Leonora. Yet often with respect he speaks of thee.
Tasso. Thou meanest with forbearance, prudent, subtle,
’Tis that annoys me, for he knows to use
Language so smooth and so conditional,
That seeming praise from him is actual blame.
— GOETHE’S Tasso
When the Hollywell party met at breakfast, Charles showed himself by no means the worse for his yesterday’s experiment. He said he had gone to sleep in reasonable time, lulled by some poetry, he knew not what, of which Guy’s voice had made very pretty music, and he was now full of talk about the amusement he had enjoyed yesterday, which seemed likely to afford food for conversation for many a week to come. After all the care Guy had taken of him, Mrs. Edmonstone could not find it in her heart to scold, and her husband, having spent his vexation upon her, had none left to bestow on the real culprit. So when Guy, with his bright morning face, and his hair hanging shining and wet round it, opened the dining-room door, on his return from bathing in the river, Mr. Edmonstone’s salutation only conveyed that humorous anger that no one cares for.
‘Good morning to you, Sir Guy Morville! I wonder what you have to say for yourself.’
‘Nothing,’ said Guy, smiling; then, as he took his place by Mrs. Edmonstone, ‘I hope you are not tired after your hard day’s work?’
‘Not at all, thank you.’
‘Amy, can you tell me the name of this flower?’
‘Oh! have you really found the arrow-head? How beautiful! Where did you get it? I didn’t know it grew in our river.’
‘There is plenty of it in that reedy place beyond the turn. I thought it looked like something out of the common way.’
‘Yes! What a purple eye it has! I must draw it. O, thank you.’
‘And, Charlotte, Bustle has found you a moorhen’s nest.’
‘How delightful! Is it where I can go and see the dear little things?’
‘It is rather a swamp; but I have been putting down stepping-stones for you, and I dare say I can jump you across. It was that which made me so late, for which I ought to have asked pardon,’ said he to Mrs. Edmonstone, with his look of courtesy.
Never did man look less like an offended lover, or like a morose self-tormentor.
‘There are others later,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone, looking at Lady Eveleen’s empty chair.
‘So you think that is all you have to ask pardon for,’ said Mr. Edmonstone. ‘I advise you to study your apologies, for you are in pretty tolerable disgrace.’
‘Indeed, I am very sorry,’ said Guy, with such a change of countenance that Mr. Edmonstone’s good nature could not bear to see it.
‘Oh, ’tis no concern of mine! It would be going rather the wrong way, indeed, for you to be begging my pardon for all the care you’ve been taking of Charlie; but you had better consider what you have to say for yourself before you show your face at Broadstone.’
‘No?’ said Guy, puzzled for a moment, but quickly looking relieved, and laughing, ‘What! Broadstone in despair for want of me?’
‘And we perfectly exhausted with answering questions as to what was become of Sir Guy.’
‘Dreadful,’ said Guy, now laughing heartily, in the persuasion that it was all a joke.
‘O, Lady Eveleen, good morning; you are come in good time to give me the story of the ball, for no one else tells me one word about it.’
‘Because you don’t deserve it,’ said she. ‘I hope you have repented by this time.’
‘If you want to make me repent, you should give me a very alluring description.’
‘I shan’t say one word about it; I shall send you to Coventry, as Maurice and all the regiment mean to do,’ said Eveleen, turning away from him with a very droll arch manner of offended dignity.
‘Hear, hear! Eveleen send any one to Coventry!’ cried Charles. ‘See what the regiment say to you.’
‘Ay, when I am sent to Coventry?’
‘O, Paddy, Paddy!’ cried Charles, and there was a general laugh.
‘Laura seems to be doing it in good earnest without announcing it,’ added Charles, when the laugh was over, ‘which is the worst sign of all.’
‘Nonsense, Charles,’ said Laura, hastily; then afraid she had owned to annoyance, she blushed and was angry with herself for blushing.
‘Well, Laura, do tell me who your partners were?’
Very provoking, thought Laura, that I cannot say what is so perfectly natural and ordinary, without my foolish cheeks tingling. He may think it is because he is speaking to me. So she hurried on: ‘Maurice first, then Philip,’ and then showed, what Amy and Eveleen thought, strange oblivion of the rest of her partners.
They proceeded into the history of the ball; and Guy thought no more of his offences till the following day, when he went to Broadstone. Coming back, he found the drawing-room full of visitors, and was obliged to sit down and join in the conversation; but Mrs. Edmonstone saw he was inwardly chafing, as he betrayed by his inability to remain still, the twitchings of his forehead and lip, and a tripping and stumbling of the words on his tongue. She was sure he wanted to talk to her, and longed to get rid of Mrs. Brownlow; but the door was no sooner shut on the visitors, than Mr. Edmonstone came in, with a long letter for her to read and comment upon. Guy took himself out of the way of the consultation, and began to hurry up and down the terrace, until, seeing Amabel crossing the field towards the little gate into the garden, he went to open it for her.
She looked up at him, and exclaimed —‘Is anything the matter?’
‘Nothing to signify,’ he said; ‘I was only waiting for your mother. I have got into a mess, that is all.’
‘I am sorry,’ began Amy, there resting in the doubt whether she might inquire further, and intending not to burthen him with her company, any longer than till she reached the house door; but Guy went on —
‘No, you have no occasion to be sorry; it is all my own fault; at least, if I was clear how it is my fault, I should not mind it so much. It is that ball. I am sure I had not the least notion any one would care whether I was there or not.’
‘I am sure we missed you very much.’
‘You are all so kind; beside, I belong in a manner you; but what could it signify to any one else? And here I find that I have vexed every one.’
‘Ah!’ said Amy, ‘mamma said she was afraid it would give offence.’
‘I ought to have attended to her. It was a fit of self-will in managing myself,’ said Guy, murmuring low, as if trying to find the real indictment; ‘yet I thought it a positive duty; wrong every way.’
‘What has happened?’ said Amy, turning back with him, though she had reached the door.
‘Why, the first person I met was Mr. Gordon; and he spoke like your father, half in joke, and I thought entirely so; he said something about all the world being in such a rage, that I was a bold man to venture into Broadstone. Then, while I was at Mr. Lascelles’, in came Dr. Mayerne. ‘We missed you at the dinner,’ he said; ‘and I hear you shirked the ball, too.’ I told him how it was, and he said he was glad that was all, and advised me to go and call on Colonel Deane and explain. I thought that the best way — indeed, I meant it before, and was walking to his lodgings when Maurice de Courcy met me. ‘Ha!’ he cries out, ‘Morville! I thought at least you would have been laid up for a month with the typhus fever! As a friend, I advise you to go home and catch something, for it is the only excuse that will serve you. I am not quite sure that it will not be high treason for me to be seen speaking to you.’ I tried to get at the rights of it, but he is such a harum-scarum fellow there was no succeeding. Next I met Thorndale, who only bowed and passed on the other side of the street — sign enough how it was with Philip; so I thought it best to go at once to the Captain, and get a rational account of what was the matter.’
‘Did you?’ said Amy, who, though concerned and rather alarmed, had been smiling at the humorous and expressive tones with which he could not help giving effect to his narration.
‘Yes. Philip was at home, and very — very —’
‘Gracious?’ suggested Amy, as he hesitated for a word.
‘Just so. Only the vexatious thing was, that we never could succeed in coming to an understanding. He was ready to forgive; but I could not disabuse him of an idea — where he picked it up I cannot guess — that I had stayed away out of pique. He would not even tell me what he thought had affronted me, though I asked him over and over again to be only straightforward; he declared I knew.’
‘How excessively provoking!’ cried Amy. ‘You cannot guess what he meant?’
‘Not the least in the world. I have not the most distant suspicion. It was of no use to declare I was not offended with any one; he only looked in that way of his, as if he knew much better than I did myself, and told me he could make allowances.’
‘Worse than all! How horrid of him.’
‘No, don’t spoil me. No doubt he thinks he has grounds, and my irritation was unjustifiable. Yes, I got into my old way. He cautioned me, and nearly made me mad! I never was nearer coming to a regular outbreak. Always the same! Fool that I am.’
‘Now, Guy, that is always your way; when other people are provoking, you abuse yourself. I am sure Philip was so, with his calm assertion of being right.’
‘The more provoking, the more trial for me.’
‘But you endured it. You say it was only nearly an outbreak. You parted friends? I am sure of that.’
‘Yes, it would have been rather too bad not to do that.’
‘Then why do you scold yourself, when you really had the victory?’
‘The victory will be if the inward feeling as well as the outward token is ever subdued.’
‘O, that must be in time, of course. Only let me hear how you got on with Colonel Deane.’
‘He was very good-natured, and would have laughed it off, but Philip went with me, and looked grand, and begged in a solemn way that no more might be said. I could have got on better alone; but Philip was very kind, or, as you say, gracious.’
‘And provoking,’ added Amy, ‘only I believe you do not like me to say so.’
‘It is more agreeable to hear you call him so at this moment than is good for me. I have no right to complain, since I gave the offence.’
‘The absenting myself.’
‘Oh! that you did because you thought it right.’
‘I want to be clear that it was right.’
‘What do you mean?’ cried she, astonished. ‘It was a great piece of self-denial, and I only felt it wrong not to be doing the same.’
‘Nay, how should such creatures as you need the same discipline as I?’
She exclaimed to herself how far from his equal she was — how weak, idle, and self-pleasing she felt herself to be; but she could not say so — the words would not come; and she only drooped her little head, humbled by his treating her as better than himself.
‘Something wrong I have done, and I want the clue. Was it self-will in choosing discipline contrary to your mother’s judgment? Yet she could not know all. I thought it her kindness in not liking me to lose the pleasure. Besides, one must act for oneself, and this was only my own personal amusement.’
‘Yes,’ said Amy, timidly hesitating.
‘Well?’ said he, with the gentle, deferential tone that contrasted with his hasty, vehement self-accusations. ‘Well?’ and he waited, though not so as to hurry or frighten her, but to encourage, by showing her words had weight.
‘I was thinking of one thing,’ said Amy; ‘is it not sometimes right to consider whether we ought to disappoint people who want us to be pleased?’
‘There it is, I believe,’ said Guy, stopping and considering, then going on with a better satisfied air, ‘that is a real rule. Not to be so bent on myself as to sacrifice other people’s feelings to what seems best for me. But I don’t see whose pleasure I interfered with.’
Amy could have answered, ‘Mine;’ but the maidenly feeling checked her again, and she said, ‘We all thought you would like it.’
‘And I had no right to sacrifice your pleasure! I see, I see. The pleasure of giving pleasure to others is so much the best there is on earth, that one ought to be passive rather than interfere with it.’
‘Yes,’ said Amy, ‘just as I have seen Mary Ross let herself be swung till she was giddy, rather than disappoint Charlotte and Helen, who thought she liked it.’
‘If one could get to look at everything with as much indifference as the swinging! But it is all selfishness. It is as easy to be selfish for one’s own good as for one’s own pleasure; and I dare say, the first is as bad as the other.’
‘I was thinking of something else,’ said Amy. ‘I should think it more like the holly tree in Southey. Don’t you know it? The young leaves are sharp and prickly, because they have so much to defend themselves from, but as the tree grows older, it leaves off the spears, after it has won the victory.’
‘Very kind of you, and very pretty, Amy,’ said he, smiling; ‘but, in the meantime, it is surely wrong to be more prickly than is unavoidable, and there is the perplexity. Selfish! selfish! selfish! Oneself the first object. That is the root.’
‘Guy, if it is not impertinent to ask, I do wish you would tell me one thing. Why did you think it wrong to go to that ball?’ said Amy, timidly.
‘I don’t know that I thought it wrong to go to that individual ball,’ said Guy; ‘but my notion was, that altogether I was getting into a rattling idle way, never doing my proper quantity of work, or doing it properly, and talking a lot of nonsense sometimes. I thought, last Sunday, it was time to make a short turn somewhere and bring myself up. I could not, or did not get out of the pleasant talks as Laura does, so I thought giving up this ball would punish me at once, and set me on a new tack of behaving like a reasonable creature.’
‘Don’t call yourself too many names, or you won’t be civil to us. We all, except Laura, have been quite as bad.’
‘Yes; but you had not so much to do.’
‘We ought,’ said Amy; ‘but I meant to be reasonable when Eveleen is gone.’
Perhaps I ought to have waited till then, but I don’t know. Lady Eveleen is so amusing that it leads to farther dawdling, and it would not do to wait to resist the temptation till it is out of the way.’
As he spoke, they saw Mrs. Edmonstone coming out, and went to meet her. Guy told her his trouble, detailing it more calmly than before he had found out his mistake. She agreed with him that this had been in forgetting that his attending the ball did not concern only himself, but he then returned to say that he could not see what difference it made, except to their own immediate circle.
‘If it was not you, Guy, who made that speech, I should call it fishing for a compliment. You forget that rank and station make people sought after.’
‘I suppose there is something in that,’ said Guy, thoughtfully; ‘at any rate, it is no bad thing to think so, it is so humiliating.’
‘That is not the way most people would take it.’
‘No? Does not it prevent one from taking any attention as paid to one’s real self? The real flattering thing would be to be made as much of as Philip is, for one’s own merits, and not for the handle to one’s name.’
‘Yes, I think so,’ said Amy.
‘Well, then,’ as if he wished to gather the whole conversation into one resolve, the point is to consider whether abstaining from innocent things that may be dangerous to oneself mortifies other people. If so, the vexing them is a certain wrong, whereas the mischief of taking the pleasure is only a possible contingency. But then one must take it out of oneself some other way, or it becomes an excuse for self-indulgence.’
‘Hardly with you,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone, smiling.
‘Because I had rather go at it at once, and forget all about other people. You must teach me consideration, Mrs. Edmonstone, and in the meantime will you tell me what you think I had better do about this scrape?’
‘Let it alone,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone. ‘You have begged every one’s pardon, and it had better be forgotten as fast as possible. They have made more fuss already than it is worth. Don’t torment yourself about it any more; for, if you have made a mistake, it is on the right side; and on the first opportunity, I’ll go and call on Mrs. Deane, and see if she is very implacable.’
The dressing-bell rang, and Amy ran up-stairs, stopping at Laura’s door, to ask how she prospered in the drive she had been taking with Charles and Eveleen.
Amy told her of Guy’s trouble, and oh! awkward question, inquired if she could guess what it could be that Philip imagined that Guy had been offended at.
‘Can’t he guess?’ said poor Laura, to gain time, and brushing her hair over her face.
‘No, he has no idea, though Philip protested that he knew, and would not tell him. Philip must have been most tiresome.’
‘What? Has Guy been complaining?’
‘No, only angry with himself for being vexed. I can’t think how Philip can go on so!’
‘Hush! hush, Amy, you know nothing about it. He has reasons —’
‘I know,’ said Amy, indignantly; ‘but what right has he to go on mistrusting? If people are to be judged by their deeds, no one is so good as Guy, and it is too bad to reckon up against him all his ancestors have done. It is wolf and lamb, indeed.’
‘He does not!’ cried Laura. ‘He never is unjust! How can you say so, Amy?’
‘Then why does he impute motives, and not straightforwardly tell what he means?’
‘It is impossible in this case,’ said Laura.
‘Do you know what it is?’
‘Yes,’ said Laura, perfectly truthful, and feeling herself in a dreadful predicament.
‘And you can’t tell me?’
‘I don’t think I can.’
‘Not for worlds,’ cried Laura, in horror.
‘Can’t you get Philip to tell him?’
‘Oh no, no! I can’t explain it, Amy; and all that can be done is to let it die away as fast as possible. It is only the rout about it that is of consequence.’
‘It is very odd,’ said Amy, ‘but I must dress,’ and away she ran, much puzzled, but with no desire to look into Philip’s secrets.
Laura rested her head on her hand, sighed, and wondered why it was so hard to answer. She almost wished she had said Philip had been advising her to discourage any attachment on Guy’s part; but then Amy might have laughed, and asked why. No! no! Philip’s confidence was in her keeping, and cost her what it might, she would be faithful to the trust.
There was now a change. The evenings were merry, but the mornings were occupied. Guy went off to his room, as he used to do last winter; Laura commenced some complicated perspective, or read a German book with a great deal of dictionary; Amy had a book of history, and practised her music diligently; even Charles read more to himself, and resumed the study with Guy and Amy; Lady Eveleen joined in every one’s pursuits, enjoyed them, and lamented to Laura that it was impossible to be rational at her own home.
Laura tried to persuade her that there was no need that she should be on the level of the society round her, and it ended in her spending an hour in diligent study every morning, promising to continue it when she went home, while Laura made such sensible comments that Eveleen admired her more than ever; and she, knowing that some were second-hand from Philip, others arising from his suggestions, gave him all the homage paid to herself, as a tribute to him who reigned over her whole being.
Yet she was far from happy. Her reserve towards Guy made her feel stiff and guarded; she had a craving for Philip’s presence, with a dread of showing it, which made her uncomfortable. She wondered he had not been at Hollywell since the bail, for he must know that she was going to Ireland in a fortnight, and was not likely to return till his regiment had left Broadstone.
An interval passed long enough for her not to be alone in her surprise at his absenting himself before he at length made his appearance, just before luncheon, so as to miss the unconstrained morning hours he used so much to enjoy. He found Guy, Charles, and Amy, deep in Butler’s Analogy.
‘Are you making poor little Amy read that?’ said he.
‘Bravo!’ cried Charles; ‘he is so disappointed that it is not Pickwick that he does not know what else to say.’
‘I don’t suppose I take much in,’ said Amy; ‘but I like to be told what it means.’
‘Don’t imagine I can do that,’ said Guy.
‘I never spent much time over it,’ said Philip; ‘but I should think you were out of your depth.’
‘Very well,’ said Charles; ‘we will return to Dickens to oblige you.’
‘It is your pleasure to wrest my words,’ replied Philip, in his own calm manner, though he actually felt hurt, which he had never done before. His complacency was less secure, so that there was more need for self-assertion.
‘Where are the rest?’ he asked.
‘Laura and Eveleen are making a dictation lesson agreeable to Charlotte,’ said Amy; ‘I found Eva making mistakes on purpose.’
‘How much longer does she stay?’
‘Till Tuesday. Lord Kilcoran is coming to fetch her.’
Charlotte entered, and immediately ran up-stairs to announce her cousin’s arrival. Laura was glad of this previous notice, and hoped her blush and tremor were not observed. It was a struggle, through luncheon time, to keep her colour and confusion within bounds; but she succeeded better than she fancied she did, and Philip gave her as much help as he could, by not looking at her. Seeing that he dreaded nothing so much as her exciting suspicion, she was at once braced and alarmed.
Her father was very glad to see him, and reproached him for making himself a stranger, while her sisters counted up the days of his absence.
‘There was the time, to be sure, when we met you on Ashen-down, but that was a regular cheat. Laura had you all to herself.’
Laura bent down to feed Bustle, and Philip felt his colour deepening.
Mr. Edmonstone went on to ask him to come and stay at Hollywell for a week, vowing he would take no refusal. ‘A week was out of the question, said Philip; ‘but he could come for two nights.’ Amabel hinted that there was to be a dinner-party on Thursday, thinking it fair to give him warning of what he disliked, but he immediately chose that very day. Again he disconcerted all expectations, when it was time to go out. Mrs. Edmonstone and Charles were going to drive, the young ladies and Guy to walk, but Philip disposed himself to accompany his uncle in a survey of the wheat.
Laura perceived that he would not risk taking another walk with her when they might be observed. It showed implicit trust to leave her to his rival; but she was sorry to find that caution must put an end to the freedom of their intercourse, and would have stayed at home, but that Eveleen was so wild and unguarded that Mrs. Edmonstone did not like her to be without Laura as a check on her, especially when Guy was of the party. There was some comfort in that warm pressure of her hand when she bade Philip good-bye, and on that she lived for a long time. He stood at the window watching them till they were out of sight, then moved towards his aunt, who with her bonnet on, was writing an invitation for Thursday, to Mr. Thorndale.
‘I was thinking,’ said he, in a low voice, ‘if it would not be as well, if you liked, to ask Thorndale here for those two days.’
‘If you think so,’ returned Mrs. Edmonstone, looking at him more inquiringly than he could well bear.
‘You know how he enjoys being here, and I owe them all so much kindness.’
‘Certainly; I will speak to your uncle,’ said she, going in search of him. She presently returned, saying they should be very glad to see Mr. Thorndale, asking him at the same time, in her kind tones of interest, after an old servant for whom he had been spending much thought and pains. The kindness cut him to the heart, for it evidently arose from a perception that he was ill at ease, and his conscience smote him. He answered shortly, and was glad when the carriage came; he lifted Charles into it, and stood with folded arms as they drove away.
‘The air is stormy,’ said Charles, looking back at him.’
‘You thought so, too?’ said Mrs. Edmonstone, eagerly.
‘I have wondered for some time past.’
‘It was very decided today — that long absence — and there was no provoking him to be sententious. His bringing his young man might be only to keep him in due subjection; but his choosing the day of the party, and above all, not walking with the young ladies.’
‘It not like himself,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone, in a leading tone.
‘Either the sweet youth is in love, or in the course of some strange transformation.’
‘In love!’ she exclaimed. ‘Have you any reason for thinking so?’
‘Only as a solution of phenomena; but you look as if I had hit on the truth.’
‘I hope it is no such thing; yet —’
‘Yet?’ repeated Charles, seriously. ‘I think he has discovered the danger.’
‘The danger of falling in love with Laura? Well, it would be odd if he was not satisfied with his own work. But he must know how preposterous that would be.’
‘And you think that would prevent it?’ said his mother, smiling. ‘He is just the man to plume himself on making his judgment conquer his inclination, setting novels at defiance. How magnanimously he would resolve to stifle a hopeless attachment!’
‘That is exactly what I think he is doing. I think he has found out the state of his feelings, and is doing all in his power to check them by avoiding her, especially in tete-a-tetes, and an unconstrained family party. I am nearly convinced that is his reason for bringing Mr. Thorndale, and fixing on the day of the dinner. Poor fellow, it must cost him a great deal, and I long to tell him how I thank him.’
‘Hm! I don’t think it unlikely,’ said Charles. ‘It agrees with what happened the evening of the Kilcoran ball, when he was ready to eat me up for saying something he fancied was a hint of a liking of Guy’s for Laura. It was a wild mistake, for something I said about Petrarch, forgetting that Petrarch suggested Laura; but it put him out to a degree, and he made all manner of denunciations on the horror of Guy’s falling in love with her. Now, as far as I see, Guy is much more in love with you, or with Deloraine, and the idea argues far more that the Captain himself is touched.’
‘Depend upon it, Charlie, it was this that led to his detecting the true state of the case. Ever since that he has kept away. It is noble!’
‘And what do you think about Laura?’
‘Poor child! I doubt if it was well to allow so much intimacy; yet I don’t see how it could have been helped.’
‘So you think she is in for it? I hope not; but she has not been herself of late.’
‘I think she misses what she has been used to from him, and thinks him estranged, but I trust it goes no further. I see she is out of spirits; I wish I could help her, dear girl, but the worst of all would be to let her guess the real name and meaning of all this, so I can’t venture to say a word.’
‘She is very innocent of novels,’ said Charles, ‘and that is well. It would be an unlucky business to have our poor beauty either sitting ‘like Patience on a monument’, or ‘cockit up on a baggage-waggon.’ But that will never be. Philip is not the man to have a wife in barracks. He would have her like his books, in morocco, or not at all.’
‘He would never involve her in discomforts. He may be entirely trusted, and as long as he goes on as he has begun, there is no harm done; Laura will cheer up, will only consider him as her cousin and friend, and never know he has felt more for her.’
‘Her going to Ireland is very fortunate.’
‘It has made me still more glad that the plan should take place at once.’
‘And you say “nothing to nobody”?’
‘Of course not. We must not let him guess we have observed anything; there is no need to make your father uncomfortable, and such things need not dawn on Amy’s imagination.’
It may be wondered at that Mrs. Edmonstone should confide such a subject to her son, but she knew that in a case really affecting his sister, and thus introduced, his silence was secure. In fact, confidence was the only way to prevent the shrewd, unscrupulous raillery which would have caused great distress, and perhaps led to the very disclosure to be deprecated. Of late, too, there had been such a decrease of petulance in Charles, as justified her in trusting him, and lastly, it must be observed that she was one of those open-hearted people who cannot make a discovery nor endure an anxiety without imparting it. Her tact, indeed, led her to make a prudent choice of confidants, and in this case her son was by far the best, though she had spoken without premeditation. Her nature would never have allowed her to act as her daughter was doing; she would have been without the strength to conceal her feelings, especially when deprived of the safety-valve of free intercourse with their object.
The visit took place as arranged, and very uncomfortable it was to all who looked deeper than the surface. In the first place, Philip found there the last person he wished his friend to meet — Lady Eveleen, who had been persuaded to stay for the dinner-party; but Mr. Thorndale was, as Charles would have said, on his good behaviour, and, ashamed of the fascination her manners exercised over him, was resolved to resist it, answered her gay remarks with brief sentences and stiff smiles, and consorted chiefly with the gentlemen.
Laura was grave and silent, trying to appear unconscious, and only succeeding in being visibly constrained. Philip was anxious and stern in his attempts to appear unconcerned, and even Guy was not quite as bright and free as usual, being puzzled as to how far he was forgiven about the ball.
Amabel could not think what had come to every one, and tried in vain to make them sociable. In the evening they had recourse to a game, said to be for Charlotte’s amusement, but in reality to obviate some of the stiffness and constraint; yet even this led to awkward situations. Each person was to set down his or her favourite character in history and fiction, flower, virtue, and time at which to have lived, and these were all to be appropriated to the writers. The first read was —
‘Lily of the valley — truth — Joan of Arc — Padre Cristoforo — the present time.’
‘Amy!’ exclaimed Guy.
‘I see you are right,’ said Charles; ‘but tell me your grounds!’
‘Padre Cristoforo,’ was the answer.
‘Fancy little Amy choosing Joan of Arc,’ said Eveleen, ‘she who is afraid of a tolerable sized grasshopper.’
‘I should like to have been Joan’s sister, and heard her tell about her visions,’ said Amy.
‘You would have taught her to believe them,’ said Philip.
‘Taught her!’ cried Guy. ‘Surely you take the high view of her.’
‘I think,’ said Philip, ‘that she is a much injured person, as much by her friends as her enemies; but I don’t pretend to enter either enthusiastically or philosophically into her character.’
What was it that made Guy’s brow contract, as he began to strip the feather of a pen, till, recollecting himself, he threw it from him with a dash, betraying some irritation, and folded his hands.
‘Lavender,’ read Charlotte.
‘What should make any one choose that?’ cried Eveleen.
‘I know!’ said Mrs. Edmonstone, looking up. ‘I shall never forget the tufts of lavender round the kitchen garden at Stylehurst.’
Philip smiled. Charlotte proceeded, and Charles saw Laura’s colour deepening as she bent over her work.
‘“Lavender — steadfastness — Strafford — Cordelia in ‘King Lear’— the late war.” How funny!’ cried Charlotte. ‘For hear the next: “Honeysuckle — steadfastness — Lord Strafford — Cordelia — the present time.” Why, Laura, you must have copied it from Philip’s.’
Laura neither looked nor spoke. Philip could hardly command his countenance as Eveleen laughed, and told him he was much flattered by those becoming blushes. But here Charles broke in — ‘Come, make haste, Charlotte, don’t be all night about it;’ and as Charlotte paused, as if to make some dangerous remark, he caught the paper, and read the next himself. Nothing so startled Philip as this desire to cover their confusion. Laura was only sensible of the relief of having attention drawn from her by the laugh that followed.
‘A shamrock — Captain Rock — the tailor that was “blue moulded for want of a bating”— Pat Riotism — the time of Malachy with the collar of gold.’
‘Eva!’ cried Charlotte.
‘Nonsense,’ said Eveleen; ‘I am glad I know your tastes, Charles. They do you honour.’
‘More than yours do, if these are yours,’ said Charles, reading them contemptuously; ‘Rose — generosity — Charles Edward — Catherine Seyton — the civil wars.’
‘You had better not have disowned Charlie’s, Lady Eveleen,’ said Guy.
‘Nay do you think I would put up with such a set as these?’ retorted Charles; ‘I am not fallen so low as the essence of young ladyism.’
‘What can you find to say against them?’ said Eveleen.
‘Nothing,’ said Charles, ‘No one ever can find anything to say for or against young ladies’ tastes.’
‘You seem to be rather in the case of the tailor yourself,’ said Guy, ‘ready to do battle, if you could but get any opposition.’
‘Only tell me,’ said Amy, ‘how you could wish to live in the civil wars?’
‘O, because they would be so entertaining.’
‘There’s Paddy, genuine Paddy at last!’ exclaimed Charles. ‘Depend upon it, the conventional young lady won’t do, Eva.’
After much more discussion, and one or two more papers, came Guy’s — the last. ‘Heather — Truth — King Charles — Sir Galahad — the present time.’
‘Sir how much? exclaimed Charles.
‘Don’t you know him?’ said Guy. ‘Sir Galahad — the Knight of the Siege Perilous — who won the Saint Greal.’
‘What language is that?’ said Charles.
‘What! Don’t you know the Morte d’Arthur! I thought every one did! Don’t you, Philip!’
‘I once looked into it. It is very curious, in classical English; but it is a book no one could read through.’
‘Oh!’ cried Guy, indignantly; then, ‘but you only looked into it. If you had lived with its two fat volumes, you could not help delighting in it. It was my boating-book for at least three summers.’
‘That accounts for it,’ said Philip; ‘a book so studied in boyhood acquires a charm apart from its actual merits.’
‘But it has actual merits. The depth, the mystery, the allegory — the beautiful characters of some of the knights.’
‘You look through the medium of your imagination,’ said Philip; but you must pardon others for seeing a great sameness of character and adventure, and for disapproving of the strange mixture of religion and romance.’
‘You’ve never read it,’ said Guy, striving to speak patiently.
‘A cursory view is sufficient to show whether a book will repay the time spent in reading it.’
‘A cursory view enable one to judge better than making it your study? Eh, Philip?’ said Charles.
‘It is no paradox. The actual merits are better seen by an unprejudiced stranger than by an old friend who lends them graces of his own devising.’
Charles laughed: Guy pushed back his chair, and went to look out at the window. Perhaps Philip enjoyed thus chafing his temper; for after all he had said to Laura, it was satisfactory to see his opinion justified, so that he might not feel himself unfair. It relieved his uneasiness lest his understanding with Laura should be observed. It had been in great peril that evening, for as the girls went up to bed, Eveleen gaily said, ‘Why, Laura, have you quarrelled with Captain Morville?’
‘How can you say such things, Eva? Good night.’ And Laura escaped into her own room.
‘What’s the meaning of it, Amy?’ pursued Eveleen.
‘Only a stranger makes us more formal,’ said Amy.
‘What an innocent you are! It is of no use to talk to you!’ said Eveleen, running away.
‘No; but Eva,’ said Amy, pursuing her, ‘don’t go off with a wrong fancy. Charles has teased Laura so much about Philip, that of course it makes her shy of him before strangers; and it would never have done to laugh about their choosing the same things when Mr. Thorndale was there.’
‘I must be satisfied, I suppose. I know that is what you think, for you could not say any other.’
‘But what do you think?’ said Amy, puzzled.
‘I won’t tell you, little innocence — it would only shock you.’
‘Nothing you really thought about Laura could shock me,’ said Amy; ‘I don’t mean what you might say in play.’
‘Well, then, shall you think me in play or earnest when I say that I think Laura likes Philip very much?’
‘In play’ said Amy; ‘for you know that if we had not got our own Charlie to show us what a brother is, we should think of Philip as just the same as a brother.’
‘A brother! You are pretending to be more simple than you really are, Amy! Don’t you know what I mean?’
‘O,’ said Amy, her cheeks lighting up, ‘that must be only play, for he has never asked her.’
‘Ah, but suppose she was in the state just ready to be asked?’
‘No, that could never be, for he could never ask her,’
‘Why not, little Amy?’
‘Because we are cousins, and everything,’ said Amy, confused. ‘Don’t talk any more about it, Eva; for though I know it is all play, I don’t like it, and mamma, would not wish me to talk of such things. And don’t you laugh about it, dear Eva, pray; for it only makes every one uncomfortable. Pray!’
Amy had a very persuasive way of saying ‘pray,’ and Eveleen thought she must yield to it. Besides, she respected Laura and Captain Morville too much to resolve to laugh at them, whatever she might do when her fear of the Captain made her saucy.
Mrs. Edmonstone thought it best on all accounts to sit in the drawing-room the next morning; but she need not have taken so much pains to chaperon her young ladies, for the gentlemen did not come near them.
Laura was more at ease in manner, though very far from happy, for she was restlessly eager for a talk with Philip; while he was resolved not to seek a private interview, sure that it would excite suspicion, and willing to lose the consciousness of his underhand proceedings.
This was the day of the dinner-party, and Laura’s heart leaped as she calculated that it must fall to Philip’s lot to hand her in to dinner. She was not mistaken, he did give her his arm; and they found themselves most favourably placed, for Philip’s other neighbour was Mrs. Brownlow, talking at a great rate to Mr. de Courcy, and on Laura’s side was the rather deaf Mr. Hayley, who had quite enough to do to talk to Miss Brownlow. Charles was not at table, and not one suspicious eye could rest on them, yet it was not till the second course was in progress that he said anything which the whole world might not have heard. Something had passed about Canterbury, and its distance from Hollywell.
‘I can be here often,’ said Philip.
‘I am glad.’
‘If you can only be guarded — and I think you are becoming so.’
‘Is this a time to speak of —? Oh, don’t!’
‘It is the only time. No one is attending, and I have something to say to you.’
Overpowering her dire confusion, in obedience to him, she looked at the epergne, and listened.
‘You have acted prudently. You have checked —’ and he indicated Guy —‘without producing more than moderate annoyance. You have only to guard your self-possession.’
‘It is very foolish,’ she murmured.
‘Ordinary women say so, and rest contented with the folly. You can do better things.’
There was a thrill of joy at finding him conversing with her as his ‘own;’ it overcame her embarrassment and alarm, and wishes he would not choose such a time for speaking.’
‘How shall I?’ said she.
‘Employ yourself. Employ and strengthen your mind!’
‘How shall I, and without you?’
‘Find something to prevent you from dwelling on the future. That drawing is dreamy work, employing the fingers and leaving the mind free.’
‘I have been trying to read, but I cannot fix my mind.’
‘Suppose you take what will demand attention. Mathematics, algebra. I will send you my first book of algebra, and it will help you to work down many useless dreams and anxieties.’
‘Thank you; pray do; I shall be very glad of it.’
‘You will find it give a power and stability to your mind, and no longer have to complain of frivolous occupation.’
‘I don’t feel frivolous now,’ said Laura, sadly; ‘I don’t know why it is that everything is so altered, I am really happier, but my light heart is gone.’
‘You have but now learnt the full powers of your soul, Laura, you have left the world of childhood, with the gay feelings which have no depth.’
‘I have what is better,’ she whispered.
‘You have, indeed. But those feelings must be regulated, and strengthening the intellect strengthens the governing power.’
Philip, with all his sense, was mystifying himself, because he was departing from right, the only true ‘good sense.’ His right judgment in all things was becoming obscured, so he talked metaphysical jargon, instead of plain practical truth, and thought he was teaching Laura to strengthen her powers of mind, instead of giving way to dreams, when he was only leading her to stifle meditation, and thus securing her complete submission to himself.
She was happier after this conversation, and better able to pay attention to the guests, nor did she feel guilty when obliged to play and sing in the evening — for she knew he must own that she could do no otherwise.
Lady Eveleen gave, however, its brilliancy to the party. She had something wonderfully winning and fascinating about her, and Philip owned to himself that it took no small resolution on the part of Mr. Thorndale to keep so steadily aloof from the party in the bay window, where she was reigning like a queen, and inspiring gaiety like a fairy. She made Guy sing with her; it was the first time he had ever sung, except among themselves, as Mrs. Edmonstone had never known whether he would like to be asked; but Eveleen refused to sing some of the Irish melodies unless he would join her, and without making any difficulty he did so. Mrs. Brownlow professed to be electrified, and Eveleen declaring that she knew she sung like a peacock, told Mrs. Brownlow that the thing to hear was Sir Guy singing glees with Laura and Amy. Of course, they were obliged to sing. Mrs. Brownlow was delighted; and as she had considerable knowledge of music, they all grew eager and Philip thought it very foolish of Guy to allow so much of his talent and enthusiasm to display themselves.
When all the people were gone, and the home party had wished each other good-night, Philip lingered in the drawing-room to finish a letter. Guy, after helping Charles up-stairs, came down a few moments after, to fetch something which he had forgotten. Philip looked up — ‘You contributed greatly to the entertainment this evening,’ he said.
Guy coloured, not quite sure that this was not said sarcastically, and provoked with himself for being vexed.
‘You think one devoid of the sixth sense has no right to speak,’ said Philip.
‘I can’t expect all to think it, as I do, one of the best things in this world or out of it,’ said Guy, speaking quickly.
‘I know it is so felt by those who understand its secrets,’ said Philip. ‘I would not depreciate it; so you may hear me patiently, Guy. I only meant to warn you, that it is often the means of bringing persons into undesirable intimacies, from which they cannot disentangle themselves as easily as they enter them.’
A flush crossed Guy’s cheek, but it passed, and he simply said —‘I suppose it may. Good-night.’
Philip looked after him, and pondered on what it was that had annoyed him — manner, words, or advice. He ascribed it to Guy’s unwillingness to be advised, since he had observed that his counsel was apt to irritate him, though his good sense often led him to follow it. In the present case, Philip thought Mrs. Brownlow and her society by no means desirable for a youth like Guy; and he was quite right.
Philip and his friend went the next morning; and in the afternoon Laura received the book of algebra — a very original first gift from a lover. It came openly, with a full understanding that she was to use it by his recommendation; her mother and brother both thought they understood the motive, which one thought very wise, and the other very characteristic.
Lord Kilcoran and Lady Eveleen also departed. Eveleen very sorry to go, though a little comforted by the prospect of seeing Laura so soon in Ireland, where she would set her going in all kinds of ‘rationalities — reading, and school teaching, and everything else.’
‘Ay,’ said Charles, when all were out of hearing but his mother; ‘and I shrewdly suspect the comfort would be still greater if it was Sir Guy Morville who was coming.’
‘It would be no bad thing,’ said his mother: ‘Eveleen is a nice creature with great capabilities.’
‘Capabilities! but will they ever come to anything?’
‘In a few years,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone; ‘and he is a mere boy at present, so there is plenty of time for both to develop themselves.’
‘Most true, madame mere; but it remains to be proved whether the liking for Sir Guy, which has taken hold of my lady Eveleen, is strong enough to withstand all the coquetting with young Irishmen, and all the idling at Kilcoran.’
‘I hope she has something better to be relied on than the liking for Sir Guy.’
‘You may well do so, for I think he has no notion of throwing off his allegiance to you — his first and only love. He liked very well to make fun with Eva; but he regarded her rather as a siren, who drew him off from his Latin and Greek.’
‘Yes; I am ashamed of myself for such a fit of match-making! Forget it, Charlie, as fast as you can.’
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:02