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"What is that which I should turn to, lighting upon days like these?
Every door is barr'd with gold and opens but to golden keys.
"Yearning for the large excitement that the coming years would yield,
Eager hearted as a boy when he first leaves his father's field."--TENNYSON.
Marian was not up much later than usual the next morning, but she had a long time to wait for the rest of the party. She read, wrote, drew, tried to busy herself as usual all the morning, but whether it was that she was tired with her ball, or that she was anxious about Caroline, she did not prosper very much, and grew restless and dissatisfied. She wished she knew whether she had done right, she wished she could feel that she had been kind and accommodating.
Her head was dull and heavy from the struggle to occupy herself when her mind was full, and after luncheon she tried to drive her stupidity away by a very long ride. Groom and horses were always at her service, as a part of Mrs. Lyddell's justice to her, and off she set, in search of breezes, to the highest and furthest downs, by her attainable. On she went, cantering fast, feeling her power over her spirited pony, letting the summer sun shine full on her face, and the wind, when she had ridden where she could meet it, stream in a soft ripple round her head, like the waves of the summer tide. She rode far enough to attain the object she had proposed to herself, namely, to look down on Salisbury spire, pointing up in its green valley with the fresh meadows around it, giving a sense of refreshment, repose and holy influence, which her eye carried to her mind. Good men had raised that pile, had knelt there, sung in praise there, and now lay asleep within its grey walls and shady cloisters; men and women who had been to the full as much wearied and perplexed with sin and worldliness around them as she could ever feel; they had struggled through, their worn and fainting hearts had rested there, and now their time of peace was come. Why should it not be so with her?
Ah! but things were changed; in their time there was energy; there were great crimes indeed, but the Church was active. The bad was very bad, but the good was very good, there were real broad questions then of right and wrong, not the coldness and frivolity, where all was so worthless that there was scarce a possibility of caring or seeing which part was the right.
No, Marian would not accuse the time in which she was born, and the station to which it had pleased God to call her. Mr. Wortley had warned her against that. She had a Church, the one true holy Catholic Church, as surely and truly, nay, the very same that those men of old had, and was as much bound to love it, serve it, fight for it in her own way, as ever they had felt themselves. Life, truth, goodness, there was still, she saw it, knew it, felt it in some; and though there was little of it in her immediate home, so little as to make her heart faint, she knew that
"Israel yet has thousands sealed Who to Baal never kneeled."
If there was this frivolity, this deadness and chilliness about these present days, she knew it was a temptation long since prophesied of, as about to grow on the world "when, the love of many should wax cold," but the help and the hope were never to fail, and while she might but grasp after them, she had enough to do, and need not feel faint and weary.
Her ride had done her good, her sensation of bodily lassitude and mental stupidity had been driven off by the active exercise which had produced a more wholesome kind of fatigue, and the temper which tended to discontent had partly gone with them, partly been chased away by reflection in a right spirit. As she was entering the park, Elliot, also on horseback, came up in time to profit by the same opening of the gate.
"Are you but just come home, Marian?" said he, "I thought I was very late."
"I don't know what o'clock it is, but I see the sun is getting low."
"Have not you been at High Down?"
"No, I have been to Beacon Hill."
"To Beacon Hill! That is a ride! And you have not seen any of them since they came home?"
"No, I have been out all the afternoon."
"Well, I have a notion you will have something to hear. I dare say you have some idea. Catch a young lady not up to a thing like that."
A cold horror and disgust came over Marian, and she would not make a single inquiry, but Elliot went on.
"So you will ask no questions? I believe you are in the secret the whole time."
"No, I am not."
"No? You will never persuade me that you are not. Why, what else can you ladies sit up half the night talking about in your bed rooms?"
Marian despised him too much to deny.
"Then do you really mean to profess," said Elliot, turning full towards her, so as to look her in the face in what she deemed an impertinent way, "that you cannot guess the news that is waiting for you?"
For once in her life she could not say "I don't know," and her answer was a very cold "I believe I do;" while in the meantime she was almost feeling, and quite looking, as if she could have cut off his bead. His disagreeableness was the one present pain, but behind it was undefined consternation, for she perceived that, at any rate, he did not think Caroline had refused Mr. Faulkner.
"You keep your congratulations till it is formally announced," said he maliciously, still looking at her, though few save himself could have failed to be abashed by the firm, severe expression of her dark eyes, and lips compressed into all the sternness of the Queen of Olympus.
Happily they were so close to the house that Marian, who would not deign a reply, could avoid him without absolute rudeness. She threw her rein to the groom, and sprung to the ground before Elliot had time to offer his assistance, then ran hastily across the hall just as Clara was coming out of the drawing-room.
"Why, Elliot!" cried Clara meeting her brother, "you have not been riding with Marian?"
"With Marian? No, I thank you! I only met with her at the gate, and have been spoiling your market."
"You don't mean that you have been telling her?" cried Clara; "O I wanted to have been first."
"Precious little thanks you'll get!" said Elliot; but Clara, without attending to him, flew up stairs after Marian, who had reached her room, and while Fanny was endeavouring to get her dressed in time for dinner, was trying to collect her dismayed thoughts. She would not believe Caroline so foolish, nay, so wicked as to accept him, yet if it could possibly be true, what in the world should she say or do which way should she look, or how should she answer? In the midst of her first confusion in danced Clara, with a face full of delight at having something to tell, then looking blank at Fanny's presence.
"Marian--my dear Marian--what do you think?" was her first eager beginning, then changing into "How--how late you are--where have you been! I really thought you had been out with Elliot," and she laughed.
"I only fell in with him at the gate. I have been to Beacon Hill."
"Have you indeed? O I wish you had come with mamma! So Elliot has been provoking, and told you," she added, stopping there, and looking significant.
Marian glanced at Fanny, and shook her head. She was very glad she had such a protector, to give her time to collect her thoughts, but this was not easy, for Clara went rattling on in an eager discursive way about all sorts of things, the archery, the dancing, the partners, the dresses, hardly knowing what she said, nor Marian either, fidgeting about, trying to expedite the dressing, and looking most impatient, till at last Marian, anxious to know what had really taken place, pitying her eagerness, and willing to have it over, hurried the fastening of her dress, and arranging of her lace, and told Fanny to leave them.
"O Marian! Marian! what a shame of Elliot to have told you all about it. Did you expect it?"
"He only half told me," replied Marian, "but make haste, Clara, let me hear. Is Caroline really engaged?"
"Yes--yes--O yes! and every one is so delighted, Lady Julia, and Julia and Louisa, and all!"
"And she has accepted him?"
"O yes to be sure--at least--yes, only you know it is too soon to settle when they will be married. What a charming wedding it will be, won't it, Marian?--you and I find Julia and Louisa, and their cousins will be bridesmaids O! how delightful it will be. And then I shall come out."
"But Clara, Clara, don't be wild, do tell me all about it."
"Ah! you see you missed something by not coming to stay there as we did. And to tell you a great secret, Marian, Louisa says she really believes that it was you that her brother thought of, when he first accepted Elliot's invitation to come and stay here."
"Nonsense," said Marian, though her colour would rise.
"And he had not seen Caroline then, Louisa says," proceeded Clara, but there she got into an inextricable confusion, and was not speedy in stammering out of it, having suddenly remembered that it was no great compliment to tell Marian that Louisa had said how glad they all were that it was not Miss Arundel. Marian cut the hesitation short by saying, "You have not told me when it was settled, or how you heard it."
"It was settled last night after you were gone--in the conservatory-- such a pretty place for a love affair, as Louisa says--at least I mean he asked her, but I don't think she gave him any real regular answer-- no, certainly she did not."
"Did you know of it that evening?"
"O yes, Louisa and I had great fun in watching him all day, and all the day before, we saw it all quite plain."
"But did Caroline tell you that night?"
"Yes, of course she did. She could not have kept it from me, you know, for I began to laugh at her the minute we came up, and asked her if she had not been delightfully employed, and you should have seen what a colour she grew directly."
"And what did she say?" asked Marian very anxiously, almost hoping it might prove that Caroline's acceptance might have been taken for granted without having been really given.
"I don't exactly remember what she said, she was very grave and said it was no laughing matter, or something of that kind, and she walked up and down and begged me to be quiet and let her think."
"Then I begged her only to let me know if he had proposed, and what she had said, and she told me she had said nothing--she could not tell--she must have time, and then she leant her head against the side of the bed, and said she wished she knew what to do! And when I tried to cheer her up, and said how delightful it would be----"
"O Clara, how could you?" broke from Marian.
"Ah! I know you can't bear the Faulkners, but you must now, for they will be your cousins, you know, Marian. And I assure you I did not say anything silly, I said it was not only that Mr. Faulkner is handsome and rich, that would not be anything, you know, but he is so sensible and so agreeable, and kind, and good tempered, and we are all so fond of him, and the Faulkners all so fond of her, and it would be so very nice to have her close to us, and mamma would be so charmed. Well, poor dear girl, she did not sleep at all that night, and this morning she only wanted, if she could, to have sent a note for us to be sent for to come home to breakfast, but that could not be, you know, and when we came down, Lady Julia was so kind and affectionate, and kissed her and said she was tired, and took her to lie on the sofa, in the little boudoir. Lady Julia sat with her there first, and then Mr. Faulkner came, and stayed with her a long, long time."
"O!" sighed Marian, "was it settled then?"
"Not exactly settled, but somewhere about three o'clock, Mr. Faulkner ordered his horse, and rode out to find papa, and then Caroline ran up to our room, and bolted the door, and said she could not let me in, but just then mamma came and went up to her, and it was all joy and congratulation through the whole house. Mr. Faulkner came back and papa with him. But dear me, there is the second bell! Come, Marian! O, I do so wish you had been there."
If Marian had been there, perhaps things would not have been exactly as they were at present, though this was very far from what Clara intended by her wish. Marian had done infinite mischief by the severity which had weakened the only home influence excepting Walter's which held Caroline to the right. Caroline respected her extremely, but the confidence and affection which had been growing up slowly but surely out of that root of esteem, had been grievously dulled and blighted, and at a most critical time. It had in fact been almost killed down to the ground, and though the root was a healthy one, and might yet shoot forth again, the opportunity had been missed when it might have been turned to good account.
Caroline knew Mr. Faulkner not to be a religious man, and her better principles warned her against him; but on the other hand she really liked his manners extremely, her heart was warmed towards him by his preference and expressions of affection, and she did not know whether she loved him already or not, or whether she should allow herself to love him, as he was sure she could do. She had been used to a world where the service of GOD was not the first object; she had always lived with men whose thoughts and time were otherwise engrossed, and though she might regret what she saw, her standard had been lowered, and she was far less inclined to hold aloof front one whom her conscience did not approve, than if she had been accustomed to see everything desirable in her own family; in those whom nature and duty obliged her to love and respect.
By the Faulkners she was greeted with such kindness as to win her heart, and she thought the power she would enjoy at High Down would enable her to set things on a footing there, on which she could never place them at home; she could not fail to be happy with Mr. Faulkner; she might work upon his mind, if he loved her as he said he did. Still there stood the great unanswerable obstacle, the three words, "It is wrong!" If she stood alone, if there was no family on either side, she could, she would refuse, but dismay seized on her when she thought of the displeasure, the persecution at home if she rejected him; on the other hand she shrank from ingratitude for the kindness of the Faulkners. There was Clara putting her in mind of all that could bias her in his favour, rejoicing already, saying how all the family would rejoice.
O that interval, that night! if Marian had but stood there with the grave, earnest, heartfelt voice that repelled all sophistry with the wonted "I don't know," if the dark eyes had been there to look with contempt on all but the "right," and to fill with tears, the more touching because so rare, as her tenderness, her deep feeling would have been called out by the sensation of seeing and aiding a friend to struggle nobly against a temptation, if Caroline had felt and seen the superiority, the loveableness of real, true, uncompromising regard for right, and right alone, if she had been by one touch made to partake of the horror Marian felt of any failure in faith, then all the innate strength and nobleness of her character might have been awakened, and she would have clung to "the right" at any cost, supported, carried through by Marian's approval and sympathy, keeping her up to feel that higher approval was with her.
But alas! alas! Marian was at a distance, and her image had at present connected itself with harshness and haughtiness. She might be good; but such goodness did not invite imitation; she did not appear half as agreeable as the Faulkners. Caroline turned away from the recollection of her, was all night and all the morning distressed, undecided, and vacillating; then came Lady Julia's affection, her lover pressing his suit, she hardly knew what she had said, but she found her consent was assumed, both families were rejoicing in it, she found herself considered to be engaged, and she returned home bewildered at all that had passed, flattered, almost intoxicated with the attention of various kinds paid her by every one, at High Down, and when her wonted dread of Marian's disapproving eye would return, hardening herself against it with the thought that Marian could not make every one as Utopian as her own Edmund and Fern Torr, that she was proud and determined in prejudice, and after all what right had she to interfere? Of Walter, Caroline did not dare to think.
Marian came down with Clara, wearing a rigid company countenance, expressing more of indifference than of anything else; she would not look at Caroline lest her eye should seem to judge her, and only by furtive glances perceived that she looked pale, worn and wearied. There was talk about the ball going on all dinner-time, but Caroline hardly put in a word, and Marian's were not many. Directly after dinner Caroline said she was tired, and should lie down till tea-time; she went and Mrs. Lyddell, taking Marian by the hand, exclaimed, "Now, Marian, I must be congratulated. I suppose Clara has told you all about it."
"Yes, Clara told me," said Marian, resolved not to offend except where she could not avoid it without sacrificing truth.
"You could scarcely be surprised," said Mrs. Lyddell. "It has been evident for a long time. Dear Caroline! Well, I am sure this is a satisfaction! Settled so near home, and family and connection exactly what could be wished; and so extremely fond of her."
"Yes, Lady Julia is very fond of her."
Mrs. Lyddell was too much rejoiced herself not to take sympathy for granted. The point, on which Caroline's scruples were founded, and which caused Marian's dislike, had never even occurred to her: she lived little, or rather not at all, in Marian's confidence, and really did not know that she disliked the Faulkners more than any one else, since her manners were so universally distant, that a little ungraciousness more or less was not very visible to a casual observer like Mrs. Lyddell. That same ordinary coldness and undemonstrativeness which had never thawed to Mrs. Lyddell was the reason that the entire absence of any expression of gladness or congratulation was not remarked, or at least only taken as her way, and besides at the bottom of her heart, Mrs. Lyddell was very much obliged to Marian for the repelling manner which had left the field to her daughter. So Marian got very well through half an hour's interview, without giving offence; but she feared the tÍte-ŗ-tÍte with Caroline, and resolved as much as possible to avoid it, since she could do no good, and did not think it right to express her sentiments unless they were positively called for. Disappointed in Caroline, grieved, giving her up for lost, yet loving and pitying her, she had rather never meet her again, certainly not have any confidential intercourse with her.
She need not have feared: Caroline was quite as much inclined to avoid her as she could be to avoid Caroline; by mutual consent they shunned being left alone together, and talked of indifferent matters if they were, for there was not familiarity enough for silence. When with the others Caroline was the same as usual, lively, agreeable, obliging; perhaps, and Marian thought it strange, a shade gayer than her wont. In her behaviour to Mr. Faulkner every one agreed that she was exactly the right thing, quiet and sensible, and, as people said, "evidently so very much attached to him." Marian would have given worlds to know what was passing in her secret soul, but the right of reading there was gone. What did Walter think? To this also there was no answer; if he wrote, Marian heard nothing about his letter, and he did not come home. He was to be ordained in the autumn to a curacy in a large manufacturing town in the north of England, and in the meantime he was staying there with one of the other curates, helping in the schools, and learning something of the work before him. There was not a doubt in Marian's mind that his sister's engagement must be a great sorrow to him, and that this was the reason why he would not come home, even for a short visit. For Caroline, so really good, right thinking and excellent as she was, so far above the general tone of her family, wilfully to place herself in such a situation, to cast away all the high and true principles with which she had once been imbued, was too sad and grievous to be borne by one who loved her as Marian, did all the time, and how much worse it must be for her brother?
Yes, little did most of those who saw Marian's unmoved, marble countenance, and heard her stiff, formal words, guess at the intensity of feeling beneath, which to those who knew her best was betokened by that very severity; how acutely she was suffering for the future before Caroline, how strong were the impulses to plead with her once more, how sick and loathing her heart felt at the manner in which this hateful connection was treated by all around. If that reserve could, or ought to, have been broken, Marian would have astonished them all.
If her former anxieties about Gerald had been as of old, she really did not know how she could have endured them in addition to all this; but while she was at ease about him nothing could quite overwhelm her. And she was very happy about him; Mr. Lyddell had readily consented to the Highland plan, and Gerald was so enchanted that he forgot all his former fears of Edmund, saw in him only a fellow-sportsman, and when he wrote to tell his sister of the project, decorated his letter with a portrait of the holidays, every one of the thirty-seven days represented in a sort of succession of clouds one behind the other, in each of which Gerald was doing something delightful,--boating, shooting, bagging his game, and enjoying an infinite variety of sports, the invention and representation of which did considerable credit to his ingenuity. On the very day after the Eton election, he met Edmund in London, and they set off together to spend the time before the ecstatic twelfth of August in visits to the Trosachs, to Fingal's cave and every other Scottish wonder of note.
Lionel returned alone, and the first thing he said as he skimmed his hat across the hall table was, "There! thank goodness, I shan't touch a book again these five weeks!" Every one asked after his eyes, but they told their own story, for they were considerably inflamed, and so evidently out of order that Mrs. Lyddell herself grew anxious, and the apothecary, Mr. Wells, was sent for. He spoke of their having been over tried by the school work, advised complete rest, and sent his mixture to bathe them, which in a day or two reduced the inflammation, made them comfortable, and restored them to their ordinary appearance, so that all anxiety passed off again.
Marian, like the others, dismissed the fear, though a flash of apprehension now and then crossed her mind. She was more with Lionel than the others, they had always been great allies, and at present were more thrown together than had ever been the case before. Johnny had been appointed to a ship which was to sail from Plymouth in a very short time, and he only came home for two or three days, from the school where he had been prepared. Mr. Lyddell took him to London for his outfit, and then on to Plymouth; Mrs. Lyddell was extremely overset, more so than Marian had thought her capable of being, for Johnny was her favourite, she regarded him as a victim, and could not bear to expose him to all the perils of sea and climate.
Johnny however went to Plymouth, and then there was nothing to be desired but that he should soon sail, that his mother might settle her mind, for in the mean time she was nervously anxious and restless, and could scarcely give her attention to anything, not even to the Faulkners, far less to what Marian was observing from time to time about Lionel's eyes.
Now that John and Gerald were away, Lionel was deprived of his wonted companions: Elliot did not patronize him, and was besides too busy about the races to occasion on his own account any home sports in which Lionel might have taken a share, so that there was no companionship for him excepting with the young ladies. Caroline's and Clara's time was a great deal taken up with the Faulkners, and Marian and Lionel were thus left out by all and almost obliged to make a coalition.
Lionel haunted the drawing-room in the morning, either talking in the half-rhodomontade, half-in-earnest fashion of boys of sixteen, or listening if there was any reading aloud going forward. Clara's readings with Marian and Caroline had well-nigh fallen to the ground now, and Caroline almost always spent the morning in her own room, but Marian now and then caught Clara and managed to get her to do something rational. More often, however, the reading was on Marian's part to Lionel; he liked to hear her read scraps of any book she might have in hand, and she was very merciful to him in the selection, not being by any means too wise. She read him likewise the new numbers of the periodical tales, as well as the particulars of the rowing matches and cricket matches, overcoming for his sake her dislike to touching Elliot's sporting newspaper. Indeed she had not so forgotten her cricket as not to be very much interested, to enter into all his notes and comments, and to be as anxious for the success of Eton as he was himself, so that if she had been called to give an account of her whole morning's work for three days, she could have said nothing of it but that she had been studying the matches at Lord's.
In the afternoon, if Marian could escape from the drive in the carriage, they walked or rode together, the latter when it was not too bright a day, for Lionel avoided the sunshine like an owl; and when in their walks a sunny field, or piece of down had to be passed, he drew his hat down and came under the shelter of Marian's parasol, as if he fairly dreaded the glare. He was very apt too not to recognise people whom they met, and now and then made such strange mistakes about small objects near at hand, that though they were laughed at just at the moment, Marian thought them fearful signs when she recollected them afterwards, in that half-waking half-sleeping time when she had learnt to entertain herself with anxieties. Chess or backgammon was the great resource in the evening, when there was no dining out, and no grand dinner party, and the number of games Marian played with him were beyond all reckoning. He played, she thought, more by the touch than the eye, often feeling the head of a piece to satisfy himself whether it had the king's crown or the queen's round head, the bishop's mitre or the knight's ears, but he was so quick and ready that it was impossible to tell how far the defect of sight went, and she could not bear to ask or awaken his fears.
She did not think he had any; she did not believe that he had ever seen quite as well as other people, and therefore trusted to sight less than most; and his eyes had been so often ailing, and then better, that he was not likely to take alarm now. If he had, she believed he would have told her, for he was very confidential with her, and she often thought it a great pity that no one else had thought it worth while to enter into him enough to find out what a right-thinking, sensible boy he was, and how affectionate he would be if they would only let him. One day, when they had been taking a long ride together, he began talking about his intentions for the future. It arose out of some observation about the value of a tree in a new and an old country. Marian had been lamenting that no modern houses were ever built with the beautiful patterns of dark timbers, as we see them in old farm-houses; and Lionel answering that so much wood could never be afforded in England now.
"No, you must go to a primeval forest for that," said Marian; "and very stupid it is of the people in the colonies to build houses as bad or worse than ours, when they have all the materials for nothing."
"Well, I will build a famous house when I emigrate," said Lionel; "a regular model of an old English farm-house it shall be,--stout, and strong, and handsome,--just to put the people in mind that they do belong to an old country, after all."
"When you emigrate, Lionel?"
"Yes, I really have a great mind to do so, seriously, Marian," and he rode nearer to her. "I do think it would be the best thing I could do. Don't you think so?"
"I don't know," said Marian, considering, while his eager face was turned towards her.
"You see," Lionel continued, "we must all do something for ourselves; and I am sure my eyes will never be fit for study. To be a clergyman is out of the question for me, even if I was good enough; and so is the law--"
"Yes, yes, certainly."
"Well, then, there is only the army, and there one can't get on without money. Now you know Elliot has been a monstrous expense to my father of late, and the times have grown so bad, and everything altogether has gone wrong; so that I think the only thing for it would be for me to go off to some new part of the world, where, when I once had a start, my own head and hands would maintain me,--no thanks to anybody."
"I dare say it would," said Marian, rather sadly, "I am sure these are right grounds, Lionel; but it is a terrible severing of all home ties."
"O, but I should come back again. I should be an Englishman still, and come back when I had made my fortune."
"O, Lionel, don't be in a hurry to make a fortune; that spoils every one."
"No, no, I am not going to grasp and grub for money; I hate that. Only if the fortune comes, one does not know how, with cattle, or horses, or lands--O, Marian, think of being an Australian stockman, riding after those famous jockeys of wild bulls--hurra!" Lionel rose in his stirrups, and flourished his whip round his head, so as greatly to amaze his steed. "There is a life to lead in a great place bigger than all Europe, instead of being stifled up in this little bit of a poky England, every profession choke full of people!"
"Well done, Lionel, you do want a field indeed!"
"So I do. I hate to be fenced up, and in, every way. I should like to break out in some fresh place, and feel I had all the world before me! Then I'll tell you what, Marian," and he spoke with infinite relish, "suppose matters got a little worse here, and they were all of them really in distress!"
"Well, but listen. Then I should like to come home with all this fortune that I had made somehow, and get them all on their legs again; buy back the estate, perhaps, and give it to papa again; and then--and then"--his voice quivered a little, and his eyes winked, as if the sun had dazzled them--"see if mamma would not think me worth something, after all!"
This was the only time Lionel had ever said a word to show that he was conscious of his mother's disregard of him; and the feeling it called up made Marian's heart so full that she could not reply. But he wanted no answer, and went on. "Would not that be worth living for, Marian? But, after all, that is all nonsense," he added, with a sigh; "at least it is all a chance. But what I really think is, that I should do much better for myself and every one else, in one of the colonies; and I have a great mind to speak to my father about it. By the by, I wish Mr. Arundel would come here when he has finished his journey with Gerald; I should like to talk to him about the Cape. I rather fancy the Cape, because of the lions; and one might have a chance of a row now and then with the Caffres."
Marian began telling all she could about the Cape, and from that time her tÍte-ŗ-tÍtes with Lionel were chiefly spent in discussions upon the comparative merits of the colonies. One thing Lionel was resolved on. "I will go somewhere where there is a Church within a tolerable distance,--say twenty miles; that is a short one for a colony, you know, Marian; for I know I am such a wild fellow, that I should very soon forget everything good, if I had not something to put me in mind of it. Or, by the by, Marian, what would be jolly would be to get Walter to go; I dare say he would, if it was some place where they were very badly off indeed, with plenty of natives, and all very savage."
Marian understood quite well enough, to agree that it must be some place "very badly off indeed" to invite Walter, and Lionel greatly enjoyed the further arranging of plans for taking care of his intended chaplain, whom he meant to save from roughing it as much as possible. However, this might be regarded as a very aerial pinnacle of his castle, the first foundation of which was yet to be laid, by broaching the subject to his father. Lionel talked over the proposing it many times with his counsellor, and at length resolved upon it, with some slight hope that it might save his eyes from the suffering of another half year at Eton, which, as the holidays came nearer to an end, he began to dread.
"You see, Marian," he said, "I do not like to give out, when I can help it, for they think it shirking, and there was a time when I did shirk; but a great many times last half, I was nearly mad with the aching and smarting of my eyes after I had been reading. And all I did was by bits now and then; for if I went on long the letters danced, and there was a mist between me and them."
"I wish you would tell Mr. Lyddell; I am sure it is not fit to go on in such a way."
"I have told Wells," answered Lionel.
A pause--then Lionel said, "I believe papa is in the library; I'll go and speak to him about the emigration."
Marian was very anxious to hear the result of the conference, but she could not find out anything just at first as she had to drive out with Mrs. Lyddell and Caroline to make calls. In the evening, over the game at chess, Lionel told her that his father said he should talk to his mother about it; and two days after he came to her in the hall, saying, "Come and take a turn in the plantation walk, Marian; 'tis nice and shady there, and I have something to tell you."
The something was as follows: "Well, Marian, my father was very kind, paid something about its being a sensible notion, and that he would see about it."
"But are you to go back to Eton?"
"Yes, that must be; and I must scramble on as best I may. It will be better at first, after all this rest. It is something gained that the whole plan is not knocked on the head at once."
"Then he gives his consent?"
"Why, he says it will be time to think of it in a year or two, and I am too young as yet, which is true enough; only, I wish I was to be learning farming, instead of torturing my eyes with what will be no good out there. Then he said, as to giving up the army, I need not think that was necessary, because it was only that he did not want to have two sons in it, and now Johnny is otherwise disposed of; and, besides Mr. Faulkner had behaved in such a handsome way about Caroline's fortune.'
"O!" said Marian.
"Yes, I don't like that at all," said Lionel. "Johnny always was crazy to be a sailor, so he is all right, and that is not what I care for; but I don't want to be beholden to Mr. Faulkner. I had rather Caroline had her own money, and not that we should all profit by her making this grand marriage."
"I should quite feel with you."
"Marian, we have never talked that over; but I know you cannot bear the Faulkners."
"What is the use of asking me, Lionel?"
"O, I know you can't, as well as if you had said so; and I want to know how you could let Caroline go and do such a thing?"
"I? How could I help it?" said Marian smiling, at the boy's assuming that she had power of which she was far from being conscious. "Besides, I thought you liked Mr. Faulkner; you, all of you, did nothing but praise him at Christmas."
"I did at first, not at last," said Lionel. "Besides, liking a man to go out shooting with is not the same as liking him to marry one's sister."
"By no means!" cried Marian, emphatically. "But what made you think ill of him?"
"Things I heard him say to Elliot when we were out together."
"Did Gerald hear them?" asked Marian, very anxiously, as she remembered what a hero Mr. Faulkner was in her brother's estimation.
"No, I don't think he did. He certainly was not there the worst time of all,--the time that gave a meaning to all the rest. Don't you remember that day when Mr. Faulkner drove Elliot and me in his dog-cart to look at that horse at Salisbury? I am sure I never praised him after that day. He said what Elliot never would have said himself--never."
"How?" Marian could not help asking, though she doubted the next moment whether it was wise to have done so.
"Things about--about religion--the Bible," said Lionel, looking down and mumbling, as if it was with difficulty that he squeezed out the answer. "Now, you know, I have heard," he added, speaking more freely, "I have heard people make fun with a text or a name out of the Bible many a time; and though that is very bad of them, I think they don't mean much harm by it. Indeed, I have now and then done it myself, and should oftener, if I had not known how you hated it."
"It is a very wrong thing," but I see what you mean,--that some people do it from want of thought."
"Yes, just so; but that is a very different thing from almost quizzing the whole Bible,--at least talking as if it was an absurd thing to accept the whole of it, I do declare, Marian, he was worse when he began to praise it than he was before; for he talked of the Old Testament as if it was just like the Greek mythology, and then he compared it to Homer, and ∆schylus, and the Koran. To be sure he did say it was better poetry and morality; but the idea of comparing it! I don't mean comparing as if it must be better, but as if it stood on the same ground."
"And did Elliot listen to all this?" said Marian, thinking the poison must have been in rather too intellectual a form for Elliot.
"He listened," said Lionel. "I don't think he would ever set up to say such things for himself; but I believe he rather liked hearing them said. I am quite sure this Faulkner will make him worse than he is already, for all this talk is a hundred times worse than going on in Elliot's way."
"To be sure it is--a thousand times!"
"But what I want to know is this, Marian? has Caroline got any notion of what sort of a man she has got? Because if she does it with her eyes open, it can't be helped; but if not, I think she ought to be warned; for I don't suppose the man is fool enough to talk in this way to her. Indeed, I think I heard him say that believing is all very well for women."
"Why don't you tell her, then?"
"That is the very thing I had on my mind all these holidays; but I know no one would ever listen to me. If Walter was here it would be a very different thing, for he is worth attending to, and Caroline knows that; though she thinks I have no sense at all but for mischief."
"She could not think so, if she heard you speak as you do now."
"Then there is another thing, Marian, and what makes it quite--at least very nearly out of the question; I don't believe they in the least reckoned on my hearing all this. You know the man is very good-natured; well, he took me up to go instead of his servant, and I was sitting back to back with them. I sometimes think my bad eyes have made my ears sharper, for I know I often hear when other people don't; and so I should not expect they supposed in the least that I was attending, though I did not miss a word, for I could not help hearing. Now, you see, I could not possibly go and betray him; and if you were not the safest person in the world, I would never have told you: only, if somebody could just give Caroline a hint that she is going to marry an infidel, it would be a pleasant thing."
"A pleasant thing!" repeated Marian. Then she paused, considering, and Lionel waited patiently while she did so, "I see," she said at last, "that you could hardly tell her of this conversation; and after all, Lionel, I believe we knew what was quite as bad of him from the first: this only proves it a little more fully."
"Yes, Lord Marchmont told me something of it; and I mentioned it to Caroline before he came here at all."
"O, that is right!" said Lionel, greatly relieved, "then it is no concern of mine; though what can possess Caroline, I can't think. Is it love, I wonder?"
"I suppose so," said Marian, sighing.
"Well, it is a queer thing," said the boy. "I should have thought Caroline was one to care about such matters more than I, but perhaps she means to convert him. So! I did think Caroline was good for something, but it is no affair of mine; and I shall be all the more glad to get off to New Zealand to be out of the sight of it all."
"It is very sad indeed!" said Marian. "I am sure it will be nothing but wretchedness. Caroline can blind herself now, but that will not go on."
"And why can't you speak to her, and stop her? She used to mind you. Does she come and talk about this man as if he was perfection?"
"No," was the sorrowful reply. "She knew from the first my opinion of him, and we never have any talks now. We never have had one since she was first engaged."
"Whew!" whistled Lionel. "Then she does mean to go and do it, and no mistake! Then I've done with her, and shan't think about her any more than I can help. If she won't be warned, she must Lave her own way, and may marry the Grand Turk, if she likes it better." He whistled again, proposed a ride, and went to order the horses; while Marian, walking slowly to the house to prepare, did not so much grieve for Caroline, for that was an old accustomed sorrow, as marvel at the manner in which Lionel had spoken, and wonder where he had learnt the right views and excellent sense he had displayed. Far was she from guessing the value of such a steady witness to the truth as she had been from the first hour when Lionel had perceived and maintained "that she had no humbug in her;" how her cares for her brother had borne fruit in him; how he learnt from her to reverence goodness, and cleave to the right; and how he looked up to her, because her words were few, and her deeds consistent. More right in theory, than steady in practice was Lionel; very unformed, left untrained by those whose duty it was to watch him; but the seeds had been sown, and be his future life what it might, it could not but bear the impress of the years she had spent in the same family.
She knew nothing of all this; she only thought, as she watched his quick, bounding run, that he, the least regarded, was the flower of the flock, with principles as good as Walter's, and so much more manly and active. For Marian, with all her respect for Walter, could not help wishing, like the boys, that he had more life and spirit, and less timidity. A little mental courage would, she thought, have brought him to expostulate with Caroline, instead of keeping out of the way, and leaving her to her fate. Edmund would not have done so.
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