The Wyvern Mystery, by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Chapter 8.

Never Did Run Smooth.

Swiftly she went to the window and raised it without noise, and in a moment they were locked in each other’s arms. “Darling, darling,” was audible; and “Oh, Ry! do you love me still?” “Adore you, darling! adore you, my little violet, that grew in the shade—my only, only darling.”

“And I have been so miserable. Oh, Ry—that heart-breaking disappointment—that dreadful moment—you’ll never know half I felt; as I knocked at that door, expecting to see my own darling’s face—and then—I could have thrown myself from the rock over that glen. But you’re here, and I have you after all—and now I must never lose you again—never, never.”

“Lose me, darling; you never did, and never shall; but I could not go—I dare not. Every fellow, you know, owes money, and I’m in that sorry plight like the rest, and just what I told you would have happened, and that you know would have been worse; but I think that’s all settled, and lose me! not for one moment ever can you lose me, my beautiful idol.”

“Oh, yes—that’s so delightful, and Ry-and his poor violet will be so happy, and hell never love anyone but her.”

“Never, darling, never.”

And he never did.

“Never—of course, never.”

“And I’m sure it could not be helped your not being at Carwell.”

“Of course it couldn’t—how could it! Don’t you know everything? You’re my own reasonable, wise little girl, and you would not like to bore and worry your poor

Ry. I wish to God I were my own master, and you’d soon see then who lores you best in all the world.”

“Oh, yes, I’m sure of it.”

“Yes, darling, you are; if we are to be happy, you must be sure of it. If there’s force in language, or proof in act, you can’t doubt me—you must know how I adore you—what motive on earth could I have in saying so, but one? ”

“None, none, darling, darling Ry—it’s only my folly, and you’ll forgive your poor foolish little bird; and oh, Ry, is not this dreadful—but better, I suppose, that is, when a few miserable hours are over, and I gone—and we happy—your poor little violet and Ry happy together for the rest of our lives.”

“I think so, I do, all our days; and you understand everything I told you?”

“Everything—yes—about tomorrow morning—quite.”

“The walk isn’t too much?”

“Oh, nothing.”

“And old Dulcibella shall follow you early in the day to Draunton—you remember the name of the house?”

“Yes, the Tanzy Well.”

“Quite right, wise little woman, and you know, darling, you must not stir out—quiet as it is, you might be seen; it is only a few hours’ caution, and then we need not care; but I don’t want pursuit, and a scene, and to agitate my poor little fluttered bird more than is avoidable. Even when you look out of the window keep your veil down; and—and just reach the Tanzy House, and do as I say, and you may leave all the rest to me. Wait a moment—who’s here? No—no-nothing. But I had better leave you now—yes, darling—it is wiser—some of the people may be peeping, and I’ll go.”

And so a tumultuous good-night, wild tears, and hopes, and panic, and blessings, and that brief interview was over.

The window was shut, and Alice Maybell in her room—the lovers not to meet again till forty miles away; and with a throbbing heart she lay down, to think and cry, and long for the morning she dreaded.

Morning came, and the breakfast hour, and the old Squire over his cup of coffee and rasher, called for Mrs. Durdin, the house-keeper, and said he—

“Miss Alice, I hear, is ailing this morning; ye can see old Dulcibella, and make out would she like the doctor should look in, and would she like anything nice for breakfast—a shoe of the goose-pie, or what? and send down to the town for the doctor if she or old Dulcibella thinks well of it, and if it should be in church time, call him out of his pew, and find out what she’d like to eat or drink;” and with his usual gruff nod he dismissed her.

“I should be very happy to go to the town if you wish, sir,” said Charles Fairfield, desiring, it would seem, to re-establish his character for politeness, “and I’m extremely sorry, I’m sure, that poor Ally—I mean, that Miss Maybell—is so ill.”

“You won’t cry though, I warrant; and there’s people enough in Wyvern to send of her messages without troubling you,” said the Squire.

The Captain, however fiercely, had let this unpleasant speech pass unchallenged.

The old Squire was two or three times at the foot of the stairs before church-time, bawling inquiries after Miss Alice’s health, and messages for her private ear, to old Dulcibella.

The Squire never missed church. He was as punctual as his ancestor, old Sir Thomas Fairfield, who was there every Sunday and feast-day, lying on his back praying, in tarnished red, blue, and gold habiliments of the reign of James I., in which he died, and took form of painted stone, and has looked straight up, with his side to the wall, and his hands joined in supplication ever since. If the old Squire did not trouble himself with reading, nor much with prayer, and thought over such topics as suited him, during divine service—he at least went through the dull of the rubrics decorously, and stood erect, sat down, or kneeled, as if he were the ordained fugleman of his tenantry assembled in the old church.

Captain Fairfield, a handsome fellow, notwithstanding his years, with the keen blue eye of his race—a lazy man, and reserved, but with the hot blood of the Fairfields in his veins, which showed itself dangerously on occasion, occupied a corner of this great oak enclosure, at the remote end from his father. Like him he pursued his private ruminations with little interruption from the liturgy in which he ostensibly joined. These ruminations were, to judge from his countenance, of a saturnine and sulky sort. He was thinking over his father’s inhospitable language, and making up his mind, for though indolent, he was proud and fiery, to take steps upon it, and to turn his back, perhaps for many a day, on Wyvern.

The sweet old organ of Wyvern pealed, and young voices swelled the chorus of love and praise, and still father and son were confronted in dark antipathy. The Vicar read his text from Holy Writ, and preached on the same awful themes; the transitoriness of our days; love, truth, purity, eternal life, death eternal; and still this same unnatural chill and darkness was between them. Moloch sat unseen by the old man’s side, and in the diapason of the organ moaned his thirst for his sacrifices. Evil spirits amused the young man’s brain with pictures of his slights and wrongs, and with their breath heated his vengeful heart. The dreams of both were interrupted by the Vicar’s sonorous blessing, and they shook their ears, and kneeled down, and their dreams came back again.

So it was Sunday—“better day, better deed”—when a smouldering quarrel broke suddenly into fire and thunder in the manor-house of Wyvern.

There is, we know, an estate of £6,000 a year, in a ring fence, round this old house. It owes something alarming, but the parish, village, and manor of Wyvern have belonged, time out of mind, to the Fairfield family.

A very red sunset, ominous of storm, floods the western sky with its wild and sullen glory. The leaves of the great trees from whose recesses the small birds are singing their cheery serenade, flash and glimmer in it, as if a dew of fire had sprinkled them, and a blood-red flush lights up the brown feathers of the little birds.

These Fairfields are a handsome race—showing handsome, proud English faces. Brown haired, sometimes light, sometimes dark, with generally blue eyes, not mild, but fierce and keen.

They are a race of athletes; tall men, famous all that country round, generation after generation, for prowess in the wrestling ring, at cudgels, and other games of strength. Famous, too, for worse matters. Strong-willed, selfish, cruel, on occasion, but with a generosity and courage that make them in a manner popular. The character of the Fairfields has the vices, and some of the better traits of feudalism.

Charles Fairfield had been making up his mind to talk to his father. He had resolved to do so on his way home from church. With the cool air and clearer light, outside the porch, came a subsidence of his haste, and nodding here and there to friend or old acquaintance, as he strode through the church-yard, he went a solitary way home, instead of opening his wounds and purposes then to his father.

“Better at home; better at Wyvern; in an hour or so I’ll make all ready, and see him then.”

So home, if home it was, by a lonely path, looking gloomily down on the daisies, strode Charles Fairfield.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57