The Two Guardians
Charlotte Mary Yonge
Part 3 out of 8
been in vain, even though he came to a threat that unless Gerald made
his submission before the next day was at an end, he should be sent to
school with Lionel at the end of another fortnight.
Marian's distress increased, she was equally wretched at her brother's
increasing misbehaviour and at its punishment, It was provoking to see
Johnny walking about in all the grandeur and self-consequence of being
quite out of the scrape, and evidently rejoicing that Gerald was in
it; it was provoking to hear Miss Morley and the girls wondering, even
Saunders' pity was provoking, and there was nothing that gave her the
least comfort but the perception that Lionel was certainly graver and
She was allowed to go to her brother for a little while that evening,
with some hope that she might prevail with him. She found him leaning
against the window in the failing light, listlessly watching the horses
and grooms in the mews, which his high window overlooked. He turned his
head as she came in, but without speaking, and then looked back at the
window, till she came up to him, put her arm round his neck and turned
his face towards her. It was a sullen, dogged countenance, such as she
had seldom or never seen him wear before.
"Gerald, dear Gerald, what is the meaning of this? You never used to
"I never was served so before," muttered he.
"You have drawn it on yourself. Why will you not submit and ask her
"What should I ask pardon for? I said nothing but the truth."
"How can you say so. Gerald? Did you not know that you ought not to
scribble in books? Can you say that Miss Morley has not often spoken to
you about the Atlas?"
"If you call 'O Sir Gerald!' and 'O you sad boy,' desiring me in a
rational way, I don't," said Gerald, imitating the tones, "laughing and
letting me go on; I thought she liked it."
"Now seriously, Gerald."
"Well, I mean that she did not care. If people tell me a thing they
should make me mind them."
"You should mind without being made, Gerald.
"I would if I thought them in earnest. But now, Marian, was it not a
horrid shame of her to speak just as if I had been always disobeying
her on purpose, making Mrs. Lyddell go into a rage with me for what was
entirely her own fault?"
"No, no, Gerald, you cannot say it was her fault that you spoilt the
"I think she ought to beg my pardon for telling such stories about me,"
repeated Gerald sullenly.
"Recollect yourself, Gerald, you know she meant that she had put you in
mind that you ought not; and don't you think that, true or not, your
speech was very rude?"
"If I was to beg her pardon it would mean that she spoke the truth,
which she did not, for she never took any pains to prevent me from
drawing in the map-book, or any where else."
"It would not mean any such thing if you were to say, 'Miss Morley, I
misunderstood you, and I am sorry I was so rude.' I am sure you must be
sorry for that, for it was not at all like a gentleman. Will you come
and say so?"
"You're like the rest," mumbled Gerald, turning his back upon her, and
sitting like a stock.
"Don't you think it would be the best way? Would it not make you
happier? O what is the use of being obstinate and disobedient? Think of
going to school in disgrace. O! Gerald, Gerald, what is to be done?"
Still she spoke with earnest pauses and anxious looks, but without the
least effect, and at last she said, "Well, Gerald, I must go, and very
much grieved I am. How would dear mamma like to see her little boy going
on in this way?"
She went to the door and looked back again there, and beheld Gerald,
with his hands over his face, striving to suppress a burst of sobbing.
She sprung to him, and would have thrown her arms round his neck, but he
pushed her off roughly, and with strong effort, drove back the tears,
and put on an iron face again. Again she entreated, but he would not
open his lips or give the least sign of listening, or of attending to
any persuasion, and she was obliged to leave him at last without hope of
subduing his obstinacy. How far he was now from being the gentle, good
child that he once had been! and by whose fault was it? Her spirit
burned with indignation against those who, as she thought, had worked
the change, and O! where was the influence from which Edmund hoped so
The next day was long and miserable, for Gerald gave no sign of
yielding, but remained shut up in his room, maintaining an absolute
silence, when, at different times, Mrs. Lyddell went to visit him, and
assure him that Mr. Lyddell was fixed in his determination to send him
to school if he did not yield before the time of grace was up.
The time of grace was at an end the next morning, and at nine o'clock,
Gerald was summoned to the dining-room, where Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell were
at breakfast. He wanted to carry it off with a high hand, but his long
day of solitude had dulled him, and he looked pale and weary.
"Gerald," said Mrs. Lyddell, "I am sorry you have so persisted in your
misbehaviour to oblige us to punish you, as we threatened to do. Are you
now willing to own that you did wrong?"
"I ought not to have spoilt the book," said Gerald boldly, "and I was
rude to Miss Morley."
"There is a brave boy," said Mr. Lyddell, very much relieved. "Well,
Gerald, I am glad you have given, in at last; I hate obstinacy, as I
told you yesterday, but that is over, and we will say no more about it;
only you know we told you that you should be sent to school, and we must
keep our word."
"Yes," said Gerald, trying not to let a muscle of his face relax; though
now the die was cast, his consternation at the thought of school was
"Well, you may go," said Mr. Lyddell, "and remember that obstinacy must
be got out of a boy some way or other."
Gerald went, and soon entered the schoolroom, where he walked up to Miss
Morley, saying, "I am sorry I was rude to you the day before yesterday."
"Ah! Sir Gerald, I was sure your better sense--your generous spirit--but
I hope your submission--I hope Mr. Lyddell forgives--overlooks--"
"I am to go to school when Lionel does, if that is what you mean,"
replied Gerald, and then he came up to his sister, and looked earnestly,
yet with an inquiring shyness into her face. Marian might have been
hopeful, for his manner showed that it was for her opinion that he
really cared; but she was sad and unhappy at seeing his pride still so
far from being subdued, and though her heart yearned towards him, she
shook her head and looked coldly away from him to her book.
Gerald was chilled and went back to Lionel, who had plenty of ready
sympathy for him; a story half caught from his mamma's report, half
guessed at, that the old lady had looked full at the beast's curly tail,
and had said she had never seen anything so like Lady Marchmont; the
assertion of his own certainty that Gerald would never give in nor own
that poor unfortunate had spoken the truth, and Gerald felt triumphant,
as if his self-will had been something heroic, and his imprisonment and
going to school a martyrdom. It did not last, Gerald's nature was gentle
and retiring; he dreaded strangers, and his heart sank when he thought
of school. He wanted his sister to comfort him, but he would soon be out
of her reach. No Marian--all boys--all strange, and there was no help
for it now. Gerald rested his forehead against the window and gulped
down rising tears. But when he found himself on the point of being left
alone with Marian, his pride rose, and he would not confess that he had
been wrong or that he was unhappy, so he ran down stairs to find the
other boys and to get out of her way.
So it went on, Marian was very unhappy at this loss of his confidence;
but the more she attempted to talk to him, the more he avoided her,
being resolved not to show how great his dislike and dread of school
"Gerald," said Lionel, the last day before they were to go, "I have been
thinking I should like to give Marian something instead of that book."
"So should I," said Gerald, delighted with the idea, for he was feeling
all the time that he was vexing his sister, and wishing to do something
by way of compensation.
"I did not mean you," said Lionel, "for it----for you would never have
been sharp enough to think of the beast for yourself. I only told you
because you could tell me what she would like best. Papa has just given
me a sovereign."
"He has given me another," said Gerald, "and we will put them together,
and do it handsomely."
"Well, what shall it be? Not that stupid book over again."
"O no, no, she has had enough of that already, and there are plenty of
other books that she wants."
"No, don't let it be a book," said Lionel; "I can't think how anybody
can like reading, when they can help it."
"Well, I do like some reading, when it is a shipwreck, or a famous
bloody battle," said Gerald.
"Yes, but then it makes one's eyes ache so."
"It does not mine."
"Well, if I go on long it always makes mine ache," said Lionel. "And
don't the letters look green and dance about, when you read by candle
"No," said Gerald. "How funny that is, Lionel. But I'll tell you what,
we will get Walter to take us out, and we shall be sure to see something
famous, in some shop-window or other."
Walter was at home for the Easter vacation, and under his protection the
boys were allowed to go out. Very patient he was, and wisely did he
give his counsel in the important choice which, if left to the boys
themselves, might probably have been really something famous. Marian
would have been grateful to him, had she known all that he averted from
her, a stuffed fox, an immense pebble brooch, a pair of slippers covered
with sportive demons. At every shop which furnished guns, knives, or
fishing tackle, they stopped and lamented that she was not a boy,
there was nothing in the world fit for girls; they tried a bazaar, and
pronounced everything trumpery, and Walter was beginning to get into
despair, when at last Lionel came to a stop before a print shop, calling
out, "Hollo, Gerald, here's Beauty and the Beast itself!"
It was the beautiful engraving from Raphael's picture of
Saint Margaret in meekness treading
Upon the dragon 'neath her spreading.
And Walter, rejoicing that their choice was likely to fall on anything
which a young lady might be so glad to possess, conducted them into the
shop, and gave all the desired assistance in effecting the purchase. It
was a fine impression, and the price was so high as to leave the boys'
finances at rather a low ebb; but Walter, in his secret soul, thought
this by no means to be regretted, since it was much better for them
that it should be generously spent at once in this manner, than that it
should be frittered away in the unaccountable and vain manner in which
he had usually seen schoolboys' money wasted.
So S. Margaret was bought and rolled up, and so afraid were the boys
that she should not be rightly sent home, that they insisted on carrying
her themselves, and almost quarrelled as to which should have the first
Marian, on coming into her room, found both the boys on the top of the
chest of drawers, trying to pin the print up against the wall, and
though her arrival caused them some discomfiture, it was on the whole
a fortunate circumstance, since it saved the corners from extensive
"O Lionel! O Gerald! how beautiful! how very nice! What a lovely face!
Is it really for me? How I do thank you, but I am afraid you have spent
all your money."
"It is a better Beauty and the Beast than the old one," said Gerald,
"Isn't it, Marian?"
"A better beauty, but not a better beast," said Lionel.
"It is very beautiful indeed," said Marian; "I shall get a frame for it,
and it will always put me in mind of you both."
"Yes, you will always think of me when you look at the beauty," said
Lionel, "and of Gerald when you look at the beast."
"S. Margaret and the dragon! I wish I knew the story," said Marian;
"but I suppose it is an allegory like that of S. George. How good and
innocent she looks! Yes, see, Gerald, she is walking pure and white
through the park forest, and conquering the dragon. You see the palm in
the hand for victory. So innocent and so fearless."
"I thought it would be one of those funny Roman Catholic stories, like
what Caroline was reading one day," said Lionel.
"I don't like making fun of those," said Marian. "They often mean a
great deal, if you don't laugh at them, and tell them properly. I
am sure this print is to put us in mind of how we are to overcome
temptation, and I do like it very much. Thank you both."
Lionel was here called away, but Gerald remained, and proceeded to a
more minute examination of the beauties of the print, of which he was
"O, Gerald, dear, if we could be like it," said Marian.
"Like it? That you'll never be, Marian; your hair is too black."
"Yes, but like it within. Pure and clear from sin in the midst of a bad
world. I shall look at it and think of that very often, and you must
think too, Gerald."
"I mean to be good at school," said Gerald.
And leaning against his sister, he let her talk to him as in times of
old, advising him with all her might, for he really liked it, and was
comfortable in having it so, though he would have been ashamed to
own that he did. Her advice was at once childish and wise; sometimes
sensible, sometimes impracticable. Let any sister of fourteen think what
counsel she would give a brother of nine if he would but listen to her,
and she will have a very fair idea of it. Gerald listened and promised
earnestly, and she thought, hoped, and trusted that his promises would
be kept: she reminded him of all that could strengthen his resolution,
and talked of the holidays with what cheer she might. She had copied out
a morning and evening prayer from her own treasured book, rather than
give him such another, because she thought he would perhaps heed them
more in her handwriting, and she now gave them to him, folded up in a
neat little silk case, which he could keep without observation. How she
put her arm round him and pressed him towards her as she gave them into
his hand, and felt that she was doing what her mother would have done,
so earnestly, so tearfully, so much more impressively. O was she
watching them now?
The brother and sister were interrupted at last, and called down to tea.
The evening passed away heavily, spent as it was for the most part in
the drawing-room; and the last thing before the boys went to bed, Lionel
pushing Gerald roughly off, held Marian fast by the hand, and whispered
in her ear, "I say--you've written out something for Gerald."
"Yes," she answered, horrified that he should have found it out.
"Would you mind doing it for me? Don't tell any one."
Was not this a pleasure? Marian sat up in her dressing-gown that night
to write the prayers in her very clearest writing, for she knew Lionel
never liked to read what was not large and clear, and she guessed that
late in the evening, after all his lessons, he would have too many
"green and blue monsters," as he used to call them, before his eyes,
to be willing to give them more work than he could possibly help. She
thought her mamma would have been very uneasy if she had heard of those
green and blue monsters, and she wondered whether Mrs. Lyddell knew
or cared about them, but Lionel was one of the least regarded of the
family, and nobody but Johnny ever thought it worth while to make a
trifling complaint to her. It was far worse that Lionel should be left
to obtain a form of private prayer by such a chance as this. Alas! alas
for them all! She was too unhappy to think more of Lionel, and in the
midst of earnest prayers for Gerald, she cried herself asleep.
Poor child, she was too miserable all the next day to give us any
pleasure in contemplating her.
"Too soon the happy child
His nook of homeward thought will change;
For life's seducing wild;
Too son his altered day-dreams show
This earth a boundless space,
With sunbright pleasures to and fro,
Coursing in joyous race."
A couple of weeks had passed away, and Marian was beginning to feel
rather more accustomed to the absence of Gerald and Lionel, and to find
pleasure in the letters which spoke of her brother taking a good place,
and from which it did not appear that he disliked school so much as she
had feared. Still she could not but miss him grievously, and feel the
want of some one to cling to her, bring his troubles to her, and watch
for moments of private conference. Her days seemed to follow each other
without animation or interest; and if it had not been for some of her
lessons, and for his letters and Agnes Wortley's, she felt as if she
could have done nothing but yawn till the holidays.
One day, as the young ladies were returning from a walk in the park,
they saw a carriage standing at their own door,--too frequent an
occurrence, as Marian thought, to call for such warm interest as Clara
expressed. Yet even Marian grew eager when she heard her cousins exclaim
that there was a coronet on it,--a Viscount's coronet. They were now
close to the house, just about to ring, when the door opened, the
visitor came out, and at that moment Marian sprang forward with a joyful
face, but without a word. The lady held out both hands, and standing on
the top of the steps of the door, she drew Marian up to her, and kissed
her on each cheek with great eagerness, completely regardless of the
"Marian, dear little Marian herself! I was afraid I had quite missed
you, though I waited as long as I could. You look like your own self,
little pale cheeks! Well, I must not stay; I have arranged with Mrs.
Lyddell for you to spend to-morrow with me. I will send the carriage for
you, and you know how much I have to show you--my husband and my son!
You will come, Marian? Not a word? Ah! your own way. Good-bye; you will
find your tongue to-morrow. Good-bye."
She let go the hands and sprang into the carriage, giving a smile and
nod as she drove off, that filled Marian's soul, almost to overflowing,
with a rush of memories. It was as if she was no longer standing on the
hard steps, with black streets, and tall, dingy yellow houses bounding
her view, and carriages thundering in her ears; no longer lonely among
numbers, but as if she was on the bright green grass-plat by the
Manor-House door, the myrtles and sycamore nodding round her; the
shadows of the clouds chasing each other in purple spots over the
moors; her father at the window; her mother, Gerald, Edmund, Agnes, all
standing round; that sweet voice, with, that same bright smile, that
same arch little nod, repeating the "good-bye," and speaking of meeting
next year; and Marian herself thinking how very long a year would be.
And now two years had passed since that time, and such years! How
much older Marian felt! But there was Selina--Selina herself, not the
Beauty--that was enough for joy!
Marian was roused from her dream by exclamations of delight and
admiration from her cousins, "How very beautiful!" "O, I never saw
anything so lovely!" "Marian, how could you say that she was not like
"I don't know," said Marian, gradually waking from her trance.
"Don't you think her the most beautiful creature you ever saw?"
"I don't know."
"Don't know!" cried Caroline, impatiently. "Do you know whether your
head is on or not?"
"I don't--nonsense," said Marian, laughing heartily, "The fact was, I
never had time to look or think whether she was pretty; I only saw she
was just like herself."
"Well, Marian; so you met her?" said Mrs. Lyddell's voice in its most
delighted tone, at the top of the stairs. "I never saw a more charming
person. So very handsome, and so elegant, and so very agreeable. You
have heard of her invitation?"
"Yes; thank you for letting me go," said Marian.
"O yes, of course! I am delighted that you should have the advantage of
such an acquaintance. I hope it will be quite an intimacy. I am sure
whenever--Well, certainly, I never met with anything more fascinating.
She spoke of you with such affection, my dear; I am sure she must be the
most delightful person!"
Marian was not suffered to proceed up stairs till she had been told
all the particulars of Lady Marchmont's visit, and had answered many
questions respecting her; and, when she went up to the school-room,
it was the same thing. The party there seemed to look upon their good
fortune, in having had a sight of her, something as if they had seen
the Queen, or "the Duke;" and it was with a sort of awe that Clara
pronounced the words "Lady Marchmont," as she talked over every
particular of her dress and deportment.
All this in some degree perplexed Marian. Titled ladies were by no means
unusual among Mrs. Lyddell's visitors, and did not create anything
like this sensation; and she had not been used at home to hear Selina
Grenville talked of as anything more than a wild, gay-tempered girl,
whose character for wisdom did not stand very high. To be sure she was
now married, and that might make a difference; but then Edmund had since
spoken of her as giddy, and as if he had not the highest idea of her
discretion. Moreover, it struck Marian herself that she had spoken of
her husband and child just as if they were two playthings, to be shown
off. Of course that was only in fun, but Marian's was the time of life
to have great ideas of the requisite gravity of demeanour in a married
woman. Altogether, much as she loved Selina, and clever and engaging
as she thought her, it astonished her not a little to find that the
relationship conferred upon herself such distinction in the eyes of her
cousins; and she spent the evening and the next morning alternately in
speculations of this kind, hopes of a home-like day, and fears that
Selina after all might prove the affected Viscountess of the Wreath of
The time came, the carriage was sent punctually, and in due time Marian
was being marshalled up the broad staircase by the tall servants, in all
the trepidation of making her first visit in state on her own account,
and feeling at every step as if she was getting further into the Wreath
of Beauty. Across a great drawing-room,--such a beautiful grand room,--a
folding door is opened; "Miss Arundel" is announced, and there she
stands in all her stiffness.
There was a little table near the fire, and beside it sat Lady
Marchmont, writing notes, in the plainest and most becoming of morning
dresses,--a sort of brown holland looking thing, with a plain, stiff,
white collar, and a dark blue ribbon, her only ornament, except one
large gold bracelet. Her hair was twisted in glossy sunny waves behind
her ear, as in some Greek statues; her blue eyes were bright and
lustrous, and nothing was ever clearer and more delicate than the slight
tinge of red on her cheeks. Lord Marchmont was standing leaning on the
mantelshelf, apparently in consultation with her.
As soon as Marian entered, Selina's pen was thrown down, and she flew
forward, throwing her arms round her little cousin, and kissing her
repeatedly. Then, her arm round Marian's neck, and her hand on her
shoulder, she led her towards Lord Marchmont, who stepped forward to
receive her, saying, "Yes, here she is, here is your little cousin; and
hero, Marian, here is your great cousin. Now I would give five shillings
to know what you think of each other."
"I suppose one part of that pleasure will only be deferred till I am out
of the room," said Lord Marchmont, as he shook hands with Marian in a
kind, cordial, cousinly manner. He was a brown, strong-featured man of
three or four and thirty, hardly young enough, and far from handsome
enough, in Marian's very youthful eyes, to be suited to his wife, but
very sensible and good-natured looking.
"No, Marian is a safe person, and will get no further than 'I don't
know;' at least if she is the Marian I take her for," said Lady
"Very prudent," was his answer, smiling at Marian; and then, in
compassion to her confusion, gathering up his papers, and preparing to
"Are you going?" said his wife. "Well, I do you the justice to say that,
under the circumstances, it is the wisest proceeding in your power; for
I shall not get three words out of Marian all the time you are here."
After a few more words of consultation on their own affairs, he left the
room, and then Selina caught hold of Marian again, and said she must
have a thorough good look at her all over, to see how much of dear old
Fern Torr she had brought with her.
Selina Grenville was the youngest daughter of a sister of Sir Edmund
Arundel, who had, like the rest of her family, died early. She had been
a good deal abroad with her father and a married sister. Her uncommon
beauty and engaging manners gained her, when she was little more than
eighteen, the affection of Lord Marchmont, a more distant connection
of the Arundel family; and happily for Selina, she appreciated him
sufficiently to return his love so thoroughly, as to lay aside all the
little coquetries which had hitherto been the delight of her life; and
to devote herself to him even as he deserved.
It might have been that the poem had said too much in pronouncing her to
be a woman as well as a wife; for Selina Marchmont was almost as much of
a child as Selina Grenville had been, and only now and then did those
deeper shades of thought pass over her face, which showed how much soul
there was within her as yet only half developed. Her manners were almost
more playful than suited her position, though they became her perfectly;
her husband delighted in them; but it was this that had given her grave
and saddened cousin, Edmund, an impression that her sense was not of a
She was very warm-hearted. She had been exceedingly attached to her
uncle and aunt at Fern Torr; and now it seemed as if she could never
fondle Marian enough. The first thing was to show her baby, but she
premised that she did not expect Marian to go into raptures about him;
she never did expect any one to like babies. "In fact, Marian," she
whispered, "don't betray me, but I am a wee bit afraid of him myself. It
is such a very little live thing, and that nurse of his never will let
me have any comfort with him, and never will trust me to get acquainted
with him in a _tete-a-tete_, poor little man! O, here he comes! the
Honourable William James Bertram Marchmont--his name nearly as long as
In came a broad, tall, dignified nurse, large enough to have made at
least four Selinas, carrying a small bundle of long white robes. Selina
took the little bundle in her arms rather timidly, and held it for
Marian to see. Pew babies were ever looked at more silently; he was a
small, but pretty, healthy-looking child of between two and three months
old,--a very wax doll of a baby, with little round mottled arms moving
about, and tiny hands flourishing helplessly, he looked just fit for his
mamma. She held him with the fond, proud, almost over care with which
little girls take for a moment some new brother or sister; and as she
gazed upon him without a word, the earnest intensity of expression
gathered upon her beautiful face. After about five minutes thus spent,
she roused herself, and began gaily to tell Marian not to trouble
herself to seek for a likeness in him to anybody, or to say anything so
wild as that he in the least resembled her or his papa; and then she
nodded and smiled at him, and seemed as if she would have talked to him
and played with him, if his nurse had not been standing close by all the
time, looking as if she was being defrauded of her property.
"It is time Master Marchmont should be taken out before the sun goes
off, my Lady," said she, authoritatively.
"Very well, I suppose he must," said Selina, reluctantly giving him back
again after a timid kiss.
"There goes my lady nurse and her child," said she with a sigh, hidden
even from herself by a laugh. "I am sure he seems a great deal more hers
than mine; but there, I should never know what to do with him. Come,
Marian, now for all about yourself, my poor child. How do they use you?"
Much indeed there was to hear; and much to tell on either side, and
scarcely for a moment did the two cousins cease from talking as they sat
together in the morning, and drove together in the afternoon. Selina was
one of those people who have a wonderful power of dispelling reserve,
chiefly by their own frankness; and when she had told Marian all the
history of her first sight of Lord Marchmont, and the whole courtship,
and all that she had thought "so very noble" in him, and tried to make
her understand how very happy she was, Marian's heart was open in her
turn. Not the depths of it,--not such things as by a great effort she
had told to Edmund, and might possibly tell to Mrs. Wortley, but much
more than she could ever have said to any one else; and free and
abundant was the sympathy and pity she received,--pity even beyond what
she thought she deserved. She was surprised to observe that Selina spoke
of the Lyddells with a sort of contempt, as if they were wanting in
refinement; whereas she herself had never thought of their being
otherwise than lady-like, and certainly very fashionable; but she
supposed Lady Marchmont knew best, and was pleased to find herself
considered superior. Gerald was of course one of their subjects of
conversation, and gradually Marian, with her strict regard to truth,
from a little unguardedness, found herself involved in a tangle from
which there was no escape, without telling the whole story of the Wreath
She need not have been afraid; Selina laughed as if nothing would ever
make her cease, and insisted on Marian's bringing the portrait the next
time she came to visit her. She vowed that she would patronise Lionel
for ever for his cleverness; and when Marian looked sorrowful about the
consequences, she told her that it was much better for Gerald to be at
school, and she was very glad he was gone; and then she patted Marian's
shoulder, and begged that she would not think her very cruel for saying
Marian was very glad to be able to acquit her of vanity, when she heard
the history of the insertion of the engraving, which had been entreated
for by persons whom Lord Marchmont did not like to disoblige. The
engraving both he and Selina disliked very much; and when Marian saw the
original portrait, she perceived that the affectation did not reside
there, for it was very beautiful, and the only fault to be found with it
was chiefly attributable to the fact that miniatures always make
people look so pretty, that this did not give the idea of a person so
surpassingly lovely as Selina.
Lord Marchmont came in several times to speak to his wife, but Marian
did not see much of him till dinner-time, and then she liked him very
much. He was certainly rather a grave person, and she wondered to see
how Selina could be so merry with him; but he was evidently amused,
and Marian had yet to learn how a clever and much occupied man likes
nonsense to be talked to him and before him in his hours of relaxation.
He behaved to Marian herself very kindly, and just as if she was a
grown-up person,--a treat which she had scarcely enjoyed since she left
Fern Torr; and though she was silent, as usual when with strangers, it
was with no uncomfortable shyness: she was more at ease already with him
than with Mr. Lyddell.
Selina told him the history of Gerald's works of art in so droll a
manner, that Marian herself saw it in a much funnier aspect than she had
ever done before. He was much diverted, and turning to Marian, said,
with seriousness that would have alarmed her, but for Selina's laughter,
and a certain sub-smile about the corners of his mouth, that he hoped he
was not to take the Beast as anything personal. Selina told him that she
wanted him to convince Marian that it was a very good thing for Gerald
to be sent to school, and he set to work to do so in earnest with much
kindness, and by asking sundry questions about her brother's attainments
and tastes, he so won her, that she was ready to do him the honour of
acknowledging him as one of her own cousins.
The evening came too soon to an end, though the carriage had not been
ordered to take Marian home, till ten o'clock. It had all been like one
dream of brightness, and Marian, when she awoke the next morning, could
hardly believe that it was the truth that she had enjoyed herself so
much, and that a house containing such happiness for her could be in
London or so near her.
The schoolroom looked very black and dull after the bright little
sitting-room where she had parted with Selina; the lessons were
wearisome, her companions more uncongenial than ever; she felt actually
cross at the examination to which Clara subjected her about every trifle
she could think of, in the house of Marchmont. She could have talked of
its delights if there had been anybody to care about them in her own
way, but that was the great if of Marian's life. She was conscious
that her day's pleasure had unhinged her, and made her present tasks
unusually distasteful, and she thought it the fault of the Lyddells, and
in a great fit of repining blamed Edmund for injustice to Selina in
not letting her house be their home. Her great hope was of another day
there, the only thing that seemed to give a brightness to her life, and
she looked forward to an intercourse between Lady Marchmont and Mrs.
Lyddell, which would produce continual meetings.
However, time passed on, and she did not see Selina. Mrs. Lyddell took
her when she went to return the visit, but Lady Marchmont was not at
home. It was not till after more than a fortnight that she received a
little note from her, saying that they were going to a show of flowers,
and would send for Marian to go with them.
There was quite a commotion in the house on the occasion; not that all
were not willing that Marian should go, but that Mrs. Lyddell thought
her dress not at all fit; the plain straw bonnet which Marian _would_
buy, in spite of all that could be said to the contrary, and that old
black silk dress which did very well just for going to Church in, with a
Mrs. Lyddell and Saunders were for once in their lives agreed; and
Marian, who thought her money would have served her this time to
fulfil her grand scheme of buying Tytler's History of Scotland, was
overpowered, and obliged to let them have their will, and wear it
outside her head, in white silk; instead of inside, in Robert Bruce's
She was quite ready, in new bonnet and mantle, by the time Lady
Marchmont's carriage was at the door, and very happy she was to find
herself by her side again. Perhaps there was a little consciousness
of newness in the manner in which she wore them, for Lady Marchmont
remarked upon them, and said that they were very pretty, as in fact they
were. Marian looked disconsolate, and Selina laughingly asked why. She
told her former wishes, and was further laughed at, or rather Mrs.
Lyddell was. Selina said the old bonnet would have done just as well;
"it was so like such people to smarten up for a great occasion."
Such people! Marian wondered again, and disliked her white bonnet more
than ever, resolving for the future to trust her own taste. She soon
forgot all this, however, in the pleasure of seeing green grass and
trees, and the beautiful, most beautiful flowers, with their delicious
perfume. This was real delight, such as she had never imagined before,
and she thought she could have studied the wonderful forms of those
tropical plants for ever, if it had not been for the crowds of people,
and for a little awe of Lord Marchmont, who had given her his arm, and
who did not seem to know or care much even for the dove orchis or the
zebra-striped pitcher-plant. She wished she could turn him into Edmund,
and looked at every plant which she fancied a native of the Cape, almost
as kindly as if it had been a primrose of Fern Torr.
It was another delightful day. Marian went back with her friends,
and sat by while Selina was dressed for an evening party, heard a
description of her home in the country, and gave a very unflattering one
of Oakworthy, gained somehow or other a renewed impression of her own
superiority to the Lyddells, and went home to indulge in another fit of
Such were Marian's visits to Lady Marchmont, and such their effect. Mrs.
Lyddell did much indeed that was calculated to give strength to the
feeling by the evident pride which she took in Marian's familiarity with
Lady Marchmont, and even in the cold, distant, formal civility with
which she herself was treated.
There was danger around Marian which she did not understand, the world
was tempting her in a different way. She disliked what she saw among the
Lyddells too much to find their worldly tastes and tempers infectious,
but her intercourse with Selina was a temptation in a new form. She
loved Selina so heartily as to see with her eyes, and be led by her in
opinions: especially when these were of a kind according with her own
character. It was from her that Marian imbibed the idea that she was to
be pitied for living in her present home, not because Mrs. Lyddell's
mind was set on earth and earthly things, but because she did not belong
to those elite circles which Marian learnt to believe her own proper
place. Edmund had told her she might stand on high ground, and she
believed him, but was this such high ground as he meant? The danger did
not strike Marian, because it did not seem to her like pride, since the
distinction, whatever it was, did not consist in rank; she would have
had a horror of valuing herself on being a baronet's daughter, but this
more subtle difference flattered her more refined feelings of vanity;
and though she was far from being conscious of it, greatly influenced
her frame of mind, and her conduct towards her cousins. It was not
without reason now that Caroline thought her proud.
It must not, however, be supposed that this was Marian's abiding frame
of mind; it was rather the temper which was infused into her by each
successive visit to Selina during the next three years. Of course, every
time it was renewed, it was also strengthened, but it was chiefly her
London disposition, and used in great degree to go off when she
was taken up with the interests of Oakworthy, and removed from the
neighbourhood of Lady Marchmont.
Oakworthy was so preferable to London, except so far as that she was
there out of Selina's reach, that she began to have a kindness for it.
She knew some of the poor people there, in whom Caroline had kept up an
interest ever since Miss Cameron's time; the smoky streets of London
had taught her to prize the free air and green turf of the Downs; and,
thanks to Edmund, her own dear Mayflower awaited her there, and she
enjoyed many a canter with Caroline and Walter. She began for the first
time to become acquainted with the latter, and to learn to look upon him
with high esteem, but to obtain a knowledge of him was a very difficult
matter. He was naturally diffident and bashful, and his spirits were
not high; he had been thrown more and more into himself by his mother's
hastiness of manner and his father's neglect. His principles were high
and true, his conduct excellent, and as he had never given any cause for
anxiety, he was almost always overlooked by the whole family. Nor was he
clever, and the consciousness of this added to his timidity, which being
unfortunately physical as well as mental, caused him to be universally
looked down upon by his brothers. Even Marian began to share the
feeling when she saw him turn pale and start back from the verge of a
precipitous chalk pit where she could stand in perfect indifference, and
when she heard him aver his preference for quiet horses. Mayflower's
caperings were to him and Caroline so shocking, and it appeared to them
so improper that she should be allowed to mount such an animal, that but
for her complete ease, her delight in the creature's spirit, and her
earnest entreaties, a complaint against Mayflower would certainly have
been preferred to the authorities.
In spite of all this, there was satisfaction in talking to Walter, for
he saw things as Marian did, right and wrong were his first thoughts,
and his right and wrong were the same as hers. This was worth a great
deal to her, though she was often provoked with him for want of boldness
in condemnation. A man grown up could, she thought, do so much to set
things to rights, if he would but speak out openly, and remonstrate,
but Walter shrank from interfering in any way; it seemed to cost him an
effort even to agree with Marian's censure. Yes, she thought, as she
stood looking at the print of S. Margaret, Walter might pass by the
dragon, nay, fight his own battle with it, but he would never tread it
manfully under, so that it might not rise to hurt others. He might mourn
for the sins around him, but would he ever correct them? Marian thought
if she was a man, a man almost twenty, destined to be a clergyman, she
had it in her soul to have done great things; then she would not be shy,
for she should feel it her duty to speak.
In the meantime, Marian had a trouble of her own, a sore place in her
heart, and in its tenderest spot, for Gerald was the cause. The first
holidays had been all she could desire; he was affectionate, open, full
of talk about home and Edmund, with the best of characters; and with the
exception of all the other boys being "fellows" and nameless, there was
nothing like reserve about him; but the next time, he had not been three
days in the house, before she perceived that the cloud had come down
again, which had darkened the last few weeks before his going to school.
He avoided being alone with her, he would not let her ask him questions,
he talked as if he despised his governors and teachers, and regarded
rules as things made to be eluded. His master's letter did not give a
satisfactory account of him, and when Marian tried to fish out something
about his goings on from Lionel, she met with impenetrable silence,
Lionel himself seemed to be going through school pretty much in the same
way, with fits and starts of goodness, and longer intervals of idleness,
but he made his eyes a reason, or an excuse, for not doing more. They
were large, bright, blue, expressive eyes, and it was hard to believe
them in fault, but strong sunshine or much reading by candle-light
always brought the green and purple monsters, and sometimes a degree of
inflammation. It was said that he must be careful of them, and how much
of his idleness was necessary, how much was shirking, was a question for
his own conscience.
Every time Gerald came home, Marian saw something more that pained her.
There was the want of confidence that grew more evident every time,
though it was by no means want of affection; it was vain to try to keep
him away from the stables; he read books on Sunday which she did not
approve, she did not think he wrote to Edmund, and what made her more
uneasy than all was, that Elliot was becoming the great authority with
him. Elliot had begun to take a sort of distant patronising notice of
hint, which seemed to give him great pleasure, and which Marian who
every year had reason to think worse of Elliot, considered very
dangerous. She could not bear to see Gerald search through, the
newspapers for the racing intelligence, and to see him orating
scientifically to Lionel and Johnny about the points of the horses; she
did not like to see him talking to the gamekeepers, and set her face,
more than was perhaps prudent, against all the field sports which were
likely to lead him into Elliot's society.
In her zeal against this danger, she forgot how keen a sportsman
Edmund himself was, and spoke as if she thought these amusements wrong
altogether, and to be avoided, and this, together with the example of
Walter, gave Gerald a very undesirable idea of the dulness of being
steady and well conducted. That he spent more money than was good for
him, was also an idea of hers gathered from chance observations of her
own, and unguarded words of the other boys; but this was one of the
points on which his reserve was the strictest, and she only could be
anxious in ignorance. The holidays, anticipated with delight, ended in
pain, though still she cherished a hope that what alarmed her might be
boyish thoughtlessness of no importance in itself, and only magnified by
She was encouraged in this by finding that Lord Marchmont, when he saw
him once in London, thought him a very fine, promising boy, and that Mr.
and Mrs. Lyddell did not seem to see anything seriously amiss. But then
Lord Marchmont had not seen enough of him to be able to judge, and would
not have told her even if he had thought there probably was anything
wrong; and she could not trust to Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell. It was very
painful to imagine herself unjust to her only brother, and she drove the
fears away; but back they would always come, every time Gerald was at
home, and every time she looked and longed in vain for a letter from
Thus passed, as has already been said, three years, spent for the most
part without event. Caroline, at eighteen, was introduced; but though
her evenings were given to company, her mornings were still spent in the
schoolroom, of which indeed she was the chief brightness. Marian, though
she had the offer of coming out at the same time, was very glad to
embrace the alternative of waiting another year. She was now a little
past her seventeenth birthday, which emancipated her from being
absolutely Miss Morley's pupil. She breakfasted with the rest of the
family, dined with them when there was not a large party, learnt more
of masters, and studied more on her own account than she had ever done
before; and only depended on Miss Morley and Clara for companionship in
walking and meals, when Caroline was otherwise engaged.
She was more with the Marchmonts than ever during this spring. She rode
with them, kept Selina company when her husband went out without her;
went about with her wherever a girl of woman's height, though not yet
come out, could be taken; and was almost always at any of her dinners or
evening parties, where she could have the pleasure of seeing anything
that was distinguished. It was a very pleasant life; for she was new to
the liberty of being loosed from schoolroom restraints, and at the same
time the restraints and duties of society had not laid hold upon her.
Among Selina's friends she was not expected to talk, and could listen
in peace to the conversation of the very superior men Lord Marchmont
brought around him; or if she chanced to exchange a few words with any
of them, she remembered it afterwards as a distinction. Selina, with all
the homage paid to her beauty, her rank, her fascination of manner, and
her husband's situation, was made much of by all, and was able to avoid
being bored, without affronting any one; and a spoilt child of fashion
herself, in her generosity and affection, she made Marian partake her
pleasures, and avoid annoyances as far as she could, like herself. It
was a pleasant life, and Marian thoroughly enjoyed it but was it a safe
"So too may soothing Hope thy leave enjoy,
Sweet visions of long severed hearts to frame;
Though absence may impair or cares annoy,
Some constant mind may draw us still the same."
"Here are two letters for you, Marian," said Mrs. Lyddell, meeting the
girls as they came in from a walk; "Lady Marchmont's servant left this
"An invitation to dinner for this evening," said Marian opening it; "ah!
I knew they were to have a party; 'just recollected that Lady Julia
Faulkner used to know Fern Torr, and I must have you to meet her, if it
is not a great bore.'"
"Then, my dear, had you not better send an answer? James can take it
"No, no, thank you; the carriage will call at seven. Who can this Lady
Julia be? But--" by this time Marian had arrived at her other letter,
and, with a sudden start and scream of joy, she exclaimed, "They are
"Coming? Who?" asked Caroline.
"Agnes--and Mr. and Mrs. Wortley! O! All coming to stay with their
friends in Cadogan Place. I shall see them at any time I please."
"I am very glad of it," said Caroline.
"Tell them that their earliest engagement must be to us," said Mrs.
Lyddell. "When do you expect them?"
"Next week, next week itself," cried Marian, "to stay a whole fortnight,
or perhaps three weeks. Mr. Wortley has business which will occupy
Few faces ever expressed more joy than Marian's in the prospect of a
meeting with these dearest of friends; Mrs. Lyddell and Caroline smiled
at her joy as she flew out of the room to make Saunders a partaker in
"Strange girl," said Caroline; "so cold to some, so warm to others; I
shall be glad to see these incomparable Wortleys."
"So shall I," said Mrs. Lyddell; "but I expect that Marian's opinion of
them will soon alter, she has now become used to such different society.
However we must be very civil to them, be they what they may."
In the meantime Marian penned a letter to Agnes, in terms of delight and
affection twenty times warmer than any which had ever passed her lips,
and then resigned herself to Saunders' hands to be dressed, without
much free will on her own part; too excited to read as usual during
the operation, sometimes talking, sometimes trying to imagine Agnes in
London, a conjunction which seemed to her almost impossible.
The carriage came for her, and in due time she was entering the great
drawing-room, where Selina, looking prettier than ever in her evening
dress, sat reading a novel and awaiting her guests.
"O Selina, only think," she began; "the Wortleys are coming!"
"What say you? Why, Marian, you are in a wild state. Who are coming?"
"The Wortleys, Selina, my own Agnes."
"O, your old clergyman's daughter! You constant little dove, you don't
mean that you have kept up that romantic friendship all these years?"
"Yes, yes, I remember all about them now: the daughter was your great
"She was more yours," said Marian, "when you were at Fern Torr, because
you were more nearly the same age. Don't you remember how you used to
whisper under the sycamore tree, and send me out of the way?"
"Poor little Marian! Well, those were merry times, and I rather think
your Agnes promised to be very pretty."
"And shall not you be glad to see her?"
"When do they come?"
"Next Monday, to--Cadogan Place."
"Close to you. Well, that is lucky; but now, my dear, if you can come
down from the clouds for a moment, I want to tell you about Lady Julia."
"Who is she?" said Marian, bringing back her attention with an effort.
"A tiresome woman," whispered Selina, with a sort of affectation of
confidence; "but the fact is, Lord Marchmont used to know her husband,
or his father, or his great grandfather, sometime in the dark ages, and
so be wants me to make much of her. She is one of the people that it is
real toil to make talk for; but by good fortune I remembered that I had
heard some legend about her once knowing my uncles, and so I thought
that a cross-examination of you about Gerald and Fern Torr would be a
famous way of filling up the evening."
"O!" said Marian in a not very satisfied tone, "so she has a husband,
has she? I fancied from your note that she only consisted of herself,"
"She consists of a son and daughters," said Selina.
"Her husband is dead, but the rest of the house you will presently see."
"Eh?" said Lord Marchmont, coming out of the other room where he had
been writing, and greeting Marian.
"You don't mean that you have invited that young Faulkner?"
"You would, not have me leave out the only agreeable one of the
party--something to sweeten the infliction."
Lord Marchmont smiled at the arch, bold, playful manner with which she
looked up in his face, as if to defy him to be displeased; but still he
was evidently vexed, and said, "It is hard upon Marian only to take her
from Elliot Lyddell's society to bring her into Mr. Faulkner's."
"Indeed! but that is hard on Mr. Faulkner," said his wife. "As to worth,
I suppose he and Marian's cousin are pretty much on a par, but it is but
justice to say that he has considerably the advantage in externals."
"It cannot be helped now," said Lord Marchmont; "but I wish I had told
you before, Selina. The esteem I had for that young man's father would
make me still more reluctant to cultivate him, considering his present
way of going on."
"Well, one invitation to dinner is not such a very agricultural
proceeding, that you need waste such a quantity of virtuous
indignation," said Selina; "I daresay he will not grow _very_ much the
faster for it."
The arrival of some of the party put a stop to the conversation, and
presently Lady Julia Faulkner, Mr. and Miss Faulkner, were announced.
The first was a fair, smooth, handsome matron, who looked as if she had
never been preyed upon by either thought or care; her daughter was a
well-dressed, fashionable young lady; and her son, so gentlemanlike
and sensible looking, as to justify Lady Marchmont in saying that in
externals he had the advantage of Elliot Lyddell. Marian sat next him at
dinner, and though she meant to dislike him, she could not succeed in
doing so; he talked with so much spirit and cleverness of the various
exhibitions and other things, which are chiefly useful as food for
conversation. Something too might be ascribed to the store of happiness
within her, which would not let her be ungracious or unwilling to let
herself be entertained, for on the whole, she had never been so well
amused at a dinner party.
In the drawing-room the examination took place with which she had been
threatened, but she had grown hardened to such things with time, and
could endure them much better than she used to do. It was always the
custom for her to outstay the guests, so as to talk them over with her
cousins; and, on this occasion the first exclamation was, how very
agreeable and clever Mr. Faulkner was.
"So much the worse," said Lord Marchmont gravely; "I think worse of him
than I did before, for I find he has taken up Germanism."
Marian had some notion that Germanism meant that the foundations of his
faith were unsettled, and she looked extremely horrified, but she had
not time to dwell on the subject, for the carriage came to the door,
and she was glad to be alone to hug herself with delight. The gas lamps
looked as bright to her eyes as if there were an illumination specially
got up in honour of her happiness, and the drive to Mr. Lyddell's was
far too short to settle a quarter of what Agnes was to see and do.
It was almost four years since she had parted with her, but the
correspondence had scarcely slackened, nor the earnestness of her
affection and confidence diminished. There was no one, excepting Edmund,
to whom she could look for counsel in the same manner, and the hope of
long conversations with Mrs. Wortley was almost as delightful as the
thought of seeing Agnes once more.
She had begged them to call the first thing, and accordingly soon after
breakfast one fine Tuesday morning, a loud double-knock caused her heart
to leap into her mouth, or rather her throat, and almost choke her. Mrs.
Lyddell, Elliot, and Caroline were all present, and she wished them
forty miles off, when the announcement was the very thing she wished to
There they were, Mrs. Wortley giving that fond, motherly kiss, Agnes
catching both hands, and kissing both cheeks, Mr. Wortley giving one
hearty squeeze to her hand! There they really were, she was by Mrs.
Wortley's side, their own familiar tones were in her ears! She hardly
dared to look up, for fear Agnes should be altered, but no, she could
not call her altered, though she was more formed, the features were less
childish, and there was more thought, though not less life and light
than of old, in the blue eyes. Indeed it came upon Marian by surprise,
that she had not known before that Agnes was uncommonly pretty as well
as loveable. She was surprised not to see her friend more shy, but able
to answer Elliot's civilities with readiness and ease; whereas she who
still felt stiff and awkward with a stranger, had supposed that such
must be doubly the case with one who had lived so much less in the
That day was to be devoted by the Wortleys to visits and business, but
they reckoned on having Marian to themselves all the next, and were to
call for her early on their way to some of the sights of London. Mrs.
Lyddell made them fix an early day for coming to dinner, and they took
their leave, Marian feeling as if the visit had not been everything that
she expected, and yet as if it was happiness even to know that the same
city contained herself and them.
No sooner were they gone than the Lyddells began with one voice to
admire Agnes, even Elliot was very much struck with her, and positively
gained himself some degree of credit with Marian, by confirming her
opinion of her friend's beauty. It was delightful indeed that Agnes
should be something to be proud of; Marian would not have loved her one
whit the less if she had been a plain, awkward country girl, but it was
something to have her affection justified in their eyes, and to have no
fear of Agnes being celebrated only for her cricket.
They called for Marian early the next morning, and now she received the
real greeting, corresponding to her parting, as Mrs. Wortley's second
daughter. Then began the inquiries for everything at Fern Torr, animate
or inanimate, broken into by Agnes's exclamations of surprise at
everything new and wonderful in the streets, a happy, but a most
At last they got into a quiet street where Mr. and Mrs. Wortley went to
choose a carpet, and the two girls were left to sit in the carriage.
"O Marian!" began Agnes, "so you have not quite lost your old self! I
am glad to see how it all is at least, for I have something tangible to
pity you for."
"I wonder what it is," said Marian, too happy for pity at that moment.
"O, my dear! that Mr. Elliot Lyddell!"
"He is hardly ever in my way," said Marian.
"And his sister! Her dress! What study it must have taken! In the
extreme of fashion."
"Caroline's dress is not exactly what she would choose herself," said
"That must be only an excuse, Marian; for though you have a
well-turned-out look, it is not as if you were in a book of fashions."
"I am not Mrs. Lyddell's daughter, and though I do expect a battle or
two when I come out, it will not be a matter of obedience with me, as it
is with Caroline."
"Is it very painful obedience?" said Agnes laughingly; "well, you do
deserve credit for not being spoilt among such people."
"In the first place, how do you know they are 'such people?' and next,
how do you know I am not spoilt?"
"You must be the greatest hypocrite in the world, if you are spoilt, to
write me such letters, and sit so boldly looking me in the face. And as
to their being 'such people,' have not I seen them, have not I
heard them, and, above all, has not Mr. Arundel given me their full
"But that was three years and a half ago," said Marian.
"And have they changed since then?" asked Agnes.
"I don't know."
"O how glad I am to hear that!" cried Agnes. "Never mind them; but to
hear you say 'I don't know' in that old considering tone is proof enough
to me that you are my own old Marian, which is all I care for."
"I don't--" began Marian; then stopping short and laughing, she added,
"I mean I was thinking whether it is really so. Can any person live four
years without changing? Especially at our age. What a little girl I was
"Yes, to be sure, you have grown into a tall--yes, quite a tall woman,
and you have got your black hair into a very pretty broad braid, and you
wear a bracelet and carry a parasol, and don't let your veil stream down
your back; I don't see much more alteration. Your eyes are as black and
your face as white, and altogether you are quite as provoking as ever in
never telling one anything that one wishes to know."
Marian gave a stiff smile, one which she had learnt in company, and
grew frightened at herself to find that she was treating Agnes, as she
treated the outer world. She did not know what to say; her love was
deep, strong and warm within, but it was too soon to "rend the silken
veil;" and this awkwardness, this consciousness of coldness was positive
suffering. She was relieved that the return of Mr. and Mrs. Wortley put
an end to the _tete-a-tete_, then shocked that it should be a relief;
for, poor girl, her extreme embarrassment overpowering the happiness
in her friend's presence, made her doubt whether it could be that her
affection was really departing, a thought too dreadful to be dwelt upon.
Who would have told her that she should endure so much pain in her first
drive with the Wortleys?
They went to call on Lady Marchmont that day, and, as Marian expected,
did not find her at home. Agnes renewed the old lamentation that Marian
could not live with her and thus avoid Mrs. Lyddell's finery and
fashion. "Now why do you laugh, Marian? you don't mean that Selina
Grenville can have turned into a fashionable lady? she was the simplest
creature in the world."
"She is what she was then," said Marian; "but as to being fashionable--.
My dear Agnes, you don't understand."
"We have not to reproach Marian for want of knowledge of the world now,
Agnes," said Mr. Wortley, smiling at his daughter's bewildered look.
"Ah!" cried Marian, and there stopped, thinking how grievously she must
be altered, since this was the reproach that the Lyddells used so often
to make her. Some wonderful sight here engaged Agnes, and Marian's
exclamation fell unheeded.
She spent a good many hours with the Wortleys while they were in London,
but usually in the midst of confusion and bustle: Mr. and Mrs. Wortley
were busy, and Agnes almost wild with the novelties around. Marian's
heart ached as she recollected a saying which she had read, that a
thread once broken can never be united again. Her greatest comfort was
in the prospect of a visit to Fern Torr; for Mrs. Lyddell willingly
consented to her accepting Mrs. Wortley's invitation to return with
them, and to stay even to the end of her brother's holidays, which he
was also to spend at _home_. She should know better there whether she
was really changed; she could take it all up again there, and now she
could afford to wait, and not feel the necessity of saying everything
that would not be said in so short a time.
One thing was certain, she did not like to hear Agnes talk against the
Lyddells. She could have done it herself; nay, she did so sometimes when
with Lady Marchmont, but then that was only about "nonsense." She had
lived with them too long, had shared in too many of their conversations
and employments, was, in fact, too much one of the family, to like to
hear them condemned. She thought it very strange, and she could not tell
whether it was from having grown like them, or from a genuine dislike to
injustice; at any rate it was this which convinced her that she had come
to regard them in some degree as friends.
She wished them to appear to as much advantage as possible, but this
they really seemed resolved not to do, at least not what was in her eyes
and those of the Wortleys, to advantage. Mrs. Lyddell _would_ have
a grand dinner party to do honour to her friends, and the choice of
company was not what she would have made. To make it worse, Elliot
sat next Agnes, Walter was not at home, and the conversation was upon
religious subjects, which had better not have been discussed at all in
such a party, and which were viewed by most present, in the wrong way.
All this, however, Marian could have endured, for she did not care
to defend Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell or Elliot, individually, only when
considered as forming part of "the Lyddells," but she really wished
Agnes to like Caroline and Clara.
She did not know whether Agnes was not perverse about Caroline, whom she
continued to call a mere fashionable young lady, not being able to find
any other reproach than this vague one; but as to Clara, Marian herself
could have found it in her heart to beat her when she made sillier
speeches than usual in Agnes' hearing, and, above all, for having at
this time a violent fit of her affection for Marian herself, whom she
perseveringly called a dear girl, and followed about so closely as to be
always in the way.
Marian would have been still more provoked with Clara, had Agnes not had
forbearance enough to abstain from telling her all that Clara had said,
when once, by some chance, left alone with her for ten minutes. After a
great deal about her extreme friendship for "dearest Marian," she said,
"Some people think her pretty,--do you, Miss Wortley?"
"Not exactly pretty," said Agnes, "but hers is a fine face."
"Ah! she has not colour enough to be pretty. She is much too pale, poor
dear, but some people say that is aristocratic. And she is like her
cousin, Lady Marchmont, the beauty. Do you know Lady Marchmont?"
"I used to know her as a girl."
"Ah! she is very handsome, and so much the fashion. It is such an
advantage for Marian to be there, and I hope she will slyly bring us
acquainted some of these days. But then all the Arundels are proud;
Marian has a good deal of pride in her own way, though she is a dear
"Marian!" exclaimed Agnes.
"O yes! She is a dear girl, but every one in Wiltshire speaks of her
pride; all our friends do, I assure you. I always defend her, of course,
but every one remarks it."
Agnes was wondering whether simply to disbelieve anything so
preposterous as that all Wiltshire should be remarking on poor Marian's
pride, or whether to explain it by her well-known shyness, when Clara
made another sudden transition. "Do you know Mr. Arundel?"
"Is not he a fine, distinguished looking man? We did admire him so when
he was here. I assure you we are all quite jealous of Marian. Miss
Morley says there can be but one _denouement_."
Here Marian came into the room, and Agnes proceeded to question within
herself which was most wonderful,--the extreme folly of Clara, or of the
Another vexation to Marian was the behaviour of Lady Marchmont. She
herself was invited as often as usual to come to her cousin, but she
could not spare a minute from her dear friends, and only was surprised
and vexed that they were not included, and that Selina had not yet
called upon them. She knew that one of her parties consisted of persons
whom Mr. Wortley would have been particularly glad to meet, and she
watched most anxiously for a card for him; she even went so far, as in
her own note of refusal to give a very far distant hint, thinking that
Selina only required to be put in mind of his being in London.
At last, only two days before they left town, Lady Marchmont left her
card for Mrs. Wortley, but without asking if she was at home; and
Marian, who was in the house at the time, felt the neglect most acutely.
Mrs. Wortley saw the bright glow of red spread all over the pale check,
and was heartily sorry on her account. Agnes broke out into exclamations
that there must be a mistake,--the servants must have misunderstood,
and she would have asked questions; but Marian said, in a voice of deep
feeling, "No, Agnes, it is no mistake. You understand me now when I say
Selina Marchmont is more of a fine lady than Mrs. Lyddell. But O, I
never thought she would have neglected you!"
"Say no more, my dear," said Mrs. Wortley; "Lady Marchmont must have too
many engagements to attend to us dull country folks. Indeed, it gives me
no pain, my dear, except to see it grieve you. You know she has done her
duty by us."
"Her duty by herself, she may think," said Marian, "in not doing what
would be called rude, but not her duty by you; you, to whom all who
ever--who ever loved _them_, owe so much."
The tears glittered in Marian's eyes, and her cheek was flushed.
"Marian, my dear, cool down a little," said Mrs. Wortley; "think how
long it is since Lady Marchmont knew us, and recollect that the--the
causes, which you think you have for caring for us, may not appear the
same to her. She only thinks of us as dimly remembered neighbours of
her cousin's, coming to London for a little while; she is full of
engagements, and has no time for us, and just follows the fashions of
"That is it," said Marian. "How shall I ever wish her good-bye in
They were interrupted; and it was not till Marian was gone that Agnes
had the satisfaction of a full outbreak of indignation at all fine
ladies, and of triumph in the impossibility of their ever spoiling her
own dear Marian.
Marian had to spend the evening with the Marchmonts, and she was more
constrained with them at first than she had ever been before. Yet it
was not easy to continue constrained with Selina, who was perfectly
unconscious that she had given any offence; and the feeling was quite
removed by half an hour's play with little Willy, who was now promoted
to be a drawing-room child for various short intervals of the day. He
was under a nursery governess, who let his mamma have a little more
property in him.
Selina asked about the intended journey, and thus renewed Marian's
feeling of the wrongs of the Wortleys; but when Selina scolded her for
not coming oftener, supposed she had been very happy, and envied her for
going to dear old Fern Torr, Marian began to forgive, and did so quite
when she wished she could have seen them, and lamented that she had been
so much engaged. Three times she had gone out, fully meaning to call on
them, and have a good long chat, but each time something delayed her;
and the last, and fourth, she really was obliged to be at home early,
and could not possibly make a call.
The charm of manner made all this appease Marian; but when the immediate
spell of Selina's grace and caressing ways was removed, she valued it
rightly, and thought, though with pain, of the expressive epithet,
"fudge!" Could not Selina have gone to her aunt's old friends if she
would? Had not Marian known her to take five times the trouble for her
own gratification? Marian gained a first glimpse of the selfishness of
refined exclusiveness, and doubted whether it had not been getting a
hold of herself, when she had learnt of Selina to despise and neglect
all that was unpleasing.
O the joy of knowing that she should turn her back on the great wicked
world again, and measure herself by the old standard of home! And yet
she trembled, lest she should find that the world had touched her more
than she had thought.
"Yes, friends may be kind, and vales may be green,
And brooks, may sparkle along between;
But it is not friendship's kindest look,
Nor loveliest vale, nor clearest brook,
That can tell the tale which is written for me
On each old face and well known tree."
R. H. FROUDE.
It was a happy day for both Agnes Wortley and Marian Arundel when they
again entered Devonshire. Agnes seemed to feel her four weeks as serious
an absence as Marian did her four years, and was even more rapturous in
her exclamations at each object that showed her she was near home.
They walked up the last and steepest hill, or rather bounded along the
well known side path, catching at the long trailing wreaths of the
dogrose, peeping over the gates which broke the high hedge, where
Marian, as she saw the moors, could only relieve her heart by
pronouncing to herself those words of Manzoni's Lucia, "_Vedo i miei
monti._" ("I see my own mountains.") She beheld the woods and the
chimneys of the Manor House, but she shrank from looking at it, and
gazed, as if she feared it was but a moment's vision, at the rough
cottages, the smoke curling among the trees, the red limestone quarry,
and the hills far away in the summer garb of golden furze. It was home,
her heart was full, and Agnes respected her silence.
Down the hill, along the well-known paling, past the cottages, the dear
old faces smiling welcome; the Church, always the same, the green rail
of the Vicarage garden, the paint was the only thing new; the porch,
with roses hanging thicker over it than ever; Ranger, David Chapple,
Jane, the housemaid, all in ecstasy in their different ways.
That first evening was spent in visiting every nook of the garden with
Agnes, and hearing the history of each little innovation; then, after a
slight interval of sleepiness, came those fond, cordial "good nights,"
which dwell no where but at home.
She woke to the reality of a Fern Torr Sunday, not to shake off with
disappointment and wearinesss, the dream of such a day. There was the
pinkthorne, dressed in all its garlands, before her window, the dew
lying heavy and silvery on the grass; the cart-horses enjoying their
holiday in the meadow, the mass of blossom in the orchard, the sky
above, all blueness, the air full of a delicious quietness, as if the
sunshine itself was repose, Marian leant out at her window, and wondered
if it was possible she should have been so long away, so familiar, so
natural did it all seem.
The hurried breakfast, the walk to school, the school itself, how well
she knew it all, and within the school how old a world it was, and yet
how new! The benches, the books, the smiles, the curtsies, the very
nosegays, redolent of southernwood, were unchanged, but all the great
good girls of her day, the prime first class, where was it? Here was the
first class still, Agnes' pride; but, behold, these are the little ones
of her day, and the babies for whom she had made pink frocks and frilled
caps, now stared up in her face responsible beings, who could say more
than half the Catechism. Her own little pets of school-days were grown
out of knowledge into the uninteresting time of life, the "old age
of childhood," and looked as if they found it equally difficult to
recognize "little Miss" in a lady taller than Miss Wortley. Next
followed the walk to Church, full of meetings and greetings, admiration
of her growth, and inquiries after Sir Gerald.
Yes, Marian did feel like the old self: her four years' absence was like
a dream that had passed away, and was nothing to her; she could think
only of home, home thoughts and home interests; the cares and the
teasings, the amusements and the turmoils of Oakworthy and London, were
as things far distant, which had never really concerned her, or
belonged to some different state of existence. She was at home, as she
continually said to herself; she felt as if she was in some way more in
the presence of her parents, as if their influence was sheltering her,
and shielding her from all external ill, as in the days of yore. Happy
they who can return after four years' trial as Marian did.
She was preparing for Confirmation; for, to her great joy, she was in
time to form one of Mr. Wortley's own flock, He gave her half an hour
every other morning; and now it was that all the difficulties raised
in her mind in arguments with Caroline, doubts with right or wrong, or
questions why and wherefore, were either solved or smoothed down. Her
principles were strengthened, her views were cleared up; she learnt the
reasons of rules she had obeyed in ignorance, and perceived her own
failures and their causes.
These were her graver hours. At other times she read, drew, and studied
German with Agnes, who gladly availed herself of the aid of one well
crammed by London masters, and who could not but allow, even to the
credit of her enemies, that they had made Marian very accomplished.
There were long walks to every well-remembered hill and dell, with
further expeditions planned against the return of the boys, and numerous
visits to old friends at the cottages to present Marian's gifts, which
had fairly overpowered Saunders' powers of packing. Delightful walks,
how different from the parade on the chalk roads, over high hedges,
through gaps doubly fenced with thorns, scrambling, at the risk of
neck us well as of dress, over piles of fern and ivy-covered rocks, or
hopping across brooks on extemporised stepping-stones, usually in the
very thick of some _mauvais pas_, discussing some tremendous point of
metaphysics or languages and breaking off in it to scream at the beauty
of the view, or to pity a rent muslin.
Marian and Agnes talked considerably now, and, allowing for the
difference in age, just as they used to do. Marian's fears of her own
coldness and doubts of her confidence in Agnes had all melted in her
native atmosphere, and were quite forgotten. She could speak of the
Lyddells now, though still she did not find fault with them, nor make
complaints; indeed, it was Agnes' abuse of them that made her first
discover that she had a regard for them.
This prejudice, as she began to call it, seemed to her unaccountable,
since she had never written complainingly, until she found at last,
(which made her inclined to treat it with more respect,) that it
was founded on what Edmund had reported. He had come to Fern Torr
immediately after his visit to Oakworthy, very much out of spirits, and
had poured out his anxieties to his friends, talking of Mr. and Mrs.
Lyddell with less caution than he had used with Marian, and lamenting
over the fate of his poor little cousins like something hopeless. Marian
thought of Gerald, and her heart failed her, then she hoped again, for
Gerald was coming home, and then she understood what Edmund had thought
of it all, and knew that it was perfectly consistent with his last
conversation with her. So she said that was four years ago, and that
Edmund was very kind.
The time of Gerald's arrival came. Charles and James Wortley preceded
him by about a fortnight, and all that Marian saw of them made her
rejoice in such companionship for him. Mr. Wortley drove her to meet him
at Exeter, and never was greeting more joyful. Lionel had sent her a
message that Oakworthy would be as dull as ditch water without her,
and if she did not come back before the end of the holidays, he should
certainly be obliged to go back to Eton again to find something to do.
Having delivered this message, Gerald made both his companions laugh by
gazing about as if surprised to find Exeter still in the same place, and
wondering at reading all the old names over the shops.
Marian was delighted that he recognised all the torrs on the drive home,
and very proud of his height, his beauty, and his cordial, well-bred
gentlemanlike manners, which gave the Wortleys general satisfaction.
The first thing he did was to go out and visit his old pony in the
paddock, patting it very affectionately, though he seemed much surprised
that it was so small.
In the evening they went to the Manor House. Marian had spent many hours
there, sat in the empty rooms, wandered in the garden, and mused on past
days, or dwelt on them with Agnes, and she had looked forward with great
pleasure to having her brother there.
She wished to have had him alone, but he asked Agnes and the boys to
come, and they all set out together up the rocky steps, Gerald far
before the rest, and when Marian came up to him he was standing on the
lawn, at the top of the steps, looking at the house.
"I thought it was larger," exclaimed he.
"But, Gerald, see how high the magnolia has grown, and how nice and
smooth old Lapthorn keeps the lawn. Does it not look as if we had gone
away only yesterday?"
"Yes, and there is the little larburnum that we planted. How it is
grown! But how very small the house is."
By this time the door had been opened by the old housekeeper, and
Marian, running up to her, exclaimed, "Here he is, Mrs. White! Come,
come, Gerald, come and speak to Mrs. White!"
Gerald came, but with no readiness of manner. His "how d'ye do?" was
shy and cold, and not at all answerable to her eager, almost tearful,
"Pretty well, thank you, Sir. It is something to see you at home again,
Sir Gerald; so tall, and looking so well. 'Tis almost old times again,
to see you and Miss Marian."
He stood silent, and Agnes spoke, "Yes, Mrs. White, is not he grown? It
does not seem to be so very long before we shall really have them here
"Ah! Miss Wortley, that is what I have always wished to live for; I have
always said, let me only live to see Sir Gerald come back, and find
things in order as he left them, and then I would die contented."
"No, no, live to keep his house many more years," said Marian. "It is
four years less now you know, Mrs. White; only eight more before we
shall be able to live here. For, I suppose you would like to have me
"I don't know Miss Marian; you will he married long before that, such a
fine young lady as you are grown to be."
Marian laughed and passed on into the house, sorry that Gerald had taken
no part in the conversation. They went into the drawing-room, that room
where he had wept so bitterly the day before his departure. Again his
observation was, "I thought this room was twice the size. And so low!"
"You have been looking in at the large end of a telescope lately,
Gerald," said his sister with some sorrow in her tone, as she sat down
on one of the brown holland muffled sofas, and looked up at her father's
portrait, trying to find a likeness there to the face before her. There
was the same high brow, the same dark eyes, the same straight features,
the same bright open smile. Gerald was more like it, in some respects,
than he had been, but there was a haughty, impetuous expression now
and then on eye, brow, and lip, that found no parallel in the gentle
countenance which, to Marian's present feelings, seemed to be turned
towards him with an air of almost reproachful anxiety.
Perhaps he saw some of the sadness of her expression, and; always
affectionate, wished to please her by manifesting a little more of the
feelings which really still existed. He came and stood by her, and
whispered a few caressing words, which almost compensated for the
vexation his carelessness had occasioned. He looked earnestly at the
picture for a few moments, then, turning away, suddenly exclaimed, "I
should like to see the old dressing-room."
This was Lady Arundel's morning room, where many a lesson had been
repeated, many a game played, and where, perhaps, more childish
recollections centered than in any other part of the house. The brother
and sister went thither alone, and much enjoyed looking into every
well-known corner, and talking of the little events which had there
taken place. This lasted for nearly a quarter of an hour, when they
rejoined their companions to make the tour of the garden, &c. All was
pleasant here, Gerald recollected every nook, and was delighted to find
so much unchanged.
"Let us just look into the stable yard," said he, as they were coming
away. It was locked, but a message to Mrs. White procured the key, and
they entered the neat deserted court, without one straw to make it look
inhabited, though the hutch where the rabbits had lived was still in its
place; and even in one corner the reversed flower-pot, which Gerald
well remembered to have brought there to mount upon, in order to make
investigations into a blackbird's nest, in the ivy on the wall.
He now used the same flower-pot to enable him to peep in at the hazy
window of the stable, and still more lamentable was his exclamation,
"Can this be all! How very small!"
"Nothing but low and little, you discontented boy," said Agnes.
"Why, really, I could not believe it was on such a small scale," said
Gerald. "Marian, now is it possible there can be only six stalls here?"
"Why, what would have been the use of more?" said Marian.
"Ah! why to be sure, there was no one to ride much," said Gerald. "But
yet I can hardly imagine it! What could my father have done in his
younger days? Only six stalls! And no loose box. Well, people had
contracted notions in those days! And the yard so small! Why, the one at
Oakworthy would make four of it."
"And you had really managed to persuade yourself that this was a grander
place than Oakworthy?" said Marian.
Gerald made no answer; but after walking backwards till he had a
full view of the stable and surrounding regions, broke out into the
exclamation, "I see what is to be done! Take down that wall--let in
a piece of the kitchen garden--get it levelled--and then extend it a
little on the right side too. Yes, I see."
"You are not talking of spoiling this place!" cried Agnes, in dismay.
"Spoiling! only making it habitable," said Gerald. "How can a man live
here with a stable with six stalls, and nothing like a kennel?"
The utter impossibility of such an existence was so strongly impressed
on the mind of the young baronet, that as soon as tea was over he
commenced a sketch of his future stables, adding various explanations
for the benefit of Charles and James. There was almost a daily quarrel
on the subject with Agnes, and much laughing on each side; but Marian,
afraid of making him more determined, took no part in it.
Much might happen in eight years to make him change his mind, and this
stable in the clouds might be endured, if everything else had been fully
Very happy were the boys next morning, setting off to the woods to study
the localities of the game; very happy were they fishing and rabbit
shooting; very happy, galloping over the country by turns on the two
ponies; very happy were the whole party in pic-nic expeditions, and in
merry evening sports; but these could not take up every hour and every
minute; and Marian could not help observing, that while Charles and
James could always find some work on which to be employed in the
intervals, Gerald was idle and listless. There were hours in the morning
when they had their Latin and Greek to study, while Gerald was usually
loitering in the drawing-room. That he should voluntarily touch Latin
or Greek in the holidays was perhaps more than mortal could expect;
but that he should not read anything was disappointing. The vicarage
afforded no periodical novels, no slang tales of low life, no manuals
of sporting. The Waverley novels he had read long ago, and nothing of
a more solid description would he touch; so his mornings were chiefly
spent in drawing caricatures, and chattering to his sister and Agnes. He
was indeed very amusing, but this was not all that could be desired. Now
and then there were stories of feats which did not seem likely to be
those of the best and wisest set of boys; and his idea of the life of
a boy, if not of man, was plainly that it was to be spent in taking
pleasure and shirking work. Then he took in a sporting paper, and used
to entertain them with comments on the particulars of the races, and of
bets, which no one in the house understood but himself; but these were
never in the presence of either Mr. or Mrs. Wortley, where he was on his
In these intervals of idleness, Marian tried to persuade him several
times to write to Edmund, who would be glad to have a report fresh from
home. He always said he would soon set about a letter, but the time
never came, though she more than once arranged pen, paper, and ink in
readiness for him. He had recently received a letter from his cousin,
but he had torn it up, and could not remember anything about the
Something between bashfulness and pride produced conduct which could
not but appear like arrant haughtiness to the villagers, who had looked
forward eagerly to seeing their young landlord. If Marian tried to
bring him to speak to some poor old man, his answer was, "Give him this
half-crown, then, that will do just as well!" and he walked off out
of reach, while she remained to present the gift, and hear in answer,
"Thank you kindly, Miss; I should like to see the young gentleman
himself, but I daresay he does not like poor people."
If this was the feeling where there was half-a-crown to sweeten the
neglect, what was it where such a propitiatory offering was out of the
question, and where the original connection had been closer, among the
old servants, the dependants and tenants? His lofty acknowledgment
of their bows,--his short, reluctant "Good morning," when forced to
speak,--and his willingness to escape from their presence, contrasted
ill with the cordial greetings with which his cousin Edmund had always
hailed each Fern Torr person as a friend. Indeed, "that nice young
gentleman, Master Edmund," began to be recollected with regrets, which,
had the Manor been a kingdom, might have amounted to treason towards the
Marian grieved at this behaviour, and would have attempted to argue
him out of it, but he gave her scarcely any opportunity of a serious
conversation; and Mr. Wortley gave him more than one hint, which, though
be took it with perfect courtesy, never mended matters. Yet with all
this, he was so agreeable, so good-natured and gentlemanlike, so
pleasant a guest, and so affectionate a brother, that Mr. and Mrs.
Wortley could not help liking him very much; and if they saw anything
amiss, they did not pain his sister by speaking of it. Her misgivings
were too vague and undetermined for her to be willing to consult
Mr. Wortley; if she thought at one time that she would, she grew so
frightened and reluctant whenever an occasion came, that she let it pass
by; and she was divided between blame to herself for doing nothing, when
a few words might be the rescue of her brother, and self-reproach for
doing him cruel injustice.
Nay, she even defended him more than once, when Agnes was shocked. She
protected a shirt, illustrated by his own hand, in marking-ink, with
cricketers, which caused infinite scandal to the washerwomen of Fern
Torr. She defended slang words, which Agnes, from not understanding
them, fancied worse than they really were; and she never failed to say
he did not mean to be unkind, whenever he was neglectful of the poor
people. She was displeased with herself afterwards for speaking in
favour of these things, for she well knew them to be only parts of the
whole system which grieved her; but still she could not help it.
These thoughts were suspended by the solemn time approaching. Her
confirmation-day came, and she stood among the maidens of her own home
and village, who had been baptized in the same font, and shared with her
the same instructions. Simultaneously with them she pronounced her vow;
and perhaps it was a repining thought which crossed her mind,--"Why am
I not like these, to remain in this peaceful nest, not sent forth to
be wearied and tried by that glittering world of unrest, which I thus
She knelt to receive the blessing, which brought with it the trust that
the peace of that moment might dwell with her, refresh her, and shield
her "as oft as sin and sorrow tire." And when her eye fell on her
brother, it was with more hope, for now she could better pray for him.
Whatever might happen, it could never hurt the memory of that awful
yet soothing hour, nor of that first Communion when she knelt near her
parents' graves between Mrs. Wortley and Agnes; the whole air filled
with the prayers of those on earth and in heaven who loved her best; nor
of her walk in the garden afterwards with Mr. Wortley, when he plainly
spoke to her of her life as one of peculiar trial and temptation, and
warned her how to be in the world, and yet not of the world.
The nest event of the visit to Fern Torr was Saunders' wedding. Saunders
did not love Oakworthy, still less Mrs. Lyddell, and least of all Mrs.
Price, the ladies' maid; and when she found herself at Fern Torr again,
and heard Mr. David Chapple renew his tender speeches, the return
thither became more and more difficult; and one day, while plaiting her
young lady's hair, she communicated to her with a great gush of tears,
that, though she could not bear to think of leaving her, and would not
on any account cause her any inconvenience, she began to think it was
time to think about her marriage.
It was a stroke to Marian to hear of losing any old familiar face, and
her look of dismay was a great satisfaction to Saunders; but she could
bear it better than she could once have done, and there were reasons
which made a change not so very much to be regretted even by her.
The quarrels between Saunders and the rest of the household were not
agreeable, and what she now felt to be a serious evil, was that habit of
complaining to her, and telling her stories against the family, of which
Edmund had warned her long ago. She had tried to discourage it, but,
once begun, it had never been entirely discontinued; and Marian felt it
to be wrong in every way.
She made up her mind, therefore, with greater philosophy than could have
been expected, to the loss of Saunders; and was further consoled by
finding it gave hey an opportunity of promoting a nice young Fern Torr
damsel, too delicate for hard work, who had been taught dressmaking, and
whom Saunders undertook to instruct in the mysteries of the hair, quite
sufficiently to carry her on till they went to London, and she could
take lessons from some grand frizeur.
Mrs. Lyndell was written to, and gave her consent to the hiring of
Fanny, and Marian and Agnes were so delighted at the opening thus made
for her, that Saunders would have been jealous if she had not been too
happily engaged in her own preparations.
As to Gerald he made a dreadful face when he first heard of Saunders'
intentions; but as her going made no difference to his comfort, he soon
became resigned. David was an old acquaintance, whom he liked because
he belonged to the genus groom; so he made no objection to his sister's
attending the wedding. He presented the bride with a tea-set, splendid
with gilding, and surprised every one by walking into Mr. Wortley's
kitchen in the midst of the bridal entertainment, and proposing the
health of the happy pair.
Marian was to return under Gerald's escort, at the end of the holidays.
He was to go on to Eton, leaving her at the railway station, where she
was to be met by the Lyddells' carriage. The last letter arrived,
in which arrangements respecting time and train were to be finally
confirmed. It was, as usual, from Caroline; and as she opened it, Marian
gave a sudden start.
"Eh?" said Gerald, "whose mare's dead? Not Elliot's Queen Pomare, I
"No, but Miss Morley is going."
"O!" cried Gerald, "I hope she has been reading some more letters."
"Not quite," said Marian smiling.
"Well, but is it directly? I suppose you did not think she was to stay
there for life? Has she been in any mischief, that you look so shocked?"
Marian really could not help discovering that she was not without
tenderness of feeling for Miss Morley, and did not like to proclaim, in
Caroline's strong and rather satirical language, across the breakfast
table, that Mrs. Lyddell had discovered by accident that she and her
pupil were in the habit of amusing themselves with novels which were
far better unread. After reading quickly to the end of the letter, she
answered, "O, she has been reading books with Clara that Mrs. Lyddell
did not approve."
"A triumph! a triumph!" cried Agnes. "Now Marian will never attempt to
defend Miss Morley again."
"What, not the poor unfortunate faithful? How can you think me so base?"
returned Marian. "Besides, poor thing, she really is very kind-hearted,
and has very little harm in her. I dare say it was more Clara's fault
"Well done, Marian, striking right and left!" observed James Wortley.
"How long has Miss Morley been at Oakworthy?" asked Mrs. Wortley.
"She came about a year before we did," replied Marian.
"Her predecessor, Miss Cameron, must have been a very different person;
Caroline and Walter always speak of her with such respect."
"Poor unfortunate!" broke out Gerald. "Well, if it had not been for
Marian's letters, I should not have hated her so much. When one was
making a row, she never did anything worse than say, 'Now Sir Gerald!'"
which he gave with her peculiarly unauthoritative, piteous, imploring
"There was something in that title of 'poor unfortunate,' peculiarly
appropriate," said Marian, laughing, "as I am afraid that it is now,
poor thing. She is to leave Oakworthy immediately, and I do not know
that she has any relation but an old aunt."
Mr. and Mrs. Wortley agreed with Marian that it was a melancholy case,
but the others were too triumphant to be compassionate; and Gerald
amused Agnes half the morning with ludicrous stories of her
Marian was thoughtful all day; and at last, when sitting alone with Mrs.
Wortley and Agnes, exclaimed, "Poor Miss Morley! I really am very sorry
for her; I did not know I liked her so well."
"Absence is the great charm with Marian," said Agnes, laughing; "we
learn now what makes her so affectionate to us."
"No, but really, Agnes, when one has been living in constant intercourse
for four years, and often receiving kindness from a person, is it
possible to hear of her being sent away in disgrace and poverty without
caring about it?"
"O yes; I know; after having lived in the same house with a kitchen
poker for four years, you get so attached to it that it gives you a pang
to part with it. No, but the comparison is no compliment to the poker;
that is firm enough, at any rate,--a down cushion would be better."
"An attachment to a down cushion is nothing to be ashamed of, Agnes,"
said her mother.
"And Miss Morley did deserve some attachment, indeed," said Marian. "She
was so ready to oblige, and she really did many and many a kind thing by
the servants; and I believe she quite denied herself, for the sake of
her old aunt. She was not fit for a governess, to be sure; but that was
more her misfortune than her fault, poor thing."
"How do you make that out?" said Agnes.
"Why, she was obliged to got her own living; and what other way had
she? She was educated for it, and had everything but the art of gaining
"And high principle," said Mrs. Wortley.
"But," said Marian, growing eager in her defence, "she really did know
right from wrong. She would remonstrate, and tell us things that were
every word good and true, only she did it with so little force, that
they were apt not to mind her; and then it was no wonder that she grew
dispirited, and sunk into poor unfortunate."
"Yes," said Agnes, "I can understand it all; she was in a situation that
she was not fit for, and failed."
"She would have been very different in another situation, most
probably," said Mrs. Wortley, "where she and the children were not so
much left to each other's mercy."
"Yes; Mrs. Lyddell never mended matters," said Marian. "She did not back
up or strengthen her, but only frightened her, till she was quite as
ready to conceal what was amiss as her pupils. And that intimacy with
Clara was a very unlucky thing; it drew her down without drawing Clara
"I suppose that was the origin of the catastrophe," said Mrs. Wortley.
"I should think so; they have been more alone together lately, for I am
sure this could never have happened when Caroline was in the schoolroom.
And her making a friend of Clara was no wonder, so forlorn and solitary
as she must have been." And Marian sighed with fellow-feeling for her.
"An intimate, not a friend," said Mrs. Wortley.
"And I could better fancy making a friend of Miss Lyddell," said Agnes.
"I can't say my tete-a-tete with Miss Clara made me desire much more of
"Clara is more caressing," said Marian. "I think I am most fond of her,
though Caroline is--O! quite another thing. But what I wanted was to ask
you, Mrs. Wortley, if you thought I might write to poor Miss Morley, and
ask if there is anything I can do for her. I can't bear to think of her
going away without wishing her good-bye, or showing any feeling for her
in her distress."
"How very right and kind of you, Marian," exclaimed Agnes, "after all
"I do not think it would be advisable, my dear," said Mrs. Wortley; "it
would seem like putting yourself in opposition to Mrs. Lyddell, and
might be pledging yourself, in a manner, to recommend her, which, with
your opinion of her, you could not well do."
"O, no, no, except in some particular case. Yes, I suppose you are
right; but I don't feel happy to take no notice."
"Perhaps something may occur on your return, when you understand the
matter more fully; or, at any rate, if you are writing to Oakworthy, you
might send some message of farewell, kind remembrances, or love."
"Those are so unmeaning and conventional that I hate them," said Marian.
"Yes, but their want of meaning is their advantage here. They are merely
kindly expressions of good will."
"And they will mean more from you," added Agnes, "as you never have the
civility to use them on ordinary occasions."
"Well, I will take your advice," said Marian, "and thank you, Mrs.
Wortley; I only wish--"
The wish ended in a sigh, as Marian sat down to commence--"My dear
"But we are women when boys are but boys;
Heav'n gives us grace to ripen and grow wise,
Some six years earlier. I thank heav'n for it:
We grow upon the sunny side of the wall."
It certainly was quite involuntary on Agnes Wortley's part, but when
the time came for returning to Oakworthy, Marian was conscious of more
kindly and affectionate feelings towards it and its inhabitants than she
had ever expected to entertain for them. She did not love Fern Torr or
the Wortleys less; she had resumed her confidence and sympathy with
Agnes, and felt the value of Mrs. Wortley more than ever; and it quite
made her heart ache to think how long it would be before she saw another
purple hill or dancing streamlet, and that she should not be there to
see her dear old myrtle's full pride of blossom. But, on the other hand,
her room at Oakworthy, with its treasures, was a sort of home; and she
looked forward to it gladly, when once she was out of sight of the
The train had stopped and gone on again from the last station before
that where they were to leave it for Oakworthy, when Gerald, coming
across to the seat by her side, said, "Marian, I say, can you lend me a
couple of pounds?"
"Why, Gerald, what can you want with them?"
"Never mind; only be a good girl, and let me have them."
"You had plenty of money when you came to Fern Torr. How could you have
got rid of it all?"
"Come, come, Marian, don't be tiresome. Haven't I had to give to all the
old women in the place?"
"But do you really mean that you have no money?"
"O yes, I have some, but not what I want. Come, I know you keep
California in your pocket. What harm can it do you?"
After all Marian's presents at Fern Torr, it was not quite as
convenient, as Gerald fancied, to part with two pounds; but that was not
the best motive to put forward, nor was it her reason for hesitating.
"I don't know whether it is right; that is the thing, Gerald."
"Right! why where is the right or wrong in it?"
"I am afraid it may do you harm," said she, in a trembling, doubtful
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