The Heir of Redclyffe, by Charlotte M. Yonge

Chapter 18

This just decree alone I know,

Man must be disciplined by woe,

To me, whate’er of good or ill

The future brings, since come it will,

I’ll bow my spirit, and be still.

— AESCHYLUS, (Anstice’s Translation.)

Guy, in the meantime, was enduring the storm in loneliness, for he was unwilling to explain the cause of his trouble to his companions. The only occasion of the suspicions, which he could think of, was his request for the sum of money; and this he could not mention to Mr. Wellwood, nor was he inclined to make confidants of his other companions, though pleasant, right-minded youths.

He had only announced that he had had a letter which had grieved him considerably, but of which he could not mention the contents; and as Harry Graham, who knew something of the Broadstone neighbourhood, had picked up a report that Sir Guy Morville was to marry Lady Eveleen de Courcy, there was an idea among the party that there was some trouble in the way of his attachment. He had once before been made, by some joke, to colour and look conscious; and now this protected him from inconvenient questions, and accounted for his depression. He was like what he had been on first coming to Hollywell — grave and silent, falling into reveries when others were talking, and much given to long, lonely wanderings. Accustomed as he had been in boyhood to a solitary life in beautiful scenery, there was something in a fine landscape that was to him like a friend and companion; and he sometimes felt that it would have been worse if he had been in a dull, uniform country, instead of among mountain peaks and broad wooded valleys. Working hard, too, helped him not a little, and conic sections served him almost as well as they served Laura.

A more real help was the neighbourhood of Stylehurst. On the first Sunday after receiving Mr. Edmonstone’s letter, he went to church there, instead of with the others, to St. Mildred’s. They thought it was for the sake of the solitary walk; but he had other reasons for the preference. In the first place it was a Communion Sunday, and in the next, he could feel more kindly towards Philip there, and he knew he needed all that could strengthen such a disposition.

Many a question did he ask himself, to certify whether he wilfully entertained malice or hatred, or any uncharitableness. It was a long, difficult examination; but at its close, he felt convinced that, if such passions knocked at the door of his heart, it was not at his own summons, and that he drove them away without listening to them. And surely he might approach to gain the best aid in that battle, especially as he was certain of his strong and deep repentance for his fit of passion, and longing earnestly for the pledge of forgiveness.

The pardon and peace he sought came to him, and in such sort that the comfort of that day, when fresh from the first shock, and waiting in suspense for some new blow, was such as never to be forgotten. They linked themselves with the grave shade of the clustered gray columns, and the angel heads on roof of that old church; with the long grass and tall yellow mullens among its churchyard graves, and with the tints of the elm-trees that closed it in, their leaves in masses either of green or yellow, and opening here and there to show the purple hills beyond.

He wandered in the churchyard between the services. All enmity to Philip was absent now; and he felt as if it would hardly return when he stood by the graves of the Archdeacon and of the two Frances Morvilles, and thought what that spot was to his cousin. There were a few flowers planted round Mrs. Morville’s grave, but they showed that they had long been neglected, and no such signs of care marked her daughter Fanny’s. And when Guy further thought of Mrs. Henley, and recollected how Philip had sacrificed all his cherished prospects and hopes of distinction, and embraced an irksome profession, for the sake of these two sisters, he did not find it difficult to excuse the sternness, severity, and distrust which were an evidence how acutely a warm heart had suffered.

Though he suffered cruelly from being cut off from Amy, yet his reverence for her helped him to submit. He had always felt as if she was too far above him; and though he had, beyond his hopes, been allowed to aspire to the thought of her, it was on trial, and his failure, his return to his old evil passions, had sunk him beneath her. He shuddered to think of her being united to anything so unlike herself, and which might cause her so much misery; it was wretchedness to think that even now she might be suffering for him; and yet not for worlds would he have lost the belief that she was so feeling, or the remembrance of the looks which had shone on him so sweetly and timidly as she sat at her mother’s feet; though that remembrance was only another form of misery. But Amy would be tranquil, pure and good, whatever became of him, and he should always be able to think of her, looking like one of those peaceful spirits, with bending head, folded hands, and a star on its brow, in the “Paradiso” of Flaxman. Her serenity would be untouched; and though she might be lost to him, he could still be content while he could look up at it through his turbid life. Better she were lost to him than that her peace should be injured.

He still, of course, earnestly longed to prove his innocence, though his hopes lessened, for as long as the evidence was withheld, he had no chance. After writing as strongly as he could, he could do no more, except watch for something that might unravel the mystery; and Charles’s warm sympathy and readiness to assist him were a great comfort.

He had not seen his uncle again; perhaps Sebastian was ashamed to meet him after their last encounter, and was still absent on his engagement; but the wife and child were still at St. Mildred’s, and one afternoon, when Guy had rather unwillingly gone thither with Mr. Wellwood, he saw Mrs. Dixon sitting on one of the benches which were placed on the paths cut out on the side of the hill, looking very smart and smiling, among several persons of her own class.

To be ashamed to recognise her was a weakness beneath him; he spoke to her, and was leaving her, pluming herself on his notice, when he saw little Marianne’s blue eyes fixed wistfully upon him, and held out his hand to her. She ran up to him joyfully, and he led her a few steps from her mother’s party. ‘Well, little one, how are you? I have your piece of spar quite safe. Have you said how d’ye do to Bustle?’

‘Bustle! Bustle!’ called the soft voice but it needed a whistle from his master to bring him to be caressed by the little girl.

‘Have you been taking any more pleasant walks?’

‘Oh yes. We have been all round these pretty paths. And I should like to go to the top of this great high hill, and see all round; but mamma says she has got a bone in her leg, and cannot go.’

‘Do you think mamma would give you leave to go up with me? Should you like it?’

She coloured all over; too happy even to thank him.

‘Then,’ said Guy to his tutor, ‘I will meet you here when you have done your business in the town, in an hour or so. Poor little thing, she has not many pleasures.’

Mrs. Dixon made no difficulty, and was so profuse in thanks that Guy got out of her way as fast as he could, and was soon on the soft thymy grass of the hill-side, the little girl frisking about him in great delight, playing with Bustle, and chattering merrily.

Little Marianne was a delicate child, and her frolic did not last long. As the ascent became steeper, her breath grew shorter, and she toiled on in a resolute uncomplaining manner after his long, vigorous steps, till he looked round, and seeing her panting far behind, turned to help her, lead her, and carry her, till the top was achieved, and the little girl stood on the topmost stone, gazing round at the broad sunny landscape, with the soft green meadows, the harvest fields, the woods in their gorgeous autumn raiment, and the moorland on the other side, with its other peaks and cairns, brown with withered bracken, and shadowed in moving patches by the floating clouds. The exhilarating wind brought a colour into her pale cheeks, and her flossy curls were blowing over her face.

He watched her in silence, pleased and curious to observe how beautiful a scene struck the childish eye of the little Londoner. The first thing she said, after three or four minutes’ contemplation — a long time for such a child — was, ‘Oh! I never saw anything so pretty!’ then presently after, ‘Oh! I wish little brother Felix was here!’

‘This is a pleasant place to think about your little brother,’ said Guy, kindly; and she looked up in his face, and exclaimed, ‘Oh! do you know about Felix?’

‘You shall tell me’ said Guy. ‘Here, sit on my knee, and rest after your scramble.’

‘Mamma never lets me talk of Felix, because it makes her cry,’ said Marianne; but I wish it sometimes.’

Her little heart was soon open. It appeared that Felix was the last who had died, the nearest in age to Marianne, and her favourite playfellow. She told of some of their sports in their London home, speaking of them with eagerness and fondness that showed what joys they had been, though to Guy they seemed but the very proof of dreariness and dinginess. She talked of walks to school, when Felix would tell what he would do when he was a man, and how he took care of her at the crossings, and how rude boys used to drive them, and how they would look in at the shop windows and settle what they would buy if they were rich. Then she talked of his being ill — ill so very long; how he sat in his little chair, and could not play, and then always lay in bed, and she liked to sit by him, there; but at last he died, and they carried him away in a great black coffin, and he would never come back again. But it was so dull now, there was no one to play with her.

Though the little girl did not cry, she looked very mournful, and Guy tried to comfort her, but she did not understand him. ‘Going to heaven’ only conveyed to her a notion of death and separation, and this phrase, together with a vague idea who had made her, and that she ought to be good, seemed to be the extent of the poor child’s religious knowledge. She hardly ever had been at church and though she had read one or two Bible stories, it seemed to have been from their having been used as lessons at school. She had a dim notion that good people read the Bible, and there was one on the little table at home, with the shell-turkey-cock standing upon it, and mamma read it when Felix died; but it was a big book, and the shell-turkey-cock always stood upon it; in short, it seemed only connected with mamma’s tears, and the loss of her brother.

Guy was very much shocked, and so deep in thought that he could hardly talk to the child in their progress down the hill; but she was just so tired as to be inclined to silence, and quite happy clinging to his hand, till he delivered her over to her mother at the foot of the hill, and went to join his tutor, at the place appointed.

‘Wellwood,’ said he, breaking silence, when they had walked about half way back to the farm, ‘do you think your cousin would do me a great kindness? You saw that child? Well, if the parents consent, it would be the greatest charity on earth if Miss Wellwood would receive her into her school.’

‘On what terms? What sort of an education is she to have?’

‘The chief thing she wants is to be taught Christianity, poor child; the rest Miss Wellwood may settle. She is my first cousin. I don’t know whether you are acquainted with our family history?’ and he went on to explain as much as was needful. It ended in a resolution that if Miss Wellwood would undertake the charge, the proposal should be made to Mrs. Dixon.

It was a way of assisting his relations likely to do real good, and on the other hand, he would be able, under colour of the payment for the child, to further Miss Wellwood’s schemes, and give her the interest of the thousand pounds, until his five and twentieth year might put his property in his own power.

Miss Wellwood readily consented, much pleased with the simplicity and absence of false shame he showed in the whole transaction, and very anxious for the good of a child in a class so difficult to reach. He next went to Mrs. Dixon, expecting more difficulty with her, but he found none. She thought it better Marianne should live at St. Mildred’s than die in London, and was ready to catch at the prospect of her being fitted for a governess. Indeed, she was so strongly persuaded that the rich cousin might make Marianne’s fortune, that she would have been very unwilling to interfere with the fancy he had taken for her.

Little Marianne was divided between fear of leaving mamma and liking for St. Mildred’s, but her first interview with Miss Wellwood, and Miss Jane’s showing her a little white bed, quite turned the scale in their favour. Before the time came for Guy’s return to Oxford, he had seen her settled, heard her own account of her happy life, and had listened to Miss Jane Wellwood’s delight in her sweet temper and good disposition.

Those thousand pounds; Guy considered again and again whether he could explain their destination, and whether this would clear him. It seemed to him only a minor charge, and besides his repugnance to mention such a design, he saw too many obstacles in his way. Captain Morville and his sister were the very persons from whom Miss Wellwood’s project was to be kept secret. Besides, what would be gained? It was evident that Guy’s own assertions were doubted, and he could bring no confirmation of them; he had never spoken of his intention to his tutor, and Mr. Wellwood could, therefore, say nothing in his favour. If Mr. Edmonstone alone had been concerned, or if this had been the only accusation, Guy might have tried to explain it; but with Philip he knew it would be useless, and therefore would not enter on the subject. He could only wait patiently.

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