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A cloud was o'er my childhood's dream, I sat in solitude; I know not how--I know not why, But round my soul all drearily There was a silent shroud. THOUGHTS IN PAST YEARS
Mrs. Edmonstone was anxious to hear Mr. Lascelle's opinion of his pupil, and in time she learnt that he thought Sir Guy had very good abilities, and a fair amount of general information; but that his classical knowledge was far from accurate, and mathematics had been greatly neglected. He had been encouraged to think his work done when he had gathered the general meaning of a passage, or translated it into English verse, spirited and flowing, but often further from the original than he or his tutor could perceive. He had never been taught to work, at least as other boys study, and great application would be requisite to bring his attainments to a level with those of far less clever boys educated at a public school.
Mr. Lascelles told him so at first; but as there were no reflections on his grandfather, or on Mr. Potts, Guy's lip did not suffer, and he only asked how many hours a day he ought to read. 'Three,' said Mr. Lascelles, with a due regard to a probable want of habits of application; but then, remembering how much was undone, he added, that 'it ought to be four or more, if possible.'
'Four it shall be,' said Guy; 'five if I can.'
His whole strength of will was set to accomplish these four hours, taking them before and after breakfast, working hard all the morning till the last hour before luncheon, when he came to read the lectures on poetry with Charles. Here, for the first time, it appeared that Charles had so entirely ceased to consider him as company, as to domineer over him like his own family.
Used as Guy had been to an active out-of-doors life, and now turned back to authors he had read long ago, to fight his way through the construction of their language, not excusing himself one jot of the difficulty, nor turning aside from one mountain over which his own efforts could carry him, he found his work as tough and tedious as he could wish or fear, and by the end of the morning was thoroughly fagged. Then would have been the refreshing time for recreation in that pleasant idling-place, the Hollywell drawing-room. Any other time of day would have suited Charles as well for the reading, but he liked to take the hour at noon, and never perceived that this made all the difference to his friend of a toil or a pleasure. Now and then Guy gave tremendous yawns; and once when Charles told him he was very stupid, proposed a different time; but as Charles objected, he yielded as submissively as the rest of the household were accustomed to do.
To watch Guy was one of Charles's chief amusements, and he rejoiced greatly in the prospect of hearing his history of his first dinner- party. Mr., Mrs. and Miss Edmonstone, and Sir Guy Morville, were invited to dine with Mr. and Mrs. Brownlow. Mr. Edmonstone was delighted as usual with any opportunity of seeing his neighbours; Guy looked as if he did not know whether he liked the notion or not; Laura told him it would be very absurd and stupid, but there would be some good music, and Charles ordered her to say no more, that he might have the account, the next morning, from a fresh and unprejudiced mind.
The next morning's question was, of course, 'How did you like your party?'
'O, it was great fun.' Guy's favourite answer was caught up in the midst, as Laura replied, 'It was just what parties always are.'
'Come, let us have the history. Who handed who in to dinner? I hope Guy had Mrs. Brownlow.'
'Oh no,' said Laura; we had both the honourables.'
'No,' said Guy; 'the fidus Achetes was without his pious Aeneas.'
'Very good, Guy,' said Charles, enjoying the laugh.
'I could not help thinking of it,' said Guy, rather apologising, 'when I was watching Thorndale's manner; it is such an imitation of Philip; looking droller, I think, in his absence, than in his presence. I wonder if he is conscious of it.'
'It does not suit him at all,' said Mrs. Edmonstone; because he has no natural dignity.'
'A man ought to be six foot one, person and mind, to suit with that grand, sedate, gracious way of Philip's,' said Guy.
'There's Guy's measure of Philip's intellect,' said Charles, 'just six foot one inch.'
'As much more than other people's twice his height,' said Guy.
'Who was your neighbour, Laura?' asked Amy.
'Dr. Mayerne; I was very glad of him, to keep off those hunting friends of Mr. Brownlow, who never ask anything but if one has been to the races, and if one likes balls.'
'And how did Mrs. Brownlow behave?' said Charles.
'She is a wonderful woman,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, in her quiet way; and Guy with an expression between drollery and simplicity, said, 'Then there aren't many like her.'
'I hope not,' said Mrs. Edmonstone.
'Is she really a lady?'
'Philip commonly calls her "that woman,"' said Charles. 'He has never got over her one night classing him with his "young man" and myself, as three of the shyest monkeys she ever came across.'
'She won't say so of Maurice,' said Laura, as they recovered the laugh.
'I heard her deluding some young lady by saying he was the eldest son,' said Mrs. Edmonstone.
'Mamma!' cried Amy, 'could she have thought so?'
'I put in a gentle hint on Lord de Courcy's existence, to which she answered, in her quick way, 'O ay, I forgot; but then he is the second, and that's the next thing.'
'If you could but have heard the stories she and Maurice were telling each other!' said Guy. 'He was playing her off, I believe; for whatever she told, he capped it with something more wonderful. Is she really a lady?'
'By birth,' said Mrs. Edmonstone. It is only her high spirits and small judgment that make her so absurd.'
'How loud she is, too!' said Laura. 'What was all that about horses, Guy?'
'She was saying she drove two such spirited horses, that all the grooms were afraid of them; and when she wanted to take out her little boy, Mr. Brownlow said "You may do as you like my dear, but I won't have my son's neck broken, whatever you do with your own." So Maurice answered by declaring he knew a lady who drove not two, but four-in-hand, and when the leaders turned round and looked her in the face, gave a little nod, and said, 'I'm obliged for your civility.'
'Oh! I wish I had heard that,' cried Laura.
'Did you hear her saying she smoked cigars?'
Everyone cried out with horror or laughter.
'Of course, Maurice told a story of a lady who had a cigar case hanging at her chatelaine, and always took one to refresh her after a ball.'
Guy was interrupted by the announcement of his horse, and rode off at once to Mr. Lascelles.
On his return he went straight to the drawing-room, where Mrs. Edmonstone was reading to Charles, and abruptly exclaimed,--
'I told you wrong. She only said she had smoked one cigar.' Then perceiving that he was interrupting, he added, 'I beg your pardon,' and went away.
The next evening, on coming in from a solitary skating, he found the younger party in the drawing-room, Charles entertaining the Miss Harpers with the story of the cigars. He hastily interposed--
'I told you it was but one.'
'Ay, tried one, and went on. She was preparing an order for Havannah.'
'I thought I told you I repeated the conversation incorrectly.'
'If it is not the letter, it is the spirit,' said Charles, vexed at the interference with his sport of amazing the Miss Harpers with outrageous stories of Mrs. Brownlow.
'It is just like her,' said one of them. 'I could believe anything of Mrs. Brownlow.'
'You must not believe this,' said Guy, gently. 'I repeated incorrectly what had better have been forgotten, and I must beg my foolish exaggeration to go no further.'
Charles became sullenly silent; Guy stood thoughtful; and Laura and Amabel could not easily sustain the conversation till the visitors took their leave.
'Here's a pother!' grumbled Charles, as soon as they were gone.
'I beg your pardon for spoiling your story,' said Guy; but it was my fault, so I was obliged to interfere.'
'Bosh!' said Charles. 'Who cares whether she smoked one or twenty? She is Mrs. Brownlow still.'
The point is, what was truth?' said Laura.
'Straining at gnats,' said Charles.
'Little wings?' said Guy, glancing at Amabel.
'Have it your won way,' said Charles, throwing his head back; 'they must be little souls, indeed that stick at such trash.'
Guy's brows were contracted with vexation, but Laura looked up very prettily, saying--
'Never mind him. We must all honour you for doing such an unpleasant thing.'
'You will recommend him favourably to Philip,' growled Charles.
There was no reply, and presently Guy asked whether he would go up to dress? Having no other way of showing his displeasure, he refused, and remained nursing his ill-humour, till he forgot how slight the offence had been, and worked himself into a sort of insane desire--half mischievous, half revengeful--to be as provoking as he could in his turn.
Seldom had he been more contrary, as his old nurse was wont to call it. No one could please him, and Guy was not allowed to do anything for him. Whatever he said was intended to rub on some sore place in Guy's mind. His mother and Laura's signs made him worse, for he had the pleasure of teasing them, also; but Guy endured it all with perfect temper, and he grew more cross at his failure; yet, from force of habit, at bed-time, he found himself on the stairs with Guy's arm supporting him.
'Good night,' said Charles; 'I tried hard to poke up the lion to-night, but I see it won't do.'
This plea of trying experiments was neither absolutely true nor false; but it restored Charles to himself, by saving a confession that he had been out of temper, and enabling him to treat with him wonted indifference the expostulations of father, mother, and Laura.
Now that the idea of 'poking up the lion' had once occurred, it became his great occupation to attempt it. He wanted to see some evidence of the fiery temper, and it was a new sport to try to rouse it; one, too, which had the greater relish, as it kept the rest of the family on thorns.
He would argue against his real opinion, talk against his better sense, take the wrong side, and say much that was very far from his true sentiments. Guy could not understand at first, and was quite confounded at some of the views he espoused, till Laura came to his help, greatly irritating her brother by hints that he was not in earnest. Next time she could speak to Guy alone, she told him he must not take all Charles said literally.
'I thought he could hardly mean it: but why should he talk so?'
'I can't excuse him; I know it is very wrong, and at the expense of truth, and it is very disagreeable of him--I wish he would not; but he always does what he likes, and it is one of his amusements, so we must bear with him, poor fellow.'
From that time Guy seemed to have no trouble in reining in his temper in arguing with Charles, except once, when the lion was fairly roused by something that sounded like a sneer about King Charles I.
His whole face changed, his hazel eye gleamed with light like an eagle's, and he started up, exclaiming--
'You did not mean that?'
'Ask Strafford,' answered Charles, coolly, startled, but satisfied to have found the vulnerable point.
'Ungenerous, unmanly,' said Guy, his voice low, but quivering with indignation; 'ungenerous to reproach him with what he so bitterly repented. Could not his penitence, could not his own blood'--but as he spoke, the gleam of wrath faded, the flush deepened on the cheek, and he left the room.
'Ha!' soliloquized Charles, 'I've done it! I could fancy his wrath something terrific when it was once well up. I didn't know what was coming next; but I believe he has got himself pretty well in hand. It is playing with edge tools; and now I have been favoured with one flash of the Morville eye, I'll let him alone; but it ryled me to be treated as something beneath his anger, like a woman or a child.'
In about ten minutes, Guy came back: 'I am sorry that I was hasty just now,' said he.
'I did not know you had such personal feelings about King Charles.'
'If you would do me a kindness,' proceeded Guy, 'you would just say you did not mean it. I know you do not, but if you would only say so.'
'I am glad you have the wit to see I have too much taste to be a roundhead.'
'Thank you,' said Guy; 'I hope I shall know your jest from your earnest another time. Only if you would oblige me, you would never jest again about King Charles.'
His brow darkened into a stern, grave expression, so entirely in earnest, that Charles, though making no answer, could not do otherwise than feel compliance unavoidable. Charles had never been so entirely conquered, yet, strange to say, he was not, as usual, rendered sullen.
At night, when Guy had taken him to his room, he paused and said--'You are sure that you have forgiven me?'
'What! You have not forgotten that yet?' said Charles.
'Of course not.'
'I am sorry you bear so much malice,' said Charles, smiling.
'What are you imagining?' cried Guy. 'It was my own part I was remembering, as I must, you know.'
Charles did not choose to betray that he did not see the necessity.
'I thought King Charles's wrongs were rankling. I only spoke as taking liberties with a friend.'
'Yes,' said Guy, thoughtfully, 'it may be foolish, but I do not feel as if one could do so with King Charles. He is too near home; he suffered to much from scoffs and railings; his heart was too tender, his repentance too deep for his friends to add one word even in jest to the heap of reproach. How one would have loved him!' proceeded Guy, wrapped up in his own thoughts,--'loved him for the gentleness so little accordant with the rude times and the part he had to act--served him with half like a knight's devotion to his lady-love, half like devotion to a saint, as Montrose did--
'Great, good, and just, could I but rate My grief, and thy too rigid fate, I'd weep the world in such a strain, As it should deluge once again.'
'And, oh!' cried he, with sudden vehemence, 'how one would have fought for him!'
'You would!' said Charles. 'I should like to see you and Deloraine charging at the head of Prince Rupert's troopers.'
'I beg your pardon,' said Guy, suddenly recalled, and colouring deeply; 'I believe I forgot where I was, and have treated you to one of my old dreams in my boatings at home. You may quiz me as much as you please tomorrow. Good night'
'It was a rhapsody!' thought Charles; 'yes it was. I wonder I don't laugh at it; but I was naturally carried along. Fancy that! He did it so naturally; in fact, it was all from the bottom of his heart, and I could not quiz him--no, no more than Montrose himself. He is a strange article! But he keeps one awake, which is more than most people do!'
Guy was indeed likely to keep every one awake just then; for Mr. Edmonstone was going to take him out hunting for the first time, and he was half wild about it. The day came, and half an hour before Mr. Edmonstone was ready, Guy was walking about the hall, checking many an incipient whistle, and telling every one that he was beforehand with the world, for he had read one extra hour yesterday, and had got through the others before breakfast. Laura thought it very true that, as Philip said, he was only a boy, and moralized to Charlotte on his being the same age as herself--very nearly eighteen. Mrs. Edmonstone told Charles it was a treat to see any one so happy, and when he began to chafe at the delay, did her best to beguile the time, but without much success. Guy had ever learned to wait patiently, and had a custom of marching up and down, and listening with his head thrown back, or, as Charles used to call it, 'prancing in the hall.'
If Mrs. Edmonstone's patience was tried by the preparation for the hunt in the morning, it was no less her lot to hear of it in the evening. Guy came home in the highest spirits, pouring out his delight to every one, with animation and power of description giving all he said a charm. The pleasure did not lose by repetition; he was more engrossed by it every time; and no one could be more pleased with his ardour than Mr. Edmonstone, who, proud of him and his riding, gave a sigh to past hopes of poor Charles, and promoted the hunting with far more glee that he had promoted the reading.
The Redclyffe groom, William, whose surname of Robinson was entirely forgotten in the appellation of William of Deloraine, was as proud of Sir Guy as Mr. Edmonstone could be; but made representations to his master that he must not hunt Deloraine two days in the week, and ride him to Broadstone two more. Guy then walked to Broadstone; but William was no better pleased, for he thought the credit of Redclyffe compromised, and punished him by reporting Deloraine not fit to be used next hunting day. Mr. Edmonstone perceived that Guy ought to have another hunter; Philip heard of one for sale, and after due inspection all admired--even William, who had begun by remarking that there might be so many screw-looses about a horse, that a man did not know what to be at with them.
Philip, who was conducting the negotiation, came to dine at Hollywell to settle the particulars. Guy was in a most eager state; and they and Mr. Edmonstone talked so long about horses, that they sent Charles to sleep; his mother began to read, and the two elder girls fell into a low, mysterious confabulation of their own till they were startled by a question from Philip as to what could engross them so deeply.
'It was,' said Laura, 'a banshee story in Eveleen de Courcy's last letter.'
'I never like telling ghost stories to people who don't believe in them,' half whispered Amabel to her sister.
'Do you believe them?' asked Philip, looking full at her.
'Now I won't have little Amy asked the sort of question she most dislikes,' interposed Laura; 'I had rather ask if you laugh at us for thinking many ghost stories inexplicable?'
'The universal belief could hardly be kept up without some grounds,' said Guy.
'That would apply as well to fairies,' said Philip.
'Every one has an unexplained ghost story,' said Amy.
'Yes,' said Philip; 'but I would give something to meet any one whose ghost story did not rest on the testimony of a friend's cousin's cousin, a very strong-minded person.'
'I can't imagine how a person who has seen a ghost could ever speak of it,' said Amy.
'Did you not tell us a story of pixies at Redclyffe?' said Laura.
'O yes; the people there believe in them firmly. Jonas Ledbury heard them laughing one night when he could not get the gate open,' said Guy.
'Ah! You are the authority for ghosts,' said Philip.
'I forgot that,' said Laura: 'I wonder we never asked you about your Redclyffe ghost.'
'You look as if you had seen it yourself,' said Philip.
'You have not?' exclaimed Amy, almost frightened.
'Come, let us have the whole story,' said Philip. 'Was it your own reflection in the glass? was it old sir Hugh? or was it the murderer of Becket? Come, the ladies are both ready to scream at the right moment. Never mind about giving him a cocked-hat, for with whom may you take a liberty, if not with an ancestral ghost of your own?'
Amy could not think how Philip could have gone on all this time; perhaps it was because he was not watching how Guy's colour varied, how he bit his lip; and at last his eyes seemed to grow dark in the middle, and to sparkle with fire, as with a low, deep tone, like distant thunder, conveying a tremendous force of suppressed passion, he exclaimed, 'Beware of trifling--' then breaking off hastened out of the room.
'What's the matter?' asked Mr. Edmonstone, startled from his nap; and his wife looked up anxiously, but returned to her book, as her nephew replied, 'Nothing.'
'How could you Philip?' said Laura.
'I really believe he has seen it!' said Amy, in a startled whisper.
'He has felt it, Amy--the Morville spirit,' said Philip.
'It is a great pity you spoke of putting a cocked hat to it,' said Laura; 'he must have suspected us of telling you what happened about Mrs. Brownlow.'
'And are you going to do it now?' said her sister in a tone of remonstrance.
'I think Philip should hear it!' said Laura; and she proceeded to relate the story. She was glad to see that her cousin was struck with it; he admired this care to maintain strict truth, and even opened a memorandum-book--the sight of which Charles dreaded--and read the following extract: 'Do not think of one falsity as harmless, and another as slight, and another as unintended. Cast them all aside. They may be light and accidental, but they are an ugly soot from the smoke of the pit, for all that; and it is better that our hearts should be swept clean of them, without over care as to which is the largest or blackest.'
Laura and Amy were much pleased; but he went on to regret that such excellent dispositions should be coupled with such vehemence of character and that unhappy temper. Amy was glad that her sister ventured to hint that he might be more cautious in avoiding collisions.
'I am cautious', replied he, quickly and sternly; 'I am not to be told of the necessity of exercising forbearance with this poor boy; but it is impossible to reckon on all the points on which he is sensitive.'
'He is sensitive,' said Laura. 'I don't mean only in temper, but in everything. I wonder if it is part of his musical temperament to be as keenly alive to all around, as his ear is to every note. A bright day, a fine view, is such real happiness to him; he dwells on every beauty of Redclyffe with such affection; and then, when he reads, Charles says it is like going over the story again himself to watch his face act it in that unconscious manner.'
'He makes all the characters so real in talking them over,' said Amy, 'and he does not always know how they will end before they begin.'
'I should think it hardly safe for so excitable a mind to dwell much on the world of fiction,' said Philip.
'Nothing has affected him so much as Sintram,' said Laura. 'I never saw anything like it. He took it up by chance, and stood reading it while all those strange expressions began to flit over his face, and at last he fairly cried over it so much, that he was obliged to fly out of the room. How often he has read it I cannot tell; I believe he has bought one for himself, and it is as if the engraving had a fascination for him; he stands looking at it as if he was in a dream.'
'He is a great mystery,' said Amy.
'All men are mysterious,' said Philip 'but he not more than others, though he may appear so to you, because you have not had much experience, and also because most of the men you have seen have been rounded into uniformity like marbles, their sharp angles rubbed off against each other at school.'
'Would it be better if there were more sharp angles?' said Laura, thus setting on foot a discussion on public schools, on which Philip had, of course, a great deal to say.
Amy's kind little heart was meanwhile grieving for Guy, and longing to see him return, but he did not come till after Philip's departure. He looked pale and mournful, his hair hanging loose and disordered, and her terror was excited lest he might actually have seen his ancestor's ghost, which, in spite of her desire to believe in ghosts, in general, she did not by any means wish to have authenticated. He was surprised and a good deal vexed to find Philip gone, but he said hardly anything, and it was soon bedtime. When Charles took his arm, he exclaimed, on finding his sleeve wet--'What can you have been doing?'
'Walking up and down under the wall,' replied Guy, with some reluctance.
'What, in the rain?'
'I don't know, perhaps it was.'
Amy, who was just behind, carrying the crutch, dreaded Charles's making any allusion to Sintram's wild locks and evening wanderings, but ever since the outburst about King Charles, the desire to tease and irritate Guy had ceased.
They parted at the dressing-room door, and as Guy bade her good night, he pushed back the damp hair that had fallen across his forehead, saying, 'I am sorry I disturbed your evening. I will tell you the meaning of it another time.'
'He has certainly seen the ghost!' said silly little Amy, as she shut herself into her own room in such a fit of vague 'eerie' fright, that it was not till she had knelt down, and with her face hidden in her hands, said her evening prayer, that she could venture to lift up her head and look into the dark corners of the room.
'Another time!' Her heart throbbed at the promise.
The next afternoon, as she and Laura were fighting with a refractory branch of wisteria which had been torn down by the wind, and refused to return to its place, Guy, who had been with his tutor, came in from the stable-yard, reduced the trailing bough to obedience, and then joined them in their walk. He looked grave, was silent at first, and then spoke abruptly--'It is due to you to explain my behaviour last night.'
'Amy thinks you must have seen the ghost,' said Laura, trying to be gay.
'Did I frighten you?' said Guy, turning round, full of compunction. 'No, no. I never saw it. I never even heard of its being seen. I am very sorry.'
'I was very silly,' said Amy smiling.
'But,' proceeded Guy, 'when I think of the origin of the ghost story, I cannot laugh, and if Philip knew all--'
'Oh! He does not,' cried Laura; 'he only looks on it as we have always done, as a sort of romantic appendage to Redclyffe. I should think better of a place for being haunted.'
'I used to be proud of it,' said Guy. 'I wanted to make out whether it was old Sir Hugh or the murderer of Becket, who was said to groan and turn the lock of Dark Hugh's chamber. I hunted among old papers, and a horrible story I found. That wretched Sir Hugh,--the same who began the quarrel with your mother's family--he was a courtier of Charles II, as bad or worse than any of that crew--'
'What was the quarrel about?' said Laura.
'He was believed to have either falsified or destroyed his father's will, so as to leave his brother, your ancestor, landless; his brother remonstrated, and he turned him out of doors. The forgery never was proved, but there was little doubt of it. There are traditions of his crimes without number, especially his furious anger and malice. He compelled a poor lady to marry him, though she was in love with another man; then he was jealous; he waylaid his rival, shut him up in the turret chamber, committed him to prison, and bribed Judge Jeffries to sentence him--nay it is even said he carried his wife to see the execution! He was so execrated that he fled the country; he went to Holland, curried favour with William of Orange, brought his wealth to help him, and that is the deserving action which got him the baronetcy! He served in the army a good many years, and came home when he thought his sins would be forgotten. But do you remember those lines?' and Guy repeated them in the low rigid tone, almost of horror, in which he had been telling the story:--
'On some his vigorous judgments light, In that dread pause 'twixt day and night, Life's closing twilight hour; Round some, ere yet they meet their doom, Is shed the silence of the tomb, The eternal shadows lower.'
'It was so with him; he lost his senses, and after many actions of mad violence, he ended by hanging himself in the very room where he had imprisoned his victim.'
'Horrible!' said Laura. 'Yet I do not see why, when it is all past, you should feel it so deeply.'
'How should I not feel it?' answered Guy. 'Is it not written that the sins of the fathers shall be visited on the children? You wonder to see me so foolish about Sintram. Well, it is my firm belief that such a curse of sin and death as was on Sintram rests on the descendants of that miserable man.'
The girls were silent, struck with awe and dismay at the fearful reality with which he pronounced the words. At last, Amy whispered, 'But Sintram conquered his doom.'
At the same time Laura gathered her thoughts together, and said, 'This must be an imagination. You have dwelt on it and fostered it till you believe it, but such notions should be driven away or they will work their own fulfilment.'
'Look at the history of the Morvilles, and see if it be an imagination,' said Guy. 'Crime and bloodshed have been the portion of each--each has added weight and darkness to the doom which he had handed on. My own poor father, with his early death, was, perhaps, the happiest!'
Laura saw the idea was too deeply rooted to be treated as a fancy, and she found a better argument. 'The doom of sin and death is on us all, but you should remember that if you are a Morville, you are also a Christian.'
'He does remember it!' said Amy, raising her eyes to his face, and then casting them down, blushing at having understood his countenance, where, in the midst of the gloomy shades, there rested for an instant the gleam which her mother had likened to the expression of Raffaelle's cherub.'
They walked on for some time in silence. At last Laura exclaimed, 'Are you really like the portrait of this unfortunate Sir Hugh?'
Guy made a sign of assent.
'Oh! It must have been taken before he grew wicked,' said Amy; and Laura felt the same conviction, that treacherous revenge could never have existed beneath so open a countenance, with so much of highmindedness, pure faith and contempt of wrong in every glance of the eagle eye, in the frank expansion of the smooth forehead.
They were interrupted by Mr. Edmonstone's hearty voice, bawling across the garden for one of the men. 'O Guy! are you there?' cried he, as soon as he saw him. 'Just what I wanted! Your gun, man! We are going to ferret a rabbit.'
Guy ran off at full speed in search of his gun, whistling to Bustle. Mr. Edmonstone found his man, and the sisters were again alone.
'Poor fellow!' said Laura.
'You will not tell all this to Philip?' said Amy.
'It would show why he was hurt, and it can be no secret.'
'I dare say you are right, but I have a feeling against it. Well, I am glad he had not seen the ghost!'
The two girls had taken their walk, and were just going in, when, looking round, they saw Philip walking fast and determinedly up the approach, and as they turned back to meet him, the first thing he said was, 'Where is Guy?'
'Ferreting rabbits with papa. What is the matter?'
'And where is my aunt?'
Driving out with Charles and Charlotte. What is the matter?'
'Look here. Can you tell me the meaning of this which I found on my table when I came in this morning?'
It was a card of Sir Guy Morville, on the back of which was written in pencil, 'Dear P., I find hunting and reading don't agree, so take no further steps about the horse. Many thanks for your trouble.--G.M.'
'There,' said Philip, 'is the result of brooding all night on his resentment.' 'Oh no!' cried Laura, colouring with eagerness, 'you do not understand him. He could not bear it last night, because, as he has been explaining to us, that old Sir Hugh's story was more shocking than we ever guessed, and he has a fancy that their misfortunes are a family fate, and he could not bear to hear it spoken of lightly.'
'Oh! He has been telling you his own story, has he?'
Laura's colour grew still deeper, 'If you had been there,' she said, 'you would have been convinced. Why will you not believe that he finds hunting interfere with reading?'
'He should have thought of that before,' said "Philip.
'Here have I half bought the horse! I have wasted the whole morning on it, and now I have to leave it on the man's hands. I had a dozen times rather take it myself, if I could afford it. Such a bargain as I had made, and such an animal as you will not see twice in your life.'
'It is a great pity,' said Laura. 'He should have known his own mind. I don't like people to give trouble for nothing.'
'Crazy about it last night, and giving it up this morning! A most extraordinary proceeding. No, no, Laura, this is not simple fickleness, it would be too absurd. It is temper, temper, which makes a man punish himself, in hopes of punishing others.
Laura still spoke for Guy, and Amy rejoiced; for if her sister had not taken up the defence of the absent, she must, and she felt too strongly to be willing to speak. It seemed too absurd for one feeling himself under such a doom to wrangle about a horse, yet she was somewhat amused by the conviction that if Guy had really wished to annoy Philip he had certainly succeeded.
There was no coming to an agreement. Laura's sense of justice revolted at the notion of Guy's being guilty of petty spite; while Philip, firm in his preconceived idea of his character, and his own knowledge of mankind, was persuaded that he had imputed the true motive, and was displeased at Laura's attempting to argue the point. He could not wait to see any one else, as he was engaged to dine out, and he set off again at his quick, resolute pace.
'He is very unfair!' exclaimed Amy.
'He did not mean to be so,' said Laura; 'and though he is mistaken in imputing such motives, Guy's conduct has certainly been vexatious.'
They were just turning to go in, when they were interrupted by the return of the carriage; and before Charles had been helped up the steps, their father and Guy came in sight. While Guy went to shut up Bustle, who was too wet for the drawing-room, Mr. Edmonstone came up to the others, kicking away the pebbles before him, and fidgeting with his gloves, as he always did when vexed.
'Here's a pretty go!' said he. 'Here is Guy telling me he won't hunt any more!'
'Not hunt!' cried Mrs. Edmonstone and Charles at once; 'and why?'
'Oh! something about its taking his mind from his reading; but that can't be it--impossible, you know; I'd give ten pounds to know what has vexed him. So keen as he was about it last night, and I vow, one of the best riders in the whole field. Giving up that horse, too--I declare it is a perfect sin! I told him he had gone too far, and he said he had left a note with Philip this morning.'
'Yes,' said Laura; Philip has just been here about it. Guy left a card, saying, hunting and reading would not agree.'
'That is an excuse, depend upon it,' said Mr. Edmonstone. 'Something has nettled him, I am sure. It could not be that Gordon, could it, with his hail-fellow-well-met manner? I thought Guy did not half like it the other day, when he rode up with his "Hollo, Morville!" The Morvilles have a touch of pride of their own; eh, mamma?'
'I should be inclined to believe his own account of himself,' said she.
'I tell you, 'tis utterly against reason,' said Mr. Edmonstone, angrily. 'If he was a fellow like Philip, or James Ross, I could believe it; but he--he make a book-worm! He hates it, like poison, at the bottom of his heart, I'll answer for it; and the worst of it is, the fellow putting forward such a fair reason one can't--being his guardian, and all--say what one thinks of it oneself. Eh, mamma?'
'Not exactly,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, smiling.
'Well, you take him in hand, mamma. I dare say he will tell you the rights of it, and if it is only that Gordon, explain it rightly to him, show him 'tis only the man's way; tell him he treats me so for ever, and would the Lord-Lieutenant if he was in it.'
'For a' that and a' that,' said Charles, as Amy led him into the drawing-room.
'You are sure the reading is the only reason?' said Amy.'
'He's quite absurd enough for it,' said Charles; but 'absurd' was pronounced in a way that made its meaning far from annoying even to Guy's little champion.
Guy came in the next moment, and running lightly up-stairs after Mrs. Edmonstone, found her opening the dressing-room door, and asked if he might come in.
'By all means,' she said; 'I am quite ready for one of our twilight talks.'
'I am afraid I have vexed Mr. Edmonstone,' began Guy; 'and I am very sorry.'
'He was only afraid that something might have occurred to vex you, which you might not like to mention to him,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, hesitating a little.
'Me! What could I have done to make him think so? I am angry with no one but myself. The fact is only this, the hunting is too pleasant; it fills up my head all day and all night; and I don't attend rightly to anything else. If I am out in the morning and try to pay for it at night, it will not do; I can but just keep awake and that's all; the Greek letters all seem to be hunting each other, the simplest things grow difficult, and at last all I can think of, is how near the minute hand of my watch is near to the hour I have set myself. So, for the last fortnight, every construing with Mr. Lascelles has been worse than the last; and as to my Latin verses, they were beyond everything shocking, so you see there is no making the two things agree, and the hunting must wait till I grow steadier, if I ever do. Heigho! It is a great bore to be so stupid, for I thought--But it is of no use to talk of it!'
'Mr. Edmonstone would be a very unreasonable guardian, indeed, to be displeased,' said his friend, smiling. You say you stopped the purchase of the horse. Why so? Could you not keep him till you are more sure of yourself?'
'Do you think I might?' joyously exclaimed Guy. 'I'll write to Philip this minute by the post. Such a splendid creature: it would do you good to see it--such action--such a neck--such spirit. It would be a shame not to secure it. But no--no--' and he checked himself sorrowfully. 'I have made my mind before that I don't deserve it. If it was here, it would always have to be tried: if I heard the hounds I don't know I should keep from riding after them; whereas, now I can't, for William won't let me take Deloraine. No, I can't trust myself to keep such a horse, and not hunt. It will serve me right to see Mr. Brownlow on it, and he will never miss such a chance!' and the depth of his sigh bore witness to the struggle it cost him.
'I should not like to use anyone as you use yourself,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, looking at him with affectionate anxiety, which seemed suddenly to change the current of his thought, for he exclaimed abruptly--'Mrs. Edmonstone, can you tell me anything about my mother?'
'I am afraid not,' said she, kindly; 'you know we had so little intercourse with your family, that I heard little but the bare facts.'
'I don't think,' said Guy, leaning on the chimneypiece, 'that I ever thought much about her till I knew you, but lately I have fancied a great deal about what might have been if she had but lived.'
It was not Mrs. Edmonstone's way to say half what she felt, and she went on--'Poor thing! I believe she was quite a child.'
'Only seventeen when she died,' said Guy.
Mrs. Edmonstone went to a drawer, took out two or three bundles of old letters, and after searching in them by the fire-light, said--'Ah! here's a little about her; it is in a letter from my sister-in-law, Philip's mother, when they were staying at Stylehurst.'
'Who? My father and mother?' cried Guy eagerly.
'Did you not know they had been there three or four days?'
'No--I know less about them than anybody,' said he, sadly: but as Mrs. Edmonstone waited, doubtful as to whether she might be about to make disclosures for which he was unprepared, he added, hastily--'I do know the main facts of the story; I was told them last autumn;' and an expression denoting the remembrance of great suffering came over his face; then, pausing a moment, he said--'I knew Archdeacon Morville had been very kind.'
'He was always interested about your father,' said Mrs, Edmonstone; 'and happening to meet him in London some little time after his marriage, he--he was pleased with the manner in which he was behaving then, thought--thought--' And here, recollecting that she must not speak ill of old Sir Guy, nor palliate his son's conduct, poor Mrs. Edmonstone got into an inextricable confusion--all the worse because the fierce twisting of a penwiper in Guy's fingers denoted that he was suffering a great trial of patience. She avoided the difficulty thus: 'It is hard to speak of such things when there is so much to be regretted on both sides; but the fact was, my brother thought your father was harshly dealt with at that time. Of course he had done very wrong; but he had been so much neglected and left to himself, that it seemed hardly fair to visit his offence on him as severely as if he had had more advantages. So it ended in their coming to spend a day or two at Stylehurst; and this is the letter my sister-in-law wrote at the time:
'"Our visitors have just left us, and on the whole I am much better pleased than I expected. The little Mrs. Morville is a very pretty creature, and as engaging as long flaxen curls, apple-blossom complexion, blue eyes, and the sweetest of voices can make her; so full of childish glee and playfulness, that no one would stop to think whether she was lady-like any more than you would with a child. She used to go singing like a bird about the house as soon as the first strangeness wore off, which was after her first game of play with Fanny and Little Philip. She made them very fond of her, as indeed she would make every one who spent a day or two in the same house with her. I could almost defy Sir Guy not to be reconciled after one sight of her sweet sunny face. She is all affection and gentleness, and with tolerable training anything might be made of her; but she is so young in mind and manners, that one cannot even think of blaming her for her elopement, for she had no mother, no education but in music; and her brother seems to have forced it on, thrown her in Mr. Morville's way, and worked on his excitable temperament, until he hurried them into marriage. Poor little girl, I suppose she little guesses what she has done; but it was very pleasant to see how devotedly attached he seemed to her; and there was something beautiful in the softening of his impetuous tones when he said, 'Marianne;' and her pride in him was very pretty, like a child playing at matronly airs."'
Guy gave a long, heavy sigh, brushed away a tear, and after a long silence, said, 'Is that all?'
'All that I like to read to you. Indeed, there is no more about her; and it would be of no use to read all the reports that were going about.--Ah! here,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, looking into another letter, 'she speaks of your father as a very fine young man, with most generous impulses,'--but here again she was obliged to stop, for the next sentence spoke of 'a noble character ruined by mismanagement.' 'She never saw them again,' continued Mrs. Edmonstone; 'Mr. Dixon, your mother's brother, had great influence with your father, and made matters worse--so much worse, that my brother did not feel himself justified in having any more to do with them.'
'Ah! he went to America,' said Guy; 'I don't know any more about him except that he came to the funeral and stood with his arms folded, not choosing to shake hands with my poor grandfather.' After another silence he said, 'Will you read that again?' and when he had heard it, he sat shading his brow with his hand, as if to bring the fair, girlish picture fully before his mind, while Mrs. Edmonstone sought in vain among her letters for one which did not speak of the fiery passions ignited on either side, in terms too strong to be fit for his ears.
When next he spoke it was to repeat that he had not been informed of the history of his parents till within the last few months. He had, of course, known the manner of their death, but had only lately become aware of the circumstances attending it.
The truth was that Guy had grown up peculiarly shielded from evil, but ignorant of the cause of the almost morbid solicitude with which he was regarded by his grandfather. He was a very happy, joyous boy, leading an active, enterprising life, though so lonely as to occasion greater dreaminess and thoughtfulness than usual at such an early age. He was devotedly attached to his grandfather, looking on him as the first and best of human beings, and silencing the belief that Sir Hugh Morville had entailed a doom of crime and sorrow on the family, by a reference to him, as one who had been always good and prosperous.
When, however, Guy had reached an age at which he must encounter the influences which had proved so baneful to others of his family, his grandfather thought it time to give him the warning of his own history.
The sins, which the repentance of years had made more odious in the eyes of the old man, were narrated; the idleness and insubordination at first, then the reckless pursuit of pleasure, the craving for excitement, the defiance of rule and authority, till folly had become vice, and vice had led to crime.
He had fought no fewer than three duels, and only one had been bloodless. His misery after the first had well-nigh led to a reform; but time had dulled its acuteness--it had been lost in fresh scenes of excitement--and at the next offence rage had swept away such recollections. Indeed, so far had he lost the natural generosity of his character, that his remorse had been comparatively slight for the last, which was the worst of all, since he had forced the quarrel on his victim, Captain Wellwood, whose death had left a wife and children almost destitute. His first awakening to a sense of what his course had been, was when he beheld his only child, in the prime of youth, carried lifeless across his threshold, and attributed his death to his own intemperance and violence. That hour made Sir Guy Morville an old and a broken-hearted man; and he repented as vigorously as he had sinned.
From the moment he dared to hope that his son's orphan would be spared, he had been devoted to him, but still mournfully, envying and pitying his innocence as something that could not last.
He saw bright blossoms put forth, as the boy grew older; but they were not yet fruits, and he did not dare to believe they ever would be. The strength of will which had, in his own case, been the slave of his passions, had been turned inward to subdue the passions themselves, but this was only the beginning--the trial was not yet come. He could hope his grandson might repent, but this was the best that he dared to think possible. He could not believe that a Morville could pass unscathed through the world, or that his sins would not be visited on the head of his only descendant; and the tone of his narration was throughout such as might almost have made the foreboding cause its own accomplishment.
The effect was beyond what he had expected; for a soul deeply dyed in guilt, even though loathing its own stains, had not the power of conceiving how foul was the aspect of vice, to one hitherto guarded from its contemplation, and living in a world of pure, lofty day- dreams. The boy sat the whole time without a word, his face bent down and hidden by his clasped hands, only now and then unable to repress a start or shudder at some fresh disclosure; and when it was ended, he stood up, gazed round, and walked uncertainly, as if he did not know where he was. His next impulse was to throw himself on his knee beside his grandfather, and caress him as he used to when a child. The 'good- night' was spoken, and Guy was shut into his room, with his overwhelming emotions.
His grandfather a blood-stained, remorseful man! The doom was complete, himself heir to the curse of Sir Hugh, and fated to run the same career; and as he knew full well, with the tendency to the family character strong within him, the germs of these hateful passions ready to take root downwards and bear fruit upwards, with the very countenance of Sir Hugh, and the same darkening, kindling eyes, of which traditions had preserved the remembrance.
He was crushed for awhile. The consciousness of strength not his own, of the still small voice that could subdue the fire, the earthquake, and the whirlwind, was slow in coming to him; and when it came, he, like his grandfather, had hope rather of final repentance than of keeping himself unstained.
His mind had not recovered the shock when his grandfather died,--died in faith and fear, with good hope of accepted repentance, but unable to convey the assurance of such hope to his grandson. Grief for the only parent he had ever known, and the sensation of being completely alone in the world, were joined to a vague impression of horror at the suddenness of the stroke, and it was long before the influence of Hollywell, or the elasticity of his own youthfulness, could rouse him from his depression.
Even then it was almost against his will that he returned to enjoyment, unable to avoid being amused, but feeling as if joy was not meant for him, and as if those around were walking 'in a world of light,' where he could scarcely hope to tread a few uncertain steps. In this despondency was Guy's chief danger, as it was likely to make him deem a struggle with temptation fruitless, while his high spirits and powers of keen enjoyment increased the peril of recklessness in the reaction.
It was Mrs. Edmonstone who first spoke with him cheerfully of a successful conflict with evil, and made him perceive that his temptations were but such as is common to man. She had given him a clue to discover when and how to trust himself to enjoy; the story of Sintram had stirred him deeply, and this very day, Amy's words, seemingly unheeded and unheard, had brought home to him the hope and encouragement of that marvellous tale.
They had helped him in standing, looking steadfastly upwards, and treading down not merely evil, but the first token of coming evil, regardless of the bruises he might inflict on himself. Well for him if he was constant.
Such was Guy's inner life; his outward life, frank and joyous, has been shown, and the two flowed on like a stream, pure as crystal, but into which the eye cannot penetrate from its depth. The surface would be sometimes obscured by cloud or shade, and reveal the sombre wells beneath; but more often the sunshine would penetrate the inmost recesses, and make them glance and sparkle, showing themselves as clear and limpid as the surface itself.
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