The Heir of Redclyffe, by Charlotte M. Yonge

Chapter 25

Already in thy spirit thus divine,

Whatever weal or woe betide,

Be that high sense of duty still thy guide,

And all good powers will aid a soul like thine.

— SOUTHEY

‘Now for it!’ thought Guy, as he dismissed his cab, and was shown up-stairs in the hotel. ‘Give me the strength to withstand!’

The door was opened, and he beheld Mr. Edmonstone, Markham, and another — it surely was Sebastian Dixon! All sprung up to receive him; and Mr. Edmonstone, seizing him by both hands, exclaimed —

‘Here he is himself! Guy, my boy, my dear boy, you are the most generous fellow in the world! You have been used abominably. I wish my two hands had been cut off before I was persuaded to write that letter, but it is all right now. Forget and forgive — eh, Guy? You’ll come home with me, and we will write this very day for Deloraine.’

Guy was almost giddy with surprise. He held one of Mr. Edmonstone’s hands, and pressed it hard; his other hand he passed over his eyes, as if in a dream. ‘All right?’ he repeated.

‘All right!’ said Mr. Edmonstone. ‘I know where your money went, and I honour you for it, and there stands the man who told me the whole story. I said, from the first, it was a confounded slander. It was all owing to the little girl.’

Guy turned his face in amazement towards his uncle, who was only waiting to explain. ‘Never till this morning had I the least suspicion that I had been the means of bringing you under any imputation. How could you keep me in ignorance?’

‘You have told —’

‘Of the cheque,’ broke in Mr. Edmonstone, ‘and of all the rest, and of your providing for the little girl. How could you do it with that pittance of an allowance of yours? And Master Philip saying you never had any money! No wonder, indeed!’

‘If I had known you were pinching yourself,’ said Dixon, ‘my mind would have revolted —’

‘Let me understand it,’ said Guy, grasping the back of a chair. ‘Tell me, Markham. Is it really so? Am I cleared? Has Mr. Edmonstone a right to be satisfied?’

‘Yes, Sir Guy,’ was Markham’s direct answer. ‘Mr. Dixon has accounted for your disposal of the thirty pound cheque, and there is an end of the matter.’

Guy drew a long breath, and the convulsive grasp of his fingers relaxed.

‘I cannot thank you enough!’ said he to his uncle; then to Mr. Edmonstone, ‘how is Charles?’

‘Better — much better, you shall see him tomorrow — eh, Guy?’

‘But I cannot explain about the one thousand pounds.’

‘Never mind — you never had it, so you can’t have misspent it. That’s neither here nor there.’

‘And you forgive my language respecting you?’

‘Nonsense about that! If you never said anything worse than that Philip was a meddling coxcomb, you haven’t much to repent of; and I am sure I was ten old fools when I let him bore me into writing that letter.’

‘No, no; you did right under your belief; and circumstances were strong against me. And is it clear? Are we where we were before?’

‘We are — we are in everything, only we know better what you are worth, Guy. Shake hands once more. There’s an end of all misunderstanding and vexation, and we shall be all right at home again!’

The shake was a mighty one. Guy shaded his face for a moment or two, and then said —

‘It is too much. I don’t understand it. How did you know this matter wanted explanation?’ said he, turning to his uncle.

‘I learnt it from Mr. Markham, and you will do me the justice to believe, that I was greatly shocked to find that your generosity —’

‘The truth of the matter is this,’ said Markham. ‘You sent me to Miss Wellwood’s, at St. Mildred’s. The principal was not within, and while waiting for her to make the payment, I got into conversation with her sister, Miss Jane. She told me that the child, Mr. Dixon’s daughter, was always talking of your kindness, especially of a morning at St. Mildred’s, when you helped him in some difficulty. I thought this threw some light on the matter, found out Mr. Dixon this morning, and you see the result.’

‘I do, indeed,’ said Guy; ‘I wish I could attempt to thank you all.’

‘Thanks enough for me to see you look like yourself,’ said Markham. ‘Did you think I was going to sit still and leave you in the mess you had got yourself into, with your irregularity about keeping your accounts?’

‘And to you,’ said Guy, looking at his uncle, as if it was especially pleasant to be obliged to him. ‘You never can guess what I owe to you!’

‘Nay, I deserve no thanks at all,’ said Sebastian, ‘since I was the means of bringing the imputation on you; and I am sure it is enough for a wretch like me, not to have brought only misery wherever I turn — to have done something to repair the evil I have caused. Oh, could I but bring back your father to what he was when first I saw him as you are now!’

He was getting into one of those violent fits of self-reproach, at once genuine and theatrical, of which Guy had a sort of horror, and it was well Mr. Edmonstone broke in, like comedy into tragedy.

‘Come, what’s past can’t be helped, and I have no end of work to be done, so there’s speechifying enough for once. Mr. Dixon, you must not be going. Sit down and look over the newspaper, while we sign these papers. You must dine with us, and drink your nephew’s health, though it is not his real birthday.’

Guy was much pleased that Mr. Edmonstone should have given this invitation, as well as with the consideration Markham had shown for Dixon in his narration. Mr. Dixon, who had learnt to consider parents and guardians as foes and tyrants, stammered and looked confused and enraptured; but it appeared that he could not stay, for he had a professional engagement. He gave them an exhortation to come to the concert where he was employed, and grew so ardent in his description of it, that Guy could have wished to go; but his companions were in haste to say there was far too much to do. And the next moment Guy told himself, that Mr. Edmonstone’s good-natured face and joyous ‘eh, Guy?’ were more to him than any music he could hear nearer than Hollywell.

He went down-stairs with his uncle, who all the way raved about the music, satisfied to find ears that could comprehend, and was too full of it even to attend or respond to the parting thanks, for his last words were something about a magnificent counter-tenor.

Guy walked up slowly, trying to gather his thoughts: but when it came back to him that Amy was his again, his brain seemed to reel with ecstasy, and it would have taken far more time than he could spare to recall his sober senses, so he opened the door, to convince himself at least of Mr. Edmonstone’s presence, and was received with another shake of the hand.

‘So here you are again. I was afraid he was carrying you off to his concert after all! I believe you have half a mind for it. Do you like to stay in London for the next? Eh, Guy?’ and it was good to hear Mr. Edmonstone’s hearty laugh, as he patted his ward on the shoulder, saw his blushing, smiling shake of the head, and gave a knowing look, which let in a fresh light on Markham, and luckily was unseen by Guy.

‘Well,’ continued Mr. Edmonstone, ‘the man is more gentlemanlike than I expected. A good sort of fellow at the bottom, I dare say. He was pretty considerably shocked to find he had brought you into such a scrape.’

‘He is very generous,’ said Guy. ‘Oh, there is much of a noble character in him.’

‘Noble! humph!’ put in Markham. ‘He has gone down-hill fast enough, since I used to see him in your father’s time; but I am glad he had the decency not to be the undoing of you.’

‘His feeling is his great point,’ said Guy, ‘when you can once get at it. I wish —’ But breaking off short, ‘I can’t make it out. What did little Marianne tell you? Or was it Miss Wellwood?’

‘It was first the youngest sister,’ said Markham. ‘I sat there talking to her some little time; she said you had been very kind to the family, and the child was very grateful to you — was always talking of some morning when you and your dog came, and helped her mother. Her father had been out all night, and her mother was crying, she said, and declaring he would be sent to prison, till you came and helped them.’

‘Yes, that’s it,’ said Guy.

‘Well, I remembered what you had told me of the mystery of the draft, and guessed that this might be the clue to it. I begged to see the child, and in she came, the very image of your mother, and a sharp little thing that knew what she meant, but had not much idea of the shame, poor child, about her father. She told me the story of his coming home in the morning, and her mother being in great distress, and saying they were ruined, till you came and talked to her mother, and gave her something. I asked if it was money, and she said it was paper. I showed her a draft, and she knew it was like that. So then I made her tell me where to find her father, whom I used to know in old times, and had to write to, now and then. I hunted him up, and a creditable figure he was, to be sure; but I got the truth out of him at last, and when he heard you had got into disgrace on his account, he raved like a tragedy hero, and swore he would come and tell your guardian the whole story. I put him into a cab for fear he should repent, and he had just got to the end of it when you came in.’

‘It is of no use to thank you again, Markham!’

‘Why, I have been getting your family out of scrapes these forty years or thereabouts,’ said Markham; ”tis all I am good for; and if they had been no worse than this one it would be better for all of us. But time is getting on, and there is enough to do.’

To the accounts they went at once. There was a good deal to be settled; and though Guy had as yet no legal power, according to his grandfather’s will, he was of course consulted about everything. He was glad that, since he could not be alone to bring himself to the realization of his newly-recovered happiness, he should have this sobering and engrossing occupation. There he sat, coolly discussing leases and repairs, and only now and then allowing himself a sort of glimpse at the treasury of joy awaiting him whenever he had time to dwell on it. The Coombe Prior matters were set in a better train, the preliminary arrangements about the curacy were made, and Guy had hopes it would be his friend Mr. Wellwood’s title for Orders.

There was no time to write to Hollywell, or rather Mr. Edmonstone forgot to do so till it was too late, and then consoled himself by observing that it did not signify if his family were taken by surprise, since joy killed no one.

His family were by no means of opinion that it did not signify when the next morning’s post brought them no letter. Mrs Edmonstone and Charles had hoped much, and Amy did not know how much she hoped until the melancholy words, ‘no letter,’ passed from one to the other.

To make it worse, by some of those mismanagements of Mr. Edmonstone’s which used to run counter to his wife’s arrangements, a dinner-party had been fixed for this identical Wednesday, and the prospect was agreeable to no one, especially when the four o’clock train did not bring Mr. Edmonstone, who, therefore, was not to be expected till seven, when all the world would be arrived.

Laura helped Amy to dress, put the flowers in her hair, kissed her, and told her it was a trying day; and Amy sighed wearily, thanked her, and went down with arms twined in hers, whispering, ‘If I could help being so foolish as to let myself have a little hope!’

Laura thought the case so hopeless, that she was sorry Amy could not cease from the foolishness, and did not answer. Amy sat down at the foot of the sofa, whither Charles was now carried down every day, and without venturing to look at him, worked at her netting. A carriage — her colour came and went, but it was only some of the guests; another — the Brownlows. Amy was speaking to Miss Brownlow when she heard more greetings; she looked up, caught by the arm of the sofa, and looked again. Her father was pouring out apologies and welcomes, and her mother was shaking hands with Guy.

Was it a dream? She shut her eyes, then looked again. He was close to her by this time, she felt his fingers close on her white glove for one moment, but she only heard his voice in the earnest ‘How are you, Charlie?’ Her father came to her, gave her first his usual kiss of greeting, then, not letting her go, looked at her for a moment, and, as if he could not help it, kissed her on both cheeks, and said, ‘How d’ye do, my little Amy?’ in a voice that meant unutterable things. All the room was swimming round; there was nothing for it but to run away, and she ran, but from the ante-room she heard the call outside, ‘Sir Guy’s bag to his room,’ and she could not rush out among the servants. At that moment, however, she spied Mary Ross and her father; she darted up to them, said something incoherent about Mary’s bonnet, and took her up to her own room.

‘Amy, my dear, you look wild. What has come to you?’

‘Papa is come home, and —’ the rest failed, and Amy was as red as the camellia in her hair.

‘And?’ repeated Mary, ‘and the mystery is explained?’

‘Oh! I don’t know; they are only just come, and I was so silly, I ran away — I did not know what to do.’

They are come, are they?’ thought Mary. ‘My little Amy, I see it all.’

She made the taking off her bonnet and the settling her lace as elaborate an operation as she could, and Amy flitted about as if she did not by any means know what she was doing. A springy, running step was heard on the stairs and in the passage, and Mary, though she could not see her little friend’s face, perceived her neck turn red for a moment, after which Amy took her arm, pressed it affectionately, and they went down.

Mrs. Edmonstone was very glad to see Amabel looking tolerably natural. ‘Mamma’ was of course burning to hear all, but she was so confident that the essentials were safe, that her present care was to see how her two young lovers would be able to comport themselves, and to be on her guard against attending to them more than to her guests.

Amy, after passing by Charles, and getting a squeeze from his ever-sympathizing hand, put herself away behind Mary, while Laura talked to every one, hoping to show that there was some self-possession in the family. Guy reappeared, but, after one glance to see if Amy was present, he did not look at her again, but went and leant over the lower end of Charles’s sofa, just as he used to do; and Charles lay gazing at him, and entirely forgetting what he had been trying to say just before to Mrs. Brownlow, professing to have come from London that morning, and making the absent mistakes likely to be attributed to the lovers themselves.

Mr. Edmonstone came, and dinner followed. As Mrs. Edmonstone paired off her company, she considered what to do with her new arrival.

‘If you had come two hours ago,’ said she, within herself, ‘I would have let you be at home. Now you must be a great man, and be content with me. It will be better for Amy.’

Accordingly Guy was between her and Mrs. Gresham. She did not try to speak to him, and was amused by his fitful attempts at making conversation with Mrs. Gresham, when it struck him that he ought to be taking notice of her. Amy (very fortunately, in her own opinion) was out of sight of him, on the same side of the table, next to Mr. Ross, who, like his daughter, guessed enough about the state of things to let her alone.

Charles was enjoying all manner of delightful conjectures with Charlotte, till the ladies returned to the drawing-room, and then he said as much as he dared to Mary Ross, far more than she had gained from Laura, who, as they came out of the dining-room, had said —

‘Don’t ask me any questions, for I know nothing at all about it.’

Amy was talked to by Mrs. Gresham about club-books, and new flowers, to which she was by this time able to attend very well, satisfied that his happiness had returned, and content to wait till the good time for knowing how. She could even be composed when the gentlemen came in, Guy talking to Mr. Ross about Coombe Prior, and then going to Charles; but presently she saw no more, for a request for music was made, and she was obliged to go and play a duet with Laura. She did not dislike this, but there followed a persecution for some singing. Laura would have spared her, but could not; and while she was turning over the book to try to find something that was not impossible to begin, and Laura whispering encouragingly, ‘This — try this — your part is almost nothing; or can’t you do this?’ another hand turned over the leaves, as if perfectly at home in them, and, without speaking, as if it was natural for him to spare Amy, found a song which they had often sung together, where she might join as much or as little as she chose, under cover of his voice. She had not a thought or sensation beyond the joy of hearing it again, and she stood, motionless, as if in a trance. When it was over, he said to Laura, ‘I beg your pardon for making such bad work. I am so much out of practice.’

Mrs. Brownlow was seen advancing on them; Amy retreated, leaving Guy and Laura to fulfil all that was required of them, which they did with a very good grace, and Laura’s old familiar feeling began to revive, so much that she whispered while he was finding the place, ‘Don’t you dislike all this excessively?’

‘It does as well as anything else, thank you,’ was the answer. ‘I can do it better than talking.’

At last they were released, and the world was going away. Mary could not help whispering to Mrs. Edmonstone, ‘How glad you must be to get rid of us!’ and, as Mrs. Edmonstone answered with a smile, she ventured further to say — ‘How beautifully Amy has behaved!’

Little Amy, as soon as she had heard the last carriage roll off, wished every one good night, shook hands with Guy, holding up the lighted candle between him and her face as a veil, and ran away to her own room. The others remained in a sort of embarrassed silence, Mr. Edmonstone rubbing his hands; Laura lighted the candles, Charlotte asked after Bustle, and was answered that he was at Oxford, and Charles, laying hold of the side of the sofa, pulled himself by it into a sitting posture.

‘Shall I help you?’ said Guy.

‘Thank you, but I am not ready yet; besides, I am an actual log now, and am carried as such, so it is of no use to wait for me. Mamma shall have the first turn, and I won’t even leave my door open.’

‘Yes, yes, yes; go and have it out with mamma, next best to Amy herself, as she is run away — eh, Guy?’ said Mr. Edmonstone.

Guy and Mrs. Edmonstone had not hitherto trusted themselves to speak to each other, but they looked and smiled; then, wishing the rest good night, they disappeared. Then there was a simultaneous outbreak of ‘Well?’

‘All right!’ said Mr. Edmonstone. ‘Every word was untrue. He is the noblest fellow in the world, as I knew all the time, and I was an old fool for listening to a pack of stories against him.’

‘Hurrah!’ cried Charles, drumming on the back of his sofa. ‘Let us hear how the truth came out, and what it was.’

‘It was that Dixon. There has he been helping that man for ever, sending his child to school, giving him sums upon sums, paying his gaming debts with that cheque!’

‘Oh, oh!’ cried Charles.

‘Yes that was it! The child told Markham of it, and Markham brought the father to tell me. It puts me in a rage to think of the monstrous stories Philip has made me believe!’

‘I was sure of it!’ cried Charles. ‘I knew it would come out that he had only been so much better than other people that nobody could believe it. Cleared! cleared! Why, Charlotte, Mr. Ready-to-halt will be for footing it cleverly enough!’ as she was wildly curvetting round him.

‘I was always sure,’ said Mr. Edmonstone. ‘I knew it was not in him to go wrong. It was only Philip, who would persuade me black was white.’

‘I never believed one word of it,’ said Charles; ‘still less after I saw Philip’s animosity.’

‘“Les absens ont toujours tort,”’ interrupted Laura; then, afraid of saying too much, she added — ‘Come, Charlotte, it is very late.’

‘And I shall be the first to tell Amy!’ cried Charlotte. ‘Good night, papa! — good night, Charlie!’

She rushed up-stairs, afraid of being forestalled. Laura lingered, putting some books away in the ante-room, trying to overcome the weary pain at her heart. She did not know how to be confident. Her father’s judgment was worthless in her eyes, and Philip had predicted that Amy would be sacrificed after all. To see them happy made her sigh at the distance of her own hopes, and worse than all was self-reproach for unkindness in not rejoicing with the rest, in spite of her real affection for Guy himself. When she thought of him, she could not believe him guilty; when she thought of Philip’s belief, she could not suppose him innocent, and she pitied her sister for enjoying a delusive happiness. With effort, however, she went to her room, and, finding her a little overpowered by Charlotte’s tumultuous joy, saw that peace and solitude were best for her till she could have more certain intelligence, and, after very tender good-nights, carried off Charlotte.

It would be hard to describe Mrs. Edmonstone’s emotion, as she preceded Guy to the dressing-room, and sat down, looking up to him as he stood in his old place by the fire. She thought he did not look well, though it might be only that the sun-burnt colour had given place to his natural fairness; his eyes, though bright as ever, did not dance and sparkle; a graver expression sat on his brow; and although he still looked very young, a change there certainly was, which made him man instead of boy — a look of having suffered, and conquered suffering. She felt even more motherly affection for him now than when he last stood there in the full tide of his first outburst of his love for her daughter, and her heart was almost too full for speech; but he seemed to be waiting for her, and at last she said — ‘I am very glad to have you here again.’

He smiled a little, then said, ‘May I tell you all about it?’

‘Sit down here. I want very much to hear it. I am sure you have gone through a good deal.’

I have, indeed,’ said he, simply and gravely; and there was a silence, while she was certain that, whatever he might have endured, he did not feel it to have been in vain.

‘But it is at an end,’ said she. ‘I have scarcely seen Mr. Edmonstone, but he tells me he is perfectly satisfied.’

‘He is so kind as to be satisfied, though you know I still cannot explain about the large sum I asked him for.’

‘We will trust you,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone, smiling, ‘but I am very anxious to hear how you came to an understanding.’

Guy went over the story in detail, and very much affected she was to hear how entirely unfounded had been the suspicion, and how thankful he was for Mr. Edmonstone’s forgiveness.

‘You had rather to forgive us!’ said she.

‘You forget how ill I behaved,’ said Guy, colouring. ‘If you knew the madness of those first moments of provocation, you would think that the penance of a lifetime, instead of only one winter, would scarce have been sufficient.’

‘You would not say, as Charles does, that the suspicion justified your anger?’

‘No, indeed!’ He paused, and spoke again. ‘Thank Heaven, it did not last long; but the insight it gave me into the unsubdued evil about me was a fearful thing.’

‘But you conquered it. They were the unguarded exclamations of the first shock. Your whole conduct since, especially the interview with Philip, has shown that your anger has not been abiding, and that you have learnt to subdue it.’

‘It could not abide, for there was no just cause of offence. Of course such a dreadful outburst warned me to be on my guard; and you know the very sight of Philip is a warning that there is danger in that way! I mean,’ said Guy, becoming conscious that he had been very severe, ‘I mean that I know of old that I am apt to be worried by his manner, and that ought to make me doubly cautious.’

Mrs. Edmonstone was struck by the soberer manner in which he spoke of his faults. He was as ready to take full blame, but without the vehemence which he used to expend in raving at himself instead of at the offender. It seemed as if he had brought himself to the tone he used to desire so earnestly.

‘I am very glad to be able to explain all to Philip,’ he said.

‘I will write as soon as possible. Oh, Mrs. Edmonstone! if you knew what it is to be brought back to such unhoped-for happiness, to sit here once more, with you,’— his voice trembled, and the tears were in her eyes — ‘to have seen her, to have all overlooked, and return to all I hoped last year. I want to look at you all, to believe that it is true,’ he finished, smiling.

‘You both behaved very well this evening,’ said she, laughing, because she could do so better than anything else at that moment.

‘You both!’ murmured Guy to himself.

‘Ah! little Amy has been very good this winter.’

He answered her with a beautiful expression of his eyes, was silent a little while, and suddenly exclaimed, in a candid, expostulating tone, ‘But now, seriously, don’t you think it a very bad thing for her?’

‘My dear Guy,’ said she, scarcely repressing a disposition to laugh, ‘I told you last summer what I thought of it, and you must settle the rest with Amy tomorrow. I hear the drawing-room bell, which is a sign I must send you to bed. Good night!’

‘Good night!’ repeated Guy, as he held her hand. ‘It is so long since I have had any one to wish me good night! Good night, mamma!’

She pressed his hand, then as he ran down to lend a helping hand in carrying Charles, she, the tears in her eyes, crossed the passage to see how it was with her little Amy, and to set her at rest for the night. Amy’s candle was out, and she was in bed, lying full in the light of the Easter moon, which poured in glorious whiteness through her window. She started up as the door opened. ‘Oh, mamma! how kind of you to come!’

‘I can only stay a moment, my dear; your papa is coming up; but I must just tell you that I have been having such a nice talk with dear Guy. He has behaved beautifully, and papa is quite satisfied. Now, darling, I hope you will not lie awake all night, or you won’t be fit to talk to him tomorrow.’

Amy sat up in bed, and put her arms round her mother’s neck. ‘Then he is happy again,’ she whispered. ‘I should like to hear all.’

‘He shall tell you himself tomorrow, my dear. Now, good night! you have been a very good child. Now, go to sleep, my dear one.’

Amy lay down obediently. ‘Thank you for coming to tell me, dear mamma,’ she said. ‘I am very glad; good night.’

She shut her eyes, and there was something in the sweet, obedient, placid look of her face, as the white moonlight shone upon it, that made her mother pause and gaze again with the feeling, only tenderer, left by a beautiful poem. Amy looked up to see why she delayed; she gave her another kiss, and left her in the moonlight.

Little Amy’s instinct was to believe the best and do as she was bidden, and there was a quietness and confidence in the tone of her mind which gave a sort of serenity of its own even to suspense. A thankful, happy sensation that all was well, mamma said so, and Guy was there, had taken possession of her, and she did not agitate herself to know how or why, for mamma, had told her to put herself to sleep; so she thought of all the most thanksgiving verses of her store of poetry, and before the moon had passed away from her window, Amabel Edmonstone was wrapped in a sleep dreamless and tranquil as an infant’s.

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