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Most delicately, hour by hour, He canvassed human mysteries, And stood aloof from other minds. Himself unto himself he sold, Upon himself, himself did feed, Quiet, dispassionate, and cold, With chiselled features clear and sleek.--TENNYSON
Guy had been about a week at Oxford, when one evening, as he was sitting alone in his rooms, he received an unexpected visit from Captain Morville. He was glad, for he thought a personal interview would remove all misconstructions, and held out his hand cordially, saying:--
'You here, Philip! When did you come?'
'Half an hour ago. I am on my way to spend a week with the Thorndales. I go on to-morrow to my sister's.'
While speaking, Philip was surveying the apartment, for he held that a man's room is generally an indication of his disposition, and assuredly there was a great deal of character in his own, with the scrupulous neatness and fastidious taste of its arrangements. Here, he thought, he could not fail to see traces of his cousin's habits, but he was obliged to confess to himself that there was very little to guide him. The furniture was strictly as its former occupant had left it, only rather the worse for wear, and far from being in order. The chairs were so heaped with books and papers, that Guy had to make a clearance of one before his visitor could sit down, but there was nothing else to complain of, not even a trace of cigars; but knowing him to be a great reader and lover of accomplishments, Philip wondered that the only decorations were Laura's drawing of Sintram, and a little print of Redclyffe, and the books were chiefly such as were wanted for his studies, the few others having for the most part the air of old library books, as if he had sent for them from Redclyffe. Was this another proof that he had some way of frittering away his money with nothing to show for it? A Sophocles and a lexicon were open before him on the table, and a blotting-book, which he closed, but not before Philip had caught sight of what looked like verses.
Neither did his countenance answer Philip's expectations. It had not his usual bright lively expression; there was a sadness which made him smile like a gleam on a showery day, instead of constant sunshine; but there was neither embarrassment nor defiance, and the gleam-like smile was there, as with a frank, confiding tone, he said,--
'This is very kind of you, to come and see what you can do for me.'
Philip was by no means prepared to be thus met half-way, but he thought Guy wanted to secure him as an intercessor, and hardened himself into righteous severity.
'No one can be more willing to help you than I, but you must, in the first place, help yourself.'
Instantly the sedate measured tone made Guy's heart and head throb with impatience, awakening all the former memories so hardly battled down; but with the impulse of anger came the thought, 'Here it is again! If I don't keep it down now, I am undone! The enemy will seize me again!' He forced himself not to interrupt, while Philip went calmly on.
'While you are not open, nothing can be done.'
'My only wish, my only desire, is to be open,' said Guy, speaking fast and low, and repressing the feeling, which, nevertheless, affected his voice; 'but the opportunity of explanation has never been given me.'
'You need complain of that no longer. I am here to convey to my uncle any explanation you may wish to address to him. I will do my best to induce him to attend to it favourably, but he is deeply offended and hurt by what has passed.'
'I know--I know,' said Guy, colouring deeply, and all irritation disappearing from voice and manner; 'I know there is no excuse for me. I can only repeat that I am heartily sorry for whatever I may have said, either of him or of you.'
'Of course,' returned Philip, 'I should never think of resenting what you may have said in a moment of irritation, especially as you express regret for it. Consider it as entirely overlooked on my part.'
Guy was nearly choked in uttering a 'Thank you,' which did not sound, after all, much like acceptance of forgiveness.
'Now to the real matter at issue,' said Philip: 'the application for the money, which so amazed Mr. Edmonstone.'
'I do not see that it is the point,' said Guy, 'I wanted it for a scheme of my own: he did not think fit to let me have it, so there is an end of the matter.'
'Mr Edmonstone does not think so. He wishes to be convinced that you have not spent it beforehand.'
'What would you have beyond my word and honour that I have not?' exclaimed Guy.
Far be it from me to say that he doubts it,' said Philip; and as at those words the flash of the Morville eye darted lightning, he expected that the next moment, 'Do you?' would be thundered forth, and he could not, with truth, answer ' No;' but it was one of his maxims that a man need never be forced into an open quarrel, and he tranquilly continued- -'but it is better not to depend entirely on assertion. Why do you not bring him full proofs of your good intention, and thus restore yourself to his confidence?'
'I have said that I am bound not to mention the purpose.'
'Unfortunate!' said Philip; then, while Guy bit his lip till it bled, the pain really a relief, by giving some vent to his anger at the implied doubt, he went on,--'If it is impossible to clear this up, the next advice I would give is, that you should show what your expenditure has been; lay your accounts before him, and let them justify you.'
Most people would have resented this as an impertinent proposal, were it only that doing so would have served to conceal the awkward fact that the accounts had not been kept at all. Guy had never been taught to regard exactness in this respect as a duty, had no natural taste for precision, and did not feel responsible to any person; nor if he had kept any, could he have shown them, without exposing his uncle. To refuse, would, however, be a subterfuge, and after a moment, he made an effort, and confessed he had none to show, though he knew Philip would despise him for it as a fool, and probably take it as positive evidence against him.
It would have been more bearable if Philip would but have said 'How foolish,' instead of drily repeating 'Unfortunate!'
After a pause, during which Guy was not sufficiently master of himself to speak, Philip added--'Then this matter of the thousand pounds is to be passed over? You have no explanation to offer?'
'No:' and again he paused. 'When my word is not accepted, I have no more to say. But this is not the point. What I would know is, what are the calumnies that accuse me of having gamed? If you really wish to do me a service, you will give me an opportunity of answering these precious proofs.'
'I will' answered Philip; who could venture on doing so himself, though, for his sister's sake, it was unsafe to trust Mr. Edmonstone, with whom what was not an absolute secret was not a secret at all. 'My uncle knows that a thirty pound cheque of his, in your name, was paid by you to a notorious gamester.'
Guy did not shrink, as he simply answered--'It is true.'
'Yet you have neither played, nor betted, nor done anything that could come under the definition of gambling?'
'Then why this payment?'
'I cannot explain that. I know appearances are against me,' replied Guy steadily, and with less irritation than he had hitherto shown. I once thought my simple word would have sufficed, but, since it seems that will not do, I will not again make what you call assertions.'
'In fact, while you profess a desire to be open and sincere, a mystery appears at every turn. What would you have us do?'
'As you think fit,' he answered proudly.
Philip had been used to feel men's wills and characters bend and give way beneath his superior force of mind. They might, like Charles, chafe and rage, but his calmness always gave him the ascendant almost without exertion, and few people had ever come into contact with him without a certain submission of will or opinion. With Guy alone it was not so; he had been sensible of it once or twice before; he had no mastery, and could no more bend that spirit than a bar of steel. This he could not bear, for it obliged him to be continually making efforts to preserve his own sense of superiority.
'Since this is your ultimatum,' he said--'since you deny your confidence, and refuse any reply to these charges, you have no right to complain of suspicion. I shall do my best, both as your true friend, and as acting with your guardian's authority, to discover all that may lead to the elucidation of the mystery. In the first place, I am desired to make every inquiry here as to your conduct and expenditure. I hope they will prove satisfactory.'
'I am very much obliged to you,' answered Guy, his voice stern and dignified, and the smile that curled his lip was like Philip's own.
Philip was positively annoyed, and desirous to say something to put him down, but he had not committed himself by any vehemence, and Philip was too cool and wise to compromise his own dignity, so he rose to go, saying, 'Good night! I am sorry I cannot induce you to act in the only way that can right you.'
'Good night!' replied Guy, in the same dignified manner in which he had spoken ever since his passion had been surmounted.
They parted, each feeling that matters were just where they were before. Philip went back to his inn, moralizing on the pride and perverseness which made it impossible to make any impression on a Redclyffe Morville, whom not even the fear of detection could lead to submission.
Next morning, while Philip was hastily breakfasting, the door opened, and Guy entered, pale and disturbed, as if he had been awake all night.
'Philip!' said he, in his frank, natural voice, 'I don't think we parted last night as your good intentions deserved.'
'0, ho!' thought Philip; 'the fear of an investigation has brought him to reason;' and he said, 'Well, I am very glad you see things in a truer light this morning;' then asked if he had breakfasted. He had; and his cousin added,
'Have you anything to say on the matter we discussed last night?'
'No. I can only repeat that I am not guilty, and wait for time to show my innocence. I only came to see you once more, that I might feel we parted friends.'
'I shall always hope to be a true friend.'
'I did not come here for altercation,' said Guy (an answer rather to the spirit than the words), 'so I will say no more. If you wish to see me again, you will find me in my rooms. Good-bye.'
Philip was puzzled. He wondered whether Guy had come wishing to propitiate him, but had found pride indomitable at the last moment; or whether he had been showing himself too severely just to admit entreaty. He would be able to judge better after he had made his inquiries, and he proceeded with them at once. He met with no such replies as he expected. Every one spoke of Sir Guy Morville in high terms, as strict in his habits of application, and irreproachable in conduct. He was generally liked, and some regret was expressed that he lived in so secluded a manner, forming so few intimacies; but no one seemed to think it possible that anything wrong could be imputed to him. Philip could even perceive that there was some surprise that such inquiries should be made at all, especially by so young a man as himself. Mr. Wellwood, the person whom he most wished to see, was not at Oxford, but was at home preparing for his ordination.
Nor could Philip get nearer to the solution of the mystery when he went to the tradesmen, who were evidently as much surprised as the tutors, and said he always paid in ready money. Captain Morville felt like a lawyer whose case is breaking down, no discoveries made, nothing done; but he was not one whit convinced of his cousin's innocence, thinking the college authorities blind and careless, and the tradesmen combined to conceal their extortions, or else that the mischief had been done at St. Mildred's. He was particularly provoked when he remembered Guy's invitation to him to come to his rooms, knowing, as he must have done, what would be the result of his inquiry.
Philip was conscious that it would have been kind to have gone to say that, so far, he had found nothing amiss, but he did not like giving Guy this passing triumph. It made no difference in his real opinion; and why renew a useless discussion? He persuaded himself that he had left himself no time, and should miss the train, and hastened off to the station, where he had to wait a quarter of an hour, consoling himself with reflecting--
'After all, though I might have gone to him, it would have been useless. He is obstinate, and occasions of irritating his unfortunate temper are above all to be avoided.'
One short year after, what would not Philip have given for that quarter of an hour!
By six o'clock he was at St. Mildred's, greeted with delight by his sister, and with cordiality by Dr. Henley. They were both proud of him, and every tender feeling his sister had was for Philip, her pet, and her pupil in his childhood, and her most valued companion and counsellor through her early womanhood.
She had a picked dinner-party to meet him, for she knew the doctor's conversation was not exactly the thing to entertain him through a whole evening, and the guests might well think they had never seen a handsomer or more clever brother and sister than Mrs. Henley and Captain Morville. The old county families, if they did wonder at her marriage, were always glad to meet her brother, and it was a great pleasure to him to see old friends.
Only once did his sister, in the course of the evening, make him feel the difference of their sentiments, and that was about Miss Wellwood. Philip defended her warmly; and when he heard that there was a plan getting up for excluding her from the hospital, he expressed strong disapprobation at the time; and after the guests were gone, spoke upon the subject with his sister and her husband. The doctor entered into no party questions, and had only been stirred up to the opposition by his wife; he owned that the Miss Wellwoods had done a great deal of good, and made the nurses do their duty better than he had ever known, and was quite ready to withdraw his opposition. Mrs. Henley argued about opinions, but Philip was a match for her in her own line; and the end of it was, that though she would not allow herself to be convinced, and shook her head at her brother's way of thinking, he knew he had prevailed, and that Miss Wellwood would be unmolested.
There was not another person in the world to whom Margaret would have yielded; and it served to restore him to the sense of universal dominion which had been a little shaken by his conversation with Guy.
'Sir Guy was a great deal with the Wellwoods,' said Mrs. Henley.
'Was he, indeed?'
'0, you need not think of that. It would be too absurd. The youngest must be twice his age.'
'I was not thinking of any such thing,' said Philip, smiling, as he thought of the very different course Guy's affections had taken.
'I did hear he was to marry Lady Eveleen de Courcy. Is there anything in that report?'
'No; certainly not.'
'I should pity the woman who married him, after the specimen I saw of his temper.'
'Poor boy!' said Philip.
'Lady Eveleen has been a great deal at Hollywell, has she not? I rather wondered my aunt should like to have her there, considering all things.'
'What things, sister?' 'Considering what a catch he would be for one of the Edmonstone girls.'
'I thought you had just been pitying the woman who should marry him. Perhaps my aunt had Lady Eveleen there to act as a screen for her own daughters.'
'That our good-natured aunt should have acted with such ultra- prudence!' said Margaret, laughing at his grave ironical tone. 'Lady Eveleen is very pretty, is she not? A mere beauty, I believe?'
'Just so; she is much admired; but Guy is certainly not inclined to fall in love with her.'
'I should have thought him the very man to fall in love young, like his father. Do you think there is any chance for either of the Edmonstones? Laura's beauty he spoke of, but it was not in a very lover-like way. Do you admire Laura so much?'
'She is very pretty.'
'And little Amy?'
'She is a mere child, and will hardly ever be anything more; but she is a very good little amiable thing.'
'I wish poor Charles's temper was improved.'
'So do I; but it is very far from improvement at present, in consequence of his zeal for Guy. Guy has been very attentive and good natured to him, and has quite won his heart; so that I should positively honour him for his championship if it was not in great degree out of opposition to his father and myself. To-morrow, Margaret, you must give me some guide to the most probable quarters for learning anything respecting this poor boy's follies.'
Mrs. Henley did her best in that way, and Philip followed up his inquiries with great ardour, but still unsuccessfully. Jack White, the hero of the draft, was not at St. Mildred's, nor likely to be heard of again till the next races; and whether Sir Guy had been on the race- ground at all was a doubtful point. Next, Philip walked to Stylehurst, to call on Colonel Harewood, and see if he could learn anything in conversation with him; but the Colonel did not seem to know anything, and his sons were not at home. Young Morville was, he thought, a spirited lad, very good natured; he had been out shooting once or twice with Tom, and had a very fine spaniel. If he had been at the races, the Colonel did not know it; he had some thoughts of asking him to join their party, but had been prevented.
This was no reason, thought Philip, why Guy might not have been with Tom Harewood without the Colonel's knowledge. Tom was just the man to lead him amongst those who were given to betting; he might have been drawn in, and, perhaps, he had given some pledge of payment when he was of age, or, possibly, obtained an immediate supply of money from the old steward at Redclyffe, who was devotedly attached to him. If so, Philip trusted to be able to detect it from the accounts; on the other supposition, there was no hope of discovery.
The conversation with Colonel Harewood kept him so late that he had no time for going, as usual, to his old haunts, at Stylehurst; nor did he feel inclined just then to revive the saddening reflections they excited. He spent the evening in talking over books with his sister, and the next day proceeded on his journey to Thorndale Park.
This was one of the places where he was always the most welcome, ever since he had been a school-boy, received in a way especially flattering, considering that the friendship was entirely owing to the uncompromising good sense and real kindness with which he had kept in order the follies of his former fag.
Charles might laugh, and call them the young man and young man's companion, and Guy more classically term them the pious Aeneas and his fidus Achates, but it was a friendship that did honour to both; and the value that the Thorndales set upon Captain Morville was not misplaced, and scarcely over-rated. Not particularly clever themselves, they the more highly appreciated his endowments, and were proud that James had been able to make such a friend, for they knew, as well as the rest of the world, that Captain Morville was far from seeking the acquaintance for the sake of their situation in life, but that it was from real liking and esteem. How far this esteem was gained by the deference the whole family paid to his opinion, was another question; at any rate, the courting was from them.
The Miss Thorndales deemed Captain Morville the supreme authority in drawing, literature, and ecclesiastical architecture; and whenever a person came in their way who was thought handsome, always pronounced that he was not by any means equal to James's friend. Lady Thorndale delighted to talk over James with him, and thank him for his kindness; and Lord Thorndale, rather a pompous man himself, liked his somewhat stately manners, and talked politics with him, sincerely wishing he was his neighbour at Redclyffe, and calculating how much good he would do there. Philip listened with interest to accounts of how the Thorndale and Morville influence had always divided the borough of Moorworth, and, if united, might dispose of it at will, and returned evasive answers to questions what the young heir of Redclyffe might be likely to do.
James Thorndale drove his friend to Redclyffe, as Philip had authority from Mr. Edmonstone to transact any business that might be required with Markham, the steward; and, as has been said before, he expected to discover in the accounts something that might explain why Guy had ceased to press for the thousand pounds. However, he could find nothing amiss in them, though--bearing in mind that it is less easy to detect the loss of a score of sheep than of one--he subjected them to a scrutiny which seemed by no means agreeable to the gruff old grumbling steward. He also walked about the park, saw to the marking of certain trees that were injuring each other; and finding that there was a misunderstanding between Markham and the new rector, Mr. Ashford, about certain parish matters, where the clergyman was certainly right, he bore down Markham's opposition with Mr. Edmonstone's weight, and felt he was doing good service.
He paused at the gate, and looked back at the wide domain and fine old house. He pitied them, and the simple-hearted, honest tenantry, for being the heritage of such a family, and the possession of one so likely to misuse them, instead of training them into the means of conferring benefits on them, on his country. What would not Philip himself do if those lands were his,--just what was needed to give his talents free scope? and what would it be to see his beautiful Laura their mistress?
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