A fig for all dactyls, a fig for all spondees,
A fig for all dunces and dominie grandees.
‘How glad I am!’ exclaimed Guy, entering the drawing-room.
‘Wherefore?’ inquired Charles.
‘I thought I was too late, and I am very glad to find no one arrived, and Mr. and Mrs. Edmonstone not come down.’
‘But where have you been?’
‘I lost my way on the top of the down; I fancied some one told me there was a view of the sea to be had there.’
‘And can’t you exist without a view of the sea?’
Guy laughed. ‘Everything looks so dull — it is as if the view was dead or imprisoned — walled up by wood and hill, and wanting that living ripple, heaving and struggling.’
‘And your fine rocks?’ said Laura.
‘I wish you could see the Shag stone — a great island mass, sloping on one side, precipitous on the other, with the spray dashing on it. If you see it from ever so far off, there is still that white foam coming and going — a glancing speck, like the light in an eye.’
‘Hark! a carriage.’
‘The young man and the young man’s companion,’ said Charles.
‘How can you?’ said Laura. ‘What would any one suppose Mr. Thorndale to be?’
‘Not Philip’s valet,’ said Charles, ‘if it is true that no man is a hero to his “valley-desham”; whereas, what is not Philip to the Honourable James Thorndale?’
‘Philip, Alexander, and Bucephalus into the bargain,’ suggested Amy, in her demure, frightened whisper, sending all but Laura into a fit of laughter, the harder to check because the steps of the parties concerned were heard approaching.
Mr. Thorndale was a quiet individual, one of those of whom there is least to be said, so complete a gentleman that it would have been an insult, to call him gentleman-like; agreeable and clever rather than otherwise, good-looking, with a high-bred air about him, so that it always seemed strange that he did not make more impression.
A ring at the front-door almost immediately followed their arrival.
‘Encore?’ asked Philip, looking at Laura with a sort of displeased surprise.
‘Unfortunately, yes,’ said Laura, drawing aside.
‘One of my uncle’s family parties,’ said Philip. ‘I wish I had not brought Thorndale. Laura, what is to be done to prevent the tittering that always takes place when Amy and those Harpers are together?’
‘Some game?’ said Laura. He signed approval; but she had time to say no more, for her father and mother came down, and some more guests entered.
It was just such a party that continually grew up at Hollywell, for Mr. Edmonstone was so fond of inviting, that his wife never knew in the morning how many would assemble at her table in the evening. But she was used to it, and too good a manager even to be called so. She liked to see her husband enjoy himself in his good-natured, open-hearted way. The change was good for Charles, and thus it did very well, and there were few houses in the neighbourhood more popular than Hollywell.
The guests this evening were Maurice de Courcy, a wild young Irishman, all noise and nonsense, a great favourite with his cousin, Mr. Edmonstone; two Miss Harpers, daughters of the late clergyman, good-natured, second-rate girls; Dr. Mayerne, Charles’s kind old physician, the friend and much-loved counsellor at Hollywell, and the present vicar, Mr. Ross with his daughter Mary.
Mary Ross was the greatest friend that the Miss Edmonstones possessed, though, she being five-and-twenty, they had not arrived at perceiving that they were on the equal terms of youngladyhood.
She had lost her mother early, and had owed a great deal to the kindness of Mrs. Edmonstone, as she grew up among her numerous elder brothers. She had no girlhood; she was a boy till fourteen, and then a woman, and she was scarcely altered since the epoch of that transition, the same in likings, tastes, and duties. ‘Papa’ was all the world to her, and pleasing him had much the same meaning now as then; her brothers were like playfellows; her delights were still a lesson in Greek from papa, a school-children’s feast, a game at play, a new book. It was only a pity other people did not stand still too. ‘Papa,’ indeed, had never grown sensibly older since the year of her mother’s death: but her brothers were whiskered men, with all the cares of the world, and no holidays; the school-girls went out to service, and were as a last year’s brood to an old hen; the very children she had fondled were young ladies, as old, to all intents and purposes, as herself, and here were even Laura and Amy Edmonstone fallen into that bad habit of growing up! though little Amy had still much of the kitten in her composition, and could play as well as Charlotte or Mary herself, when they had the garden to themselves.
Mary took great pains to amuse Charles, always walking to see him in the worst weather, when she thought other visitors likely to fall, and chatting with him as if she was the idlest person in the world, though the quantity she did at home and in the parish would be too amazing to be recorded. Spirited and decided, without superfluous fears and fineries, she had a firm, robust figure, and a rosy, good-natured face, with a manner that, though perfectly feminine, had in it an air of strength and determination.
Hollywell was a hamlet, two miles from the parish church of East-hill, and Mary had thus seen very little of the Edmonstone’s guest, having only been introduced to him after church on Sunday. The pleasure on which Charles chiefly reckoned for that evening was the talking him over with her when the ladies came in from the dining-room. The Miss Harpers, with his sisters, gathered round the piano, and Mrs. Edmonstone sat at Charles’s feet, while Mary knitted and talked.
‘So you get on well with him?’
‘He is one of those people who are never in the way, and yet you never can forgot their presence,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone.
‘His manners are quite the pink of courtesy,’ said Mary.
‘Like his grandfather’s,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone; ‘that old-school deference and attention is very chivalrous, and sits prettily and quaintly on his high spirits and animation; I hope it will not wear off.’
‘A vain hope,’ said Charles. ‘At present he is like that German myth, Kaspar Hauser, who lived till twenty in a cellar. It is lucky for mamma that, in his green state, he is courtly instead of bearish.’
‘Lucky for you, too, Charlie; he spoils you finely.’
‘He has the rare perfection of letting me know my own mind. I never knew what it was to have my own way before.’
‘Is that your complaint, Charlie? What next?’ said Mary.
‘So you think I have my way, do you, Mary? That is all envy, you see, and very much misplaced. Could you guess what a conflict it is every time I am helped up that mountain of a staircase, or the slope of my sofa is altered? Last time Philip stayed here, every step cost an argument, till at last, through sheer exhaustion, I left myself a dead weight on his hands, to be carried up by main strength. And after all, he is such a great, strong fellow, that I am afraid he did not mind it; so next time I crutched myself down alone, and I hope that did provoke him.’
‘Sir Guy is so kind that I am ashamed,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone. ‘It seems as if we had brought him for the sole purpose of waiting on Charles.’
‘Half his heart is in his horse,’ said Charles. ‘Never had man such delight in the “brute creation.”’
‘They have been his chief playfellows,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone. ‘The chief of his time was spent in wandering in the woods or on the beach, watching them and their ways.’
‘I fairly dreamt of that Elysium of his last night,’ said Charles: ‘a swamp half frozen on a winter’s night, full of wild ducks. Here, Charlotte, come and tell Mary the roll of Guy’s pets.’
Charlotte began. ‘There was the sea-gull, and the hedgehog, and the fox, and the badger, and the jay, and the monkey, that he bought because it was dying, and cured it, only it died the next winter, and a toad, and a raven, and a squirrel, and —’
‘That will do, Charlotte.’
‘Oh! but Mary has not heard the names of all his dogs. And Mary, he has cured Bustle of hunting my Puss. We held them up to each other, and Puss hissed horribly, but Bustle did not mind it a bit; and the other day, when Charles tried to set him at her, he would not take the least notice.’
‘Now, Charlotte,’ said Charles, waving his hand, with a provoking mock politeness, ‘have the goodness to return to your friends.
Tea over, Laura proposed the game of definitions. ‘You know it. Philip,’ said she, ‘you taught us.’
‘Yes I learnt it of your sisters, Thorndale,’ said Philip.
‘O pray let us have it. It must be charming!’ exclaimed Miss Harper, on this recommendation.
‘Definitions!’ said Charles, contemptuously. ‘Dr. Johnson must be the hand for them.’
‘They are just the definitions not to be found in Johnson,’ said Mr. Thorndale. ‘Our standing specimen is adversity, which may be differently explained according to your taste, as “a toad with a precious jewel in its head,” or “the test of friendship.”’
‘The spirit of words,’ said Guy, looking eager and interested.
‘Well, we’ll try,’ said Charles, ‘though I can’t say it sounds to me promising. Come, Maurice, define an Irishman.’
‘No, no, don’t let us be personal,’ said Laura; ‘I had thought of the word “happiness”. We are each to write a definition on a slip of paper, then compare them.’
The game was carried on with great spirit for more than an hour. It was hard to say, which made most fun, Maurice, Charles, or Guy; the last no longer a spectator, but an active contributor to the sport. When the break-up came, Mary and Amabel were standing over the table together, collecting the scattered papers, and observing that it had been very good fun. ‘Some so characteristic,’ said Amy, ‘such as Maurice’s definition of happiness — a row at Dublin.’
‘Some were very deep, though,’ said Mary; ‘if it is not treason, I should like to make out whose that other was of happiness.’
‘You mean this,’ said Amy: ‘“Gleams from a brighter world, too soon eclipsed or forfeited.” I thought it was Philip’s, but it is Sir Guy’s writing. How very sad! I should not like to think so. And he was so merry all the time! This is his, too, I see; this one about riches being the freight for which the traveller is responsible.’
‘There is a great deal of character in them,’ said Mary. ‘I should not have wondered at any of us, penniless people, philosophizing in the fox and grapes style, but, for him, and at his age —’
‘He has been brought up so as to make the theory of wisdom come early,’ said Philip, who was nearer than she thought.
‘Is that intended for disparagement?’ she asked quickly.
I think very highly of him; he has a great deal of sense and right feeling,’ was Philip’s sedate answer; and he turned away to say some last words to Mr. Thorndale.
The Rosses were the last to depart, Mary in cloak and clogs, while Mr. Edmonstone lamented that it was in vain to offer the carriage; and Mary laughed, and thanked, and said the walk home with Papa was the greatest of treats in the frost and star-light.
‘Don’t I pity you, who always go out to dinner in a carriage!’ were her last words to Laura.
‘Well, Guy,’ said Charlotte, ‘how do you like it?’
‘Very much, indeed. It was very pleasant.’
‘You are getting into the fairy ring,’ said Laura, smiling.
‘Ay’ he said, smiling too; ‘but it does not turn to tinsel. Would it if I saw more of it?’ and he looked at Mrs. Edmonstone.
‘It would be no compliment to ourselves to say so,’ she answered.
‘I suppose tinsel or gold depends on the using,’ said he, thoughtfully; ‘there are some lumps of solid gold among those papers, I am sure, one, in particular, about a trifle. May I see that again? I mean —
On little wings
Bear little souls to heaven.’
‘Oh! that was only a quotation,’ said Amy, turning over the definitions again with him, and laughing at some of the most amusing; while, in the mean time, Philip went to help Laura, who was putting some books away in the ante-room.
‘Yes, Laura,’ he said, ‘he has thought, mind, and soul; he is no mere rattle.’
‘No indeed. Who could help seeing his superiority over Maurice?’
‘If only he does not pervert his gifts, and if it is not all talk. I don’t like such excess of openness about his feelings; it is too like talking for talking’s sake.’
‘Mamma says it in the transparency of youthfulness. You know he has never been at school; so his thoughts come out in security of sympathy, without fear of being laughed at. But it is very late. Good night.’
The frost turned to rain the next morning, and the torrents streamed against the window, seeming to have a kind of attraction for Philip and Guy, who stood watching them.
Guy wondered if the floods would be out at Redclyffe and his cousins were interested by his description of the sudden, angry rush of the mountain streams, eddying fiercely along, bearing with them tree and rock, while the valleys became lakes, and the little mounds islets; and the trees looked strangely out of proportion when only their branches were visible. ‘Oh! a great flood is famous fun,’ said he.
‘Surely,’ said Philip, ‘I have heard a legend of your being nearly drowned in some flood.
‘Yes,’ said Guy, ‘I had a tolerable ducking.’
‘Oh, tell us about it!’ said Amy.
‘Ay! I have a curiosity to hear a personal experience of drowning,’ said Charles. ‘Come, begin at the beginning.’
‘I was standing watching the tremendous force of the stream, when I saw an unhappy old ram floating along, bleating so piteously, and making such absurd, helpless struggles, that I could not help pulling off my coat and jumping in after him. It was very foolish, for the stream was too strong — I was two years younger then. Moreover, the beast was very heavy, and not at all grateful for any kind intentions, and I found myself sailing off to the sea, with the prospect of a good many rocks before long; but just then an old tree stretched out its friendly arms through the water; it stopped the sheep, and I caught hold of the branches, and managed to scramble up, while my friend got entangled in them with his wool’—
‘Omne quum Proteus pecus egit altos
‘Ovium et summa, genus haesit ulmo,’
‘Ovium,’ exclaimed Philip, with a face of horror. ‘Don’t you know that O in Ovis is short? Do anything but take liberties with Horace!’
‘Get out of the tree first, Guy,’ said Charles, ‘for at present your history seems likely to end with a long ohone!’
‘Well, Triton — not Proteus — came to the rescue at last,’ said Guy, laughing; ‘I could not stir, and the tree bent so frightfully with the current that I expected every minute we should all go together; so I had nothing for it but to halloo as loud as I could. No one heard but Triton, the old Newfoundland dog, who presently came swimming up, so eager to help, poor fellow, that I thought he would have throttled me, or hurt himself in the branches. I took off my handkerchief and threw it to him, telling him to take it to Arnaud, who I knew would understand it as a signal of distress.’
‘Did he? How long had you to wait?’
‘I don’t know — it seemed long enough before a most welcome boat appeared, with some men in it, and Triton in an agony. They would never have found me but for him, for my voice was gone; indeed the next thing I remember was lying on the grass in the park, and Markham saying, ‘Well, sir, if you do wish to throw away your life, let it be for something better worth saving than Farmer Holt’s vicious old ram!’
‘In the language of the great Mr. Toots,’ said Charles ‘I am afraid you got very wet.’
‘Were you the worse for it?’ said Amy.
‘Not in the least. I was so glad to hear it was Holt’s! for you must know that I had behaved very ill to Farmer Holt. I had been very angry at his beating our old hound, for, as he thought, worrying his sheep; not that Dart ever did, though.
‘And was the ram saved?’
‘Yes, and next time I saw it, it nearly knocked me down.’
‘Would you do it again?’ said Philip.
‘I don’t know.’
‘I hope you had a medal from the Humane Society,’ said Charles.
‘That would have been more proper for Triton.’
‘Yours should have been an ovation,’ said Charles, cutting the o absurdly short, and looking at Philip.
Laura saw that the spirit of teasing was strong in Charles this morning and suspected that he wanted to stir up what he called the deadly feud, and she hastened to change the conversation by saying, ‘You quite impressed Guy with your translation of Fra Cristoforo.’
‘Indeed I must thank you for recommending the book,’ said Guy; ‘how beautiful it is!’
‘I am glad you entered into it,’ said Philip; ‘it has every quality that a fiction ought to have.’
‘I never read anything equal to the repentance of the nameless man.’
‘Is he your favourite character?’ said Philip, looking at him attentively.
‘Oh no — of course not — though he is so grand that one thinks most about him, but no one can be cared about as much as Lucia.’
‘Lucia! She never struck me as more than a well-painted peasant girl,’ said Philip.
‘Oh!’ cried Guy, indignantly; then, controlling himself, he continued: ‘She pretends to no more than she is, but she shows the beauty of goodness in itself in a — a — wonderful way. And think of the power of those words of hers over that gloomy, desperate man.’
‘Your sympathy with the Innominato again,’ said Philip. Every subject seemed to excite Guy to a dangerous extent, as Laura thought, and she turned to Philip to ask if he would not read to them again.
‘I brought this book on purpose,’ said Philip. ‘I wished to read you a description of that print from Raffaelle — you know it — the Madonna di San Sisto?’
‘The one you brought to show us?’ said Amy, ‘with the two little angels?’
‘Yes, here is the description,’ and he began to read —
‘Dwell on the form of the Child, more than human in grandeur, seated on the arms of the Blessed Virgin as on an august throne. Note the tokens of divine grace, His ardent eyes, what a spirit, what a countenance is His; yet His very resemblance to His mother denotes sufficiently that He is of us and takes care for us. Beneath are two figures adoring, each in their own manner. On one side is a pontiff, on the other a virgin each a most sweet and solemn example, the one of aged, the other of maidenly piety and reverence. Between, are two winged boys, evidently presenting a wonderful pattern of childlike piety. Their eyes, indeed, are not turned towards the Virgin, but both in face and gesture, they show how careless of themselves they are in the presence of God.’
All were struck by the description. Guy did not speak at first, but the solemn expression of his face showed how he felt its power and reverence. Philip asked if they would like to hear more, and Charles assented: Amy worked, Laura went on with her perspective, and Guy sat by her side, making concentric circles with her compasses, or when she wanted them he tormented her parallel ruler, or cut the pencils, never letting his fingers rest except at some high or deep passage, or when some interesting discussion arose. All were surprised when luncheon time arrived; Charles held out his hand for the book; it was given with a slight smile, and he exclaimed’ Latin! I thought you were translating. Is it your own property?’
‘Is it very tough? I would read it, if any one would read it with me.’
‘Do you mean me?’ said Guy; ‘I should like it very much, but you have seen how little Latin I know.’
‘That is the very thing,’ said Charles; ‘that Ovis of yours was music; I would have made you a Knight of the Golden Fleece on the spot. Tutors I could get by shoals, but a fellow-dunce is inestimable.’
‘It is a bargain, then,’ said Guy; ‘if Philip has done with the book and will lend it to us.’
The luncheon bell rang, and they all adjourned to the dining-room. Mr. Edmonstone came in when luncheon was nearly over, rejoicing that his letters were done, but then he looked disconsolately from the window, and pitied the weather. ‘Nothing for it but billiards. People might say it was nonsense to have a billiard-table in such a house, but for his part he found there was no getting through a wet day without them. Philip must beat him as usual, and Guy might have one of the young ladies to make a fourth.’
‘Thank you,’ said Guy, ‘but I don’t play.’
‘Not play — eh?’ Well, we will teach you in the spinning of a ball, and I’ll have my little Amy to help me against you and Philip.’
‘No, thank you,’ repeated Guy, colouring, ‘I am under a promise.’
‘Ha! Eh? What? Your grandfather? He could see no harm in such play as this. For nothing, you understand. You did not suppose I meant anything else?’
‘O no, of course not,’ eagerly replied Guy; ‘but it is impossible for me to play, thank you. I have promised never even to look on at a game at billiards.’
‘Ah, poor man, he had too much reason.’ uttered Mr. Edmonstone to himself, but catching a warning look from his wife, he became suddenly silent. Guy, meanwhile, sat looking lost in sad thoughts, till, rousing himself, he exclaimed, ‘Don’t let me prevent you.’
Mr. Edmonstone needed but little persuasion, and carried Philip off to the billiard-table in the front hall.
‘O, I am so glad!’ cried Charlotte, who had, within the last week, learnt Guy’s value as a playfellow. ‘Now you will never go to those stupid billiards, but I shall have you always, every rainy day. Come and have a real good game at ball on the stairs.’
She already had hold of his hand, and would have dragged him off at once, had he not waited to help Charles back to his sofa; and in the mean time she tried in vain to persuade her more constant playmate, Amabel, to join the game. Poor little Amy regretted the being obliged to refuse, as she listened to the merry sounds and bouncing balls, sighing more than once at having turned into a grown-up young lady; while Philip observed to Laura, who was officiating as billiard-marker, that Guy was still a mere boy.
The fates favoured Amy at last for about half after three, the billiards were interrupted, and Philip, pronouncing the rain to be almost over, invited Guy to take a walk, and they set out in a very gray wet mist, while Charlotte and Amy commenced a vigorous game at battledore and shuttle-cock.
The gray mist had faded into twilight, and twilight into something like night, when Charles was crossing the hall, with the aid of Amy’s arm, Charlotte carrying the crutch behind him, and Mrs. Edmonstone helping Laura with her perspective apparatus, all on their way to dress for dinner; the door opened and in came the two Morvilles. Guy, without, even stopping to take off his great coat, ran at once up-stairs, and the next moment the door of his room was shut with a bang that shook the house, and made them all start and look at Philip for explanation.
‘Redclyffe temper,’ said he, coolly, with a half-smile curling his short upper lip.
‘What have you been doing to him?’ said Charles.’
‘Nothing. At least nothing worthy of such ire. I only entered on the subject of his Oxford life, and advised him to prepare for it, for his education has as yet been a mere farce. He used to go two or three days in the week to one Potts, a self-educated genius — a sort of superior writing-master at the Moorworth commercial school. Of course, though it is no fault of his, poor fellow, he is hardly up to the fifth form, and he must make the most of his time, if he is not to be plucked. I set all this before him as gently as I could, for I knew with whom I had to deal, yet you see how it is.’
‘What did he say?’ asked Charles.
‘He said nothing; so far I give him credit; but he strode on furiously for the last half mile, and this explosion is the finale. I am very sorry for him, poor boy; I beg no further notice may be taken of it. Don’t you want an arm, Charlie?’
‘No thank you,’ answered Charles, with a little surliness.
‘You had better. It really is too much for Amy,’ said Philip, making a move as if to take possession of him, as he arrived at the foot of the stairs.
‘Like the camellia, I suppose,’ he replied; and taking his other crutch from Charlotte, he began determinedly to ascend without assistance, resolved to keep Philip a prisoner below him as long as he could, and enjoying the notion of chafing him by the delay. Certainly teasing Philip was a dear delight to Charles, though it was all on trust, as, if he succeeded, his cousin never betrayed his annoyance by look or sign.
About a quarter of an hour after, there was a knock at the dressing-room door. ‘Come in,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone, looking up from her letter-writing, and Guy made his appearance, looking very downcast.
‘I am come,’ he said, ‘to ask pardon for the disturbance I made just now. I was so foolish as to be irritated at Philip’s manner, when he was giving me some good advice, and I am very sorry.’
‘What has happened to your lip?’ she exclaimed.
He put his handkerchief to it. ‘Is it bleeding still? It is a trick of mine to bite my lip when I am vexed. It seems to help to keep down words. There! I have given myself a mark of this hateful outbreak.’
He looked very unhappy, more so, Mrs. Edmonstone thought, than the actual offence required. ‘You have only failed in part,’ she said. ‘It was a victory to keep down words.’
‘The feeling is the thing,’ said Guy; ‘besides, I showed it plainly enough, without speaking.’
‘It is not easy to take advice from one so little your elder,’ began Mrs. Edmonstone, but he interrupted her. ‘It was not the advice. That was very good; I—’ but he spoke with an effort — ‘I am obliged to him. It was — no, I won’t say what,’ he added, his eyes kindling, then changing in a moment to a sorrowful, resolute tone, ‘Yes, but I will, and then I shall make myself thoroughly ashamed. It was his veiled assumption of superiority, his contempt for all I have been taught. Just as if he had not every right to despise me, with his talent and scholarship, after such egregious mistakes as I had made in the morning. I gave him little reason to think highly of my attainments; but let him slight me as much as he pleases, he must not slight those who taught me. It was not Mr. Potts’ fault.’
Even the name could not spoil the spirited sound of the speech, and Mrs. Edmonstone was full of sympathy. ‘You must remember,’ she said, ‘that in the eyes of a man brought up at public school, nothing compensates for the want of the regular classical education. I have no doubt it was very provoking.’
‘I don’t want to be excused, thank you,’ said Guy. ‘Oh I am grieved; for I thought the worst of my temper had been subdued. After all that has passed — all I felt — I thought it impossible. Is there no hope for —’ He covered his face with his hands, then recovering and turning to Mrs. Edmonstone, he said, ‘It is encroaching too much on your kindness to come here and trouble you with my confessions.’
‘No, no, indeed,’ said she, earnestly. ‘Remember how we agreed that you should come to me like one of my own children. And, indeed, I do not see why you need grieve in this despairing way, for you almost overcame the fit of anger; and perhaps you were off your guard because the trial came in an unexpected way?’
‘It did, it did,’ he said, eagerly; ‘I don’t, mind being told point blank that I am a dunce, but that Mr. Potts — nay, by implication — my grandfather should be set at nought in that cool — But here I am again!’ said he, checking himself in the midst of his vehemence; ‘he did not mean that, of course. I have no one to blame but myself.’
‘I am sure,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone, ‘that if you always treat your failings in this way, you must subdue them at last.’
‘It is all failing, and resolving, and failing again!’ said Guy.
‘Yes, but the failures become slighter and less frequent, and the end is victory.’
‘The end victory!’ repeated Guy, in a musing tone, as he stood leaning against the mantelshelf.
‘Yes, to all who persevere and seek for help,’ said Mrs Edmonstone; and he raised his eyes and fixed them on her with an earnest look that surprised her, for it was almost as if the hope came home to him as something new. At that moment, however, she was called away, and directly after a voice in the next room exclaimed, ‘Are you there, Guy? I want an arm!’ while he for the first time perceived that Charles’s door was ajar.
Charles thought all this a great fuss about nothing, indeed he was glad to find there was anyone who had no patience with Philip; and in his usual mischievous manner, totally reckless of the fearful evil of interfering with the influence for good which it was to be hoped that Philip might exert over Guy, he spoke thus: ‘I begin to think the world must be more docile than I have been disposed to give it credit for. How a certain cousin of ours has escaped numerous delicate hints to mind his own business is to me one of the wonders of the world.’
‘No one better deserves that his advice should be followed,’ said Guy, with some constraint.
‘An additional reason against it,’ said Charles. ‘Plague on that bell! I meant to have broken through your formalities and had a candid opinion of Don Philip before it rang.’
‘Then I am glad of it; I could hardly have given you a candid opinion just at present.’
Charles was vexed; but he consoled himself by thinking that Guy did not yet feel himself out of his leading-strings, and was still on his good behaviour. After such a flash as this there was no fear, but there was that in him which would create mischief and disturbance enough. Charles was well principled at the bottom, and would have shrunk with horror had it been set before him how dangerous might be the effect of destroying the chance of a friendship between Guy and the only person whose guidance was likely to be beneficial to him; but his idle, unoccupied life, and habit of only thinking of things as they concerned his immediate amusement, made him ready to do anything for the sake of opposition to Philip, and enjoy the vague idea of excitement to be derived from anxiety about his father’s ward, whom at the same time he regarded with increased liking as he became certain that what he called the Puritan spirit was not native to him.
At dinner-time, Guy was as silent as on his first arrival, and there would have been very little conversation had not the other gentleman talked politics, Philip leading the discussion to bear upon the duties and prospects of landed proprietors, and dwelling on the extent of their opportunities for doing good. He tried to get Guy’s attention, by speaking of Redclyffe, of the large circle influenced by the head of the Morville family, and of the hopes entertained by Lord Thorndale that this power would prove a valuable support to the rightful cause. He spoke in vain; the young heir of Redclyffe made answers as brief, absent, and indifferent, as if all this concerned him no more than the Emperor of Morocco, and Philip, mentally pronouncing him sullen, turned to address himself to Laura.
As soon as the ladies had left the dining-room, Guy roused himself, and began by saying to his guardian that he was afraid he was very deficient in classical knowledge; that he found he must work hard before going to Oxford; and asked whether there was any tutor in the neighbourhood to whom he could apply.
Mr. Edmonstone opened his eyes, as much amazed as if Guy had asked if there was any executioner in the neighbourhood who could cut off his head. Philip was no less surprised, but he held his peace, thinking it was well Guy bad sense enough to propose it voluntarily, as he would have suggested it to his uncle as soon as there was an opportunity of doing so in private. As soon as Mr. Edmonstone had recollected himself, and pronounced it to be exceedingly proper, &c., they entered into a discussion on the neighbouring curates, and came at last to a resolution that Philip should see whether Mr. Lascelles, a curate of Broadstone, and an old schoolfellow of his own, would read with Guy a few hours in every week.
After this was settled, Guy looked relieved, though he was not himself all the evening, and sat in his old corner between the plants and the window, where he read a grave book, instead of talking, singing, or finishing his volume of ‘Ten Thousand a Year.’ Charlotte was all this time ill at ease. She looked from Guy to Philip, from Philip to Guy; she shut her mouth as if she was forming some great resolve, then coloured, and looked confused, rushing into the conversation with something more mal-apropos than usual, as if on purpose to appear at her ease. At last, just before her bed-time, when the tea was coming in, Mrs. Edmonstone engaged with that, Laura reading, Amy clearing Charles’s little table, and Philip helping Mr. Edmonstone to unravel the confused accounts of the late cheating bailiff, Guy suddenly found her standing by him, perusing his face with all the power of her great blue eyes. She started as he looked up, and put her face into Amabel’s great myrtle as if she would make it appear that she was smelling to it.
‘Well, Charlotte?’ said he, and the sound of his voice made her speak, but in a frightened, embarrassed whisper.
‘Guy — Guy — Oh! I beg your pardon, but I wanted to —’
‘Well, what?’ said he, kindly.
‘I wanted to make sure that you are not angry with Philip. You don’t mean to keep up the feud, do you?’
‘Feud? — I hope not,’ said Guy, too much in earnest to be diverted with her lecture. ‘I am very much obliged to him.’
‘Are you really?’ said Charlotte, her head a little on one side. ‘I thought he had been scolding you.’
Scolding was so very inappropriate to Philip’s calm, argumentative way of advising, that it became impossible not to laugh.
‘Not scolding, then?’ said Charlotte. ‘You are too nearly grown up for that, but telling you to learn, and being tiresome.’
‘I was so foolish as to be provoked at first,’ answered Guy; ‘but I hope I have thought better of it, and am going to act upon it.’
Charlotte opened her eyes wider than ever, but in the midst of her amazement Mrs. Edmonstone called to Guy to quit his leafy screen and come to tea.
Philip was to return to Broadstone the next day, and as Mrs. Edmonstone had some errands there that would occupy her longer than Charles liked to wait in the carriage, it was settled that Philip should drive her there in the pony phaeton, and Guy accompany them and drive back, thus having an opportunity of seeing Philip’s print of the ‘Madonna di San Sisto,’ returning some calls, and being introduced to Mr. Lascelles, whilst she was shopping. They appointed an hour and place of meeting, and kept to it, after which Mrs. Edmonstone took Guy with her to call on Mrs. Deane, the wife of the colonel.
It was currently believed among the young Edmonstones that Mamma and Mrs. Deane never met without talking over Mr. Morville’s good qualities, and the present visit proved no exception. Mrs. Deane, a kind, open-hearted, elderly lady was very fond of Mr. Morville, and proud of him as a credit to the regiment; and she told several traits of his excellent judgment, kindness of heart, and power of leading to the right course. Mrs. Edmonstone listened, and replied with delight; and no less pleasure and admiration were seen reflected in her young friend’s radiant face.
Mrs. Edmonstone’s first question, as they set out on their homeward drive, was, whether they had seen Mr. Lascelles?
‘Yes,’ said Guy, ‘I am to begin to morrow, and go to him every Monday and Thursday.’
‘That is prompt.’
‘Ah! I have no time to lose; besides I have been leading too smooth a life with you. I want something unpleasant to keep me in order. Something famously horrid,’ repeated he, smacking the whip with a relish, as if he would have applied that if he could have found nothing else.
‘You think you live too smoothly at Hollywell,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone, hardly able, with all her respect for his good impulses, to help laughing at this strange boy.
‘Yes. Happy, thoughtless, vehement; that is what your kindness makes me. Was it not a proof, that I must needs fly out at such a petty provocation?’
‘I should not have thought it such a very exciting life; certainly not such as is usually said to lead to thoughtlessness; and we have been even quieter than usual since you came.’
‘Ah, you don’t know what stuff I am made of,’ said Guy, gravely, though smiling; ‘your own home party is enough to do me harm; it is so exceedingly pleasant.’
‘Pleasant things do not necessarily do harm.’
‘Not to you; not to people who are not easily unsettled; but when I go up-stairs, after a talking, merry evening, such as the night before last, I find that I have enjoyed it too much; I am all abroad! I can hardly fix my thoughts, and I don’t know what to do, since here I must be, and I can’t either be silent, or sit up in my own room.’
‘Certainly not,’ said she, smiling; ‘there are duties of society which you owe even to us dangerous people.’
‘No, no: don’t misunderstand me. The fault is in myself. If it was not for that, I could learn nothing but good,’ said Guy, speaking very eagerly, distressed at her answer.
‘I believe I understand you,’ said she, marvelling at the serious, ascetic temper, coupled with the very high animal spirits. ‘For your comfort, I believe the unsettled feeling you complain of is chiefly the effect of novelty. You have led so very retired a life, that a lively family party is to you what dissipation would be to other people: and, as you must meet with the world some time or other, it is better the first encounter with should be in this comparatively innocent form. Go on watching yourself, and it will do you no harm.’
Yes, but if I find it does me harm? It would be cowardly to run away, and resistance should be from within. Yet, on the other hand, there is the duty of giving up, wrenching oneself from all that has temptation in it.’
‘There is nothing,’ said Mrs Edmonstone, ‘that has no temptation in it; but I should think the rule was plain. If a duty such as that of living among us for the present, and making yourself moderately agreeable, involves temptations, they must be met and battled from within. In the same way, your position in society, with all its duties, could not be laid aside because it is full of trial. Those who do such things are fainthearted, and fail in trust in Him who fixed their station, and finds room for them to deny themselves in the trivial round and common task. It is pleasure involving no duty that should be given up, if we find it liable to lead us astray.’
‘I see,’ answered Guy, musingly; ‘and this reading comes naturally, and is just what I wanted to keep the pleasant things from getting a full hold of me. I ought to have thought of it sooner, instead of dawdling a whole month in idleness. Then all this would not have happened. I hope it will be very tough.’
‘You have no great love for Latin and Greek?’
‘Oh!’ cried Guy, eagerly, ‘to be sure I delight in Homer and the Georgics, and plenty more. What splendid things there are in these old fellows! But, I never liked the drudgery part of the affair; and now if I am to be set to work to be accurate, and to get up all the grammar and the Greek roots, it will be horrid enough in all conscience.’
He groaned as deeply as if he had not been congratulating himself just before on the difficulty.
‘Who was your tutor?’ asked Mrs. Edmonstone.
‘Mr. Potts,’ said Guy. ‘He is a very clever man; he had a common grammar-school education, but he struggled on — taught himself a great deal — and at last thought it great promotion to be a teacher at the Commercial Academy, as they call it, at Moorworth, where Markham’s nephews went to school. He is very clever, I assure you, and very patient of the hard, wearing life he must have of it there; and oh! so enjoying a new book, or an afternoon to himself. When I was about eight or nine, I began with him, riding into Moorworth three times in a week; and I have gone on ever since. I am sure he has done the best he could for me; and he made the readings very pleasant by his own enjoyment. If Philip had known the difficulties that man has struggled through, and his beautiful temper, persevering in doing his best and being contented, I am sure he could never have spoken contemptuously of him.’
‘I am sure he would not,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone; ‘all he meant was, that a person without a university education cannot tell what the requirements are to which a man must come up in these days.’
‘Ah!’ said Guy, laughing, ‘how I wished Mr. Potts had been there to have enjoyed listening to Philip and Mr. Lascelles discussing some new Lexicon, digging down for roots of words, and quoting passages of obscure Greek poets at such a rate, that if my eyes had been shut I could have thought them two withered old students in spectacles and snuff-coloured coats.’
‘Philip was in his element.’ said Mrs. Edmonstone, smiling.
‘Really,’ proceeded Guy, with animation, ‘the more I hear and see of Philip, the more I wonder. What a choice collection of books he has — so many of them school prizes, and how beautifully bound!’
‘Ah! that is one of Philip’s peculiar ways. With all his prudence and his love of books, I believe he would not buy one unless he had a reasonable prospect of being able to dress it handsomely. Did you see the print?’
‘Yes that I did. What glorious loveliness! There is nothing that does it justice but the description in the lecture. Oh I forgot, you have not heard it. You must let me read it to you by and by. Those two little angels, what faces they have. Perfect innocence — one full of reasoning, the other of unreasoning adoration!’
‘I see it!’ suddenly exclaimed Mrs. Edmonstone; ‘I see what you are like in one of your looks, not by any means, in all — it is to the larger of those two angels.’
‘Very seldom, I should guess,’ said Guy; and sinking his voice, as if he was communicating a most painful fact, he added, ‘My real likeness is old Sir Hugh’s portrait at home. But what were we saying? Oh! about Philip. How nice those stories were of Mrs. Deane’s.’
‘She is very fond of him.’
‘To have won so much esteem and admiration, already from strangers, with no prejudice in his favour. — It must be entirely his own doing; and well it may! Every time one hears of him, something comes out to make him seem more admirable. You are laughing at me, and I own it is presumptuous to praise; but I did not mean to praise, only to admire.’
‘I like very much to hear my nephew praised; I was only smiling at your enthusiastic way.’
‘I only wonder I am not more enthusiastic,’ said Guy. ‘I suppose it is his plain good sense that drives away that sort of feeling, for he is as near heroism in the way of self-sacrifice as a man can be in these days.’
‘Poor Philip! if disappointment can make a hero, it has fallen to his share. Ah! Guy, you are brightening and looking like one of my young ladies in hopes of a tale of true love crossed, but it was only love of a sister.’
‘The sister for whom he gave up so much?’
‘Yes, his sister Margaret. She was eight or nine years older, very handsome, very clever, a good deal like him — a pattern elder sister; indeed, she brought him up in great part after his mother died, and he was devoted to her. I do believe it made the sacrifice of his prospects quite easy to him, to know it was for her sake, that she would live on at Stylehurst, and the change be softened to her. Then came Fanny’s illness, and that lead to the marriage with Dr. Henley. It was just what no one could object to; he is a respectable man in full practice, with a large income; but he is much older than she is, not her equal in mind or cultivation, and though I hardly like to say so, not at all a religious man. At any rate, Margaret Morville was one of the last people one could bear to see marry for the sake of an establishment.’
‘Could her brother do nothing?’
‘He expostulated with all his might; but at nineteen he could do little with a determined sister of twenty-seven; and the very truth and power of his remonstrance must have made it leave a sting. Poor fellow, I believe he suffered terribly — just as he had lost Fanny, too, which he felt very deeply, for she was a very sweet creature, and he was very fond of her. It was like losing both sisters and home at once.’
‘Has he not just been staying with Mrs. Henley?’
‘Yes. There was never any coolness, as people call it. He is the one thing she loves and is proud of. They always correspond, and he often stays with her; but he owns to disliking the Doctor, and I don’t think he has much comfort in Margaret herself, for he always comes back more grave and stern than he went. Her house, with all her good wishes, can be no home to him; and so we try to make Hollywell supply the place of Stylehurst as well as we can.’
‘How glad he must be to have you to comfort him!’
‘Philip? Oh no. He was always reserved; open to no one but Margaret, not even to his father, and since her marriage he has shut himself up within himself more than ever. It has, at least I think it is this that has given him a severity, an unwillingness to trust, which I believe is often the consequence of a great disappointment either in love or in friendship.’
‘Thank you for telling me,’ said Guy: ‘I shall understand him better, and look up to him more. Oh! it is a cruel thing to find that what one loves is, or has not been, all one thought. What must he not have gone through!’
Mrs. Edmonstone was well pleased to have given so much assistance to Guy’s sincere desire to become attached to his cousin, one of the most favourable signs in the character that was winning so much upon her.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:02