The Heir of Redclyffe, by Charlotte M. Yonge

Chapter 42

She was not changed when sorrow came,

That awed the sternest men;

It rather seemed she kept her flame

To comfort us till then.

But sorrow passed, and others smiled

With happiness once more;

And she drew back the spirit mild

She still had been before.

— S. R.

Philip’s marriage could not take place at once. No one said, but every one felt, that it must not be talked of till the end of Amabel’s first year of widowhood; and in the meantime Philip remained at Hollywell, gaining strength every day, making more progress in one week than he had done in six at St. Mildred’s, finding that, as his strength returned, his mind and memory regained their tone, and he was as capable as ever of applying to business, and, above all, much settled and comforted by some long conversations with Mr. Ross.

Still he could not endure the thought of being at Redclyffe. The business connected with it was always performed with pain and dislike, and he shrank with suffering at every casual mention of his going thither. Mrs. Edmonstone began to wonder whether he could mean to linger at Hollywell all the summer, and Amabel had some fears that it would end in his neglecting Redclyffe, till a letter arrived from Lord Thorndale, saying that his brother, the member for Moorworth, had long been thinking of giving up his seat, and latterly had only waited in hopes that the succession at Redclyffe might come to Philip Morville. Moorworth was entirely under the Thorndale and Morville interest, and Lord Thorndale wrote to propose that Philip should come forward at once, inviting him to Thorndale instead of going to his own empty house.

To be in parliament had been one of the favourite visions of Philip’s youth, and for that very reason he hesitated, taking it as one of the strange fulfilments of his desires that had become punishments. He could not but feel that as this unhappy load of wealth had descended on him, he was bound to make it as beneficial as he could to others, and not seeking for rest or luxury, to stand in the gap where every good man and true was needed. But still he dreaded his old love of distinction. He disliked a London life for Laura, and he thought that, precarious as his health had become, it might expose her to much anxiety, since he was determined that if he undertook it at all, he would never be an idle member.

It ended in his referring the decision to Laura, who, disliking London, fearful for his health, eager for his glory, and reluctant to keep back such a champion from the battle, was much perplexed, only desirous to say what he wished, yet not able to make out what that might be. She carried her doubts to Charles and Amabel, who both pronounced that the thought of going to Redclyffe seemed far worse for him than any degree of employment — that occupation of the mind was the best thing for his spirits; and ended by recommending that Dr. Mayerne should be consulted.

He was of the same opinion. He said a man could hardly have two fevers following, and one of them upon the brain, without having reason to remember them. That his constitution had been seriously weakened, and there was an excitability of brain and nerves which made care requisite; but depression of spirits was the chief thing to guard against, and a London life, provided he did not overwork himself, was better for him than solitude at Redclyffe.

Accordingly Philip went to Thorndale, and was returned for Moorworth without opposition. Markham sent his nephew to transact business with him at Thorndale, for he could not bear to meet him himself, and while there was any prospect of his coming to Redclyffe, walked about in paroxysms of grunting and ill-humour. The report that Mr. Morville was engaged to the other Miss Edmonstone did but render him more furious, for he regarded it as a sort of outrage to Lady Morville’s feelings that a courtship should be carried on in the house with her. She was at present the object of all his devoted affection for the family, and he would not believe, but that she had been as much disappointed at the birth of her daughter, as he was himself. He would not say one word against Mr. Morville, but looked and growled enough to make Mr. Ashford afraid that the new squire would find him very troublesome.

The Ashfords were in a state of mind themselves to think that Mr. Morville ought to be everything excellent to make up for succeeding Sir Guy; but having a very high opinion of him to begin with, they were very sorry to find all Redclyffe set against him. In common with the parish, they were very anxious for the first report of his arrival and at length he came. James Thorndale, as before, drove him thither, coming to the Ashfords while he was busy with Markham. He would not go up to the Park, he only went through some necessary business with Markham, and then walked down to the Cove, afterwards sitting for about ten minutes in Mrs. Ashford’s drawing-room.

The result of the visit was that old James Robinson reported that the new squire took on as much about poor Sir Guy as any one could do, and turned as pale as if he had been going into a swoon, when he spoke his name and gave Ben his message. And as to poor Ben, the old man said, he regularly did cry like a child, and small blame to him, to hear that Sir Guy had took thought of him at such a time and so far away; and he verily believed Ben could never take again to his bad ways, after such a message as that.

Markham was gruff with the Robinsons for some time after and was even heard to mutter something about worshipping the rising sun, an act of idolatry of which he could not be accused, since it was in the most grudging manner that he allowed, that Mr. Morville’s sole anxiety seemed to be to continue all Sir Guy had undertaken; while Mrs. Ashford, on the other hand was much affected by the account her cousin James had been giving her of the grief that he had suffered at Sir Guy’s death, his long illness, his loss of spirits, the reluctance he had shown to come here at all, and his present unconquerable dread of going to the Park.

He was soon after in London, where, as far as could be judged in such early days, he seemed likely to distinguish himself according to the fondest hopes that Margaret or Laura could ever have entertained. Laura was only afraid he was overworking himself, especially as, having at present little command of ready money, he lived in a small lodging, kept no horse, and did not enter into society; but she was reassured when he came to Hollywell for a day or two at Whitsuntide, not having indeed regained flesh or colour, but appearing quite well, in better spirits, and very eager about political affairs.

All would have been right that summer, but that, as Philip observed, the first evening of his arrival, Amabel was not looking as well as she had done at the time of the christening. She had, just after it, tried her strength and spirits too much, and had ever since been not exactly unwell, but sad and weary, more dejected than ever before, unable to bear the sight of flowers or the sound of music, and evidently suffering much under the recurrence of the season, which had been that of her great happiness — the summer sunshine, the long evenings, the nightingale’s songs. She was fatigued by the most trifling exertion, and seemed able to take interest in nothing but her baby, and a young widow in the village, who was in a decline; and though she was willing to do all that was asked of her, it was in a weary, melancholy manner, as if she had no peace but in being allowed to sit alone, drooping over her child.

From society she especially shrunk, avoiding every chance of meeting visitors, and distressed and harassed when her father brought home some of his casual dinner guests, and was vexed not to see her come into the drawing-room in the evening. If she did make the effort of coming, to please him, she was so sure to be the worse for it, that her mother would keep her up-stairs the next time, and try to prevent her from knowing that her father was put out, and declared it was nonsense to expect poor Amy to get up her spirits, while she never saw a living soul, and only sat moping in the dressing-room.

A large dinner-party did not interfere with her, for even he could not expect her to appear at it, and one of these he gave during Philip’s visit, for the pleasure of exhibiting such company as the M.P. for Moorworth. After dinner, Charlotte told Mary Ross to go and see Amy. Not finding her in the dressing-room, she knocked at her own door. ‘Come in,’ answered the low soft voice; and in the window, overhung by the long shoots of the roses, Amabel’s close cap and small head were seen against the deep-blue evening sky, as she sat in the summer twilight, her little one asleep in her cot.

‘Thank you for coming,’ said she. ‘I thought you would not mind sitting here with baby and me. I have sent Anne out walking.’

‘How pretty she looks!’ said Mary, stooping over the infant. ‘Sleep is giving her quite a colour; and how fast she grows!’

‘Poor little woman!’ said Amy, sighing.

‘Tired, Amy?’ said Mary, sitting down, and taking up the little lambswool shoe, that Amy had been knitting.

‘N— no, thank you,’ said Amy, with another sigh.

‘I am afraid you are. You have been walking to Alice Lamsden’s again.’

‘I don’t think that tires me. Indeed, I believe the truth is,’ and her voice sounded especially sad in the subdued tone in which she spoke, that she might not disturb the child, ‘I am not so much tired with what I do, which is little enough, as of the long, long life that is before me.’

Mary’s heart was full, but she did not show her thought otherwise than by a look towards the babe.

‘Yes, poor little darling,’ said Amabel, ‘I know there is double quantity to be done for her, but I am so sorry for her, when I think she must grow up without knowing him.’

‘She has you, though,’ Mary could not help saying, as she felt that Amabel was superior to all save her husband.

Perhaps Amy did not hear; she went up to the cot, and went on:—‘If he had but once seen her, if she had but had one kiss, one touch that I could tell her of by and by, it would not seem as if she was so very fatherless. Oh no, baby, I must wait, that you may know something about, him; for no one else can tell you so well what he was, though I can’t tell much!’ She presently returned to her seat. ‘No, I don’t believe I really wish I was like poor Alice,’ said she; ‘I hope not; I am sure I don’t for her sake. But, Mary, I never knew till I was well again how much I had reckoned on dying when she was born. I did not think I was wishing it, but it seemed likely, and I was obliged to arrange things in case of it. Then somehow, as he came back last spring, after that sad winter, it seemed as if this spring, though he would not come back to me, I might be going to him.’

‘But then she comforted you.’

‘Yes, that she did, my precious one; I was so glad of her, it was a sort of having him again, and so it is still sometimes, and will be more so, I dare say. I am very thankful for her, indeed I am; and I hope I am not repining, for it does not signify after all, in the end, if I am weary and lonely sometimes. I wish I was sure it was not wrong. I know I don’t wish to alter things.’

‘No, I am sure you don’t.’

‘Ah!’ said Amabel, smiling, ‘it is only the old, silly little Amy that does feel such a heart-aching and longing for one glance of his eye, or touch of his hand, or sound of his foot in the passage. Oh, Mary, the worst of all is to wake up, after dreaming I have heard his voice. There is nothing for it but to take our baby and hold her very tight.’

‘Dearest Amy! But you are not blaming yourself for these feelings. It might be wrong to indulge them and foster them; but while you struggle with them, they can’t in themselves be wrong.’

‘I hope not,’ said Amabel pausing to think. ‘Yes, I have “the joy” at the bottom still; I know it is all quite right, and it came straight from heaven, as he said. I can get happy very often when I am by myself, or at church, with him; it is only when I miss his bright outside and can’t think myself into the inner part, that it is so forlorn and dreary. I can do pretty well alone. Only I wish I could help being so troublesome and disagreeable to everybody’ said Amy, concluding in a matter-of-fact tone.

‘My dear!’ said Mary, almost laughing.

‘It is so stupid of me to be always poorly, and making mamma anxious when there’s nothing the matter with me. And I know I am a check on them down-stairs — papa, and Charlotte, and all — they are very kind, considerate, and yet’— she paused —‘and it is a naughty feeling; but when I feel all those dear kind eyes watching me always, and wanting me to be happy, it is rather oppressive, especially when I can’t; but if I try not to disappoint them, I do make such a bad hand of it, and am sure to break down afterwards, and that grieves mamma all the more.’

‘It will be better when this time of year is over,’ said Mary.

‘Perhaps, yes. He always seemed to belong to summer days, and to come with them. Well, I suppose trials always come in a different shape from what one expects; for I used to think I could bear all the doom with him, but, I did not know it would be without him, and yet that is the best. Oh, baby!’

‘I should not have come to disturb her.’

‘No — never mind; she never settles fairly to sleep till we are shut in by ourselves. Hush! hush, darling — No? Will nothing do but being taken up? Well, then, there! Come, and show your godmamma what a black fringe those little wakeful eyes are getting.’

And when Mary went down it was with the conviction that those black eyelashes, too marked to be very pretty in so young a babe, were more of a comfort to Amabel than anything she could say.

The evening wore on, and at length Laura came into her sister’s room. She looked fagged and harassed, the old face she used to wear in the time of disguise and secrecy, Amabel asked if it had been a tiresome party.

‘Yes — no — I don’t know. Just like others,’ said Laura.

‘You are tired, at any rate,’ said Amabel. ‘You took too long a ride with Philip. I saw you come in very late.’

‘I am not in the least tired, thank you.’

‘Then he is,’ said Amabel. ‘I hope he has not one of his headaches again.’

‘No,’ said Laura, still in a dissatisfied, uncomfortable tone.

‘No? Dear Laura, I am sure there is something wrong;’ and with a little more of her winning, pleading kindness, she drew from Laura that Philip had told her she idolized him. He had told her so very gently and kindly, but he had said she idolized him in a manner that was neither good for herself nor him; and he went on to blame himself for it, which was what she could not bear. It had been rankling in her mind ever since that he had found fault with her for loving him so well, and it had made her very unhappy. She could not love him less, and how should she please him? She had much rather he had blamed her than himself.

‘I think I see what he means’ said Amy, thoughtfully. ‘He has grown afraid of himself, and afraid of being admired now.’

‘But how am I to help that, Amy?’ said Laura, with tears in her eyes: ‘he cannot help being the first, the very first of all with me —’

‘No, no,’ said Amy, quickly, ‘not the very first, or what would you do if you were to be-like me? Don’t turn away, dear Laura; I don’t think I over could bear this at all, if dear Guy had not kept it always before my eyes from the very first that we were to look to something else besides each other.’

‘Of course I meant the first earthly thing,’ said Laura; but it was not heartfelt — she knew she ought, therefore she thought she did.

‘And so,’ proceeded Amy, ‘I think if that other is first, it would make you have some other standard of right besides himself, then you would be a stay and help to him. I think that is what he means.’

‘Amy! let me ask you,’ said Laura, a little entreatingly, yet as if she must needs put the question —‘surely, you never thought Guy had faults?’

Her colour deepened. ‘Yes, Laura,’ she answered, firmly. ‘I could not have understood his repentance if I had not thought so. And, dear Laura, if you will forgive me for saying it, it would be much better for yourself and Philip if you would see the truth.’

‘I thought you forgave him,’ murmured Laura.

‘Oh, Laura! but does not that word “forgive” imply something? I could not have done anything to comfort him that day, if I had not believed he had something to be comforted for. It can’t be pleasant to him to see you think his repentance vain.’

‘It is noble and great.’

‘But if it was not real, it would be thrown away. Besides, dear Laura, do let me say this for once. If you would but understand that you let him lead you into what was not right, and be really sorry for that, and show mamma that you are, I do think it would all begin much more happily when you are married.’

‘I could never have told, till I was obliged to betray myself,’ said Laura. ‘You know, Amy, it was no engagement. We never wrote to each other, we had but one walk; it was no business of his to speak till he could hope for papa’s consent to our marriage. It would have been all confusion if he had told, and that would have been only that we had always loved each other with all our hearts, which every one knew before.’

‘Yet, Laura, it was what preyed on him when he thought he was dying.’

‘Because it was the only thing like a fault he could think of,’ said Laura, excited by this shade of blame to defend him vehemently —‘because his scruples are high and noble and generous.’

She spoke so eagerly, that the baby’s voice again broke on the conversation, and she was obliged to go away; but though her idolatry was complete, it did not seem to give full satisfaction or repose. As to Philip, though his love for her was unchanged, it now and then was felt, though not owned by him, that she was not fully a helpmeet, only a ‘Self’; not such a ‘Self’ as he had left at St. Mildred’s, but still reflecting on him his former character, instead of aiding him to a new one.

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