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"She seemed some nymph in her sedan,
Apparelled in exactest sort,
And ready to be borne to court."--COWPER.
Mr. Faulkner came at the time appointed, and Caroline, who had kept Marian's counsel, according to promise, was very curious to see how they would behave towards each other. As to Marian, she was just what might be expected,--more cold, distant, and stately than she had ever been to the most vulgar of Mrs. Lyddell's acquaintance. She gave a chilling bend to repel his attempt at shaking hands, made replies of the shortest when he tried to talk to her, and would not look up, or put on the slightest air of interest, at all the entertaining stories he was telling at dinner.
The others were all extremely pleased with him. Elliot had never before brought home so agreeable a friend; a person who could talk of anything but hunting and racing was a new thing among his acquaintance, and every one was loud in his praise. Caroline, from having been prejudiced against him by Marian's history, was more surprised than the others: and scolded Marian, in the evening, for not having told them how very agreeable he was.
"I never can think any one agreeable when I know there is hollowness within," said Marian.
"I suppose Lord Marchmont knows," said Caroline, in a tone of annoyance and of a little doubt; and there the conversation ended.
Few people were ever more agreeable than Mr. Faulkner. He had read everything, travelled everywhere, and was full of conversation suited to every one. If Marain had not heard Lord Marchmont's account of him, she must have liked him; but knowing what she did, she could and would not: looking at him something as Madame Cottin's Matilde first looked at Malek Adel, and not suffering herself to lose any of her horror. For the first day or two her frigidity was something wonderful, as she found him inclined to make attempts to cultivate her acquaintance; but she thoroughly succeeded in repelling him. He left off trying to talk to her; and one day when they were obliged to go in to dinner together, only exchanged the fewest and most formal of words with her, and positively neglected her for his other neighbour.
After this, Marian did not quite so much overdo her stateliness. She could afford to be like herself with the others, even when he was in the room, though she never voluntarily took part in a conversation in which he was engaged, and her coldest air came over her whenever he approached. And it was well for her she could be so; for he stayed more than a fortnight, decided on buying the estate of High Down, and was asked to come again and make his head-quarters at Oakworthy, while superintending the alterations. All were sorry when he went; even the boys, whose first holiday week had been rendered very agreeable by his good nature. Johnny and Gerald vied with each other in his praise, heaping together a droll medley of schoolboy panegyrics; and Marian, not wishing to tell them of her objections, allowed that he had been very kind to them.
The Christmas holidays passed, and left no change in the impression on her mind regarding Gerald; only she heard no news of her two sovereigns, and he did not so much as give her the opportunity of speaking to him alone. The heartache was growing worse than ever, and she was beginning to have a sort of desperate feeling that she would--she would--do she knew not what--write to Mr. Wortley--write more strongly to Gerald than she had ever yet dared to do--when one morning, a foreign looking letter arrived, in handwriting she knew full well, though it had never before been addressed to herself. There was company staying in the house, and Marian was not sorry it was impossible to read it at the breakfast table. She did not know what she was eating or what she was saying, and ran away with it as soon as she could, to enjoy it in her own room. A letter from Edmund! Could it be possible, or could it--O disappointing thought!--be only some enclosure for her to forward. In alarm at the idea, she tore it open. A long letter, and quite certainly to herself; for there stood the three welcome words, "My dear Marian." She glanced hastily down the first page, to make sure that there was nothing the matter; but no, it was all right--he wrote in his own lively style. He began by saying it was so long since he had heard from England, that he was growing afraid he was forgotten, and felt very small when the post came in, and brought something for every one but him; and he was going to try a fresh person, since he was growing desperate, and had sent appeals in vain to all his correspondents. He asked many questions about home friends, and about Marian herself; and then told much to interest her about his own doings, his way of living, and his hunting expeditions, with all the strange wild beasts with which they had made him acquainted, and he concluded thus:--"I hope you will write soon, and that you will be able to give me a flourishing account of Gerald. His silence may mean nothing, but it may also mean so much, that to hear he is going on particularly well would be double satisfaction just at present. Therefore with a view to what passed in our last walk at Oakworthy, tell me if you are completely satisfied with regard to him."
It was a ray of light upon all Marian's perplexities; showing her what course to take, and filling her with hope. Her confidence in Edmund's power of setting everything right was still unchanged, and when Gerald's case was fully before him, he would know how to judge, and what to do; it would all be safe and off her mind. She felt sure that this had been the very reason of his writing; and full of gratitude, and infinitely relieved, she opened her desk, as if to answer was the easiest and most comfortable thing in the world.
She did not, however, get on quite as fast as she expected; she dreaded equally the saying too much, or too little,--the giving Edmund actually a bad impression of her poor Gerald, or letting him think that there was no cause for anxiety. Then she thought the best way would be merely to give the facts, and let him draw his own conclusions; but these facts were in themselves trifles light as air, and it seemed unkind to send them across half the world. She left off trying to write, and resolved to give herself time for consideration; but time only made her more perplexed. She waited a week, wrote at last, and as soon as her letter was fairly gone, thought of forty different ways of saying the thing better and more justly, dwelt again and again on each line that could convoy a false impression one way or the other, and reproached herself by turns for having spoken disadvantageously of her dear affectionate brother, and for not having let her cousin fairly see the full extent of the mischief. On the whole, however, she was much happier now that it was all in Edmund's hands; so much so, that when Mr. Faulkner came again, she could not be quite so stiff; and being entirely relieved from the fear of his taking notice of her, could do him the favour of laughing when he told anything amusing.
Winter and early spring came and went; the Easter holidays brought Gerald home, and she tried again in vain to get him to write to Edmund; but she could bear it better now that she had hopes.
They went to London, and Marian was carried into the midst of all the gaieties supposed to befit her age and situation. Mrs. Lyddell would have thought herself very far from "doing her justice," if she had not taken her to all the balls and parties in her way; and Marian was obliged to submit, and get into the carriage, when she had much rather have gone to bed.
She put off the expectation of much enjoyment till Lady Marchmont should come, and her arrival took place unusually late that season. She had not been well, and little Willie had been somewhat ailing; so that the bringing him into London air was put off as long as possible. It was not till the latter part of May that she came, as she had always promised to do, in time for Marian's presentation at court, on which both she and Mrs. Lyddell were bent; and Marian ready to endure it, by the help of a few romantic thoughts of loyalty. The day after Lady Marchmont arrived, she called at Mrs. Lyddell's and came in, as she generally did once in a year. After her visit was over, she asked Marian to come and take a drive, and no sooner where they in the carriage, than she exclaimed, "A nice looking girl, that Miss Lyddell! Is she the one who is to marry Mr. Faulkner?"
"O, Selina! how could you have heard such nonsense?"
"What, is it to be denied? It is not settled, then?"
"No, nor ever will be."
"Why, surely the man has been spending months at Oakworthy."
"Only weeks; besides, he was buying a house."
"A very proper preliminary to a wife."
"O, no, no it is impossible!"
"But why? Perhaps you know some good reason to the contrary; for I heard he admired you very much when he met you last year."
"Don't say such things, Selina. How could you fancy it possible, after all the horrid things Lord Marchmont said of him!"
"What is impossible, my dear? That he should think you very handsome?"
"Don't, Selina, pray don't! That any body good for any thing should ever marry him!"
"Any body good for any thing!" repeated Selina. "Well, granted,--and it is a considerable grant,--does that make the supposition out of the question?"
"Yes, as regards Caroline. O, Selina! you do not know Caroline, or you would not look so incredulous!"
"Time will show," said Lady Marchmont, gaily. "I reserve to myself the satisfaction of having known it beforehand."
"It never will be," said Marian. "And how is little Willie?"
"Very well, poor little man, if he would only grow, but he is so small, that I am fairly ashamed to show such a hop-o'-my-thumb. But he is coming out quite a genius; he reads as well as I do, and makes the wisest speeches."
And the history of his wise speeches occupied them for some time, with other matters, until just as their drive was nearly concluded, Selina exclaimed, "But all this time I have never asked you if you can throw any light on this extraordinary step of Edmund Arundel's?"
"What do you mean?" cried Marian.
"Have you not heard that he has exchanged, and is coming home? The most foolish thing,--just as he might have been sure of promotion. It is not likely to be health, for the climate agreed very well with him."
"Yes," assented Marian, wrapt in her own thoughts; "but did he write to you?"
"Not a word; we only saw it in the Gazette, and Lord Marchmont would hardly believe it could be he; but it was but too plain,--Lieutenant Edmund Gerald Arundel. It is very strange; he was not wont to do foolish things."
"No," said Marian, mechanically.
"And you know nothing about it? You know him better than we do. Ho seemed the very man for the Colonies, with no ties at home, unless--no, it is impossible--unless there could be a lady in the case."
"O, no!" replied Marian colouring so much at the secret consciousness of his motive, that Selina laughed, saying, "I could almost suspect you, in spite of your demureness, of being the very lady. However, I am glad you think there is no truth in my surmise, for he could not do a more absurd thing than marry. Only when a man gives up all his prospects in this way, there is nothing too preposterous to be expected to come next."
By this time they were at Mrs. Lyddell's door, and Marian gladly escaped, feeling stunned at the effect her letter had produced. How noble, how kind, how generous, how self-devoted Edmund was! this was the prominent thought. She knew him to be very fond and very proud of his regiment, to be much attached to several of his brother officers, and to have given them more of his affection than persons with home interests generally do; indeed, they had served him instead of home. All his success in life, and his hopes of promotion, given up too,--sacrifices which she could not estimate; and it was she who had caused them. She had thoughtlessly led him to do himself all this injury, out of his kindness and affection, and his sense of duty towards her and her brother. She was very unhappy when she thought of this; then came the bright ray of joy and relief in hope and confidence for Gerald,--Gerald saved, saved from corruption, ruin, from being like Elliot, from breaking her heart, made all that his father and mother would have made him, her pride, her delight, the glory and honour of Fern Torr,--O, joy, joy! And the mere seeing Edmund again,--joy, joy! Yes, the joy far predominated over the pain and regret; indeed, be the injury to himself what it might, who could be sorry that he had acted so nobly? Yes, Marian was happy; her eyes were bright, her smile frequent; she laughed with Clara, she romped with little Willie Marchmont, she was ungracious to none but Mr. Faulkner who came to the house so much, that she began to fear that Caroline might have the annoyance of an offer from him, more especially since he had made his mother and sister call on Mrs. Lyddell, and Miss Faulkner seemed to intend to be intimate.
The day of the drawing-room had come; Mrs. Lyddell and Caroline were going, and Marian was of course to go with Lady Marchmont. She had just been full dressed, and had come down stairs to wait for Lady Marchmont's carriage, when a step was heard approaching. She thought it was the servant, to announce it; it was the servant, but the announcement was not what she expected. It was "Mr. Arundel,"--and Edmund stood before her, browner, thinner, older, but still Edmund himself.
She could not have spoken; she only held out her hand, and returned his strong pressure with all the force her soft fingers were capable of. Mrs. Lyddell spoke, he answered, explanations were given and received, and still she stood as if she was dreaming, until he turned to her, and said, "Well, Marian, these are transformations indeed?"
"I can't help it," said Marian.
"Do you think I want you to help it? I suppose I need not ask if the Marchmonts are in town?"
"Lady Marchmont presents Marian," said Mrs. Lyddell; "we expect her carriage every minute."
And just then the announcement really came.
"Her carriage, not herself?" said Edmund. "Well, I think I might go with you to her house, Marian, if your feathers are not ashamed of such shabby company."
"O, pray come!"
"And you will return to dinner, I hope, Mr. Arundel," said Mrs. Lyddell, "at half-past seven? Mr. Lyddell will be so glad to see you."
Edmund accepted the invitation, and the two cousins went down stairs together. As soon as they were in the carriage, Edmund said, "A lucky moment to come in. It is something to have seen you in all your splendour. You have grown into something magnificent!"
"All this finery makes me look taller than I really am."
"Nevertheless, however you may try to conceal it, I am afraid you have turned into the full grown cat. I saw it in your letter."
"O, Edmund, I am so sorry I wrote that letter."
"Why? Are you happier about Gerald?"
"No, I don't know that I am," said Marian, sighing; "but--but I little thought it would make so much difference to you. I did not know what I was doing."
"I am glad of it, or you would not have written so freely; though after all you could not have helped being like a sensible straightforward person."
"O, it is untold relief that you are come; and yet I must be sorry--"
"I won't have you sorry. No one should regret having told the honest truth. The fact is, I ought never to have gone. And poor Gerald?"
"I have no more to say, only vague fears. But now you are come, it is all right."
"Don't trust too much to me, Marian. Remember, it will be a generous thing in Gerald if he attends to me at all. He is not obliged to do so."
"You will--you must do everything. Gerald is as fond of you as ever, I know he is, though he would not write. O, I am glad! You heard of our delightful going home, I hope?"
"Yes. All well there?" said Edmund, hurriedly.
"Very well. Agnes is grown so tall, and it is so very nice there. The old Manor house--"
"Well," he broke in suddenly; "and how do you get on with Selina Marchmont."
"She is very, very kind. But O! here we are in her street, and I shall have no more of you to-day."
"Not at dinner?"
"O; it is a great, horrid party, as Mrs. Lyddell should have warned you."
"Could not I take you in to dinner?"
"I am afraid not. Mrs. Lyddell will never treat me as if I was at home, and I am afraid there is an honourable man that I must be bestowed on."
They had reached Lady Marchmont's door, and going up stairs, found her looking like a princess in a fairy tale, in her white plumes and her diamonds; and Willie, the smallest, most delicate, and prettiest of little boys, admiring the splendours of his papa's yeomanry uniform.
In spite of being considerably provoked with Edmund for having come home, Lord and Lady Marchmont welcomed him with as much warmth as if it was the most prudent thing he could have done. They insisted on his coming to stay at their house, and as it was full time to set off, left him to see about his worldly goods being transported thither.
"Has he told you his reason, Marian?" asked Selina, as soon as the two ladies and their trains were safely disposed of, in the carriage.
"I know them," said Marian, her colour rising, "and most noble they are; but I had rather let him tell you himself."
"Marian's discretion again," said Lord Marchmont, smiling.
"Only set me at rest on one point," said Selina; "it is no love affair, I hope?"
"No, indeed," said Marian; "or do you think he would have told me?"
Probably there were few young ladies who played their part that day in the drawing-room, that last remnant of the ancient state and majesty of our courts, with happier minds, or less intent on their own appearance, than Marian Arundel. She was very glad when the bustle and crowd were over, and she could be alone to enjoy the certainty that Edmund was really at home again.
He came according to promise that evening, but she could not have much conversation with him, as he was placed at a distance from her, the greater part of the time. He was not sorry to be thus able to watch her, though he did not see her in the point of view in which she pleased him best. She looked better now, he thought, than in the court dress; for the broad, simple, antique braids of her dark hair, only adorned by two large pearl pins, suited better than the plumes and lappets, with the cast of her classical features. All that he had thought promised beauty, as a child, had fulfilled the promise, and the countenance, the expression, would have been fine, seen on a much plainer face, and as she eat there, her black, shady eyes cast down, her dark pencilled eyebrows contrasting with her colourless cheek, and her plain white drapery in full folds, flowing round her, she might have been some majestic lady in a mysterious picture, who had stepped from her frame into a scene belonging to another age. She looked as if she was acting a tableau; she moved, indeed, and smiled, and spoke occasionally; but the queen-like deportment of her neck did not relax; her lips resumed their statue-like expression; there was no smile about the eye, no interest in the air. She was among the company, but not of them; neither shy nor formal, but as if she belonged to some other sphere, and had only come there by mistake. Edmund could have counted the times, for they were few enough, when her head bent forward with eagerness, and there was animation in her face.
How different from Caroline! her brightly coloured, blooming face sparkling with life and light; flowers among her light, shining hair; her dress of well-chosen, tasteful, brilliant tints, ornament, lace and ribbon, all well assorted in kind and quantity, her alert, lively movements carrying her from one group to another, with something pleasant and appropriate to say to all, bringing smiles and animation with her wherever she went. Not that Edmund did not prefer his cousin's severe simplicity, and admire it as something grand; but that stern grandeur was not all that fitted the place; and though he thought her beautiful, he was not satisfied.
Edmund had some talk with Mrs. Lyddell, who spoke of Gerald with great warmth; more, he thought, than she showed in the mention of Marian. He stayed till the last, and saw the relaxation of her grand company-face, before he wished them good night.
"Well," said Mrs. Lyddell, as the door closed behind him, and she lighted her candle, "Africa has not robbed Mr. Arundel of all his good looks. How old is he?"
"Nearly twenty-eight," said Marian.
"I am always forgetting that he is so young," said Mrs. Lyddell. "Well, good night. I wonder what brought him home?"
"I do not wonder, for it is plain enough," said Caroline, as the girls turned up their own staircase.
"Marian tries to look innocent," said Clara, laughing violently.
"I am sure I don't understand," said Marian.
"Now I am sure that is on purpose to make us explain," said Clara. "It is too bad, Marian; when he came straight to you, instead of going to Lady Marchmont."
"And the tête-à-tête in the carriage," said Caroline.
"Don't be so ridiculous," said Marian; "but I believe you like such jokes so well, that you would make them out of anything."
"I don't make a joke of it at all. I always thought it was with that very view, he was made your guardian."
"You very absurd persons, good night!" said Marian, shutting her door, and laughing to herself at such a very ludicrous idea as such a scheme on the part of her father.
These kind of jokes, of which some people are still very fond, may be very hurtful, since a young girl's inexperience may found far more upon them than the laughers ever intended. Caroline and Clara were not acting a kind part, though they were far from any unkind meaning. Marian had great susceptibility and deep affections; and had her mind been less strong, her happiness might have been seriously injured. Even if their observations had no real meaning, and no effect on her heart, yet they could not fail to occasion her many moments of embarrassment, and might interfere with her full, free confidence in her best and earliest friend.
In some degree they had this result. Marian began to be aware that her situation with Edmund was not without awkwardness,--that he was still a young man, and that she was now a young woman; and whilst shocked at herself, and disliking the moment that had opened the door to the thought, was obliged to consider how far there might be truth in the suggestion.
She was quite sure that she had influenced him strongly, quite sure that he regarded her with warm affection; she wished she was equally sure it was with a brother's love. Yes, she wished, for to think otherwise would lower him in her estimation. He was her first cousin, and if first cousins had better not marry he would never think of it; besides, the merit of his sacrificing all for Gerald's good would be lost, and his return would have been an act of self-gratification instead of self-devotion. No, she would not, could not believe any such thing; she was certain Edmund never would be so weak as to wish to do anything only doubtfully right, and thus, strangely enough, her full trust in the dignity of his character, prevented her from imagining him in love with her.
Still she knew her cousins were watching her, and this prevented her from ever meeting him in thorough comfort at Mr. Lyddell's; and even when at Lord Marchmont's, her maidenly reserve had been so far awakened as to make her shrink back from the full freedom of their former intercourse. This, however, was more in her feeling than in her manners, which, if they differed at all from what they were formerly, only seemed to be what naturally arose from her growth in years.
She observed that he was not in good spirits. It was not what others, not even Selina, could perceive, but Edmund and Marian had known each other too well and too long, not to read each other's faces, and know the meaning of each other's tones. She did not expect him to be as merry as in olden days at home, nor did she desire it; but there was more depression about him than she thought comfortable, and she was sure that it was an effort to him to talk in the lively way that had once been natural to him. She was afraid he felt the separation from his friends in his old regiment very severely, or else that he was very anxious about Gerald, and yet she had found out that the tenderest point of all was Fern Torr, for he either would not or could not speak of that, but always contrived to turn the conversation as soon as it was touched upon. She grieved over his unhappiness a great deal, and yet would not enter on any questioning, from an innate feeling, that it would not be becoming. He was only to stay a very short time in London, before joining his regiment at Portsmouth, and he meant to go and spend a day at Eton to see Gerald, but Lady Marchmont suddenly proposed that they should all go together; she said she must inspect Eton before Master Willie was ready to go, and that it would be a charming scheme to take Marian and surprise Gerald. Marian had a few secret doubts whether this was exactly the most suitable way of fulfilling Edmund's intentions, but it was so delightful a treat that she laid aside her scruples, and Selina coaxed her husband into finding a day to accompany them.
So one fine June morning, the day before Edmund's departure, they set off, Selina's high spirits and Marian's happiness giving the party a very joyous aspect. Father Thames looked as stately and silvery as ever, the playing fields smiled in the sunshine, and Windsor Castle looked down on them majestically. Marian felt it a holiday to have escaped from London into so fair a scene, and even if she had come for nothing else, would have been happy in beholding some of the most honoured spots in the broad realm of England.
She had many questions to ask, but Lord Marchmont was taken up with showing his old haunts to his wife, and she was walking some distance in front, with Edmund, on whose face there was an expression of melancholy thought that she would not disturb. He was an Etonian, and how fall of remembrances must all be around him.
Presently two or three boys met them running, and were passing them, when Marion exclaimed, "There is Lionel!" "Lyddell!" called Edmund, and one of them stopped, so taken by surprise that Marian was for a moment horrified by thinking she had mistaken him; but the next glance re-assured her, for she knew Lionel's way of standing, and his hat pulled far over his forehead.
"Lionel," said she, "where is Gerald?"
"Hallo! You here!" said he, wheeling round so that the light might not be in his eyes, and shading them with one hand while he tried to make out Edmund, and gave his other hand to Marian.
"How did you come here? Are any of the people at home here?"
"No, this is my cousin Edmund. I am come with the Marchmonts."
"You have quite forgotten me," said Edmund, shaking hands.
"Not if I could see you," said Lionel, frowning at the light, as he looked up.
"O, Lionel, how bad your eyes are!" exclaimed Marion.
"I have just been reading, and there is such a hideous sunshine to-day," said Lionel.
"And where is Gerald?"
"I'll go and fetch him."
"Where is he?"
"I'll find him," and off he ran, with a fresh pull of his hat over his forehead to keep off the hideous sunshine. The Marchmonts came up at the moment, and were told who he was, and that he was gone to find Gerald. Edmund asked what was the matter with his eyes.
"They are never very good," said Marian. "Reading and strong light always hurt them."
"Has he had any advice?"
"The surgeon at Oakworthy looked at them last Christmas, when the snow dazzled them, but he did not think there was much amiss with them. It was always so. But where can Gerald be?"
In the space of about five minutes, Gerald and Lionel appeared, and the former came up to them alone, with a look which had more of shyness than of pleasure, and his greeting, while more courteous, was less open and cordial than Lionel's had been. They all went together to the house of the boys' tutor, who had also been Edmund's; there was a great maze of talking and introductions: Lady Marchmont made herself very charming to the mistress of the house: Edmund and the tutor disappeared together, and did not come back till the others had nearly finished a most hospitable luncheon; after which the visitors set out to see all that there was time to see, and Marian caused Gerald to fetch Lionel to accompany them.
Lionel walked with Edmund and Marian, but Gerald on the other hand attached himself to Lord and Lady Marchmont, talking to them freely and pleasantly, answering Selina's questions, much to her amusement and satisfaction, and Lord Marchmont comparing notes with him, as old Etonians delight to do with "the sprightly race, disporting" for the time being, on the "margen green" of Father Thames. A particularly lively, pleasant, entertaining, well-mannered boy was Gerald, but, all the time, Marian was feeling that he was holding aloof both from her and Edmund, never allowing either of them the opportunity of speaking to him alone, for even a minute; and his manner, whenever Edmund either spoke to him or looked at him, was such as to betray to her that he was ill at ease.
Thus it was while they viewed the chapel, the court, with what Selina was pleased to call "Henry's holy shade," the upper school, the hundred steps, the terrace, and beautiful S. George's, with its gorgeous banners and carved stalls, and blazoned shields, that glimpse into the Gothic world of chivalry and romance; and in the midst of it that simple flat stone, which thrills the heart with a deep feeling at once of love, sorrow and reverence; that stone which recalls the desolate night which, in darkness and ruin, amid torn banners, and scutcheons riven, saw the Martyr king go white to his grave. Marian entered into all these things, in spite of her anxiety, for her mind was free enough to be open to external objects, now that her brother was in Edmund's hands, and she was relieved of that burthen of responsibility which had so pressed on her.
Such was their Eton day, and with no more satisfaction from Gerald did they part at the Slough station. The Marchmonts were loud in his praise, Marian sought the real opinion in Edmund's eyes, but he was leaning back, looking meditative, and when first he roused himself to enter into conversation, it was of Lionel and not of Gerald that he spoke.
"Do you say that any one has looked at that boy's eyes?"
"Yes, Mr. Wells, the Oakworthy apothecary."
"Do you know what is thought of him?"
"I don't know," said Marian considering. "He attends a good many people, I believe he is thought well of; but no one ever is ill at home, so I have no experience of him. Yes, he was called in once when we all had the measles, and last winter about Lionel's eyes. I am sure I don't know whether he is what you would call a good doctor or not; all I know is, that he is not at all like Dr. Oldham."
Edmund smiled. "Has Mrs. Lyddell not been uneasy?"
"O no!" said Marian. "No one ever troubles their head about Lionel, besides it was always so."
"His eyes were always weak, and easily tired and dazzled, from the very first when I knew him. They don't look as if there was anything amiss with them, and so people don't suspect it."
"I think they do look very much amiss," said Edmund. "Do not you observe an indistinctness about the pupil, between it and the iris? Can you tell whether that was always the case?"
"I don't know, I see what you mean. I should say it had begun of late. Do you think it so bad a sign?" she asked anxiously.
"I am not sure; I only know if he belonged to me, I should not like it at all."
Marian pondered and feared, and considered if it would be possible to stir up Mrs. Lyddell; she herself was much startled, and rather indignant; but she doubted greatly whether poor Lionel was of sufficient importance in the family for any one to be very anxious on his account. In the meantime, she was extremely desirous of hearing what account Edmund had received from the tutor respecting her brother, but she had no opportunity till late in the evening, when he came and sat by her on the sofa, saying, "Now, Marian, I will answer your anxious eyes, though I am afraid I have nothing very satisfactory to tell you. I don't know that there is any positive harm--it is only the old story of a clever boy with too much money, and too much left to himself. Idleness and thoughtlessness."
"And what shall you do?"
"I don't know--I must think."
Whereupon they both sat silent.
"I shall see you again in the summer," said he.
"O yes--perhaps you will come in Gerald's holidays."
Another silence, then she said, "Do you think very badly of poor Lionel's eyes?"
"No, I don't say that, for I know nothing, only I wonder his family are not more anxious."
"I shall see if Mrs. Lyddell will believe there is cause for alarm."
The carriage was announced, she wished him good-bye again, thanked her cousins for her pleasant day, and departed, wondering to herself how it could have been a pleasant day, as after all it had been, in spite of doubt and anxiety and care.
She told Mrs. Lyddell when she came in, that she had seen Lionel.
"How were his eyes?" asked Caroline.
"I am afraid they were more dazzled than usual."
No one said anything, and after a pause she went on. "Edmund remarked a sort of indistinctness about the pupil, which he said was not a good sign."
"What was that?" said Mr. Lyddell looking up, and Marian, startled, yet glad to have attracted his notice, repeated what she had said. "Did not Wells look at his eyes last winter?" he said, turning to his wife.
"Yes, he said he could not see anything the matter with them--they must be spared--and he sent a mixture to bathe them. Lionel has been using it continually."
"How would it be to have him up here to see some one?" said Mr. Lyddell.
"Better wait for the holidays," answered his wife. "It would be the worst thing possible to set him thinking, about his eyes in the middle of the half-year. Little as he does now, it would soon be less, and his eyes have kept him back so much already that he really cannot afford to lose any more time."
There it ended, Mrs. Lyddell was not to be alarmed; she had been too long used to prosperity even to contemplate the possibility that harm should come nigh to her or to her dwelling. Mr. Lyddell, who left all family matters to her, forgot all about it, and though Marian talked Caroline into some fears on the subject, Caroline could do no more than she could herself.
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