THE HEIR OF REDCLYFFE
By Charlotte Yonge
In such pursuits if wisdom lies, Who, Laura, can thy taste despise? —GAY
The drawing-room of Hollywell House was one of the favoured apartments, where a peculiar air of home seems to reside, whether seen in the middle of summer, all its large windows open to the garden, or, as when our story commences, its bright fire and stands of fragrant green-house plants contrasted with the wintry fog and leafless trees of November. There were two persons in the room—a young lady, who sat drawing at the round table, and a youth, lying on a couch near the fire, surrounded with books and newspapers, and a pair of crutches near him. Both looked up with a smile of welcome at the entrance of a tall, fine-looking young man, whom each greeted with 'Good morning, Philip.'
'Good morning, Laura. Good morning, Charles; I am glad you are downstairs again! How are you to-day?'
'No way remarkable, thank you,' was the answer, somewhat wearily given by Charles.
'You walked?' said Laura.
'Yes. Where's my uncle? I called at the post-office, and brought a letter for him. It has the Moorworth post-mark,' he added, producing it.
'Where's that?' said Charles.
'The post-town to Redclyffe; Sir Guy Morville's place.'
'That old Sir Guy! What can he have to do with my father?'
'Did you not know,' said Philip, 'that my uncle is to be guardian to the boy—his grandson?'
'Eh? No, I did not.'
'Yes,' said Philip; 'when old Sir Guy made it an especial point that my father should take the guardianship, he only consented on condition that my uncle should be joined with him; so now my uncle is alone in the trust, and I cannot help thinking something must have happened at Redclyffe. It is certainly not Sir Guy's writing.'
'It must wait, unless your curiosity will carry you out in search of papa,' said Charles; 'he is somewhere about, zealously supplying the place of Jenkins.'
'Really, Philip,' said Laura, 'there is no telling how much good you have done him by convincing him of Jenkins' dishonesty. To say nothing of the benefit of being no longer cheated, the pleasure of having to overlook the farming is untold.'
Philip smiled, and came to the table where she was drawing. 'Do you know this place?' said she, looking up in his face.
'Stylehurst itself! What is it taken from?'
'From this pencil sketch of your sister's, which I found in mamma's scrap book.'
'You are making it very like, only the spire is too slender, and that tree—can't you alter the foliage?—it is an ash.'
'Is it? I took it for an elm.'
'And surely those trees in the foreground should be greener, to throw back the middle distance. That is the peak of South Moor exactly, if it looked further off.'
She began the alterations, while Philip stood watching her progress, a shade of melancholy gathering on his face. Suddenly, a voice called 'Laura! Are you there? Open the door, and you will see.'
On Philip's opening it, in came a tall camellia; the laughing face, and light, shining curls of the bearer peeping through the dark green leaves.
'Thank you! Oh, is it you, Philip? Oh, don't take it. I must bring my own camellia to show Charlie.'
'You make the most of that one flower,' said Charles.
'Only see how many buds!' and she placed it by his sofa. Is it not a perfect blossom, so pure a white, and so regular! And I am so proud of having beaten mamma and all the gardeners, for not another will be out this fortnight; and this is to go to the horticultural show. Sam would hardly trust me to bring it in, though it was my nursing, not his.'
'Now, Amy,' said Philip, when the flower had been duly admired, 'you must let me put it into the window, for you. It is too heavy for you.'
'Oh, take care,' cried Amabel, but too late; for, as he took it from her, the solitary flower struck against Charles's little table, and was broken off.
'O Amy, I am very sorry. What a pity! How did it happen?'
'Never mind,' she answered; 'it will last a long time in water.'
'It was very unlucky—I am very sorry—especially because of the horticultural show.'
'Make all your apologies to Sam,' said Amy, 'his feelings will be more hurt than mine. I dare say my poor flower would have caught cold at the show, and never held up its head again.'
Her tone was gay; but Charles, who saw her face in the glass, betrayed her by saying, 'Winking away a tear, O Amy!'
'I never nursed a dear gazelle!' quoted Amy, with a merry laugh; and before any more could be said, there entered a middle-aged gentleman, short and slight, with a fresh, weather-beaten, good-natured face, gray whiskers, quick eyes, and a hasty, undecided air in look and movement. He greeted Philip heartily, and the letter was given to him.
'Ha! Eh? Let us look. Not old Sir Guy's hand. Eh? What can be the matter? What? Dead! This is a sudden thing.'
'Dead! Who? Sir Guy Morville?'
'Yes, quite suddenly—poor old man.' Then stepping to the door, he opened it, and called, 'Mamma; just step here a minute, will you, mamma?'
The summons was obeyed by a tall, handsome lady, and behind her crept, with doubtful steps, as if she knew not how far to venture, a little girl of eleven, her turned-up nose and shrewd face full of curiosity. She darted up to Amabel; who, though she shook her head, and held up her finger, smiled, and took the little girl's hand, listening meanwhile to the announcement, 'Do you hear this, mamma? Here's a shocking thing! Sir Guy Morville dead, quite suddenly.'
'Indeed! Well, poor man, I suppose no one ever repented or suffered more than he. Who writes?'
'His grandson—poor boy! I can hardly make out his letter.' Holding it half a yard from his eyes, so that all could see a few lines of hasty, irregular writing, in a forcible hand, bearing marks of having been penned under great distress and agitation, he read aloud:—
'"DEAR MR. EDMONSTONE,—
My dear grandfather died at six this morning. He had an attack of apoplexy yesterday evening, and never spoke again, though for a short time he knew me. We hope he suffered little. Markham will make all arrangements. We propose that the funeral should take place on Tuesday; I hope you will be able to come. I would write to my cousin, Philip Morville, if I knew his address; but I depend on you for saying all that ought to be said. Excuse this illegible letter,—I hardly know what I write.
'"Yours, very sincerely, '"Guy Morville."'
'Poor fellow!' said Philip, 'he writes with a great deal of proper feeling.'
'How very sad for him to be left alone there!' said Mrs. Edmonstone.
'Very sad—very,' said her husband. 'I must start off to him at once—yes, at once. Should you not say so—eh, Philip?'
'Certainly. I think I had better go with you. It would be the correct thing, and I should not like to fail in any token of respect for poor old Sir Guy.'
'Of course—of course,' said Mr. Edmonstone; 'it would be the correct thing. I am sure he was always very civil to us, and you are next heir after this boy.'
Little Charlotte made a sort of jump, lifted her eyebrows, and stared at Amabel.
Philip answered. 'That is not worth a thought; but since he and I are now the only representatives of the two branches of the house of Morville, it shall not be my fault if the enmity is not forgotten.'
'Buried in oblivion would sound more magnanimous,' said Charles; at which Amabel laughed so uncontrollably, that she was forced to hide her head on her little sister's shoulder. Charlotte laughed too, an imprudent proceeding, as it attracted attention. Her father smiled, saying, half-reprovingly—'So you are there, inquisitive pussy-cat?' And at her mother's question,—'Charlotte, what business have you here?' She stole back to her lessons, looking very small, without the satisfaction of hearing her mother's compassionate words—'Poor child!'
'How old is he?' asked Mr. Edmonstone, returning to the former subject.
'He is of the same age as Laura—seventeen and a half,' answered Mrs. Edmonstone. 'Don't you remember my brother saying what a satisfaction it was to see such a noble baby as she was, after such a poor little miserable thing as the one at Redclyffe?'
'He is grown into a fine spirited fellow,' said Philip.
'I suppose we must have him here,' said Mr. Edmonstone. Should you not say so—eh, Philip?'
'Certainly; I should think it very good for him. Indeed, his grandfather's death has happened at a most favourable time for him. The poor old man had such a dread of his going wrong that he kept him—'
'I know—as tight as a drum.'
'With strictness that I should think very bad for a boy of his impatient temper. It would have been a very dangerous experiment to send him at once among the temptations of Oxford, after such discipline and solitude as he has been used to.'
'Don't talk of it,' interrupted Mr. Edmonstone, spreading out his hands in a deprecating manner. 'We must do the best we can with him, for I have got him on my hands till he is five-and-twenty—his grandfather has tied him up till then. If we can keep him out of mischief, well and good; if not, it can't be helped.'
'You have him all to yourself,' said Charles.
'Ay, to my sorrow. If your poor father was alive, Philip, I should be free of all care. I've a pretty deal on my hands,' he proceeded, looking more important than troubled. 'All that great Redclyffe estate is no sinecure, to say nothing of the youth himself. If all the world will come to me, I can't help it. I must go and speak to the men, if I am to be off to Redclyffe tomorrow. Will you come, Philip?'
'I must go back soon, thank you,' replied Philip. 'I must see about my leave; only we should first settle when to set off.'
This arranged, Mr. Edmonstone hurried away, and Charles began by saying, 'Isn't there a ghost at Redclyffe?'
'So it is said,' answered his cousin; 'though I don't think it is certain whose it is. There is a room called Sir Hugh's Chamber, over the gateway, but the honour of naming it is undecided between Hugo de Morville, who murdered Thomas a Becket, and his namesake, the first Baronet, who lived in the time of William of Orange, when the quarrel began with our branch of the family. Do you know the history of it, aunt?'
'It was about some property,' said Mrs Edmonstone, 'though I don't know the rights of it. But the Morvilles were always a fiery, violent race, and the enmity once begun between Sir Hugh and his brother, was kept up, generation after generation, in a most unjustifiable way. Even I can remember when the Morvilles of Redclyffe used to be spoken of in our family like a sort of ogres.'
'Not undeservedly, I should think,' said Philip. 'This poor old man, who is just dead, ran a strange career. Stories of his duels and mad freaks are still extant.'
'Poor man! I believe he went all lengths,' said Mrs. Edmonstone.
'What was the true version of that horrible story about his son?' said Philip. 'Did he strike him?'
'Oh, no! it was bad enough without that.'
'How?' asked Laura.
'He was an only child, and lost his mother early. He was very ill brought up, and was as impetuous and violent as Sir Guy himself, though with much kindliness and generosity. He was only nineteen when he made a runaway marriage with a girl of sixteen, the sister of a violin player, who was at that time in fashion. His father was very much offended, and there was much dreadfully violent conduct on each side. At last, the young man was driven to seek a reconciliation. He brought his wife to Moorworth, and rode to Redclyffe, to have an interview with his father. Unhappily, Sir Guy was giving a dinner to the hunt, and had been drinking. He not only refused to see him, but I am afraid he used shocking language, and said something about bidding him go back to his fiddling brother in-law. The son was waiting in the hall, heard everything, threw himself on his horse, and rushed away in the dark. His forehead struck against the branch of a tree, and he was killed on the spot.'
'The poor wife?' asked Amabel, shuddering.
'She died the next day, when this boy was born.'
'Frightful!' said Philip. 'It might well make a reformation in old Sir Guy.'
'I have heard that nothing could be more awful than the stillness that fell on that wretched party, even before they knew what had happened—before Colonel Harewood, who had been called aside by the servants, could resolve to come and fetch away the father. No wonder Sir Guy was a changed man from that hour.'
'It was then that he sent for my father,' said Philip.
'But what made him think of doing so?'
'You know Colonel Harewood's house at Stylehurst? Many years ago, when the St. Mildred's races used to be so much more in fashion, Sir Guy and Colonel Harewood, and some men of that stamp, took that house amongst them, and used to spend some time there every year, to attend to something about the training of the horses. There were some malpractices of their servants, that did so much harm in the parish, that my brother was obliged to remonstrate. Sir Guy was very angry at first, but behaved better at last than any of the others. I suspect he was struck by my dear brother's bold, uncompromising ways, for he took to him to a certain degree—and my brother could not help being interested in him, there seemed to be so much goodness in his nature. I saw him once, and never did I meet any one who gave me so much the idea of a finished gentleman. When the poor son was about fourteen, he was with a tutor in the neighbourhood, and used to be a good deal at Stylehurst, and, after the unhappy marriage, my brother happened to meet him in London, heard his story, and tried to bring about a reconciliation.'
'Ha!' said Philip; 'did not they come to Stylehurst? I have a dim recollection of somebody very tall, and a lady who sung.'
'Yes; your father asked them to stay there, that he might judge of her, and wrote to Sir Guy that she was a little, gentle, childish thing, capable of being moulded to anything, and representing the mischief of leaving them to such society as that of her brother, who was actually maintaining them. That letter was never answered, but about ten days or a fortnight after this terrible accident, Colonel Harewood wrote to entreat my brother to come to Redclyffe, saying poor Sir Guy had eagerly caught at the mention of his name. Of course he went at once, and he told me that he never, in all his experience as a clergyman, saw any one so completely broken down with grief.'
I found a great many of his letters among my father's papers,' said Philip; 'and it was a very touching one that he wrote to me on my father's death. Those Redclyffe people certainly have great force of character.'
'And was it then he settled his property on my uncle?' said Charles.
'Yes,' said Mrs. Edmonstone. 'My brother did not like his doing so, but he would not be at rest till it was settled. It was in vain to put him in mind of his grandchild, for he would not believe it could live; and, indeed, its life hung on a thread. I remember my brother telling me how he went to Moorworth to see it—for it could not be brought home—in hopes of bringing, back a report that might cheer its grandfather, but how he found it so weak and delicate, that he did not dare to try to make him take interest in it. It was not till the child was two or three years old, that Sir Guy ventured to let himself grow fond of it.'
'Sir Guy was a very striking person,' said Philip; 'I shall not easily forget my visit to Redclyffe four years ago. It was more like a scene in a romance than anything real—the fine old red sandstone house crumbling away in the exposed parts, the arched gateway covered with ivy; the great quadrangle where the sun never shone, and full of echoes; the large hall and black wainscoted rooms, which the candles never would light up. It is a fit place to be haunted.'
'That poor boy alone there!' said Mrs. Edmonstone; 'I am glad you and your uncle are going to him.'
'Tell us about him,' said Laura.
'He was the most incongruous thing there,' said Philip. 'There was a calm, deep melancholy about the old man added to the grand courtesy which showed he had been what old books call a fine gentleman, that made him suit his house as a hermit does his cell, or a knight his castle; but breaking in on this "penseroso" scene, there was Guy—'
'In what way?' asked Laura.
'Always in wild spirits, rushing about, playing antics, provoking the solemn echoes with shouting, whooping, singing, whistling. There was something in that whistle of his that always made me angry.'
'How did this suit old Sir Guy?'
'It was curious to see how Guy could rattle on to him, pour out the whole history of his doings, laughing, rubbing his hands, springing about with animation—all with as little answer as if he had been talking to a statue.'
'Do you mean that Sir Guy did not like it?'
'He did in his own way. There was now and then a glance or a nod, to show that he was attending; but it was such slight encouragement, that any less buoyant spirits must have been checked.'
'Did you like him, on the whole?' asked Laura. 'I hope he has not this tremendous Morville temper? Oh, you don't say so. What a grievous thing.'
'He is a fine fellow,' said Philip; 'but I did not think Sir Guy managed him well. Poor old man, he was quite wrapped up in him, and only thought how to keep him out of harm's way. He would never let him be with other boys, and kept him so fettered by rules, so strictly watched, and so sternly called to account, that I cannot think how any boy could stand it.'
'Yet, you say, he told everything freely to his grandfather,' said Amy.
'Yes,' added her mother, 'I was going to say that, as long as that went on, I should think all safe.
'As I said before,' resumed Philip, 'he has a great deal of frankness, much of the making of a fine character; but he is a thorough Morville. I remember something that will show you his best and worst sides. You know Redclyffe is a beautiful place, with magnificent cliffs overhanging the sea, and fine woods crowning them. On one of the most inaccessible of these crags there was a hawk's nest, about half-way down, so that looking from the top of the precipice, we could see the old birds fly in and out. Well, what does Master Guy do, but go down this headlong descent after the nest. How he escaped alive no one could guess; and his grandfather could not bear to look at the place afterwards—but climb it he did, and came back with two young hawks, buttoned up inside his jacket.'
'There's a regular brick for you!' cried Charles, delighted.
'His heart was set on training these birds. He turned the library upside down in search of books on falconry, and spent every spare moment on them. At last, a servant left some door open, and they escaped. I shall never forget Guy's passion; I am sure I don't exaggerate when I say he was perfectly beside himself with anger.'
'Poor boy!' said Mrs. Edmonstone.
'Served the rascal right,' said Charles.
'Nothing had any effect on him till his grandfather came out, and, at the sight of him, he was tamed in an instant, hung his head, came up to his grandfather, and said—"I am very sorry," Sir Guy answered, "My poor boy!" and there was not another word. I saw Guy no more that day, and all the next he was quiet and subdued. But the most remarkable part of the story is to come. A couple of days afterwards we were walking in the woods, when, at the sound of Guy's whistle, we heard a flapping and rustling, and beheld, tumbling along, with their clipped wings, these two identical hawks, very glad to be caught. They drew themselves up proudly for him to stroke them, and their yellow eyes looked at him with positive affection.'
'Pretty creatures!' said Amabel. 'That is a very nice end to the story.'
'It is not the end,' said Philip. 'I was surprised to see Guy so sober, instead of going into one of his usual raptures. He took them home; but the first thing I heard in the morning was, that he was gone to offer them to a farmer, to keep the birds from his fruit.'
'Did he do it of his own accord?' asked Laura.
'That was just what I wanted to know; but any hint about them brought such a cloud over his face that I thought it would be wanton to irritate him by questions. However, I must be going. Good-bye, Amy, I hope your Camellia will have another blossom before I come back. At least, I shall escape the horticultural meeting.'
'Good-bye,' said Charles. 'Put the feud in your pocket till you can bury it in old Sir Guy's grave, unless you mean to fight it out with his grandson, which would be more romantic and exciting.'
Philip was gone before he could finish. Mrs. Edmonstone looked annoyed, and Laura said, 'Charlie, I wish you would not let your spirits carry you away.'
'I wish I had anything else to carry me away!' was the reply.
'Yes,' said his mother, looking sadly at him. 'Your high spirits are a blessing; but why misuse them? If they are given to support you through pain and confinement, why make mischief with them?'
Charles looked more impatient than abashed, and the compunction seemed chiefly to rest with Amabel.
'Now,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, 'I must go and see after my poor little prisoner.'
'Ah!' said Laura, as she went; 'it was no kindness in you to encourage Charlotte to stay, Amy, when you know how often that inquisitive temper has got her into scrapes.'
'I suppose so,' said Amy, regretfully; 'but I had not the heart to send her away.'
'That is just what Philip says, that you only want bones and sinews in your character to—'
'Come, Laura,' interrupted Charles, 'I won't hear Philip's criticisms of my sister, I had rather she had no bones at all, than that they stuck out and ran into me. There are plenty of angles already in the world, without sharpening hers.'
He possessed himself of Amy's round, plump, childish hand, and spread out over it his still whiter, and very bony fingers, pinching her 'soft pinky cushions,' as he called them, 'not meant for studying anatomy upon.'
'Ah! you two spoil each other sadly,' said Laura, smiling, as she left the room.
'And what do Philip and Laura do to each other?' said Charles.
'Improve each other, I suppose,' said Amabel, in a shy, simple tone, at which Charles laughed heartily.
'I wish I was as sensible as Laura!' said she, presently, with a sigh.
'Never was a more absurd wish,' said Charles, tormenting her hand still more, and pulling her curls; 'unwish it forthwith. Where should I be without silly little Amy? If every one weighed my wit before laughing, I should not often be in disgrace for my high spirits, as they call them.'
'I am so little younger than Laura,' said Amy, still sadly, though smiling.
'Folly,' said Charles; 'you are quite wise enough for your age, while Laura is so prematurely wise, that I am in constant dread that nature will take her revenge by causing her to do something strikingly foolish!'
'Nonsense!' cried Amy, indignantly. 'Laura do anything foolish!'
'What I should enjoy,' proceeded Charles, 'would be to see her over head and ears in love with this hero, and Philip properly jealous.'
'How can you say such things, Charlie?'
'Why? was there ever a beauty who did not fall in love with her father's ward?'
'No; but she ought to live alone with her very old father and horribly grim maiden aunt.'
'Very well, Amy, you shall be the maiden, aunt.' And as Laura returned at that moment, he announced to her that they had been agreeing that no hero ever failed to fall in love with his guardian's beautiful daughter.
'If his guardian had a beautiful daughter,' said Laura, resolved not to be disconcerted.
'Did you ever hear such barefaced fishing for compliments?' said Charles; but Amabel, who did not like her sister to be teased, and was also conscious of having wasted a good deal of time, sat down to practise. Laura returned to her drawing, and Charles, with a yawn, listlessly turned over a newspaper, while his fair delicate features, which would have been handsome but that they were blanched, sharpened, and worn with pain, gradually lost their animated and rather satirical expression, and assumed an air of weariness and discontent.
Charles was at this time nineteen, and for the last ten years had been afflicted with a disease in the hip-joint, which, in spite of the most anxious care, caused him frequent and severe suffering, and had occasioned such a contraction of the limb as to cripple him completely, while his general health was so much affected as to render him an object of constant anxiety. His mother had always been his most devoted and indefatigable nurse, giving up everything for his sake, and watching him night and day. His father attended to his least caprice, and his sisters were, of course, his slaves; so that he was the undisputed sovereign of the whole family.
The two elder girls had been entirely under a governess till a month or two before the opening of our story, when Laura was old enough to be introduced; and the governess departing, the two sisters became Charles's companions in the drawing-room, while Mrs. Edmonstone, who had a peculiar taste and talent for teaching, undertook little Charlotte's lessons herself.
If the ill spirit have so fair a house, Good things will strive to dwell with't. —THE TEMPEST
One of the pleasantest rooms at Hollywell was Mrs. Edmonstone's dressing-room—large and bay-windowed, over the drawing-room, having little of the dressing-room but the name, and a toilet-table with a black and gold japanned glass, and curiously shaped boxes to match; her room opened into it on one side, and Charles's on the other; it was a sort of up-stairs parlour, where she taught Charlotte, cast up accounts, spoke to servants, and wrote notes, and where Charles was usually to be found, when unequal to coming down-stairs. It had an air of great snugness, with its large folding-screen, covered with prints and caricatures of ancient date, its book-shelves, its tables, its peculiarly easy arm-chairs, the great invalid sofa, and the grate, which always lighted up better than any other in the house.
In the bright glow of the fire, with the shutters closed and curtains drawn, lay Charles on his couch, one Monday evening, in a gorgeous dressing-gown of a Chinese pattern, all over pagodas, while little Charlotte sat opposite to him, curled up on a footstool. He was not always very civil to Charlotte; she sometimes came into collision with him, for she, too, was a pet, and had a will of her own, and at other times she could bore him; but just now they had a common interest, and he was gracious.
'It is striking six, so they must soon be here. I wish mamma would let me go down; but I must wait till after dinner.'
'Then, Charlotte, as soon as you come in, hold up your hands, and exclaim, "What a guy!" There will be a compliment!'
'No, Charlie; I promised mamma and Laura that you should get me into no more scrapes.'
'Did you? The next promise you make had better depend upon yourself alone.'
'But Amy said I must be quiet, because poor Sir Guy will be too sorrowful to like a racket; and when Amy tells me to be quiet, I know that I must, indeed.'
'Most true,' said Charles, laughing.
'Do you think you shall like Sir Guy?'
'I shall be able to determine,' said Charles, sententiously, 'when I have seen whether he brushes his hair to the right or left.'
'Philip brushes his to the left.'
'Then undoubtedly Sir Guy will brush his to the right.'
'Is there not some horrid story about those Morvilles of Redclyffe?' asked Charlotte. 'I asked Laura, and she told me not to be curious, so I knew there was something in it; and then I asked Amy, and she said it would be no pleasure to me to know.'
'Ah! I would have you prepared.'
'Why, what is it? Oh! dear Charlie! are you really going to tell me?'
'Did you ever hear of a deadly feud?'
'I have read of them in the history of Scotland. They went on hating and killing each other for ever. There was one man who made his enemy's children eat out of a pig-trough, and another who cut off his head.'
'No, his enemy's, and put it on the table, at breakfast, with a piece of bread in its mouth.'
'Very well; whenever Sir Guy serves up Philip's head at breakfast, with a piece of bread in his mouth, let me know.'
Charlotte started up. 'Charles, what do you mean? Such things don't happen now.'
'Nevertheless, there is a deadly feud between the two branches of the house of Morville.'
'But it is very wrong,' said Charlotte, looking frightened.'
'Wrong? Of course it is.'
'Philip won't do anything wrong. But how will they ever get on?'
'Don't you see? It must be our serious endeavour to keep the peace, and prevent occasions of discord.'
'Do you think anything will happen?'
'It is much to be apprehended,' said Charles, solemnly.
At that moment the sound of wheels was heard, and Charlotte flew off to her private post of observation, leaving her brother delighted at having mystified her. She returned on tip-toe. 'Papa and Sir Guy are come, but not Philip; I can't see him anywhere.'
'Ah you have not looked in Sir Guy's great-coat pocket.'
'I wish you would not plague me so! You are not in earnest?'
The pettish inquiring tone was exactly what delighted him. And he continued to tease her in the same style till Laura and Amabel came running in with their report of the stranger.
'He is come!' they cried, with one voice.
'Very gentlemanlike!' said Laura.
'Very pleasant looking,' said Amy. 'Such fine eyes!'
'And so much expression,' said Laura. 'Oh!'
The exclamation, and the start which accompanied it, were caused by hearing her father's voice close to the door, which had been left partly open. 'Here is poor Charles,' it said, 'come in, and see him; get over the first introduction—eh, Guy?' And before he had finished, both he and the guest were in the room, and Charlotte full of mischievous glee at her sister's confusion.
'Well, Charlie, boy, how goes it?' was his father's greeting. 'Better, eh? Sorry not to find you down-stairs; but I have brought Guy to see you.' Then, as Charles sat up and shook hands with Sir Guy, he continued—'A fine chance for you, as I was telling him, to have a companion always at hand: a fine chance? eh, Charlie?'
'I am not so unreasonable as to expect any one to be always at hand,' said Charles, smiling, as he looked up at the frank, open face, and lustrous hazel eyes turned on him with compassion at the sight of his crippled, helpless figure, and with a bright, cordial promise of kindness.
As he spoke, a pattering sound approached, the door was pushed open, and while Sir Guy exclaimed, 'O, Bustle! Bustle! I am very sorry,' there suddenly appeared a large beautiful spaniel, with a long silky black and white coat, jetty curled ears, tan spots above his intelligent eyes, and tan legs, fringed with silken waves of hair, but crouching and looking beseeching at meeting no welcome, while Sir Guy seemed much distressed at his intrusion.
'O you beauty!' cried Charles. 'Come here, you fine fellow.'
Bustle only looked wistfully at his master, and moved nothing but his feather of a tail.
'Ah! I was afraid you would repent of your kindness,' said Sir Guy to Mr. Edmonstone.
'Not at all, not at all!' was the answer; 'mamma never objects to in-door pets, eh, Amy?'
'A tender subject, papa,' said Laura; 'poor Pepper!'
Amy, ashamed of her disposition to cry at the remembrance of the dear departed rough terrier, bent down to hide her glowing face, and held out her hand to the dog, which at last ventured to advance, still creeping with his body curved till his tail was foremost, looking imploringly at his master, as if to entreat his pardon.
'Are you sure you don't dislike it?' inquired Sir Guy, of Charles.
'I? O no. Here, you fine creature.'
'Come, then, behave like a rational dog, since you are come,' said Sir Guy; and Bustle, resuming the deportment of a spirited and well-bred spaniel, no longer crouched and curled himself into the shape of a comma, but bounded, wagged his tail, thrust his nose into his master's hand and then proceeded to reconnoitre the rest of the company, paying especial attention to Charles, putting his fore-paws on the sofa, and rearing himself up to contemplate him with a grave, polite curiosity, that was very diverting.
'Well, old fellow,' said Charles, 'did you ever see the like of such a dressing-gown? Are you satisfied? Give me your paw, and let us swear an eternal friendship.'
'I am quite glad to see a dog in the house again,' said Laura, and, after a few more compliments, Bustle and his master followed Mr. Edmonstone out of the room.
'One of my father's well-judged proceedings,' murmured Charles. 'That poor fellow had rather have gone a dozen, miles further than have been lugged in here. Really, if papa chooses to inflict such dressing-gowns on me, he should give me notice before he brings men and dogs to make me their laughing-stock!'
'An unlucky moment,' said Laura. 'Will my cheeks ever cool?'
'Perhaps he did not hear,' said Amabel, consolingly.
'You did not ask about Philip?' said Charlotte, with great earnestness.
'He is staying at Thorndale, and then going to St. Mildred's,' said Laura.
'I hope you are relieved,' said her brother; and she looked in doubt whether she ought to laugh.
'And what do you think of Sir Guy?'
'May he only be worthy of his dog!' replied Charles.
'Ah!' said Laura, 'many men are neither worthy of their wives, nor of their dogs.'
'Dr. Henley, I suppose, is the foundation of that aphorism,' said Charles.
'If Margaret Morville could marry him, she could hardly be too worthy,' said Laura. 'Think of throwing away Philip's whole soul!'
'O Laura, she could not lose that,' said Amabel.
Laura looked as if she knew more; but at that moment, both her father and mother entered, the former rubbing his hands, as he always did when much pleased, and sending his voice before him, as he exclaimed, 'Well, Charlie, well, young ladies, is not he a fine fellow—eh?'
'Rather under-sized,' said Charles.
'Eh? He'll grow. He is not eighteen, you know; plenty of time; a very good height; you can't expect every one to be as tall as Philip; but he's a capital fellow. And how have you been?—any pain?'
'Hem—rather,' said Charles, shortly, for he hated answering kind inquiries, when out of humour.
'Ah, that's a pity; I was sorry not to find you in the drawing-room, but I thought you would have liked just to see him,' said Mr. Edmonstone, disappointed, and apologizing.
'I had rather have had some notice of your intention,' said Charles, 'I would have made myself fit to be seen.'
'I am sorry. I thought you would have liked his coming,' said poor Mr. Edmonstone, only half conscious of his offence; 'but I see you are not well this evening.'
Worse and worse, for it was equivalent to openly telling Charles he was out of humour; and seeing, as he did, his mother's motive, he was still further annoyed when she hastily interposed a question about Sir Guy.
'You should only hear them talk about him at Redclyffe,' said Mr Edmonstone. 'No one was ever equal to him, according to them. Every one said the same—clergyman, old Markham, all of them. Such attention to his grandfather, such proper feeling, so good-natured, not a bit of pride—it is my firm belief that he will make up for all his family before him.'
Charles set up his eyebrows sarcastically.
'How does he get on with Philip?' inquired Laura.
'Excellently. Just what could be wished. Philip is delighted with him; and I have been telling Guy all the way home what a capital friend he will be, and he is quite inclined to look up to him.' Charles made an exaggerated gesture of astonishment, unseen by his father. 'I told him to bring his dog. He would have left it, but they seemed so fond of each other, I thought it was a pity to part them, and that I could promise it should be welcome here; eh, mamma?'
'Certainly. I am very glad you brought it.'
'We are to have his horse and man in a little while. A beautiful chestnut—anything to raise his spirits. He is terribly cut up about his grandfather.
It was now time to go down to dinner; and after Charles had made faces of weariness and disgust at all the viands proposed to him by his mother, almost imploring him to like them, and had at last ungraciously given her leave to send what he could not quite say he disliked, he was left to carry on his teasing of Charlotte, and his grumbling over the dinner, for about the space of an hour, when Amabel came back to him, and Charlotte went down.
'Hum!' he exclaimed. 'Another swan of my father's.'
'Did not you like his looks?'
'I saw only an angular hobbetyhoy.'
'But every one at Redclyffe speaks so well of him.'
'As if the same things were not said of every heir to more acres than brains! However, I could have swallowed everything but the disposition to adore Philip. Either it was gammon on his part, or else the work of my father's imagination.'
'For shame, Charlie.'
'Is it within the bounds of probability that he should be willing, at the bidding of his guardian, to adopt as Mentor his very correct and sententious cousin, a poor subaltern, and the next in the entail? Depend upon it, it is a fiction created either by papa's hopes or Philip's self-complacency, or else the unfortunate youth must have been brought very low by strait-lacing and milk-and-water.'
'Mr. Thorndale is willing to look up to Philip,'
'I don't think the Thorndale swan very—very much better than a tame goose,' said Charles, 'but the coalition is not so monstrous in his case, since Philip was a friend of his own picking and choosing, and so his father's adoption did not succeed in repelling him. But that Morville should receive this "young man's companion," on the word of a guardian whom he never set eyes on before, is too incredible—utterly mythical I assure you, Amy. And how did you get on at dinner?'
'Oh, the dog is the most delightful creature I ever saw, so sensible and well-mannered.'
'It was of the man that I asked.'
'He said hardly anything, and sometimes started if papa spoke to him suddenly. He winced as if he could not bear to be called Sir Guy, so papa said we should call him only by his name, if he would do the same by us. I am glad of it, for it seems more friendly, and I am sure he wants to be comforted.'
'Don't waste your compassion, my dear; few men need it less. With his property, those moors to shoot over, his own master, and with health to enjoy it, there are plenty who would change with him for all your pity, my silly little Amy.'
'Surely not, with that horrible ancestry.'
'All very well to plume oneself upon. I rather covet that ghost myself.'
'Well, if you watched his face, I think you would be sorry for him.'
'I am tired of the sound of his name. One fifth of November is enough in the year. Here, find something to read to me among that trumpery.'
Amy read till she was summoned to tea, when she found a conversation going on about Philip, on whose history Sir Guy did not seem fully informed. Philip was the son of Archdeacon Morville, Mrs. Edmonstone's brother, an admirable and superior man, who had been dead about five years. He left three children, Margaret and Fanny, twenty-five and twenty-three years of age, and Philip, just seventeen. The boy was at the head of his school, highly distinguished for application and good conduct; he had attained every honour there open to him, won golden opinions from all concerned with him, and made proof of talents which could not have failed to raise him to the highest university distinctions. He was absent from home at the time of his father's death, which took place after so short an illness, that there had been no time to summon him back to Stylehurst. Very little property was left to be divided among the three; and as soon as Philip perceived how small was the provision for his sisters, he gave up his hopes of university honours, and obtained a commission in the army.
On hearing this, Sir Guy started forward: 'Noble!' he cried, 'and yet what a pity! If my grandfather had but known it—'
'Ah! I was convinced of that,' broke in Mr. Edmonstone, 'and so, I am sure, was Philip himself; but in fact he knew we should never have given our consent, so he acted quite by himself, wrote to Lord Thorndale, and never said a word, even to his sisters, till the thing was done. I never was more surprised in my life.'
'One would almost envy him the opportunity of making such a sacrifice,' said Sir Guy, yet one must lament it.
'It was done in a hasty spirit of independence,' said Mrs. Edmonstone; 'I believe if he had got a fellowship at Oxford, it would have answered much better.'
'And now that poor Fanny is dead, and Margaret married, there is all his expensive education thrown away, and all for nothing,' said Mr. Edmonstone.
'Ah,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, 'he planned for them to go on living at Stylehurst, so that it would still have been his home. It is a great pity, for his talent is thrown away, and he is not fond of his profession.'
'You must not suppose, though, that he is not a practical man,' said Mr. Edmonstone; 'I had rather take his opinion than any one's, especially about a horse, and there is no end to what I hear about his good sense, and the use he is of to the other young men.'
'You should tell about Mr. Thorndale, papa,' said Laura.
'Ah that is a feather in master Philip's cap; besides, he is your neighbour—at least, his father is.'
'I suppose you know Lord Thorndale?' said Mrs. Edmonstone, in explanation.
'I have seen him once at the Quarter Sessions,' said Sir Guy; 'but he lives on the other side of Moorworth, and there was no visiting.'
'Well, this youth, James Thorndale, the second son, was Philip's fag.'
'Philip says he was always licking him!' interposed Charlotte.'
'He kept him out of some scrape or other, continued Mr. Edmonstone. 'Lord Thorndale was very much obliged to him, had him to stay at his house, took pretty much to him altogether. It was through him that Philip applied for his commission, and he has put his son into the same regiment, on purpose to have him under Philip's eye. There he is at Broadstone, as gentlemanlike a youth as I would wish to see. We will have him to dinner some day, and Maurice too—eh, mamma? Maurice—he is a young Irish cousin of my own, a capital fellow at the bottom, but a regular thoroughgoing rattle. That was my doing. I told his father that he could not do better than put him into the —th. Nothing like a steady friend and a good example, I said, and Kilcoran always takes my advice, and I don't think he has been sorry. Maurice has kept much more out of scrapes of late.'
'O papa,' exclaimed Charlotte, 'Maurice has been out riding on a hired horse, racing with Mr. Gordon, and the horse tumbled down at the bottom of East-hill, and broke its knees.'
'That's the way,' said Mr. Edmonstone, 'the instant my back is turned.'
Thereupon the family fell into a discussion of home affairs, and thought little more of their silent guest.
The hues of bliss more brightly glow Chastised by sober tints of woe. —GRAY
'What use shall I make of him?' said Charles to himself, as he studied Sir Guy Morville, who sat by the table, with a book in his hand.
He had the unformed look of a growing boy, and was so slender as to appear taller than he really was. He had an air of great activity; and though he sat leaning back, there was no lounging in his attitude, and at the first summons he roused up with an air of alert attention that recalled to mind the eager head of a listening greyhound. He had no pretension to be called handsome; his eyes were his best feature; they were very peculiar, of a light hazel, darker towards the outside of the iris, very brilliant, the whites tinted with blue, and the lashes uncommonly thick and black; the eyebrows were also very dark, and of a sharply-defined angular shape, but the hair was much lighter, loose, soft, and wavy; the natural fairness of the complexion was shown by the whiteness of the upper part of the forehead, though the rest of the face, as well as the small taper hands, were tanned by sunshine and sea-breezes, into a fresh, hardy brown, glowing with red on the cheeks.
'What use shall I make of him?' proceeded Charles's thoughts. 'He won't be worth his salt if he goes on in this way; he has got a graver specimen of literature there than I ever saw Philip himself read on a week-day; he has been puritanized till he is good for nothing; I'll trouble myself no more about him!' He tried to read, but presently looked up again. 'Plague! I can't keep my thoughts off him. That sober look does not sit on that sun-burnt face as if it were native to it; those eyes don't look as if the Redclyffe spirit was extinguished.'
Mrs. Edmonstone came in, and looking round, as if to find some occupation for her guest, at length devised setting him to play at chess with Charles. Charles gave her an amiable look, expressing that neither liked it; but she was pretty well used to doing him good against his will, and trusted to its coming right in time. Charles was a capital chess-player, and seldom found any one who could play well enough to afford him much real sport, but he found Sir Guy more nearly a match than often fell to his lot; it was a bold dashing game, that obliged him to be on his guard, and he was once so taken by surprise as to be absolutely check-mated. His ill-humour evaporated, he was delighted to find an opponent worth playing with, and henceforth there were games almost every morning or evening, though Sir Guy seemed not to care much about them, except for the sake of pleasing him.
When left to himself, Guy spent his time in reading or in walking about the lanes alone. He used to sit in the bay-window of the drawing-room with his book; but sometimes, when they least expected it, the girls would find his quick eyes following them with an air of amused curiosity, as Amabel waited on Charles and her flowers, or Laura drew, wrote letters, and strove to keep down the piles of books and periodicals under which it seemed as if her brother might some day be stifled—a vain task, for he was sure to want immediately whatever she put out of his reach.
Laura and Amabel both played and sung, the former remarkably well, and the first time they had any music after the arrival of Sir Guy, his look of delighted attention struck everyone. He ventured nearer, stood by the piano when they practised, and at last joined in with a few notes of so full and melodious a voice, that Laura turned round in surprise, exclaiming, 'You sing better I than any of us!'
He coloured. 'I beg your pardon,' he said, 'I could not help it; I know nothing of music.'
'Really!' said Laura, smiling incredulously.
'I don't even know the notes.'
'Then you must have a very good ear. Let us try again.'
The sisters were again charmed and surprised, and Guy looked gratified, as people do at the discovery of a faculty which they are particularly glad to possess. It was the first time he appeared to brighten, and Laura and her mother agreed that it would do him good to have plenty of music, and to try to train that fine voice. He was beginning to interest them all greatly by his great helpfulness and kindness to Charles, as he learnt the sort of assistance he required, as well as by the silent grief that showed how much attached he must have been to his grandfather.
On the first Sunday, Mrs. Edmonstone coming into the drawing-room at about half-past five, found him sitting alone by the fire, his dog lying at his feet. As he started up, she asked if he had been here in the dark ever since church-time?
'I have not wanted light,' he answered with a sigh, long, deep, and irrepressible, and as she stirred the fire, the flame revealed to her the traces of tears. She longed to comfort him, and said—
'This Sunday twilight is a quiet time for thinking.'
'Yes,' he said; 'how few Sundays ago—' and there he paused.
'Ah! you had so little preparation.'
'None. That very morning he had done business with Markham, and had never been more clear and collected.'
'Were you with him when he was taken ill?' asked Mrs. Edmonstone, perceiving that it would be a relief to him to talk.
'No; it was just before dinner. I had been shooting, and went into the library to tell him where I had been. He was well then, for he spoke, but it was getting dark, and I did not see his face. I don't think I was ten minutes dressing, but when I came down, he had sunk back in his chair. I saw it was not sleep—I rang—and when Arnaud came, we knew how it was.' His, voice became low with strong emotion.'
'Did he recover his consciousness?'
'Yes, that was the comfort,' said Guy, eagerly. 'It was after he had been bled that he seemed to wake up. He could not speak or move, but he looked at me—or—I don't know what I should have done.' The last words were almost inaudible from the gush of tears that he vainly struggled to repress, and he was turning away to hide them, when he saw that Mrs. Edmonstone's were flowing fast.
'You had great reason to be attached to him!' said she, as soon as she could speak.
'Indeed, indeed I had.' And after a long silence—'He was everything to me, everything from the first hour I can recollect. He never let me miss my parents. How he attended to all my pleasures and wishes, how he watched and cared for me, and bore with me, even I can never know.'
He spoke in short half sentences of intense feeling, and Mrs. Edmonstone was much moved by such affection in one said to have been treated with an excess of strictness, much compassionating the lonely boy, who had lost every family tie in one.
'When the first pain of the sudden parting has passed,' said she, 'you will like to remember the affection which you knew how to value.'
'If I had but known!' said Guy; 'but there was I, hasty, reckless, disregarding his comfort, rebelling against—O, what would I not give to have those restraints restored!'
'It is what we all feel in such losses,' said Mrs. Edmonstone. 'There is always much to wish otherwise; but I am sure you can have the happiness of knowing you were his great comfort.'
'It was what I ought to have been.'
She knew that nothing could have been more filial and affectionate than his conduct, and tried to say something of the kind, but he would not listen.
'That is worst of all,' he said; 'and you must not trust what they say of me. They would be sure to praise me, if I was anything short of a brute.'
A silence ensued, while Mrs. Edmonstone was trying to think of some consolation. Suddenly Guy looked up, and spoke eagerly:—
'I want to ask something—a great favour—but you make me venture. You see how I am left alone—you know how little I can trust myself. Will you take me in hand—let me talk to you—and tell me if I am wrong, as freely as if I were Charles? I know it is asking a great deal, but you knew my grandfather, and it is in his name.'
She held out her hand; and with tears answered—
'Indeed I will, if I see any occasion.'
'You will let me trust to you to tell me when I get too vehement? above all, when you see my temper failing? Thank you; you don't know what a relief it is!'
'But you must not call yourself alone. You are one of us now.'
'Yes; since you have made that promise,' said Guy; and for the first time she saw the full beauty of his smile—a sort of sweetness and radiance of which eye and brow partook almost as much as the lips. It alone would have gained her heart.
'I must look on you as a kind of nephew,' she added, kindly. 'I used to hear so much of you from my brother.'
'Oh!' cried Guy, lighting up, 'Archdeacon Morville was always so kind to me. I remember him very well!'
'Ah! I wish—' there she paused, and added,—tete-a-tete 'it is not right to wish such things—and Philip is very like his father.'
'I am very glad his regiment is so near. I want to know him better.'
'You knew him at Redclyffe, when he was staying there?'
'Yes,' said Guy, his colour rising; 'but I was a boy then, and a very foolish, headstrong one. I am glad to meet him again. What a grand-looking person he is!'
'We are very proud of him,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, smiling. 'I don't think there has been an hour's anxiety about him since he was born.'
The conversation was interrupted by the sound of Charles's crutches slowly crossing the hall. Guy sprang to help him to his sofa, and then, without speaking, hurried up-stairs.
'Mamma, tete-a-tete with the silent one!' exclaimed Charles.
'I will not tell you all I think of him,' said she, leaving the room.
'Hum!' soliloquised Charles. 'That means that my lady mother has adopted him, and thinks I should laugh at her, or straightway set up a dislike to him, knowing my contempt for heroes and hero-worship. It's a treat to have Philip out of the way, and if it was but possible to get out of hearing of his perfection, I should have some peace. If I thought this fellow had one spice of the kind, I'd never trouble my head about him more; and yet I don't believe he has such a pair of hawk's eyes for nothing!'
The hawk's eyes, as Charles called them, shone brighter from that day forth, and their owner began to show more interest in what passed around. Laura was much amused by a little conversation she held with him one day when a party of their younger neighbours were laughing and talking nonsense round Charles's sofa. He was sitting a little way off in silence, and she took advantage of the loud laughing to say:
'You think this is not very satisfactory?' And as he gave a quick glance of inquiry—'Don't mind saying so. Philip and I often agree that it is a pity spend so much time in laughing at nothing—at such nonsense.'
'It is nonsense?'
'Listen—no don't, it is too silly.'
'Nonsense must be an excellent thing if it makes people so happy,' said Guy thoughtfully. 'Look at them; they are like—not a picture—that has no life—but a dream—or, perhaps a scene in a play.'
'Did you never see anything like it?'
'Oh, no! All the morning calls I ever saw were formal, every one stiff, and speaking by rote, or talking politics. How glad I used to be to get on horseback again! But to see these—why, it is like the shepherd's glimpse at the pixies!—as one reads a new book, or watches what one only half understands—a rook's parliament, or a gathering of sea-fowl on the Shag Rock.'
'A rook's parliament?'
'The people at home call it a rook's parliament when a whole cloud of rooks settle on some bare, wide common, and sit there as if they were consulting, not feeding, only stalking about, with drooping wings, and solemn, black cloaks.'
'You have found a flattering simile,' said Laura, 'as you know that rooks never open their mouths without cause.'
Guy had never heard the riddle, but he caught the pun instantly, and the clear merry sound of his hearty laugh surprised Charles, who instantly noted it as another proof that was some life in him.
Indeed, each day began to make it evident that he had, on the whole, rather a superabundance of animation than otherwise. He was quite confidential with Mrs. Edmonstone, on whom he used to lavish, with boyish eagerness, all that interested him, carrying her the passages in books that pleased him, telling her about Redclyffe's affairs, and giving her his letters from Markham, the steward. His head was full of his horse, Deloraine, which was coming to him under the charge of a groom, and the consultations were endless about the means of transport, Mr. Edmonstone almost as eager about it as he was himself.
He did not so quickly become at home with the younger portion of the family, but his spirits rose every day. He whistled as he walked in the garden, and Bustle, instead of pacing soberly behind him, now capered, nibbled his pockets, and drew him into games of play which Charles and Amabel were charmed to overlook from the dressing-room window. There was Guy leaping, bounding, racing, rolling the dog over, tripping him up, twitching his ears, tickling his feet, catching at his tail, laughing at Bustle's springs, contortions, and harmless open-mouthed attacks, while the dog did little less than laugh too, with his intelligent amber eyes, and black and red mouth. Charles began to find a new interest in his listless life in the attempt to draw Guy out, and make him give one of his merry laughs. In this, however, he failed when his wit consisted in allusions to the novels of the day, of which Guy knew nothing. One morning he underwent a regular examination, ending in—
'Have you read anything?'
'I am afraid I am very ignorant of modern books.'
'Have you read the ancient ones?' asked Laura.
'I've had nothing else to read.'
'Nothing to read but ancient books!' exclaimed Amabel, with a mixture of pity and astonishment.
'Sanchoniathon, Manetho, Berosus, and Ocellus Lucanus!' said Guy, smiling.
'There, Amy,' said Charles, 'if he has the Vicar of Wakefield among his ancient books, you need not pity him.'
'It is like Philip,' said Laura; 'he was brought up on the old standard books, instead of his time being frittered away on the host of idle modern ones.'
'He was free to concentrate his attention on Sir Charles Grandison,' said Charles.
'How could any one do so?' said Guy. 'How could any one have any sympathy with such a piece of self-satisfaction?'
'Who could? Eh, Laura?' said Charles.
'I never read it,' said Laura, suspecting malice.
'What is your opinion of perfect heroes?' continued Charles.
'Here comes one,' whispered Amy to her brother, blushing at her piece of naughtiness, as Philip Morville entered the room.
After the first greetings and inquiries after his sister, whom he had been visiting, Laura told him what they had been saying of the advantage of a scanty range of reading.
'True,' said Philip; 'I have often been struck by finding how ignorant people are, even of Shakspeare; and I believe the blame chiefly rests on the cheap rubbish in which Charlie is nearly walled up there.'
'Ay,' said Charles, 'and who haunts that rubbish at the beginning of every month? I suppose to act as pioneer, though whether any one but Laura heeds his warnings, remains to be proved.'
'Laura does heed?' asked Philip, well pleased.
'I made her read me the part of Dombey that hurts women's feelings most, just to see if she would go on—the part about little Paul—and I declare, I shall think the worse of her ever after—she was so stony hearted, that to this day she does not know whether he is dead or alive.'
'I can't quite say I don't know whether he lived or died,' said Laura, 'for I found Amy in a state that alarmed me, crying in the green-house, and I was very glad to find it was nothing worse than little Paul.'
'I wish you would have read it,' said Amy; and looking shyly at Guy, she added—'Won't you?'
'Well done, Amy!' said Charles. 'In the very face of the young man's companion!'
'Philip does not really think it wrong,' said Amy.
'No,' said Philip; 'those books open fields of thought, and as their principles are negative, they are not likely to hurt a person well armed with the truth.'
'Meaning,' said Charles, 'that Guy and Laura have your gracious permission to read Dombey.'
'When Laura has a cold or toothache.'
'And I,' said Guy.
'I am not sure about, the expediency for you,' said Philip 'it would be a pity to begin with Dickens, when there is so much of a higher grade equally new to you. I suppose you do not understand Italian?'
'No,' said Guy, abruptly, and his dark eyebrows contracted.
Philip went on. 'If you did, I should not recommend you the translation of "I promessi Sponsi," one of the most beautiful books in any language. You have it in English, I think, Laura.'
Laura fetched it; Guy, with a constrained 'thank you,' was going to take it up rather as if he was putting a force upon himself, when Philip more quickly took the first volume, and eagerly turned over the pages—I can't stand this,' he said, 'where is the original?'
It was soon produced; and Philip, finding the beautiful history of Fra Cristoforo, began to translate it fluently and with an admirable choice of language that silenced Charles's attempts to interrupt and criticise. Soon Guy, who had at first lent only reluctant attention, was entirely absorbed, his eyebrows relaxed, a look of earnest interest succeeded, his countenance softened, and when Fra Cristoforo humbled himself, exchanged forgiveness, and received "il pane del perdono," tears hung on his eyelashes.
The chapter was finished, and with a smothered exclamation of admiration, he joined the others in begging Philip to proceed. The story thus read was very unlike what it had been to Laura and Amy, when they puzzled it out as an Italian lesson, or to Charles, when he carelessly tossed over the translation in search of Don Abbondio's humours; and thus between reading and conversation, the morning passed very agreeably.
At luncheon, Mr. Edmonstone asked Philip to come and spend a day or two at Hollywell, and he accepted the invitation for the next week. 'I will make Thorndale drive me out if you will give him a dinner.'
'Of course, of course,' said Mr. Edmonstone, 'we shall be delighted. We were talking of asking him, a day or two ago; eh, mamma?'
'Thank you,' said Philip; 'a family party is an especial treat to him,' laying a particular stress on the word 'family party,' and looking at his aunt.
At that moment the butler came in, saying, 'Sir Guy's servant is come, and has brought the horse, sir.'
'Deloraine come!' cried Guy, springing up. 'Where?'
'At the door, sir.'
Guy darted out, Mr. Edmonstone following. In another instant, however, Guy put his head into the room again. 'Mrs. Edmonstone, won't you come and see him? Philip, you have not seen Deloraine.'
Off he rushed, and the others were just in time to see the cordial look of honest gladness with which William, the groom, received his young master's greeting, and the delighted recognition between Guy, Bustle, and Deloraine. Guy had no attention for anything else till he had heard how they had prospered on the journey; and then he turned to claim his friend's admiration for the beautiful chestnut, his grandfather's birthday present. The ladies admired with earnestness that compensated for want of knowledge, the gentlemen with greater science and discrimination; indeed, Philip, as a connoisseur, could not but, for the sake of his own reputation, discover something to criticise. Guy's brows drew together again, and his eyes glanced as if he was much inclined to resent the remarks, as attacks at once on Deloraine and on his grandfather; but he said nothing, and presently went to the stable with Mr. Edmonstone, to see about the horse's accommodations. Philip stood in the hall with the ladies.
'So I perceive you have dropped the title already,' observed he to Laura.
'Yes,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, replying for her daughter, 'it seemed to give him pain by reminding him of his loss, and he was so strange and forlorn just at first, that we were glad to do what we could to make him feel himself more at home.'
'Then you get on pretty well now?'
The reply was in chorus with variations—'Oh, excellently!'
'He is so entertaining,' said Charlotte.
'He sings so beautifully,' said Amabel.
'He is so right-minded,' said Mrs. Edmonstone.
'So very well informed,' said Laura.
Then it all began again.
'He plays chess so well,' said Amy.
'Bustle is such a dear dog,' said Charlotte.
'He is so attentive to Charlie,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, going into the drawing-room to her son.
'Papa says he will make up for the faults of all his ancestors,' said Amabel.
'His music! oh, his music!' said Laura.
'Philip,' said Charlotte, earnestly, 'you really should learn to like him.'
'Learn, impertinent little puss?' said Philip, smiling, 'why should I not like him?'
'I was sure you would try,' said Charlotte, impressively.
'Is it hard?' said Amy. 'But, oh, Philip! you could not help liking his singing.'
'I never heard such a splendid voice,' said Laura; 'so clear and powerful, and yet so wonderfully sweet in the low soft notes. And a very fine ear: he has a real talent for music.'
'Ah! inherited, poor fellow,' said Philip, compassionately.
'Do you pity him for it?' said Amy, smiling.
'Do you forget?' said Philip. 'I would not advise you to make much of this talent in public; it is too much a badge of his descent.'
'Mamma did not think so,' said Amy. 'She thought it a pity he should not learn regularly, with such a talent; so the other day, when Mr. Radford was giving us a lesson, she asked Guy just to sing up and down the scale. I never saw anything so funny as old Mr Radford's surprise, it was almost like the music lesson in "La Figlia del Reggimento"; he started, and looked at Guy, and seemed in a perfect transport, and now Guy is to take regular lessons.
'But do you really mean,' said Laura, 'that if your mother had been a musician's daughter, and you had inherited her talent, that you would be ashamed of it.'
'Indeed, Laura,' said Philip, with a smile, 'I am equally far from guessing what I should do if my mother had been anything but what she was, as from guessing what I should do if I had a talent for music.'
Mrs. Edmonstone here called her daughters to get ready for their walk, as she intended to go to East-hill, and they might as well walk with Philip as far as their roads lay together.
Philip and Laura walked on by themselves, a little in advance of the others. Laura was very anxious to arrive at a right understanding of her cousin's opinion of Guy.
'I am sure there is much to like in him,' she said.
'There is; but is it the highest praise to say there is much to like? People are not so cautious when they accept a man in toto.'
'Then, do you not?'
Philip's answer was—
'He who the lion's whelp has nurst, At home with fostering hand, Finds it a gentle thing at first, Obedient to command,'
'Do you think him a lion's whelp?'
'I am afraid I saw the lion just now in his flashing eyes and contracted brow. There is an impatience of advice, a vehemence of manner that I can hardly deem satisfactory. I do not speak from prejudice, for I think highly of his candour, warmth of heart, and desire to do right; but from all I have seen, I should not venture as yet to place much dependence on his steadiness of character or command of temper.'
'He seems to have been very fond of his grandfather, in spite of his severity. He is but just beginning to brighten up a little.'
'Yes; his disposition is very affectionate,—almost a misfortune to one so isolated from family ties. He showed remarkably well at Redclyffe, the other day; boyish of course, and without much self-command, but very amiably. It is very well for him that he is removed from thence, for all the people idolize him to such a degree that they could not fail to spoil him.'
'It would be a great pity if he went wrong.'
'Great, for he has many admirable qualities, but still they are just what persons are too apt to fancy compensation for faults. I never heard that any of his family, except perhaps that unhappy old Hugh, were deficient in frankness and generosity, and therefore these do not satisfy me. Observe, I am not condemning him; I wish to be perfectly just; all I say is, that I do not trust him till I have seen him tried.'
Laura did not answer, she was disappointed; yet there was a justice and guardedness in what Philip said, that made it impossible to gainsay it, and she was pleased with his confidence. She thought how cool and prudent he was, and how grieved she should be if Guy justified his doubts; and so they walked on in such silence as is perhaps the strongest proof of intimacy. She was the first to speak, led to do so by an expression of sadness about her cousin's mouth. 'What are you thinking of, Philip?'
'Of Locksley Hall. There is nonsense, there is affectation in that, Laura, there is scarcely poetry, but there is power, for there is truth.'
'Of Locksley Hall! I thought you were at Stylehurst.'
'So I was, but the one brings the other.'
'I suppose you went to Stylehurst while you were at St. Mildred's? Did Margaret take you there?'
'Margaret? Not she; she is too much engaged with her book-club, and her soirees, and her societies of every sort and kind.'
'How did you get on with the Doctor?'
'I saw as little of him as I could, and was still more convinced that he does not know what conversation is. Hem!' Philip gave a deep sigh. 'No; the only thing to be done at St. Mildred's is to walk across the moors to Stylehurst. It is a strange thing to leave that tumult of gossip, and novelty, and hardness, and to enter on that quiet autumnal old world, with the yellow leaves floating silently down, just as they used to do, and the atmosphere of stillness round the green churchyard.'
'Gossip!' repeated Laura.' Surely not with Margaret?'
'Literary, scientific gossip is worse than gossip in a primary sense, without pretension.'
'I am glad you had Stylehurst to go to. How was the old sexton's wife?'
'Very well; trotting about on her pattens as merrily as ever.'
'Did you go into the garden?'
'Yes; Fanny's ivy has entirely covered the south wall, and the acacia is so tall and spreading, that I longed to have the pruning of it. Old Will keeps everything in its former state.'
They talked on of the old home, till the stern bitter look of regret and censure had faded from his brow, and given way to a softened melancholy expression.
A fig for all dactyls, a fig for all spondees, A fig for all dunces and dominie grandees. —SCOTT
'How glad I am!' exclaimed Guy, entering the drawing-room.
'Wherefore?' inquired Charles.
'I thought I was too late, and I am very glad to find no one arrived, and Mr. and Mrs. Edmonstone not come down.'
'But where have you been?'
'I lost my way on the top of the down; I fancied some one told me there was a view of the sea to be had there.'
'And can't you exist without a view of the sea?'
Guy laughed. 'Everything looks so dull—it is as if the view was dead or imprisoned—walled up by wood and hill, and wanting that living ripple, heaving and struggling.'
'And your fine rocks?' said Laura.
'I wish you could see the Shag stone,—a great island mass, sloping on one side, precipitous on the other, with the spray dashing on it. If you see it from ever so far off, there is still that white foam coming and going—a glancing speck, like the light in an eye.'
'Hark! a carriage.'
'The young man and the young man's companion,' said Charles.
'How can you?' said Laura. 'What would any one suppose Mr. Thorndale to be?'
'Not Philip's valet,' said Charles, 'if it is true that no man is a hero to his "valley-de-sham"; whereas, what is not Philip to the Honourable James Thorndale?'
'Philip, Alexander, and Bucephalus into the bargain,' suggested Amy, in her demure, frightened whisper, sending all but Laura into a fit of laughter, the harder to check because the steps of the parties concerned were heard approaching.
Mr. Thorndale was a quiet individual, one of those of whom there is least to be said, so complete a gentleman that it would have been an insult, to call him gentleman-like; agreeable and clever rather than otherwise, good-looking, with a high-bred air about him, so that it always seemed strange that he did not make more impression.
A ring at the front-door almost immediately followed their arrival.
'Encore?' asked Philip, looking at Laura with a sort of displeased surprise.
'Unfortunately, yes,' said Laura, drawing aside.
'One of my uncle's family parties,' said Philip. 'I wish I had not brought Thorndale. Laura, what is to be done to prevent the tittering that always takes place when Amy and those Harpers are together?'
'Some game?' said Laura. He signed approval; but she had time to say no more, for her father and mother came down, and some more guests entered.
It was just such a party that continually grew up at Hollywell, for Mr. Edmonstone was so fond of inviting, that his wife never knew in the morning how many would assemble at her table in the evening. But she was used to it, and too good a manager even to be called so. She liked to see her husband enjoy himself in his good-natured, open-hearted way. The change was good for Charles, and thus it did very well, and there were few houses in the neighbourhood more popular than Hollywell.
The guests this evening were Maurice de Courcy, a wild young Irishman, all noise and nonsense, a great favourite with his cousin, Mr. Edmonstone; two Miss Harpers, daughters of the late clergyman, good-natured, second-rate girls; Dr. Mayerne, Charles's kind old physician, the friend and much-loved counsellor at Hollywell, and the present vicar, Mr. Ross with his daughter Mary.
Mary Ross was the greatest friend that the Miss Edmonstones possessed, though, she being five-and-twenty, they had not arrived at perceiving that they were on the equal terms of youngladyhood.
She had lost her mother early, and had owed a great deal to the kindness of Mrs. Edmonstone, as she grew up among her numerous elder brothers. She had no girlhood; she was a boy till fourteen, and then a woman, and she was scarcely altered since the epoch of that transition, the same in likings, tastes, and duties. 'Papa' was all the world to her, and pleasing him had much the same meaning now as then; her brothers were like playfellows; her delights were still a lesson in Greek from papa, a school-children's feast, a game at play, a new book. It was only a pity other people did not stand still too. 'Papa,' indeed, had never grown sensibly older since the year of her mother's death: but her brothers were whiskered men, with all the cares of the world, and no holidays; the school-girls went out to service, and were as a last year's brood to an old hen; the very children she had fondled were young ladies, as old, to all intents and purposes, as herself, and here were even Laura and Amy Edmonstone fallen into that bad habit of growing up! though little Amy had still much of the kitten in her composition, and could play as well as Charlotte or Mary herself, when they had the garden to themselves.
Mary took great pains to amuse Charles, always walking to see him in the worst weather, when she thought other visitors likely to fall, and chatting with him as if she was the idlest person in the world, though the quantity she did at home and in the parish would be too amazing to be recorded. Spirited and decided, without superfluous fears and fineries, she had a firm, robust figure, and a rosy, good-natured face, with a manner that, though perfectly feminine, had in it an air of strength and determination.
Hollywell was a hamlet, two miles from the parish church of East-hill, and Mary had thus seen very little of the Edmonstone's guest, having only been introduced to him after church on Sunday. The pleasure on which Charles chiefly reckoned for that evening was the talking him over with her when the ladies came in from the dining-room. The Miss Harpers, with his sisters, gathered round the piano, and Mrs. Edmonstone sat at Charles's feet, while Mary knitted and talked.
'So you get on well with him?'
'He is one of those people who are never in the way, and yet you never can forgot their presence,' said Mrs. Edmonstone.
'His manners are quite the pink of courtesy,' said Mary.
'Like his grandfather's,' said Mrs. Edmonstone; 'that old-school deference and attention is very chivalrous, and sits prettily and quaintly on his high spirits and animation; I hope it will not wear off.'
'A vain hope,' said Charles. 'At present he is like that German myth, Kaspar Hauser, who lived till twenty in a cellar. It is lucky for mamma that, in his green state, he is courtly instead of bearish.'
'Lucky for you, too, Charlie; he spoils you finely.'
'He has the rare perfection of letting me know my own mind. I never knew what it was to have my own way before.'
'Is that your complaint, Charlie? What next?' said Mary.
'So you think I have my way, do you, Mary? That is all envy, you see, and very much misplaced. Could you guess what a conflict it is every time I am helped up that mountain of a staircase, or the slope of my sofa is altered? Last time Philip stayed here, every step cost an argument, till at last, through sheer exhaustion, I left myself a dead weight on his hands, to be carried up by main strength. And after all, he is such a great, strong fellow, that I am afraid he did not mind it; so next time I crutched myself down alone, and I hope that did provoke him.'
'Sir Guy is so kind that I am ashamed,' said Mrs. Edmonstone. 'It seems as if we had brought him for the sole purpose of waiting on Charles.'
'Half his heart is in his horse,' said Charles. 'Never had man such delight in the "brute creation."'
'They have been his chief playfellows,' said Mrs. Edmonstone. 'The chief of his time was spent in wandering in the woods or on the beach, watching them and their ways.'
'I fairly dreamt of that Elysium of his last night,' said Charles: 'a swamp half frozen on a winter's night, full of wild ducks. Here, Charlotte, come and tell Mary the roll of Guy's pets.'
Charlotte began. 'There was the sea-gull, and the hedgehog, and the fox, and the badger, and the jay, and the monkey, that he bought because it was dying, and cured it, only it died the next winter, and a toad, and a raven, and a squirrel, and—'
'That will do, Charlotte.'
'Oh! but Mary has not heard the names of all his dogs. And Mary, he has cured Bustle of hunting my Puss. We held them up to each other, and Puss hissed horribly, but Bustle did not mind it a bit; and the other day, when Charles tried to set him at her, he would not take the least notice.'
'Now, Charlotte,' said Charles, waving his hand, with a provoking mock politeness, 'have the goodness to return to your friends.
Tea over, Laura proposed the game of definitions. 'You know it. Philip,' said she, 'you taught us.'
'Yes I learnt it of your sisters, Thorndale,' said Philip.
'O pray let us have it. It must be charming!' exclaimed Miss Harper, on this recommendation.
'Definitions!' said Charles, contemptuously. 'Dr. Johnson must be the hand for them.'
'They are just the definitions not to be found in Johnson,' said Mr. Thorndale. 'Our standing specimen is adversity, which may be differently explained according to your taste, as "a toad with a precious jewel in its head," or "the test of friendship."'
'The spirit of words,' said Guy, looking eager and interested.
'Well, we'll try,' said Charles, 'though I can't say it sounds to me promising. Come, Maurice, define an Irishman.'
'No, no, don't let us be personal,' said Laura; 'I had thought of the word "happiness". We are each to write a definition on a slip of paper, then compare them.'
The game was carried on with great spirit for more than an hour. It was hard to say, which made most fun, Maurice, Charles, or Guy; the last no longer a spectator, but an active contributor to the sport. When the break-up came, Mary and Amabel were standing over the table together, collecting the scattered papers, and observing that it had been very good fun. 'Some so characteristic,' said Amy, 'such as Maurice's definition of happiness,—a row at Dublin.'
'Some were very deep, though,' said Mary; 'if it is not treason, I should like to make out whose that other was of happiness.'
'You mean this,' said Amy: '"Gleams from a brighter world, too soon eclipsed or forfeited." I thought it was Philip's, but it is Sir Guy's writing. How very sad! I should not like to think so. And he was so merry all the time! This is his, too, I see; this one about riches being the freight for which the traveller is responsible.'
'There is a great deal of character in them,' said Mary. 'I should not have wondered at any of us, penniless people, philosophizing in the fox and grapes style, but, for him, and at his age—'
'He has been brought up so as to make the theory of wisdom come early,' said Philip, who was nearer than she thought.
'Is that intended for disparagement?' she asked quickly.
I think very highly of him; he has a great deal of sense and right feeling,' was Philip's sedate answer; and he turned away to say some last words to Mr. Thorndale.
The Rosses were the last to depart, Mary in cloak and clogs, while Mr. Edmonstone lamented that it was in vain to offer the carriage; and Mary laughed, and thanked, and said the walk home with Papa was the greatest of treats in the frost and star-light.
'Don't I pity you, who always go out to dinner in a carriage!' were her last words to Laura.
'Well, Guy,' said Charlotte, 'how do you like it?'
'Very much, indeed. It was very pleasant.'
'You are getting into the fairy ring,' said Laura, smiling.
'Ay' he said, smiling too; 'but it does not turn to tinsel. Would it if I saw more of it?' and he looked at Mrs. Edmonstone.
'It would be no compliment to ourselves to say so,' she answered.
'I suppose tinsel or gold depends on the using,' said he, thoughtfully; 'there are some lumps of solid gold among those papers, I am sure, one, in particular, about a trifle. May I see that again? I mean—
'Little things On little wings Bear little souls to heaven.'
'Oh! that was only a quotation,' said Amy, turning over the definitions again with him, and laughing at some of the most amusing; while, in the mean time, Philip went to help Laura, who was putting some books away in the ante-room.
'Yes, Laura,' he said, 'he has thought, mind, and soul; he is no mere rattle.'
'No indeed. Who could help seeing his superiority over Maurice?'
'If only he does not pervert his gifts, and if it is not all talk. I don't like such excess of openness about his feelings; it is too like talking for talking's sake.'
'Mamma says it in the transparency of youthfulness. You know he has never been at school; so his thoughts come out in security of sympathy, without fear of being laughed at. But it is very late. Good night.'
The frost turned to rain the next morning, and the torrents streamed against the window, seeming to have a kind of attraction for Philip and Guy, who stood watching them.
Guy wondered if the floods would be out at Redclyffe and his cousins were interested by his description of the sudden, angry rush of the mountain streams, eddying fiercely along, bearing with them tree and rock, while the valleys became lakes, and the little mounds islets; and the trees looked strangely out of proportion when only their branches were visible. 'Oh! a great flood is famous fun,' said he.
'Surely,' said Philip, 'I have heard a legend of your being nearly drowned in some flood.
'Yes,' said Guy, 'I had a tolerable ducking.'
'Oh, tell us about it!' said Amy.
'Ay! I have a curiosity to hear a personal experience of drowning,' said Charles. 'Come, begin at the beginning.'
'I was standing watching the tremendous force of the stream, when I saw an unhappy old ram floating along, bleating so piteously, and making such absurd, helpless struggles, that I could not help pulling off my coat and jumping in after him. It was very foolish, for the stream was too strong—I was two years younger then. Moreover, the beast was very heavy, and not at all grateful for any kind intentions, and I found myself sailing off to the sea, with the prospect of a good many rocks before long; but just then an old tree stretched out its friendly arms through the water; it stopped the sheep, and I caught hold of the branches, and managed to scramble up, while my friend got entangled in them with his wool'—
'Omne quum Proteus pecus egit altos Visere montes,'
'Ovium et summa, genus haesit ulmo,'
'Ovium,' exclaimed Philip, with a face of horror. 'Don't you know that O in Ovis is short? Do anything but take liberties with Horace!'
'Get out of the tree first, Guy,' said Charles, 'for at present your history seems likely to end with a long ohone!'
'Well, Triton—not Proteus—came to the rescue at last,' said Guy, laughing; 'I could not stir, and the tree bent so frightfully with the current that I expected every minute we should all go together; so I had nothing for it but to halloo as loud as I could. No one heard but Triton, the old Newfoundland dog, who presently came swimming up, so eager to help, poor fellow, that I thought he would have throttled me, or hurt himself in the branches. I took off my handkerchief and threw it to him, telling him to take it to Arnaud, who I knew would understand it as a signal of distress.'
'Did he? How long had you to wait?'
'I don't know—it seemed long enough before a most welcome boat appeared, with some men in it, and Triton in an agony. They would never have found me but for him, for my voice was gone; indeed the next thing I remember was lying on the grass in the park, and Markham saying, 'Well, sir, if you do wish to throw away your life, let it be for something better worth saving than Farmer Holt's vicious old ram!'
'In the language of the great Mr. Toots,' said Charles 'I am afraid you got very wet.'
'Were you the worse for it?' said Amy.
'Not in the least. I was so glad to hear it was Holt's! for you must know that I had behaved very ill to Farmer Holt. I had been very angry at his beating our old hound, for, as he thought, worrying his sheep; not that Dart ever did, though.