My blood hath been too cold and temperate,
Unapt to stir at these indignities;
But you have found me.
— KING HENRY IV
Philip, according to promise, appeared at Hollywell, and a volume of awful justice seemed written on his brow. Charles, though ignorant of its cause, perceived this at a glance, and greeted him thus:—
‘Enter Don Philip II, the Duke of Alva, alguazils, corregidors, and executioners.’
‘Is anything the matter, Philip?’ said Amy; a question which took him by surprise, as he could not believe her in ignorance. He was sorry for her, and answered gravely —
‘Nothing is amiss with me, thank you, Amy,’
She knew he meant that he would tell no more, and would have thought no more about it, but that she saw her mother was very uneasy.
‘Did you ask whether there were any letters at the post?’ said Charles. ‘Guy is using us shamefully — practising self-denial on us, I suppose. Is there no letter from him?’
‘There is,’ said Philip, reluctantly.
‘Well, where is it?’
‘It is to your father.’
‘Oh!’ said Charles, with a disappointed air. ‘Are you sure? Depend on it, you overlooked my M. He has owed me a letter this fortnight. Let me see.’
‘It is for my uncle,’ repeated Philip, as if to put an end to the subject.
‘Then he has been so stupid as to forget my second name. Come, give it me. I shall have it sooner or later.’
‘I assure you, Charles, it is not for you.’
‘Would not any one suppose he had been reading it?’ exclaimed Charles.
‘Did you know Mary Ross was gone to stay with her brother John?’ broke in Mrs. Edmonstone, in a nervous, hurried manner.
‘No is she?’ replied Philip.
‘Yes; his wife is ill.’
The universal feeling was that something was amiss, and mamma was in the secret. Amy looked wistfully at her, but Mrs. Edmonstone only gazed at the window, and so they continued for some minutes, while an uninteresting exchange of question and answer was kept up between her and her nephew until at length the dressing-bell rang, and cleared the room. Mrs. Edmonstone lingered till her son and daughters were gone, and said —
‘You have heard from St. Mildred’s?’
‘Yes,’ said Philip, as if he was as little inclined to be communicative to her as to his cousins.
‘From Guy, or from Margaret?’
‘But you say there is a letter from him?’
‘Yes, for my uncle.’
‘Does she say nothing more satisfactory?’ asked his aunt, her anxiety tortured by his composure. ‘Has she learnt no more?’
‘Nothing more of his proceedings. I see Amy knows nothing of the matter?’
‘No; her papa thought there was no need to distress her till we had seen whether he could explain.’
‘Poor little thing!’ said Philip; ‘I am very sorry for her.
Mrs. Edmonstone did not choose to discuss her daughter’s affairs with him, and she turned the conversation to ask if Margaret said much of Guy.
‘She writes to tell the spirit in which he received my uncle’s letter. It is only the Morville temper, again, and, of course, whatever you may think of that on Amy’s account, I should never regard it, as concerns myself, as other than his misfortune. I hope he may be able to explain the rest.’
‘Ah! there comes your uncle!’ and Mr. Edmonstone entered.
‘How d’ye do, Philip? Brought better news, eh?’
‘Here is a letter to speak for itself.’
‘Eh? From Guy? Give it me. What does he say? Let me see. Here, mamma, read it; your eyes are best.’
Mrs. Edmonstone read as follows:—
‘MY DEAR MR. EDMONSTONE — Your letter surprised and grieved me very much. I cannot guess what proofs Philip may think he has, of what I never did, and, therefore, I cannot refute them otherwise than by declaring that I never gamed in my life. Tell me what they are, and I will answer them. As to a full confession, I could of course tell you of much in which I have done wrongly, though not in the way which he supposes. On that head, I have nothing to confess. I am sorry I am prevented from satisfying you about the £1OOO, but I am bound in honour not to mention the purpose for which I wanted it. I am sure you could never believe I could have said what I did to Mrs. Edmonstone if I had begun on a course which I detest from the bottom of my heart. Thank you very much for the kindness of the latter part of your letter. I do not know how I could have borne it, if it had ended as it began. I hope you will soon send me these proofs of Philip’s. Ever your affectionate, ‘G. M.’
Not a little surprised was Philip to find that he was known to be Guy’s accuser; but the conclusion revealed that his style had betrayed him, and that Mr. Edmonstone had finished with some mention of him, and he resolved that henceforth he would never leave a letter of his own dictation till he had seen it signed and sealed.
‘Well!’ cried Mr. Edmonstone, joyfully beating his own hand with his glove, ‘that is all right. I knew it would be so. He can’t even guess what we are at. I am glad we did not tease poor little Amy. Eh, mamma? — eh, Philip?’ the last eh being uttered much more doubtfully, and less triumphantly than the first.
‘I wonder you think it right,’ said Philip.
‘What more would you have?’ said Mr. Edmonstone, hastily.
‘Eh? Oh, ay, he says he can’t tell — bound in honour.’
‘It is easy to write off-hand, and say I cannot satisfy you, I am bound in honour; but that is not what most persons would think a full justification, especially considering the terms on which you stand.’
‘Why, yes, he might have said more. It would have been safe enough with me.’
‘It is his usual course of mystery, reserve, and defiance.’
‘The fact is,’ said Mr. Edmonstone, turning away, ‘that it is a very proper letter; right sense, proper feeling — and if he never gamed in his life, what would you have more?’
‘There are different ways of understanding such a denial as this,’ said Philip. ‘See, he says not in the way in which I suppose.’ He held up his hand authoritatively, as his aunt was about to interpose. ‘It was against gaming that his vow was made. I never thought he had played, but he never says he has not betted.’
‘He would never be guilty of a subterfuge!’ exclaimed Mr. Edmonstone, indignantly.
‘I should not have thought so, without the evidence of the payment of the cheque, my uncle had just given him, to this gambling fellow,’ said Philip; ‘yet it is only the natural consequence of the habit of eluding inquiry into his visits to London.’
‘I can’t see any reason for so harsh an accusation,’ said she.
‘I should hardly want more reason than his own words. He refuses to answer the question on which my uncle’s good opinion depends; he owns he has been to blame, and thus retracts his full denial. In my opinion, his letter says nothing so plainly as, “While I can stand fair with you I do not wish to break with you.”’
‘He will not find that quite so easy.’ cried Mr. Edmonstone. ‘I am no fool to be hoodwinked, especially where my little Amy is concerned. I’ll see all plain and straight before he says another word of her. But you see what comes of their settling it while I was out of the way.’
Mrs. Edmonstone was grieved to see him so hurt at this. It could not have been helped, and if all had been smooth, he never would have thought of it again; but it served to keep up his dignity in his own eyes, and, as he fancied, to defend him from Philip’s censure, and he therefore made the most of it, which so pained her that she did not venture to continue her championship of Guy.
‘Well, well,’ said Mr. Edmonstone, ‘the question is what to do next — eh, Philip?’ I wish he would have spoken openly. I hate mysteries. I’ll write and tell him this won’t do; he must be explicit — eh, Philip?’
‘We will talk it over by and by,’ said Philip.
His aunt understood that it was to be in her absence, and left the room, fearing it would be impossible to prevent Amy from being distressed, though she had no doubt that Guy would be able to prove his innocence of the charges. She found Amy waiting for her in her room.
‘Don’t, ring, mamma, dear. I’ll fasten your dress,’ said she; then pausing —‘Oh! mamma, I don’t know whether I ought to ask, but if you would only tell me if there is nothing gone wrong.’
‘I don’t believe there is anything really wrong, my dear,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone, kissing her, as she saw how her colour first deepened and then faded.
‘Oh! no,’ said she.
‘But there is some mystery about his money-matters, which has vexed your papa.’
‘And what has Philip to do with it?’
‘I cannot quite tell, my dear. I believe Margaret Henley has heard something, but I do not know the whole.’
‘Did you see his letter, mamma? said Amy, in a low, trembling voice.
‘Yes, it is just like himself, and absolutely denies the accusations.’
Amy did not say ‘then they are false,’ but she held up her head.
‘Then papa is satisfied?’ she said.
‘I have no doubt all will be made clear in time,’ said her mother; ‘but there is still something unexplained, and I am afraid things may not go smoothly just now. I am very sorry, my little Amy, that such a cloud should have come over you, she added, smoothing fondly the long, soft hair, sad at heart to see the cares and griefs of womanhood gathering over her child’s bright, young life.
‘I said I must learn to bear things!’ murmured Amy to herself. ‘Only,’ and the tears filled her eyes, and she spoke with almost childish simplicity of manner, ‘I can’t bear them to vex him. I wish Philip would let papa settle it alone. Guy will be angry, and grieved afterwards.’
They were interrupted by the dinner-bell, but Amy ran into her own room for one moment.
‘I said I would learn to bear,’ said she to herself, ‘or I shall never be fit for him. Yes, I will, even though it is the thinking he is unhappy. He said I must be his Verena; I know what that means; I ought not to be uneasy, for he will bear it beautifully, and say he is glad of it afterwards. And I will try not to seem cross to Philip.’
Mr. Edmonstone was fidgety and ill at ease, found fault with the dinner, and was pettish with his wife. Mrs. Edmonstone set Philip off upon politics, which lasted till the ladies could escape into the drawing-room. In another minute Philip brought in Charles, set him down, and departed. Amy, who was standing by the window, resting her forehead against the glass, and gazing into the darkness, turned round hastily, and left the room, but in passing her brother, she put her hand into his, and received a kind pressure. Her mother followed her, and the other three all began to wonder. Charles said he had regularly been turned out of the dining-room by Philip, who announced that he wanted to speak to his uncle, and carried him off.
They conjectured, and were indignant at each other’s conjectures, till their mother returned, and gave them as much information as she could; but this only made them very anxious. Charles was certain that Mrs. Henley had laid a cockatrice egg, and Philip was hatching it; and Laura could not trust herself to defend Philip, lest she should do it too vehemently. They could all agree in desire to know the truth, in hope that Guy was not culpable, and, above all, in feeling for Amy; but by tacit consent they were silent on the three shades of opinion in their minds. Laura was confident that Philip was acting for the best; Mrs. Edmonstone thought he might be mistaken in his premises, but desirous of Guy’s real good; and Charles, though sure he would allege nothing which he did not believe to be true, also thought him ready to draw the worst conclusions from small grounds, and to take pleasure in driving Mr. Edmonstone to the most rigorous measures.
Philip, meanwhile, was trying to practise great moderation and forbearance, not bringing forward at first what was most likely to incense Mr. Edmonstone, and without appearance of animosity in his cool, guarded speech. There was no design in this, he meant only to be just; yet anything less cool would have had far less effect.
When he shut the dining-room door, he found his uncle wavering, touched by the sight of his little Amy, returning to his first favourable view of Guy’s letter, ready to overlook everything, accept the justification, and receive his ward on the same footing as before, though he was at the same time ashamed that Philip should see him relent, and desirous of keeping up his character for firmness, little guessing how his nephew felt his power over him, and knew that he could wield him at will.
Perceiving and pitying his feebleness, and sincerely believing strong measures the only rescue for Amy, the only hope for Guy, Philip found himself obliged to work on him by the production of another letter from his sister. He would rather, if possible, have kept this back, so much did his honourable feeling recoil from what had the air of slander and mischief-making; but he regarded firmness on his uncle’s part as the only chance for Guy or for his cousin, and was resolved not to let him swerve from strict justice.
Mrs. Henley had written immediately after Guy’s outburst in her house, and, taking it for granted that her brother would receive a challenge, she wrote in the utmost alarm, urging him to remember how precious he was to her, and not to depart from his own principles.
‘You would not be so mad as to fight him, eh?’ said Mr. Edmonstone, anxiously. ‘You know better — besides, for poor Amy’s sake.’
‘For the sake of right,’ replied Philip, ‘no. I have reassured my sister. I have told her that, let the boy do what he will, he shall never make me guilty of his death.’
‘You have heard from him, then?’
‘No; I suppose a night’s reflection convinced him that he had no rational grounds for violent proceedings, and he had sense enough not to expose himself to such an answer as I should have given. What caused his wrath to be directed towards me especially, I cannot tell, nor can my sister,’ said Philip, looking full at his uncle; ‘but I seem to have come in for a full share of it.’
He proceeded to read the description of Guy’s passion, and the expressions he had used. Violent as it had been, it did not lose in Mrs. Henley’s colouring; and what made the effect worse was that she had omitted to say she had overheard his language, so that it appeared as if he had been unrestrained even by gentlemanly feeling, and had thus spoken of her brother and uncle in her presence.
Mr. Edmonstone was resentful now, really displeased, and wounded to the quick. The point on which he was especially sensitive was his reputation for sense and judgment; and that Guy, who had shown him so much respect and affection, whom he had treated with invariable kindness, and received into his family like a son, that he should thus speak of him shocked him extremely. He was too much overcome even to break out into exclamations at first, he only drank off his glass of wine hastily, and said, ‘I would never have thought it!’
With these words, all desire for forbearance and toleration departed. If Guy could speak thus of him, he was ready to believe any accusation, to think him deceitful from the first, to say he had been trifling with Amy, to imagine him a confirmed reprobate, and cast him off entirely. Philip had some difficulty to restrain him from being too violent; and to keep him to the matter in hand, he defended Guy from the exaggerations of his imagination in a manner which appeared highly noble, considering how Guy had spoken of him. Before they parted that night, another letter had been written, which stood thus —
‘DEAR SIR GUY — Since you refuse the confidence which I have a right to demand, since you elude the explanation I asked, and indulge yourself in speaking in disrespectful terms of me and my family, I have every reason to suppose that you have no desire to continue on the same footing as heretofore at Hollywell. As your guardian, I repeat that I consider myself bound to keep a vigilant watch over your conduct, and, if possible, to recover you from the unhappy course in which you have involved yourself: but all other intercourse between you and this family must cease. ‘Your horse shall be sent to Redclyffe tomorrow.
This letter was more harsh than Philip wished; but Mr. Edmonstone would hardly be prevailed on to consent to enter on no further reproaches. He insisted on banishing Deloraine, as well as on the mention of Guy’s disrespect, both against his nephew’s opinion; but it was necessary to let him have his own way on these points, and Philip thought himself fortunate in getting a letter written which was in any degree rational and moderate.
They had been so busy, and Mr. Edmonstone so excited, that Philip thought it best to accept the offer of tea being sent them in the dining-room, and it was not till nearly midnight that their conference broke up, when Mr. Edmonstone found his wife sitting up by the dressing-room fire, having shut Charles’s door, sorely against his will.
‘There,’ began Mr. Edmonstone, ‘you may tell Amy she may give him up, and a lucky escape she has had. But this is what comes of settling matters in my absence.’ So he proceeded with the narration, mixing the facts undistinguishably with his own surmises, and overwhelming his wife with dismay. If a quarter of this was true, defence of Guy was out of the question; and it was still more impossible to wish Amy’s attachment to him to continue; and though much was incredible, it was no time to say so. She could only hope morning would soften her husband’s anger, and make matters explicable.
Morning failed to bring her comfort. Mr. Edmonstone repeated that Amy must be ordered to give up all thoughts of Guy, and she perceived that the words ascribed to him stood on evidence which could not be doubted. She could believe he might have spoken them in the first shock of an unjust imputation, and she thought he might have been drawn into some scrape to serve a friend; but she could never suppose him capable of all Mr. Edmonstone imagined.
The first attempt to plead his cause, however, brought on her an angry reply; for Philip, by a hint, that she never saw a fault in Guy, had put it into his uncle’s head that she would try to lead him, and made him particularly inaccessible to her influence.
There was no help for it, then; poor little Amy must hear the worst; and it was not long before Mrs. Edmonstone found her waiting in the dressing-room. Between obedience to her husband, her conviction of Guy’s innocence, and her tenderness to her daughter, Mrs. Edmonstone had a hard task, and she could scarcely check her tears as Amy nestled up for her morning kiss.
‘O mamma! what is it?’
‘Dearest, I told you a cloud was coming. Try to bear it. Your papa is not satisfied with Guy’s answer, and it seems he spoke some hasty words of papa and Philip; they have displeased papa very much, and, my dear child, you must try to bear it, he has written to tell Guy he must not think any more of you.’
‘He has spoken hasty words of papa!’ repeated Amy, as if she had not heard the rest. ‘How sorry he must be!’
As she spoke, Charles’s door was pushed open, and in he came, half dressed, scrambling on, with but one crutch, to the chair near which she stood, with drooping head and clasped hands.
‘Never mind, little Amy, he said; ‘I’ll lay my life ’tis only some monstrous figment of Mrs. Henley’s. Trust my word, it will right itself; it is only a rock to keep true love from running too smooth. Come, don’t cry, as her tears began to flow fast, ‘I only meant to cheer you up.’
‘I am afraid, Charlie, said his mother, putting a force on her own feeling, ‘it is not the best or kindest way to do her good by telling her to dwell on hopes of him.’
‘Mamma one of Philip’s faction!’ exclaimed Charles.
‘Of no faction at all, Charles, but I am afraid it is a bad case;’ and Mrs. Edmonstone related what she knew; glad to address herself to any one but Amy, who stood still, meanwhile, her hands folded on the back of her brother’s chair.
Charles loudly protested that the charges were absurd and preposterous, and would be proved so in no time. He would finish dressing instantly, go to speak to his father, and show him the sense of the thing. Amy heard and hoped, and his mother, who had great confidence in his clear sight, was so cheered as almost to expect that today’s post might carry a conciliatory letter.
Meantime, Laura and Philip met in the breakfast-room, and in answer to her anxious inquiry, he had given her an account of Guy, which, though harsh enough, was far more comprehensible than what the rest had been able to gather.
She was inexpressibly shocked, ‘My poor dear little Amy!’ she exclaimed. ‘O Philip, now I see all you thought to save me from!’
‘It is an unhappy business that it ever was permitted!’
‘Poor little dear! She was so happy, so very happy and sweet in her humility and her love. Do you know, Philip, I was almost jealous for a moment that all should be so easy for them; and I blamed poverty; but oh! there are worse things than poverty!’
He did not speak, but his dark blue eye softened with the tender look known only to her; and it was one of the precious moments for which she lived. She was happy till the rest came down, and then a heavy cloud seemed to hang on them at breakfast time.
‘Charles, who found anxiety on Guy’s account more exciting, though considerably less agreeable, than he had once expected, would not go away with the womankind; but as soon as the door was shut, exclaimed,
‘Now then, Philip, let me know the true grounds of your persecution.’
It was not a conciliating commencement. His father was offended, and poured out a confused torrent of Guy’s imagined misdeeds, while Philip explained and modified his exaggerations.
‘So the fact is,’ said Charles, at length, ‘that Guy has asked for his own money, and when in lieu of it he received a letter full of unjust charges, he declared Philip was a meddling coxcomb. I advise you not to justify his opinion.’
Philip disdained to reply, and after a few more of Mr. Edmonstone’s exclamations Charles proceeded,
‘This is the great sum total.’
‘No,’ said Philip; ‘I have proof of his gambling.’
‘What is it?’
‘I have shown it to your father, and he is satisfied.’
‘Is it not proof enough that he is lost to all sense of propriety, that he should go and speak in that fashion of us, and to Philip’s own sister?’ cried Mr. Edmonstone. ‘What would you have more?’
‘That little epithet applied to Captain Morville is hardly, to my mind, proof sufficient that a man is capable of every vice,’ said Charles, who, in the pleasure of galling his cousin, did not perceive the harm he did his friend’s cause, by recalling the affront which his father, at least, felt most deeply. Mr. Edmonstone grew angry with him for disregarding the insulting term applied to himself; and Charles, who, though improved in many points, still sometimes showed the effects of early habits of disrespect to his father, answered hastily, that no one could wonder at Guy’s resenting such suspicions; he deserved no blame at all, and would have been a blockhead to bear it tamely.
This was more than Charles meant, but his temper was fairly roused, and he said much more than was right or judicious, so that his advocacy only injured the cause. He had many representations to make on the injustice of condemning Guy unheard, of not even laying before him the proofs on which the charges were founded, and on the danger of actually driving him into mischief, by shutting the doors of Hollywell against him. ‘If you wanted to make him all you say he is, you are taking the very best means.’
Quite true; but Charles had made his father too angry to pay attention. This stormy discussion continued for nearly two hours, with no effect save inflaming the minds of all parties. At last Mr. Edmonstone was called away; and Charles, rising, declared he should go at that moment, and write to tell Guy that there was one person at least still in his senses.
‘You will do as you please,’ said Philip.
‘Thank you for the permission,’ said Charles, proudly.
‘It is not to me that your submission is due,’ said Philip.
‘I’ll tell you what, Philip, I submit to my own father readily, but I do not submit to Captain Morville’s instrument.’
‘We have had enough of unbecoming retorts for one day,’ said Philip, quietly, and offering his arm.
Much as Charles disliked it, he was in too great haste not to accept it; and perceiving that there were visitors in the drawing-room, he desired to go up-stairs.
‘People who always come when they are not wanted!’ he muttered, as he went up, pettish with them as with everything else.
‘I do not think you in a fit mood to be advised, Charles,’ said Philip; ‘but to free my own conscience, let me say this. Take care how you promote this unfortunate attachment.’
‘Take care what you say!’ exclaimed Charles, flushing with anger, as he threw himself forward, with an impatient movement, trusting to his crutch rather than retain his cousin’s arm; but the crutch slipped, he missed his grasp at the balusters, and would have fallen to the bottom of the flight if Philip had not been close behind. Stretching out his foot, he made a barrier, receiving Charles’s weight against his breast, and then, taking him in his arms, carried him up the rest of the way as easily as if he had been a child. The noise brought Amy out of the dressing-room, much frightened, though she did not speak till Charles was deposited on the sofa, and assured them he was not in the least hurt, but he would hardly thank his cousin for having so dexterously saved him; and Philip, relieved from the fear of his being injured, viewed the adventure as a mere ebullition of ill-temper, and went away.
‘A fine helpless log am I,’ exclaimed Charles, as he found himself alone with Amy. ‘A pretty thing for me to talk of being of any use, when I can’t so much as show my anger at an impertinence about my own sister, without being beholden for not breaking my neck to the very piece of presumption that uttered it.’
‘Oh, don’t speak so’ began Amy; and at that moment Philip was close to them, set down the crutch that had been dropped, and went without speaking.
‘I don’t care who hears,’ said Charles; ‘I say there is no greater misery in this world than to have the spirit of a man and the limbs of a cripple. I know if I was good for anything, things would not long be in this state. I should be at St. Mildred’s by this time, at the bottom of the whole story, and Philip would be taught to eat his words in no time, and make as few wry faces as suited his dignity. But what is the use of talking? This sofa’— and he struck his fist against it —‘is my prison, and I am a miserable cripple, and it is mere madness in me to think of being attended to.’
‘O Charlie!’ cried Amy, caressingly, and much distressed, ‘don’t talk so. Indeed, I can’t bear it! You know it is not so.’
‘Do I? Have not I been talking myself hoarse, showing up their injustice, saying all a man could say to bring them to reason, and not an inch could I move them. I do believe Philip has driven my father stark mad with these abominable stories of his sister’s, which I verily believe she invented herself.’
‘O no, she could not. Don’t say so.’
‘What! Are you going to believe them, too?’
‘It is that which drives me beyond all patience,’ proceeded Charles, ‘to see Philip lay hold of my father, and twist him about as he chooses, and set every one down with his authority.’
‘Philip soon goes abroad,’ said Amy, who could not at the moment say anything more charitable.
‘Ay! there is the hope. My father will return to his natural state provided they don’t drive Guy, in the meantime, to do something desperate.’
‘No, they won’t,’ whispered Amy.
‘Well, give me the blotting-book. I’ll write to him this moment, and tell him we are not all the tools of Philip’s malice.’
Amy gave the materials to her brother, and then turning away, busied herself in silence as best she might, in the employment her mother had recommended her, of sorting some garden-seeds for the cottagers. After an interval, Charles said,
‘Well, Amy, what shall I say to him for you?’
There was a little silence, and presently Amy whispered, ‘I don’t think I ought.’
‘What?’ asked Charles, not catching her very low tones, as she sat behind him, with her head bent down.
‘I don’t think it would be right,’ she repeated, more steadily.
‘Not right for you to say you don’t think him a villain?’
‘Papa said I was to have no —‘and there her voice was stopped with tears.
‘This is absurd, Amy,’ said Charles; ‘when it all was approved at first, and now my father is acting on a wrong impression; what harm can there be in it? Every one would do so.’
‘I am sure he would not think it right,’ faltered Amy.
‘He? You’ll never have any more to say to him, if you don’t take care what you are about.’
‘I can’t help it,’ said Amy, in a broken voice. ‘It is not right.’
‘Nonsense! folly!’ said Charles. ‘You are as bad as the rest. When they are persecuting, and slandering, and acting in the most outrageous way against him, and you know one word of yours would carry him through all, you won’t say it, to save him from distraction, and from doing all my father fancies he has done. Then I believe you don’t care a rush for him, and never want to see him again, and believe the whole monstrous farrago. I vow I’ll say so.’
‘O Charles, you are very cruel!’ said Amy, with an irrepressible burst of weeping.
‘Then, if you don’t believe it, why can’t you send one word to comfort him?’
She wept in silence for some moments; at last she said —
‘It would not comfort him to think me disobedient. He will trust me without, and he will know what you think. You are very kind, dear Charlie; but don’t persuade me any more, for I can’t bear it. I am going away now; but don’t fancy I am angry, only I don’t think I can sit by while you write that letter.’
Poor little Amy, she seldom knew worse pain than at that moment, when she was obliged to go away to put it out of her power to follow the promptings of her heart to send the few kind words which might prove that nothing could shake her love and trust.
A fresh trial awaited her when she looked from her own window. She saw Deloraine led out, his chestnut neck glossy in the sun and William prepared for a journey, and the other servants shaking hands, and bidding him good-bye. She saw him ride off, and could hardly help flying back to her brother to exclaim, ‘O Charlie, they have sent Deloraine away!’ while the longing to send one kind greeting became more earnest than ever; but she withstood it, and throwing herself on the bed, exclaimed —
‘He will never come back — never, never!’ and gave way, unrestrainedly, to a fit of weeping; nor was it till this had spent itself that she could collect her thoughts.
She was sitting on the side of her bed trying to compose herself, when Laura, came in.
‘My own Amy — my poor, dearest — I am very sorry!’
‘Thank you, dear Laura,’ and Amy gladly rested her aching head on her shoulder.
‘I wish I knew what to do for you!’ proceeded Laura. ‘You cannot, cease to think about him, and yet you ought.’
‘If I ought, I suppose I can,’ said Amy in a voice exhausted with crying.
‘That’s right, darling. You will not be weak, and pine for one who is not worthy.’
‘Not worthy, Laura?’ said Amy, withdrawing her arm, and holding up her head.
‘Ah! my poor Amy, we thought —’
‘Yes; and it is so still. I know it is so. I know he did not do it.’
‘Then what do you think of Margaret and Philip?’
‘There is some mistake.’
And how can you defend what he said of papa?’
‘I don’t,’ said Amy, hiding her face. ‘That is the worst; but I am sure it was only a moment’s passion, and that he must be very unhappy about it now. I don’t think papa would mind it, at least not long, if it was not for this other dreadful misapprehension. O, Laura! why cannot something be done to clear it up?’
‘Everything will be done,’ said Laura. Papa has written to Mr. Wellwood, and Philip means to go and make inquiries at Oxford and St. Mildred’s.’
‘When?’ asked Amy.
‘Not till term begins. You know he is to have a fortnight’s leave before the regiment goes to Ireland.’
‘Oh, I hope it will come right then. People must come to an understanding when they meet; it is so different from writing.’
‘He will do everything to set things on a right footing. You may be confident of that, Amy, for your sake as much as anything else.’
‘I can’t think why he should know I have anything to do with it,’ said Amy, blushing. ‘I had much rather he did not.’
‘Surely, Amy, you think he can be trusted with your secret; and there is no one who can take more care for you. You must look on him as one of ourselves.’
Amy made no answer, and Laura, was annoyed.
‘You are vexed with him for having told this to papa; but that is not reasonable of you, Amy; your better sense must tell you that it is the only truly kind course, both towards Guy and yourself.’
It was said in Philip’s manner, which perhaps made it harder to bear; and Amy could scarcely answer —
‘He means it for the best.’
‘You would not have had him be silent?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Amy, sadly. ‘No; he should have done something, but he might have done it more kindly.’
Laura endeavoured to persuade her that nothing could have been more kind and judicious, and Amy sat dejectedly owning the good intention, and soothed by the affection of her family; with the bitter suffering of her heart unallayed, with all her fond tender feelings torn at the thought of what Guy must be enduring, and with the pain of knowing it was her father’s work. She had one comfort, in the certainty that Guy would bear it nobly. She was happy to find her confidence confirmed by her mother and Charles; and one thing she thought she need not give up, though she might no longer think of him as her lover, she might be his Verena still, whether he knew it or not. It could not be wrong to remember any one in her prayers, and to ask that he might not be led into temptation, but have strength to abide patiently. That helped her to feel that he was in the hands of One to whom the secrets of all hearts are known; and a line of poetry seemed to be whispered in her ears, in his own sweet tones —
Wait, and the cloud shall roll away.
So, after the first day, she went on pretty well. She was indeed silent and grave, and no longer the sunbeam of Hollywell; but she took her share in what was passing, and a common observer would hardly have remarked the submissive melancholy of her manner. Her father was very affectionate, and often called her his jewel of good girls; but he was too much afraid of women’s tears to talk to her about Guy, he left that to her mother: and Mrs. Edmonstone, having seen her submit to her father’s will, was unwilling to say more.
She doubted whether it was judicious to encourage her in dwelling on Guy; for, even supposing his character clear, they had offended him deeply, and released him from any engagement to her, so that there was nothing to prevent him from forming an attachment elsewhere. Mrs. Edmonstone did not think he would; but it was better to say nothing about him, lest she should not speak prudently, and only keep up the subject in Amy’s mind.
Charles stormed and wrangled, told Mr. Edmonstone ‘he was breaking his daughter’s heart, that was all;’ and talked of unfairness and injustice, till Mr. Edmonstone vowed it was beyond all bearing, that his own son should call him a tyrant, and accused Guy of destroying all peace in his family.
The replies to the letters came; some thought them satisfactory, and the others wondered that they thought so. Mr. Wellwood gave the highest character of his pupil, and could not imagine how any irregularities could be laid to his charge; but when asked in plain terms how he disposed of his time, could only answer in general, that he had friends and engagements of his own at St. Mildred’s and its neighbourhood, and had been several times at Mrs. Henley’s and at Colonel Harewood’s. The latter place, unfortunately, was the very object of Philip’s suspicions; and thus the letter was anything but an exculpation.
Guy wrote to Charles in the fulness of his heart, expressing gratitude for his confidence and sympathy. He again begged for the supposed evidence of his misconduct, declaring he could explain it, whatever it might be, and proceeded to utter deep regrets for his hasty expressions.
‘I do not know what I may have said,’ he wrote; ‘I have no doubt it was unpardonable, for I am sure my feelings were so, and that I deserve whatever I have brought on myself. I can only submit to Mr. Edmonstone’s sentence, and trust that time will bring to his knowledge that I am innocent of what I am accused of. He has every right to be displeased with me.
Charles pronounced this to be only Guy’s way of abusing himself; but his father saw in it a disguised admission of guilt. It was thought, also, to be bad sign that Guy intended to remain at South Moor till the end of the vacation, though Charles argued that he must be somewhere; and if they wished to keep him out of mischief, why exile him from Hollywell! He would hardly listen to his mother’s representation, that on Amy’s account it would not be right to have him there till the mystery was cleared up.
He tried to stir his father up to go and see Guy at St. Mildred’s, and investigate matters for himself; but, though Mr. Edmonstone would have liked the appearance of being important, this failed, because Philip declared it to be unadvisable, knowing that it would be no investigation at all, and that his uncle would be talked over directly. Next, Charles would have persuaded Philip himself to go, but the arrangements about his leave did not make this convenient; and it was put off till he should pay his farewell visit to his sister, in October. Lastly, Charles wrote to Mrs. Henley, entreating her to give him some information about this mysterious evidence which was wanting, but her reply was a complete ‘set down’ for interference in a matter with which he had no concern.
He was very angry. In fact, the post seldom came in without occasioning a fresh dispute, which only had the effect of keeping up the heat of Mr. Edmonstone’s displeasure, and making the whole house uncomfortable.
Fretfulness and ill-humour seemed to have taken possession of Charles and his father. Such a state of things had not prevailed since Guy’s arrival: Hollywell was hardly like the same house; Mrs. Edmonstone and Laura could do nothing without being grumbled at or scolded by one or other of the gentlemen; even Amy now and then came in for a little petulance on her father’s part, and Charles could not always forgive her for saying in her mournful, submissive tome — ‘It is of no use to talk about it!’
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:56