She’s a winsome wee thing,
She’s a handsome wee thing,
She’s a bonnie wee thing,
This sweet wee wifie of mine.
‘Look here, Amy,’ said Guy, pointing to a name in the traveller’s book at Altdorf.
‘Captain Morville!’ she exclaimed, ‘July 14th. That was only the day before yesterday.’
‘I wonder whether we shall overtake him! Do you know what was this gentleman’s route?’ inquired Guy, in French that was daily becoming more producible.
The gentleman having come on foot, with nothing but his knapsack, had not made much sensation. There was a vague idea that he had gone on to the St. Gothard; but the guide who was likely to know, was not forthcoming, and all Guy’s inquiries only resulted in, ‘I dare say we shall hear of him elsewhere.’
To tell the truth, Amabel was not much disappointed, and she could see, though he said nothing, that Guy was not very sorry. These two months had been so very happy, there had been such full enjoyment, such freedom from care and vexation, or aught that could for a moment ruffle the stream of delight. Scenery, cathedrals music, paintings, historical association, had in turn given unceasing interest and pleasure; and, above all, Amabel had been growing more and more into the depths of her husband’s mind, and entering into the grave, noble thoughts inspired by the scenes they were visiting. It had been a sort of ideal happiness, so exquisite, that she could hardly believe it real. A taste of society, which they had at Munich, though very pleasant, had only made them more glad to be alone together again; any companion would have been an interruption, and Philip, so intimate, yet with his carping, persecuting spirit towards Guy, was one of the last persons she could wish to meet; but knowing that this was by no means a disposition Guy wished to encourage, she held her peace.
For the present, no more was said about Philip; and they proceeded to Interlachen, where they spent a day or two, while Arnaud was with his relations; and they visited the two beautiful lakes of Thun and Brientz. On first coming among mountains, Amabel had been greatly afraid of the precipices, and had been very much alarmed at the way in which Guy clambered about, with a sureness of foot and steadiness of head acquired long ago on the crags of Redclyffe, and on which the guides were always complimenting him; but from seeing him always come down safe, and from having been enticed by him to several heights, which had at first seemed to her most dizzy and dangerous, she had gradually laid aside her fears, and even become slightly, very slightly, adventurous herself.
One beautiful evening, they were wandering on the side of the Beatenberg, in the little narrow paths traced by the tread of the goats and their herdsmen. Amabel sat down to try to sketch the outline of the white-capped Jung Frau and her attendant mountains, wishing she could draw as well as Laura, but intending her outline to aid in describing the scene to those whose eyes she longed to have with her. While she was drawing, Guy began to climb higher, and was soon out of sight, though she still heard him whistling. The mountains were not easy to draw, or rather she grew discontented with her black lines and white paper, compared with the dazzling snow against the blue sky, tinged by the roseate tints of the setting sun, and the dark fissures on the rocky sides, still blacker from the contrast.
She put up her sketching materials, and began to gather some of the delightful treasury of mountain flowers. A gentle slope of grass was close to her, and on it grew, at some little distance from her, a tuft of deep purple, the beautiful Alpine saxifrage, which she well knew by description. She went to gather it, but the turf was slippery, and when once descending, she could not stop herself; and what was the horror of finding herself half slipping, half running down a slope, which became steeper every moment, till it was suddenly broken off into a sheer precipice! She screamed, and grasped with both hands at some low bushes, that grew under a rock at the side of the treacherous turf. She caught a branch, and found herself supported, by clinging to it with her hands, while she rested on the slope, now so nearly perpendicular, that to lose her hold would send her instantly down the precipice. Her whole weight seemed to depend on that slender bough, and those little hands that clenched it convulsively — her feet felt in vain for some hold. ‘Guy! Guy!’ she shrieked again. Oh, where was he? His whistle ceased — he heard her — he called,
‘Oh, help me!’ she answered. But with that moment’s joy came the horror, he could not help her — he would only fall himself. ‘Take care! don’t come on the grass!’ she cried. She must let go the branch in a short, time then a slip, the precipice — and what would become of him? Those moments were hours.
‘I am coming — hold fast!’ She heard his voice above her, very near. To find him so close made the agony of dread and of prayer even more intense. To be lost, with her husband scarcely a step from her! Yet how could he stand on the slippery turf, and so as to be steady enough to raise her up?
‘Now, then!’ he said, speaking from the rock under which the brushwood grew, ‘I cannot reach you unless you raise up your hand to me — your left hand — straight up. Let go. Now!’
It was a fearful moment. Amabel could not see him, and felt as if relinquishing her grasp of the tree was certain destruction. The instinct of self-preservation had been making her cling desperately with that left hand, especially as it held by the thicker part of the bough. But the habit of implicit confidence and obedience was stronger still; she did not hesitate, and tightening her hold with the other hand, she unclasped the left and stretched it upwards.
Joy unspeakable to feel his fingers close over her wrist, like iron, even while the bush to which she had trusted was detaching itself, almost uprooted by her weight! If she had waited a second she would have been lost, but her confidence had been her safety. A moment or two more, and with closed eyes she was leaning against him; his arm was round her, and he guided her steps, till, breathless, she found herself on the broad well-trodden path, out of sight of the precipice.
‘Thank heaven!’ he said, in a very low voice, as he stood still. ‘Thank God! my Amy, I have you still.’
She looked up and saw how pale he was, though his voice had been so steady throughout. She leant on his breast, and rested her head on his shoulder again in silence, for her heart was too full of awe and thankfulness for words, even had she not been without breath or power to speak, and needing his support in her giddiness and trembling.
More than a minute passed thus. Then, beginning to recover, she looked up to him again, and said, ‘Oh, it was dreadful! I did not think you could have saved me.’
‘I thought so too for a moment!’ said Guy, in a stifled voice. ‘You are better now? You are not hurt? are you sure?’
‘Quite sure! I did not fall, you know, only slipped. No, I have nothing the matter with me, thank you.’
She tried to stand alone, but the trembling returned. He made her sit down, and she rested against him, while he still made her assure him that she was unhurt. ‘Yes, quite unhurt — quite well; only this wrist is a little strained, and no wonder. Oh, I am sure it was Providence that made those bushes grow just there!’
‘How did it happen?’
‘It was my fault. I went after a flower; my foot slipped on the turf, and I could not stop myself. I thought I should have run right down the precipice.’
She shut her eyes and shuddered again. ‘It was frightful!’ he said, holding her fast. ‘It was a great mercy, indeed. Thank heaven, it is over! You are not giddy now.’
‘Oh, no; not at all!’
‘And your wrist?’
‘Oh, that’s nothing. I only told you to show you what was the worst,’ said Amy, smiling with recovered playfulness, the most reassuring of all.
‘What flower was it?’
‘A piece of purple saxifrage. I thought there was no danger, for it did not seem steep at first.’
‘No, it was not your fault. You had better not move just yet; sit still a little while.’
‘O Guy, where are you going?’
‘Only for your sketching tools and my stick. I shall not be gone an instant. Sit still and recover.’
In a few seconds he came back with her basket, and in it a few of the flowers.
‘Oh, I am sorry,’ she said, coming to meet him; ‘I wish I had told you I did not care for them. Why did you?’
‘I did not put myself in any peril about them. I had my trusty staff, you know.’
‘I am glad I did not guess what you were doing. I thought it so impossible, that I did not think of begging you not. I shall keep them always. It is a good thing for us to be put in mind how frail all our joy is.’
‘All?’ asked Guy, scarcely as if replying to her, while, though his arm pressed hers, his eye was on the blue sky, as he answered himself, ‘Your joy no man taketh from you.’
Amabel was much impressed, as she thought what it would have been for him if his little wife bad been snatched from him so suddenly and frightfully. His return — his meeting her mother — his desolate home and solitary life. She could almost have wept for him. Yet, at the moment of relief from the fear of such misery, he could thus speak. He could look onward to the joy beyond, even while his cheek was still blanched with the horror and anguish of the apprehension; and how great they had been was shown by the broken words he uttered in his sleep, for several nights afterwards, while by day he was always watching and cautioning her. Assuredly his dependence on the joy that could not be lost did not make her doubt his tenderness; it only made her feel how far behind him she was, for would it have been the same with her, had the danger been his?
In a couple of days they arrived at the beautiful Lugano, and, as usual, their first walk was to the post-office, but disappointment awaited them. There had been some letters addressed to the name of Morville, but the Signor Inglese had left orders that such should be forwarded to Como. Amabel, in her best Italian, strove hard to explain the difference between the captain and Sir Guy, the Cavaliere Guido, as she translated him, who stood by looking much amused by the perplexities of his lady’s construing; while the post-master, though very polite and sorry for the Signora’s disappointment, stuck to the address being Morville, poste restante.
‘There is one good thing,’ said the cavaliere, as they walked away, ‘we can find the captain now. I’ll write and ask him — shall I say to meet us at Varenna or at Bellagio?’
‘Whichever suits him best, I should think. It can’t make much difference to us.’
‘Your voice has a disconsolate cadence,’ said Guy, looking at her with a smile.
‘I did not mean it,’ she answered; ‘I have not a word to say against it. It is quite right, and I am sure I don’t wish to do otherwise.’
‘Only it is the first drawback in our real day-dream.’
‘Just so, and that is all,’ said Amy; ‘I am glad you feel the same, not that I want you to change your mind.’
‘Don’t you remember our resolution against mere pleasure-hunting? That adventure at Interlachen seemed to be meant to bring us up short just as we were getting into that line.’
‘You think we were?’
‘I was, at least; for I know it was a satisfaction not to find a letter, to say Redclyffe was ready for us.’
‘I had rather it was Redclyffe than Philip.’
‘To be sure, I would not change my own dancing leaping waves for this clear blue looking-glass of a lake, or even those white peaks. I want you to make friends with those waves, Amy. But it is a more real matter to make friends with Philip, the one wish of my life. Not that I exactly expect to clear matters up, but if some move is not made now, when it may, we shall stand aloof for life, and there will be the feud where it was before.’
‘It is quite right,’ said Amy; ‘I dare say that, meeting so far from home, he will be glad to see us, and to hear the Hollywell news. I little thought last autumn where I should meet him again.’
On the second evening from that time, Philip Morville was walking, hot and dusty, between the high stone walls bordering the road, and shutting out the beautiful view of the lake, at the entrance of Ballagio, meditating on the note he had received from Guy, and intending to be magnanimous, and overlook former offences for Amabel’s sake. He would show that he considered the marriage to have cleared off old scores, and that as long as she was happy, poor little thing, her husband should be borne with, though not to the extent of the spoiling the Edmonstones gave him.
Thus reflecting, he entered the town, and walked on in search of the hotel. He presently found himself on a terrace, looking out on the deep blue lake, there divided by the promontory of Bellagio, into two branches, the magnificent mountain forms rising opposite to him. A little boat was crossing, and as it neared the landing-place, he saw that it contained a gentleman and lady, English — probably his cousins themselves. They looked up, and in another moment had waved their recognition. Gestures and faces were strangely familiar, like a bit of Hollywell transplanted into that Italian scene. He hastened to the landing-place, and was met by a hearty greeting from Guy, who seemed full of eagerness to claim their closer relationship, and ready to be congratulated.
‘How d’ye do, Philip? I am glad we have caught you at last. Here she is.’
If he had wished to annoy Philip, he could hardly have done so more effectually than by behaving as if nothing was amiss, and disconcerting his preparations for a reconciliation. But the captain’s ordinary manner was calculated to cover all such feelings; and as he shook hands, he felt much kindness for Amabel, as an unconscious victim, whose very smiles were melancholy, and plenty of them there were, for she rejoiced sincerely in the meeting, as Guy was pleased, and a home face was a welcome sight.
‘I have your letters in my knapsack; I will unpack them as soon as we get to the hotel. I thought it safer not to send them in search of you again, as we were to meet so soon.’
‘Certainly. Are there many?’
‘One for each of you, both from Hollywell. I was very sorry to have engrossed them; but not knowing you were so near, I only gave my surname.’
‘It was lucky for us,’ said Guy, ‘otherwise we could not have traced you. We saw your name at Altdorf, and have been trying to come up with you ever since.’
‘I am glad we have met. What accounts have you from home?’
‘Excellent,’ said Amy; ‘Charlie is uncommonly well, he has been out of doors a great deal, and has even dined out several times.’
‘I am very glad.’
‘You know he has been improving ever since his great illness.’
‘You would be surprised to see how much better he moves,’ said Guy; ‘he helps himself so much more.’
‘Can he set his foot to the ground?’
‘No,’ said Amy, ‘there is no hope of that; but he is more active, because his general health is improved; he can sleep and eat more.’
‘I always thought exertion would do more for him than anything else.’
Amabel was vexed, for she thought exertion depended more on health, than health on exertion; besides, she thought Philip ought to take some blame to himself for the disaster on the stairs. She made no answer, and Guy asked what Philip had been doing today.
‘Walking over the hills from Como. Do you always travel in this fashion, “impedimentis relictis”?’
‘Not exactly,’ said Guy; ‘the “impedimenta” are, some at Varenna, some at the inn with Arnaud.’
‘So you have Arnaud with you?’
‘Yes, and Anne Trower,’ said Amy, for her maid was a Stylehurst person, who had lived at Hollywell ever since she had been fit for service. ‘She was greatly pleased to hear we were going to meet the captain.’
‘We amuse ourselves with thinking how she gets on with Arnaud,’ said Guy. ‘Their introduction took place only two days before we were married, since which, they have had one continued tete-a-tete, which must have been droll at first.’
‘More so at last,’ said Amy. ‘At first Anne thought Mr. Arnaud so fine a gentleman, that she hardly dared to speak to him. I believe nothing awed her so much as his extreme courtesy; but lately he has been quite fatherly to her, and took her to dine at his sister’s chalet, where I would have given something to see her. She tells me he wants her to admire the country, but she does not like the snow, and misses our beautiful clover-fields very much.’
‘Stylehurst ought to have been better training for mountains,’ said Philip.
They were fast losing the stiffness of first meeting. Philip could not but acknowledge to himself that Amy was looking very well, and so happy that Guy must be fulfilling the condition on which he was to be borne with. However, these were early days, and of course Guy must be kind to her at least in the honeymoon, before the wear and tear of life began. They both looked so young, that having advised them to wait four years, he was ready to charge them with youthfulness, if not as a fault, at least as a folly; indeed, the state of his own affairs made him inclined to think it a foible, almost a want of patience, in any one to marry before thirty. It was a conflict of feeling. Guy was so cordial and good-humoured, that he could not help being almost gained; but, on the other hand, he had always thought Guy’s manners eminently agreeable; and as happiness always made people good-humoured, this was no reason for relying on him. Besides, the present ease and openness of manner might only result from security.
Other circumstances combined, more than the captain imagined, in what is popularly called putting him out. He had always been hitherto on equal terms with Guy; indeed, had rather the superiority at Hollywell, from his age and assumption of character, but here Sir Guy was somebody, the captain nobody, and even the advantage of age was lost, now that Guy was married and head of a family, while Philip was a stray young man and his guest. Far above such considerations as he thought himself, and deeming them only the tokens of the mammon worship of the time, Philip, nevertheless, did not like to be secondary to one to whom he had always been preferred; and this, and perhaps the being half ashamed of it, made him something more approaching to cross than ever before; but now and then, the persevering amiability of both would soften him, and restore him to his most gracious mood.
He gave them their letters when they reached the inn, feeling as if he had a better right than they, to one which was in Laura’s writing, and when left in solitary possession of the sitting-room — a very pleasant one, with windows opening on the terrace just above the water — paced up and down, chafing at his own perplexity of feeling.
Presently they came back; Guy sat down to continue their joint journal-like letter to Charles, while Amabel made an orderly arrangement of their properties, making the most of their few books, and taking out her work as if she had been at home. Philip looked at the books.
‘Have you a “Childe Harold” here?’ said he. ‘I want to look at something in it.’
‘No, we have not.’
‘Guy, you never forget poetry; I dare say you can help me out with those stanzas about the mists in the valley.’
‘I have never read it,’ said Guy. ‘Don’t you remember warning me against Byron?’
‘You did not think that was for life! Besides,’ he continued, feeling this reply inconsistent with his contempt for Guy’s youth, ‘that applied to his perversions of human passions, not to his descriptions of scenery.’
‘I think,’ said Guy, looking up from his letter, ‘I should be more unwilling to take a man like that to interpret nature than anything else, except Scripture. It is more profane to attempt it.’
‘I see what you mean,’ said Amabel, thoughtfully.
‘More than I do,’ said Philip. ‘I never supposed you would take my advice “au pied de la lettre”,’ he had almost added, ‘perversely.’
‘I have felt my obligations for that caution ever since I have come to some knowledge of what Byron was,’ said Guy.
‘The fascination of his “Giaour” heroes has an evil influence on some minds,’ said Philip. ‘I think you do well to avoid it. The half truth, resulting from its being the effect of self-contemplation, makes it more dangerous.’
‘True,’ said Guy, though he little knew how much he owed to having attended to that caution, for who could have told where the mastery might have been in the period of fearful conflict with his passions, if he had been feeding his imagination with the contemplation of revenge, dark hatred, and malice, and identifying himself with Byron’s brooding and lowering heroes!
‘But,’ continued Philip, ‘I cannot see why you should shun the fine descriptions which are almost classical — the Bridge of Sighs, the Gladiator.’
‘He may describe the gladiator as much as he pleases,’ said Guy; ‘indeed there is something noble in that indignant line —
Butchered to make a Roman holiday;
but that is not like his meddling with these mountains or the sea.’
‘Fine description is the point in both. You are over-drawing.’
‘My notion is this,’ said Guy — ‘there is danger in listening to a man who is sure to misunderstand the voice of nature — danger, lest by filling our ears with the wrong voice we should close them to the true one. I should think there was a great chance of being led to stop short at the material beauty, or worse, to link human passions with the glories of nature, and so distort, defile, profane them.’
‘You have never read the poem, so you cannot judge,’ said Philip, thinking this extremely fanciful and ultra-fastidious. ‘Your rule would exclude all descriptive poetry, unless it was written by angels, I suppose?’
‘No; by men with minds in the right direction.’
‘Very little you would leave us.’
‘I don’t think so,’ said Amabel. ‘Almost all the poetry we really care about was written by such men.’
‘Shakspeare, for instance?’
‘No one can doubt of the bent of his mind from the whole strain of his writings,’ said Guy. ‘So again with Spenser; and as to Milton, though his religion was not quite the right sort, no one can pretend to say he had it not. Wordsworth, Scott —’
‘Scott?’ said Philip.
‘Including the descriptions of scenery in his novels,’ said Amy, ‘where, I am sure, there is the spirit and the beauty.’
‘Or rather, the spirit is the beauty,’ said Guy.
‘There is a good deal in what you say,’ answered Philip, who would not lay himself open to the accusation of being uncandid, ‘but you will forgive me for thinking it rather too deep an explanation of the grounds of not making Childe Harold a hand-book for Italy, like other people.’
Amabel thought this so dogged and provoking, that she was out of patience; but Guy only laughed, and said, ‘Rather so, considering that the fact was that we never thought of it.’
There were times when, as Philip had once said, good temper annoyed him more than anything, and perhaps he was unconsciously disappointed at having lost his old power of fretting and irritating Guy, and watching him champ the bit, so as to justify his own opinion of him. Every proceeding of his cousins seemed to give him annoyance, more especially their being at home together, and Guy’s seeming to belong more to Hollywell than himself. He sat by, with a book, and watched them, as Guy asked for Laura’s letter, and Amy came to look over his half-finished answer, laughing over it, and giving her commands and messages, looking so full of playfulness and happiness, as she stood with one hand on the back of her husband’s chair, and the other holding the letter, and Guy watching her amused face, and answering her remarks with lively words and bright smiles. ‘People who looked no deeper than the surface would, say, what a well-matched pair,’ thought Philip; ‘and no doubt they were very happy, poor young things, if it would but last.’ Here Guy turned, and asked him a question about the line of perpetual snow, so much in his own style, that he was almost ready to accuse them of laughing at him. Next came what hurt him most of all, as they talked over Charles’s letter, and a few words passed about Laura, and the admiration of some person she had met at Allonby. The whole world was welcome to admire her: nothing could injure his hold on her heart, and no joke of Charles could shake his confidence; but it was hard that he should be forced to hear such things, and ask no questions, for they evidently thought him occupied with his book, and did not intend him to listen. The next thing they said, however, obliged him to show that he was attending, for it was about her being better.
‘Who? Laura!’ he said, in a tone that, in spite of himself, had a startled sound. ‘You did not say she had been ill?’
‘No, she has not,’ said Amy. ‘Dr. Mayerne said there was nothing really the matter: but she has been worried and out of spirits lately; and mamma thought it would be good for her to go out more.’
Philip would not let himself sigh, in spite of the oppressing consciousness of having brought the cloud over her, and of his own inability to do aught but leave her to endure it in silence and patience. Alas! for how long! Obliged, meanwhile, to see these young creatures, placed, by the mere factitious circumstance of wealth, in possession of happiness which they had not had time either to earn or to appreciate. He thought it shallow, because of their mirth and gaiety, as if they were only seeking food for laughter, finding it in mistakes, for which he was ready to despise them.
Arnaud had brought rather antiquated notions to the renewal of his office as a courier: his mind had hardly opened to railroads and steamers, and changes had come over hotels since his time. Guy and Amabel, both young and healthy, caring little about bad dinners, and unwilling to tease the old man by complaints, or alterations of his arrangements, had troubled themselves little about the matter; took things as they found them, ate dry bread when the cookery was bad, walked if the road was ‘shocking’; went away the sooner, if the inns were ‘intolerable’; made merry over every inconvenience, and turned it into an excellent story for Charles. They did not even distress themselves about sights which they had missed seeing.
Philip thought all this very foolish and absurd, showing that they were unfit to take care of themselves, and that Guy was neglectful of his wife’s comforts: in short, establishing his original opinion of their youth and folly.
So passed the first evening; perhaps the worst because, besides what he had heard about Laura, he had been somewhat over-fatigued by various hot days’ walks.
Certain it is, that next morning he was not nearly so much inclined to be displeased with them for laughing, when, in speaking to Anne, he inadvertently called her mistress Miss Amabel.
‘Never mind,’ said Amy, as Anne departed — and he looked disconcerted, as a precise man always does when catching himself in a mistake —‘Anne is used to it, Guy is always doing it, and puzzles poor Arnaud sorely by sending him for Miss Amabel’s parasol.’
‘And the other day,’ said Guy, ‘when Thorndale’s brother, at Munich, inquired after Lady Morville, I had to consider who she was.’
‘Oh! you saw Thorndale’s brother, did you?’
‘Yes; he was very obliging. Guy had to go to him about our passports: and when he found who we were, he brought his wife to call on us, and asked us to an evening party.’
‘Did you go?’
‘Guy thought we must, and it was very entertaining. We had a curious adventure there. In the morning, we had been looking at those beautiful windows of the great church, when I turned round, and saw a gentleman — an Englishman — gazing with all his might at Guy. We met again in the evening, and presently Mr. Thorndale came and told us it was Mr. Shene.’
‘Shene, the painter?’
‘Yes. He had been very much struck with Guy’s face: it was exactly what he wanted for a picture he was about, and he wished of all things just to be allowed to make a sketch.’
‘Did you submit?’
‘Yes’ said Guy; ‘and we were rewarded. I never saw a more agreeable person, or one who gave so entirely the impression of genius. The next day he took us through the gallery, and showed us all that was worth admiring.’
‘And in what character is he to make you appear?’
‘That is the strange part of it,’ said Amabel. ‘Don’t you remember how Guy once puzzled us by choosing Sir Galahad for his favourite hero? It is that very Sir Galahad, when he kneels to adore the Saint Greal.’
‘Mr. Shene said he had long been dreaming over it, and at last, as he saw Guy’s face looking upwards, it struck him that it was just what he wanted: it would be worth anything to him to catch the expression.’
‘I wonder what I was looking like!’ ejaculated Guy.
‘Did he take you as yourself, or as Sir Galahad?’
‘As myself, happily.’
‘How did he succeed?’
‘Amy likes it; but decidedly I should never have known myself.’
‘Ah,’ said his wife —
‘Could some fay the giftie gie us,
To see ourselves as others see us.’
‘As far as the sun-burnt visage is concerned, the glass does that every morning.’
‘Yes, but you don’t look at yourself exactly as you do at a painted window,’ said Amy, in her demure way.
‘I cannot think how you found time for sitting,’ said Philip.
‘O, it is quite a little thing, a mere sketch, done in two evenings and half an hour in the morning. He promises it to me when he has done with Sir Galahad,’ said Amy.
‘Two — three evenings. You must have been a long time at Munich.’
‘A fortnight,’ said Guy, ‘there is a great deal to see there.’
Philip did not quite understand this, nor did he think it very satisfactory that they should thus have lingered in a gay town, but he meant to make the best of them today, and returned to his usual fashion of patronizing and laying down the law. They were so used to this that they did not care about it; indeed, they had reckoned on it as the most amiable conduct to be expected on his part.
The day was chiefly spent in an excursion on the lake, landing at the most beautiful spots, walking a little way and admiring, or while in the boat, smoothly moving over the deep blue waters, gaining lovely views of the banks, and talking over the book with which their acquaintance had begun, “I Promessi Sposi”. Never did tourists spend a more serene and pleasant day.
On comparing notes as to their plans, it appeared that each party had about a week or ten days to spare; the captain before he must embark for Corfu, and Sir Guy and Lady Morville before the time they had fixed for returning home. Guy proposed to go together somewhere, spare the post-office further blunders, and get the Signor Capitano to be their interpreter. Philip thought it would be an excellent thing for his young cousins for him to take charge of them, and show them how people ought to travel; so out came his little pocket map, marked with his route, before he left Ireland, whereas they seemed to have no fixed object, but to be always going ‘somewhere.’ It appeared that they had thought of Venice, but were easily diverted from it by his design of coasting the eastern bank of the Lago di Como, and so across the Stelvio into the Tyrol, all together as far as Botzen, whence Philip would turn southward by the mountain paths, while they would proceed to Innsbruck on their return home.
Amabel was especially pleased to stay a little longer on the banks of the lake, and to trace out more of Lucia’s haunts; and if she secretly thought it would have been pleasanter without a third person, she was gratified to see how much Guy’s manner had softened Philip’s injustice and distrust, making everything so smooth and satisfactory, that at the end of the day, she told her husband that she thought his experiment had not failed.
She was making the breakfast the next morning, when the captain came into the room, and she told him Guy was gone to settle their plans with Arnaud. After lingering a little by the window, Philip turned, and with more abruptness than was usual with him, said —
‘You don’t think there is any cause of anxiety about Laura?’
‘No; certainly not!’ said Amy, surprised. ‘She has not been looking well lately, but Dr. Mayerne says it is nothing, and you know’— she blushed and looked down —‘there were many things to make this a trying time.’
‘Is she quite strong? Can she do as much as usual?’
‘She does more than ever: mamma is only afraid of her overworking herself, but she never allows that she is tired. She goes to school three days in the week, besides walking to East-hill on Thursday, to help in the singing; and she is getting dreadfully learned. Guy gave her his old mathematical books, and Charlie always calls her Miss Parabola.’
Philip was silent, knowing too well why she sought to stifle care in employment; and feeling embittered against the whole world, against her father, against his own circumstances, against the happiness of others; nay, perhaps, against the Providence which had made him what he was.
Presently Guy came in, and the first thing he said was, ‘I am afraid we must give up our plan.’
‘How?’ exclaimed both Philip and Amy.
‘I have just heard that there is a fever at Sondrio, and all that neighbourhood, and every one says it would be very foolish to expose ourselves to it.’
‘What shall we do instead?’ said Amy.
‘I told Arnaud we would let him know in an hour’s time; I thought of Venice.’
‘Venice, oh, yes, delightful.’
‘What do you say, Philip?’ said Guy.
‘I say that I cannot see any occasion for our being frightened out of our original determination. If a fever prevails among the half-starved peasantry, it need not affect well-fed healthy persons, merely passing through the country.’
‘You see we could hardly manage without sleeping there,’ said Guy: ‘we must sleep either at Colico, or at Madonna. Now Colico, they say, is a most unhealthy place at this time of year, and Madonna is the very heart of the fever — Sondrio not much better. I don’t see how it is to be safely done; and though very likely we might not catch the fever, I don’t see any use in trying.’
‘That is making yourself a slave to the fear of infection.’
‘I don’t know what purpose would be answered by running the risk,’ said Guy.
‘If you chose to give it so dignified a name as a risk,’ said Philip.
‘I don’t, then,’ said Guy, smiling. ‘I should not care if there was any reason for going there, but, as there is not, I shall face Mr. Edmonstone better if I don’t run Amy into any more chances of mischief.’
‘Is Amy grateful for the care,’ said Philip, ‘after all her wishes for the eastern bank?’
‘Amy is a good wife,’ said Guy. ‘For Venice, then. I’ll ring for Arnaud. You will come with us, won’t you, Philip?’
‘No, I thank you; I always intended to see the Valtelline, and an epidemic among the peasantry does not seem to me to be sufficient to deter.’
‘O Philip, you surely will not?’ said Amy.
‘My mind is made up, Amy, thank you.’
‘I wish you would be persuaded,’ said Guy. ‘I should like particularly to have you to lionize us there; and I don’t fancy your running into danger.’
The argument lasted long. Philip by no means approved of Venice, especially after the long loitering at Munich, thinking that in both places there was danger of Guy’s being led into mischief by his musical connections. Therefore he did his best, for Amabel’s sake, to turn them from their purpose, persuaded in his own mind that the fever was a mere bugbear, raised up by Arnaud; and, perhaps, in his full health and strength, almost regarding illness itself as a foible, far more the dread of it. He argued, therefore, in his most provoking strain, becoming more vexatious as the former annoyance was revived at finding the impossibility of making Guy swerve from his purpose, while additional mists of suspicion arose before him, making him imagine that the whole objection was caused by Guy’s dislike to submit to him, and a fit of impatience of which Amy was the victim; nay, that his cousin wanted to escape from his surveillance, and follow the beat of his inclinations; and the whole heap of prejudices and half-refuted accusations resumed their full ascendancy. Never had his manner been more vexatious, though without departing from the coolness which always characterized it; but all the time, Guy, while firm and unmoved in purpose, kept his temper perfectly, and apparently without effort. Even Amabel glowed with indignation, at the assumption with which he was striving to put her husband down, though she rejoiced to see its entire failure: for some sensible argument, or some gay, lively, good-humoured reply, was the utmost he could elicit. Guy did not seem to be in the least irritated or ruffled by the very behaviour which used to cause him so many struggles. Having once seriously said that he did not think it right to run into danger, without adequate cause, he held his position with so much ease, that he could afford to be playful, and laugh at his own dread of infection, his changeableness, and credulity. Never had temper been more entirely subdued; for surely if he could bear this, he need never fear himself again.
So passed the hour; and Amabel was heartily glad when the debate was closed by Arnaud’s coming for orders. Guy went with him; Amabel began to collect her goods; and Philip, after a few moments’ reflection, spoke in the half-compassionate, half-patronizing manner with which he used, now and then, to let fall a few crumbs of counsel or commendation for silly little Amy.
‘Well, Amy, you yielded very amiably, and that is the only way. You will always find it best to submit.’
He got no further in his intended warning against the dissipations of Venice, for her eyes were fixed on him at first with a look of extreme wonder. Then her face assumed an expression of dignity, and gently, but gravely, she said, ‘I think you forget to whom you are speaking.’
The gentlemanlike instinct made him reply, ‘I beg your pardon’— and there he stopped, as much taken by surprise as if a dove had flown in his face. He actually was confused; for in very truth, he had, after a fashion, forgotten that she was Lady Morville, not the cousin Amy with whom Guy’s character might be freely discussed. He had often presumed as far with his aunt; but she, though always turning the conversation, had never given him a rebuff. Amabel had not done; and in her soft voice, firmly, though not angrily, she spoke on. ‘One thing I wish to say, because we shall never speak on this subject again, and I was always afraid of you before. You have always misunderstood him, I might almost say, chosen to misunderstand him. You have tried his temper more than any one, and never appreciated the struggles that have subdued it. It is not because I am his wife that I say this — indeed I am not sure it becomes me to say it; yet I cannot bear that you should not be told of it, because you think he acts out of enmity to you. You little know how your friendship has been his first desire — how he has striven for it — how, after all you have done and written, he defended you with all his might when those at home were angry — how he sought you out on purpose to try to be real cordial friends’
Philip’s face had grown rigid, and chiefly at the words, ‘those at home were angry.’ ‘It is not I that prevent that friendship,’ said he: ‘it is his own want of openness. My opinion has never changed.’
‘No; I know it has never changed’ said Amy, in a tone of sorrowful displeasure. ‘Whenever it does, you will be sorry you have judged him so harshly.’
She left the room, and Philip held her in higher esteem. He saw there was spirit and substance beneath that soft girlish exterior, and hoped she would better be able to endure the troubles which her precipitate marriage was likely to cause her; but as to her husband, his combined fickleness and obstinacy had only become more apparent than ever — fickleness in forsaking his purpose, obstinacy in adherence to his own will.
Displeased and contemptuous, Philip was not softened by Guy’s freedom and openness of manner and desire to help him as far as their roads lay together. He was gracious only to Lady Morville, whom he treated with kindness, intended to show that he was pleased with her for a reproof which became her position well, though it could not hurt him. Perhaps she thought this amiability especially insufferable: for when she arrived at Varenna her chief thought was that here they should be free of him.
‘Come, Philip,’ said Guy, at that last moment, ‘I wish you would think better of it after all, and come with us to Milan.’
‘Thank you, my mind is made up.’
‘Well, mind you don’t catch the fever: for I don’t want the trouble of nursing you.’
‘Thank you; I hope to require no such services of my friends,’ said Philip, with a proud stem air, implying, ‘I don’t want you.’
‘Good-bye, then,’ said Guy. Then remembering his promise to Laura, he added, ‘I wish we could have seen more of you. They will be glad to hear of you at Hollywell. You have had one warm friend there all along.’
He was touched for a moment by this kind speech, and his tone was less grave and dignified. ‘Remember me to them when you write,’ he answered, ‘and tell Laura she must not wear herself out with her studies. Good-bye, Amy, I hope you will have a pleasant journey.’
The farewells were exchanged and the carriage drove off. ‘Poor little Amy!’ said Philip to himself, ‘how she is improved. He has a sweet little wife in her. The fates have conspired to crown him with all man can desire, and little marvel if he should abuse his advantages. Poor little Amy! I have less hope than ever, since even her evident wishes could not bend his determination in this trifle; but she is a good little creature, happy in her blindness. May it long continue! It is my uncle and aunt who are to be blamed.’
He set himself to ascend the mountain path, and they looked back, watching the firm vigorous steps with which he climbed the hill side, then stood to wave his hand to Amabel looking a perfect specimen of health and activity.
‘Just like himself,’ said Amy, drawing so long a breath that Guy smiled, but did not speak.
‘Are you much vexed?’ said she.
‘I don’t feel as if I had made the most of my opportunities.’
‘Then if you have not, I can tell you who has. What do you think of his beginning to give me a lecture how to behave to you?’
‘Did he think you wanted it very much?’
‘I don’t know: for of course I could not let him go on.’
Guy was so much diverted at the idea of her wanting a lecture on wife-like deportment, that he had no time to be angry at the impertinence, and he made her laugh also by his view that was all force of habit.
‘Now, Guido — good Cavaliere Guido — do grant me one satisfaction,’ said she, coaxingly. ‘Only say you are very glad he is gone his own way.’
On the contrary, I am sorry he is running his head into a fever,’ said Guy, pretending to be provoking.
‘I don’t want you to be glad of that, I only want you to be glad he is not sitting here towering over us.’ Guy smiled, and began to whistle —
‘Cock up your beaver, and cock it fu’ sprush!’
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:02