Hark, how the birds do sing,
And woods do ring!
All creatures have their joy, and man hath his;
Yet if we rightly measure,
Man’s joy and pleasure
Rather hereafter than in present is:
Not that he may not here
Taste of the cheer,
But as birds drink and straight lift up the head,
So must he sip and think
Of better drink
He may attain to after he is dead.
Guy returned to Hollywell on the Friday, there to spend a quiet week with them all, for it was a special delight to Amy that Hollywell and her family were as precious to him for their own sakes as for hers. It was said that it was to be a quiet week — but with all the best efforts of Mrs. Edmonstone and Laura to preserve quiet, there was an amount, of confusion that would have been very disturbing, but for Amy’s propensity never to be ruffled or fluttered.
What was to be done in the honeymoon was the question for consideration. Guy and Amy would have liked to make a tour among the English cathedrals, pay a visit at Hollywell, and then go home and live in a corner of the house till the rest was ready; for Amy could not see why she should take up so much more room than old Sir Guy, and Guy declared he could not see that happiness was a reason for going pleasure-hunting; but Charles pronounced this very stupid, and Mr. Edmonstone thought a journey on the Continent was the only proper thing for them to do. Mrs. Edmonstone wished Amy to see a little of the world. Amy was known to have always desired to see Switzerland; it occurred to Guy that it would be a capital opportunity of taking Arnaud to see the relations he had been talking for the last twenty years of visiting, and so they acquiesced; for as Guy said, when they talked it over together, it did not seem to him to come under the denomination of pleasure-hunting, since they had not devised it for themselves; they had no house to go to; they should do Arnaud a service, and perhaps they should meet Philip.
‘That will not be pleasure-hunting, certainly,’ said Amy; then, remembering that he could not bear to hear Philip under-rated, she added, ‘I mean, unless you could convince him, and then it would be more than pleasure.’
‘It would be my first of unattained wishes,’ said Guy. ‘Then we will enjoy the journey.’
‘No fear on that score,’
‘And for fear we should get too much into the stream of enjoyment, as people abroad forget home-duties, let us stick to some fixed time for coming back.’
‘You said Redclyffe would be ready by Michaelmas.’
‘I have told the builder it must be. So, Amy, as far as it depends on ourselves, we are determined to be at home by Michaelmas.’
All seemed surprised to find the time for the wedding so near at hand. Charles’s spirits began to flag, Amy was a greater loss to him than to anybody else; she could never again be to him what she had been, and unable as he was to take part in the general bustle and occupation, he had more time for feeling this, much more than his mother and Laura, who were employed all day. He and Guy were exemplary in their civilities to each other in not engrossing Amy, and one who had only known him three years ago, when he was all exaction and selfishness, could have hardly believed him to be the same person who was now only striving to avoid giving pain, by showing how much it cost him to yield up his sister. He could contrive to be merry, but the difficulty was to be cheerful; he could make them all laugh in spite of themselves, but when alone with Amy, or when hearing her devolve on her sisters the services she had been wont to perform for him, it was almost more than he could endure; but then he dreaded setting Amy off into one of her silent crying-fits, for which the only remedy was the planning a grand visit to Redclyffe, and talking overall the facilities of railroads and carriages.
The last day had come, and a long strange one it was; not exactly joyful to any, and very sad to some, though Amy, with her sweet pensive face, seemed to have a serenity of her own that soothed them whenever they looked at her. Charlotte, though inclined to be wild and flighty, was checked and subdued in her presence; Laura could not be entirely wretched about her; Charles lay and looked at her without speaking; her father never met her without kissing her on each side of her face, and calling her his little jewel; her mother — but who could describe Mrs. Edmonstone on that day, so full of the present pain, contending with the unselfish gladness.
Guy kept out of the way, thinking Amy ought to be left to them. He sat in his own room a good while, afterwards rode to Broadstone, in coming home made a long visit to Mr. Ross; and when he returned, he found Charles in his wheeled chair on the lawn, with Amy sitting on the grass by his side. He sat down by her and there followed a long silence — one of those pauses full of meaning.
‘When shall we three meet again?’ at length said Charles, in a would-be lively tone.
‘And where?’ said Amy.
‘Here,’ said Charles; ‘you will come here to tell your adventures, and take up Bustle.’
‘I hope so,’ said Guy. ‘We could not help it. The telling you about it will be a treat to look forward to all the time.’
‘Yes; your sight-seeing is a public benefit. You have seen many a thing for me.’
‘That is the pleasure of seeing and hearing, the thing that is not fleeting,’ said Guy.
‘The unselfish part, you mean,’ said Charles; and mused again, till Guy, starting up, exclaimed —
‘There are the people!’ as a carriage came in view in the lane. ‘Shall I wheel you home, Charlie?’
Guy leant over the back, and pushed him along; and as he did so murmured in a low tremulous tone, ‘Wherever or whenever we may be destined to meet, Charlie, or if never again, I must thank you for a great part of my happiness here — for a great deal of kindness and sympathy.’
Charles looked straight before him, and answered —‘The kindness was all on your part. I had nothing to give in return but ill-temper and exactions. But, Guy, you must not think I have not felt all you have done for me. You have made a new man of me, instead of a wretched stick, laughing at my misery, to persuade myself and others that I did not feel it. I hope you are proud of it.’
‘As if I had anything to do with it!’
‘Hadn’t, you, that’s all! I know what you won’t deny, at any rate — what a capital man-of-all-work you have been to me, when I had no right to ask it, as now we have,’ he added, smiling, because Amy was looking at him, but not making a very successful matter of the smile. ‘When you come back, you’ll see me treat you as indeed “a man and a brother.”’
This talk retarded them a little, and they did not reach the house till the guests were arriving. The first sight that met the eyes of Aunt Charlotte and Lady Eveleen as they entered, was, in the frame of the open window, Guy’s light agile figure, assisting Charles up the step, his brilliant hazel eyes and glowing healthy complexion contrasting with Charles’s pale, fair, delicate face, and features sharpened and refined by suffering. Amy, her deep blushes and downcast eyes almost hidden by her glossy curls, stood just behind, carrying her brother’s crutch.
‘There they are,’ cried Miss Edmonstone, springing forward from her brother and his wife, and throwing her arms round Amy in a warm embrace. ‘My dear, dear little niece, I congratulate you with all my heart, and that I do.’
‘I’ll spare your hot cheeks, Amy dearest!’ whispered Eveleen, as Amy passed to her embrace, while Aunt Charlotte hastily kissed Charles, and proceeded —‘I don’t wait for an introduction;’ and vehemently shook hands with Guy.
‘Ay, did I say a word too much in his praise?’ said Mr. Edmonstone. ‘Isn’t he all out as fine a fellow as I told you?’
Guy was glad to turn away to shake hands with Lord Kilcoran, and the next moment he drew Amy out of the group eagerly talking round Charles’s sofa, and holding her hand, led her up to a sturdy, ruddy-brown, elderly man, who had come in at the same time, but after the first reception had no share in the family greetings. ‘You know him, already,’ said Guy; and Amy held out her hand, saying —
‘Yes, I am sure I do.’
Markham was taken by surprise, he gave a most satisfied grunt, and shook hands as heartily as if she had been his favourite niece.
‘And the little girl?’ said Amy.
‘O yes. — I picked her up at St. Mildred’s: one of the servants took charge of her in the hall.’
‘I’ll fetch her,’ cried Charlotte, as Amy was turning to the door, and the next moment she led in little Marianne Dixon, clinging to her hand. Amy kissed her, and held her fast in her arms, and Marianne looked up, consoled in her bewilderment, by the greeting of her dear old friend, Sir Guy.
Mr. Edmonstone patted her head; and when the others had spoken kindly to her, Charlotte, under whose especial charge Guy and Amy had placed her, carried her off to the regions up-stairs.
The rest of the evening was hurry and confusion. Mrs. Edmonstone was very busy, and glad to be so, as she must otherwise have given way; and there was Aunt Charlotte to be talked to, whom they had not seen since Charles’s illness. She was a short, bustling, active person, with a joyous face, inexhaustible good-humour, a considerable touch of Irish, and referring everything to her mother — her one thought. Everything was to be told to her, and the only drawback to her complete pleasure was the anxiety lest she should be missed at home.
Mrs. Edmonstone was occupied with her, telling her the history of the engagement, and praising Guy; Amy went up as soon as dinner was over, to take leave of old nurse, and to see little Marianne; and Eveleen sat between Laura and Charlotte, asking many eager questions, which were not all convenient to answer.
Why Sir Guy had not been at home at Christmas was a query to which it seemed as if she should never gain a reply; for that Charles had been ill, and Guy at Redclyffe, was no real answer; and finding she should not be told, she wisely held her tongue. Again she made an awkward inquiry —
‘Now tell me, is Captain Morville pleased about this or not?’
Laura would have been silent, trusting to Eveleen’s propensity for talking, for bringing her to some speech that it might be easier to answer, but Charlotte exclaimed, ‘What has he been saying about it?’
‘Saying? O nothing. But why does not he come?’
‘You have seen him more lately than we have,’ said Laura.
‘That is an evasion,’ said Eveleen; ‘as if you did not know more of his mind than I could ever get at, if I saw him every day of my life.’
‘He is provoking, that is all,’ answered Charlotte. ‘I am sure we don’t want him; but Laura and Guy will both of them take his part.’
A call came at that moment — the box of white gloves was come, and Laura must come and count them. She would fain have taken Charlotte with her; but neither Charlotte nor Eveleen appeared disposed to move, and she was obliged to leave them. Eva had already guessed that there was more chance of hearing the facts from Charlotte, and presently she knew a good deal. Charlotte had some prudence, but she thought she might tell her own cousin what half the neighbourhood knew — that Philip had suspected Guy falsely, and had made papa very angry with him, that the engagement had been broken off, and Guy had been banished, while all the time he was behaving most gloriously. Now it was all explained; but in spite of the fullest certainty, Philip would not be convinced, and wanted them to have waited five years.
Eveleen agreed with Charlotte that this was a great deal too bad, admired Guy, and pitied Amy to her heart’s content.
‘So, he was banished, regularly banished!’ said she. ‘However of course Amy never gave him up.’
‘Oh, she never mistrusted him one minute.’
‘And while he had her fast, it was little he would care for the rest.’
‘Yes, if he had known it, but she could not tell him.’
Eveleen looked arch.
‘But I am sure she did not,’ said Charlotte, rather angrily.
‘You know nothing about it, my dear.’
‘Yes, but I do; for mamma said to Charlie how beautifully she did behave, and he too — never attempting any intercourse.’
‘Very good of you to believe it.’
‘I am sure of it, certain sure,’ said Charlotte. ‘How could you venture to think they would either of them do anything wrong?’
‘I did not say they would.’
‘What, not to write to each other when papa had forbidden it, and do it in secret, too?’
‘My dear, don’t look so innocently irate. Goodness has nothing to do with it, it would be only a moderate constancy. You know nothing at all of lovers.’
‘If I know nothing of lovers, I know a great deal of Amy and Guy, and I am quite sure that nothing on earth would tempt them to do anything in secret that they were forbidden.’
‘Wait till you are in love, and you’ll change your mind.’
‘I never mean to be in love,’ said Charlotte indignantly. Eveleen laughed the more, Charlotte grew more angry and uncomfortable at the tone of the conversation, and was heartily glad that it was broken off by the entrance of the gentlemen. Guy helped Charles to the sofa, and then turned away to continue his endless talk on Redclyffe business with Markham. Charlotte flew up to the sofa, seized an interval when no one was in hearing, and kneeling down to bring her face on a level with her brother’s whispered —‘Charlie, Eva won’t believe but that Guy and Amy kept up some intercourse last winter.’
‘I can’t help it, Charlotte.’
‘When I tell her they did not, she only laughs at me. Do tell her they did not.’
‘I have too much self-respect to lay myself open to ridicule.’
‘Charlie, you don’t think it possible yourself?’ exclaimed Charlotte, in consternation.
‘Possible — no indeed.’
‘She will say it is not wrong, and that I know nothing of lovers.’
‘You should have told her that ours are not commonplace lovers, but far beyond her small experience.’
‘I wish I had! Tell her so, Charlie; she will believe you.’
‘I sha’n’t say one word about it.’
‘Because she is not worthy. If she can’t appreciate them, I would let her alone. I once thought better of Eva, but it is very bad company she keeps when she is not here.’
Charles, however, was not sorry when Eveleen came to sit by him, for a bantering conversation with her was the occupation of which he was moat capable. Amy, returning, came and sat in her old place beside him, with her hand in his, and her quiet eyes fixed on the ground.
The last evening for many weeks that she would thus sit with him — the last that she would ever be a part of his home. She had already ceased to belong entirely to him; she who had always been the most precious to him, except his mother.
Only his mother could have been a greater loss — he could not dwell on the anticipation; and still holding her hand, he roused himself to listen, and answer gaily to Eveleen’s description of the tutor, Mr. Fielder, ‘a thorough gentleman, very clever and agreeable, who had read all the books in the world; the ugliest, yes, without exaggeration, the most quaintly ugly man living — little, and looking just as if he was made of gutta percha, Eveleen said, ‘always moving by jerks — so Maurice advised the boys not to put him near the fire, lest he should melt.’
‘Only when he gives them some formidable lesson, and they want to melt his heart,’ said Charles, talking at random, in hopes of saying something laughable.
‘Then his eyes —’tis not exactly a squint, but a cast there is, and one set of eyelashes are black and the other light, and that gives him just the air of a little frightful terrier of Maurice’s named Venus, with a black spot over one eye. The boys never call him anything but Venus.’
‘And you encourage them in respect for their tutor?’
‘Oh, he holds his own at lessons, I trow; but he pretends to have such a horror of us wild Irish, and to wonder not to find us eating potatoes with our fingers, and that I don’t wear a petticoat over my head instead of a bonnet, in what he calls the classical Carthaginian Celto–Hibernian fashion.’
‘Dear me,’ said Charlotte, ‘no wonder Philip recommended him.’
‘O, I assure you he has the gift, no one else but Captain Morville talks near as well.’
So talked on Eveleen, and Charles answered her as much in her own fashion as he could, and when at last the evening came to an end, every one felt relieved.
Laura lingered long in Amy’s room, perceiving that hitherto she had known only half the value of her sister her sweet sister. It would be worse than ever now, when left with the others, all so much less sympathizing, all saying sharp things of Philip, none to cling to her with those winsome ways that had been unnoted till the time when they were no more to console her, and she felt them to have been the only charm that had softened her late dreary desolation.
So full was her heart, that she must have told Amy all her grief but for the part that Philip had acted towards Guy, and her doubts of Guy would not allow her the consolation of dwelling on Amy’s happiness, which cheered the rest. She could only hang about her in speechless grief, and caress her fondly, while Amy cried, and tried to comfort her, till her mother came to wish her good night.
Mrs. Edmonstone did not stay long, because she wished Amy, if possible to rest.
‘Mamma’ said Amy, as she received her last kiss, ‘I can’t think why I am not more unhappy.’
‘It is all as it should be,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone.
Amabel slept, and awakened to the knowledge that it was her wedding-day. She was not to appear at the first breakfast, but she came to meet Charles in the dressing-room; and as they sat together on the sofa, where she had watched and amused so many of his hours of helplessness, he clasped round her arm his gift — a bracelet of his mother’s hair. His fingers trembled and his eyes were hazy, but he would not let her help him. Her thanks were obliged to be all kisses, no words would come but ‘Charlie; Charlie! how could I ever have promised to leave you?’
‘Nonsense! who ever dreamt that my sisters were to be three monkeys tied to a dog?’
It was impossible not to smile, though it was but for a moment — Charles’s mirth was melancholy.
‘And, dear Charlie, you will not miss me so very much; do pray let Charlotte wait upon you.’
‘After the first, perhaps, I may not hate her. Oh, Amy, I little knew what I was doing when I tried to get him back again for you. I was sawing off the bough I was sitting on. But there! I will not flatter you, you’ve had enough to turn that head of yours. Stand up, and let me take a survey. Very pretty, I declare — you do my education credit. There, if it will be for your peace, I’ll do my best to wear on without you. I’ve wanted a brother all my life, and you are giving me the very one I would have picked out of a thousand — the only one I could forgive for presuming to steal you, Amy. Here he is. Come in,’ he added, as Guy knocked at his door, to offer to help him down-stairs.
Guy hardly spoke, and Amy could not look in his face. It was late, and he took down Charles at once. After this, she had very little quiet, every one was buzzing about her, and putting the last touches to her dress; at last, just as she was quite finished, Charlotte exclaimed, ‘Oh, there is Guy’s step; may I call him in to have one look?’
Mrs. Edmonstone did not say no; and Charlotte, opening the dressing-room door, called to him. He stood opposite to Amy for some moments, then said, with a smile, ‘I was wrong about the grogram. I would not for anything see you look otherwise than you do.’
It seemed to Mrs. Edmonstone and Laura that these words made them lose sight of the details of lace and silk that had been occupying them, so that they only saw the radiance, purity, and innocence of Amy’s bridal appearance. No more was said, for Mr. Edmonstone ran up to call Guy, who was to drive Charles in the pony-carriage.
Amabel, of course, went with her parents. Poor child! her tears flowed freely on the way, and Mr. Edmonstone, now that it had really come to the point of parting with his little Amy, was very much overcome, while his wife, hardly refraining from tears, could only hold her daughter’s hand very close.
The regular morning service was a great comfort, by restoring their tranquillity, and by the time it was ended, Amabel’s countenance had settled into its own calm expression of trust and serenity. She scarcely even trembled when her father led her forward; her hand did not shake, and her voice, though very low, was firm and audible, while Guy’s deep, sweet tones had a sort of thrill and quiver of intense feeling.
No one could help observing that Laura was the most agitated person present; she trembled so much that she was obliged to lean on Charlotte, and her tears gave the infection to the other bridesmaids — all but Mary Ross, who could never cry when other people did, and little Marianne, who did nothing but look and wonder.
Mary was feeling a great deal, both of compassion for the bereaved family and of affectionate admiring joy for the young pair who knelt before the altar. It was a showery day, with gleams of vivid sunshine, and one of these suddenly broke forth, casting a stream of colour from a martyr’s figure in the south window, so as to shed a golden glory on the wave of brown hair over Guy’s forehead, then passing on and tinting the bride’s white veil with a deep glowing shade of crimson and purple.
Either that golden light, or the expression of the face on which it beamed, made Mary think of the lines —
Where is the brow to wear in mortal’s sight,
The crown of pure angelic light?
Charles stood with his head leaning against a pillar as if he could not bear to look up; Mr. Edmonstone was restless and almost sobbing; Mrs. Edmonstone alone collected, though much flushed and somewhat trembling, while the only person apparently free from excitement was the little bride, as there she knelt, her hand clasped in his, her head bent down, her modest, steadfast face looking as if she was only conscious of the vow she exchanged, the blessing she received, and was, as it were, lifted out of herself.
It was over now. The feast, in its fullest sense, was held, and the richest of blessings had been called down on them.
The procession came out of the vestry in full order, and very pretty it was; the bride and bridegroom in the fresh bright graciousness of their extreme youth, and the six bridesmaids following; Laura and Lady Eveleen, two strikingly handsome and elegant girls; Charlotte, with the pretty little fair Marianne; Mary Ross, and Grace Harper. The village people who stood round might well say that such a sight as that was worth coming twenty miles to see.
The first care, after the bridal pair had driven off, was to put Charles into his pony-carriage. Charlotte, who had just pinned on his favour, begged to drive him, for she meant to make him her especial charge, and to succeed to all Amy’s rights. Mrs. Edmonstone asked whether Laura would not prefer going with him, but she hastily answered,
‘No, thank you, let Charlotte;’ for with her troubled feelings, she could better answer talking girls than parry the remarks of her shrewd, observant brother.
Some one said it would rain, but Charlotte still pleaded earnestly.
‘Come, then, puss,’ said Charles, rallying his spirits, ‘only don’t upset me, or it will spoil their tour.’
Charlotte drove off with elaborate care — then came a deep sigh, and she exclaimed, ‘Well! he is our brother, and all is safe.’
‘Yes,’ said Charles; ‘no more fears for them.’
‘Had you any? I am very glad if you had.’
‘Because it was so like a book. I had a sort of feeling, all the time, that Philip would come in quite grand and terrible.’
‘As if he must act Ogre. I am not sure that I had not something of the same notion — that he might appear suddenly, and forbid the banns, entirely for Amy’s sake, and as the greatest kindness to her.’
‘However, he can’t separate them now; let him do his worst, and while Amy is Guy’s wife, I don’t think we shall easily be made to quarrel. I am glad the knot is tied, for I had a fatality notion that the feud was so strong, that it was nearly a case of the mountains bending and the streams ascending, ere she was to be our foeman’s bride.’
‘No,’ said Charlotte, ‘it ought to be like that story of Rosaura and her kindred, don’t you remember? The fate would not be appeased by the marriage, till Count Julius had saved the life of one of the hostile race. That would be it — perhaps they will meet abroad, and Guy will do it.’
‘That won’t do. Philip will never endanger his precious life, nor ever forgive Guy the obligation. Well, I suppose there never was a prettier wedding — how silly of me to say so, I shall be sick of hearing it before night.’
‘I do wish all these people were gone; I did not know it would be so horrid. I should like to shut myself up and cry, and think what I could ever do to wait on you. Indeed, Charlie, I know I never can be like Amy but if you —’
‘Be anything but sentimental; I don’t want to make a fool of myself’ said Charles, with a smile and tone as if he was keeping sorrow at bay. ‘Depend upon it if we were left to ourselves this evening, we should be so desperately savage that we should quarrel furiously, and there would be no Amy to set us to rights.’
‘How Aunt Charlotte did cry! What a funny little woman she is.’
‘Yes, I see now who you take after, puss. You’ll be just like her when you are her age.’
‘So I mean to be — I mean to stay and take care of you all my life, as she does of grandmamma.’
‘You do, do you?’
‘Yes. I never mean to marry, it is so disagreeable. O dear! But how lovely dear Amy did look.’
‘Here’s the rain!’ exclaimed Charles, as some large drops began to fall in good time to prevent them from being either savage or sentimental, though at the expense of Charlotte’s pink and white; for they had no umbrella, and she would not accept a share of Charles’s carriage-cloak. She laughed, and drove on fast through the short cut, and arrived at the house-door, just as the pelting hail was over, having battered her thin sleeves, and made her white bonnet look very deplorable. The first thing they saw was Guy, with Bustle close to him, for Bustle had found out that something was going on that concerned his master, and followed him about more assiduously than ever, as if sensible of the decree, that he was to be left behind to Charlotte’s care.
‘Charlotte, how wet you are.’
‘Never mind, Charlie is not.’ She sprung out, holding his hand, and felt as if she could never forget that moment when her new brother first kissed her brow.
‘Here!’ and while Guy lifted Charles out, Charlotte was clasped in her sister’s arms.
‘Are you wet, Charlie?’
‘No, Charlotte would not be wise, and made me keep the cloak to myself.’
‘You are wet through, poor child; come up at once, and change,’ said Amy, flying nimbly up the stairs — up even to Charlotte’s own room, the old nursery, and there she was unfastening the drenched finery.
‘O Amy, don’t do all this. Let me ring.’
‘No, the servants are either not come home or are too busy. Charles won’t want me, he has Guy. Can I find your white frock?’
‘Oh, but Amy — let me see!’ Charlotte made prisoner the left hand, and looked up with an arch smile at the face where she had called up a blush. ‘Lady Morville must not begin by being lady’s-maid.’
‘Let me — let me, Charlotte, dear, I sha’n’t be able to do anything for you this long time.’ Amy’s voice trembled, and Charlotte held her fast to kiss her again.
‘We must make haste,’ said Amy, recovering herself. ‘There are the carriages.’
While the frock was being fastened, Charlotte looked into the Prayer-book Amy had laid down. There was the name, Amabel Frances Morville, and the date.
‘Has he just written it?’ said Charlotte.
‘Yes; when we came home.’
‘O Amy! dear, dear Amy; I don’t know whether I am glad or sorry!’
‘I believe I am both,’ said Amy.
At that moment Mrs. Edmonstone and Laura hastened in. Then was the time for broken words, tears and smiles, as Amy leant against her mother, who locked her in a close embrace, and gazed on her in a sort of trance, at once of maternal pride and of pain, at giving up her cherished nestling. Poor Laura! how bitter were her tears, and how forced her smiles — far unlike the rest!
No one would care to hear the details of the breakfast, and the splendours of the cake; how Charlotte recovered her spirits while distributing the favours: and Lady Eveleen set up a flirtation with Markham, and forced him into wearing one, though he protested, with many a grunt, that she was making a queer fool of him; how often Charles was obliged to hear it had been a pretty wedding; and how well Lord Kilcoran made his speech proposing the health of Sir Guy and Lady Morville. All the time, Laura was active and useful — feeling as if she was acting a play, sustaining the character of Miss Edmonstone, the bridesmaid at her sister’s happy marriage; while the true Laura, Philip’s Laura, was lonely, dejected, wretched; half fearing for her sister, half jealous of her happiness, forced into pageantry with an aching heart — with only one wish, that it was over, and that she might be again alone with her burden.
She was glad when her mother rose, and the ladies moved into the drawing-room — glad to escape from Eveleen’s quick eye, and to avoid Mary’s clear sense — glad to talk to comparative strangers — glad of the occupation of going to prepare Amabel for her journey. This lasted a long time — there was so much to be said, and hearts were so full, and Amy over again explained to Charlotte how to perform all the little services to Charles which she relinquished; while her mother had so many affectionate last words, and every now and then stopped short to look at her little daughter, saying, she did not know if it was not a dream.
At length Amabel was dressed in her purple and white shot silk, her muslin mantle, and white bonnet. Mrs. Edmonstone left her and Laura to have a few words together, and went to the dressing-room. There she found Guy, leaning on the mantelshelf, as he used to do when he brought his troubles to her. He started as she entered.
‘Ought I not to be here? he said. ‘I could not help coming once more. This room has always been the kernel of my home, my happiness here.’
‘Indeed, it has been a very great pleasure to have you here.’
‘You have been very kind to me,’ he proceeded, in a low, reflecting tone. ‘You have helped me very much, very often; even when — Do you remember the day I begged you to keep me in order, as if I were Charles? I did not think then —’
He was silent; and Mrs. Edmonstone little able to find words, smiling, tried to say — ‘I little thought how truly and how gladly I should be able to call you my son;’ and ended by giving him a mother’s kiss.
‘I wish I could tell you half,’ said Guy — ‘half what I feel for the kindness that made a home to one who had no right to any. Coming as a stranger, I found —’
‘We found one to love with all our hearts,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone. ‘I have often looked back, and seen that you brought a brightness to us all — especially to poor Charles. Yes, it dates from your coming; and I can only wish and trust, Guy, that the same brightness will rest on your own home.’
‘There must be brightness where she is,’ said Guy.
‘I need not tell you to take care of her,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone, smiling. ‘I think I can trust you; but I feel rather as I did when first I sent her and Laura to a party of pleasure by themselves.’
Laura at this moment, came in. Alone with Amy, she could not speak, she could only cry; and fearful of distressing her sister, she came away; but here, with Guy, it was worse, for it was unkind not to speak one warm word to him. Yet what could she say! He spoke first —
‘Laura, you must get up your looks again, now this turmoil is over. Don’t do too much mathematics, and wear yourself down to a shadow.’
Laura gave her sad, forced smile.
‘Will you do one thing for me, Laura? I should like to have one of your perspective views of the inside of the church. Would it be too troublesome to do?’
‘Oh, no; I shall be very glad.’
‘Don’t set about it till you quite like it, and have plenty of time. Thank you. I shall think it is a proof that you can forgive me for all the pain I am causing you. I am very sorry.
‘You are so very kind,’ said Laura, bursting into tears; and, as her mother was gone, she could not help adding, ‘but don’t try to comfort me, Guy; don’t blame yourself — ‘tisn’t only that — but I am so very, very unhappy.’
‘Amy told me you were grieved for Philip. I wish I could help it, Laura. I want to try to meet him in Switzerland, and, if we can, perhaps it may be set right. At any rate he will be glad to know you see the rights of it.’
Laura wept still more; but she could never again lose the sisterly feeling those kind words had awakened. If Philip had but known what he missed!
Charlotte ran in. ‘Oh, I am glad to find you here, Guy; I wanted to put you in mind of your promise. You must write me the first letter you sign “Your affectionate brother!”’
‘I won’t forget, Charlotte.’
‘Guy! Where’s Guy?’ called Mr. Edmonstone. ‘The rain’s going off. You must come down, both of you, or you’ll be too late.’
Mrs. Edmonstone hastened to call Amabel. Those moments that she had been alone, Amabel had been kneeling in an earnest supplication that all might be forgiven that she had done amiss in the home of her childhood, that the blessings might be sealed on her and her husband, and that she might go forth from her father’s house in strength sent from above. Her mother summoned her; she rose, came calmly forth, met Guy at the head of the stairs, put her arm in his, and they went down.
Charles was on the sofa in the ante-room, talking fast, and striving for high spirits.
‘Amy, woman, you do us credit! Well, write soon, and don’t break your heart for want of me.’
There was a confusion of good-byes, and then all came out to the hall door; even Charles, with Charlotte’s arm. One more of those fast-locked embraces between the brother and sister, and Mr. Edmonstone put Amabel into the carriage.
‘Good-bye, good-bye, my own dearest little one! Bless you, bless you! and may you be as happy as a Mayflower! Guy, goodbye. I’ve given you the best I had to give — and ’tis you that are welcome to her. Take care what you do with her, for she’s a precious little jewel! Good-bye, my boy!’
Guy’s face and grasping hand were the reply. As he was about to spring into the carriage, he turned again. ‘Charlotte, I have shut Bustle up in my room. Will you let him out in half an hour? I’ve explained it all to him, and he will be very good. Good-bye.’
‘I’ll take care of him. I’ll mention him in every letter.’
‘And, Markham, mind, if our house is not ready by Michaelmas, we shall be obliged to come and stay with you.’
Lastly, as if he could not help it, Guy dashed up the step once more, pressed Charles’s hand, and said, ‘God bless you, Charlie!’
In an instant he was beside Amabel, and they drove off — Amabel leaning forward, and gazing wistfully at her mother and Charles, till she was startled by a long cluster of laburnums, their yellow bloom bent down and heavy with wet, so that the ends dashed against her bonnet, and the crystal drops fell on her lap.
‘Why, Amy, the Hollywell flowers are weeping for the loss of you!
She gave a sweet, sunny smile through her tears. At that moment they came beyond the thick embowering shrubs, while full before them was the dark receding cloud, on which the sunbeams were painting a wide-spanned rainbow. The semicircle was perfect, and full before them, like an arch of triumph under which they were to pass.
‘How beautiful!’ broke from them both.
‘Guy,’ said the bride, after a few minutes had faded the rainbow, and turned them from its sight, ‘shall I tell you what I was thinking? I was thinking, that if there is a doom on us, I am not afraid, if it will only bring a rainbow.’
‘The rainbow will come after, if not with it,’ said Guy.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:15