The Heir of Redclyffe, by Charlotte M. Yonge

Chapter 16

Yet burns the sun on high beyond the cloud;

Each in his southern cave,

The warm winds linger, but to be allowed

One breathing o’er the wave,

One flight across the unquiet sky;

Swift as a vane may turn on high,

The smile of heaven comes on.

So waits the Lord behind the veil,

His light on frenzied cheek, or pale,

To shed when the dark hour is gone.

— LYRA INNOCENTIUM

On the afternoon on which Guy expected an answer from Mr. Edmonstone, he walked with his fellow pupil, Harry Graham, to see if there were any letters from him at Dr. Henley’s.

The servant said Mrs. Henley was at home, and asked them to come in and take their letters. These were lying on a marble table, in the hall; and while the man looked in the drawing-room for his mistress, and sent one of the maids up-stairs in quest of her, Guy hastily took up one, bearing his address, in the well-known hand of Mr. Edmonstone.

Young Graham, who had taken up a newspaper, was startled by Guy’s loud, sudden exclamation — ’

‘Ha! What on earth does this mean?’

And looking up, saw his face of a burning, glowing red, the features almost convulsed, the large veins in the forehead and temples swollen with the blood that rushed through them, and if ever his eyes flashed with the dark lightning of Sir Hugh’s, it was then.

‘Morville! What’s the matter?’

‘Intolerable! — insulting! Me? What does he mean?’ continued Guy, his passion kindling more and more. ‘Proofs? I should like to see them! The man is crazy! I to confess! Ha!’ as he came towards the end, ‘I see it — I see it. It is Philip, is it, that I have to thank. Meddling coxcomb! I’ll make him repent it,’ added he, with a grim fierceness of determination. Slandering me to them! And that,’— looking at the words with regard to Amy — ‘that passes all. He shall see what it is to insult me!’

‘What is it? Your guardian out of humour?’ asked his companion.

‘My guardian is a mere weak fool. I don’t blame him — he can’t help it; but to see him made a tool of! He twists him round his finger, abuses his weakness to insult — to accuse. But he shall give me an account!’

Guy’s voice had grown lower and more husky; but though the sound sunk, the force of passion rather increased than diminished; it was like the low distant sweep of the tempest as it whirls away, preparing to return with yet more tremendous might. His colour, too, had faded to paleness, but the veins were still swollen, purple, and throbbing, and there was a stillness about him that made his wrath more than fierce, intense, almost appalling.

Harry Graham was dumb with astonishment; but while Guy spoke, Mrs. Henley had come down, and was standing before them, beginning a greeting. The blood rushed back into Guy’s cheeks, and, controlling his voice with powerful effort, he said —

‘I have had an insulting — an unpleasant letter,’ he added, catching himself up. ‘You must excuse me;’ and he was gone.

‘What has happened?’ exclaimed Mrs. Henley, though, from her brother’s letter, as well as from her observations during a long and purposely slow progress, along a railed gallery overhanging the hall, and down a winding staircase, she knew pretty well the whole history of his anger.

‘I don’t know,’ said young Graham. ‘Some absurd, person interfering between him and his guardian. I should be sorry to be him to fall in his way just now. It must be something properly bad. I never saw a man in such a rage. I think I had better go after him, and see what he has done with himself.’

‘You don’t think,’ said Mrs. Henley, detaining him, ‘that his guardian could have been finding fault with him with reason?’

‘Who? Morville? His guardian must have a sharp eye for picking holes, if he can find any in Morville. Not a steadier fellow going — only too much so.’

‘Ah!’ thought Mrs. Henley, ‘these young men always hang together;’ and she let him escape without further question. But, when he emerged from the house, Guy was already out of sight, and he could not succeed in finding him.

Guy had burst out of the house, feeling as if nothing could relieve him but free air and rapid motion; and on he hurried, fast, faster, conscious alone of the wild, furious tumult of rage and indignation against the maligner of his innocence, who was knowingly ruining him with all that was dearest to him, insulting him by reproaches on his breaking a most sacred, unblemished word, and, what Guy felt scarcely less keenly, forcing kind-hearted Mr. Edmonstone into a persecution so foreign to his nature. The agony of suffering such an accusation, and from such a quarter — the violent storm of indignation and pride — wild, undefined ideas of a heavy reckoning — above all, the dreary thought of Amy denied to him for ever — all these swept over him, and swayed him by turns, with the dreadful intensity belonging to a nature formed for violent passions, which had broken down, in the sudden shock, all the barriers imposed on them by a long course of self-restraint.

On he rushed, reckless whither he went, or what he did, driven forward by the wild impulse of passion, far over moor and hill, up and down, till at last, exhausted at once by the tumult within, and by the violent bodily exertion, a stillness — a suspension of thought and sensation — ensued; and when this passed, he found himself seated on a rock which crowned the summit of one of the hills, his handkerchief loosened, his waistcoat open, his hat thrown off, his temples burning and throbbing with a feeling of distraction, and the agitated beatings of his heart almost stifling his panting breath.

‘Yes,’ he muttered to himself, ‘a heavy account shall he pay me for this crowning stroke of a long course of slander and ill-will! Have I not seen it? Has not he hated me from the first, misconstrued every word and deed, though I have tried, striven earnestly, to be his friend — borne, as not another soul would have done, with his impertinent interference and intolerable patronizing airs! But he has seen the last of it! anything but this might be forgiven; but sowing dissension between me and the Edmonstones — maligning me there. Never! Knowing, too, as he seems to do, how I stand, it is the very ecstasy of malice! Ay! this very night it shall be exposed, and he shall be taught to beware — made to know with whom he has to deal.’

Guy uttered this last with teeth clenched, in an excess of deep, vengeful ire. Never had Morville of the whole line felt more deadly fierceness than held sway over him, as he contemplated his revenge, looked forward with a dire complacency to the punishment he would wreak, not for this offence alone, but for a long course of enmity. He sat, absorbed in the plan of vengeance, perfectly still, for his physical exhaustion was complete; but as the pulsations of his heart grew less wild, his purpose became sterner and more fixed. He devised its execution, planned his sudden journey, saw himself bursting on Philip early next morning, summoning him to answer for his falsehoods. The impulse to action seemed to restore his power over his senses. He looked round, to see where he was, raising his head from his hands.

The sun was setting opposite to him, in a flood of gold — a ruddy ball, surrounded with its pomp of clouds, on the dazzling sweep of horizon. That sight recalled him not only to himself, but to his true and better self; the good angel so close to him for the twenty years of his life, had been driven aloof but for a moment, and now, either that, or a still higher and holier power, made the setting sun bring to his mind, almost to his ear, the words —

Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,

Neither give place to the devil.

Guy had what some would call a vivid imagination, others a lively faith. He shuddered, then, his elbows on his knees, and his hands clasped over his brow, he sat, bending forward, with his eyes closed, wrought up in a fearful struggle; while it was to him as if he saw the hereditary demon of the Morvilles watching by his side, to take full possession of him as a rightful prey, unless the battle was fought and won before that red orb had passed out of sight. Yes, the besetting fiend of his family — the spirit of defiance and resentment — that was driving him, even now, while realizing its presence, to disregard all thoughts save of the revenge for which he could barter everything — every hope once precious to him.

It was horror at such wickedness that first checked him, and brought him back to the combat. His was not a temper that was satisfied with half measures. He locked his hands more rigidly together, vowing to compel himself, ere he left the spot, to forgive his enemy — forgive him candidly — forgive him, so as never again to have to say, ‘I forgive him!’ He did not try to think, for reflection only lashed up his sense of the wrong: but, as if there was power in the words alone, he forced his lips to repeat —

‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.’

Coldly and hardly were they spoken at first; again he pronounced them, again, again — each time the tone was softer, each time they came more from the heart. At last the remembrance of greater wrongs, and worse revilings came upon him, his eyes filled with tears, the most subduing and healing of all thoughts — that of the great Example — became present to him; the foe was driven back.

Still he kept his hands over his face. The tempter was not yet defeated without hope. It was not enough to give up his first intention (no great sacrifice, as he perceived, now that he had time to think how Philip would be certain to treat a challenge), it was not enough to wish no ill to his cousin, to intend no evil measure, he must pardon from the bottom of his heart, regard him candidly, and not magnify his injuries.

He sat long, in deep thought, his head bent down, and his countenance stern with inward conflict. It was the hardest part of the whole battle, for the Morville disposition was as vindictive as passionate; but, at last, he recovered clearness of vision. His request might well appear unreasonable, and possibly excite suspicion, and, for the rest, it was doing a man of honour, like Philip, flagrant injustice to suspect him of originating slanders. He was, of course, under a mistake, had acted, not perhaps kindly, but as he thought, rightly and judiciously, in making his suspicions known. If he had caused his uncle to write provokingly, every one knew that was his way, he might very properly wish, under his belief, to save Amabel; and though the manner might have been otherwise, the proceeding itself admitted complete justification. Indeed, when Guy recollected the frenzy of his rage, and his own murderous impulse, he was shocked to think that he had ever sought the love of that pure and gentle creature, as if it had been a cruel and profane linking of innocence to evil. He was appalled at the power of his fury, he had not known he was capable of it, for his boyish passion, even when unrestrained, had never equalled this, in all the strength of early manhood.

He looked up, and saw that the last remnant of the sun’s disk was just disappearing beneath the horizon. The victory was won!

But Guy’s feeling was not the rejoicing of the conquest, it was more the relief which is felt by a little child, weary of its fit of naughtiness, when its tearful face is raised, mournful yet happy, in having won true repentance, and it says, ‘I am sorry now.’

He rose, looked at his watch, wondered to find it so late; gazed round, and considered his bearings, perceiving, with a sense of shame, how far he had wandered; then retraced his steps slowly and wearily, and did not reach South Moor till long after dark.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 14:50