Ah! county Guy, the hour is nigh,
The sun has left the lea,
The orange flower perfumes the bower,
The breeze is on the sea.
The lark, his lay, who thrilled all day,
Sits hushed, his partner nigh,
Breeze, bird, and flower, confess the hour,
But where is county Guy?
How was it meantime with Laura? The others were laughing and talking round her, but all seemed lost in the transcendent beam that had shone out on her. To be told by Philip that she was all to him that he had always been to her! This one idea pervaded her — too glorious, too happy for utterance, almost for distinct thought. The softening of his voice, and the look with which he had regarded her, recurred again and again, startling her with a sudden surprise of joy almost as at the first moment. Of the future Laura thought not. Never had a promise of love been made with less knowledge of what it amounted to: it seemed merely an expression of sentiments that she had never been without; for had she not always looked up to Philip more than any other living creature, and gloried in being his favourite cousin? Ever since the time when he explained to her the plates in the Encyclopaedia, and made her read ‘Joyce’s Scientific Dialogues,’ when Amy took fright at the first page. That this might lead further did not occur to her; she was eighteen, she had no experience, not even in novels, she did not know what she had done; and above all, she had so leant to surrender her opinions to Philip, and to believe him always right, that she would never have dreamt of questioning wherever he might choose to lead her. Even the caution of secrecy did not alarm her, though she wondered that he thought it required, safe as his confidence always was with her. Mrs. Edmonstone had been so much occupied by Charles’s illness, as to have been unable to attend to her daughters in their girlish days; and in the governess’s time the habit had been disused of flying at once to her with every joy or grief. Laura’s thoughts were not easy of access, and Philip had long been all in all to her. She was too ignorant of life to perceive that it was her duty to make this conversation known; or, more truly, she did not awaken her mind to consider that anything could be wrong that Philip desired.
On coming home, she ran up to her own room, and sitting by the open window, gave herself up to that delicious dream of new-found joy.
There she still sat when Amy came in, opening the door softly, and treading lightly and airily as she entered, bringing two or three roses of different tints.
‘Laura! not begun to dress?’
‘Is it time?’
‘Shall I answer you according to what Philip calls my note of time, and tell you the pimpernels are closed, and the tigridias dropping their leaves? It would be a proper answer for you; you look as if you were in Fairy Land.’
‘Is papa come home?’
‘Long ago! and Guy too. Why, where could you have been, not to have heard Guy and Eveleen singing the Irish melodies?’
‘In a trance,’ said Laura, starting up, and laughing, with a slight degree of constraint, which caused Amy, who was helping her to dress, to exclaim, ‘Has anything happened, Laura?’
‘What should have happened?’
‘I can’t guess, unless the fairies in the great ring on Ashendown came to visit you when we were gone. But seriously, dear Laura, are you sure you are not tired? Is nothing the matter?’
‘Nothing at all, thank you. I was only thinking over the talk I had with Philip.’
Amy never thought of entering into Philip’s talks with Laura, and was perfectly satisfied.
By this time Laura was herself again, come back to common life, and resolved to watch over her intercourse with Guy; since, though she was convinced that all was safe at present, she had Philip’s word for it that there might be danger in continuing the pleasant freedom of their behaviour.
Nothing could be more reassuring than Guy’s demeanour. His head seemed entirely full of the Thursday, and of a plan of his own for enabling Charles to go to the review. It had darted into his head while he was going over the ground with Maurice. It was so long since Charles had thought it possible to attempt any amusement away from home, and former experiments had been so unsuccessful, that it had never even occurred to him to think of it; but he caught at the idea with great delight and eagerness. Mrs. Edmonstone seemed not to know what to say; she had much rather that it had not been proposed; yet it was very kind of Guy, and Charles was so anxious about it that she knew not how to oppose him.
She could not bear to have Charles in a crowd, helpless as he was; and she had an unpleasing remembrance of the last occasion when they had taken him to a flower-show, where they had lost, first Mr. Edmonstone, next the carriage, and lastly, Amy and Charlotte — all had been frightened, and Charles laid up for three days from the fatigue.
Answers, however, met each objection. Charles was much stronger; Guy’s arm would be ready for him; Guy would find the carriage. Philip would be there to help, besides Maurice; and whenever Charles was tired, Guy would take him home at once, without spoiling any one’s pleasure.
‘Except your own,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone.
‘Thank you; but this would be so delightful.’
‘Ah!’ said Charles, ‘it would be as great a triumph as the dog’s that caught the hare with the clog round his neck — the dog’s, I mean.’
‘If you will but trust me with him,’ said Guy, turning on her all the pleading eloquence of his eyes, ‘you know he can get in and out of the pony-carriage quite easily.’
‘As well as walk across the room,’ said Charles.
‘I would drive him in it, and tell William to ride in and be at hand to hold the pony or take it out; and the tent is so near, that you could get to the breakfast, unless the review had been enough for you. I paced the distance to make sure, and it is no further than from the garden-door to the cherry-tree.’
‘That is nothing,’ said Charles.
‘And William shall be in waiting to bring the pony the instant you are ready, and we can go home independently of every one else.’
‘I thought,’ interposed Mrs. Edmonstone, ‘that you were to go to the mess-dinner — what is to become of that?’
‘O,’ said Charles, ‘that will be simply a bore, and he may rejoice to be excused from going the whole hog.’
‘To be sure, I had rather dine in peace at home.’
Mrs. Edmonstone was not happy, but she had great confidence in Guy; and her only real scruple was, that she did not think it fair to occupy him entirely with attendance on her son. She referred it to papa, which, as every one knew, was the same as yielding the point, and consoled herself by the certainty that to prevent it would be a great disappointment to both the youths. Laura was convinced that to achieve the adventure of Charles at the review, was at present at least a matter of far more prominence with Guy than anything relating to herself.
All but Laura and her mother were wild about the weather, especially on Wednesday, when there was an attempt at a thunder storm. Nothing was studied but the sky; and the conversation consisted of prognostications, reports of rises and falls of the glass, of the way weather-cocks were turning, or about to turn, of swallows flying high or low, red sunsets, and halos round the moon, until at last Guy, bursting into a merry laugh, begged Mrs. Edmonstone’s pardon for being such a nuisance, and made a vow, and kept it, that be the weather what it might, he would say not another word about it that evening; it deserved to be neglected, for he had not been able to settle to anything all day.
He might have said for many days before; for since the last ball, and still more since Lady Eveleen had been at Hollywell, it had been one round of merriment and amusement. Scrambling walks, tea-drinkings out of doors, dances among themselves, or with the addition of the Harpers, were the order of the day. Amy, Eveleen, and Guy, could hardly come into the room without dancing, and the piano was said to acknowledge nothing but waltzes, polkas, and now and then an Irish jig, for the special benefit of Mr. Edmonstone’s ears. The morning was almost as much spent in mirth as the afternoon, for the dawdlings after breakfast, and before luncheon, had a great tendency to spread out and meet, there was new music and singing to be practised, or preparations made for evening’s diversion, or councils to be held, which Laura’s absence could not break up, though it often made Amy feel how much less idle and frivolous Laura was than herself. Eveleen said the same, but she was visiting, and it was a time to be idle; and Mr. Lascelles seemed to be of the same opinion with regard to his pupil; for, when Guy was vexed at not having done as much work as usual, he only laughed at him for expecting to be able to go to balls, and spend a summer of gaiety, while he studied as much as at Oxford.
Thursday morning was all that heart could wish, the air cooled by the thunder, and the clouds looking as if raining was foreign to their nature. Mr. and Mrs. Edmonstone, their daughters, and Lady Eveleen, were packed inside and outside the great carriage, while Guy, carefully settling Charles in the low phaeton, putting in all that any one recommended, from an air-cushion to an umbrella, flourished his whip, and drove off with an air of exultation and delight.
Everything went off to admiration. No one was more amused than Charles. The scene was so perfectly new and delightful to one accustomed to such a monotonous life, that the very sight of people was a novelty. Nowhere was there so much laughing and talking as in that little carriage, and whenever Mrs. Edmonstone’s anxious eye fell upon it, she always saw Charles sitting upright, with a face so full of eager interest as to banish all thought of fatigue. Happy, indeed, he was. He enjoyed the surprise of his acquaintance at meeting him; he enjoyed Dr. Mayerne’s laugh and congratulation; he enjoyed seeing how foolish Philip thought him, nodding to his mother and sisters, laughing at the dreadful faces Guy could not help making at any particularly discordant note of the offensive bugle; and his capabilities rising with his spirits, he did all that the others did, walked further than he had done for years, was lifted up steps without knowing how, sat out the whole breakfast, talked to all the world, and well earned the being thoroughly tired, as he certainly was when Guy put him into the carriage and drove him home, and still more so when Guy all but carried him up stairs, and laid him on the sofa in the dressing-room.
However, his mother announced that it would have been so unnatural if he had not been fatigued, that she should have been more anxious, and leaving him to repose, they all, except Mr. Edmonstone, who had stayed to dine at the mess, sat down to dinner.
Amy came down dressed just as the carriage had been announced, and found Laura and Eveleen standing by the table, arranging their bouquets, while Guy, in the dark, behind the piano, was playing — not, as usual, in such cases, the Harmonious Blacksmith, but a chant.
‘Is mamma ready?’ asked Laura.
‘Nearly,’ said Amy, ‘but I wish she was not obliged to go! I am sure she cannot bear to leave Charlie.’
‘I hope she is not going on my account,’ said Eveleen.
‘No, said Laura, ‘we must go; it would so frighten papa if we did not come. Besides, there is nothing to be uneasy about with Charles.’
‘O no,’ said Amy; ‘she says so, only she is always anxious, and she is afraid he is too restless to go to sleep.’
‘We must get home as fast as we can; if you don’t mind, Eva,’ said Laura, remembering how her last dance with Guy had delayed them.
‘Can I do any good to Charlie?’ said Guy, ceasing his music. I don’t mean to go.’
‘Not go!’ cried the girls in consternation.
‘He is joking!’ said Eveleen. ‘But, I declare!’ added she, advancing towards him, ‘he is not dressed! Come, nonsense, this is carrying it too far; you’ll make us all too late, and then I’ll set Maurice at you.’
‘I am afraid it is no joke,’ said Guy, smiling.
‘You must go. It will never do for you to stay away,’ said Laura, decidedly.
‘Are you tired? Aren’t you well?’ asked Amy.
‘Quite well, thank you, but I am sure I had better not.’
Laura thought she had better not seem anxious to take him, so she left the task of persuasion, to the others, and Amy went on.
‘Neither Mamma nor Charlie could bear to think you stayed because of him.’
‘I don’t, I assure you, Amy. I meant it before. I have been gradually finding out that it must come to this.’
‘Oh, you think it a matter of right and wrong! But you don’t think balls wrong?’
‘Oh no; only they won’t do for such an absurd person as I am. The last turned my head for a week, and I am much too unsteady for this.’
‘Well, if you think it a matter of duty, it can’t be helped,’ said Amy sorrowfully; ‘but I am very sorry.’
‘Thank you,’ said Guy, thinking it compassion, not regret; ‘but I shall do very well. I shall be all the happier tomorrow for a quiet hour at my Greek, and you’ll tell me all the fun.’
‘You liked it so much!’ said Amy; ‘but you have made up your mind and I ought not to tease you.’
‘That’s right Amy; he does it on purpose to be teased,’ said Eveleen, ‘and I never knew anybody so provoking. Mind, Sir Guy, if you make us all too late, you shan’t have the ghost of a quadrille with me.’
‘I shall console myself by quadrilling with Andromache,’ said Guy.
‘Come, no nonsense — off to dress directly! How can you have the conscience to stand there when the carriage is at the door?’
‘I shall have great pleasure in handing you in when you are ready.’
‘Laura — Amy! Does he really mean it?’
‘I am afraid he does,’ said Amy.
Eveleen let herself fall on the sofa as if fainting. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘take him away! Let me never see the face of him again! I’m perfectly overcome! All my teaching thrown away!’
‘I am sorry for you,’ said Guy, laughing.
‘And how do you mean to face Maurice?’
‘Tell him his first bugle has so distracted me that I can’t answer for the consequences if I come to-night.
‘Mrs. Edmonstone came in, saying —
‘Come, I have kept you waiting shamefully, but I have been consoling myself by thinking you must be well entertained, as I heard no Harmonious Blacksmith. Papa will be wondering where we are.’
‘Oh, mamma! Guy won’t go.’
‘Guy! is anything the matter?’
‘Nothing, thank you, only idleness.’
‘This will never do. You really must go, Guy.’
‘Indeed! I think not. Pray don’t order me, Mrs. Edmonstone.’
‘What o’clock is it, Amy? Past ten! Papa will be in despair! What is to be done? How long do you take to dress, Guy?’
‘Not under an hour,’ said Guy, smiling.
‘Nonsense! But if there was time I should certainly send you. Self-discipline may be carried too far, Guy. But now it can’t be helped — I don’t know how to keep papa waiting any longer. Laura, what shall I do?’
‘Let me go to Charles,’ answered Guy. ‘Perhaps I can read him to sleep.’
‘Thank you; but don’t talk, or he will be too excited. Reading would be the very thing! It will be a pretty story to tell every one who asks for you that I have left you to nurse my son!’
‘No, for no such good reason,’ said Guy; ‘only because I am a great fool.’
‘Well, Sir Guy, I am glad you can say one sensible word,’ said Lady Eveleen.
‘Too true, I assure you,’ he answered, as he handed her in. ‘Good night! You will keep the quadrille for me till I am rational.’
He handed the others in, and shut the door. Mrs. Edmonstone, ruffled out of her composure, exclaimed —
‘Well, this is provoking!’
‘Every one will be vexed,’ said Laura.
‘It will be so stupid,’ said Amy.
‘I give him up,’ said Eveleen. ‘I once had hopes of him.’
‘If it was not for papa, I really would turn back this moment and fetch him,’ cried Mrs. Edmonstone, starting forward. ‘I’m sure it will give offence. I wish I had not consented.’
‘He can’t be made to see that his presence is of importance to any living creature,’ said Laura.
‘What is the reason of this whim?’ said Eveleen.
‘No, Eveleen, it is not whim,’ said Laura; ‘it is because he thinks dissipation makes him idle.’
‘Then if he is idle I wonder what the rest of the world is!’ said Eveleen. ‘I am sure we all ought to stay at home too.’
‘I think so,’ said Amy. ‘I know I shall feel all night as if I was wrong to be there.’
‘I am angry,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone; ‘and yet I believe it is a great sacrifice.’
‘Yes, mamma; after all our looking forward to it,’ said Amy. ‘Oh! yes,’ and her voice lost its piteous tone, ‘it is a real sacrifice.’
‘If he was not a mere boy, I should say a lover’s quarrel was at the bottom of it,’ said Eveleen. ‘Depend upon it, Laura, it is all your fault. You only danced once with him at our ball, and all this week you have played for us, as if it was on purpose to cut him.’
Laura was glad of the darkness, and her mother, who had a particular dislike to jokes of this sort, went on — ‘If it were only ourselves I should not care, but there are so many who will fancy it caprice, or worse.’
‘The only comfort is,’ said Amy, ‘that it is Charlie’s gain.’
‘I hope they will not talk,’ said Mrs. Edmonstone. ‘But Charlie will never hold his tongue. He will grow excited, and not sleep all night.’
Poor Mrs. Edmonstone! her trials did not end here, for when she replied to her husband’s inquiry for Guy, Mr. Edmonstone said offence had already been taken at his absence from the dinner; he would not have had this happen for fifty pounds; she ought not to have suffered it; but it was all her nonsense about Charles, and as to not being late, she should have waited till midnight rather than not have brought him. In short, he said as much more than he meant, as a man in a pet is apt to say, and nevertheless Mrs. Edmonstone had to look as amiable and smiling as if nothing was the matter.
The least untruthful answer she could frame to the inquiries for Sir Guy Morville was, that young men were apt to be lazy about balls, and this sufficed for good-natured Mrs. Deane, but Maurice poured out many exclamations about his ill-behaviour, and Philip contented himself with the mere fact of his not being there, and made no remark.
Laura turned her eyes anxiously on Philip. They had not met since the important conversation on Ashen-down, and she found herself looking with more pride than ever at his tall, noble figure, as if he was more her own; but the calmness of feeling was gone. She could not meet his eye, nor see him turn towards her without a start and tremor for which she could not render herself a reason, and her heart beat so much that it was at once a relief and a disappointment that she was obliged to accept her other cousin as her first partner. Philip had already asked Lady Eveleen, for he neither wished to appear too eager in claiming Laura, nor to let his friend think he had any dislike to the Irish girl.
Eveleen was much pleased to have him for her partner, and told herself she would be on her good behaviour. It was a polka, and there was not much talk, which, perhaps, was all the better for her. She admired the review, and the luncheon, and spoke of Charles without any sauciness, and Philip was condescending and agreeable.
‘I must indulge myself in abusing that stupid cousin of yours!’ said she. Did you ever know a man of such wonderful crotchets?’
‘This is a very unexpected one,’ said Philip.
‘It came like a thunder clap. I thought till the last moment he was joking, for he likes dancing so much; he was the life of our ball, and how could any one suppose he would fly off at the last moment?’
‘He seems rather to enjoy doing things suddenly.’
‘I tell Laura she has affronted him,’ said Eveleen, laughing. ‘She has been always busy of late when we have wanted her; and I assure her his pride has been piqued. Don’t you think that is an explanation, Captain Morville?’
It was Captain Morvilles belief, but he would not say so.
‘Isn’t Laura looking lovely?’ Eveleen went on. ‘I am sure she is the beauty of the night!’ She was pleased to see Captain Morville’s attention gained. ‘She is even better dressed than at our ball — those Venetian pins suit the form of her head so well. Her beauty is better than almost any one’s, because she has so much countenance.’
‘True,’ said Philip.
‘How proud Maurice looks of having her on his arm. Does not he? Poor Maurice! he is desperately in love with her!’
‘As is shown by his pining melancholy.’
Eveleen laughed with her clear hearty laugh. ‘I see you know what we mean by being desperately in love! No,’ she added more gravely, ‘I am very glad it is only that kind of desperation. One could not think of Maurice and Laura together. He does not know the best part of Laura.’
Eveleen was highly flattered by Captain Morville conducting her a second time round the room, instead of at once restoring her to her aunt.
He secured Laura next, and leading her away from her own party, said, ‘Laura, have you been overdoing it?’
‘It is not that,’ said Laura, wishing she could keep from blushing.
‘It is the only motive that could excuse his extraordinary behaviour.’
‘Surely you know he says that he is growing unsettled. It is part of his rule of self discipline.’
‘Absurd! — exaggerated! — incredible! This is the same story as there was about the horse. It is either caprice or temper, and I am convinced that some change in your manner — nay, I say unconscious, and am far from blaming you — is the cause. Why else did he devote himself to Charles, and leave you all on my uncle’s hands in the crowd?’
‘We could shift for ourselves much better than Charlie.’
‘This confirms my belief that my warning was not mistimed. I wish it could have been done without decidedly mortifying him and rousing his temper, because I am sorry others should be slighted; but if he takes your drawing back so much to heart, it shows that it was time you should do so.’
‘If I thought I had!’
‘It was visible to others — to another, I should say.’
‘O, that is only Eveleen’s nonsense! The only difference I am conscious of having made, was keeping more up-stairs, and not trying to persuade him to come here to-night.’
‘I have no doubt it was this that turned the scale, He only waited for persuasion, and you acted very wisely in not flattering his self-love.’
‘Did I? — I did not know it.’
‘A woman’s instinct is often better than reasoning, Laura; to do the right thing without knowing why. But come, I suppose we must play our part in the pageant of the night.’
For that evening Laura, contrary to the evidence of her senses, was persuaded by her own lover that Guy was falling in love with her; and after musing all through the dance, she said, ‘What do you think of the scheme that has been started for my going to Ireland with papa?’
‘Your going to Ireland?’
‘Yes; you know none of us, except papa, have seen grandmamma since Charles began to be ill, and there is some talk of his taking me with him when he goes this summer.’
‘I knew he was going, but I thought it was not to be till later in the year — not till after the long vacation.’
‘So he intended, but he finds he must be at home before the end of October, and it would suit him best to go in August.’
‘Then what becomes of Guy?’
‘He stays at Hollywell. It will be much better for Charles to have him there while papa is away. I thought when the plan was first mentioned I should be sorry, except that it is quite right to go to grandmamma; but if it is so, about Guy, this absence would be a good thing — it would make a break, and I could begin again on different terms.’
‘Wisely judged, Laura. Yes, on that account it would be very desirable, though it will be a great loss to me, and I can hardly hope to be so near you on your return.’
‘Ah! yes, so I feared!’ sighed Laura.
‘But we must give up something; and for Guy’s own sake, poor fellow, it will be better to make a break, as you say. It will save him pain by and by.’
‘I dare say papa will consult you about when his journey is to be. His only doubt was whether it would do to leave Guy so long alone, and if you say it would be safe, it would decide him at once.’
‘I see little chance of mischief. Guy has few temptations here, and a strong sense of honour; besides, I shall be at hand. Taking all things into consideration, Laura, I think that, whatever the sacrifice to ourselves, it is expedient to recommend his going at once, and your accompanying him.’
All the remainder of the evening Philip was occupied with attentions to the rest of the world, but Laura’s eyes followed him everywhere, and though she neither expected nor desired him to bestow more time on her, she underwent a strange restlessness and impatience of feeling. Her numerous partners teased her by hindering her from watching him moving about the room, catching his tones, and guessing what he was talking of; — not that she wanted to meet his eye, for she did not like to blush, nor did she think it pleased him to see her do so, for he either looked away immediately or conveyed a glance which she understood as monitory. She kept better note of his countenance than of her own partner’s.
Mr. Thorndale, meanwhile, kept aloof from Lady Eveleen de Courcy, but Captain Morville perceived that his eyes were often turned towards her, and well knew it was principle, and not inclination, that held him at a distance. He did indeed once ask her to dance, but she was engaged, and he did not ask her to reserve a future dance for him, but contented himself with little Amy.
Amy was doing her best to enjoy herself, because she thought it ungrateful not to receive pleasure from those who wished to give it, but to her it wanted the zest and animation of Lady Kilcoran’s ball. Besides, she knew she had been as idle as Guy, or still more so, and she thought it wrong she should have pleasure while he was doing penance. It was on her mind, and damped her spirits, and though she smiled, and talked, and admired, and danced lightly and gaily, there was a sensation of weariness throughout, and no one but Eveleen was sorry when Mrs. Edmonstone sent Maurice to see for the carriage.
Philip was one of the gentlemen who came to shawl them. As he put Laura’s cloak round her shoulders he was able to whisper, ‘Take care; you must be cautious-self-command.’
Laura, though blushing and shrinking the moment before was braced by his words and tone to attempt all he wished. She looked up in what she meant to be an indifferent manner, and made some observation in a careless tone — anything rather than let Philip think her silly. After what he had said, was she not bound more than ever to exert herself to the utmost, that he might not be disappointed in her? She loved him only the better for what others might have deemed a stern coldness of manner, for it made the contrast of his real warmth of affection more precious. She mused over it, as much as her companions’ conversation would allow, on the road home. They arrived, Mrs. Edmonstone peeped into Charles’s room, announced that he was quietly asleep, and they all bade each other good night, or good morning, and parted.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:15