Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
"Let us be patient. These severe afflictions
Not from the ground arise
But oftentimes celestial benedictions
Assume this dark disguise.
"We see but dimly through the mists and vapours
Amid these earthly damps
What seems to us but sad funereal tapers
May be heaven's distant lamps."--LONGFELLOW.
There were morning prayers before the hurried breakfast, which was interspersed with numerous directions about what was to be done for Mrs. Lyddell, and what letters were to be sent after Mr. Lyddell. Lionel was grave and silent, as became one whose fate was in the balance, without either shrinking or bravado; but somewhat as if he was more inclined, than had been the case last night, to hope for a favorable result. With heartfelt prayers did Marian watch him as be crossed the hall and entered the carriage, calling out a cheerful good-bye,--prayers that, if it were the will of Heaven, his affliction might be removed; but that if not, help might be given him to turn it into a blessing, as he seemed almost to be beginning to do. His father, too,--little had Marian ever thought to feel for him the affectionate compassion and sympathy, of which she was now sensible, as she responded to his kind, fatherly farewell, and thought of what he must be feeling; obliged to leave his wife in so anxious and suffering a state; his daughter, the pride of the family, removed so suddenly; his most promising son probably blind for life; his eldest, a grief, pain, and shame to them all. Marian must pray for him too, that he might be supported and aided through these most bitter trials, and that the work which they had begun in him might go on and be perfected; that these troubles, grievous as they were, might in his ease also turn to blessings.
The occupation of the two girls was all day the care of Mrs. Lyddell. She was not worse, as far as bodily ailments went; the attack of cold, brought on by leaving her room to attend on Caroline, had gone off, and her strength was in some degree returning; but she was restless, excited, irritable, and with an inability to restrain herself, that was more alarming than Marian liked to own to herself, far less to Clara.
She insisted on getting up at an earlier hour than she had hitherto attempted; she was worn out and wearied with dressing; she was impatient and vexed with Clara, for some mistake about her pillows; and the trembling of her hand, as she was eating some broth, was uncontrollable. The broth was not what she liked, and she would send for the housekeeper, to reprove her about it; asked questions about the arrangements, found them not as she wished; spoke sharply, said no one took heed to anything while she was ill, and then burst into a fit of weeping at the thought of the daughter who would have been able to supply her place.
This spent itself, (for the girls were unable to do anything effectual in soothing it away); the doctors made their daily visit, and cheered her up a little. The consequence of this exhilaration was, that she began talking about Lionel, and anticipating his perfect recovery; arranging how they were all to go and join him in London, and working herself up to a state of great excitement; pettish with Marian for not being able to answer her hopefully, and at last, hysterically laughing at the picture she drew of Lionel with restored sight.
Marian asked if she would be read to, and took up a serious book, with which she had put her to sleep two or three times before, but nothing of the kind would she hear; and as the best chance of at least quieting her, Marian went on a voyage of discovery among the club books down stairs, and brought up a book of travels, and a novel. Mrs. Lyddell chose the novel; it was a very exciting story, and caught the attention of all three. Marian grew eager about it, and was well pleased to go on; and so it occupied them most of the afternoon and evening, driving out a great deal of care, as Marian could not help gratefully acknowledging, though she would willingly have had space to work out with herself the question, whether care had best be driven out or grappled with. Mrs. Lyddell was indeed in no state to grapple with it, and there was nothing to be done but to take the best present means of distracting her attention; yet it was to be feared that, though put aside, the enemy was not conquered,--and might there not be worse to come?
It was about half-past seven and the two girls were drinking tea with Mrs. Lyddell in her room. She was just beginning to make herself unhappy about Mr. Lyddell's late journey and night-voyage, when there was a tap at the door, and on the answer, "Come in!" it opened, and Lionel stood there.
There was a sudden exclamation: they all three sprang up and looked at him, but alas! it was still by feeling that he came forward, though his countenance was cheerful, and there was a smile upon his lips.
"Well, mamma," he said, in a brave, almost a lively tone, "you must be content to have me at home." And in answer to their broken, half expressed interrogations, "No, he can't do any thing for me; so it was not worth while to stay any longer in London. How are you this evening, mamma?"
He was guiding himself towards her chair, one hand on the table; she threw herself forward to meet him, flung her arms round his neck and sobbed, "My boy, my poor dear boy! O Lionel! it has been all my fault and neglect!"
"No, no, don't--don't say that, mamma!" said Lionel, extremely distressed by her weeping, and not knowing where to rest her, as she hung with her whole weight abandoned on him. Marian and Clara were obliged to help him, and seat her in her chair again; while she still wept piteously, and poor Lionel stood, hearing the sobs, and very much grieved. "Ought I not to have told her?" said he to Marian. "I thought if she saw I could bear it, it would be better than writing."
"Yes, yes, you did quite right; she will be better presently."
She was soon better, and leaning back on her pillows exhausted, looked up at the fine tall boy before her, the glow of youth and health on his face, spirit and enterprise in every feature,--but those large blue eyes, bright as they were, for ever darkened and useless.
"O Lionel!" she sighed again.
"The man behaved very well," said Lionel; "he did not plague me at all. He only pulled up my eyelids--so--and studied them, and I suppose he gave some sign to my father, for I heard him make a noise that showed me how I was; so I asked. He told me there was not a chance, and made me understand the rights of it; and so here I am. Never mind, mamma, there was a tendency to it all my life, and nothing would have stopped it in the end; and now I know what it is, I have no doubt but I shall do very well. I mean to be like the blind man that unharnessed all the horses in the middle of the night, when the coach was upset, and no one else was of any use."
He stopped once or twice in his harangue, to judge how his mother was, by her breathings; and he spoke with a smile and look of resolution and eagerness, as he concluded with another "Never mind, mamma, for I don't." She took hold of his hand, and pressed it, too much overcome to speak.
"Is papa gone?" asked Clara.
"Yes." And Lionel proceeded to give a message which he had sent back.
"And where's Walter?"
"In the drawing-room."
More people were already in the room than Marian thought good for Mrs. Lyddell; and understanding Clara's wishes, she went down to speak to Walter, to carry a message that his mother would see him after tea, and to arrange for a substantial supper for the two youths, who had had no dinner.
Walter was waiting anxiously to know how his mother had endured the tidings.
"She was very much, overcome at first," said Marian; "but now she has had a good cry, she will be more likely to go to sleep quietly. Poor Lionel! he did it admirably."
"It has been his chief thought," said Walter. "He begged to come home at once, saying it would be the best way to have it over before night; it would save all hoping and worrying, about him; and the instant we arrived, he ran straight up stairs."
Walter and Marian were not familiar enough to say it to each other, but both were comparing his present conduct with his former bitterness of spirit against his mother. Death, sorrow, anxiety, and illness had drawn close the cords of love, and opened the well-springs of affection, so long choked up and soured by neglect and worldly care.
"How did he bear it at the first?"
"Bravely; he had wound himself up. He was flushing and turning pale all through the journey; but when once he came to the door, he was as calm and steady as possible. My father was much more agitated; he would lead Lionel himself, and very nearly threw him down the steps. You should have seen how Lionel never flinched,--did not let one feature quiver while he was being turned round to the light and examined. We saw how it was by the doctor's face, but Lionel spoke first, as--no, more steadily, than I can tell it, 'There is nothing to be done, then?'--attended more firmly to the explanation of the causes than we could, spoke as freely as if it had been about some indifferent case. The doctor was quite struck with it. He shook hands with him when he went, and kept me a moment after, to say, of all the many cases he had seen, he had never known greater resolution,--never seen any one he had been more sorry for. However, it was not only that,--that might have been the pride of firmness; but it has been the same all along. He set himself to cheer my father, who was very much overcome; and ever since has been telling me of all his schemes for employment, and arranging how to spare my mother as much as possible. Yes, he is a fine fellow!" said Walter, stopping with a heavy sigh.
"I am sure he will make himself happy," said Marian earnestly; "you don't know how many resources he has, and you see how wonderfully independent he is already."
"Yes," said Walter, sadly; "but though I know it is all right--to see what he might have been! But that is mere nonsense," he added, catching himself up; "we should never have known what was in him; and perhaps he would have been very different."
Not a word expressed of Walter's sincere thankfulness for the change that affliction was bringing on them.
Lionel came down presently, Marian presided at their tea, and would have enjoyed it very much, if she had not been sorry Clara should not be relieved from her harassing attendance up stairs. But her mother could not spare her, and perhaps the being positively useful, and pulled by force out of her childishness, was the best thing for her.
"Marian, I hope you will be able to ride with me to-morrow, if mamma does not want you?" said Lionel.
Walter looked full of inquiry and consternation.
"If we can manage it," said Marian, cheerfully; though now that the custom had been disused for a time, she did not like the notion quite so well as before; since she could not now even figure to herself that Lionel guided himself at all, He had said it chiefly for the purpose of asserting his intention of continuing the practice, and was quite satisfied by her answer.
Walter went up stairs to his mother shortly after, and Lionel was left alone with Marian.
"I am sure I hope it won't hurt her," said he; "I thought it was best to have it out at once."
"Much the best, since it was to come."
"Yes," he said, pausing for some space, then exclaiming, "I don't know, though! I thought it would be better to know the worst, and have one's mind made up; but I don't think 'tis more comfortable, after all. I should like to get back that little spark of hope I had this morning! O, Marian, there was one time when the sun shone out full, and so warm, exactly on my face, and some one in the train said it was a glorious winter day. It was close by Slough; I knew we were in sight of the castle, and perhaps one might see the chapel, and the trees in the playing-fields. I thought soon, I might be seeing it all again: and I vow, Marian, I could have leaped from here to Windsor at the bare thought. It was being a great fool, to be sure; but as we came back, I was half glad it was dark, so that nobody else could see it."
"Yet I am sure your last half year at Eton was no happy time; you went through a great deal."
"I'd do it all again, if I could see as much as I did then," said Lionel. "I don't mind it so much in general now; I get on much better than I thought I should, and it is not nearly as bad now I am quite in the dark, and wake up to it, as when the glimmer of light was going. I can do very well, except when a great gush--I don't know what to call it--great rush of remembering the sky and all sorts of things comes on me, and I know it is to be darkness always. Then!--but it is all nonsense talking of it. I shall get the better of that, some day or other, I suppose. But I did not think, yesterday, that the being sure of it would be half so bad!"
"You braced yourself yesterday, and that helped you to-day."
"Yes; and then there was my father,--he has enough to vex him, without knowing all this. And, after all, it is nothing; I've got plenty to do, and I'll manage it capitally. I'll tell you what, Marian, if mamma can spare you, we'll ride to Salisbury, and get some of that good twine, and I'll make Gerald the fishing-net you said he wanted."
Lionel had hitherto never consented to learn to net.
Mrs. Lyddell was better the next day, and all was quiet and prosperous, so that Walter could write a satisfactory account to his father. Clara had a good walk with her brothers in the morning, and in the afternoon the ride took effect: Marian came into Mrs. Lyddell's room in her habit, and gave notice, "we are going to ride," so much as if it was a matter of course that Mrs. Lyddell asked no questions, and feared no dangers. Walter went with them, and Marian could have wished him away, for he was so anxious and nervous as very nearly to make her the same, and though he said nothing of his anxieties, Lionel found them out, and told him in his old gruff way that there was nothing to be in a taking about; indeed, Lionel was the more inclined to be adventurous in order to show himself entirely at his ease.
However, nothing went wrong, and Marian and he both felt it a point gained that their riding together was established. A few days passed on quietly and gravely, a pause of waiting and suspense. Mrs. Lyddell, though less ill, was not materially improved as regarded the excitability of her spirits. She would be excessively depressed at one time, at another in such high spirits as were much more alarming. Sometimes she would talk about their being all ruined and undone, and go on rapidly to say they must give up the house in London, retrench, live on nothing; at others she anticipated Mr. Lyddell's bringing Elliot back, all his debts paid, to live at home and be a comfort, or some friend was to give Walter a great living, or Clara was to come out, and to be presented in the summer. At the same time the fretful irritability of nerve and temper continued, and any unusual excitement, the talking a little longer in her room, a letter, or a little disappointment, would keep her awake all night. One thing, however, seemed certain, that Lionel's presence had some of the same power over her as her husband's; she was too much occupied with watching him, to work herself into her anxious excited moods, and now that he had grown more familiar with her, his cheerful lively way of speaking always refreshed and pleased her. He would come in, in a glow of bright health, from a quick walk or ride in the clear frosty air, and show such genuine pleasure and animation as must console those who were grieving for his privation; he would undertake her messages, and find things in a wonderful manner, and he liked to listen to the reading aloud that always went on in her room. When Lionel came in, Marian and Clara always felt relieved from half their present care.
At last came a letter from Mr. Lyddell to Walter. The worst of his fears were fulfilled. Elliot was actually married, and report had not exaggerated the disgrace of the connection. Mr. Lyddell had not chosen to see him, and intended to be at home, by the end of the next day, after they would receive the letter.
It was a great shock, but perhaps none of the four young people had such lively hopes of Elliot as to be very much overwhelmed by the disappointment, as far as he was individually concerned. He had never been a kind elder brother to Clara or Lionel, and it was only Walter who could have any of those recollections of a childhood spent together, which would make the loss of intercourse personally painful. They had all been brought up to a sort of loyal feeling towards Elliot as the eldest, and to think his extravagance almost a matter of course, but only the tie of blood, and sympathy for their parents could cause them any acute pain on his account.
For their parents they were greatly grieved, for Elliot had with all his faults, been their especial pride and hope, and the effect on Mrs. Lyddell in her present state was very much to be apprehended. It was a comfort however that it was decided in full council that they might put off the evil day of telling her, for there was no occasion that she should be informed till her husband returned. He came the next day, and very worn down, broken and oldened did he look, as he returned to his mourning household. Not a word did he say in public of the object of his journey, and all that transpired to Marian, through Lionel, who heard it from Walter, was "that it was as bad as bad could be; it was thought Elliot had done it out of spite, at any rate he was never likely to bring his wife to England." Neither did Mrs. Lyddell speak of it, and Marian only knew that she had been informed of it, by the increased excitability and irritation of her nerves. Poor Clara underwent plenty of scolding, for she was the only victim, since Mrs. Lyddell's continuous dislike to Marian kept her on her ordinary terms of ceremony, scarcely ever asking her to do her any service, thanking her scrupulously, and never finding fault to her face.
Marian was at first very sorry for Clara, who was bewildered, and disconcerted, but after a day or two, things seemed to right themselves wonderfully. Clara grew used to the fretfulness, and was no longer frightened by it, nor made unhappy, but learnt how to meet it and smooth it down without being hurt by it. It was surely the instinct of natural affection, for inferior in every way as she was to Marian, yet in her mother's sick room she suddenly acquired all the tact, power, and management that Marian failed in. Hitherto she had been childish and astray, as if she wanted her vocation; now she had found it, and settled admirably into it, acquiring a sense, energy, and activity that no one could have supposed her capable of.
Outside that room, she was the same Clara still, without much either of rational tastes or conversation, afraid of her father, and not much of a companion to her brother, helpless in everything that did not regard her mother, and clinging to Marian for help and direction, Marian must speak for her, tell her what to say if she had to write a note, take the responsibility of every arrangement. Nothing was much harder than to shove Clara forward into becoming the ostensible lady of the house, as it seemed as if she must continue for some time to come, since the doctors spoke of the most absolute rest and freedom from excitement being necessary to restore her mother's shattered health and spirits. She was to see no visitors, be soothed as much as possible, have no cares or anxieties brought to her, be only moderately occupied and amused, or the nervous attacks would return. Marian had a suspicion that they feared for her mind. She became stronger, was able to rise earlier, and to drive out in the carriage, but she never dined with the family, and remained in her sitting room up stairs, with Clara for her regular attendant, and visits from the rest.
Walter returned to his curacy as soon as he could be spared, and Lionel became, as usual, chiefly dependent on Marian, who read to him, walked with him, rode with him, assisted him in his contrivances for helping himself, and was his constant guide and companion; doing at the same time all she could for Clara's service, but keeping in the back ground and making Clara do all the representative part for herself.
They missed Caroline every hour of the day, far more since they had settled into an every-day course of habits and most especially in the evening and at meal times. There always used to be so much conversation going on at dinner and now no one seemed to say anything; Clara sat at the head of the table in awe of her father, Lionel and Marian did not feel disposed to talk in their own way before him there never had been any freedom of intercourse, and nobody knew how to begin.
Marian thought the silent party very sad and forlorn for poor Mr. Lyddell, and that it must remind him grievously of the state of his family. Some one must talk, but how were they ever to begin? She was the worst person in the world to do it, yet try she must.
She began talking over the ride they had taken that day, but Clara was not at her ease enough to ask questions, or make observations, Lionel did not second her, and Mr. Lyddell said no more than "O." Another day she tried giving a history of a call that had been made by some of their neighbors, but nobody would be interested. How could she be so stupid? She almost dreaded dinner time. At last one day, she luckily cast her eyes on the newspaper, and it is a melancholy truth that the sight of a horrid murder gave her a certain degree of satisfaction! She began about it at dinner, when every one talked about it, every one had some view as to the perpetrator, and it really carried them through all dinner time without one dreary tract of silence, and served them on a second day.
A second day and a third, for more intelligence came out, and then luckily for her, came a revolution, next a dreadful accident, and at last the habit of talking became so well established that there was no need to look for topics in the newspaper. It was without an effort that she could originate a remark addressed to Mr. Lyddell. Lionel began to shake off his old schoolboy reserves, and rattle on freely. Clara grew more at ease, and Mr. Lyddell began to be entertained, to be drawn into the conversation, and to narrate his day's doings, just as of old when his wife was there, pleased with their interest in them, making explanations, and diverted with Lionel's merry comments.
It was however dreary and uncomfortable, with all these vague anxieties for Mrs. Lyddell, and with the whole house in the unsettled state consequent on missing its moving power. The servants had been used to depend on her, and could not go on without her; they teased Clara, and Clara teased Marian about them, no one knew what to do, nor what authority to assume, and the petty vexations were endless that were borne by the two girls rather than annoy Mr. Lyddell; perplexities, doubts whether they were doing what was wise or right by the house or by the servants; Marian's good sense making her judge the right, but her awkwardness, and Clara's incapacity, breaking down in the execution; continual worry and no dignity in it.
The loss of Caroline as a companion was severely felt. Marian had not been fully conscious how very closely entwined their hearts had been, how necessary they had grown to each other even before those latter days of full confidence. Every pursuit was mixed up with Caroline, every walk recalled her, every annoyance would have given way at her light touch. There was no one left with whom Marian could have anything like the conversations they had been used to enjoy from almost the earliest days of her coming to Oakworthy. Lionel was indeed a very agreeable companion, nay more, a friend, full of right feeling, principle, good sense, thought, and liveliness; but a younger boy could never make up for the loss of such a friend of her own sex. Each evening as she sat over the fire in her room, her heart ached with longing for Caroline's tap at the door, or with the wish to go and knock at hers, and then the thrill at thinking that there was only gloom and vacancy in her room. Had they but found each other out before! But oh! how much better to think of her as she did of her own parents, added to her store in Paradise, than to see her the wife of that man, unhappy as she must have been unless she had lost all that was excellent and hopeful.
These thoughts would comfort Marian when she went up to bed, harassed, weary, disgusted with cares and vexations, and craving for rest and sympathy. She thought of the home that awaited her at Fern Torr, the hope that had carried her through last autumn, but withal came a dim vague perception that a great sacrifice might be before her. Would it be right to seek her own happiness and repose there, and leave the Lyddells to their present distress? She did not think she was of much use, Clara was all-sufficient for her mother, and Marian was rather less liked by Mrs. Lyddell than formerly; but as a support to Clara, as a companion to Lionel, and as some one to talk to Mr. Lyddell, she was not absolutely useless. She had no doubt Clara and Lionel would miss her sadly, indeed it would be unkind to leave them, it would be positively wrong to forsake them when she was of some value, and go where she could not suppose herself to be actually wanted, though she might be loved and cherished. Yet to give up that beloved hope! The vision that had delighted her from the first years of her orphanhood; the hope become tangible beyond all expectations, the wish of her heart. To give up home, Edmund and Agnes, for this weary life! How could she? But it was not worth while to think about it yet, things might change, before they were ready for her, Mrs. Lyddell might recover, Clara and Lionel might grow sufficient for each other, anything might, would or should happen, rather than she would give up her beloved hope of the home she longed for, especially now the house was actually building, and each letter brought her accounts of its progress.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.