— Pray, good shepherd, what
Fair swain is this that dances with your daughter?
He sings several times faster than you’ll tell money;
he utters them as he had eaten ballads, and all men’s
ears grow to his tunes.
— WINTER’S TALE
It was a glorious day in June, the sky of pure deep dazzling blue, the sunshine glowing with brightness, but with cheerful freshness in the air that took away all sultriness, the sun tending westward in his long day’s career, and casting welcome shadows from the tall firs and horse-chestnuts that shaded the lawn. A long rank of haymakers — men and women — proceeded with their rakes, the white shirt-sleeves, straw bonnets, and ruddy faces, radiant in the bath of sunshine, while in the shady end of the field were idler haymakers among the fragrant piles, Charles half lying on the grass, with his back against a tall haycock; Mrs. Edmonstone sitting on another, book in hand; Laura sketching the busy scene, the sun glancing through the chequered shade on her glossy curls; Philip stretched out at full length, hat and neck-tie off, luxuriating in the cool repose after a dusty walk from Broadstone; and a little way off, Amabel and Charlotte pretending to make hay, but really building nests with it, throwing it at each other, and playing as heartily as the heat would allow.
They talked and laughed, the rest were too hot, too busy, or too sleepy for conversation, even Philip being tired into enjoying the “dolce far niente”; and they basked in the fresh breezy heat and perfumy hay with only now and then a word, till a cold, black, damp nose was suddenly thrust into Charles’s face, a red tongue began licking him; and at the same moment Charlotte, screaming ‘There he is!’ raced headlong across the swarths of hay, to meet Guy, who had just ridden into the field. He threw Deloraine’s rein to one of the haymakers, and came bounding to meet her, just in time to pick her up as she put her foot into a hidden hole, and fell prostrate.
In another moment he was in the midst of the whole party, who crowded round and welcomed him as if he had been a boy returning from his first half-year’s schooling; and never did little school-boy look more holiday-like than he, with all the sunshine of that June day reflected, as it were, in his glittering eyes and glowing face, while Bustle escaping from Charles’s caressing arm, danced round, wagging his tail in ecstasy, and claiming his share of the welcome. Then Guy was on the ground by Charles, rejoicing to find him out there, and then, some dropping into their former nests on the hay, some standing round, they talked fast and eagerly in a confusion of sound that did not subside for the first ten minutes so as to allow anything to be clearly heard. The first distinct sentence was Charlotte’s ‘Bustle, darling old fellow, you are handsomer than ever!’
‘What a delicious day!’ next exclaimed Guy, following Philip’s example, by throwing off hat and neck-tie.
‘A spontaneous tribute to the beauty of the day,’ said Charles.
‘Really it is so ultra-splendid as to deserve notice!’ said Philip, throwing himself completely back, and looking up.
‘One cannot help revelling in that deep blue!’ said Laura.
‘Tomorrow’ll be the happiest time of all the glad new year,’ hummed Guy.
‘Ah you will teach us all now,’ said Laura, ‘after your grand singing lessons.’
‘Do you know what is in store for you, Guy?’ said Amy. ‘Oh! haven’t you heard about Lady Kilcoran’s ball?’
‘You are to go, Guy,’ said Charlotte. ‘I am glad I am not. I hate dancing.’
‘And I know as much about it as Bustle,’ said Guy, catching the dog by his forepaws, and causing him to perform an uncouth dance.
‘Never mind, they will soon teach you,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone.
‘Must I really go?’
‘He begins to think it serious,’ said Charles.
‘Is Philip going?’ exclaimed Guy, looking as if he was taken by surprise.
‘He is going to say something about dancing being a healthful recreation for young people,’ said Charles.
‘You’ll be disappointed,’ said Philip. ‘It is much too hot to moralize.’
‘Apollo unbends his bow,’ exclaimed Charles. ‘The captain yields the field.’
‘Ah! Captain Morville, I ought to have congratulated you,’ said Guy. ‘I must come to Broadstone early enough to see you on parade.’
‘Come to Broadstone! You aren’t still bound to Mr. Lascelles,’ said Charles.
‘If he has time for me,’ said Guy. ‘I am too far behind the rest of the world to afford to be idle this vacation.’
‘That’s right, Guy,’ exclaimed Philip, sitting up, and looking full of approval. ‘With so much perseverance, you must get on at last. How did you do in collections?’
‘Tolerably, thank you.’
‘You must be able to enter into the thing now,’ proceeded Philip. ‘What are you reading?’
‘Have you come to Pericles’ oration? I must show you some notes that I have on that. Don’t you get into the spirit of it now?’
‘Up-hill work still,’ answered Guy, disentangling some cinders from the silky curls of Bustle’s ear.
‘Which do you like best — that or the ball?’ asked Charles.
‘The hay-field best of all,’ said Guy, releasing Bustle, and blinding him with a heap of hay.
‘Of course!’ said Charlotte, ‘who would not like hay-making better than that stupid ball?’
‘Poor Charlotte!’ said Mrs. Edmonstone; commiseration which irritated Charlotte into standing up and protesting,
‘Mamma, you know I don’t want to go.’
‘No more do I, Charlotte,’ said her brother, in a mock consoling tone. ‘You and I know what is good for us, and despise sublunary vanities.’
‘But you will go, Guy,’ said Laura; ‘Philip is really going.’
‘In spite of Lord Kilcoran’s folly in going to such an expense as either taking Allonby or giving the ball,’ said Charles.
‘I don’t think it is my business to bring Lord Kilcoran to a sense of his folly,’ said Philip. ‘I made all my protests to Maurice when first he started the notion, but if his father chose to take the matter up, it is no concern of mine.’
‘You will understand, Guy,’ said Charles, ‘that this ball is specially got up by Maurice for Laura’s benefit.’
‘Believe as little as you please of that speech, Guy,’ said Laura; ‘the truth is that Lord Kilcoran is very good-natured, and Eveleen was very much shocked to hear that Amy had never been to any ball, and I to only one, and so it ended in their giving one.’
‘When is it to be?’
‘On Thursday week,’ said Amy. ‘I wonder if you will think Eveleen as pretty as we do!’
‘She is Laura’s great friend, is not she?’
‘I like her very much; I have known her all my life, and she has much more depth than those would think who only know her manner.’ And Laura looked pleadingly at Philip as she spoke.
‘Are there any others of the family at home?’ said Guy.
‘The two younger girls, Mabel and Helen, and the little boys,’ said Amy. ‘Lord de Courcy is in Ireland, and all the others are away.’
‘Lord de Courcy is the wisest man of the family, and sets his face against absenteeism,’ said Philip, ‘so he is never visible here.’
‘But you aren’t going to despise it, I hope, Guy,’ said Amy, earnestly; ‘it will be so delightful! And what fun we shall have in teaching you to dance!’
Guy stretched himself, and gave a quaint grunt.
‘Never mind, Guy,’ said Philip, ‘very little is required. You may easily pass in the crowd. I never learnt.’
‘Your ear will guide you,’ said Laura.
‘And no one can stay at home, since Mary Ross is going,’ said Amy. ‘Eveleen was always so fond of her, that she came and forced a promise from her by telling her she should come with mamma, and have no trouble.’
‘You have not seen Allonby,’ said Laura. ‘There are such Vandykes, and among them, such a King Charles!’
‘Is not that the picture,’ said Charles, ‘before which Amy —’
‘O don’t, Charlie!’
‘Was found dissolved in tears?’
‘I could not help it,’ murmured Amy, blushing crimson.
‘There is all Charles’s fate in his face,’ said Philip — ‘earnest, melancholy, beautiful! It would stir the feelings — were it an unknown portrait. No, Amy, you need not be ashamed of your tears.’
But Amy turned away, doubly ashamed.
‘I hope it is not in the ball-room,’ said Guy.
‘No said Laura, ‘it is in the library.’
Charlotte, whose absence had become perceptible from the general quietness, here ran up with two envelopes, which she put into Guy’s hands. One contained Lady Kilcoran’s genuine card of invitation for Sir Guy Morville, the other Charlotte had scribbled in haste for Mr. Bustle.
This put an end to all rationality. Guy rose with a growl and a roar, and hunted her over half the field, till she was caught, and came back out of breath and screaming, ‘We never had such a haymaking!’
‘So I think the haymakers will say!’ answered her mother, rising to go indoors. ‘What ruin of haycocks!’
‘Oh, I’ll set all that to rights,’ said Guy, seizing a hay-fork.
‘Stop, stop, take care!’ cried Charles. ‘I don’t want to be built up in the rick, and by and by, when my disconsolate family have had all the ponds dragged for me, Deloraine will be heard to complain that they give him very odd animal food.’
‘Who could resist such a piteous appeal!’ said Guy, helping him to rise, and conducting him to his wheeled chair. The others followed, and when, shortly after, Laura looked out at her window, she saw Guy, with his coat off, toiling like a real haymaker, to build up the cocks in all their neat fairness and height, whistling meantime the ‘Queen of the May,’ and now and then singing a line. She watched the old cowman come up, touching his hat, and looking less cross than usual; she saw Guy’s ready greeting, and perceived they were comparing the forks and rakes, the pooks and cocks of their counties; and, finally, she beheld her father ride into the field, and Guy spring to meet him.
No one could have so returned to what was in effect a home, unless his time had been properly spent; and, in fact, all that Mr. Edmonstone or Philip could hear of him, was so satisfactory, that Philip pronounced that the first stage of the trial had been passed irreproachably, and Laura felt and looked delighted at this sanction to the high estimation in which she held him.
His own account of himself to Mrs. Edmonstone would not have been equally satisfactory if she had not had something else to check it with. It was given by degrees, and at many different times, chiefly as they walked round the garden in the twilight of the summer evenings, talking over the many subjects mentioned in the letters which had passed constantly. It seemed as if there were very few to whom Guy would ever give his confidence; but that once bestowed, it was with hardly any reserve, and that was his great relief and satisfaction to pour out his whole mind, where he was sure of sympathy.
To her, then, he confided how much provoked he was with himself, his ‘first term,’ he said, ‘having only shown him what an intolerable fool he had to keep in order.’ By his account, he could do nothing ‘without turning his own head, except study, and that stupefied it.’ ‘Never was there a more idle fellow; he could work himself for a given time, but his sense would not second him; and was it not most absurd in him to take so little pleasure in what was his duty, and enjoy only what was bad for him?’
He had tried boating, but it had distracted him from his work; so he had been obliged to give it up, and had done so in a hasty vehement manner, which had caused offence, and for which he blamed himself. It had been the same with other things, till he had left himself no regular recreation but walking and music. ‘The last,’ he said, ‘might engross him in the same way; but he thought (here he hesitated a little) there were higher ends for music, which made it come under Mrs. Edmonstone’s rule, of a thing to be used guardedly, not disused.’ He had resumed light reading, too, which he had nearly discontinued before he went to Oxford. ‘One wants something,’ he said, ‘by way of refreshment, where there is no sea nor rock to look at, and no Laura and Amy to talk to.’
He had made one friend, a scholar of his own college, of the name of Wellwood. This name had been his attraction; Guy was bent on friendship with him; if, as he tried to make him out to be, he was the son of that Captain Wellwood whose death had weighed so heavily on his grandfather’s conscience, feeling almost as if it were his duty to ask forgiveness in his grandfather’s name, yet scarcely knowing how to venture on advances to one to whom his name had such associations. However, they had gradually drawn together, and at length entered on the subject, and Guy then found he was the nephew, not the son of Captain Wellwood; indeed, his former belief was founded on a miscalculation, as the duel had taken place twenty-eight years ago. He now heard all his grandfather had wished to know of the family. There were two unmarried daughters, and their cousin spoke in the highest terms of their self-devoted life, promising what Guy much wished, that they should hear what deep repentance had followed the crime which had made them fatherless. He was to be a clergyman, and Guy admired him extremely, saying, however, that he was so shy and retiring, it was hard to know him well.
From not having been at school, and from other causes, Guy had made few acquaintance; indeed, he amused Mrs. Edmonstone by fearing he had been morose. She was ready to tell him he was an ingenious self-tormentor; but she saw that the struggle to do right was the main spring of the happiness that beamed round him, in spite of his self-reproach, heart-felt as it was. She doubted whether persons more contented with themselves were as truly joyous, and was convinced that, while thus combating lesser temptations, the very shadow of what are generally alone considered as real temptations would hardly come near him.
If it had not been for these talks, and now and then a thoughtful look, she would have believed him one of the most light-hearted and merriest of beings. He was more full of glee and high spirits than she had ever seen him; he seemed to fill the whole house with mirth, and keep every one alive by his fun and frolic, as blithe and untiring as Maurice de Courcy himself, though not so wild.
Very pleasant were those summer days — reading, walking, music, gardening. Did not they all work like very labourers at the new arbour in the midst of the laurels, where Charles might sit and see the spires of Broadstone? Work they did, indeed! Charles looking on from his wheeled chair, laughing to see Guy sawing as if for his living and Amy hammering gallantly, and Laura weaving osiers, and Charlotte flying about with messages.
One day, they were startled by an exclamation from Charles. ‘Ah, ha! Paddy, is that you?’ and beheld the tall figure of a girl, advancing with a rapid, springing step, holding up her riding habit with one hand, with the other whisking her coral-handled whip. There was something distinguished in her air, and her features, though less fine than Laura’s, were very pretty, by the help of laughing dark blue eyes, and very black hair, under her broad hat and little waving feather. She threatened Charles with her whip, calling out —‘Aunt Edmonstone said I should find you here. What is the fun now?’
‘Arbour building,’ said Charles; ‘don’t you see the head carpenter!’
‘Sir Guy?’ whispered she to Laura, looking up at him, where he was mounted on the roof, thatching it with reed, the sunshine full on his glowing face and white shirt sleeves.
‘Here!’ said Charles, as Guy swung himself down with a bound, his face much redder than sun and work had already made it, ‘here’s another wild Irisher for you.’
‘Sir Guy Morville — Lady Eveleen de Courcy,’ began Laura; but Lady Eveleen cut her short, frankly holding out her hand, and saying, ‘You are almost a cousin, you know. Oh, don’t leave off. Do give me something to do. That hammer, Amy, pray — Laura, don’t you remember how dearly I always loved hammering?’
‘How did you come?’ said Laura.
‘With papa —’tis his visit to Sir Guy. ‘No, don’t go,’ as Guy began to look for his coat; ‘he is only impending. He is gone on to Broadstone, but he dropped me here, and will pick me up on his way back. Can’t you give me something to do on the top of that ladder? I should like it mightily; it looks so cool and airy.’
‘How can you, Eva?’ whispered Laura, reprovingly; but Lady Eveleen only shook her head at her, and declaring she saw a dangerous nail sticking out, began to hammer it in with such good will, that Charles stopped his ears, and told her it was worse than her tongue. ‘Go on about the ball, do.’
‘Oh,’ said she earnestly, ‘do you think there is any hope of Captain Morville’s coming?’
‘Oh yes,’ said Laura.
‘I am so glad! That is what papa is gone to Broadstone about. Maurice said he had given him such a lecture, that he would not be the one to think of asking him, and papa must do it himself; for if he sets his face against it, it will spoil it all.’
‘You may make your mind easy,’ said Charles, ‘the captain is lenient, and looks on the ball as a mere development of Irish nature. He has been consoling Guy on the difficulties of dancing.’
‘Can’t you dance?’ said Lady Eveleen, looking at him with compassion.
‘Such is my melancholy ignorance,’ said Guy.
‘We have been talking of teaching him,’ said Laura.
‘Talk! will that do it?’ cried Lady Eveleen, springing up. ‘We will begin this moment. Come out on the lawn. Here, Charles,’ wheeling him along, ‘No, thank you, I like it,’ as Guy was going to help her. ‘There, Charles, be fiddler go on, tum-tum, tee! that’ll do. Amy, Laura, be ladies. I’m the other gentleman,’ and she stuck on her hat in military style, giving it a cock. She actually set them quadrilling in spite of adverse circumstances, dancing better, in her habit, than most people without one, till Lord Kilcoran arrived.
While he was making his visit, she walked a little apart, arm-inarm with Laura. ‘I like him very much,’ she said; ‘he looks up to anything. I had heard so much of his steadiness, that it is a great relief to my mind to see him so unlike his cousin.’
‘No disparagement to the captain, only I am so dreadfully afraid of him. I am sure he thinks me such an unmitigated goose. Now, doesn’t he?’
‘If you would but take the right way to make him think otherwise, dear Eva, and show the sense you really have.’
‘That is just what my fear of him won’t let me do. I would not for the world let him guess it, so there is nothing for it but sauciness to cover one’s weakness. I can’t be sensible with those that won’t give me credit for it. But you’ll mind and teach Sir Guy to dance; he has so much spring in him, he deserves to be an Irishman.’
In compliance with this injunction, there used to be a clearance every evening; Charles turned into the bay window out of the way, Mrs. Edmonstone at the piano, and the rest figuring away, the partnerless one, called ‘puss in the corner’, being generally Amabel, while Charlotte, disdaining them all the time, used to try to make them imitate her dancing-master’s graces, causing her father to perform such caricatures of them, as to overpower all with laughing.
Mr. Edmonstone was half Irish. His mother, Lady Mabel Edmonstone, had never thoroughly taken root in England, and on his marriage, had gone with her daughter to live near her old home in Ireland. The present Earl of Kilcoran was her nephew, and a very close intercourse had always been kept up between the families, Mr. and Mrs. Edmonstone being adopted by their younger cousins as uncle and aunt, and always so called.
The house at Allonby was in such confusion, that the family there expected to dine nowhere on the day of the ball, and the Hollywell party thought it prudent to secure their dinner at home, with Philip and Mary Ross, who were to go with them.
By special desire, Philip wore his uniform; and while the sisters were dressing Charlotte gave him a thorough examination, which led to a talk between him and Mary on accoutrements and weapons in general; but while deep in some points of chivalrous armour, Mary’s waist was pinched by two mischievous hands, and a little fluttering white figure danced around her.
‘O Amy! what do you want with me?’
‘Come and be trimmed up,’ said Amy.
‘I thought you told me I was to have no trouble. I am dressed,’ said Mary, looking complacently at her full folds of white muslin.
‘No more you shall; but you promised to do as you were told.’ And Amy fluttered away with her.
‘Do you remember,’ said Philip, ‘the comparison of Rose Flammock dragging off her father, to a little carved cherub trying to uplift a solid monumental hero?’
‘O, I must tell Mary!’ cried Charlotte; but Philip stopped her, with orders not to be a silly child.
‘It is a pity Amy should not have her share,’ said Charles.
‘The comparison to a Dutch cherub?’ asked Guy.
‘She is more after the pattern of the little things on little wings, in your blotting-book,’ said Charles; ‘certain lines in the predicament of the cherubs of painters — heads “et proeterea nihil”.’
‘O Guy, do you write verses? cried Charlotte.
‘Some nonsense,’ muttered Guy, out of countenance; ‘I thought I had made away with that rubbish; where is it?’
‘In the blotting-book in my room,’ said Charles. ‘I must explain that the book is my property, and was put into your room when mamma was beautifying it for you, as new and strange company. On its return to me, at your departure, I discovered a great accession of blots and sailing vessels, beside the aforesaid little things.’
‘I shall resume my own property,’ said Guy, departing in haste.
Charlotte ran after him, to beg for a sight of it; and Philip asked Charles what it was like.
‘A romantic incident,’ said Charles, ‘just fit for a novel. A Petrarch leaving his poems about in blotting-books.’
Charles used the word Petrarch to stand for a poet, not thinking what lady’s name he suggested; and he was surprised at the severity of Philip’s tone as he inquired, ‘Do you mean anything, or do you not?’
Perceiving with delight that he had perplexed and teased, he rejoiced in keeping up the mystery:
‘Eh? is it a tender subject with you, too?’
Philip rose, and standing over him, said, in a low but impressive tone:
‘I cannot tell whether you are trifling or not; but you are no boy now, and can surely see that this is no subject to be played with. If you are concealing anything you have discovered, you have a great deal to answer for. I can hardly imagine anything more unfortunate than that he should become attached to either of your sisters.’
‘Et pourquoi?’ asked Charles, coolly.
‘I see,’ said Philip, retreating to his chair, and speaking with great composure, ‘I did you injustice by speaking seriously.’ Then, as his uncle came into the room, he asked some indifferent question, without betraying a shade of annoyance.
Charles meanwhile congratulated himself on his valour in keeping his counsel, in spite of so tall a man in scarlet; but he was much nettled at the last speech, for if a real attachment to his sister had been in question, he would never have trifled about it. Keenly alive to his cousin’s injustice, he rejoiced in having provoked and mystified the impassable, though he little knew the storm he had raised beneath that serene exterior of perfect self-command.
The carriages were announced, and Mr. Edmonstone began to call the ladies, adding tenfold to the confusion in the dressing-room. There was Laura being completed by the lady’s maid, Amabel embellishing Mary, Mrs. Edmonstone with her arm loaded with shawls, Charlotte flourishing about. Poor Mary — it was much against her will — but she had no heart to refuse the wreath of geraniums that Amy’s own hands had woven for her; and there she sat, passive as a doll, though in despair at their all waiting for her. For Laura’s toilette was finished, and every one began dressing her at once; while Charlotte, to make it better, screamed over the balusters that all were ready but Mary. Sir Guy was heard playing the ‘Harmonious Blacksmith,’ and Captain Morville’s step was heard, fast and firm. At last, when a long chain was put round her neck, she cried out, ‘I have submitted to everything so far; I can bear no more!’ jumped up, caught hold of her shawl, and was putting it on, when there was a general outcry that they must exhibit themselves to Charles.
They all ran down, and Amy, flying up to her brother, made a splendid sweeping curtsey, and twirled round in a pirouette.
‘Got up, regardless of expense!’ cried Charles; ‘display yourselves.’
The young ladies ranged themselves in imitation of the book of fashions. The sisters were in white, with wreaths of starry jessamine. It was particularly becoming to Laura’s bella-donna lily complexion, rich brown curls, and classical features, and her brother exclaimed:
‘Laura is exactly like Apollo playing the lyre, outside mamma’s old manuscript book of music.’
‘Has not Amy made beautiful wreaths?’ said Laura. ‘She stripped the tree, and Guy had to fetch the ladder, to gather the sprays on the top of the wall.’
‘Do you see your bit of myrtle, Guy,’ said Amy, pointing to it, on Laura’s head, ‘that you tried to persuade me would pass for jessamine?’
‘Ah! it should have been all myrtle,’ said Guy.
Philip leant meantime against the door. Laura only once glanced towards him, thinking all this too trifling for him, and never imagining the intense interest with which he gave a meaning to each word and look.
‘Well done, Mary!’ cried Charles, ‘they have furbished you up handsomely.’
Mary made a face, and said she should wonder who was the fashionable young lady she should meet in the pier-glasses at Allonby. Then Mr. Edmonstone hurried them away, and they arrived in due time.
The saloon at Allonby was a beautiful room, one end opening into a conservatory, full of coloured lamps, fresh green leaves, and hot-house plants. There they found as yet only the home party, the good-natured, merry Lord Kilcoran, his quiet English wife, who had bad health, and looked hardly equal to the confusion of the evening; Maurice, and two younger boys; Eveleen, and her two little sisters, Mabel and Helen.
‘This makes it hard on Charlotte,’ thought Amy, while the two girls dragged her off to show her the lamps in the conservatory; and the rest attacked Mrs. Edmonstone for not having brought Charlotte, reproaching her with hardness of heart of which they had never believed her capable — Lady Eveleen, in especial, talking with that exaggeration of her ordinary manner which her dread of Captain Morville made her assume. Little he recked of her; he was absorbed in observing how far Laura’s conduct coincided with Charles’s hints. On the first opportunity, he asked her to dance, and was satisfied with her pleased acquiescence; but the next moment Guy came up, and in an eager manner made the same request.
‘I am engaged,’ said she, with a bright, proud glance at Philip; and Guy pursued Amabel into the conservatory, where he met with better success. Mr. Edmonstone gallantly asked Mary if he was too old a partner, and was soon dancing with the step and spring that had once made him the best dancer in the county.
Mrs. Edmonstone watched her flock, proud and pleased, thinking how well they looked and that, in especial, she had never been sensible how much Laura’s and Philip’s good looks excelled the rest of the world. They were much alike in the remarkable symmetry both of figure and feature, the colour of the deep blue eye, and fairness of complexion.
‘It is curious,’ thought Mrs. Edmonstone, ‘that, so very handsome as Philip is, it is never the first thing remarked about him, just as his height never is observed till he is compared with other people. The fact is, that his superior sense carries off a degree of beauty which would be a misfortune to most men. It is that sedate expression and distinguished air that make the impression. How happy Laura looks, how gracefully she moves. No, it is not being foolish to think no one equal to Laura. My other pair!’ and she smiled much more; ‘you happy young things, I would not wish to see anything pleasanter than your merry faces. Little Amy looks almost as pretty as Laura, now she is lighted up by blush and smile, and her dancing is very nice, it is just like her laughing, so quiet, and yet so full of glee. I don’t think she is less graceful than her sister, but the complete enjoyment strikes one more. And as to enjoyment — there are those bright eyes of her partner’s perfectly sparkling with delight; he looks as if it was a world of enchantment to him. Never had any one a greater capacity for happiness than Guy.’
Mrs. Edmonstone might well retain her opinion when, after the quadrille, Guy came to tell her that he had never seen anything so delightful; and he entertained Mary Ross with his fresh, joyous pleasure, through the next dance.
‘Laura,’ whispered Eveleen, ‘I’ve one ambition. Do you guess it? Don’t tell him; but if he would, I should have a better opinion of myself ever after. I’m afraid he’ll depreciate me to his friend; and really with Mr. Thorndale, I was no more foolish than a ball requires.’
Lady Eveleen hoped in vain. Captain Morville danced with little Lady Helen, a child of eleven, who was enchanted at having so tall a partner; then, after standing still for some time, chose his cousin Amabel.
‘You are a good partner and neighbour,’ said he, giving her his arm, ‘you don’t want young lady talk.’
‘Should you not have asked Mary? She has been sitting down this long time.’
‘Do you think she cares for such a sport as dancing?’
Amy made no answer.
‘You have been well off. You were dancing with Thorndale just now.’
‘Yes. It was refreshing to have an old acquaintance among so many strangers. And he is so delighted with Eveleen; but what is more, Philip, that Mr. Vernon, who is dancing with Laura, told Maurice he thought her the prettiest and most elegant person here.’
‘Laura might have higher praise,’ said Philip, ‘for hers is beauty of countenance even more than of feature. If only —’
‘If?’ said Amy.
‘Look round, Amy, and you will see many a face which speaks of intellect wasted, or, if cultivated, turned aside from its true purpose, like the double blossom, which bears leaves alone.’
‘Ah! you forget you are talking to silly little Amy. I can’t see all that. I had rather think people as happy and good as they look.’
‘Keep your child-like temper as long as you can — all your life,’ perhaps, for this is one of the points where it is folly to be wise.’
‘Then you only meant things in general? Nothing about Laura?’
‘Things in general,’ repeated Philip; ‘bright promises blighted or thrown away —’
But he spoke absently, and his eye was following Laura. Amy thought he was thinking of his sister, and was sorry for him. He spoke no more, but she did not regret it, for she could not moralize in such a scene, and the sight and the dancing were pleasure enough.
Guy, in the meantime, had met an Oxford acquaintance, who introduced him to his sisters — pretty girls — whose father Mr. Edmonstone knew, but who was rather out of the Hollywell visiting distance. They fell into conversation quickly, and the Miss Alstons asked him with some interest, ‘Which was the pretty Miss Edmonstone?’ Guy looked for the sisters, as if to make up his mind, for the fact was, that when he first knew Laura and Amy, the idea of criticising beauty had not entered his mind, and to compare them was quite a new notion. ‘Nay,’ said he at last, ‘if you cannot discover for yourselves when they are both before your eyes, I will do nothing so invidious as to say which is the pretty one. I’ll tell which is the eldest and which the youngest, but the rest you must decide for yourself.’
‘I should like to know them,’ said Miss Alston. ‘Oh! they are both very nice-looking girls.’
‘There, that is Laura — Miss Edmonstone,’ said Guy, ‘that tall young lady, with the beautiful hair and jessamine wreath.’
He spoke as if he was proud of her, and had a property in her. The tone did not escape Philip, who at that moment was close to them, with Amy on his arm; and, knowing the Alstons slightly, stopped and spoke, and introduced his cousin, Miss Amabel Edmonstone. At the same time Guy took one of the Miss Alstons away to get some tea.
‘So you knew my cousin at Oxford?’ said Philip, to the brother.
‘Yes, slightly. What an amusing fellow he is!’
‘There is something very bright, very unlike other people about him,’ said Miss Alston.
‘How does he get on? Is he liked?’
‘Why, yes, I should say so, on the whole; but it is rather as my sister says, he is not like other people.’
‘In what respect?’
‘Oh I can hardly tell. He is a very pleasant person, but he ought to have been at school. He is a man of crotchets.’
‘Very; he makes everything give way to that. He is a capital companion when he is to be had, but he lives very much to himself. He is a man of one friend, and I don’t see much of him.’
Another dance began, Mr. Alston went to look for his partner, Philip and Amy moved on in search of ice. ‘Hum!’ said Philip to himself, causing Amy to gaze up at him, but he was musing too intently for her to venture on a remark. She was thinking that she did not wonder that strangers deemed Guy crotchety, since he was so difficult to understand; and then she considered whether to take him to see King Charles, in the library, and concluded that she would wait, for she felt as if the martyr king’s face would look on her too gravely to suit her present tone.
Philip helped her to ice, and brought her back to her mother’s neighbourhood without many more words. He then stood thoughtful for some time, entered into conversation with one of the elder gentlemen, and, when that was interrupted, turned to talk to his aunt.
Lady Eveleen and her two cousins were for a moment together. ‘What is the matter, Eva?’ said Amy, seeing a sort of dissatisfaction on her bright face.
‘The roc’s egg?’ said Laura, smiling. ‘The queen of the evening can’t be content —’
‘No; you are the queen, if the one thing can make you so — the one thing wanting to me.’
‘How absurd you are, Eva — when you say you are so afraid of him, too.’
‘That is the very reason. I should get a better opinion of myself! Besides, there is nobody else so handsome. I declare I’ll make a bold attempt.’
‘Oh! you don’t think of such a thing,’ cried Laura, very much shocked.
‘Never fear,’ said Eveleen, ‘faint heart, you know.’ And with a nod, a flourish, of her bouquet, and an arch smile at her cousin’s horror, she moved on, and presently they heard her exclaiming, gaily, ‘Captain Morville, I really must scold you. You are setting a shocking example of laziness! Aunt Edmonstone, how can you encourage such proceedings! Indolence is the parent of vice, you know.’
Philip smiled just as much as the occasion required, and answered, ‘I beg your pardon, I had forgotten my duty. I’ll attend to my business better in future.’ And turning to a small, shy damsel, who seldom met with a partner, he asked her to dance. Eveleen came back to Laura with a droll disappointed gesture. ‘Insult to injury,’ said she, disconsolately.
‘Of course,’ said Amy, ‘he could not have thought you wanted to dance with him, or you would not have gone to stir him up.’
‘Well, then, he was very obtuse.’
‘Besides, you are engaged.’
‘O yes, to Mr. Thorndale! But who would be content with the squire when the knight disdains her?’
Mr. Thorndale came to claim Eveleen at that moment. It was the second time she had danced with him, and it did not pass unobserved by Philip, nor the long walk up and down after the dance was over. At length his friend came up to him and said something warm in admiration of her. ‘She is very Irish,’ was Philip’s answer, with a cold smile, and Mr. Thorndale stood uncomfortable under the disapprobation, attracted by Eveleen’s beauty and grace, yet so unused to trust his own judgment apart from ‘Morville’s,’ as to be in an instant doubtful whether he really admired or not.
‘You have not been dancing with her?’ he said, presently.
‘No: she attracts too many to need the attention of a nobody like myself.’
That ‘too many,’ seeming to confound him with the vulgar herd, made Mr. Thorndale heartily ashamed of having been pleased with her.
Philip was easy about him for the present, satisfied that admiration had been checked, which, if it had been allowed to grow into an attachment, would have been very undesirable.
The suspicions Charles had excited were so full in Philip’s mind, however, that he could not as easily set it at rest respecting his cousin. Guy had three times asked her to dance, but each time she had been engaged. At last, just as the clock struck the hour at which the carriage had been ordered, he came up, and impetuously claimed her. ‘One quadrille we must have, Laura, if you are not tired?’
‘No! Oh, no! I could dance till this time tomorrow.’
‘We ought to be going,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone.
‘O pray, Mrs. Edmonstone, this one more,’ cried Guy, eagerly. ‘Laura owes me this one.’
‘Yes, this one more, mamma,’ said Laura, and they went off together, while Philip remained, in a reverie, till requested by his aunt to see if the carriage was ready.
The dance was over, the carriage was waiting, but Guy and Laura did not appear till, after two or three minutes spent in wonder and inquiries, they came quietly walking back from the library, where they had been looking at King Charles.
All the way home the four ladies in the carriage never ceased laughing and talking. The three gentlemen in theirs acted diversely. Mr. Edmonstone went to sleep, Philip sat in silent thought, Guy whistled and hummed the tunes, and moved his foot very much as if he was still dancing.
They met for a moment, and parted again in the hall at Hollywell, where the daylight was striving to get in through the closed shutters. Philip went on to Broadstone, Guy said he could not go to bed by daylight, called Bustle, and went to the river to bathe, and the rest crept upstairs to their rooms. And so ended Lord Kilcoran’s ball.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:15