor Charles, and promoted the hunting with far more glee that he had promoted the reading.
The Redclyffe groom, William, whose surname of Robinson was entirely forgotten in the appellation of William of Deloraine, was as proud of Sir Guy as Mr. Edmonstone could be; but made representations to his master that he must not hunt Deloraine two days in the week, and ride him to Broadstone two more. Guy then walked to Broadstone; but William was no better pleased, for he thought the credit of Redclyffe compromised, and punished him by reporting Deloraine not fit to be used next hunting day. Mr. Edmonstone perceived that Guy ought to have another hunter; Philip heard of one for sale, and after due inspection all admired--even William, who had begun by remarking that there might be so many screw-looses about a horse, that a man did not know what to be at with them.
Philip, who was conducting the negotiation, came to dine at Hollywell to settle the particulars. Guy was in a most eager state; and they and Mr. Edmonstone talked so long about horses, that they sent Charles to sleep; his mother began to read, and the two elder girls fell into a low, mysterious confabulation of their own till they were startled by a question from Philip as to what could engross them so deeply.'It was,' said Laura, 'a banshee story in Eveleen de Courcy's last letter.' 'I never like telling ghost stories to people who don't believe in them,' half whispered Amabel to her sister. 'Do you believe them?' asked Philip, looking full at her. 'Now I won't have little Amy asked the sort of question she most dislikes,' interposed Laura; 'I had rather ask if you laugh at us for thinking many ghost stories inexplicable?' 'Certainly not.' 'The universal belief could hardly be kept up without some grounds,' said Guy. 'That would apply as well to fairies,' said Philip.
'Every one has an unexplained ghost story,' said Amy. 'Yes,' said Philip; 'but I would give something to meet any one whose ghost story did not rest on the testimony of a friend's cousin's cousin, a very strong-minded person.''I can't imagine how a person who has seen a ghost could ever speak of it,' said Amy. 'Did you not tell us a story of pixies at Redclyffe?' said Laura. 'O yes; the people there believe in them firmly. Jonas Ledbury heard them laughing one night when he could not get the gate open,' said Guy. 'Ah! You are the authority for ghosts,' said Philip. 'I forgot that,' said Laura: 'I wonder we never asked you about your Redclyffe ghost.' 'You look as if you had seen it yourself,' said Philip. 'You have not?' exclaimed Amy, almost frightened.
'Come, let us have the whole story,' said Philip. 'Was it your own reflection in the glass? was it old sir Hugh? or was it the murderer of Becket? Come, the ladies are both ready to scream at the right moment. Never mind about giving him a cocked-hat, for with whom may you take a liberty, if not with an ancestral ghost of your own?'
Amy could not think how Philip could have gone on all this time; perhaps it was because he was not watching how Guy's colour varied, how he bit his lip; and at last his eyes seemed to grow dark in the middle, and to sparkle with fire, as with a low, deep tone, like distant thunder, conveying a tremendous force of suppressed passion, he exclaimed, 'Beware of trifling--' then breaking off hastened out of the room.'What's the matter?' asked Mr. Edmonstone, startled from his nap; and his wife looked up anxiously, but returned to her book, as her nephew replied, 'Nothing.' 'How could you Philip?' said Laura. 'I really believe he has seen it!' said Amy, in a startled whisper. 'He has felt it, Amy--the Morville spirit,' said Philip. 'It is a great pity you spoke of putting a cocked hat to it,' said Laura; 'he must have suspected us of telling you what happened about Mrs. Brownlow.' 'And are you going to do it now?' said her sister in a tone of remonstrance.
'I think Philip should hear it!' said Laura; and she proceeded to relate the story. She was glad to see that her cousin was struck with it; he admired this care to maintain strict truth, and even opened a memorandum-book--the sight of which Charles dreaded--and read the following extract: 'Do not think of one falsity as harmless, and another as slight, and another as unintended. Cast them all aside. They may be light and accidental, but they are an ugly soot from the smoke of the pit, for all that; and it is better that our hearts should be swept clean of them, without over care as to which is the largest or blackest.'
Laura and Amy were much pleased; but he went on to regret that such excellent dispositions should be coupled with such vehemence of character and that unhappy temper. Amy was glad that her sister ventured to hint that he might be more cautious in avoiding collisions.
'I am cautious', replied he, quickly and sternly; 'I am not to be told of the necessity of exercising forbearance with this poor boy; but it is impossible to reckon on all the points on which he is sensitive.'
'He is sensitive,' said Laura. 'I don't mean only in temper, but in everything. I wonder if it is part of his musical temperament to be as keenly alive to all around, as his ear is to every note. A bright day, a fine view, is such real happiness to him; he dwells on every beauty of Redclyffe with such affection; and then, when he reads, Charles says it is like going over the story again himself to watch his face act it in that unconscious manner.''He makes all the characters so real in talking them over,' said Amy, 'and he does not always know how they will end before they begin.' 'I should think it hardly safe for so excitable a mind to dwell much on the world of fiction,' said Philip.
'Nothing has affected him so much as Sintram,' said Laura. 'I never saw anything like it. He took it up by chance, and stood reading it while all those strange expressions began to flit over his face, and at last he fairly cried over it so much, that he was obliged to fly out of the room. How often he has read it I cannot tell; I believe he has bought one for himself, and it is as if the engraving had a fascination for him; he stands looking at it as if he was in a dream.''He is a great mystery,' said Amy.
'All men are mysterious,' said Philip 'but he not more than others, though he may appear so to you, because you have not had much experience, and also because most of the men you have seen have been rounded into uniformity like marbles, their sharp angles rubbed off against each other at school.''Would it be better if there were more sharp angles?' said Laura, thus setting on foot a discussion on public schools, on which Philip had, of course, a great deal to say.
Amy's kind little heart was meanwhile grieving for Guy, and longing to see him return, but he did not come till after Philip's departure. He looked pale and mournful, his hair hanging loose and disordered, and her terror was excited lest he might actually have seen his ancestor's ghost, which, in spite of her desire to believe in ghosts, in general, she did not by any means wish to have authenticated. He was surprised and a good deal vexed to find Philip gone, but he said hardly anything, and it was soon bedtime. When Charles took his arm, he exclaimed, on finding his sleeve wet--'What can you have been doing?''Walking up and down under the wall,' replied Guy, with some reluctance. 'What, in the rain?' 'I don't know, perhaps it was.'
Amy, who was just behind, carrying the crutch, dreaded Charles's making any allusion to Sintram's wild locks and evening wanderings, but ever since the outburst about King Charles, the desire to tease and irritate Guy had ceased.
They parted at the dressing-room door, and as Guy bade her good night, he pushed back the damp hair that had fallen across his forehead, saying, 'I am sorry I disturbed your evening. I will tell you the meaning of it another time.'
'He has certainly seen the ghost!' said silly little Amy, as she shut herself into her own room in such a fit of vague 'eerie' fright, that it was not till she had knelt down, and with her face hidden in her hands, said her evening prayer, that she could venture to lift up her head and look into the dark corners of the room.'Another time!' Her heart throbbed at the promise.
The next afternoon, as she and Laura were fighting with a refractory branch of wisteria which had been torn down by the wind, and refused to return to its place, Guy, who had been with his tutor, came in from the stable-yard, reduced the trailing bough to obedience, and then joined them in their walk. He looked grave, was silent at first, and then spoke abruptly--'It is due to you to explain my behaviour last night.''Amy thinks you must have seen the ghost,' said Laura, trying to be gay. 'Did I frighten you?' said Guy, turning round, full of compunction. 'No, no. I never saw it. I never even heard of its being seen. I am very sorry.' 'I was very silly,' said Amy smiling. 'But,' proceeded Guy, 'when I think of the origin of the ghost story, I cannot laugh, and if Philip knew all--'
'Oh! He does not,' cried Laura; 'he only looks on it as we have always done, as a sort of romantic appendage to Redclyffe. I should think better of a place for being haunted.' 'I used to be proud of it,' said Guy. 'I wanted to make out whether it was old Sir Hugh or the murderer of Becket, who was said to groan and turn the lock of Dark Hugh's chamber. I hunted among old papers, and a horrible story I found. That wretched Sir Hugh,--the same who began the quarrel with your mother's family--he was a courtier of Charles II, as bad or worse than any of that crew--''What was the quarrel about?' said Laura.
'He was believed to have either falsified or destroyed his father's will, so as to leave his brother, your ancestor, landless; his brother remonstrated, and he turned him out of doors. The forgery never was proved, but there was little doubt of it. There are traditions of his crimes without number, especially his furious anger and malice. He compelled a poor lady to marry him, though she was in love with another man; then he was jealous; he waylaid his rival, shut him up in the turret chamber, committed him to prison, and bribed Judge Jeffries to sentence him--nay it is even said he carried his wife to see the execution! He was so execrated that he fled the country; he went to Holland, curried favour with William of Orange, brought his wealth to help him, and that is the deserving action which got him the baronetcy! He served in the army a good many years, and came home when he thought his sins would be forgotten. But do you remember those lines?' and Guy repeated them in the low rigid tone, almost of horror, in which he had been telling the story:--'On some his vigorous judgments light, In that dread pause 'twixt day and night,
Life's closing twilight hour;
Round some, ere yet they meet their doom, Is shed the silence of the tomb,
'How should I not feel it?' answered Guy. 'Is it not written that the sins of the fathers shall be visited on the children? You wonder to see me so foolish about Sintram. Well, it is my firm belief that such a curse of sin and death as was on Sintram rests on the descendants of that miserable man.'
The girls were silent, struck with awe and dismay at the fearful reality with which he pronounced the words. At last, Amy whispered, 'But Sintram conquered his doom.' At the same time Laura gathered her thoughts together, and said, 'This must be an imagination. You have dwelt on it and fostered it till you believe it, but such notions should be driven away or they will work their own fulfilment.'
'Look at the history of the Morvilles, and see if it be an imagination,' said Guy. 'Crime and bloodshed have been the portion of each--each has added weight and darkness to the doom which he had handed on. My own poor father, with his early death, was, perhaps, the happiest!'
Laura saw the idea was too deeply rooted to be treated as a fancy, and she found a better argument. 'The doom of sin and death is on us all, but you should remember that if you are a Morville, you are also a Christian.'
'He does remember it!' said Amy, raising her eyes to his face, and then casting them down, blushing at having understood his countenance, where, in the midst of the gloomy shades, there rested for an instant the gleam which her mother had likened to the expression of Raffaelle's cherub.'They walked on for some time in silence. At last Laura exclaimed, 'Are you really like the portrait of this unfortunate Sir Hugh?' Guy made a sign of assent.
'Oh! It must have been taken before he grew wicked,' said Amy; and Laura felt the same conviction, that treacherous revenge could never have existed beneath so open a countenance, with so much of highmindedness, pure faith and contempt of wrong in every glance of the eagle eye, in the frank expansion of the smooth forehead.
They were interrupted by Mr. Edmonstone's hearty voice, bawling across the garden for one of the men. 'O Guy! are you there?' cried he, as soon as he saw him. 'Just what I wanted! Your gun, man! We are going to ferret a rabbit.'Guy ran off at full speed in search of his gun, whistling to Bustle. Mr. Edmonstone found his man, and the sisters were again alone. 'Poor fellow!' said Laura. 'You will not tell all this to Philip?' said Amy. 'It would show why he was hurt, and it can be no secret.'
'I dare say you are right, but I have a feeling against it. Well, I am glad he had not seen the ghost!'
The two girls had taken their walk, and were just going in, when, looking round, they saw Philip walking fast and determinedly up the approach, and as they turned back to meet him, the first thing he said was, 'Where is Guy?'
It was a card of Sir Guy Morville, on the back of which was written in pencil, 'Dear P., I find hunting and reading don't agree, so take no further steps about the horse. Many thanks for your trouble.--G.M.'
'There,' said Philip, 'is the result of brooding all night on his resentment.' 'Oh no!' cried Laura, colouring with eagerness, 'you do not understand him. He could not bear it last night, because, as he has been explaining to us, that old Sir Hugh's story was more shocking than we ever guessed, and he has a fancy that their misfortunes are a family fate, and he could not bear to hear it spoken of lightly.''Oh! He has been telling you his own story, has he?' Laura's colour grew still deeper, 'If you had been there,' she said, 'you would have been convinced. Why will you not believe that he finds hunting interfere with reading?' 'He should have thought of that before,' said "Philip.
'Here have I half bought the horse! I have wasted the whole morning on it, and now I have to leave it on the man's hands. I had a dozen times rather take it myself, if I could afford it. Such a bargain as I had made, and such an animal as you will not see twice in your life.''It is a great pity,' said Laura. 'He should have known his own mind. I don't like people to give trouble for nothing.'
'Crazy about it last night, and giving it up this morning! A most extraordinary proceeding. No, no, Laura, this is not simple fickleness, it would be too absurd. It is temper, temper, which makes a man punish himself, in hopes of punishing others.
Laura still spoke for Guy, and Amy rejoiced; for if her sister had not taken up the defence of the absent, she must, and she felt too strongly to be willing to speak. It seemed too absurd for one feeling himself under such a doom to wrangle about a horse, yet she was somewhat amused by the conviction that if Guy had really wished to annoy Philip he had certainly succeeded.
There was no coming to an agreement. Laura's sense of justice revolted at the notion of Guy's being guilty of petty spite; while Philip, firm in his preconceived idea of his character, and his own knowledge of mankind, was persuaded that he had imputed the true motive, and was displeased at Laura's attempting to argue the point. He could not wait to see any one else, as he was engaged to dine out, and he set off again at his quick, resolute pace.'He is very unfair!' exclaimed Amy. 'He did not mean to be so,' said Laura; 'and though he is mistaken in imputing such motives, Guy's conduct has certainly been vexatious.'
They were just turning to go in, when they were interrupted by the return of the carriage; and before Charles had been helped up the steps, their father and Guy came in sight. While Guy went to shut up Bustle, who was too wet for the drawing-room, Mr. Edmonstone came up to the others, kicking away the pebbles before him, and fidgeting with his gloves, as he always did when vexed.'Here's a pretty go!' said he. 'Here is Guy telling me he won't hunt any more!' 'Not hunt!' cried Mrs. Edmonstone and Charles at once; 'and why?'
'Oh! something about its taking his mind from his reading; but that can't be it-impossible, you know; I'd give ten pounds to know what has vexed him. So keen as he was about it last night, and I vow, one of the best riders in the whole field. Giving up that horse, too--I declare it is a perfect sin! I told him he had gone too far, and he said he had left a note with Philip this morning.''Yes,' said Laura; Philip has just been here about it. Guy left a card, saying, hunting and reading would not agree.'
'That is an excuse, depend upon it,' said Mr. Edmonstone. 'Something has nettled him, I am sure. It could not be that Gordon, could it, with his hail-fellow-well-met manner? I thought Guy did not half like it the other day, when he rode up with his "Hollo, Morville!" The Morvilles have a touch of pride of their own; eh, mamma?'
'I should be inclined to believe his own account of himself,' said she. 'I tell you, 'tis utterly against reason,' said Mr. Edmonstone, angrily. 'If he was a fellow like Philip, or James Ross, I could believe it; but he--he make a book-worm! He hates it, like poison, at the bottom of his heart, I'll answer for it; and the worst of it is, the fellow putting forward such a fair reason one can't--being his guardian, and all--say what one thinks of it oneself. Eh, mamma?''Not exactly,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, smiling.
'Well, you take him in hand, mamma. I dare say he will tell you the rights of it, and if it is only that Gordon, explain it rightly to him, show him 'tis only the man's way; tell him he treats me so for ever, and would the Lord-Lieutenant if he was in it.''For a' that and a' that,' said Charles, as Amy led him into the drawing-room. 'You are sure the reading is the only reason?' said Amy.' 'He's quite absurd enough for it,' said Charles; but 'absurd' was pronounced in a way that made its meaning far from annoying even to Guy's little champion. Guy came in the next moment, and running lightly up-stairs after Mrs. Edmonstone, found her opening the dressing-room door, and asked if he might come in. 'By all means,' she said; 'I am quite ready for one of our twilight talks.' 'I am afraid I have vexed Mr. Edmonstone,' began Guy; 'and I am very sorry.' 'He was only afraid that something might have occurred to vex you, which you might not like to mention to him,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, hesitating a little.
'Me! What could I have done to make him think so? I am angry with no one but myself. The fact is only this, the hunting is too pleasant; it fills up my head all day and all night; and I don't attend rightly to anything else. If I am out in the morning and try to pay for it at night, it will not do; I can but just keep awake and that's all; the Greek letters all seem to be hunting each other, the simplest things grow difficult, and at last all I can think of, is how near the minute hand of my watch is near to the hour I have set myself. So, for the last fortnight, every construing with Mr. Lascelles has been worse than the last; and as to my Latin verses, they were beyond everything shocking, so you see there is no making the two things agree, and the hunting must wait till I grow steadier, if I ever do. Heigho! It is a great bore to be so stupid, for I thought--But it is of no use to talk of it!'
'Mr. Edmonstone would be a very unreasonable guardian, indeed, to be displeased,' said his friend, smiling. You say you stopped the purchase of the horse. Why so? Could you not keep him till you are more sure of yourself?'
'Do you think I might?' joyously exclaimed Guy. 'I'll write to Philip this minute by the post. Such a splendid creature: it would do you good to see it--such action--such a neck-such spirit. It would be a shame not to secure it. But no--no--' and he checked himself sorrowfully. 'I have made my mind before that I don't deserve it. If it was here, it would always have to be tried: if I heard the hounds I don't know I should keep from riding after them; whereas, now I can't, for William won't let me take Deloraine. No, I can't trust myself to keep such a horse, and not hunt. It will serve me right to see Mr. Brownlow on it, and he will never miss such a chance!' and the depth of his sigh bore witness to the struggle it cost him.
'I should not like to use anyone as you use yourself,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, looking at him with affectionate anxiety, which seemed suddenly to change the current of his thought, for he exclaimed abruptly--'Mrs. Edmonstone, can you tell me anything about my mother?''I am afraid not,' said she, kindly; 'you know we had so little intercourse with your family, that I heard little but the bare facts.'
'I don't think,' said Guy, leaning on the chimneypiece, 'that I ever thought much about her till I knew you, but lately I have fancied a great deal about what might have been if she had but lived.'It was not Mrs. Edmonstone's way to say half what she felt, and she went on--'Poor thing! I believe she was quite a child.' 'Only seventeen when she died,' said Guy.
Mrs. Edmonstone went to a drawer, took out two or three bundles of old letters, and after searching in them by the fire-light, said--'Ah! here's a little about her; it is in a letter from my sister-in-law, Philip's mother, when they were staying at Stylehurst.''Who? My father and mother?' cried Guy eagerly. 'Did you not know they had been there three or four days?'
'No--I know less about them than anybody,' said he, sadly: but as Mrs. Edmonstone waited, doubtful as to whether she might be about to make disclosures for which he was unprepared, he added, hastily--'I do know the main facts of the story; I was told them last autumn;' and an expression denoting the remembrance of great suffering came over his face; then, pausing a moment, he said--'I knew Archdeacon Morville had been very kind.'
'He was always interested about your father,' said Mrs, Edmonstone; 'and happening to meet him in London some little time after his marriage, he--he was pleased with the manner in which he was behaving then, thought--thought--' And here, recollecting that she must not speak ill of old Sir Guy, nor palliate his son's conduct, poor Mrs. Edmonstone got into an inextricable confusion--all the worse because the fierce twisting of a penwiper in Guy's fingers denoted that he was suffering a great trial of patience. She avoided the difficulty thus: 'It is hard to speak of such things when there is so much to be regretted on both sides; but the fact was, my brother thought your father was harshly dealt with at that time. Of course he had done very wrong; but he had been so much neglected and left to himself, that it seemed hardly fair to visit his offence on him as severely as if he had had more advantages. So it ended in their coming to spend a day or two at Stylehurst; and this is the letter my sister-in-law wrote at the time:
'"Our visitors have just left us, and on the whole I am much better pleased than I expected. The little Mrs. Morville is a very pretty creature, and as engaging as long flaxen curls, apple-blossom complexion, blue eyes, and the sweetest of voices can make her; so full of childish glee and playfulness, that no one would stop to think whether she was lady-like any more than you would with a child. She used to go singing like a bird about the house as soon as the first strangeness wore off, which was after her first game of play with Fanny and Little Philip. She made them very fond of her, as indeed she would make every one who spent a day or two in the same house with her. I could almost defy Sir Guy not to be reconciled after one sight of her sweet sunny face. She is all affection and gentleness, and with tolerable training anything might be made of her; but she is so young in mind and manners, that one cannot even think of blaming her for her elopement, for she had no mother, no education but in music; and her brother seems to have forced it on, thrown her in Mr. Morville's way, and worked on his excitable temperament, until he hurried them into marriage. Poor little girl, I suppose she little guesses what she has done; but it was very pleasant to see how devotedly attached he seemed to her; and there was something beautiful in the softening of his impetuous tones when he said, 'Marianne;' and her pride in him was very pretty, like a child playing at matronly airs."'Guy gave a long, heavy sigh, brushed away a tear, and after a long silence, said, 'Is that all?'
'All that I like to read to you. Indeed, there is no more about her; and it would be of no use to read all the reports that were going about.--Ah! here,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, looking into another letter, 'she speaks of your father as a very fine young man, with most generous impulses,'--but here again she was obliged to stop, for the next sentence spoke of 'a noble character ruined by mismanagement.' 'She never saw them again,' continued Mrs. Edmonstone; 'Mr. Dixon, your mother's brother, had great influence with your father, and made matters worse--so much worse, that my brother did not feel himself justified in having any more to do with them.'
'Ah! he went to America,' said Guy; 'I don't know any more about him except that he came to the funeral and stood with his arms folded, not choosing to shake hands with my poor grandfather.' After another silence he said, 'Will you read that again?' and when he had heard it, he sat shading his brow with his hand, as if to bring the fair, girlish picture fully before his mind, while Mrs. Edmonstone sought in vain among her letters for one which did not speak of the fiery passions ignited on either side, in terms too strong to be fit for his ears.
When next he spoke it was to repeat that he had not been informed of the history of his parents till within the last few months. He had, of course, known the manner of their death, but had only lately become aware of the circumstances attending it.
The truth was that Guy had grown up peculiarly shielded from evil, but ignorant of the cause of the almost morbid solicitude with which he was regarded by his grandfather. He was a very happy, joyous boy, leading an active, enterprising life, though so lonely as to occasion greater dreaminess and thoughtfulness than usual at such an early age. He was devotedly attached to his grandfather, looking on him as the first and best of human beings, and silencing the belief that Sir Hugh Morville had entailed a doom of crime and sorrow on the family, by a reference to him, as one who had been always good and prosperous.
When, however, Guy had reached an age at which he must encounter the influences which had proved so baneful to others of his family, his grandfather thought it time to give him the warning of his own history.
The sins, which the repentance of years had made more odious in the eyes of the old man, were narrated; the idleness and insubordination at first, then the reckless pursuit of pleasure, the craving for excitement, the defiance of rule and authority, till folly had become vice, and vice had led to crime.
He had fought no fewer than three duels, and only one had been bloodless. His misery after the first had well-nigh led to a reform; but time had dulled its acuteness--it had been lost in fresh scenes of excitement--and at the next offence rage had swept away such recollections. Indeed, so far had he lost the natural generosity of his character, that his remorse had been comparatively slight for the last, which was the worst of all, since he had forced the quarrel on his victim, Captain Wellwood, whose death had left a wife and children almost destitute. His first awakening to a sense of what his course had been, was when he beheld his only child, in the prime of youth, carried lifeless across his threshold, and attributed his death to his own intemperance and violence. That hour made Sir Guy Morville an old and a broken-hearted man; and he repented as vigorously as he had sinned.
From the moment he dared to hope that his son's orphan would be spared, he had been devoted to him, but still mournfully, envying and pitying his innocence as something that could not last.
He saw bright blossoms put forth, as the boy grew older; but they were not yet fruits, and he did not dare to believe they ever would be. The strength of will which had, in his own case, been the slave of his passions, had been turned inward to subdue the passions themselves, but this was only the beginning--the trial was not yet come. He could hope his grandson might repent, but this was the best that he dared to think possible. He could not believe that a Morville could pass unscathed through the world, or that his sins would not be visited on the head of his only descendant; and the tone of his narration was throughout such as might almost have made the foreboding cause its own accomplishment.
The effect was beyond what he had expected; for a soul deeply dyed in guilt, even though loathing its own stains, had not the power of conceiving how foul was the aspect of vice, to one hitherto guarded from its contemplation, and living in a world of pure, lofty day- dreams. The boy sat the whole time without a word, his face bent down and hidden by his clasped hands, only now and then unable to repress a start or shudder at some fresh disclosure; and when it was ended, he stood up, gazed round, and walked uncertainly, as if he did not know where he was. His next impulse was to throw himself on his knee beside his grandfather, and caress him as he used to when a child. The 'good- night' was spoken, and Guy was shut into his room, with his overwhelming emotions.
His grandfather a blood-stained, remorseful man! The doom was complete, himself heir to the curse of Sir Hugh, and fated to run the same career; and as he knew full well, with the tendency to the family character strong within him, the germs of these hateful passions ready to take root downwards and bear fruit upwards, with the very countenance of Sir Hugh, and the same darkening, kindling eyes, of which traditions had preserved the remembrance.
He was crushed for awhile. The consciousness of strength not his own, of the still small voice that could subdue the fire, the earthquake, and the whirlwind, was slow in coming to him; and when it came, he, like his grandfather, had hope rather of final repentance than of keeping himself unstained.
His mind had not recovered the shock when his grandfather died,--died in faith and fear, with good hope of accepted repentance, but unable to convey the assurance of such hope to his grandson. Grief for the only parent he had ever known, and the sensation of being completely alone in the world, were joined to a vague impression of horror at the suddenness of the stroke, and it was long before the influence of Hollywell, or the elasticity of his own youthfulness, could rouse him from his depression.
Even then it was almost against his will that he returned to enjoyment, unable to avoid being amused, but feeling as if joy was not meant for him, and as if those around were walking 'in a world of light,' where he could scarcely hope to tread a few uncertain steps. In this despondency was Guy's chief danger, as it was likely to make him deem a struggle with temptation fruitless, while his high spirits and powers of keen enjoyment increased the peril of recklessness in the reaction.
It was Mrs. Edmonstone who first spoke with him cheerfully of a successful conflict with evil, and made him perceive that his temptations were but such as is common to man. She had given him a clue to discover when and how to trust himself to enjoy; the story of Sintram had stirred him deeply, and this very day, Amy's words, seemingly unheeded and unheard, had brought home to him the hope and encouragement of that marvellous tale. They had helped him in standing, looking steadfastly upwards, and treading down not merely evil, but the first token of coming evil, regardless of the bruises he might inflict on himself. Well for him if he was constant.
Such was Guy's inner life; his outward life, frank and joyous, has been shown, and the two flowed on like a stream, pure as crystal, but into which the eye cannot penetrate from its depth. The surface would be sometimes obscured by cloud or shade, and reveal the sombre wells beneath; but more often the sunshine would penetrate the inmost recesses, and make them glance and sparkle, showing themselves as clear and limpid as the surface itself.
Chapter 6Can piety the discord heal, Or stanch the death-feud's enmity?--Scott
It must not be supposed that such a history of Guy's mind was expressed by himself, or understood by Mrs. Edmonstone; but she saw enough to guess at his character, perceive the sort of guidance he needed, and be doubly interested in him. Much did she wish he could have such a friend as her brother would have been, and hope that nothing would prevent a friendship with her nephew.
The present question about the horse was, she thought, unfortunate, since, though Guy had exercised great self-denial, it was no wonder Philip was annoyed. Mr. Edmonstone's vexation was soon over. As soon as she had persuaded him that there had been no offence, he strove to say with a good grace, that it was very proper, and told Guy he would be a thorough book-worm and tremendous scholar, which Guy took as an excellent joke.
Philip had made up his mind to be forbearing, and to say no more about it. Laura thought this a pity, as they could thus never come to an understanding; but when she hinted it, he wore such a dignified air of not being offended, that she was much ashamed of having tried to direct one so much better able to judge. On his side Guy had no idea the trouble he had caused; so, after bestowing his thanks in a gay, off- hand way, which Philip thought the worst feature of the case, he did his best to bring Hecuba back into his mind, drive the hunters out of it, and appease the much-aggrieved William of Deloraine.
When all William's manoeuvres resulted in his master's not hunting at all, he was persuaded it was Mr. Edmonstone's fault, compassionated Sir Guy with all his heart, and could only solace himself by taking Deloraine to exercise where he was most likely to meet the hounds. He further chose to demonstrate that he was not Mr. Edmonstone's servant, by disregarding some of his stable regulations; but as soon as this came to his master's knowledge, a few words were spoken so sharp and stern, that William never attempted to disobey again.
It seemed as if it was the perception that so much was kept back by a strong force, that made Guy's least token of displeasure so formidable. A village boy, whom be caught misusing a poor dog, was found a few minutes after, by Mr. Ross, in a state of terror that was positively ludicrous, though it did not appear that Sir Guy had said or done much to alarm him; it was only the light in his eyes, and the strength of repressed indignation in his short broken words that had made the impression.
It appeared as if the force of his anger might be fearful, if once it broke forth without control; yet at the same time be had a gentleness and attention, alike to small and great, which, with his high spirit and good nature, his very sweet voice and pleasant smile, made him a peculiarly winning and engaging person; and few who saw him could help being interested in him.
No wonder he had become in the eyes of the Edmonstones almost a part of their family. Mrs. Edmonstone had assumed a motherly control over him, to which he submitted with a sort of affectionate gratitude.
One day Philip remarked, that he never saw any one so restless as Guy, who could neither talk nor listen without playing with something. Scissors, pencil, paper-knife, or anything that came in his way, was sure to be twisted or tormented; or if nothing else was at hand, he opened and shut his own knife so as to put all the spectators in fear for his fingers.'Yes,' said Laura, 'I saw how it tortured your eyebrows all the time you were translating Schiller to us. I wondered you were not put out.'
'I consider that to be put out--by which you mean to have the intellect at the mercy of another's folly--is beneath a reasonable creature,' said Philip; 'but that I was annoyed, I do not deny. It is a token of a restless, ill-regulated mind.'
'Restless, perhaps,' said Mrs. Edmonstone 'but not necessarily ill- regulated. I should think it rather a sign that he had no one to tell him of the tricks which mothers generally nip in the bud.''I was going to say that I think he fidgets less,' said Laura; 'but I think his chief contortions of the scissors have been when Philip has been here.' 'They have, I believe,' said her mother, I was thinking of giving him a hint.' 'Well, aunt, you are a tamer of savage beasts if you venture on such a subject,' said Philip. 'Do you dare me?' she asked, smiling. 'Why, I don't suppose he would do more than give you one of his lightning glances: but that, I think, is more than you desire.' 'Considerably,' said Mrs. Edmonstone; 'for his sake as much as my own.'
'But,' said Laura, 'mamma has nearly cured him of pawing like a horse in the hall when he is kept waiting. He said he knew it was impatience, and begged her to tell him how to cure it. So she treated him as an old fairy might, and advised him in a grave, mysterious way, always to go and play the "Harmonious Blacksmith," when he found himself getting into "a taking", just as if it was a charm. And he always does it most dutifully.'
'It has a very good effect,' said Mrs. Edmonstone; 'for it is apt to act as a summons to the other party, as well as a sedative to him.'
'I must say I am curious to see what you will devise this time,' said Philip; 'since you can't set him to play on the piano; and very few can bear to be told of a trick of the kind.'
In the course of that evening, Philip caused the great atlas to be brought out in order to make investigations on the local habitation of a certain Khan of Kipchack, who existed somewhere in the dark ages. Then he came to Marco Polo, and Sir John Mandeville; and Guy, who knew both the books in the library at Redclyffe, grew very eager in talking them over, and tracing their adventures--then to the Genoese merchants, where Guy confessed himself perfectly ignorant. Andrea Doria was the only Genoese he ever heard of; but he hunted out with great interest all the localities of their numerous settlements. Then came modern Italy, and its fallen palaces; then the contrast between the republican merchant and aristocratic lord of the soil; then the corn laws; and then, and not till then, did Philip glance at his aunt, to show her Guy balancing a Venetian weight on as few of his fingers as could support it.'Guy,' said she, smiling, 'does that unfortunate glass inspire you with any arguments in favour of the Venetians?'
Guy put it down at once, and Philip proceeded to improved methods of farming, to enable landlords to meet the exigencies of the times. Guy had got hold of Mr. Edmonstone's spectacle-case, and was putting its spring to a hard trial. Mrs. Edmonstone doubted whether to interfere again; she knew this was not the sort of thing that tried his temper, yet she particularly disliked playing him off, as it were for Philip's amusement, and quite as much letting him go on, and lower himself in her nephew's estimation. The spectaclecase settled the matter--a, crack was heard, it refused to snap at all; and Guy, much discomfited, made many apologies.
Amy laughed; Philip was much too well-bred to do anything but curl his lip unconsciously. Mrs. Edmonstone waited till he was gone, then, when she was wishing Guy 'good-night' at Charles's door, she said,--
'The spectacle-case forestalled me in giving you a lecture on sparing our nerves. Don't look so very full of compunction--it is only a trick which your mother would have stopped at five years old, and which you can soon stop for yourself.''Thank you, I will!' said Guy; 'I hardly knew I did it, but I am very sorry it has teased you.'
Thenceforward it was curious to see how he put down and pushed away all he had once begun to touch and torture. Mrs. Edmonstone said it was self command in no common degree; and Philip allowed that to cure so inveterate a habit required considerable strength of will.
'However,' he said, 'I always gave the Morvilles credit for an iron resolution. Yes, Amy, you may laugh; but if a man is not resolute in a little, he will never be resolute in great matters.'
Philip had undertaken, on his way back to Broadstone, to conduct Charlotte to East-hill, where she was to spend the day with a little niece of Mary Ross. She presently came down, her bonnet-strings tied in a most resolute-looking bow, and her little figure drawn up so as to look as womanly is possible for her first walk alone with Philip. She wished the party at home 'goodbye;' and as Amy and Laura stood watching her, they could not help laughing to see her tripping feet striving to keep step, her blue veil discreetly composed and her little head turned up, as if she was trying hard to be on equa1 terms with the tall cousin, who meanwhile looked graciously down from his height, patronising her like a very small child. After some space, Amy began to wonder what they could talk about, or whether they would talk at all; but Laura said there was no fear of Charlotte's tongue ever being still, and Charles rejoined,--'Don't you know that Philip considers it due to himself that his audience should never be without conversation suited to their capacity?' 'Nonsense, Charlie!'
'Nay, I give him credit for doing it as well as it is in nature of things for it to be done. The strongest proof I know of his being a superior man, is the way he adapts himself to his company. He lays down the law to us, because he knows we are all born to be his admirers; he calls Thorndale his dear fellow and conducts him like a Mentor; but you may observe how different he is with other people--Mr. Ross, for instance. It is not showing off; it is just what the pattern hero should be with the pattern clergyman. At a dinner party he is quite in his place; contents himself with leaving an impression on his neighbour that Mr. Morville is at home on every subject; and that he is the right thing with his brother officers is sufficiently proved, since not even Maurice either hates or quizzes him.''Well, Charlie,' said Laura, well pleased, I am glad you are convinced at last.'
'Do you think I ever wanted to be convinced that we were created for no other end than to applaud Philip? I was fulfilling the object of our existence by enlarging on a remark of Guy's, that nothing struck him more than the way in which Philip could adapt his conversation to the hearers. So the hint was not lost on me; and I came to the conclusion that it was a far greater proof of his sense than all the maxims he lavishes on us.''I wonder Guy was the person to make the remark,' said Laura; 'for it is strange that those two never appear to the best advantage together.' 'Oh, Laura, that would be the very reason,' said Amy. 'The very reason?' said Charles. Draw out your meaning, Miss.'
'Yes,' said Amy, colouring, 'If Guy--if a generous person, I mean--were vexed with another sometimes, it would be the very reason he would make the most of all his goodness.''Heigh-ho!' yawned Charles. What o'clock is it? I wonder when Guy is ever coming back from that Lascelles.' 'Your wonder need not last long,' said Laura; 'for I see him riding into the stable yard.'
In a few minutes he had entered; and, on being asked if he had met Philip and Charlotte, and how they were getting on, he replied,--'A good deal like the print of Dignity and Impudence,' at the same time throwing back his shoulders, and composing his countenance to imitate Philip's lofty deportment and sedate expression, and the next moment putting his head on one side with a sharp little nod, and giving a certain espiegle glance of the eye, and knowing twist of one corner of the mouth, just like Charlotte.'By the by,' added he, 'would Philip have been a clergyman if he had gone to Oxford?' 'I don't know; I don't think it was settled,' said Laura, 'Why?'
'I could never fancy him one' said Guy. 'He would not have been what he is now if he had gone to Oxford,' said Charles. 'He would have lived with men of the same powers and pursuits with himself, and have found his level.''And that would have been a very high one,' said Guy. 'It would; but there would be all the difference there is between a feudal prince and an Eastern despot. He would know what it is to live with his match.' 'But you don't attempt to call him conceited!' cried Guy, with a sort of consternation. 'He is far above that; far too grand,' said Amy. 'I should as soon think of calling Jupiter conceited,' said Charles; and Laura did not know how far to be gratified, or otherwise.
Charles had not over-estimated Philip's readiness of self adaptation. Charlotte had been very happy with him, talking over the "Lady of the Lake", which she had just read, and being enlightened, partly to her satisfaction, partly to her disappointment, as to how much was historical. He listened good-naturedly to a fit of rapture, and threw in a few, not too many, discreet words of guidance to the true principles of taste; and next told her about an island, in a pond at Stylehurst, which had been by turns Ellen's isle and Robinson Crusoe's. It was at this point in the conversation that Guy came in sight, riding slowly, his reins on his horse's neck, whistling a slow, melancholy tune, his eyes fixed on the sky, and so lost in musings, that he did not perceive them till Philip arrested him by calling out, 'That is a very bad plan. No horse is to be trusted in that way, especially such a spirited one.'Guy started, and gathered up his reins, owning it was foolish. 'You look only half disenchanted yet,' said Philip. 'Has Lascelles put you into what my father's old gardener used to call a stud?' 'Nothing so worthy of a stud,' said Guy, smiling and colouring a little. 'I was only dreaming over a picture of ruin--
'The steed is vanish'd from the stall, No serf is seen in Hassan's hall, The lonely spider's thin grey pall Waves, slowly widening o'er the wall.''Byron!' exclaimed Philip. 'I hope you are not dwelling on him?' 'Only a volume I found in my room.' 'Oh, the "Giaour"!' said Philip. 'Well, there is no great damage done; but it is bad food for excitable minds. Don't let it get hold of you.' 'Very well;' and there was a cloud, but it cleared in a moment, and, with a few gay words to both, he rode off at a quick pace. 'Foolish fellow!' muttered Philip, looking after him. After some space of silence, Charlotte began in a very grave tone-- 'Philip.' 'Well?' 'Philip.' Another 'Well!' and another long pause. 'Philip, I don't know whether you'll be angry with me.' 'Certainly not,' said Philip, marvelling at what was coming. 'Guy says he does not want to keep up the feud, and I wish you would not.' 'What do you mean?' 'The deadly feud!' said Charlotte. 'What nonsense is this?' said Philip. 'Surely--Oh Philip, there always was a deadly feud between our ancestors, and the Redclyffe Morvilles, and it was very wrong, and ought not to be kept up now.' 'It is not I that keep it up.'
'Is it not?' said Charlotte. 'But I am sure you don't like Guy. And I can't think why not, unless it is the deadly feud, for we are all so fond of him. Laura says it is a different house since he came.'
'Hum!' said Philip. 'Charlotte, you did well to make me promise not to be angry with you, by which, I presume, you mean displeased. I should like to know what put this notion into your head.''Charlie told me,' almost whispered Charlotte, hanging down her head. 'And--and--' 'And what? I can't hear.'
Charlotte was a good deal frightened; but either from firmness, or from the female propensity to have the last word, or it might be the spirit of mischief, she got out--'You have made me quite sure of it yourself.'
She was so alarmed at having said this, that had it not been undignified, she would have run quite away, and never stopped till she came to East-hill. Matters were not mended when Philip said authoritatively, and as if he was not in the least bit annoyed (which was the more vexatious), 'What do you mean, Charlotte?'
She had a great mind to cry, by way of getting out of the scrape; but having begun as a counsellor and peacemaker, it would never do to be babyish; and on his repeating the question, she said, in a tone which she could not prevent from being lachrymose, 'You make Guy almost angry, you tease him, and when people praise him, you answer as if it would not last! And it is very unfair of you,' concluded she, with almost a sob.
'Charlotte,' replied Philip, much more kindly than she thought she deserved, after the reproach that seemed to her so dreadfully naughty, 'you may dismiss all fear of deadly feud, whatever you may mean by it. Charles has been playing tricks on you. You know, my little cousin, that I am a Christian, and we live in the nineteenth century.'
Charlotte felt as if annihilated at the aspect of her own folly. He resumed--'You misunderstood me. I do think Guy very agreeable. He is very attentive to Charles, very kind to you, and so attractive, that I don't wonder you like him. But those who are older than you see that he has faults, and we wish to set him on his guard against them. It may be painful to ourselves, and irritating to him, but depend upon it, it is the proof of friendship. Are you satisfied, my little cousin?'She could only say humbly, 'I beg your pardon.'
'You need not ask pardon. Since you had the notion, it was right to speak, as it was to me, one of your own family. When you are older, you need never fear to speak out in the right place. I am glad you have so much of the right sort of feminine courage, though in this case you might have ventured to trust to me.'
So ended Charlotte's anxieties respecting the deadly feud, and she had now to make up her mind to the loss of her playfellow, who was to go to Oxford at Easter, when he would be just eighteen, his birthday being the 28th of March. Both her playmates were going, Bustle as well as Guy, and it was at first proposed that Deloraine should go too, but Guy bethought himself that Oxford would be a place of temptation for William; and not choosing to trust the horse to any one else, resolved to leave both at Hollywell.
His grandfather had left an allowance for Guy, until his coming of age, such as might leave no room for extravagance, and which even Philip pronounced to be hardly sufficient for a young man in his position. 'You know,' said Mr. Edmonstone, in his hesitating, good-natured way, 'if ever you have occasion sometimes for a little--a little more--you need only apply to me. Don't be afraid, anything rather than run into debt. You know me, and 'tis your own.''This shall do,' said Guy, in the same tone as he had fixed his hours of study.
Each of the family made Guy a birthday present, as an outfit for Oxford; Mr. Edmonstone gave him a set of studs, Mrs. Edmonstone a Christian Year, Amabel copied some of his favourite songs, Laura made a drawing of Sintram, Charlotte worked a kettle-holder, with what was called by courtesy a likeness of Bustle. Charles gave nothing, professing that he would do nothing to encourage his departure.'You don't know what a bore it is to lose the one bit of quicksilver in the house!' said he, yawning. 'I shall only drag on my existence till you come back.' 'You, Charles, the maker of fun!' said Guy, amazed.
'It is a case of flint and steel,' said Charles; 'but be it owing to who it will, we have been alive since you came here. You have taken care to be remembered. We have been studying you, or laughing at you, or wondering what absurdity was to come next.''I am very sorry--that is, if you are serious. I hoped at least I appeared like other people.' 'I'll tell you what you appear like. Just what I would be if I was a free man.' 'Never say that, Charlie!'
'Nay, wait a bit. I would never be so foolish. I would never give my sunny mornings to Euripides; I would not let the best hunter in the county go when I had wherewithal to pay for him.''You would not have such an ill-conditioned self to keep in rule.'
'After all,' continued Charles, yawning, 'it is no great compliment to say I am sorry you are going. If you were an Ethiopian serenader, you would be a loss to me. It is something to see anything beyond this old drawing-room, and the same faces doing the same things every day. Laura poking over her drawing, and meditating upon the last entry in Philip's memorandum-book, and Amy at her flowers or some nonsense or other, and Charlotte and the elders all the same, and a lot of stupid people dropping in and a lot of stupid books to read, all just alike. I can tell what they are like without looking in!' Charles yawned again, sighed, and moved wearily. 'Now, there came some life and freshness with you. You talk of Redclyffe, and your brute creation there, not like a book, and still less like a commonplace man; you are innocent and unsophisticated, and take new points of view; you are something to interest oneself about; your coming in is something to look forward to; you make the singing not such mere milk-and-water, your reading the Praelectiones is an additional landmark to time; besides the mutton of to-day succeeding the beef of yesterday. Heigh- ho! I'll tell you what, Guy. Though I may carry it off with a high hand, 'tis no joke to be a helpless log all the best years of a man's life,--nay, for my whole life,--for at the very best of the contingencies the doctors are always flattering me with, I should make but a wretched crippling affair of it. And if that is the best hope they give me, you may guess it is likely to be a pretty deal worse. Hope? I've been hoping these ten years, and much good has it done me. I say, Guy,' he proceeded, in a tone of extreme bitterness, though with a sort of smile, 'the only wonder is that I don't hate the very sight of you! There are times when I feel as if I could bite some men,--that Tomfool Maurice de Courcy, for instance, when I hear him rattling on, and think--''I know I have often talked thoughtlessly, I have feared afterwards I might have given you pain.' 'No, no, you never have; you have carried me along with you. I like nothing better than to hear of your ridings, and shootings, and boatings. It is a sort of life.'
Charles had never till now alluded seriously to his infirmity before Guy, and the changing countenance of his auditor showed him to be much affected, as he stood leaning over the end of the sofa, with his speaking eyes earnestly fixed on Charles, who went on:
'And now you are going to Oxford. You will take your place among the men of your day. You will hear and be heard of. You will be somebody. And I!--I know I have what they call talent--I could be something. They think me an idle dog; but where's the good of doing anything? I only know if I was not--not condemned to--to this--this life,' (had it not been for a sort of involuntary respect to the gentle compassion of the softened hazel eyes regarding him so kindly, he would have used the violent expletive that trembled on his lip;) 'if I was not chained down here, Master Philip should not stand alone as the paragon of the family. I've as much mother wit as he.''That you have,' said Guy. 'How fast you see the sense of a passage. You could excel very much if you only tried.' 'Tried?' And what am I to gain by it?' 'I don't know that one ought to let talents rust,' said Guy, thoughtfully; 'I suppose it is one's duty not; and surely it is a pity to give up those readings.' 'I shall not get such another fellow dunce as you,' said Charles, 'as I told you when we began, and it would be a mere farce to do it alone. I could not make myself, if I would.' 'Can't you make yourself do what you please?' said Guy, as if it was the simplest thing in the world.
'Not a bit, if the other half of me does not like it. I forget it, or put it off, and it comes to nothing. I do declare, though, I would get something to break my mind on, merely as a medical precaution, just to freshen myself up, if I could find any one to do it with. No, nothing in the shape of a tutor, against that I protest.''Your sisters,' suggested Guy.
'Hum'! Laura is too intellectual already, and I don't mean to poach on Philip's manor; and if I made little Amy cease to be silly, I should do away with all the comfort I have left me in life. I don't know, though, if she swallowed learning after Mary Ross's pattern, that it need do her much harm.'
Amy came into the room at the moment. 'Amy, here is Guy advising me to take you to read something awfully wise every day, something that will make you as dry as a stick, and as blue--''As a gentianella,' said Guy. 'I should not mind being like a gentianella,' said Amy. 'But what dreadful thing were you setting him to do?' 'To make you read all the folios in my uncle's old library,' said Charles. 'All that Margaret has in keeping against Philip has a house of his own.' 'Sancho somebody, and all you talked of when first you came?' said Amy. 'We were talking of the hour's reading that Charlie and I have had together lately,' said
'I was thinking how Charlie would miss that hour,' said Amy; 'and we shall be very sorry not to have you to listen to.'
'Oh, Charlie, thank you! Should you really like it?' cried Amy, colouring with delight. 'I have always thought it would be so very delightful if you would read with me, as James Ross used with Mary, only I was afraid of tiring you with my stupidity. Oh, thank you!'
So it was settled, and Charles declared that he put himself on honour to give a good account of their doings to Guy, that being the only way of making himself steady to his resolution; but he was perfectly determined not to let Philip know anything about the practice he had adopted, since he would by no means allow him to guess that he was following his advice.
Charles had certainly grown very fond of Guy, in spite of his propensity to admire Philip, satisfying himself by maintaining that, after all, Guy only tried to esteem his cousin because he thought it a point of duty, just as children think it right to admire the good boy in a story book; but that he was secretly fretted and chafed by his perfection. No one could deny that there were often occasions when little misunderstandings would arise, and that, but for Philip's coolness and Guy's readiness to apologise they might often have gone further; but at the same time no one could regret these things more than Guy himself, and he was willing and desirous to seek Philip's advice and assistance when needed. In especial, he listened earnestly to the counsel which was bestowed on him about Oxford: and Mrs. Edmonstone was convinced that no one could have more anxiety to do right and avoid temptation. She had many talks with him in her dressing-room, promising to write to him, as did also Charles; and he left Hollywell with universal regrets, most loudly expressed by Charlotte, who would not be comforted without a lock of Bustle's hair, which she would have worn round her neck if she had not been afraid that Laura would tell Philip.'He goes with excellent intentions,' said Philip, as they watched him from the door. 'I do hope he will do well,' said Mrs. Edmonstone.
'I wish he may,' said Philip; 'the agreeableness of his whole character makes one more anxious. It is very dangerous. His name, his wealth, his sociable, gay disposition, that very attractive manner, all are so many perils, and he has not that natural pleasure in study that would be of itself a preservative from temptation. However, he is honestly anxious to do right, and has excellent principles. I only fear his temper and his want of steadiness. Poor boy, I hope he may do well!'
Chapter 7--Pray, good shepherd, what Fair swain is this that dances with your daughter? * * * * * He sings several times faster than you'll tell money; he utters them as he had eaten ballads, and all men's ears grow to his tunes.--WINTER'S TALE
It was a glorious day in June, the sky of pure deep dazzling blue, the sunshine glowing with brightness, but with cheerful freshness in the air that took away all sultriness, the sun tending westward in his long day's career, and casting welcome shadows from the tall firs and horse- chestnuts that shaded the lawn. A long rank of haymakers--men and women--proceeded with their rakes, the white shirt-sleeves, straw bonnets, and ruddy faces, radiant in the bath of sunshine, while in the shady end of the field were idler haymakers among the fragrant piles, Charles half lying on the grass, with his back against a tall haycock; Mrs. Edmonstone sitting on another, book in hand; Laura sketching the busy scene, the sun glancing through the chequered shade on her glossy curls; Philip stretched out at full length, hat and neck-tie off, luxuriating in the cool repose after a dusty walk from Broadstone; and a little way off, Amabel and Charlotte pretending to make hay, but really building nests with it, throwing it at each other, and playing as heartily as the heat would allow.
They talked and laughed, the rest were too hot, too busy, or too sleepy for conversation, even Philip being tired into enjoying the "dolce far niente"; and they basked in the fresh breezy heat and perfumy hay with only now and then a word, till a cold, black, damp nose was suddenly thrust into Charles's face, a red tongue began licking him; and at the same moment Charlotte, screaming 'There he is!' raced headlong across the swarths of hay, to meet Guy, who had just ridden into the field. He threw Deloraine's rein to one of the haymakers, and came bounding to meet her, just in time to pick her up as she put her foot into a hidden hole, and fell prostrate.
In another moment he was in the midst of the whole party, who crowded round and welcomed him as if he had been a boy returning from his first half-year's schooling; and never did little school-boy look more holiday-like than he, with all the sunshine of that June day reflected, as it were, in his glittering eyes and glowing face, while Bustle escaping from Charles's caressing arm, danced round, wagging his tail in ecstasy, and claiming his share of the welcome. Then Guy was on the ground by Charles, rejoicing to find him out there, and then, some dropping into their former nests on the hay, some standing round, they talked fast and eagerly in a confusion of sound that did not subside for the first ten minutes so as to allow anything to be clearly heard. The first distinct sentence was Charlotte's 'Bustle, darling old fellow, you are handsomer than ever!' 'What a delicious day!' next exclaimed Guy, following Philip's example, by throwing off hat and neck-tie.'A spontaneous tribute to the beauty of the day,' said Charles. 'Really it is so ultra-splendid as to deserve notice!' said Philip, throwing himself completely back, and looking up. 'One cannot help revelling in that deep blue!' said Laura. 'Tomorrow'll be the happiest time of all the glad new year,' hummed Guy. 'Ah you will teach us all now,' said Laura, 'after your grand singing lessons.' 'Do you know what is in store for you, Guy?' said Amy. 'Oh! haven't you heard about Lady Kilcoran's ball?' 'You are to go, Guy,' said Charlotte. 'I am glad I am not. I hate dancing.' 'And I know as much about it as Bustle,' said Guy, catching the dog by his forepaws, and causing him to perform an uncouth dance. 'Never mind, they will soon teach you,' said Mrs. Edmonstone. 'Must I really go?' 'He begins to think it serious,' said Charles. 'Is Philip going?' exclaimed Guy, looking as if he was taken by surprise. 'He is going to say something about dancing being a healthful recreation for young people,' said Charles. 'You'll be disappointed,' said Philip. 'It is much too hot to moralize.' 'Apollo unbends his bow,' exclaimed Charles. 'The captain yields the field.' 'Ah! Captain Morville, I ought to have congratulated you,' said Guy. 'I must come to Broadstone early enough to see you on parade.' 'Come to Broadstone! You aren't still bound to Mr. Lascelles,' said Charles.
'If he has time for me,' said Guy. 'I am too far behind the rest of the world to afford to be idle this vacation.'
'That's right, Guy,' exclaimed Philip, sitting up, and looking full of approval. 'With so much perseverance, you must get on at last. How did you do in collections?'
'I don't think it is my business to bring Lord Kilcoran to a sense of his folly,' said Philip. 'I made all my protests to Maurice when first he started the notion, but if his father chose to take the matter up, it is no concern of mine.''You will understand, Guy,' said Charles, 'that this ball is specially got up by Maurice for Laura's benefit.'
'Believe as little as you please of that speech, Guy,' said Laura; 'the truth is that Lord Kilcoran is very good-natured, and Eveleen was very much shocked to hear that Amy had never been to any ball, and I to only one, and so it ended in their giving one.' 'When is it to be?''On Thursday week,' said Amy. 'I wonder if you will think Eveleen as pretty as we do!' 'She is Laura's great friend, is not she?'
'I like her very much; I have known her all my life, and she has much more depth than those would think who only know her manner.' And Laura looked pleadingly at Philip as she spoke.'Are there any others of the family at home?' said Guy. 'The two younger girls, Mabel and Helen, and the little boys,' said Amy. 'Lord de Courcy is in Ireland, and all the others are away.' 'Lord de Courcy is the wisest man of the family, and sets his face against absenteeism,' said Philip, 'so he is never visible here.' 'But you aren't going to despise it, I hope, Guy,' said Amy, earnestly; 'it will be so delightful! And what fun we shall have in teaching you to dance!' Guy stretched himself, and gave a quaint grunt. 'Never mind, Guy,' said Philip, 'very little is required. You may easily pass in the crowd. I never learnt.' 'Your ear will guide you,' said Laura.
'And no one can stay at home, since Mary Ross is going,' said Amy. 'Eveleen was always so fond of her, that she came and forced a promise from her by telling her she should come with mamma, and have no trouble.''You have not seen Allonby,' said Laura. 'There are such Vandykes, and among them, such a King Charles!' 'Is not that the picture,' said Charles, 'before which Amy--' '0 don't, Charlie!' 'Was found dissolved in tears?'
'I could not help it,' murmured Amy, blushing crimson. 'There is all Charles's fate in his face,' said Philip,--'earnest, melancholy, beautiful! It would stir the feelings--were it an unknown portrait. No, Amy, you need not be ashamed of your tears.'But Amy turned away, doubly ashamed. 'I hope it is not in the ball-room,' said Guy. 'No said Laura, 'it is in the library.'
Charlotte, whose absence had become perceptible from the general quietness, here ran up with two envelopes, which she put into Guy's hands. One contained Lady Kilcoran's genuine card of invitation for Sir Guy Morville, the other Charlotte had scribbled in haste for Mr. Bustle.
This put an end to all rationality. Guy rose with a growl and a roar, and hunted her over half the field, till she was caught, and came back out of breath and screaming, 'We never had such a haymaking!''So I think the haymakers will say!' answered her mother, rising to go indoors. 'What ruin of haycocks!' 'Oh, I'll set all that to rights,' said Guy, seizing a hay-fork.
'Stop, stop, take care!' cried Charles. 'I don't want to be built up in the rick, and by and by, when my disconsolate family have had all the ponds dragged for me, Deloraine will be heard to complain that they give him very odd animal food.'
'Who could resist such a piteous appeal!' said Guy, helping him to rise, and conducting him to his wheeled chair. The others followed, and when, shortly after, Laura looked out at her window, she saw Guy, with his coat off, toiling like a real haymaker, to build up the cocks in all their neat fairness and height, whistling meantime the 'Queen of the May,' and now and then singing a line. She watched the old cowman come up, touching his hat, and looking less cross than usual; she saw Guy's ready greeting, and perceived they were comparing the forks and rakes, the pooks and cocks of their counties; and, finally, she beheld her father ride into the field, and Guy spring to meet him.
No one could have so returned to what was in effect a home, unless his time had been properly spent; and, in fact, all that Mr. Edmonstone or Philip could hear of him, was so satisfactory, that Philip pronounced that the first stage of the trial had been passed irreproachably, and Laura felt and looked delighted at this sanction to the high estimation in which she held him.
His own account of himself to Mrs. Edmonstone would not have been equally satisfactory if she had not had something else to check it with. It was given by degrees, and at many different times, chiefly as they walked round the garden in the twilight of the summer evenings, talking over the many subjects mentioned in the letters which had passed constantly. It seemed as if there were very few to whom Guy would ever give his confidence; but that once bestowed, it was with hardly any reserve, and that was his great relief and satisfaction to pour out his whole mind, where he was sure of sympathy.
To her, then, he confided how much provoked he was with himself, his 'first term,' he said, 'having only shown him what an intolerable fool he had to keep in order.' By his account, he could do nothing 'without turning his own head, except study, and that stupefied it.' 'Never was there a more idle fellow; he could work himself for a given time, but his sense would not second him; and was it not most absurd in him to take so little pleasure in what was his duty, and enjoy only what was bad for him?'
He had tried boating, but it had distracted him from his work; so he had been obliged to give it up, and had done so in a hasty vehement manner, which had caused offence, and for which he blamed himself. It had been the same with other things, till he had left himself no regular recreation but walking and music. 'The last,' he said, 'might engross him in the same way; but he thought (here he hesitated a little) there were higher ends for music, which made it come under Mrs. Edmonstone's rule, of a thing to be used guardedly, not disused.' He had resumed light reading, too, which he had nearly discontinued before he went to Oxford. 'One wants something,' he said, 'by way of refreshment, where there is no sea nor rock to look at, and no Laura and Amy to talk to.'
He had made one friend, a scholar of his own college, of the name of Wellwood. This name had been his attraction; Guy was bent on friendship with him; if, as he tried to make him out to be, he was the son of that Captain Wellwood whose death had weighed so heavily on his grandfather's conscience, feeling almost as if it were his duty to ask forgiveness in his grandfather's name, yet scarcely knowing how to venture on advances to one to whom his name had such associations. However, they had gradually drawn together, and at length entered on the subject, and Guy then found he was the nephew, not the son of Captain Wellwood; indeed, his former belief was founded on a miscalculation, as the duel had taken place twenty-eight years ago. He now heard all his grandfather had wished to know of the family. There were two unmarried daughters, and their cousin spoke in the highest terms of their self-devoted life, promising what Guy much wished, that they should hear what deep repentance had followed the crime which had made them fatherless. He was to be a clergyman, and Guy admired him extremely, saying, however, that he was so shy and retiring, it was hard to know him well.
From not having been at school, and from other causes, Guy had made few acquaintance; indeed, he amused Mrs. Edmonstone by fearing he had been morose. She was ready to tell him he was an ingenious self-tormentor; but she saw that the struggle to do right was the main spring of the happiness that beamed round him, in spite of his self-reproach, heart- felt as it was. She doubted whether persons more contented with themselves were as truly joyous, and was convinced that, while thus combating lesser temptations, the very shadow of what are generally alone considered as real temptations would hardly come near him.
If it had not been for these talks, and now and then a thoughtful look, she would have believed him one of the most light-hearted and merriest of beings. He was more full of glee and high spirits than she had ever seen him; he seemed to fill the whole house with mirth, and keep every one alive by his fun and frolic, as blithe and untiring as Maurice de Courcy himself, though not so wild.
Very pleasant were those summer days--reading, walking, music, gardening. Did not they all work like very labourers at the new arbour in the midst of the laurels, where Charles might sit and see the spires of Broadstone? Work they did, indeed! Charles looking on from his wheeled chair, laughing to see Guy sawing as if for his living and Amy hammering gallantly, and Laura weaving osiers, and Charlotte flying about with messages.
One day, they were startled by an exclamation from Charles. 'Ah, ha! Paddy, is that you?' and beheld the tall figure of a girl, advancing with a rapid, springing step, holding up her riding habit with one hand, with the other whisking her coral-handled whip. There was something distinguished in her air, and her features, though less fine than Laura's, were very pretty, by the help of laughing dark blue eyes, and very black hair, under her broad hat and little waving feather. She threatened Charles with her whip, calling out--'Aunt Edmonstone said I should find you here. What is the fun now?''Arbour building,' said Charles; 'don't you see the head carpenter!' 'Sir Guy?' whispered she to Laura, looking up at him, where he was mounted on the roof, thatching it with reed, the sunshine full on his glowing face and white shirt sleeves. 'Here!' said Charles, as Guy swung himself down with a bound, his face much redder than sun and work had already made it, 'here's another wild Irisher for you.'
'Sir Guy Morville--Lady Eveleen de Courcy,' began Laura; but Lady Eveleen cut her short, frankly holding out her hand, and saying, 'You are almost a cousin, you know. Oh, don't leave off. Do give me something to do. That hammer, Amy, pray--Laura, don't you remember how dearly I always loved hammering?''How did you come?' said Laura.
'With papa--'tis his visit to Sir Guy. 'No, don't go,' as Guy began to look for his coat; 'he is only impending. He is gone on to Broadstone, but he dropped me here, and will pick me up on his way back. Can't you give me something to do on the top of that ladder? I should like it mightily; it looks so cool and airy.'
'How can you, Eva?' whispered Laura, reprovingly; but Lady Eveleen only shook her head at her, and declaring she saw a dangerous nail sticking out, began to hammer it in with such good will, that Charles stopped his ears, and told her it was worse than her tongue. 'Go on about the ball, do.'
'0h,' said she earnestly, 'do you think there is any hope of Captain Morville's coming?'
'I am so glad! That is what papa is gone to Broadstone about. Maurice said he had given him such a lecture, that he would not be the one to think of asking him, and papa must do it himself; for if he sets his face against it, it will spoil it all.'
'You may make your mind easy,' said Charles, 'the captain is lenient, and looks on the ball as a mere development of Irish nature. He has been consoling Guy on the difficulties of dancing.''Can't you dance?' said Lady Eveleen, looking at him with compassion. 'Such is my melancholy ignorance,' said Guy. 'We have been talking of teaching him,' said Laura.
'Talk! will that do it?' cried Lady Eveleen, springing up. 'We will begin this moment. Come out on the lawn. Here, Charles,' wheeling him along, 'No, thank you, I like it,' as Guy was going to help her. 'There, Charles, be fiddler go on, tum-tum, tee! that'll do. Amy, Laura, be ladies. I'm the other gentleman,' and she stuck on her hat in military style, giving it a cock. She actually set them quadrilling in spite of adverse circumstances, dancing better, in her habit, than most people without one, till Lord Kilcoran arrived.
While he was making his visit, she walked a little apart, arm-in-arm with Laura. 'I like him very much,' she said; 'he looks up to anything. I had heard so much of his steadiness, that it is a great relief to my mind to see him so unlike his cousin.''Eveleen!' 'No disparagement to the captain, only I am so dreadfully afraid of him. I am sure he thinks me such an unmitigated goose. Now, doesn't he?' 'If you would but take the right way to make him think otherwise, dear Eva, and show the sense you really have.'
'That is just what my fear of him won't let me do. I would not for the world let him guess it, so there is nothing for it but sauciness to cover one's weakness. I can't be sensible with those that won't give me credit for it. But you'll mind and teach Sir Guy to dance; he has so much spring in him, he deserves to be an Irishman.'
In compliance with this injunction, there used to be a clearance every evening; Charles turned into the bay window out of the way, Mrs. Edmonstone at the piano, and the rest figuring away, the partnerless one, called 'puss in the corner', being generally Amabel, while Charlotte, disdaining them all the time, used to try to make them imitate her dancing-master's graces, causing her father to perform such caricatures of them, as to overpower all with laughing.
Mr. Edmonstone was half Irish. His mother, Lady Mabel Edmonstone, had never thoroughly taken root in England, and on his marriage, had gone with her daughter to live near her old home in Ireland. The present Earl of Kilcoran was her nephew, and a very close intercourse had always been kept up between the families, Mr. and Mrs. Edmonstone being adopted by their younger cousins as uncle and aunt, and always so called.
The house at Allonby was in such confusion, that the family there expected to dine nowhere on the day of the ball, and the Hollywell party thought it prudent to secure their dinner at home, with Philip and Mary Ross, who were to go with them.
By special desire, Philip wore his uniform; and while the sisters were dressing Charlotte gave him a thorough examination, which led to a talk between him and Mary on accoutrements and weapons in general; but while deep in some points of chivalrous armour, Mary's waist was pinched by two mischievous hands, and a little fluttering white figure danced around her.'0 Amy! what do you want with me?' 'Come and be trimmed up,' said Amy. 'I thought you told me I was to have no trouble. I am dressed,' said Mary, looking complacently at her full folds of white muslin. 'No more you shall; but you promised to do as you were told.' And Amy fluttered away with her. 'Do you remember,' said Philip, 'the comparison of Rose Flammock dragging off her father, to a little carved cherub trying to uplift a solid monumental hero?' '0, I must tell Mary!' cried Charlotte; but Philip stopped her, with orders not to be a silly child. 'It is a pity Amy should not have her share,' said Charles. 'The comparison to a Dutch cherub?' asked Guy.
'She is more after the pattern of the little things on little wings, in your blotting-book,' said Charles; 'certain lines in the predicament of the cherubs of painters--heads "et proeterea nihil".'
'0 Guy, do you write verses? cried Charlotte. 'Some nonsense,' muttered Guy, out of countenance; 'I thought I had made away with that rubbish; where is it?'
'In the blotting-book in my room,' said Charles. 'I must explain that the book is my property, and was put into your room when mamma was beautifying it for you, as new and strange company. On its return to me, at your departure, I discovered a great accession of blots and sailing vessels, beside the aforesaid little things.''I shall resume my own property,' said Guy, departing in haste. Charlotte ran after him, to beg for a sight of it; and Philip asked Charles what it was like. 'A romantic incident,' said Charles, 'just fit for a novel. A Petrarch leaving his poems about in blotting-books.'
Charles used the word Petrarch to stand for a poet, not thinking what lady's name he suggested; and he was surprised at the severity of Philip's tone as he inquired, 'Do you mean anything, or do you not?'Perceiving with delight that he had perplexed and teased, he rejoiced in keeping up the mystery: 'Eh? is it a tender subject with you, too?' Philip rose, and standing over him, said, in a low but impressive tone:
'I cannot tell whether you are trifling or not; but you are no boy now, and can surely see that this is no subject to be played with. If you are concealing anything you have discovered, you have a great deal to answer for. I can hardly imagine anything more unfortunate than that he should become attached to either of your sisters.''Et pourquoi?' asked Charles, coolly.
'I see,' said Philip, retreating to his chair, and speaking with great composure, 'I did you injustice by speaking seriously.' Then, as his uncle came into the room, he asked some indifferent question, without betraying a shade of annoyance.
Charles meanwhile congratulated himself on his valour in keeping his counsel, in spite of so tall a man in scarlet; but he was much nettled at the last speech, for if a real attachment to his sister had been in question, he would never have trifled about it. Keenly alive to his cousin's injustice, he rejoiced in having provoked and mystified the impassable, though he little knew the storm he had raised beneath that serene exterior of perfect selfcommand.
The carriages were announced, and Mr. Edmonstone began to call the ladies, adding tenfold to the confusion in the dressing-room. There was Laura being completed by the lady's maid, Amabel embellishing Mary, Mrs. Edmonstone with her arm loaded with shawls, Charlotte flourishing about. Poor Mary--it was much against her will--but she had no heart to refuse the wreath of geraniums that Amy's own hands had woven for her; and there she sat, passive as a doll, though in despair at their all waiting for her. For Laura's toilette was finished, and every one began dressing her at once; while Charlotte, to make it better, screamed over the balusters that all were ready but Mary. Sir Guy was heard playing the 'Harmonious Blacksmith,' and Captain Morville's step was heard, fast and firm. At last, when a long chain was put round her neck, she cried out, 'I have submitted to everything so far; I can bear no more!' jumped up, caught hold of her shawl, and was putting it on, when there was a general outcry that they must exhibit themselves to Charles.They all ran down, and Amy, flying up to her brother, made a splendid sweeping curtsey, and twirled round in a pirouette. 'Got up, regardless of expense!' cried Charles; 'display yourselves.'
The young ladies ranged themselves in imitation of the book of fashions. The sisters were in white, with wreaths of starry jessamine. It was particularly becoming to Laura's belladonna lily complexion, rich brown curls, and classical features, and her brother exclaimed:'Laura is exactly like Apollo playing the lyre, outside mamma's old manuscript book of music.' 'Has not Amy made beautiful wreaths?' said Laura. 'She stripped the tree, and Guy had to fetch the ladder, to gather the sprays on the top of the wall.' 'Do you see your bit of myrtle, Guy,' said Amy, pointing to it, on Laura's head, 'that you tried to persuade me would pass for jessamine?' 'Ah! it should have been all myrtle,' said Guy.
Philip leant meantime against the door. Laura only once glanced towards him, thinking all this too trifling for him, and never imagining the intense interest with which he gave a meaning to each word and look.'Well done, Mary!' cried Charles, 'they have furbished you up handsomely.'
Mary made a face, and said she should wonder who was the fashionable young lady she should meet in the pier-glasses at Allonby. Then Mr. Edmonstone hurried them away, and they arrived in due time.
The saloon at Allonby was a beautiful room, one end opening into a conservatory, full of coloured lamps, fresh green leaves, and hot-house plants. There they found as yet only the home party, the good-natured, merry Lord Kilcoran, his quiet English wife, who had bad health, and looked hardly equal to the confusion of the evening; Maurice, and two younger boys; Eveleen, and her two little sisters, Mabel and Helen.
'This makes it hard on Charlotte,' thought Amy, while the two girls dragged her off to show her the lamps in the conservatory; and the rest attacked Mrs. Edmonstone for not having brought Charlotte, reproaching her with hardness of heart of which they had never believed her capable--Lady Eveleen, in especial, talking with that exaggeration of her ordinary manner which her dread of Captain Morville made her assume. Little he recked of her; he was absorbed in observing how far Laura's conduct coincided with Charles's hints. On the first opportunity, he asked her to dance, and was satisfied with her pleased acquiescence; but the next moment Guy came up, and in an eager manner made the same request.
'I am engaged,' said she, with a bright, proud glance at Philip; and Guy pursued Amabel into the conservatory, where he met with better success. Mr. Edmonstone gallantly asked Mary if he was too old a partner, and was soon dancing with the step and spring that had once made him the best dancer in the county.
Mrs. Edmonstone watched her flock, proud and pleased, thinking how well they looked and that, in especial, she had never been sensible how much Laura's and Philip's good looks excelled the rest of the world. They were much alike in the remarkable symmetry both of figure and feature, the colour of the deep blue eye, and fairness of complexion.
'It is curious,' thought Mrs. Edmonstone, 'that, so very handsome as Philip is, it is never the first thing remarked about him, just as his height never is observed till he is compared with other people. The fact is, that his superior sense carries off a degree of beauty which would be a misfortune to most men. It is that sedate expression and distinguished air that make the impression. How happy Laura looks, how gracefully she moves. No, it is not being foolish to think no one equal to Laura. My other pair!' and she smiled much more; 'you happy young things, I would not wish to see anything pleasanter than your merry faces. Little Amy looks almost as pretty as Laura, now she is lighted up by blush and smile, and her dancing is very nice, it is just like her laughing, so quiet, and yet so full of glee. I don't think she is less graceful than her sister, but the complete enjoyment strikes one more. And as to enjoyment--there are those bright eyes of her partner's perfectly sparkling with delight; he looks as if it was a world of enchantment to him. Never had any one a greater capacity for happiness than Guy.'
Mrs. Edmonstone might well retain her opinion when, after the quadrille, Guy came to tell her that he had never seen anything so delightful; and he entertained Mary Ross with his fresh, joyous pleasure, through the next dance.
'Laura,' whispered Eveleen, 'I've one ambition. Do you guess it? Don't tell him; but if he would, I should have a better opinion of myself ever after. I'm afraid he'll depreciate me to his friend; and really with Mr. Thorndale, I was no more foolish than a ball requires.' Lady Eveleen hoped in vain. Captain Morville danced with little Lady Helen, a child of eleven, who was enchanted at having so tall a partner; then, after standing still for some time, chose his cousin Amabel.'You are a good partner and neighbour,' said he, giving her his arm, 'you don't want young lady talk.' 'Should you not have asked Mary? She has been sitting down this long time.' 'Do you think she cares for such a sport as dancing?' Amy made no answer. 'You have been well off. You were dancing with Thorndale just now.'
'Yes. It was refreshing to have an old acquaintance among so many strangers. And he is so delighted with Eveleen; but what is more, Philip, that Mr. Vernon, who is dancing with Laura, told Maurice he thought her the prettiest and most elegant person here.''Laura might have higher praise,' said Philip, 'for hers is beauty of countenance even more than of feature. If only--' 'If?' said Amy.
'Look round, Amy, and you will see many a face which speaks of intellect wasted, or, if cultivated, turned aside from its true purpose, like the double blossom, which bears leaves alone.''Ah! you forget you are talking to silly little Amy. I can't see all that. I had rather think people as happy and good as they look.' 'Keep your child-like temper as long as you can--all your life,' perhaps, for this is one of the points where it is folly to be wise.' 'Then you only meant things in general? Nothing about Laura?' 'Things in general,' repeated Philip; 'bright promises blighted or thrown away--'
But he spoke absently, and his eye was following Laura. Amy thought he was thinking of his sister, and was sorry for him. He spoke no more, but she did not regret it, for she could not moralize in such a scene, and the sight and the dancing were pleasure enough.
Guy, in the meantime, had met an Oxford acquaintance, who introduced him to his sisters--pretty girls--whose father Mr. Edmonstone knew, but who was rather out of the Hollywell visiting distance. They fell into conversation quickly, and the Miss Alstons asked him with some interest, 'Which was the pretty Miss Edmonstone?' Guy looked for the sisters, as if to make up his mind, for the fact was, that when he first knew Laura and Amy, the idea of criticising beauty had not entered his mind, and to compare them was quite a new notion. 'Nay,' said he at last, 'if you cannot discover for yourselves when they are both before your eyes, I will do nothing so invidious as to say which is _the_ pretty one. I'll tell which is the eldest and which the youngest, but the rest you must decide for yourself.''I should like to know them,' said Miss Alston. 'Oh! they are both very nice-looking girls.' 'There, that is Laura--Miss Edmonstone,' said Guy, 'that tall young lady, with the beautiful hair and jessamine wreath.'
He spoke as if he was proud of her, and had a property in her. The tone did not escape Philip, who at that moment was close to them, with Amy on his arm; and, knowing the Alstons slightly, stopped and spoke, and introduced his cousin, Miss Amabel Edmonstone. At the same time Guy took one of the Miss Alstons away to get some tea.'So you knew my cousin at Oxford?' said Philip, to the brother. 'Yes, slightly. What an amusing fellow he is!' 'There is something very bright, very unlike other people about him,' said Miss Alston. 'How does he get on? Is he liked?' 'Why, yes, I should say so, on the whole; but it is rather as my sister says, he is not like other people.' 'In what respect?' 'Oh I can hardly tell. He is a very pleasant person, but he ought to have been at school. He is a man of crotchets.' 'Hard-working?'
'Very; he makes everything give way to that. He is a capital companion when he is to be had, but he lives very much to himself. He is a man of one friend, and I don't see much of him.'
Another dance began, Mr. Alston went to look for his partner, Philip and Amy moved on in search of ice. 'Hum!' said Philip to himself, causing Amy to gaze up at him, but he was musing too intently for her to venture on a remark. She was thinking that she did not wonder that strangers deemed Guy crotchety, since he was so difficult to understand; and then she considered whether to take him to see King Charles, in the library, and concluded that she would wait, for she felt as if the martyr king's face would look on her too gravely to suit her present tone.
Philip helped her to ice, and brought her back to her mother's neighbourhood without many more words. He then stood thoughtful for some time, entered into conversation with one of the elder gentlemen, and, when that was interrupted, turned to talk to his aunt.
'Never fear,' said Eveleen, 'faint heart, you know.' And with a nod, a flourish, of her bouquet, and an arch smile at her cousin's horror, she moved on, and presently they heard her exclaiming, gaily, 'Captain Morville, I really must scold you. You are setting a shocking example of laziness! Aunt Edmonstone, how can you encourage such proceedings! Indolence is the parent of vice, you know.'
Philip smiled just as much as the occasion required, and answered, 'I beg your pardon, I had forgotten my duty. I'll attend to my business better in future.' And turning to a small, shy damsel, who seldom met with a partner, he asked her to dance. Eveleen came back to Laura with a droll disappointed gesture. 'Insult to injury,' said she, disconsolately.'Of course,' said Amy, 'he could not have thought you wanted to dance with him, or you would not have gone to stir him up.' 'Well, then, he was very obtuse.' 'Besides, you are engaged.' '0 yes, to Mr. Thorndale! But who would be content with the squire when the knight disdains her?'
Mr. Thorndale came to claim Eveleen at that moment. It was the second time she had danced with him, and it did not pass unobserved by Philip, nor the long walk up and down after the dance was over. At length his friend came up to him and said something warm in admiration of her. 'She is very Irish,' was Philip's answer, with a cold smile, and Mr. Thorndale stood uncomfortable under the disapprobation, attracted by Eveleen's beauty and grace, yet so unused to trust his own judgment apart from 'Morville's,' as to be in an instant doubtful whether he really admired or not.
'You have not been dancing with her?' he said, presently.
Philip was easy about him for the present, satisfied that admiration had been checked, which, if it had been allowed to grow into an attachment, would have been very undesirable.
The suspicions Charles had excited were so full in Philip's mind, however, that he could not as easily set it at rest respecting his cousin. Guy had three times asked her to dance, but each time she had been engaged. At last, just as the clock struck the hour at which the carriage had been ordered, he came up, and impetuously claimed her. 'One quadrille we must have, Laura, if you are not tired?''No! Oh, no! I could dance till this time to-morrow.' 'We ought to be going,' said Mrs. Edmonstone. '0 pray, Mrs. Edmonstone, this one more,' cried Guy, eagerly. 'Laura owes me this one.' 'Yes, this one more, mamma,' said Laura, and they went off together, while Philip remained, in a reverie, till requested by his aunt to see if the carriage was ready.
The dance was over, the carriage was waiting, but Guy and Laura did not appear till, after two or three minutes spent in wonder and inquiries, they came quietly walking back from the library, where they had been looking at King Charles.
All the way home the four ladies in the carriage never ceased laughing and talking. The three gentlemen in theirs acted diversely. Mr. Edmonstone went to sleep, Philip sat in silent thought, Guy whistled and hummed the tunes, and moved his foot very much as if he was still dancing.
They met for a moment, and parted again in the hall at Hollywell, where the daylight was striving to get in through the closed shutters. Philip went on to Broadstone, Guy said he could not go to bed by daylight, called Bustle, and went to the river to bathe, and the rest crept upstairs to their rooms. And so ended Lord Kilcoran's ball.
Like Alexander, I will reign,
And I will reign alone,
My thoughts shall ever more disdain A rival near my throne.
But I must rule and govern still,
And always give the law,
And have each subject at my will, And all to stand in awe.--MONTROSE.
He could not determine whether Charles had spoken in jest; but in spite of Guy's extreme youth, he feared there was ground for the suspicion excited by the hint, and was persuaded that such an attachment could produce nothing but unhappiness to his cousin, considering how little confidence could be placed in Guy. He perceived that there was much to inspire affection--attractive qualities, amiable disposition, the talent for music, and now this recently discovered power of versifying, all were in Guy's favour, besides the ancient name and long ancestry, which conferred a romantic interest, and caused even Philip to look up to him with a feudal feeling as head of the family. There was also the familiar intercourse to increase the danger; and Philip, as he reflected on these things, trembled for Laura, and felt himself her only protector; for his uncle was nobody, Mrs. Edmonstone was infatuated, and Charles would not listen to reason. To make everything worse, he had that morning heard that there was to be a grand inspection of the regiment, and a presentation of colours; Colonel Deane was very anxious; and it was plain that in the interval the officers would be allowed little leisure. The whole affair was to end with a ball, which would lead to a repetition of what had already disturbed him.
Thus meditating, Philip, heated and dusty, walked into the smooth green enclosure of Hollywell. Everything, save the dancing clouds of insect youth which whirled in his face, was drooping in the heat. The house-- every door and window opened--seemed gasping for breath; the cows sought refuge in the shade; the pony drooped its head drowsily; the leaves hung wearily; the flowers were faint and thirsty; and Bustle was stretched on the stone steps, mouth open, tongue out, only his tail now and then moving, till he put back his ears and crested his head to greet the arrival. Philip heard the sounds that had caused the motion of the sympathizing tail--the rich tones of Guy's voice. Stepping over the dog, he entered, and heard more clearly--'Two loving hearts may sever, For sorrow fails them never.' And then another voice-- 'Who knows not love in sorrow's night, He knows not love in light.'
In the drawing-room, cool and comfortable in the green shade of the Venetian blinds of the bay window, stood Laura, leaning on the piano, close to Guy, who sat on the musicstool, looking thoroughly at home in his brown shooting-coat, and loosely-tied handkerchief.Any one but Philip would have been out of temper, but he shook hands as cordially as usual, and would not even be the first to remark on the heat.
Laura told him he looked hot and tired, and invited him to come out to the others, and cool himself on the lawn. She went for her parasol, Guy ran for her camp stool, and Philip, going to the piano, read what they had been singing. The lines were in Laura's writing, corrected, here and there, in Guy's hand.BE STEADFAST.
Two loving hearts may sever,
Yet love shall fail them never.
Love brightest beams in sorrow's night, Love is of life the light.
Two loving hearts may sever, Yet hope shall fail them never. Hope is a star in sorrow's night, Forget-me-not of light.
Two loving hearts may sever, Yet faith may fail them never. Trust on through sorrow's night, Faith is of love and hope the light.
Two loving hearts may sever,
For sorrow fails them never.
Who knows not love in sorrow's night, He knows not love in light.
'I translated it into prose, and Guy made it verse,' said Laura; 'I hope you approve of our performance.'
'It is that thing of Helmine von Chezy, "Beharre", is it not?' said Philip, particularly civil, because he was so much annoyed. 'You have rendered the spirit very well', but you have sacrificed a good deal to your double rhymes.'
"Had we never loved so kindly, Had we never loved so blindly, Never met and never parted,
We had ne'er been broken hearted;"
Here Charlotte came to see if Guy and Laura meant to sing all the afternoon; and they went out. They found the others in the arbour, and Charlotte's histories of its construction, gave Philip little satisfaction. They next proceeded to talk over the ball.
'Ah!' said Philip, 'balls are the fashion just now. What do you say, Amy, [he was more inclined to patronize her than any one else] to the gaieties we are going to provide for you?''You! Are you going to have your new colours? Oh! you are not going to give us a ball?' 'Well! that is fun!' cried Guy. 'What glory Maurice de Courcy must be in!' 'He is gone to Allonby,' said Philip, 'to announce it; saying, he must persuade his father to put off their going to Brighton. Do you think he will succeed?' 'Hardly,' said Laura; 'poor Lady Kilcoran was so knocked up by their ball, that she is the more in want of sea air. Oh, mamma, Eva must come and stay here.'
'That she must,' said Mrs. Edmonstone; 'that will make it easy. She is the only one who will care about the ball.'
Philip was obliged to conceal his vexation, and to answer the many eager questions about the arrangements. He stayed to dinner, and as the others went in-doors to dress, he lingered near Charlotte, assuming, with some difficulty, an air of indifference, and said-- 'Well, Charlotte, did you tease Guy into showing you those verses?'
Philip was in hopes of being able to speak to Laura after dinner, but his uncle wanted him to come and look over the plans of an estate adjoining Redclyffe, which there was some idea of purchasing. Such an employment would in general have been congenial; but on this occasion, it was only by a strong force that he could chain his attention, for Guy was pacing the terrace with Laura and Amabel, and as they passed and repassed the window, he now and then caught sounds of repeating poetry.
In this Guy excelled. He did not read aloud well; he was too rapid, and eyes and thoughts were apt to travel still faster than the lips, thus producing a confusion; but no one could recite better when a passage had taken strong hold of his imagination, and he gave it the full effect of the modulations of his fine voice, conveying in its inflections the impressions which stirred him profoundly. He was just now enchanted with his first reading of 'Thalaba,' where he found all manner of deep meanings, to which the sisters listened with wonder and delight. He repeated, in a low, awful, thrilling tone, that made Amy shudder, the lines in the seventh book, ending with--"Who comes from the bridal chamber! It is Azrael, angel of death."' 'You have not been so taken up with any book since Sintram.' said Laura. 'It is like Sintram,' he replied.
'Like it?' 'So it seems to me. A strife with the powers of darkness; the victory, forgiveness, resignation, death."Thou know'st the secret wishes of my heart, Do with me as thou wilt, thy will is best."' 'I wish you would not speak as if you were Thalaba yourself,' said Amy, 'you bring the whole Domdaniel round us.'
'I am afraid he is going to believe himself Thalaba as well as Sintram,' said Laura. 'But you know Southey did not see all this himself, and did not understand it when it was pointed out.''Don't tell us that,' said Amy. 'Nay; I think there is something striking in it,' said Guy then, with a sudden transition, 'but is not this ball famous?' And their talk was of balls and reviews till nine o'clock, when they were summoned to tea. On the whole, Philip returned to Broadstone by no means comforted.
Never had he known so much difficulty in attending with patience to his duties as in the course of the next fortnight. They became a greater durance, as he at length looked his feelings full in the face, and became aware of their true nature.
He perceived that the loss of Laura would darken his whole existence; yet he thought that, were he only secure of her happiness, he could have resigned her in silence. Guy was, however, one of the last men in the world whom he could bear to see in possession of her; and probably she was allowing herself to be entangled, if not in heart, at least in manner. If so, she should not be unwarned. He had been her guide from childhood, and he would not fail her now.
Three days before the review, he succeeded in finding time for a walk to Hollywell, not fully decided on the part he should act, though resolved on making some remonstrance. He was crossing a stile, about a mile and a half from Hollywell, when he saw a lady sitting on the stump of a tree, sketching, and found that fate had been so propitious as to send Laura thither alone. The rest had gone to gather mushrooms on a down, and had left her sketching the view of the spires of Broadstone, in the cleft between the high green hills. She was very glad to see him, and held up her purple and olive washes to be criticised; but he did not pay much attention to them. He was almost confused at the sudden manner in which the opportunity for speaking had presented itself.'It is a long time since I have seen you,' said he, at last. 'An unheard-of time.' 'Still longer since we have had any conversation.'
'I was just thinking so. Not since that hot hay-making, when Guy came home. Indeed, we have had so much amusement lately that I have hardly had time for thought. Guy says we are all growing dissipated.''Ah! your German, and dancing, and music, do not agree with thought.' 'Poor music!' said Laura, smiling. 'But I am ready for a lecture; I have been feeling more like a butterfly than I like.'
'I know you think me unjust about music, and I freely confess that I cannot estimate the pleasure it affords, but I doubt whether it is a safe pleasure. It forms common ground for persons who would otherwise have little in common, and leads to intimacies which occasion results never looked for.''Yes,' said Laura, receiving it as a general maxim. 'Laura, you complain of feeling like a butterfly. Is not that a sign that you were made for better things?'
'But what can I do? I try to read early and at night, but I can't prevent the fun and gaiety; and, indeed, I don't think I would. It is innocent, and we never had such a pleasant summer. Charlie is so--so much more equable, and mamma is more easy about him, and I can't help thinking it does them all good, though I do feel idle.'
'It is innocent, it is right for a little while,' said Philip; 'but your dissatisfaction proves that you are superior to such things. Laura, what I fear is, that this summer holiday may entangle you, and so fix your fate as to render your life no holiday. 0 Laura take care; know what you are doing!''What am I doing?' asked Laura, with an alarmed look of ingenuous surprise.
Never had it been so hard to maintain his composure as now, when her simplicity forced him to come to plainer terms. 'I must speak,' he continued, 'because no one else will. Have you reflected whither this may tend? This music, this versifying, this admitting a stranger so unreservedly into your pursuits?'
She understood now, and hung her head. He would have given worlds to judge of the face hidden by her bonnet; but as she did not reply, he spoke on, his agitation becoming so strong, that the struggle was perceptible in the forced calmness of his tone. 'I would not say a word if he were worthy, but Laura--Laura, I have seen Locksley Hall acted once; do not let me see it again in a way which--which would give me infinitely more pain.' The faltering of his voice, so resolutely subdued, touched, her extremely, and a thrill of exquisite pleasure glanced through her, on hearing confirmed what she had long felt, that she had taken Margaret's place--nay, as she now learnt, that she was even more precious to him. She only thought of reassuring him.'No, you need never fear _that_. He has no such thought, I am sure.' She blushed deeply, but looked in his face. 'He treats us both alike, besides, he is so young.'
'The mischief is not done,' said Philip, trying to resume his usual tone; 'I only meant to speak in time. You might let your manner go too far; you might even allow your affections to be involved without knowing it, if you were not on your guard.'
'Never!' said Laura. 'Oh, no; I could never dream of that with Guy. I like Guy very much; I think better of him than you do; but oh no; he could never be my first and best; I could never care for him in _that_ way. How could you think so, Philip?'
'Laura, I cannot but look on you with what may seem over-solicitude. Since I lost Fanny, and worse than lost Margaret, you have been my home; my first, my most precious interest. 0 Laura!' and he did not even attempt to conceal the trembling and tenderness of his voice, 'could I bear to lose you, to see you thrown away or changed--you, dearest, best of all?'
Laura did not turn away her head this time, but raising her beautiful face, glowing with such a look as had never beamed there before, while tears rose to her eyes, she said, 'Don't speak of my changing towards you. I never could; for if there is anything to care for in me, it is you that have taught it to me.'
If ever face plainly told another that he was her first and best, Laura's did so now. Away went misgivings, and he looked at her in happiness too great for speech, at least, he could not speak till he had mastered his emotion, but his countenance was sufficient reply. Even then, in the midst of this flood of ecstasy, came the thought, 'What have I done?'
He had gone further than he had ever intended. It was a positive avowal of love; and what would ensue? Cessation of intercourse with her, endless vexations, the displeasure of her family, loss of influence, contempt, and from Mr. Edmonstone, for the pretensions of a penniless soldier. His joy was too great to be damped, but it was rendered cautious. 'Laura, my own!' (what delight the words gave her,) 'you have made me very happy. We know each other now, and trust each other for ever.''0 yes, yes; nothing can alter what has grown up with us.' 'It is for ever!' repeated Philip. 'But, Laura, let us be content with our own knowledge of what we are to each other. Do not let us call in others to see our happiness.'
Laura looked surprised, for she always considered any communication about his private feelings too sacred to be repeated, and wondered he should think the injunction necessary. 'I never can bear to talk about the best kinds of happiness,' said she; 'but oh!' and she sprang up, 'here they come.'
Poor Mrs. Edmonstone, as she walked back from her mushroom-field, she little guessed that words had been spoken which would give the colouring to her daughter's whole life-she little guessed that her much-loved and esteemed nephew had betrayed her confidence! As she and the girls came up, Philip advanced to meet them, that Laura might have a few moments to recover, while with an effort he kept himself from appearing absent in the conversation that ensued. It was brief, for having answered some questions with regard to the doings on the important day, he said, that since he had met them he would not come on to Hollywell, and bade them farewell, giving Laura a pressure of the hand which renewed the glow on her face.
He walked back, trying to look through the dazzling haze of joy so as to see his situation clearly. It was impossible for him not to perceive that there had been an absolute declaration of affection, and that he had established a private understanding with his cousin. It was not, however, an engagement, nor did he at present desire to make it so. It was impossible for him as yet to marry, and he was content to wait without a promise, since that could not add to his entire reliance on Laura. He could not bear to be rejected by her parents: he knew his poverty would be the sole ground of objection, and he was not asking her to share it. He believed sincerely that a long, lingering attachment to himself would be more for her good than a marriage with one who would have been a high prize for worldly aims, and was satisfied that by winning her heart he had taken the only sure means of securing her from becoming attached to Guy, while secrecy was the only way of preserving his intercourse with her on the same footing, and exerting his influence over the family.
It was calmly reflected, for Philip's love was tranquil, though deep and steady, and the rather sought to preserve Laura as she was than to make her anything more; and this very calmness contributed to his self- deception on this first occasion that he had ever actually swerved from the path of right.
With an uncomfortable sensation, he met Guy riding home from his tutor, entirely unsuspicious. He stopped and talked of the preparations at Broadstone, where he had been over the ground with Maurice de Courcy, and had heard the band.'What did you think of it? said Philip, absently. 'They _should_ keep better time! Really, Philip, there is one fellow with a bugle that ought to be flogged every day of his life!' said Guy, making a droll, excruciated face.
How a few words can change the whole current of ideas. The band was connected with Philip, therefore he could not bear to hear it found fault with, and adduced some one's opinion that the man in question was one of the best of their musicians. Guy could not help shrugging his shoulders, as he laughed, and said,-- 'Then I shall be obliged to take to my heels if I meet the rest. Good- bye.''How conceited they have made that boy about his fine ear,' thought Philip. 'I wonder he is not ashamed to parade his music, considering whence it is derived.'
Ah! county Guy, the hour is nigh,
The sun has left the lea,
The orange flower perfumes the bower, The breeze is on the sea.
The lark, his lay, who thrilled all day, Sits hushed, his partner nigh,
Breeze, bird, and flower, confess the hour, But where is county Guy?--SCOTT
How was it meantime with Laura? The others were laughing and talking round her, but all seemed lost in the transcendent beam that had shone out on her. To be told by Philip that she was all to him that he had always been to her! This one idea pervaded her--too glorious, too happy for utterance, almost for distinct thought. The softening of his voice, and the look with which he had regarded her, recurred again and again, startling her with a sudden surprise of joy almost as at the first moment. Of the future Laura thought not. Never had a promise of love been made with less knowledge of what it amounted to: it seemed merely an expression of sentiments that she had never been without; for had she not always looked up to Philip more than any other living creature, and gloried in being his favourite cousin? Ever since the time when he explained to her the plates in the Encyclopaedia, and made her read 'Joyce's Scientific Dialogues,' when Amy took fright at the first page. That this might lead further did not occur to her; she was eighteen, she had no experience, not even in novels, she did not know what she had done; and above all, she had so leant to surrender her opinions to Philip, and to believe him always right, that she would never have dreamt of questioning wherever he might choose to lead her. Even the caution of secrecy did not alarm her, though she wondered that he thought it required, safe as his confidence always was with her. Mrs. Edmonstone had been so much occupied by Charles's illness, as to have been unable to attend to her daughters in their girlish days; and in the governess's time the habit had been disused of flying at once to her with every joy or grief. Laura's thoughts were not easy of access, and Philip had long been all in all to her. She was too ignorant of life to perceive that it was her duty to make this conversation known; or, more truly, she did not awaken her mind to consider that anything could be wrong that Philip desired.On coming home, she ran up to her own room, and sitting by the open window, gave herself up to that delicious dream of new-found joy. There she still sat when Amy came in, opening the door softly, and treading lightly and airily as she entered, bringing two or three roses of different tints. 'Laura! not begun to dress?'
'Is it time?' 'Shall I answer you according to what Philip calls my note of time, and tell you the pimpernels are closed, and the tigridias dropping their leaves? It would be a proper answer for you; you look as if you were in Fairy Land.''Is papa come home?' 'Long ago! and Guy too. Why, where could you have been, not to have heard Guy and Eveleen singing the Irish melodies?'
'In a trance,' said Laura, starting up, and laughing, with a slight degree of constraint, which caused Amy, who was helping her to dress, to exclaim, 'Has anything happened, Laura?''What should have happened?'
'I can't guess, unless the fairies in the great ring on Ashendown came to visit you when we were gone. But seriously, dear Laura, are you sure you are not tired? Is nothing the matter?''Nothing at all, thank you. I was only thinking over the talk I had with Philip.' 'Oh!' Amy never thought of entering into Philip's talks with Laura, and was perfectly satisfied.
By this time Laura was herself again, come back to common life, and resolved to watch over her intercourse with Guy; since, though she was convinced that all was safe at present, she had Philip's word for it that there might be danger in continuing the pleasant freedom of their behaviour.
Nothing could be more reassuring than Guy's demeanour. His head seemed entirely full of the Thursday, and of a plan of his own for enabling Charles to go to the review. It had darted into his head while he was going over the ground with Maurice. It was so long since Charles had thought it possible to attempt any amusement away from home, and former experiments had been so unsuccessful, that it had never even occurred to him to think of it; but he caught at the idea with great delight and eagerness. Mrs. Edmonstone seemed not to know what to say; she had much rather that it had not been proposed; yet it was very kind of Guy, and Charles was so anxious about it that she knew not how to oppose him.
She could not bear to have Charles in a crowd, helpless as he was; and she had an unpleasing remembrance of the last occasion when they had taken him to a flower-show, where they had lost, first Mr, Edmonstone, next the carriage, and lastly, Amy and Charlotte--all had been frightened, and Charles laid up for three days from the fatigue. Answers, however, met each objection. Charles was much stronger; Guy's arm would be ready for him; Guy would find the carriage. Philip would be there to help, besides Maurice; and whenever Charles was tired, Guy would take him home at once, without spoiling any one's pleasure.'Except your own,' said Mrs. Edmonstone. 'Thank you; but this would be so delightful.' 'Ah!' said Charles, 'it would be as great a triumph as the dog's that caught the hare with the clog round his neck--the dog's, I mean.' 'If you will but trust me with him,' said Guy, turning on her all the pleading eloquence of his eyes, 'you know he can get in and out of the pony-carriage quite easily.' 'As well as walk across the room,' said Charles.
'I would drive him in it, and tell William to ride in and be at hand to hold the pony or take it out; and the tent is so near, that you could get to the breakfast, unless the review had been enough for you. I paced the distance to make sure, and it is no further than from the garden-door to the cherry-tree.''That is nothing,' said Charles. 'And William shall be in waiting to bring the pony the instant you are ready, and we can go home independently of every one else.' 'I thought,' interposed Mrs. Edmonstone, 'that you were to go to the mess-dinner--what is to become of that?' 'O,' said Charles, 'that will be simply a bore, and he may rejoice to be excused from going the whole hog.' 'To be sure, I had rather dine in peace at home.'
Mrs. Edmonstone was not happy, but she had great confidence in Guy; and her only real scruple was, that she did not think it fair to occupy him entirely with attendance on her son. She referred it to papa, which, as every one knew, was the same as yielding the point, and consoled herself by the certainty that to prevent it would be a great disappointment to both the youths. Laura was convinced that to achieve the adventure of Charles at the review, was at present at least a matter of far more prominence with Guy than anything relating to herself.
All but Laura and her mother were wild about the weather, especially on Wednesday, when there was an attempt at a thunder storm. Nothing was studied but the sky; and the conversation consisted of prognostications, reports of rises and falls of the glass, of the way weather-cocks were turning, or about to turn, of swallows flying high or low, red sunsets, and halos round the moon, until at last Guy, bursting into a merry laugh, begged Mrs. Edmonstone's pardon for being such a nuisance, and made a vow, and kept it, that be the weather what it might, he would say not another word about it that evening; it deserved to be neglected, for he had not been able to settle to anything all day.
He might have said for many days before; for since the last ball, and still more since Lady Eveleen had been at Hollywell, it had been one round of merriment and amusement. Scrambling walks, tea-drinkings out of doors, dances among themselves, or with the addition of the Harpers, were the order of the day. Amy, Eveleen, and Guy, could hardly come into the room without dancing, and the piano was said to acknowledge nothing but waltzes, polkas, and now and then an Irish jig, for the special benefit of Mr. Edmonstone's ears. The morning was almost as much spent in mirth as the afternoon, for the dawdlings after breakfast, and before luncheon, had a great tendency to spread out and meet, there was new music and singing to be practised, or preparations made for evening's diversion, or councils to be held, which Laura's absence could not break up, though it often made Amy feel how much less idle and frivolous Laura was than herself. Eveleen said the same, but she was visiting, and it was a time to be idle; and Mr. Lascelles seemed to be of the same opinion with regard to his pupil; for, when Guy was vexed at not having done as much work as usual, he only laughed at him for expecting to be able to go to balls, and spend a summer of gaiety, while he studied as much as at Oxford.
Thursday morning was all that heart could wish, the air cooled by the thunder, and the clouds looking as if raining was foreign to their nature. Mr. and Mrs. Edmonstone, their daughters, and Lady Eveleen, were packed inside and outside the great carriage, while Guy, carefully settling Charles in the low phaeton, putting in all that any one recommended, from an air-cushion to an umbrella, flourished his whip, and drove off with an air of exultation and delight.
Everything went off to admiration. No one was more amused than Charles. The scene was so perfectly new and delightful to one accustomed to such a monotonous life, that the very sight of people was a novelty. Nowhere was there so much laughing and talking as in that little carriage, and whenever Mrs. Edmonstone's anxious eye fell upon it, she always saw Charles sitting upright, with a face so full of eager interest as to banish all thought of fatigue. Happy, indeed, he was. He enjoyed the surprise of his acquaintance at meeting him; he enjoyed Dr. Mayerne's laugh and congratulation; he enjoyed seeing how foolish Philip thought him, nodding to his mother and sisters, laughing at the dreadful faces Guy could not help making at any particularly discordant note of the offensive bugle; and his capabilities rising with his spirits, he did all that the others did, walked further than he had done for years, was lifted up steps without knowing how, sat out the whole breakfast, talked to all the world, and well earned the being thoroughly tired, as he certainly was when Guy put him into the carriage and drove him home, and still more so when Guy all but carried him up stairs, and laid him on the sofa in the dressing-room. However, his mother announced that it would have been so unnatural if he had not been fatigued, that she should have been more anxious, and leaving him to repose, they all, except Mr. Edmonstone, who had stayed to dine at the mess, sat down to dinner.
Amy came down dressed just as the carriage had been announced, and found Laura and Eveleen standing by the table, arranging their bouquets, while Guy, in the dark, behind the piano, was playing--not, as usual, in such cases, the Harmonious Blacksmith, but a chant.'Is mamma ready?' asked Laura. 'Nearly,' said Amy, 'but I wish she was not obliged to go! I am sure she cannot bear to leave Charlie.' 'I hope she is not going on my account,' said Eveleen. 'No, said Laura, 'we must go; it would so frighten papa if we did not come. Besides, there is nothing to be uneasy about with Charles.' 'O no,' said Amy; 'she says so, only she is always anxious, and she is afraid he is too restless to go to sleep.' 'We must get home as fast as we can; if you don't mind, Eva,' said Laura, remembering how her last dance with Guy had delayed them. 'Can I do any good to Charlie?' said Guy, ceasing his music. I don't mean to go.' 'Not go!' cried the girls in consternation.
'He is joking!' said Eveleen. 'But, I declare!' added she, advancing towards him, 'he is not dressed! Come, nonsense, this is carrying it too far; you'll make us all too late, and then I'll set Maurice at you.''I am afraid it is no joke,' said Guy, smiling. 'You must go. It will never do for you to stay away,' said Laura, decidedly. 'Are you tired? Aren't you well?' asked Amy. 'Quite well, thank you, but I am sure I had better not.' Laura thought she had better not seem anxious to take him, so she left the task of persuasion, to the others, and Amy went on.
'Neither Mamma nor Charlie could bear to think you stayed because of him.' 'I don't, I assure you, Amy. I meant it before. I have been gradually finding out that it must come to this.''Oh, you think it a matter of right and wrong! But you don't think balls wrong?' 'Oh no; only they won't do for such an absurd person as I am. The last turned my head for a week, and I am much too unsteady for this.' 'Well, if you think it a matter of duty, it can't be helped,' said Amy sorrowfully; 'but I am very sorry.' 'Thank you,' said Guy, thinking it compassion, not regret; 'but I shall do very well. I shall be all the happier to-morrow for a quiet hour at my Greek, and you'll tell me all the fun.' 'You liked it so much!' said Amy; 'but you have made up your mind and I ought not to tease you.'
'That's right Amy; he does it on purpose to be teased,' said Eveleen, 'and I never knew anybody so provoking. Mind, Sir Guy, if you make us all too late, you shan't have the ghost of a quadrille with me.''I shall console myself by quadrilling with Andromache,' said Guy. 'Come, no nonsense--off to dress directly! How can you have the conscience to stand there when the carriage is at the door?' 'I shall have great pleasure in handing you in when you are ready.' 'Laura--Amy! Does he really mean it?' 'I am afraid he does,' said Amy. Eveleen let herself fall on the sofa as if fainting. 'Oh,' she said, 'take him away! Let me never see the face of him again! I'm perfectly overcome! All my teaching thrown away!' 'I am sorry for you,' said Guy, laughing. 'And how do you mean to face Maurice?' 'Tell him his first bugle has so distracted me that I can't answer for the consequences if I come to-night.
'Mrs. Edmonstone came in, saying,-- 'Come, I have kept you waiting shamefully, but I have been consoling myself by thinking you must be well entertained, as I heard no Harmonious Blacksmith. Papa will be wondering where we are.''Oh, mamma! Guy won't go.' 'Guy! is anything the matter?' 'Nothing, thank you, only idleness.' 'This will never do. You really must go, Guy.' 'Indeed! I think not. Pray don't order me, Mrs. Edmonstone.' 'What o'clock is it, Amy? Past ten! Papa will be in despair! What is to be done? How long do you take to dress, Guy?' 'Not under an hour,' said Guy, smiling.
'Nonsense! But if there was time I should certainly send you. Self- discipline may be carried too far, Guy. But now it can't be helped--I don't know how to keep papa waiting any longer. Laura, what shall I do?''Let me go to Charles,' answered Guy. 'Perhaps I can read him to sleep.'
'Thank you; but don't talk, or he will be too excited. Reading would be the very thing! It will be a pretty story to tell every one who asks for you that I have left you to nurse my son!''No, for no such good reason,' said Guy; 'only because I am a great fool.' 'Well, Sir Guy, I am glad you can say one sensible word,' said Lady Eveleen. 'Too true, I assure you,' he answered, as he handed her in. 'Good night! You will keep the quadrille for me till I am rational.' He handed the others in, and shut the door. Mrs. Edmonstone, ruffled out of her composure, exclaimed,-- 'Well, this is provoking!' 'Every one will be vexed,' said Laura. 'It will be so stupid,' said Amy.
'I give him up,' said Eveleen. 'I once had hopes of him.' 'If it was not for papa, I really would turn back this moment and fetch him,' cried Mrs. Edmonstone, starting forward. 'I'm sure it will give offence. I wish I had not consented.''He can't be made to see that his presence is of importance to any living creature,' said Laura. 'What is the reason of this whim?' said Eveleen. 'No, Eveleen, it is not whim,' said Laura; 'it is because he thinks dissipation makes him idle.' 'Then if he is idle I wonder what the rest of the world is!' said Eveleen. 'I am sure we all ought to stay at home too.' 'I think so,' said Amy. 'I know I shall feel all night as if I was wrong to be there.' 'I am angry,' said Mrs. Edmonstone; 'and yet I believe it is a great sacrifice.' 'Yes, mamma; after all our looking forward to it,' said Amy. 'Oh! yes,' and her voice lost its piteous tone, 'it is a real sacrifice.'
'If he was not a mere boy, I should say a lover's quarrel was at the bottom of it,' said Eveleen. 'Depend upon it, Laura, it is all your fault. You only danced once with him at our ball, and all this week you have played for us, as if it was on purpose to cut him.'
Laura was glad of the darkness, and her mother, who had a particular dislike to jokes of this sort, went on,--'If it were only ourselves I should not care, but there are so many who will fancy it caprice, or worse.''The only comfort is,' said Amy, 'that it is Charlie's gain.' 'I hope they will not talk,' said Mrs. Edmonstone. 'But Charlie will never hold his tongue. He will grow excited, and not sleep all night.'
Poor Mrs. Edmonstone! her trials did not end here, for when she replied to her husband's inquiry for Guy, Mr. Edmonstone said offence had already been taken at his absence from the dinner; he would not have had this happen for fifty pounds; she ought not to have suffered it; but it was all her nonsense about Charles, and as to not being late, she should have waited till midnight rather than not have brought him. In short, he said as much more than he meant, as a man in a pet is apt to say, and nevertheless Mrs. Edmonstone had to look as amiable and smiling as if nothing was the matter.
The least untruthful answer she could frame to the inquiries for Sir Guy Morville was, that young men were apt to be lazy about balls, and this sufficed for good-natured Mrs. Deane, but Maurice poured out many exclamations about his ill-behaviour, and Philip contented himself with the mere fact of his not being there, and made no remark. Laura turned her eyes anxiously on Philip. They had not met since the important conversation on Ashen-down, and she found herself looking with more pride than ever at his tall, noble figure, as if he was more her own; but the calmness of feeling was gone. She could not meet his eye, nor see him turn towards her without a start and tremor for which she could not render herself a reason, and her heart beat so much that it was at once a relief and a disappointment that she was obliged to accept her other cousin as her first partner. Philip had already asked Lady Eveleen, for he neither wished to appear too eager in claiming Laura, nor to let his friend think he had any dislike to the Irish girl.
Eveleen was much pleased to have him for her partner, and told herself she would be on her good behaviour. It was a polka, and there was not much talk, which, perhaps, was all the better for her. She admired the review, and the luncheon, and spoke of Charles without any sauciness, and Philip was condescending and agreeable.'I must indulge myself in abusing that stupid cousin of yours!' said she. Did you ever know a man of such wonderful crotchets?' 'This is a very unexpected one,' said Philip.
'It came like a thunder clap. I thought till the last moment he was joking, for he likes dancing so much; he was the life of our ball, and how could any one suppose he would fly off at the last moment?''He seems rather to enjoy doing things suddenly.'
'I tell Laura she has affronted him,' said Eveleen, laughing. 'She has been always busy of late when we have wanted her; and I assure her his pride has been piqued. Don't you think that is an explanation, Captain Morville?'It was Captain Morvilles belief, but he would not say so.
'Isn't Laura looking lovely?' Eveleen went on. 'I am sure she is the beauty of the night!' She was pleased to see Captain Morville's attention gained. 'She is even better dressed than at our ball--those Venetian pins suit the form of her head so well. Her beauty is better than almost any one's, because she has so much countenance.''True,' said Philip. 'How proud Maurice looks of having her on his arm. Does not he? Poor Maurice! he is desperately in love with her!' 'As is shown by his pining melancholy.'
Eveleen laughed with her clear hearty laugh. 'I see you know what we mean by being desperately in love! No,' she added more gravely, 'I am very glad it is only _that_ kind of desperation. One could not think of Maurice and Laura together. He does not know the best part of Laura.'Eveleen was highly flattered by Captain Morville conducting her a second time round the room, instead of at once restoring her to her aunt. He secured Laura next, and leading her away from her own party, said, 'Laura, have yon been overdoing it?' 'It is not that,' said Laura, wishing she could keep from blushing. 'It is the only motive that could excuse his extraordinary behaviour.' 'Surely you know he says that he is growing unsettled. It is part of his rule of self discipline.'
'Absurd!--exaggerated!--incredible! This is the same story as there was about the horse. It is either caprice or temper, and I am convinced that some change in your manner--nay, I say unconscious, and am far from blaming you--is the cause. Why else did he devote himself to Charles, and leave you all on my uncle's hands in the crowd?''We could shift for ourselves much better than Charlie.'
'This confirms my belief that my warning was not mistimed. I wish it could have been done without decidedly mortifying him and rousing his temper, because I am sorry others should be slighted; but if he takes your drawing back so much to heart, it shows that it was time you should do so.''If I thought I had!' 'It was visible to others--to another, I should say.' '0, that is only Eveleen's nonsense! The only difference I am conscious of having made, was keeping more up-stairs, and not trying to persuade him to come here to-night.' 'I have no doubt it was this that turned the scale, He only waited for persuasion, and you acted very wisely in not flattering his self-love.' 'Did I?--I did not know it.'
'A woman's instinct is often better than reasoning, Laura; to do the right thing without knowing why. But come, I suppose we must play our part in the pageant of the night.' For that evening Laura, contrary to the evidence of her senses, was persuaded by her own lover that Guy was falling in love with her; and after musing all through the dance, she said, 'What do you think of the scheme that has been started for my going to Ireland with papa?''Your going to Ireland?' 'Yes; you know none of us, except papa, have seen grandmamma since Charles began to be ill, and there is some talk of his taking me with him when he goes this summer.' 'I knew he was going, but I thought it was not to be till later in the year--not till after the long vacation.' 'So he intended, but he finds he must be at home before the end of October, and it would suit him best to go in August.' 'Then what becomes of Guy?'
'He stays at Hollywell. It will be much better for Charles to have him there while papa is away. I thought when the plan was first mentioned I should be sorry, except that it is quite right to go to grandmamma; but if it is so, about Guy, this absence would be a good thing--it would make a break, and I could begin again on different terms.''Wisely judged, Laura. Yes, on that account it would be very desirable, though it will be a great loss to me, and I can hardly hope to be so near you on your return.' 'Ah! yes, so I feared!' sighed Laura. 'But we must give up something; and for Guy's own sake, poor fellow, it will be better to make a break, as you say. It will save him pain by and by.'
'I dare say papa will consult you about when his journey is to be. His only doubt was whether it would do to leave Guy so long alone, and if you say it would be safe, it would decide him at once.'
'I see little chance of mischief. Guy has few temptations here, and a strong sense of honour; besides, I shall be at hand. Taking all things into consideration, Laura, I think that, whatever the sacrifice to ourselves, it is expedient to recommend his going at once, and your accompanying him.'
All the remainder of the evening Philip was occupied with attentions to the rest of the world, but Laura's eyes followed him everywhere, and though she neither expected nor desired him to bestow more time on her, she underwent a strange restlessness and impatience of feeling. Her numerous partners teased her by hindering her from watching him moving about the room, catching his tones, and guessing what he was talking of;-not that she wanted to meet his eye, for she did not like to blush, nor did she think it pleased him to see her do so, for he either looked away immediately or conveyed a glance which she understood as monitory. She kept better note of his countenance than of her own partner's.
Mr. Thorndale, meanwhile, kept aloof from Lady Eveleen de Courcy, but Captain Morville perceived that his eyes were often turned towards her, and well knew it was principle, and not inclination, that held him at a distance. He did indeed once ask her to dance, but she was engaged, and he did not ask her to reserve a future dance for him, but contented himself with little Amy.
Amy was doing her best to enjoy herself, because she thought it ungrateful not to receive pleasure from those who wished to give it, but to her it wanted the zest and animation of Lady Kilcoran's ball. Besides, she knew she had been as idle as Guy, or still more so, and she thought it wrong she should have pleasure while he was doing penance. It was on her mind, and damped her spirits, and though she smiled, and talked, and admired, and danced lightly and gaily, there was a sensation of weariness throughout, and no one but Eveleen was sorry when Mrs. Edmonstone sent Maurice to see for the carriage.Philip was one of the gentlemen who came to shawl them. As he put Laura's cloak round her shoulders he was able to whisper, 'Take care; you must be cautious--self-command.'
Laura, though blushing and shrinking the moment before was braced by his words and tone to attempt all he wished. She looked up in what she meant to be an indifferent manner, and made some observation in a careless tone--anything rather than let Philip think her silly. After what he had said, was she not bound more than ever to exert herself to the utmost, that he might not be disappointed in her? She loved him only the better for what others might have deemed a stern coldness of manner, for it made the contrast of his real warmth of affection more precious. She mused over it, as much as her companions' conversation would allow, on the road home. They arrived, Mrs. Edmonstone peeped into Charles's room, announced that he was quietly asleep, and they all bade each other good night, or good morning, and parted.
Leonora. Yet often with respect he speaks of thee. Tasso. Thou meanest with forbearance, prudent, subtle, 'Tis that annoys me, for he knows to use Language so smooth and so conditional, That seeming praise from him is actual blame.GOETHE'S Tasso
When the Hollywell party met at breakfast, Charles showed himself by no means the worse for his yesterday's experiment. He said he had gone to sleep in reasonable time, lulled by some poetry, he knew not what, of which Guy's voice had made very pretty music, and he was now full of talk about the amusement he had enjoyed yesterday, which seemed likely to afford food for conversation for many a week to come. After all the care Guy had taken of him, Mrs. Edmonstone could not find it in her heart to scold, and her husband, having spent his vexation upon her, had none left to bestow on the real culprit. So when Guy, with his bright morning face, and his hair hanging shining and wet round it, opened the dining-room door, on his return from bathing in the river, Mr. Edmonstone's salutation only conveyed that humorous anger that no one cares for.'Good morning to you, Sir Guy Morville! I wonder what you have to say for yourself.' 'Nothing,' said Guy, smiling; then, as he took his place by Mrs. Edmonstone, 'I hope you are not tired after your hard day's work?' 'Not at all, thank you.' 'Amy, can you tell me the name of this flower?' 'Oh! have you really found the arrow-head? How beautiful! Where did you get it? I didn't know it grew in our river.' 'There is plenty of it in that reedy place beyond the turn. I thought it looked like something out of the common way.' 'Yes! What a purple eye it has! I must draw it. 0, thank you.' 'And, Charlotte, Bustle has found you a moorhen's nest.' 'How delightful! Is it where I can go and see the dear little things?'
'It is rather a swamp; but I have been putting down stepping-stones for you, and I dare say I can jump you across. It was that which made me so late, for which I ought to have asked pardon,' said he to Mrs. Edmonstone, with his look of courtesy.Never did man look less like an offended lover, or like a morose self- tormentor. 'There are others later,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, looking at Lady Eveleen's empty chair. 'So you think that is all you have to ask pardon for,' said Mr. Edmonstone. 'I advise you to study your apologies, for you are in pretty tolerable disgrace.' 'Indeed, I am very sorry,' said Guy, with such a change of countenance that Mr. Edmonstone's good nature could not bear to see it.
'Oh, 'tis no concern of mine! It would be going rather the wrong way, indeed, for you to be begging my pardon for all the care you've been taking of Charlie; but you had better consider what you have to say for yourself before you show your face at Broadstone.''No?' said Guy, puzzled for a moment, but quickly looking relieved, and laughing, 'What! Broadstone in despair for want of me?' 'And we perfectly exhausted with answering questions as to what was become of Sir Guy.' 'Dreadful,' said Guy, now laughing heartily, in the persuasion that it was all a joke. '0, Lady Eveleen, good morning; you are come in good time to give me the story of the ball, for no one else tells me one word about it.' 'Because you don't deserve it,' said she. 'I hope you have repented by this time.' 'If you want to make me repent, you should give me a very alluring description.'
'I shan't say one word about it; I shall send you to Coventry, as Maurice and all the regiment mean to do,' said Eveleen, turning away from him with a very droll arch manner of offended dignity.'Hear, hear! Eveleen send any one to Coventry!' cried Charles. 'See what the regiment say to you.' 'Ay, when I am sent to Coventry?' '0, Paddy, Paddy!' cried Charles, and there was a general laugh. 'Laura seems to be doing it in good earnest without announcing it,' added Charles, when the laugh was over, 'which is the worst sign of all.' 'Nonsense, Charles,' said Laura, hastily; then afraid she had owned to annoyance, she blushed and was angry with herself for blushing.
'Well, Laura, _do_ tell me who your partners were?' Very provoking, thought Laura, that I cannot say what is so perfectly natural and ordinary, without my foolish cheeks tingling. He may think it is because he is speaking to me. So she hurried on: 'Maurice first, then Philip,' and then showed, what Amy and Eveleen thought, strange oblivion of the rest of her partners.
They proceeded into the history of the ball; and Guy thought no more of his offences till the following day, when he went to Broadstone. Coming back, he found the drawingroom full of visitors, and was obliged to sit down and join in the conversation; but Mrs. Edmonstone saw he was inwardly chafing, as he betrayed by his inability to remain still, the twitchings of his forehead and lip, and a tripping and stumbling of the words on his tongue. She was sure he wanted to talk to her, and longed to get rid of Mrs. Brownlow; but the door was no sooner shut on the visitors, than Mr. Edmonstone came in, with a long letter for her to read and comment upon. Guy took himself out of the way of the consultation, and began to hurry up and down the terrace, until, seeing Amabel crossing the field towards the little gate into the garden, he went to open it for her.She looked up at him, and exclaimed--'Is anything the matter?' 'Nothing to signify,' he said; 'I was only waiting for your mother. I have got into a mess, that is all.'
'I am sorry,' began Amy, there resting in the doubt whether she might inquire further, and intending not to burthen him with her company, any longer than till she reached the house door; but Guy went on,--
'No, you have no occasion to be sorry; it is all my own fault; at least, if I was clear how it is my fault, I should not mind it so much. It is that ball. I am sure I had not the least notion any one would care whether I was there or not.''I am sure we missed you very much.' 'You are all so kind; beside, I belong in a manner you; but what could it signify to any one else? And here I find that I have vexed every one.' 'Ah!' said Amy, 'mamma said she was afraid it would give offence.'
'I ought to have attended to her. It was a fit of self-will in managing myself,' said Guy, murmuring low, as if trying to find the real indictment; 'yet I thought it a positive duty; wrong every way.''What has happened?' said Amy, turning back with him, though she had reached the door.
'Why, the first person I met was Mr. Gordon; and he spoke like your father, half in joke, and I thought entirely so; he said something about all the world being in such a rage, that I was a bold man to venture into Broadstone. Then, while I was at Mr. Lascelles', in came Dr. Mayerne. 'We missed you at the dinner,' he said; 'and I hear you shirked the ball, too.' I told him how it was, and he said he was glad that was all, and advised me to go and call on Colonel Deane and explain. I thought that the best way--indeed, I meant it before, and was walking to his lodgings when Maurice de Courcy met me. 'Ha!' he cries out, 'Morville! I thought at least you would have been laid up for a month with the typhus fever! As a friend, I advise you to go home and catch something, for it is the only excuse that will serve you. I am not quite sure that it will not be high treason for me to be seen speaking to you.' I tried to get at the rights of it, but he is such a harum-scarum fellow there was no succeeding. Next I met Thorndale, who only bowed and passed on the other side of the street-- sign enough how it was with Philip; so I thought it best to go at once to the Captain, and get a rational account of what was the matter.'
'Did you?' said Amy, who, though concerned and rather alarmed, had been smiling at the humorous and expressive tones with which he could not help giving effect to his narration.'Yes. Philip was at home, and very--very--' 'Gracious?' suggested Amy, as he hesitated for a word.
'Just so. Only the vexatious thing was, that we never could succeed in coming to an understanding. He was ready to forgive; but I could not disabuse him of an idea--where he picked it up I cannot guess--that I had stayed away out of pique. He would not even tell me what he thought had affronted me, though I asked him over and over again to be only straightforward; he declared I knew.''How excessively provoking!' cried Amy. 'You cannot guess what he meant?'
'Not the least in the world. I have not the most distant suspicion. It was of no use to declare I was not offended with any one; he only looked in that way of his, as if he knew much better than I did myself, and told me he could make allowances.''Worse than all! How horrid of him.'
'No, don't spoil me. No doubt he thinks he has grounds, and my irritation was unjustifiable. Yes, I got into my old way. He cautioned me, and nearly made me mad! I never was nearer coming to a regular outbreak. Always the same! Fool that I am.''Now, Guy, that is always your way; when other people are provoking, you abuse yourself. I am sure Philip was so, with his calm assertion of being right.' 'The more provoking, the more trial for me.' 'But you endured it. You say it was only _nearly_ an outbreak. You parted friends? I am sure of that.' 'Yes, it would have been rather too bad not to do that.' 'Then why do you scold yourself, when you really had the victory?' 'The victory will be if the inward feeling as well as the outward token is ever subdued.' '0, that must be in time, of course. Only let me hear how you got on with Colonel Deane.'
'He was very good-natured, and would have laughed it off, but Philip went with me, and looked grand, and begged in a solemn way that no more might be said. I could have got on better alone; but Philip was very kind, or, as you say, gracious.''And provoking,' added Amy, 'only I believe you do not like me to say so.' 'It is more agreeable to hear you call him so at this moment than is good for me. I have no right to complain, since I gave the offence.' 'The offence?' 'The absenting myself.' 'Oh! that you did because you thought it right.' 'I want to be clear that it was right.' 'What do you mean?' cried she, astonished. 'It was a great piece of self-denial, and I only felt it wrong not to be doing the same.' 'Nay, how should such creatures as you need the same discipline as I?'
She exclaimed to herself how far from his equal she was--how weak, idle, and selfpleasing she felt herself to be; but she could not say so--the words would not come; and she only drooped her little head, humbled by his treating her as better than himself.He proceeded:--
'Something wrong I have done, and I want the clue. Was it self-will in choosing discipline contrary to your mother's judgment? Yet she could not know all. I thought it her kindness in not liking me to lose the pleasure. Besides, one must act for oneself, and this was only my own personal amusement.''Yes,' said Amy, timidly hesitating.
'Well?' said he, with the gentle, deferential tone that contrasted with his hasty, vehement self-accusations. 'Well?' and he waited, though not so as to hurry or frighten her, but to encourage, by showing her words had weight.
'I was thinking of one thing,' said Amy; 'is it not sometimes right to consider whether we ought to disappoint people who want us to be pleased?'
'There it is, I believe,' said Guy, stopping and considering, then going on with a better satisfied air, 'that is a real rule. Not to be so bent on myself as to sacrifice other people's feelings to what seems best for me. But I don't see whose pleasure I interfered with.'Amy could have answered, 'Mine;' but the maidenly feeling checked her again, and she said, 'We all thought you would like it.'
'And I had no right to sacrifice your pleasure! I see, I see. The pleasure of giving pleasure to others is so much the best there is on earth, that one ought to be passive rather than interfere with it.''Yes,' said Amy, 'just as I have seen Mary Ross let herself be swung till she was giddy, rather than disappoint Charlotte and Helen, who thought she liked it.'
'If one could get to look at everything with as much indifference as the swinging! But it is all selfishness. It is as easy to be selfish for one's own good as for one's own pleasure; and I dare say, the first is as bad as the other.'
'I was thinking of something else,' said Amy. 'I should think it more like the holly tree in Southey. Don't you know it? The young leaves are sharp and prickly, because they have so much to defend themselves from, but as the tree grows older, it leaves off the spears, after it has won the victory.'
'Very kind of you, and very pretty, Amy,' said he, smiling; 'but, in the meantime, it is surely wrong to be more prickly than is unavoidable, and there is the perplexity. Selfish! selfish! selfish! Oneself the first object. That is the root.''Guy, if it is not impertinent to ask, I do wish you would tell me one thing. Why did you think it wrong to go to that ball?' said Amy, timidly.
'I don't know that I thought it wrong to go to that individual ball,' said Guy; 'but my notion was, that altogether I was getting into a rattling idle way, never doing my proper quantity of work, or doing it properly, and talking a lot of nonsense sometimes. I thought, last Sunday, it was time to make a short turn somewhere and bring myself up. I could not, or did not get out of the pleasant talks as Laura does, so I thought giving up this ball would punish me at once, and set me on a new tack of behaving like a reasonable creature.''Don't call yourself too many names, or you won't be civil to us. We all, except Laura, have been quite as bad.' 'Yes; but you had not so much to do.' 'We ought,' said Amy; 'but I meant to be reasonable when Eveleen is gone.'
Perhaps I ought to have waited till then, but I don't know. Lady Eveleen is so amusing that it leads to farther dawdling, and it would not do to wait to resist the temptation till it is out of the way.'
As he spoke, they saw Mrs. Edmonstone coming out, and went to meet her. Guy told her his trouble, detailing it more calmly than before he had found out his mistake. She agreed with him that this had been in forgetting that his attending the ball did not concern only himself, but he then returned to say that he could not see what difference it made, except to their own immediate circle.'If it was not you, Guy, who made that speech, I should call it fishing for a compliment. You forget that rank and station make people sought after.' 'I suppose there is something in that,' said Guy, thoughtfully; 'at any rate, it is no bad thing to think so, it is so humiliating.' 'That is not the way most people would take it.'
'No? Does not it prevent one from taking any attention as paid to one's real self? The real flattering thing would be to be made as much of as Philip is, for one's own merits, and not for the handle to one's name.''Yes, I think so,' said Amy.
'Well, then,' as if he wished to gather the whole conversation into one resolve, the point is to consider whether abstaining from innocent things that may be dangerous to oneself mortifies other people. If so, the vexing them is a certain wrong, whereas the mischief of taking the pleasure is only a possible contingency. But then one must take it out of oneself some other way, or it becomes an excuse for self- indulgence.''Hardly with you,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, smiling.
'Because I had rather go at it at once, and forget all about other people. You must teach me consideration, Mrs. Edmonstone, and in the meantime will you tell me what you think I had better do about this scrape?'
'Let it alone,' said Mrs. Edmonstone. 'You have begged every one's pardon, and it had better be forgotten as fast as possible. They have made more fuss already than it is worth. Don't torment yourself about it any more; for, if you have made a mistake, it is on the right side; and on the first opportunity, I'll go and call on Mrs. Deane, and see if she is very implacable.'
The dressing-bell rang, and Amy ran up-stairs, stopping at Laura's door, to ask how she prospered in the drive she had been taking with Charles and Eveleen.
Amy told her of Guy's trouble, and oh! awkward question, inquired if she could guess what it could be that Philip imagined that Guy had been offended at.
'I know,' said Amy, indignantly; 'but what right has he to go on mistrusting? If people are to be judged by their deeds, no one is so good as Guy, and it is too bad to reckon up against him all his ancestors have done. It is wolf and lamb, indeed.''He does not!' cried Laura. 'He never is unjust! How can you say so, Amy?' 'Then why does he impute motives, and not straightforwardly tell what he means?' 'It is impossible in this case,' said Laura. 'Do you know what it is?' 'Yes,' said Laura, perfectly truthful, and feeling herself in a dreadful predicament. 'And you can't tell me?' 'I don't think I can.' 'Nor Guy?' 'Not for worlds,' cried Laura, in horror. 'Can't you get Philip to tell him?' 'Oh no, no! I can't explain it, Amy; and all that can be done is to let it die away as fast as possible. It is only the rout about it that is of consequence.' 'It is very odd,' said Amy, 'but I must dress,' and away she ran, much puzzled, but with no desire to look into Philip's secrets.
Laura rested her head on her hand, sighed, and wondered why it was so hard to answer. She almost wished she had said Philip had been advising her to discourage any attachment on Guy's part; but then Amy might have laughed, and asked why. No! no! Philip's confidence was in her keeping, and cost her what it might, she would be faithful to the trust.
There was now a change. The evenings were merry, but the mornings were occupied. Guy went off to his room, as he used to do last winter; Laura commenced some complicated perspective, or read a German book with a great deal of dictionary; Amy had a book of history, and practised her music diligently; even Charles read more to himself, and resumed the study with Guy and Amy; Lady Eveleen joined in every one's pursuits, enjoyed them, and lamented to Laura that it was impossible to be rational at her own home.
Laura tried to persuade her that there was no need that she should be on the level of the society round her, and it ended in her spending an hour in diligent study every morning, promising to continue it when she went home, while Laura made such sensible comments that Eveleen admired her more than ever; and she, knowing that some were second-hand from Philip, others arising from his suggestions, gave him all the homage paid to herself, as a tribute to him who reigned over her whole being.
Yet she was far from happy. Her reserve towards Guy made her feel stiff and guarded; she had a craving for Philip's presence, with a dread of showing it, which made her uncomfortable. She wondered he had not been at Hollywell since the bail, for he must know that she was going to Ireland in a fortnight, and was not likely to return till his regiment had left Broadstone.
An interval passed long enough for her not to be alone in her surprise at his absenting himself before he at length made his appearance, just before luncheon, so as to miss the unconstrained morning hours he used so much to enjoy. He found Guy, Charles, and Amy, deep in Butler's Analogy.'Are you making poor little Amy read that?' said he. 'Bravo!' cried Charles; 'he is so disappointed that it is not Pickwick that he does not know what else to say.' 'I don't suppose I take much in,' said Amy; 'but I like to be told what it means.' 'Don't imagine I can do that,' said Guy. 'I never spent much time over it,' said Philip; 'but I should think you were out of your depth.'
'Very well,' said Charles; 'we will return to Dickens to oblige you.' 'It is your pleasure to wrest my words,' replied Philip, in his own calm manner, though he actually felt hurt, which he had never done before. His complacency was less secure, so that there was more need for self-assertion.'Where are the rest?' he asked. 'Laura and Eveleen are making a dictation lesson agreeable to Charlotte,' said Amy; 'I found Eva making mistakes on purpose.' 'How much longer does she stay?' 'Till Tuesday. Lord Kilcoran is coming to fetch her.'
Charlotte entered, and immediately ran up-stairs to announce her cousin's arrival. Laura was glad of this previous notice, and hoped her blush and tremor were not observed. It was a struggle, through luncheon time, to keep her colour and confusion within bounds; but she succeeded better than she fancied she did, and Philip gave her as much help as he could, by not looking at her. Seeing that he dreaded nothing so much as her exciting suspicion, she was at once braced and alarmed.Her father was very glad to see him, and reproached him for making himself a stranger, while her sisters counted up the days of his absence. 'There was the time, to be sure, when we met you on Ashen-down, but that was a regular cheat. Laura had you all to herself.' Laura bent down to feed Bustle, and Philip felt _his_ colour deepening.
Mr. Edmonstone went on to ask him to come and stay at Hollywell for a week, vowing he would take no refusal. 'A week was out of the question, said Philip; 'but he could come for two nights.' Amabel hinted that there was to be a dinner-party on Thursday, thinking it fair to give him warning of what he disliked, but he immediately chose that very day. Again he disconcerted all expectations, when it was time to go out. Mrs. Edmonstone and Charles were going to drive, the young ladies and Guy to walk, but Philip disposed himself to accompany his uncle in a survey of the wheat.
Laura perceived that he would not risk taking another walk with her when they might be observed. It showed implicit trust to leave her to his rival; but she was sorry to find that caution must put an end to the freedom of their intercourse, and would have stayed at home, but that Eveleen was so wild and unguarded that Mrs. Edmonstone did not like her to be without Laura as a check on her, especially when Guy was of the party. There was some comfort in that warm pressure of her hand when she bade Philip good-bye, and on that she lived for a long time. He stood at the window watching them till they were out of sight, then moved towards his aunt, who with her bonnet on, was writing an invitation for Thursday, to Mr. Thorndale.
'I was thinking,' said he, in a low voice, 'if it would not be as well, if you liked, to ask Thorndale here for those two days.'
'Certainly; I will speak to your uncle,' said she, going in search of him. She presently returned, saying they should be very glad to see Mr, Thorndale, asking him at the same time, in her kind tones of interest, after an old servant for whom he had been spending much thought and pains. The kindness cut him to the heart, for it evidently arose from a perception that he was ill at ease, and his conscience smote him. He answered shortly, and was glad when the carriage came; he lifted Charles into it, and stood with folded arms as they drove away.'The air is stormy,' said Charles, looking back at him.' 'You thought so, too?' said Mrs. Edmonstone, eagerly. 'You did!' 'I have wondered for some time past.'
'It was very decided to-day--that long absence--and there was no provoking him to be sententious. His bringing his young man might be only to keep him in due subjection; but his choosing the day of the party, and above all, not walking with the young ladies.''It not like himself,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, in a leading tone. 'Either the sweet youth is in love, or in the course of some strange transformation.' 'In love!' she exclaimed. 'Have you any reason for thinking so?' 'Only as a solution of phenomena; but you look as if I had hit on the truth.' 'I hope it is no such thing; yet--' 'Yet?' repeated Charles, seriously. 'I think he has discovered the danger.' 'The danger of falling in love with Laura? Well, it would be odd if he was not satisfied with his own work. But he must know how preposterous that would be.'
'And you think that would prevent it?' said his mother, smiling. 'He is just the man to plume himself on making his judgment conquer his inclination, setting novels at defiance. How magnanimously he would resolve to stifle a hopeless attachment!'
'That is exactly what I think he is doing. I think he has found out the state of his feelings, and is doing all in his power to check them by avoiding her, especially in tete-a-tetes, and an unconstrained family party. I am nearly convinced that is his reason for bringing Mr. Thorndale, and fixing on the day of the dinner. Poor fellow, it must cost him a great deal, and I long to tell him how I thank him.'
'Hm! I don't think it unlikely,' said Charles. 'It agrees with what happened the evening of the Kilcoran ball, when he was ready to eat me up for saying something he fancied was a hint of a liking of Guy's for Laura. It was a wild mistake, for something I said about Petrarch, forgetting that Petrarch suggested Laura; but it put him out to a degree, and he made all manner of denunciations on the horror of Guy's falling in love with her. Now, as far as I see, Guy is much more in love with you, or with Deloraine, and the idea argues far more that the Captain himself is touched.''Depend upon it, Charlie, it was this that led to his detecting the true state of the case. Ever since that he has kept away. It is noble!' 'And what do you think about Laura?' 'Poor child! I doubt if it was well to allow so much intimacy; yet I don't see how it could have been helped.' 'So you think she is in for it? I hope not; but she has not been herself of late.'
'I think she misses what she has been used to from him, and thinks him estranged, but I trust it goes no further. I see she is out of spirits; I wish I could help her, dear girl, but the worst of all would be to let her guess the real name and meaning of all this, so I can't venture to say a word.'
'She is very innocent of novels,' said Charles, 'and that is well. It would be an unlucky business to have our poor beauty either sitting 'like Patience on a monument', or 'cockit up on a baggage-waggon.' But that will never be. Philip is not the man to have a wife in barracks. He would have her like his books, in morocco, or not at all.'
'He would never involve her in discomforts. He may be entirely trusted, and as long as he goes on as he has begun, there is no harm done; Laura will cheer up, will only consider him as her cousin and friend, and never know he has felt more for her.''Her going to Ireland is very fortunate.' 'It has made me still more glad that the plan should take place at once.' 'And you say "nothing to nobody"?'
'Of course not. We must not let him guess we have observed anything; there is no need to make your father uncomfortable, and such things need not dawn on Amy's imagination.' It may be wondered at that Mrs. Edmonstone should confide such a subject to her son, but she knew that in a case really affecting his sister, and thus introduced, his silence was secure. In fact, confidence was the only way to prevent the shrewd, unscrupulous raillery which would have caused great distress, and perhaps led to the very disclosure to be deprecated. Of late, too, there had been such a decrease of petulance in Charles, as justified her in trusting him, and lastly, it must be observed that she was one of those open-hearted people who cannot make a discovery nor endure an anxiety without imparting it. Her tact, indeed, led her to make a prudent choice of confidants, and in this case her son was by far the best, though she had spoken without premeditation. Her nature would never have allowed her to act as her daughter was doing; she would have been without the strength to conceal her feelings, especially when deprived of the safetyvalve of free intercourse with their object.
The visit took place as arranged, and very uncomfortable it was to all who looked deeper than the surface. In the first place, Philip found there the last person he wished his friend to meet--Lady Eveleen, who had been persuaded to stay for the dinner-party; but Mr. Thorndale was, as Charles would have said, on his good behaviour, and, ashamed of the fascination her manners exercised over him, was resolved to resist it, answered her gay remarks with brief sentences and stiff smiles, and consorted chiefly with the gentlemen.
Laura was grave and silent, trying to appear unconscious, and only succeeding in being visibly constrained. Philip was anxious and stern in his attempts to appear unconcerned, and even Guy was not quite as bright and free as usual, being puzzled as to how far he was forgiven about the ball.
Amabel could not think what had come to every one, and tried in vain to make them sociable. In the evening they had recourse to a game, said to be for Charlotte's amusement, but in reality to obviate some of the stiffness and constraint; yet even this led to awkward situations. Each person was to set down his or her favourite character in history and fiction, flower, virtue, and time at which to have lived, and these were all to be appropriated to the writers. The first read was--'Lily of the valley--truth--Joan of Arc--Padre Cristoforo--the present time.' 'Amy!' exclaimed Guy. 'I see you are right,' said Charles; 'but tell me your grounds!' 'Padre Cristoforo,' was the answer. 'Fancy little Amy choosing Joan of Arc,' said Eveleen, 'she who is afraid of a tolerable sized grasshopper.' 'I should like to have been Joan's sister, and heard her tell about her visions,' said Amy. 'You would have taught her to believe them,' said Philip. 'Taught her!' cried Guy. 'Surely you take the high view of her.'
'I think,' said Philip, 'that she is a much injured person, as much by her friends as her enemies; but I don't pretend to enter either enthusiastically or philosophically into her character.'
What was it that made Guy's brow contract, as he began to strip the feather of a pen, till, recollecting himself, he threw it from him with a dash, betraying some irritation, and folded his hands.'Lavender,' read Charlotte. 'What should make any one choose that?' cried Eveleen. 'I know!' said Mrs. Edmonstone, looking up. 'I shall never forget the tufts of lavender round the kitchen garden at Stylehurst.' Philip smiled. Charlotte proceeded, and Charles saw Laura's colour deepening as she bent over her work.
'"Lavender--steadfastness--Strafford--Cordelia in 'King Lear'--the late war." How funny!' cried Charlotte. 'For hear the next: 'Honeysuckle-- steadfastness--Lord Strafford-Cordelia--the present time." Why, Laura, you must have copied it from Philip's.'
Laura neither looked nor spoke. Philip could hardly command his countenance as Eveleen laughed, and told him he was much flattered by those becoming blushes. But here Charles broke in,--'Come, make haste, Charlotte, don't be all night about it;' and as Charlotte paused, as if to make some dangerous remark, he caught the paper, and read the next himself. Nothing so startled Philip as this desire to cover their confusion. Laura was only sensible of the relief of having attention drawn from her by the laugh that followed.'A shamrock--Captain Rock--the tailor that was "blue moulded for want of a bating"--Pat Riotism--the time of Malachy with the collar of gold.' 'Eva!' cried Charlotte. 'Nonsense,' said Eveleen; 'I am glad I know your tastes, Charles. They do you honour.' 'More than yours do, if these are yours,' said Charles, reading them contemptuously; 'Rose--generosity--Charles Edward--Catherine Seyton-- the civil wars.' 'You had better not have disowned Charlie's, Lady Eveleen,' said Guy. 'Nay do you think I would put up with such a set as these?' retorted Charles; 'I am not fallen so low as the essence of young ladyism.' 'What can you find to say against them?' said Eveleen. 'Nothing,' said Charles, 'No one ever can find anything to say for or against young ladies' tastes.' 'You seem to be rather in the case of the tailor yourself,' said Guy, 'ready to do battle, if you could but get any opposition.' 'Only tell me,' said Amy, 'how you could wish to live in the civil wars?' 'O, because they would be so entertaining.' 'There's Paddy, genuine Paddy at last!' exclaimed Charles. 'Depend upon it, the conventional young lady won't do, Eva.' After much more discussion, and one or two more papers, came Guy's--the last. 'Heather -Truth--King Charles--Sir Galahad--the present time.' 'Sir how much? exclaimed Charles. 'Don't you know him?' said Guy. 'Sir Galahad--the Knight of the Siege Perilous--who won the Saint Greal.' 'What language is that?' said Charles. 'What! Don't you know the Morte d'Arthur! I thought every one did! Don't you, Philip!' 'I once looked into it. It is very curious, in classical English; but it is a book no one could read through.'
'0h!' cried Guy, indignantly; then, 'but you only looked into it. If you had lived with its two fat volumes, you could not help delighting in it. It was my boating-book for at least three summers.''That accounts for it,' said Philip; 'a book so studied in boyhood acquires a charm apart from its actual merits.' 'But it has actual merits. The depth, the mystery, the allegory--the beautiful characters of some of the knights.'
'You look through the medium of your imagination,' said Philip; but you must pardon others for seeing a great sameness of character and adventure, and for disapproving of the strange mixture of religion and romance.'
'You've never read it,' said Guy, striving to speak patiently. 'A cursory view is sufficient to show whether a book will repay the time spent in reading it.''A cursory view enable one to judge better than making it your study? Eh, Philip?' said Charles. 'It is no paradox. The actual merits are better seen by an unprejudiced stranger than by an old friend who lends them graces of his own devising.'
Charles laughed: Guy pushed back his chair, and went to look out at the window. Perhaps Philip enjoyed thus chafing his temper; for after all he had said to Laura, it was satisfactory to see his opinion justified, so that he might not feel himself unfair. It relieved his uneasiness lest his understanding with Laura should be observed. It had been in great peril that evening, for as the girls went up to bed, Eveleen gaily said, 'Why, Laura, have you quarrelled with Captain Morville?''How can you say such things, Eva? Good night.' And Laura escaped into her own room. 'What's the meaning of it, Amy?' pursued Eveleen. 'Only a stranger makes us more formal,' said Amy. 'What an innocent you are! It is of no use to talk to you!' said Eveleen, running away.
'No; but Eva,' said Amy, pursuing her, 'don't go off with a wrong fancy. Charles has teased Laura so much about Philip, that of course it makes her shy of him before strangers; and it would never have done to laugh about their choosing the same things when Mr. Thorndale was there.''I must be satisfied, I suppose. I know that is what you think, for you could not say any other.' 'But what do you think?' said Amy, puzzled. 'I won't tell you, little innocence--it would only shock you.' 'Nothing you _really_ _thought_ about Laura could shock me,' said Amy; 'I don't mean what you might say in play.' 'Well, then, shall you think me in play or earnest when I say that I think Laura likes Philip very much?'
'In play' said Amy; 'for you know that if we had not got our own Charlie to show us what a brother is, we should think of Philip as just the same as a brother.'
'A brother! You are pretending to be more simple than you really are, Amy! Don't you know what I mean?'
'Because we are cousins, and everything,' said Amy, confused. 'Don't talk any more about it, Eva; for though I know it is all play, I don't like it, and mamma, would not wish me to talk of such things. And don't you laugh about it, dear Eva, pray; for it only makes every one uncomfortable. Pray!'
Amy had a very persuasive way of saying 'pray,' and Eveleen thought she must yield to it. Besides, she respected Laura and Captain Morville too much to resolve to laugh at them, whatever she might do when her fear of the Captain made her saucy.
Mrs. Edmonstone thought it best on all accounts to sit in the drawing- room the next morning; but she need not have taken so much pains to chaperon her young ladies, for the gentlemen did not come near them.
Laura was more at ease in manner, though very far from happy, for she was restlessly eager for a talk with Philip; while he was resolved not to seek a private interview, sure that it would excite suspicion, and willing to lose the consciousness of his underhand proceedings.
This was the day of the dinner-party, and Laura's heart leaped as she calculated that it must fall to Philip's lot to hand her in to dinner. She was not mistaken, he did give her his arm; and they found themselves most favourably placed, for Philip's other neighbour was Mrs. Brownlow, talking at a great rate to Mr. de Courcy, and on Laura's side was the rather deaf Mr. Hayley, who had quite enough to do to talk to Miss Brownlow. Charles was not at table, and not one suspicious eye could rest on them, yet it was not till the second course was in progress that he said anything which the whole world might not have heard. Something had passed about Canterbury, and its distance from Hollywell.'I can be here often,' said Philip. 'I am glad.' 'If you can only be guarded,--and I think you are becoming so.' 'Is this a time to speak of--? Oh, don't!' 'It is the only time. No one is attending, and I have something to say to you.' Overpowering her dire confusion, in obedience to him, she looked at the epergne, and listened. 'You have acted prudently. You have checked--' and he indicated Guy-- 'without producing more than moderate annoyance. You have only to guard your self-possession.' 'It is very foolish,' she murmured. 'Ordinary women say so, and rest contented with the folly. You can do better things.' There was a thrill of joy at finding him conversing with her as his 'own;' it overcame her embarrassment and alarm, and wishes he would not choose such a time for speaking.' 'How shall I?' said she. 'Employ yourself. Employ and strengthen your mind!' 'How shall I, and without you?' 'Find something to prevent you from dwelling on the future. That drawing is dreamy work, employing the fingers and leaving the mind free.' 'I have been trying to read, but I cannot fix my mind.'
'Suppose you take what will demand attention. Mathematics, algebra. I will send you my first book of algebra, and it will help you to work down many useless dreams and anxieties.''Thank you; pray do; I shall be very glad of it.' 'You will find it give a power and stability to your mind, and no longer have to complain of frivolous occupation.' 'I don't feel frivolous now,' said Laura, sadly; 'I don't know why it is that everything is so altered, I am really happier, but my light heart is gone.' 'You have but now learnt the full powers of your soul, Laura, you have left the world of childhood, with the gay feelings which have no depth.' 'I have what is better,' she whispered.
'You have, indeed. But those feelings must be regulated, and strengthening the intellect strengthens the governing power.'
Philip, with all his sense, was mystifying himself, because he was departing from right, the only true 'good sense.' His right judgment in all things was becoming obscured, so he talked metaphysical jargon, instead of plain practical truth, and thought he was teaching Laura to strengthen her powers of mind, instead of giving way to dreams, when he was only leading her to stifle meditation, and thus securing her complete submission to himself.
She was happier after this conversation, and better able to pay attention to the guests, nor did she feel guilty when obliged to play and sing in the evening--for she knew he must own that she could do no otherwise.
Lady Eveleen gave, however, its brilliancy to the party. She had something wonderfully winning and fascinating about her, and Philip owned to himself that it took no small resolution on the part of Mr. Thorndale to keep so steadily aloof from the party in the bay window, where she was reigning like a queen, and inspiring gaiety like a fairy. She made Guy sing with her; it was the first time he had ever sung, except among themselves, as Mrs. Edmonstone had never known whether he would like to be asked; but Eveleen refused to sing some of the Irish melodies unless he would join her, and without making any difficulty he did so. Mrs. Brownlow professed to be electrified, and Eveleen declaring that she knew she sung like a peacock, told Mrs. Brownlow that the thing to hear was Sir Guy singing glees with Laura and Amy. Of course, they were obliged to sing. Mrs. Brownlow was delighted; and as she had considerable knowledge of music, they all grew eager and Philip thought it very foolish of Guy to allow so much of his talent and enthusiasm to display themselves.
When all the people were gone, and the home party had wished each other good-night, Philip lingered in the drawing-room to finish a letter. Guy, after helping Charles up-stairs, came down a few moments after, to fetch something which he had forgotten. Philip looked up,--'You contributed greatly to the entertainment this evening,' he said.Guy coloured, not quite sure that this was not said sarcastically, and provoked with himself for being vexed. 'You think one devoid of the sixth sense has no right to speak,' said Philip. 'I can't expect all to think it, as I do, one of the best things in this world or out of it,' said Guy, speaking quickly.
'I know it is so felt by those who understand its secrets,' said Philip. 'I would not depreciate it; so you may hear me patiently, Guy. I only meant to warn you, that it is often the means of bringing persons into undesirable intimacies, from which they cannot disentangle themselves as easily as they enter them.'
A flush crossed Guy's cheek, but it passed, and he simply said--'I suppose it may. Goodnight.'
Philip looked after him, and pondered on what it was that had annoyed him--manner, words, or advice. He ascribed it to Guy's unwillingness to be advised, since he had observed that his counsel was apt to irritate him, though his good sense often led him to follow it. In the present case, Philip thought Mrs. Brownlow and her society by no means desirable for a youth like Guy; and he was quite right.
Philip and his friend went the next morning; and in the afternoon Laura received the book of algebra--a very original first gift from a lover. It came openly, with a full understanding that she was to use it by his recommendation; her mother and brother both thought they understood the motive, which one thought very wise, and the other very characteristic.
Lord Kilcoran and Lady Eveleen also departed. Eveleen very sorry to go, though a little comforted by the prospect of seeing Laura so soon in Ireland, where she would set her going in all kinds of 'rationalities--reading, and school teaching, and everything else.''Ay,' said Charles, when all were out of hearing but his mother; 'and I shrewdly suspect the comfort would be still greater if it was Sir Guy Morville who was coming.' 'It would be no bad thing,' said his mother: 'Eveleen is a nice creature with great capabilities.' 'Capabilities! but will they ever come to anything?' 'In a few years,' said Mrs. Edmonstone; 'and he is a mere boy at present, so there is plenty of time for both to develop themselves.'
'Most true, madame mere; but it remains to be proved whether the liking for Sir Guy, which has taken hold of my lady Eveleen, is strong enough to withstand all the coquetting with young Irishmen, and all the idling at Kilcoran.''I hope she has something better to be relied on than the liking for Sir Guy.'
'You may well do so, for I think he has no notion of throwing off his allegiance to you-his first and only love. He liked very well to make fun with Eva; but he regarded her rather as a siren, who drew him off from his Latin and Greek.''Yes; I am ashamed of myself for such a fit of match-making! Forget it, Charlie, as fast as you can.'