The Heir of Redclyffe, by Charlotte M. Yonge

Chapter 8

Like Alexander, I will reign,

And I will reign alone,

My thoughts shall ever more disdain

A rival near my throne.

But I must rule and govern still,

And always give the law,

And have each subject at my will,

And all to stand in awe.

— MONTROSE.

One very hot afternoon, shortly after the ball, Captain Morville walked to Hollywell, accelerating his pace under the influence of anxious reflections.

He could not determine whether Charles had spoken in jest; but in spite of Guy’s extreme youth, he feared there was ground for the suspicion excited by the hint, and was persuaded that such an attachment could produce nothing but unhappiness to his cousin, considering how little confidence could be placed in Guy. He perceived that there was much to inspire affection — attractive qualities, amiable disposition, the talent for music, and now this recently discovered power of versifying, all were in Guy’s favour, besides the ancient name and long ancestry, which conferred a romantic interest, and caused even Philip to look up to him with a feudal feeling as head of the family. There was also the familiar intercourse to increase the danger; and Philip, as he reflected on these things, trembled for Laura, and felt himself her only protector; for his uncle was nobody, Mrs. Edmonstone was infatuated, and Charles would not listen to reason. To make everything worse, he had that morning heard that there was to be a grand inspection of the regiment, and a presentation of colours; Colonel Deane was very anxious; and it was plain that in the interval the officers would be allowed little leisure. The whole affair was to end with a ball, which would lead to a repetition of what had already disturbed him.

Thus meditating, Philip, heated and dusty, walked into the smooth green enclosure of Hollywell. Everything, save the dancing clouds of insect youth which whirled in his face, was drooping in the heat. The house — every door and window opened — seemed gasping for breath; the cows sought refuge in the shade; the pony drooped its head drowsily; the leaves hung wearily; the flowers were faint and thirsty; and Bustle was stretched on the stone steps, mouth open, tongue out, only his tail now and then moving, till he put back his ears and crested his head to greet the arrival. Philip heard the sounds that had caused the motion of the sympathizing tail — the rich tones of Guy’s voice. Stepping over the dog, he entered, and heard more clearly —

‘Two loving hearts may sever,

For sorrow fails them never.’

And then another voice —

‘Who knows not love in sorrow’s night,

He knows not love in light.’

In the drawing-room, cool and comfortable in the green shade of the Venetian blinds of the bay window, stood Laura, leaning on the piano, close to Guy, who sat on the music-stool, looking thoroughly at home in his brown shooting-coat, and loosely-tied handkerchief.

Any one but Philip would have been out of temper, but he shook hands as cordially as usual, and would not even be the first to remark on the heat.

Laura told him he looked hot and tired, and invited him to come out to the others, and cool himself on the lawn. She went for her parasol, Guy ran for her camp stool, and Philip, going to the piano, read what they had been singing. The lines were in Laura’s writing, corrected, here and there, in Guy’s hand.

Be Steadfast.

Two loving hearts may sever,

Yet love shall fail them never.

Love brightest beams in sorrow’s night,

Love is of life the light.

Two loving hearts may sever,

Yet hope shall fail them never.

Hope is a star in sorrow’s night,

Forget-me-not of light.

Two loving hearts may sever,

Yet faith may fail them never.

Trust on through sorrow’s night,

Faith is of love and hope the light.

Two loving hearts may sever,

For sorrow fails them never.

Who knows not love in sorrow’s night,

He knows not love in light.

Philip was by no means pleased. However, it was in anything but a sentimental manner that Guy, looking over him, said, ‘For sever, read, be separated, but “a” wouldn’t rhyme.’

‘I translated it into prose, and Guy made it verse,’ said Laura; ‘I hope you approve of our performance.’

‘It is that thing of Helmine von Chezy, “Beharre”, is it not?’ said Philip, particularly civil, because he was so much annoyed. ‘You have rendered the spirit very well’, but you have sacrificed a good deal to your double rhymes.’

‘Yes; those last lines are not troubled with any equality of feet,’ said Guy; ‘but the repetition is half the beauty. It put me in mind of those lines of Burns —

“Had we never loved so kindly,

Had we never loved so blindly,

Never met and never parted,

We had ne’er been broken hearted;”

but there is a trust in these that is more touching than that despair.’

‘Yes; the despair is ready, to wish the love had never been,’ said Laura. ‘It does not see the star of trust. Why did you use that word “trust” only once, Guy?’

‘I did not want to lose the three — faith, hope, love — faith keeping the other two alive.’

‘My doubt was whether it was right to have that analogy.’

‘Surely,’ said Guy, eagerly, ‘that analogy must be the best part of earthly love.’

Here Charlotte came to see if Guy and Laura meant to sing all the afternoon; and they went out. They found the others in the arbour, and Charlotte’s histories of its construction, gave Philip little satisfaction. They next proceeded to talk over the ball.

‘Ah!’ said Philip, ‘balls are the fashion just now. What do you say, Amy, [he was more inclined to patronize her than any one else] to the gaieties we are going to provide for you?’

‘You! Are you going to have your new colours? Oh! you are not going to give us a ball?’

‘Well! that is fun!’ cried Guy. ‘What glory Maurice de Courcy must be in!’

‘He is gone to Allonby,’ said Philip, ‘to announce it; saying, he must persuade his father to put off their going to Brighton. Do you think he will succeed?’

‘Hardly,’ said Laura; ‘poor Lady Kilcoran was so knocked up by their ball, that she is the more in want of sea air. Oh, mamma, Eva must come and stay here.’

‘That she must,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone; ‘that will make it easy. She is the only one who will care about the ball.’

Philip was obliged to conceal his vexation, and to answer the many eager questions about the arrangements. He stayed to dinner, and as the others went indoors to dress, he lingered near Charlotte, assuming, with some difficulty, an air of indifference, and said —‘Well, Charlotte, did you tease Guy into showing you those verses?’

‘Oh yes,’ said Charlotte, with what the French call “un air capable”.’

‘Well, what were they?’

‘That I mustn’t tell. They were very pretty; but I’ve promised.’

‘Promised what?’

‘Never to say anything about them. He made it a condition with me, and I assure you, I am to be trusted.’

‘Right,’ said Philip; ‘I’ll ask no more.’

‘It would be of no use,’ said Charlotte, shaking her head, as if she wished he would prove her further.

Philip was in hopes of being able to speak to Laura after dinner, but his uncle wanted him to come and look over the plans of an estate adjoining Redclyffe, which there was some idea of purchasing. Such an employment would in general have been congenial; but on this occasion, it was only by a strong force that he could chain his attention, for Guy was pacing the terrace with Laura and Amabel, and as they passed and repassed the window, he now and then caught sounds of repeating poetry.

In this Guy excelled. He did not read aloud well; he was too rapid, and eyes and thoughts were apt to travel still faster than the lips, thus producing a confusion; but no one could recite better when a passage had taken strong hold of his imagination, and he gave it the full effect of the modulations of his fine voice, conveying in its inflections the impressions which stirred him profoundly. He was just now enchanted with his first reading of ‘Thalaba,’ where he found all manner of deep meanings, to which the sisters listened with wonder and delight. He repeated, in a low, awful, thrilling tone, that made Amy shudder, the lines in the seventh book, ending with —

“Who comes from the bridal chamber!

It is Azrael, angel of death.”’

‘You have not been so taken up with any book since Sintram.’ said Laura.

‘It is like Sintram,’ he replied.

‘Like it?’

‘So it seems to me. A strife with the powers of darkness; the victory, forgiveness, resignation, death.

“Thou know’st the secret wishes of my heart,

Do with me as thou wilt, thy will is best.”’

‘I wish you would not speak as if you were Thalaba yourself,’ said Amy, ‘you bring the whole Domdaniel round us.’

‘I am afraid he is going to believe himself Thalaba as well as Sintram,’ said Laura. ‘But you know Southey did not see all this himself, and did not understand it when it was pointed out.’

‘Don’t tell us that,’ said Amy.

‘Nay; I think there is something striking in it,’ said Guy then, with a sudden transition, ‘but is not this ball famous?’

And their talk was of balls and reviews till nine o’clock, when they were summoned to tea.

On the whole, Philip returned to Broadstone by no means comforted.

Never had he known so much difficulty in attending with patience to his duties as in the course of the next fortnight. They became a greater durance, as he at length looked his feelings full in the face, and became aware of their true nature.

He perceived that the loss of Laura would darken his whole existence; yet he thought that, were he only secure of her happiness, he could have resigned her in silence. Guy was, however, one of the last men in the world whom he could bear to see in possession of her; and probably she was allowing herself to be entangled, if not in heart, at least in manner. If so, she should not be unwarned. He had been her guide from childhood, and he would not fail her now.

Three days before the review, he succeeded in finding time for a walk to Hollywell, not fully decided on the part he should act, though resolved on making some remonstrance. He was crossing a stile, about a mile and a half from Hollywell, when he saw a lady sitting on the stump of a tree, sketching, and found that fate had been so propitious as to send Laura thither alone. The rest had gone to gather mushrooms on a down, and had left her sketching the view of the spires of Broadstone, in the cleft between the high green hills. She was very glad to see him, and held up her purple and olive washes to be criticised; but he did not pay much attention to them. He was almost confused at the sudden manner in which the opportunity for speaking had presented itself.

‘It is a long time since I have seen you,’ said he, at last.

‘An unheard-of time.’

‘Still longer since we have had any conversation.’

‘I was just thinking so. Not since that hot hay-making, when Guy came home. Indeed, we have had so much amusement lately that I have hardly had time for thought. Guy says we are all growing dissipated.’

‘Ah! your German, and dancing, and music, do not agree with thought.’

‘Poor music!’ said Laura, smiling. ‘But I am ready for a lecture; I have been feeling more like a butterfly than I like.’

‘I know you think me unjust about music, and I freely confess that I cannot estimate the pleasure it affords, but I doubt whether it is a safe pleasure. It forms common ground for persons who would otherwise have little in common, and leads to intimacies which occasion results never looked for.’

‘Yes,’ said Laura, receiving it as a general maxim.

‘Laura, you complain of feeling like a butterfly. Is not that a sign that you were made for better things?’

‘But what can I do? I try to read early and at night, but I can’t prevent the fun and gaiety; and, indeed, I don’t think I would. It is innocent, and we never had such a pleasant summer. Charlie is so — so much more equable, and mamma is more easy about him, and I can’t help thinking it does them all good, though I do feel idle.’

‘It is innocent, it is right for a little while,’ said Philip; ‘but your dissatisfaction proves that you are superior to such things. Laura, what I fear is, that this summer holiday may entangle you, and so fix your fate as to render your life no holiday. O Laura take care; know what you are doing!’

‘What am I doing?’ asked Laura, with an alarmed look of ingenuous surprise.

Never had it been so hard to maintain his composure as now, when her simplicity forced him to come to plainer terms. ‘I must speak,’ he continued, ‘because no one else will. Have you reflected whither this may tend? This music, this versifying, this admitting a stranger so unreservedly into your pursuits?’

She understood now, and hung her head. He would have given worlds to judge of the face hidden by her bonnet; but as she did not reply, he spoke on, his agitation becoming so strong, that the struggle was perceptible in the forced calmness of his tone. ‘I would not say a word if he were worthy, but Laura — Laura, I have seen Locksley Hall acted once; do not let me see it again in a way which — which would give me infinitely more pain.’

The faltering of his voice, so resolutely subdued, touched, her extremely, and a thrill of exquisite pleasure glanced through her, on hearing confirmed what she had long felt, that she had taken Margaret’s place — nay, as she now learnt, that she was even more precious to him. She only thought of reassuring him.

‘No, you need never fear that. He has no such thought, I am sure.’ She blushed deeply, but looked in his face. ‘He treats us both alike, besides, he is so young.’

‘The mischief is not done,’ said Philip, trying to resume his usual tone; ‘I only meant to speak in time. You might let your manner go too far; you might even allow your affections to be involved without knowing it, if you were not on your guard.’

‘Never!’ said Laura. ‘Oh, no; I could never dream of that with Guy. I like Guy very much; I think better of him than you do; but oh no; he could never be my first and best; I could never care for him in that way. How could you think so, Philip?’

‘Laura, I cannot but look on you with what may seem over-solicitude. Since I lost Fanny, and worse than lost Margaret, you have been my home; my first, my most precious interest. O Laura!’ and he did not even attempt to conceal the trembling and tenderness of his voice, ‘could I bear to lose you, to see you thrown away or changed — you, dearest, best of all?’

Laura did not turn away her head this time, but raising her beautiful face, glowing with such a look as had never beamed there before, while tears rose to her eyes, she said, ‘Don’t speak of my changing towards you. I never could; for if there is anything to care for in me, it is you that have taught it to me.’

If ever face plainly told another that he was her first and best, Laura’s did so now. Away went misgivings, and he looked at her in happiness too great for speech, at least, he could not speak till he had mastered his emotion, but his countenance was sufficient reply. Even then, in the midst of this flood of ecstasy, came the thought, ‘What have I done?’

He had gone further than he had ever intended. It was a positive avowal of love; and what would ensue? Cessation of intercourse with her, endless vexations, the displeasure of her family, loss of influence, contempt, and from Mr. Edmonstone, for the pretensions of a penniless soldier. His joy was too great to be damped, but it was rendered cautious. ‘Laura, my own!’ (what delight the words gave her,) ‘you have made me very happy. We know each other now, and trust each other for ever.’

‘O yes, yes; nothing can alter what has grown up with us.’

‘It is for ever!’ repeated Philip. ‘But, Laura, let us be content with our own knowledge of what we are to each other. Do not let us call in others to see our happiness.’

Laura looked surprised, for she always considered any communication about his private feelings too sacred to be repeated, and wondered he should think the injunction necessary. ‘I never can bear to talk about the best kinds of happiness,’ said she; ‘but oh!’ and she sprang up, ‘here they come.’

Poor Mrs. Edmonstone, as she walked back from her mushroom-field, she little guessed that words had been spoken which would give the colouring to her daughter’s whole life — she little guessed that her much-loved and esteemed nephew had betrayed her confidence! As she and the girls came up, Philip advanced to meet them, that Laura might have a few moments to recover, while with an effort he kept himself from appearing absent in the conversation that ensued. It was brief, for having answered some questions with regard to the doings on the important day, he said, that since he had met them he would not come on to Hollywell, and bade them farewell, giving Laura a pressure of the hand which renewed the glow on her face.

He walked back, trying to look through the dazzling haze of joy so as to see his situation clearly. It was impossible for him not to perceive that there had been an absolute declaration of affection, and that he had established a private understanding with his cousin. It was not, however, an engagement, nor did he at present desire to make it so. It was impossible for him as yet to marry, and he was content to wait without a promise, since that could not add to his entire reliance on Laura. He could not bear to be rejected by her parents: he knew his poverty would be the sole ground of objection, and he was not asking her to share it. He believed sincerely that a long, lingering attachment to himself would be more for her good than a marriage with one who would have been a high prize for worldly aims, and was satisfied that by winning her heart he had taken the only sure means of securing her from becoming attached to Guy, while secrecy was the only way of preserving his intercourse with her on the same footing, and exerting his influence over the family.

It was calmly reflected, for Philip’s love was tranquil, though deep and steady, and the rather sought to preserve Laura as she was than to make her anything more; and this very calmness contributed to his self-deception on this first occasion that he had ever actually swerved from the path of right.

With an uncomfortable sensation, he met Guy riding home from his tutor, entirely unsuspicious. He stopped and talked of the preparations at Broadstone, where he had been over the ground with Maurice de Courcy, and had heard the band.

‘What did you think of it? said Philip, absently.

‘They should keep better time! Really, Philip, there is one fellow with a bugle that ought to be flogged every day of his life!’ said Guy, making a droll, excruciated face.

How a few words can change the whole current of ideas. The band was connected with Philip, therefore he could not bear to hear it found fault with, and adduced some one’s opinion that the man in question was one of the best of their musicians.

Guy could not help shrugging his shoulders, as he laughed, and said — ‘Then I shall be obliged to take to my heels if I meet the rest. Good-bye.’

‘How conceited they have made that boy about his fine ear,’ thought Philip. ‘I wonder he is not ashamed to parade his music, considering whence it is derived.’

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/y/yonge/charlotte/heir-of-redclyffe/chapter8.html

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