The Heir of Redclyffe, by Charlotte M. Yonge

Chapter 6

Can piety the discord heal,

Or stanch the death-feud’s enmity?

— Scott

It must not be supposed that such a history of Guy’s mind was expressed by himself, or understood by Mrs. Edmonstone; but she saw enough to guess at his character, perceive the sort of guidance he needed, and be doubly interested in him. Much did she wish he could have such a friend as her brother would have been, and hope that nothing would prevent a friendship with her nephew.

The present question about the horse was, she thought, unfortunate, since, though Guy had exercised great self-denial, it was no wonder Philip was annoyed. Mr. Edmonstone’s vexation was soon over. As soon as she had persuaded him that there had been no offence, he strove to say with a good grace, that it was very proper, and told Guy he would be a thorough book-worm and tremendous scholar, which Guy took as an excellent joke.

Philip had made up his mind to be forbearing, and to say no more about it. Laura thought this a pity, as they could thus never come to an understanding; but when she hinted it, he wore such a dignified air of not being offended, that she was much ashamed of having tried to direct one so much better able to judge. On his side Guy had no idea the trouble he had caused; so, after bestowing his thanks in a gay, off-hand way, which Philip thought the worst feature of the case, he did his best to bring Hecuba back into his mind, drive the hunters out of it, and appease the much-aggrieved William of Deloraine.

When all William’s manoeuvres resulted in his master’s not hunting at all, he was persuaded it was Mr. Edmonstone’s fault, compassionated Sir Guy with all his heart, and could only solace himself by taking Deloraine to exercise where he was most likely to meet the hounds. He further chose to demonstrate that he was not Mr. Edmonstone’s servant, by disregarding some of his stable regulations; but as soon as this came to his master’s knowledge, a few words were spoken so sharp and stern, that William never attempted to disobey again.

It seemed as if it was the perception that so much was kept back by a strong force, that made Guy’s least token of displeasure so formidable. A village boy, whom he caught misusing a poor dog, was found a few minutes after, by Mr. Ross, in a state of terror that was positively ludicrous, though it did not appear that Sir Guy had said or done much to alarm him; it was only the light in his eyes, and the strength of repressed indignation in his short broken words that had made the impression.

It appeared as if the force of his anger might be fearful, if once it broke forth without control; yet at the same time he had a gentleness and attention, alike to small and great, which, with his high spirit and good nature, his very sweet voice and pleasant smile, made him a peculiarly winning and engaging person; and few who saw him could help being interested in him.

No wonder he had become in the eyes of the Edmonstones almost a part of their family. Mrs. Edmonstone had assumed a motherly control over him, to which he submitted with a sort of affectionate gratitude.

One day Philip remarked, that he never saw any one so restless as Guy, who could neither talk nor listen without playing with something. Scissors, pencil, paper-knife, or anything that came in his way, was sure to be twisted or tormented; or if nothing else was at hand, he opened and shut his own knife so as to put all the spectators in fear for his fingers.

‘Yes,’ said Laura, ‘I saw how it tortured your eyebrows all the time you were translating Schiller to us. I wondered you were not put out.’

‘I consider that to be put out — by which you mean to have the intellect at the mercy of another’s folly — is beneath a reasonable creature,’ said Philip; ‘but that I was annoyed, I do not deny. It is a token of a restless, ill-regulated mind.’

‘Restless, perhaps,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone ‘but not necessarily ill-regulated. I should think it rather a sign that he had no one to tell him of the tricks which mothers generally nip in the bud.’

‘I was going to say that I think he fidgets less,’ said Laura; ‘but I think his chief contortions of the scissors have been when Philip has been here.’

‘They have, I believe,’ said her mother, I was thinking of giving him a hint.’

‘Well, aunt, you are a tamer of savage beasts if you venture on such a subject,’ said Philip.

‘Do you dare me?’ she asked, smiling.

‘Why, I don’t suppose he would do more than give you one of his lightning glances: but that, I think, is more than you desire.’

‘Considerably,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone; ‘for his sake as much as my own.’

‘But,’ said Laura, ‘mamma has nearly cured him of pawing like a horse in the hall when he is kept waiting. He said he knew it was impatience, and begged her to tell him how to cure it. So she treated him as an old fairy might, and advised him in a grave, mysterious way, always to go and play the “Harmonious Blacksmith,” when he found himself getting into “a taking”, just as if it was a charm. And he always does it most dutifully.’

‘It has a very good effect,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone; ‘for it is apt to act as a summons to the other party, as well as a sedative to him.’

‘I must say I am curious to see what you will devise this time,’ said Philip; ‘since you can’t set him to play on the piano; and very few can bear to be told of a trick of the kind.’

In the course of that evening, Philip caused the great atlas to be brought out in order to make investigations on the local habitation of a certain Khan of Kipchack, who existed somewhere in the dark ages. Then he came to Marco Polo, and Sir John Mandeville; and Guy, who knew both the books in the library at Redclyffe, grew very eager in talking them over, and tracing their adventures — then to the Genoese merchants, where Guy confessed himself perfectly ignorant. Andrea Doria was the only Genoese he ever heard of; but he hunted out with great interest all the localities of their numerous settlements. Then came modern Italy, and its fallen palaces; then the contrast between the republican merchant and aristocratic lord of the soil; then the corn laws; and then, and not till then, did Philip glance at his aunt, to show her Guy balancing a Venetian weight on as few of his fingers as could support it.

‘Guy,’ said she, smiling, ‘does that unfortunate glass inspire you with any arguments in favour of the Venetians?’

Guy put it down at once, and Philip proceeded to improved methods of farming, to enable landlords to meet the exigencies of the times. Guy had got hold of Mr. Edmonstone’s spectacle-case, and was putting its spring to a hard trial. Mrs. Edmonstone doubted whether to interfere again; she knew this was not the sort of thing that tried his temper, yet she particularly disliked playing him off, as it were for Philip’s amusement, and quite as much letting him go on, and lower himself in her nephew’s estimation. The spectacle-case settled the matter — a crack was heard, it refused to snap at all; and Guy, much discomfited, made many apologies.

Amy laughed; Philip was much too well-bred to do anything but curl his lip unconsciously. Mrs. Edmonstone waited till he was gone, then, when she was wishing Guy ‘good-night’ at Charles’s door, she said —

‘The spectacle-case forestalled me in giving you a lecture on sparing our nerves. Don’t look so very full of compunction — it is only a trick which your mother would have stopped at five years old, and which you can soon stop for yourself.’

‘Thank you, I will!’ said Guy; ‘I hardly knew I did it, but I am very sorry it has teased you.’

Thenceforward it was curious to see how he put down and pushed away all he had once begun to touch and torture. Mrs. Edmonstone said it was self command in no common degree; and Philip allowed that to cure so inveterate a habit required considerable strength of will.

‘However,’ he said, ‘I always gave the Morvilles credit for an iron resolution. Yes, Amy, you may laugh; but if a man is not resolute in a little, he will never be resolute in great matters.’

‘And Guy has been resolute the right way this time,’ said Laura.

‘May he always be the same,’ said Philip.

Philip had undertaken, on his way back to Broadstone, to conduct Charlotte to East-hill, where she was to spend the day with a little niece of Mary Ross. She presently came down, her bonnet-strings tied in a most resolute-looking bow, and her little figure drawn up so as to look as womanly is possible for her first walk alone with Philip. She wished the party at home ‘goodbye;’ and as Amy and Laura stood watching her, they could not help laughing to see her tripping feet striving to keep step, her blue veil discreetly composed and her little head turned up, as if she was trying hard to be on equal terms with the tall cousin, who meanwhile looked graciously down from his height, patronising her like a very small child. After some space, Amy began to wonder what they could talk about, or whether they would talk at all; but Laura said there was no fear of Charlotte’s tongue ever being still, and Charles rejoined —

‘Don’t you know that Philip considers it due to himself that his audience should never be without conversation suited to their capacity?’

‘Nonsense, Charlie!’

‘Nay, I give him credit for doing it as well as it is in nature of things for it to be done. The strongest proof I know of his being a superior man, is the way he adapts himself to his company. He lays down the law to us, because he knows we are all born to be his admirers; he calls Thorndale his dear fellow and conducts him like a Mentor; but you may observe how different he is with other people — Mr. Ross, for instance. It is not showing off; it is just what the pattern hero should be with the pattern clergyman. At a dinner party he is quite in his place; contents himself with leaving an impression on his neighbour that Mr. Morville is at home on every subject; and that he is the right thing with his brother officers is sufficiently proved, since not even Maurice either hates or quizzes him.’

‘Well, Charlie,’ said Laura, well pleased, I am glad you are convinced at last.’

‘Do you think I ever wanted to be convinced that we were created for no other end than to applaud Philip? I was fulfilling the object of our existence by enlarging on a remark of Guy’s, that nothing struck him more than the way in which Philip could adapt his conversation to the hearers. So the hint was not lost on me; and I came to the conclusion that it was a far greater proof of his sense than all the maxims he lavishes on us.’

‘I wonder Guy was the person to make the remark,’ said Laura; ‘for it is strange that those two never appear to the best advantage together.’

‘Oh, Laura, that would be the very reason,’ said Amy.

‘The very reason?’ said Charles. Draw out your meaning, Miss.’

‘Yes,’ said Amy, colouring, ‘If Guy — if a generous person, I mean — were vexed with another sometimes, it would be the very reason he would make the most of all his goodness.’

‘Heigh-ho!’ yawned Charles. What o’clock is it? I wonder when Guy is ever coming back from that Lascelles.’

‘Your wonder need not last long,’ said Laura; ‘for I see him riding into the stable yard.’

In a few minutes he had entered; and, on being asked if he had met Philip and Charlotte, and how they were getting on, he replied — ‘A good deal like the print of Dignity and Impudence,’ at the same time throwing back his shoulders, and composing his countenance to imitate Philip’s lofty deportment and sedate expression, and the next moment putting his head on one side with a sharp little nod, and giving a certain espiegle glance of the eye, and knowing twist of one corner of the mouth, just like Charlotte.

‘By the by,’ added he, ‘would Philip have been a clergyman if he had gone to Oxford?’

‘I don’t know; I don’t think it was settled,’ said Laura, ‘Why?’

‘I could never fancy him one’ said Guy. ‘He would not have been what he is now if he had gone to Oxford,’ said Charles. ‘He would have lived with men of the same powers and pursuits with himself, and have found his level.’

‘And that would have been a very high one,’ said Guy.

‘It would; but there would be all the difference there is between a feudal prince and an Eastern despot. He would know what it is to live with his match.’

‘But you don’t attempt to call him conceited!’ cried Guy, with a sort of consternation.

‘He is far above that; far too grand,’ said Amy.

‘I should as soon think of calling Jupiter conceited,’ said Charles; and Laura did not know how far to be gratified, or otherwise.

Charles had not over-estimated Philip’s readiness of self adaptation. Charlotte had been very happy with him, talking over the “Lady of the Lake”, which she had just read, and being enlightened, partly to her satisfaction, partly to her disappointment, as to how much was historical. He listened good-naturedly to a fit of rapture, and threw in a few, not too many, discreet words of guidance to the true principles of taste; and next told her about an island, in a pond at Stylehurst, which had been by turns Ellen’s isle and Robinson Crusoe’s. It was at this point in the conversation that Guy came in sight, riding slowly, his reins on his horse’s neck, whistling a slow, melancholy tune, his eyes fixed on the sky, and so lost in musings, that he did not perceive them till Philip arrested him by calling out, ‘That is a very bad plan. No horse is to be trusted in that way, especially such a spirited one.’

Guy started, and gathered up his reins, owning it was foolish.

‘You look only half disenchanted yet,’ said Philip. ‘Has Lascelles put you into what my father’s old gardener used to call a stud?’

‘Nothing so worthy of a stud,’ said Guy, smiling and colouring a little. ‘I was only dreaming over a picture of ruin —

‘The steed is vanish’d from the stall,

No serf is seen in Hassan’s hall,

The lonely spider’s thin grey pall

Waves, slowly widening o’er the wall.’

‘Byron!’ exclaimed Philip. ‘I hope you are not dwelling on him?’

‘Only a volume I found in my room.’

‘Oh, the “Giaour”!’ said Philip. ‘Well, there is no great damage done; but it is bad food for excitable minds. Don’t let it get hold of you.’

‘Very well;’ and there was a cloud, but it cleared in a moment, and, with a few gay words to both, he rode off at a quick pace.

‘Foolish fellow!’ muttered Philip, looking after him.

After some space of silence, Charlotte began in a very grave tone —

‘Philip.’

‘Well?’

‘Philip.’

Another ‘Well!’ and another long pause.

‘Philip, I don’t know whether you’ll be angry with me.’

‘Certainly not,’ said Philip, marvelling at what was coming.

‘Guy says he does not want to keep up the feud, and I wish you would not.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘The deadly feud!’ said Charlotte.

‘What nonsense is this?’ said Philip.

‘Surely — Oh Philip, there always was a deadly feud between our ancestors, and the Redclyffe Morvilles, and it was very wrong, and ought not to be kept up now.’

‘It is not I that keep it up.’

‘Is it not?’ said Charlotte. ‘But I am sure you don’t like Guy. And I can’t think why not, unless it is the deadly feud, for we are all so fond of him. Laura says it is a different house since he came.’

‘Hum!’ said Philip. ‘Charlotte, you did well to make me promise not to be angry with you, by which, I presume, you mean displeased. I should like to know what put this notion into your head.’

‘Charlie told me,’ almost whispered Charlotte, hanging down her head. ‘And — and —’

‘And what? I can’t hear.’

Charlotte was a good deal frightened; but either from firmness, or from the female propensity to have the last word, or it might be the spirit of mischief, she got out —‘You have made me quite sure of it yourself.’

She was so alarmed at having said this, that had it not been undignified, she would have run quite away, and never stopped till she came to East-hill. Matters were not mended when Philip said authoritatively, and as if he was not in the least bit annoyed (which was the more vexatious), ‘What do you mean, Charlotte?’

She had a great mind to cry, by way of getting out of the scrape; but having begun as a counsellor and peacemaker, it would never do to be babyish; and on his repeating the question, she said, in a tone which she could not prevent from being lachrymose, ‘You make Guy almost angry, you tease him, and when people praise him, you answer as if it would not last! And it is very unfair of you,’ concluded she, with almost a sob.

‘Charlotte,’ replied Philip, much more kindly than she thought she deserved, after the reproach that seemed to her so dreadfully naughty, ‘you may dismiss all fear of deadly feud, whatever you may mean by it. Charles has been playing tricks on you. You know, my little cousin, that I am a Christian, and we live in the nineteenth century.’

Charlotte felt as if annihilated at the aspect of her own folly. He resumed —‘You misunderstood me. I do think Guy very agreeable. He is very attentive to Charles, very kind to you, and so attractive, that I don’t wonder you like him. But those who are older than you see that he has faults, and we wish to set him on his guard against them. It may be painful to ourselves, and irritating to him, but depend upon it, it is the proof of friendship. Are you satisfied, my little cousin?’

She could only say humbly, ‘I beg your pardon.’

‘You need not ask pardon. Since you had the notion, it was right to speak, as it was to me, one of your own family. When you are older, you need never fear to speak out in the right place. I am glad you have so much of the right sort of feminine courage, though in this case you might have ventured to trust to me.’

So ended Charlotte’s anxieties respecting the deadly feud, and she had now to make up her mind to the loss of her playfellow, who was to go to Oxford at Easter, when he would be just eighteen, his birthday being the 28th of March. Both her playmates were going, Bustle as well as Guy, and it was at first proposed that Deloraine should go too, but Guy bethought himself that Oxford would be a place of temptation for William; and not choosing to trust the horse to any one else, resolved to leave both at Hollywell.

His grandfather had left an allowance for Guy, until his coming of age, such as might leave no room for extravagance, and which even Philip pronounced to be hardly sufficient for a young man in his position. ‘You know,’ said Mr. Edmonstone, in his hesitating, good-natured way, ‘if ever you have occasion sometimes for a little — a little more — you need only apply to me. Don’t be afraid, anything rather than run into debt. You know me, and ’tis your own.’

‘This shall do,’ said Guy, in the same tone as he had fixed his hours of study.

Each of the family made Guy a birthday present, as an outfit for Oxford; Mr. Edmonstone gave him a set of studs, Mrs. Edmonstone a Christian Year, Amabel copied some of his favourite songs, Laura made a drawing of Sintram, Charlotte worked a kettle-holder, with what was called by courtesy a likeness of Bustle. Charles gave nothing, professing that he would do nothing to encourage his departure.

‘You don’t know what a bore it is to lose the one bit of quicksilver in the house!’ said he, yawning. ‘I shall only drag on my existence till you come back.’

‘You, Charles, the maker of fun!’ said Guy, amazed.

‘It is a case of flint and steel,’ said Charles; ‘but be it owing to who it will, we have been alive since you came here. You have taken care to be remembered. We have been studying you, or laughing at you, or wondering what absurdity was to come next.’

‘I am very sorry — that is, if you are serious. I hoped at least I appeared like other people.’

‘I’ll tell you what you appear like. Just what I would be if I was a free man.’

‘Never say that, Charlie!’

‘Nay, wait a bit. I would never be so foolish. I would never give my sunny mornings to Euripides; I would not let the best hunter in the county go when I had wherewithal to pay for him.’

‘You would not have such an ill-conditioned self to keep in rule.’

‘After all,’ continued Charles, yawning, ‘it is no great compliment to say I am sorry you are going. If you were an Ethiopian serenader, you would be a loss to me. It is something to see anything beyond this old drawing-room, and the same faces doing the same things every day. Laura poking over her drawing, and meditating upon the last entry in Philip’s memorandum-book, and Amy at her flowers or some nonsense or other, and Charlotte and the elders all the same, and a lot of stupid people dropping in and a lot of stupid books to read, all just alike. I can tell what they are like without looking in!’ Charles yawned again, sighed, and moved wearily. ‘Now, there came some life and freshness with you. You talk of Redclyffe, and your brute creation there, not like a book, and still less like a commonplace man; you are innocent and unsophisticated, and take new points of view; you are something to interest oneself about; your coming in is something to look forward to; you make the singing not such mere milk-and-water, your reading the Praelectiones is an additional landmark to time; besides the mutton of today succeeding the beef of yesterday. Heigh-ho! I’ll tell you what, Guy. Though I may carry it off with a high hand, ’tis no joke to be a helpless log all the best years of a man’s life — nay, for my whole life — for at the very best of the contingencies the doctors are always flattering me with, I should make but a wretched crippling affair of it. And if that is the best hope they give me, you may guess it is likely to be a pretty deal worse. Hope? I’ve been hoping these ten years, and much good has it done me. I say, Guy,’ he proceeded, in a tone of extreme bitterness, though with a sort of smile, ‘the only wonder is that I don’t hate the very sight of you! There are times when I feel as if I could bite some men — that Tomfool Maurice de Courcy, for instance, when I hear him rattling on, and think —’

‘I know I have often talked thoughtlessly, I have feared afterwards I might have given you pain.’

‘No, no, you never have; you have carried me along with you. I like nothing better than to hear of your ridings, and shootings, and boatings. It is a sort of life.’

Charles had never till now alluded seriously to his infirmity before Guy, and the changing countenance of his auditor showed him to be much affected, as he stood leaning over the end of the sofa, with his speaking eyes earnestly fixed on Charles, who went on:

‘And now you are going to Oxford. You will take your place among the men of your day. You will hear and be heard of. You will be somebody. And I! — I know I have what they call talent — I could be something. They think me an idle dog; but where’s the good of doing anything? I only know if I was not — not condemned to — to this — this life,’ (had it not been for a sort of involuntary respect to the gentle compassion of the softened hazel eyes regarding him so kindly, he would have used the violent expletive that trembled on his lip;) ‘if I was not chained down here, Master Philip should not stand alone as the paragon of the family. I’ve as much mother wit as he.’

‘That you have,’ said Guy. ‘How fast you see the sense of a passage. You could excel very much if you only tried.’

‘Tried?’ And what am I to gain by it?’

‘I don’t know that one ought to let talents rust,’ said Guy, thoughtfully; ‘I suppose it is one’s duty not; and surely it is a pity to give up those readings.’

‘I shall not get such another fellow dunce as you,’ said Charles, ‘as I told you when we began, and it would be a mere farce to do it alone. I could not make myself, if I would.’

‘Can’t you make yourself do what you please?’ said Guy, as if it was the simplest thing in the world.

‘Not a bit, if the other half of me does not like it. I forget it, or put it off, and it comes to nothing. I do declare, though, I would get something to break my mind on, merely as a medical precaution, just to freshen myself up, if I could find any one to do it with. No, nothing in the shape of a tutor, against that I protest.’

‘Your sisters,’ suggested Guy.

‘Hum’! Laura is too intellectual already, and I don’t mean to poach on Philip’s manor; and if I made little Amy cease to be silly, I should do away with all the comfort I have left me in life. I don’t know, though, if she swallowed learning after Mary Ross’s pattern, that it need do her much harm.’

Amy came into the room at the moment. ‘Amy, here is Guy advising me to take you to read something awfully wise every day, something that will make you as dry as a stick, and as blue —’

‘As a gentianella,’ said Guy.

‘I should not mind being like a gentianella,’ said Amy. ‘But what dreadful thing were you setting him to do?’

‘To make you read all the folios in my uncle’s old library,’ said Charles. ‘All that Margaret has in keeping against Philip has a house of his own.’

‘Sancho somebody, and all you talked of when first you came?’ said Amy.

‘We were talking of the hour’s reading that Charlie and I have had together lately,’ said Guy.

‘I was thinking how Charlie would miss that hour,’ said Amy; ‘and we shall be very sorry not to have you to listen to.’

‘Well, then, Amy, suppose you read with me?’

‘Oh, Charlie, thank you! Should you really like it?’ cried Amy, colouring with delight. ‘I have always thought it would be so very delightful if you would read with me, as James Ross used with Mary, only I was afraid of tiring you with my stupidity. Oh, thank you!’

So it was settled, and Charles declared that he put himself on honour to give a good account of their doings to Guy, that being the only way of making himself steady to his resolution; but he was perfectly determined not to let Philip know anything about the practice he had adopted, since he would by no means allow him to guess that he was following his advice.

Charles had certainly grown very fond of Guy, in spite of his propensity to admire Philip, satisfying himself by maintaining that, after all, Guy only tried to esteem his cousin because he thought it a point of duty, just as children think it right to admire the good boy in a story book; but that he was secretly fretted and chafed by his perfection. No one could deny that there were often occasions when little misunderstandings would arise, and that, but for Philip’s coolness and Guy’s readiness to apologise they might often have gone further; but at the same time no one could regret these things more than Guy himself, and he was willing and desirous to seek Philip’s advice and assistance when needed. In especial, he listened earnestly to the counsel which was bestowed on him about Oxford: and Mrs. Edmonstone was convinced that no one could have more anxiety to do right and avoid temptation. She had many talks with him in her dressing-room, promising to write to him, as did also Charles; and he left Hollywell with universal regrets, most loudly expressed by Charlotte, who would not be comforted without a lock of Bustle’s hair, which she would have worn round her neck if she had not been afraid that Laura would tell Philip.

‘He goes with excellent intentions,’ said Philip, as they watched him from the door.

‘I do hope he will do well,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone.

‘I wish he may,’ said Philip; ‘the agreeableness of his whole character makes one more anxious. It is very dangerous. His name, his wealth, his sociable, gay disposition, that very attractive manner, all are so many perils, and he has not that natural pleasure in study that would be of itself a preservative from temptation. However, he is honestly anxious to do right, and has excellent principles. I only fear his temper and his want of steadiness. Poor boy, I hope he may do well!’

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