The Two Guardians
Charlotte Mary Yonge
Part 5 out of 8
Clara, whom Mrs. Lyddell promised to fetch to-morrow: Lady Julia was
particularly full of empressement and affection, delighted that dear
Caroline had been looking so lovely. She even came out with them to the
cloak-room, where her son was assiduous in shawling Mrs. Lyddell, and
all manner of civilities seemed to be passing among them in a low voice,
while Edmund having disengaged Marian's shawl from the surrounding
drapery, said, as he put it round her, "Then it is settled that I take
Gerald and try to do for the best?"
"O if you are so kind--"
"Don's trust too much to it. I will try, which is all I can do."
"No one can do him any good if you cannot."
"Hush! And I must thank you for taking my scolding in such good part."
"I deserved it."
"I have since been thinking you are probably right. I am sure you are
in the principle of the thing. It was the particular application that
Mrs. Lyddell moved on, the carriage was at the door, they were all in
it, Elliot of course last, and as he threw himself back in his corner
and the door was shut, he exclaimed in a satisfied tone, "Well! he is
coming it pretty strong!" Who was coming what? thought Marian, but her
suspense did not last long, for Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell both chimed in
with exclamations of satisfaction which left no doubt that they were
delighting themselves in the prospect of seeing Caroline mistress of
High Down. Marian had been in some slight degree prepared for this, she
knew Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell would highly approve, nay, consider such a
marriage as fulfilling their highest expectations, such an establishment
as all that could be wished; and depending as she did on Caroline's
principle and right feeling, she was sorry to think how much vexation
and worrying was in store for her. As she sat disregarded and forgotten
through that long dark drive, hearing all the eager gratulations and
anticipations of her three companions, regarding a marriage which she
could not think of without a sort of horror, how did she despise them,
feel imprisoned, and long to make her escape. She had not the least
doubt as to what Caroline would do; her rejection of such a man was a
matter of certainty; but Marian was vexed with her for having allowed
herself to become so intimate with the Faulkners, and thought she had
brought on herself all the annoyances that would follow.
Tired, irritated, excited, Marian was very glad to escape from the
carriage, wish the rest good night, and run up to her own room. She sat
before her glass, slowly brushing out her long dark hair, and trying
to bring home her feverish thoughts, and dwell on what had passed,
especially with Edmund, on whom she had not yet had time to think, and
of all those hints of his, as to her behaviour in this matter. Had he
approved it or not? or would he if he had known all the circumstances?
There was something that struck her a good deal in his saying "I cannot
judge of the amount of sacrifice." Had it been a sacrifice to wear a
plain dress, to abstain from archery? It would have been, to Clara, but
was it to her? and as she looked at the two grey volumes, with their
store of pretty engravings and pleasant reading which lay on her table,
and thought that they were her own for life, and that Anne Clifford's
dress would now be laid aside and useless for ever after the archery
prize, if she had won it, would be worthless, and the admiration,
had she valued it, passed from her ears, she could not feel, for one
instant, that it had been a sacrifice. Then again came his words, "every
thing in this world is nonsense, except as a means of doing right or
wrong." Yes, pretty books, pleasant pictures, taste and intellect were
in themselves as little precious as dress and finery, things as fleeting
when compared with eternity, except so far as they trained the soul
and the higher faculties which _might_ endure for ever. She thought of
"Whether there he prophecies, they shall fail, whether there be tongues,
they shall cease, whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away."
All was a shadow except that charity which never faileth, a beautiful
picture, even as a costly dress! the way we treat these things alone
enduring. Her head throbbed as she tried to be certain as to whether she
had acted right. If the dress had required the money set apart for the
poor she would have been perfectly clear about it, but she knew it
need not have done so. Would her vanity have been gratified? Decidedly
not--admiration of her face was so distasteful to her proud shrinking
bashfulness, that she felt it like an insult when reported to her, and
could almost have wished not to be so handsome, if it had not been more
agreeable to an artist-like eye to see a tolerable physiognomy in the
glass, when obliged to look there, and besides she would not but be like
the Arundels, and was well satisfied with the consciousness of having
their features, as indeed she would have been if their noses had been
turned up and their "foreheads villainous low." If _her_ vanity was
gratified, it was by standing apart from, and being able to look down on
the rest of the world; and as Marian became conscious of this, her mind
turned from it with the vexation of spirit, the disgust and sensation of
dislike, and willingness to forget all about it, that every one is apt
to feel with regard to a vanity passed away--something analogous to the
contempt and dislike with which we turn from the withered shreds of
tangible vanity, faded and crumpled artificial flowers, and tumbled
gauze ribbon when disinterred from some dusty and forgotten corner. No
feeling is much more unpleasant than the loathing of an old vanity; and
though this of Marian's was not yet old, yet that touch of Edmund's
which had shown her how he regarded her "high-and-mightiness," had made
her very much ashamed of it. Then came the question whether it was,
after all, self-will that had actuated her, pride and self-will, leading
her contrary to every one's wishes, where she was not sure that she was
fulfilling a duty. Again, on the other hand, there was this point about
the Faulkner family, her dislike to them was founded on principle;
indeed it was not dislike, for she allowed their agreeableness of
manner, it was disapproval; it was determination not to enter into
anything approaching to intimate acquaintance with a man whom she
believed to be little better than an infidel. If Edmund knew this, would
not he think her right? But then to be consistent, she should not have
accepted his hospitality in any degree; she ought not to have gone to
the ball, nor ever to have dined at his house. How far was she called on
to set her face against him, how far was she independent, how far was
obedience to the Lyddells a duty? This must be for a question for Edmund
another time, and she hoped that Caroline's refusal would put an end
to the intercourse. Nor were these all her reflections. She thought of
Edmund and his kindness to Gerald, and the hopes, nay the confidence
which it revived in her, setting her mind fully at rest about her
precious brother, for in spite of Edmund's despondency, she could not
help trusting entirely to the renewal of his influence; for who was
like Edmund? Who so entirely treated, as well as spoke of, the world as
nothing except as a means of doing right or wrong?
But then that he should be out of spirits, as she had more plainly than
ever perceived to-night, in spite of the gaiety he had at first assumed,
his manner of replying when she pressed him to go to Fern Torr, and his
absolute avoidance of it, struck and puzzled her much as well as grieved
her. She knew his loneliness, and could understand that he might be
melancholy, but why he should shrink from the home he so loved was
beyond what she could fathom.
She knew Clara would laugh at her for his having come so many miles on
her account. Yes, quite sure that it was nonsense. Edmund had talked
of coming to see her, so openly, he had laughed at and blamed her so
uncompromisingly, that she had no doubt that he had not the least
inclination to fall in love with her. She had the best of elder brothers
in him, and he would take care of Gerald, and, happy in her confidence
she fell asleep.
"What is that which I should turn to, lighting upon days like these?
Every door is barr'd with gold and opens but to golden keys.
* * * * *
"Yearning for the large excitement that the coming years would yield,
Eager hearted as a boy when he first leaves his father's field."
Marian was not up much later than usual the next morning, but she had
a long time to wait for the rest of the party. She read, wrote, drew,
tried to busy herself as usual all the morning, but whether it was that
she was tired with her ball, or that she was anxious about Caroline,
she did not prosper very much, and grew restless and dissatisfied. She
wished she knew whether she had done right, she wished she could feel
that she had been kind and accommodating.
Her head was dull and heavy from the struggle to occupy herself when her
mind was full, and after luncheon she tried to drive her stupidity away
by a very long ride. Groom and horses were always at her service, as a
part of Mrs. Lyddell's justice to her, and off she set, in search of
breezes, to the highest and furthest downs, by her attainable. On she
went, cantering fast, feeling her power over her spirited pony, letting
the summer sun shine full on her face, and the wind, when she had ridden
where she could meet it, stream in a soft ripple round her head, like
the waves of the summer tide. She rode far enough to attain the object
she had proposed to herself, namely, to look down on Salisbury spire,
pointing up in its green valley with the fresh meadows around it, giving
a sense of refreshment, repose and holy influence, which her eye carried
to her mind. Good men had raised that pile, had knelt there, sung
in praise there, and now lay asleep within its grey walls and shady
cloisters; men and women who had been to the full as much wearied and
perplexed with sin and worldliness around them as she could ever feel;
they had struggled through, their worn and fainting hearts had rested
there, and now their time of peace was come. Why should it not be so
Ah! but things were changed; in their time there was energy; there were
great crimes indeed, but the Church was active. The bad was very bad,
but the good was very good, there were real broad questions then of
right and wrong, not the coldness and frivolity, where all was so
worthless that there was scarce a possibility of caring or seeing which
part was the right.
No, Marian would not accuse the time in which she was born, and the
station to which it had pleased God to call her. Mr. Wortley had warned
her against that. She had a Church, the one true holy Catholic Church,
as surely and truly, nay, the very same that those men of old had, and
was as much bound to love it, serve it, fight for it in her own way, as
ever they had felt themselves. Life, truth, goodness, there was still,
she saw it, knew it, felt it in some; and though there was little of it
in her immediate home, so little as to make her heart faint, she knew
"Israel yet has thousands sealed
Who to Baal never kneeled."
If there was this frivolity, this deadness and chilliness about these
present days, she knew it was a temptation long since prophesied of, as
about to grow on the world "when, the love of many should wax cold," but
the help and the hope were never to fail, and while she might but grasp
after them, she had enough to do, and need not feel faint and weary.
Her ride had done her good, her sensation of bodily lassitude and mental
stupidity had been driven off by the active exercise which had produced
a more wholesome kind of fatigue, and the temper which tended to
discontent had partly gone with them, partly been chased away by
reflection in a right spirit. As she was entering the park, Elliot, also
on horseback, came up in time to profit by the same opening of the gate.
"Are you but just come home, Marian?" said he, "I thought I was very
"I don't know what o'clock it is, but I see the sun is getting low."
"Have not you been at High Down?"
"No, I have been to Beacon Hill."
"To Beacon Hill! That _is_ a ride! And you have not seen any of them
since they came home?"
"No, I have been out all the afternoon."
"Well, I have a notion you will have something to hear. I dare say you
have some idea. Catch a young lady not up to a thing like that."
A cold horror and disgust came over Marian, and she would not make a
single inquiry, but Elliot went on.
"So you will ask no questions? I believe you are in the secret the whole
"No, I am not."
"No? You will never persuade me that you are not. Why, what else can you
ladies sit up half the night talking about in your bed rooms?"
Marian despised him too much to deny.
"Then do you really mean to profess," said Elliot, turning full towards
her, so as to look her in the face in what she deemed an impertinent
way, "that you cannot guess the news that is waiting for you?"
For once in her life she could not say "I don't know," and her answer
was a very cold "I believe I do;" while in the meantime she was almost
feeling, and quite looking, as if she could have cut off his bead. His
disagreeableness was the one present pain, but behind it was undefined
consternation, for she perceived that, at any rate, he did not think
Caroline had refused Mr. Faulkner.
"You keep your congratulations till it is formally announced," said he
maliciously, still looking at her, though few save himself could have
failed to be abashed by the firm, severe expression of her dark eyes,
and lips compressed into all the sternness of the Queen of Olympus.
Happily they were so close to the house that Marian, who would not deign
a reply, could avoid him without absolute rudeness. She threw her rein
to the groom, and sprung to the ground before Elliot had time to offer
his assistance, then ran hastily across the hall just as Clara was
coming out of the drawing-room.
"Why, Elliot!" cried Clara meeting her brother, "you have not been
riding with Marian?"
"With Marian? No, I thank you! I only met with her at the gate, and have
been spoiling your market."
"You don't mean that you have been telling her?" cried Clara; "O I
wanted to have been first."
"Precious little thanks you'll get!" said Elliot; but Clara, without
attending to him, flew up stairs after Marian, who had reached her room,
and while Fanny was endeavouring to get her dressed in time for dinner,
was trying to collect her dismayed thoughts. She would not believe
Caroline so foolish, nay, so wicked as to accept him, yet if it could
possibly be true, what in the world should she say or do which way
should she look, or how should she answer? In the midst of her first
confusion in danced Clara, with a face full of delight at having
something to tell, then looking blank at Fanny's presence.
"Marian--my dear Marian--what do you think?" was her first eager
beginning, then changing into "How--how late you are--where have you
been! I really thought you had been out with Elliot," and she laughed.
"I only fell in with him at the gate. I have been to Beacon Hill."
"Have you indeed? O I wish you had come with mamma! So Elliot has
been provoking, and told you," she added, stopping there, and looking
Marian glanced at Fanny, and shook her head. She was very glad she had
such a protector, to give her time to collect her thoughts, but this was
not easy, for Clara went rattling on in an eager discursive way about
all sorts of things, the archery, the dancing, the partners, the
dresses, hardly knowing what she said, nor Marian either, fidgeting
about, trying to expedite the dressing, and looking most impatient, till
at last Marian, anxious to know what had really taken place, pitying her
eagerness, and willing to have it over, hurried the fastening of her
dress, and arranging of her lace, and told Fanny to leave them.
"O Marian! Marian! what a shame of Elliot to have told you all about it.
Did you expect it?"
"He only half told me," replied Marian, "but make haste, Clara, let me
hear. Is Caroline really engaged?"
"Yes--yes--O yes! and every one is so delighted, Lady Julia, and Julia
and Louisa, and all!"
"And she has accepted him?"
"O yes to be sure--at least--yes, only you know it is too soon to settle
when they will be married. What a charming wedding it will be, won't
it, Marian?--you and I find Julia and Louisa, and their cousins will be
bridesmaids O! how delightful it will be. And then I shall come out."
"But Clara, Clara, don't be wild, do tell me all about it."
"Ah! you see you missed something by not coming to stay there as we did.
And to tell you a great secret, Marian, Louisa says she really believes
that it was you that her brother thought of, when he first accepted
Elliot's invitation to come and stay here."
"Nonsense," said Marian, though her colour would rise.
"And he had not seen Caroline then, Louisa says," proceeded Clara, but
there she got into an inextricable confusion, and was not speedy in
stammering out of it, having suddenly remembered that it was no great
compliment to tell Marian that Louisa had said how glad they all were
that it was not Miss Arundel. Marian cut the hesitation short by saying,
"You have not told me when it was settled, or how you heard it."
"It was settled last night after you were gone--in the conservatory--
such a pretty place for a love affair, as Louisa says--at least I mean
he asked her, but I don't think she gave him any real regular answer--
no, certainly she did not."
"Did you know of it that evening?"
"O yes, Louisa and I had great fun in watching him all day, and all the
day before, we saw it all quite plain."
"But did Caroline tell you that night?"
"Yes, of course she did. She could not have kept it from me, you know,
for I began to laugh at her the minute we came up, and asked her if she
had not been delightfully employed, and you should have seen what a
colour she grew directly."
"And what did she say?" asked Marian very anxiously, almost hoping it
might prove that Caroline's acceptance might have been taken for granted
without having been really given.
"I don't exactly remember what she said, she was very grave and said it
was no laughing matter, or something of that kind, and she walked up and
down and begged me to be quiet and let her think."
"Then I begged her only to let me know if he had proposed, and what she
had said, and she told me she had said nothing--she could not tell--she
must have time, and then she leant her head against the side of the bed,
and said she wished she knew what to do! And when I tried to cheer her
up, and said how delightful it would be----"
"O Clara, how could you?" broke from Marian.
"Ah! I know you can't bear the Faulkners, but you must now, for they
will be your cousins, you know, Marian. And I assure you I did not say
anything silly, I said it was not only that Mr. Faulkner is handsome and
rich, that would not be anything, you know, but he is so sensible and so
agreeable, and kind, and good tempered, and we are all so fond of him,
and the Faulkners all so fond of her, and it would be so very nice to
have her close to us, and mamma would be so charmed. Well, poor dear
girl, she did not sleep at all that night, and this morning she only
wanted, if she could, to have sent a note for us to be sent for to come
home to breakfast, but that could not be, you know, and when we came
down, Lady Julia was so kind and affectionate, and kissed her and said
she was tired, and took her to lie on the sofa, in the little boudoir.
Lady Julia sat with her there first, and then Mr. Faulkner came, and
stayed with her a long, long time."
"O!" sighed Marian, "was it settled then?"
"Not exactly settled, but somewhere about three o'clock, Mr. Faulkner
ordered his horse, and rode out to find papa, and then Caroline ran up
to our room, and bolted the door, and said she could not let me in,
but just then mamma came and went up to her, and it was all joy and
congratulation through the whole house. Mr. Faulkner came back and papa
with him. But dear me, there is the second bell! Come, Marian! O, I do
so wish you had been there."
If Marian had been there, perhaps things would not have been exactly as
they were at present, though this was very far from what Clara intended
by her wish. Marian had done infinite mischief by the severity which had
weakened the only home influence excepting Walter's which held Caroline
to the right. Caroline respected her extremely, but the confidence and
affection which had been growing up slowly but surely out of that root
of esteem, had been grievously dulled and blighted, and at a most
critical time. It had in fact been almost killed down to the ground, and
though the root was a healthy one, and might yet shoot forth again,
the opportunity had been missed when it might have been turned to good
Caroline knew Mr. Faulkner not to be a religious man, and her better
principles warned her against him; but on the other hand she really
liked his manners extremely, her heart was warmed towards him by his
preference and expressions of affection, and she did not know whether
she loved him already or not, or whether she should allow herself to
love him, as he was sure she could do. She had been used to a world
where the service of GOD was not the first object; she had always lived
with men whose thoughts and time were otherwise engrossed, and though
she might regret what she saw, her standard had been lowered, and she
was far less inclined to hold aloof front one whom her conscience did
not approve, than if she had been accustomed to see everything desirable
in her own family; in those whom nature and duty obliged her to love and
By the Faulkners she was greeted with such kindness as to win her heart,
and she thought the power she would enjoy at High Down would enable her
to set things on a footing there, on which she could never place them at
home; she could not fail to be happy with Mr. Faulkner; she might work
upon his mind, if he loved her as he said he did. Still there stood the
great unanswerable obstacle, the three words, "It is wrong!" If she
stood alone, if there was no family on either side, she could, she would
refuse, but dismay seized on her when she thought of the displeasure,
the persecution at home if she rejected him; on the other hand she
shrank from ingratitude for the kindness of the Faulkners. There was
Clara putting her in mind of all that could bias her in his favour,
rejoicing already, saying how all the family would rejoice.
O that interval, that night! if Marian had but stood there with the
grave, earnest, heartfelt voice that repelled all sophistry with the
wonted "I don't know," if the dark eyes had been there to look with
contempt on all but the "right," and to fill with tears, the more
touching because so rare, as her tenderness, her deep feeling would
have been called out by the sensation of seeing and aiding a friend to
struggle nobly against a temptation, if Caroline had felt and seen the
superiority, the loveableness of real, true, uncompromising regard for
right, and right alone, if she had been by one touch made to partake
of the horror Marian felt of any failure in faith, then all the innate
strength and nobleness of her character might have been awakened, and
she would have clung to "the right" at any cost, supported, carried
through by Marian's approval and sympathy, keeping her up to feel that
higher approval was with her.
But alas! alas! Marian was at a distance, and her image had at present
connected itself with harshness and haughtiness. She might be good;
but such goodness did not invite imitation; she did not appear half as
agreeable as the Faulkners. Caroline turned away from the recollection
of her, was all night and all the morning distressed, undecided, and
vacillating; then came Lady Julia's affection, her lover pressing his
suit, she hardly knew what she had said, but she found her consent
was assumed, both families were rejoicing in it, she found herself
considered to be engaged, and she returned home bewildered at all that
had passed, flattered, almost intoxicated with the attention of various
kinds paid her by every one, at High Down, and when her wonted dread of
Marian's disapproving eye would return, hardening herself against it
with the thought that Marian could not make every one as Utopian as
her own Edmund and Fern Torr, that she was proud and determined in
prejudice, and after all what right had she to interfere? Of Walter,
Caroline did not dare to think.
Marian came down with Clara, wearing a rigid company countenance,
expressing more of indifference than of anything else; she would not
look at Caroline lest her eye should seem to judge her, and only by
furtive glances perceived that she looked pale, worn and wearied. There
was talk about the ball going on all dinner-time, but Caroline hardly
put in a word, and Marian's were not many. Directly after dinner
Caroline said she was tired, and should lie down till tea-time; she went
and Mrs. Lyddell, taking Marian by the hand, exclaimed, "Now, Marian, I
must be congratulated. I suppose Clara has told you all about it."
"Yes, Clara told me," said Marian, resolved not to offend except where
she could not avoid it without sacrificing truth.
"You could scarcely be surprised," said Mrs. Lyddell. "It has been
evident for a long time. Dear Caroline! Well, I am sure this is a
satisfaction! Settled so near home, and family and connection exactly
what could be wished; and so extremely fond of her."
"Yes, Lady Julia is very fond of her."
Mrs. Lyddell was too much rejoiced herself not to take sympathy for
granted. The point, on which Caroline's scruples were founded, and which
caused Marian's dislike, had never even occurred to her: she lived
little, or rather not at all, in Marian's confidence, and really did not
know that she disliked the Faulkners more than any one else, since her
manners were so universally distant, that a little ungraciousness more
or less was not very visible to a casual observer like Mrs. Lyddell.
That same ordinary coldness and undemonstrativeness which had never
thawed to Mrs. Lyddell was the reason that the entire absence of any
expression of gladness or congratulation was not remarked, or at least
only taken as her way, and besides at the bottom of her heart, Mrs.
Lyddell was very much obliged to Marian for the repelling manner which
had left the field to her daughter. So Marian got very well through
half an hour's interview, without giving offence; but she feared the
_tete-a-tete_ with Caroline, and resolved as much as possible to avoid
it, since she could do no good, and did not think it right to express
her sentiments unless they were positively called for. Disappointed in
Caroline, grieved, giving her up for lost, yet loving and pitying her,
she had rather never meet her again, certainly not have any confidential
intercourse with her.
She need not have feared: Caroline was quite as much inclined to avoid
her as she could be to avoid Caroline; by mutual consent they shunned
being left alone together, and talked of indifferent matters if they
were, for there was not familiarity enough for silence. When with the
others Caroline was the same as usual, lively, agreeable, obliging;
perhaps, and Marian thought it strange, a shade gayer than her wont. In
her behaviour to Mr. Faulkner every one agreed that she was exactly the
right thing, quiet and sensible, and, as people said, "evidently so very
much attached to him." Marian would have given worlds to know what was
passing in her secret soul, but the right of reading there was gone.
What did Walter think? To this also there was no answer; if he wrote,
Marian heard nothing about his letter, and he did not come home. He was
to be ordained in the autumn to a curacy in a large manufacturing town
in the north of England, and in the meantime he was staying there with
one of the other curates, helping in the schools, and learning something
of the work before him. There was not a doubt in Marian's mind that his
sister's engagement must be a great sorrow to him, and that this was the
reason why he would not come home, even for a short visit. For Caroline,
so really good, right thinking and excellent as she was, so far above
the general tone of her family, wilfully to place herself in such a
situation, to cast away all the high and true principles with which she
had once been imbued, was too sad and grievous to be borne by one who
loved her as Marian, did all the time, and how much worse it must be for
Yes, little did most of those who saw Marian's unmoved, marble
countenance, and heard her stiff, formal words, guess at the intensity
of feeling beneath, which to those who knew her best was betokened by
that very severity; how acutely she was suffering for the future before
Caroline, how strong were the impulses to plead with her once more, how
sick and loathing her heart felt at the manner in which this hateful
connection was treated by all around. If that reserve could, or ought
to, have been broken, Marian would have astonished them all.
If her former anxieties about Gerald had been as of old, she really did
not know how she could have endured them in addition to all this; but
while she was at ease about him nothing could quite overwhelm her. And
she was very happy about him; Mr. Lyddell had readily consented to the
Highland plan, and Gerald was so enchanted that he forgot all his former
fears of Edmund, saw in him only a fellow-sportsman, and when he wrote
to tell his sister of the project, decorated his letter with a portrait
of the holidays, every one of the thirty-seven days represented in a
sort of succession of clouds one behind the other, in each of which
Gerald was doing something delightful,--boating, shooting, bagging his
game, and enjoying an infinite variety of sports, the invention and
representation of which did considerable credit to his ingenuity. On the
very day after the Eton election, he met Edmund in London, and they set
off together to spend the time before the ecstatic twelfth of August in
visits to the Trosachs, to Fingal's cave and every other Scottish wonder
Lionel returned alone, and the first thing he said as he skimmed his hat
across the hall table was, "There! thank goodness, I shan't touch a book
again these five weeks!" Every one asked after his eyes, but they told
their own story, for they were considerably inflamed, and so evidently
out of order that Mrs. Lyddell herself grew anxious, and the apothecary,
Mr. Wells, was sent for. He spoke of their having been over tried by the
school work, advised complete rest, and sent his mixture to bathe them,
which in a day or two reduced the inflammation, made them comfortable,
and restored them to their ordinary appearance, so that all anxiety
passed off again.
Marian, like the others, dismissed the fear, though a flash of
apprehension now and then crossed her mind. She was more with Lionel
than the others, they had always been great allies, and at present were
more thrown together than had ever been the case before. Johnny had been
appointed to a ship which was to sail from Plymouth in a very short
time, and he only came home for two or three days, from the school where
he had been prepared. Mr. Lyddell took him to London for his outfit, and
then on to Plymouth; Mrs. Lyddell was extremely overset, more so than
Marian had thought her capable of being, for Johnny was her favourite,
she regarded him as a victim, and could not bear to expose him to all
the perils of sea and climate.
Johnny however went to Plymouth, and then there was nothing to be
desired but that he should soon sail, that his mother might settle her
mind, for in the mean time she was nervously anxious and restless,
and could scarcely give her attention to anything, not even to the
Faulkners, far less to what Marian was observing from time to time about
Now that John and Gerald were away, Lionel was deprived of his wonted
companions: Elliot did not patronize him, and was besides too busy about
the races to occasion on his own account any home sports in which Lionel
might have taken a share, so that there was no companionship for him
excepting with the young ladies. Caroline's and Clara's time was a great
deal taken up with the Faulkners, and Marian and Lionel were thus left
out by all and almost obliged to make a coalition.
Lionel haunted the drawing-room in the morning, either talking in the
half-rhodomontade, half-in-earnest fashion of boys of sixteen, or
listening if there was any reading aloud going forward. Clara's readings
with Marian and Caroline had well-nigh fallen to the ground now, and
Caroline almost always spent the morning in her own room, but Marian now
and then caught Clara and managed to get her to do something rational.
More often, however, the reading was on Marian's part to Lionel; he
liked to hear her read scraps of any book she might have in hand, and
she was very merciful to him in the selection, not being by any means
too wise. She read him likewise the new numbers of the periodical tales,
as well as the particulars of the rowing matches and cricket matches,
overcoming for his sake her dislike to touching Elliot's sporting
newspaper. Indeed she had not so forgotten her cricket as not to be very
much interested, to enter into all his notes and comments, and to be as
anxious for the success of Eton as he was himself, so that if she had
been called to give an account of her whole morning's work for three
days, she could have said nothing of it but that she had been studying
the matches at Lord's.
In the afternoon, if Marian could escape from the drive in the carriage,
they walked or rode together, the latter when it was not too bright a
day, for Lionel avoided the sunshine like an owl; and when in their
walks a sunny field, or piece of down had to be passed, he drew his hat
down and came under the shelter of Marian's parasol, as if he fairly
dreaded the glare. He was very apt too not to recognise people whom they
met, and now and then made such strange mistakes about small objects
near at hand, that though they were laughed at just at the moment,
Marian thought them fearful signs when she recollected them afterwards,
in that half-waking half-sleeping time when she had learnt to entertain
herself with anxieties. Chess or backgammon was the great resource in
the evening, when there was no dining out, and no grand dinner party,
and the number of games Marian played with him were beyond all
reckoning. He played, she thought, more by the touch than the eye, often
feeling the head of a piece to satisfy himself whether it had the king's
crown or the queen's round head, the bishop's mitre or the knight's
ears, but he was so quick and ready that it was impossible to tell how
far the defect of sight went, and she could not bear to ask or awaken
She did not think he had any; she did not believe that he had ever seen
quite as well as other people, and therefore trusted to sight less than
most; and his eyes had been so often ailing, and then better, that he
was not likely to take alarm now. If he had, she believed he would have
told her, for he was very confidential with her, and she often thought
it a great pity that no one else had thought it worth while to enter
into him enough to find out what a right-thinking, sensible boy he was,
and how affectionate he would be if they would only let him. One day,
when they had been taking a long ride together, he began talking about
his intentions for the future. It arose out of some observation about
the value of a tree in a new and an old country. Marian had been
lamenting that no modern houses were ever built with the beautiful
patterns of dark timbers, as we see them in old farm-houses; and Lionel
answering that so much wood could never be afforded in England now.
"No, you must go to a primeval forest for that," said Marian; "and very
stupid it is of the people in the colonies to build houses as bad or
worse than ours, when they have all the materials for nothing."
"Well, I will build a famous house when I emigrate," said Lionel; "a
regular model of an old English farm-house it shall be,--stout, and
strong, and handsome,--just to put the people in mind that they do
belong to an old country, after all."
"When you emigrate, Lionel?"
"Yes, I really have a great mind to do so, seriously, Marian," and he
rode nearer to her. "I do think it would be the best thing I could do.
Don't you think so?"
"I don't know," said Marian, considering, while his eager face was
turned towards her.
"You see," Lionel continued, "we must all do something for ourselves;
and I am sure my eyes will never be fit for study. To be a clergyman is
out of the question for me, even if I was good enough; and so is the
"Yes, yes, certainly."
"Well, then, there is only the army, and there one can't get on without
money. Now you know Elliot has been a monstrous expense to my father of
late, and the times have grown so bad, and everything altogether has
gone wrong; so that I think the only thing for it would be for me to go
off to some new part of the world, where, when I once had a start, my
own head and hands would maintain me,--no thanks to anybody."
"I dare say it would," said Marian, rather sadly, "I am sure these are
right grounds, Lionel; but it is a terrible severing of all home ties."
"O, but I should come back again. I should be an Englishman still, and
come back when I had made my fortune."
"O, Lionel, don't be in a hurry to make a fortune; that spoils every
"No, no, I am not going to grasp and grub for money; I hate that. Only
if the fortune comes, one does not know how, with cattle, or horses, or
lands--O, Marian, think of being an Australian stockman, riding after
those famous jockeys of wild bulls--hurra!" Lionel rose in his stirrups,
and flourished his whip round his head, so as greatly to amaze his
steed. "There is a life to lead in a great place bigger than all Europe,
instead of being stifled up in this little bit of a poky England, every
profession choke full of people!"
"Well done, Lionel, you do want a field indeed!"
"So I do. I hate to be fenced up, and in, every way. I should like to
break out in some fresh place, and feel I had all the world before me!
Then I'll tell you what, Marian," and he spoke with infinite relish,
"suppose matters got a little worse here, and they were all of them
really in distress!"
"Well, but listen. Then I should like to come home with all this fortune
that I had made somehow, and get them all on their legs again; buy back
the estate, perhaps, and give it to papa again; and then--and then"--his
voice quivered a little, and his eyes winked, as if the sun had dazzled
them--"see if mamma would not think me worth something, after all!"
This was the only time Lionel had ever said a word to show that he was
conscious of his mother's disregard of him; and the feeling it called up
made Marian's heart so full that she could not reply. But he wanted no
answer, and went on. "Would not that be worth living for, Marian? But,
after all, that is all nonsense," he added, with a sigh; "at least it is
all a chance. But what I really think is, that I should do much better
for myself and every one else, in one of the colonies; and I have a
great mind to speak to my father about it. By the by, I wish Mr. Arundel
would come here when he has finished his journey with Gerald; I should
like to talk to him about the Cape. I rather fancy the Cape, because of
the lions; and one might have a chance of a row now and then with the
Marian began telling all she could about the Cape, and from that time
her _tete-a-tetes_ with Lionel were chiefly spent in discussions upon
the comparative merits of the colonies. One thing Lionel was resolved
on. "I will go somewhere where there is a Church within a tolerable
distance,--say twenty miles; that is a short one for a colony, you know,
Marian; for I know I am such a wild fellow, that I should very soon
forget everything good, if I had not something to put me in mind of it.
Or, by the by, Marian, what would be jolly would be to get Walter to go;
I dare say he would, if it was some place where they were very badly off
indeed, with plenty of natives, and all very savage."
Marian understood quite well enough, to agree that it must be some place
"very badly off indeed" to invite Walter, and Lionel greatly enjoyed the
further arranging of plans for taking care of his intended chaplain,
whom he meant to save from roughing it as much as possible. However,
this might be regarded as a very aerial pinnacle of his castle, the
first foundation of which was yet to be laid, by broaching the subject
to his father. Lionel talked over the proposing it many times with his
counsellor, and at length resolved upon it, with some slight hope that
it might save his eyes from the suffering of another half year at Eton,
which, as the holidays came nearer to an end, he began to dread.
"You see, Marian," he said, "I do not like to give out, when I can help
it, for they think it shirking, and there was a time when I did shirk;
but a great many times last half, I was nearly mad with the aching and
smarting of my eyes after I had been reading. And all I did was by bits
now and then; for if I went on long the letters danced, and there was a
mist between me and them."
"I wish you would tell Mr. Lyddell; I am sure it is not fit to go on in
such a way."
"I have told Wells," answered Lionel.
A pause--then Lionel said, "I believe papa is in the library; I'll go
and speak to him about the emigration."
Marian was very anxious to hear the result of the conference, but she
could not find out anything just at first as she had to drive out with
Mrs. Lyddell and Caroline to make calls. In the evening, over the game
at chess, Lionel told her that his father said he should talk to his
mother about it; and two days after he came to her in the hall, saying,
"Come and take a turn in the plantation walk, Marian; 'tis nice and
shady there, and I have something to tell you."
The something was as follows: "Well, Marian, my father was very kind,
paid something about its being a sensible notion, and that he would see
"But are you to go back to Eton?"
"Yes, that must be; and I must scramble on as best I may. It will be
better at first, after all this rest. It is something gained that the
whole plan is not knocked on the head at once."
"Then he gives his consent?"
"Why, he says it will be time to think of it in a year or two, and I
am too young as yet, which is true enough; only, I wish I was to be
learning farming, instead of torturing my eyes with what will be no good
out there. Then he said, as to giving up the army, I need not think that
was necessary, because it was only that he did not want to have two
sons in it, and now Johnny is otherwise disposed of; and, besides Mr.
Faulkner had behaved in such a handsome way about Caroline's fortune.'
"O!" said Marian.
"Yes, I don't like that at all," said Lionel. "Johnny always was crazy
to be a sailor, so he is all right, and that is not what I care for; but
I don't want to be beholden to Mr. Faulkner. I had rather Caroline had
her own money, and not that we should all profit by her making this
"I should quite feel with you."
"Marian, we have never talked that over; but I know you cannot bear the
"What is the use of asking me, Lionel?"
"O, I know you can't, as well as if you had said so; and I want to know
how you could let Caroline go and do such a thing?"
"I? How could I help it?" said Marian smiling, at the boy's assuming
that she had power of which she was far from being conscious. "Besides,
I thought you liked Mr. Faulkner; you, all of you, did nothing but
praise him at Christmas."
"I did at first, not at last," said Lionel. "Besides, liking a man to go
out shooting with is not the same as liking him to marry one's sister."
"By no means!" cried Marian, emphatically. "But what made you think ill
"Things I heard him say to Elliot when we were out together."
"Did Gerald hear them?" asked Marian, very anxiously, as she remembered
what a hero Mr. Faulkner was in her brother's estimation.
"No, I don't think he did. He certainly was not there the worst time of
all,--the time that gave a meaning to all the rest. Don't you remember
that day when Mr. Faulkner drove Elliot and me in his dog-cart to look
at that horse at Salisbury? I am sure I never praised him after that
day. He said what Elliot never would have said himself--never."
"How?" Marian could not help asking, though she doubted the next moment
whether it was wise to have done so.
"Things about--about religion--the Bible," said Lionel, looking down and
mumbling, as if it was with difficulty that he squeezed out the answer.
"Now, you know, I have heard," he added, speaking more freely, "I have
heard people make fun with a text or a name out of the Bible many a
time; and though that is very bad of them, I think they don't mean much
harm by it. Indeed, I have now and then done it myself, and should
oftener, if I had not known how you hated it."
"It is a very wrong thing," but I see what you mean,--that some people
do it from want of thought."
"Yes, just so; but that is a very different thing from almost quizzing
the whole Bible,--at least talking as if it was an absurd thing to
accept the whole of it, I do declare, Marian, he was worse when he began
to praise it than he was before; for he talked of the Old Testament as
if it was just like the Greek mythology, and then he compared it to
Homer, and AEschylus, and the Koran. To be sure he did say it was
better poetry and morality; but the idea of comparing it! I don't mean
comparing as if it must be better, but as if it stood on the same
"And did Elliot listen to all this?" said Marian, thinking the poison
must have been in rather too intellectual a form for Elliot.
"He listened," said Lionel. "I don't think he would ever set up to say
such things for himself; but I believe he rather liked hearing them
said. I am quite sure this Faulkner will make him worse than he is
already, for all this talk is a hundred times worse than going on in
"To be sure it is--a thousand times!"
"But what I want to know is this, Marian? has Caroline got any notion
of what sort of a man she has got? Because if she does it with her eyes
open, it can't be helped; but if not, I think she ought to be warned;
for I don't suppose the man is fool enough to talk in this way to her.
Indeed, I think I heard him say that believing is all very well for
"Why don't you tell her, then?"
"That is the very thing I had on my mind all these holidays; but I know
no one would ever listen to me. If Walter was here it would be a very
different thing, for he is worth attending to, and Caroline knows that;
though she thinks I have no sense at all but for mischief."
"She could not think so, if she heard you speak as you do now."
"Then there is another thing, Marian, and what makes it quite--at least
very nearly out of the question; I don't believe they in the least
reckoned on my hearing all this. You know the man is very good-natured;
well, he took me up to go instead of his servant, and I was sitting
back to back with them. I sometimes think my bad eyes have made my ears
sharper, for I know I often hear when other people don't; and so I
should not expect they supposed in the least that I was attending,
though I did not miss a word, for I could not help hearing. Now, you
see, I could not possibly go and betray him; and if you were not the
safest person in the world, I would never have told you: only, if
somebody could just give Caroline a hint that she is going to marry an
infidel, it would be a pleasant thing."
"A pleasant thing!" repeated Marian. Then she paused, considering, and
Lionel waited patiently while she did so, "I see," she said at last,
"that you could hardly tell her of this conversation; and after all,
Lionel, I believe we knew what was quite as bad of him from the first:
this only proves it a little more fully."
"Yes, Lord Marchmont told me something of it; and I mentioned it to
Caroline before he came here at all."
"O, that is right!" said Lionel, greatly relieved, "then it is no
concern of mine; though what can possess Caroline, I can't think. Is it
love, I wonder?"
"I suppose so," said Marian, sighing.
"Well, it is a queer thing," said the boy. "I should have thought
Caroline was one to care about such matters more than I, but perhaps she
means to convert him. So! I did think Caroline was good for something,
but it is no affair of mine; and I shall be all the more glad to get off
to New Zealand to be out of the sight of it all."
"It is very sad indeed!" said Marian. "I am sure it will be nothing but
wretchedness. Caroline can blind herself now, but that will not go on."
"And why can't you speak to her, and stop her? She used to mind you.
Does she come and talk about this man as if he was perfection?"
"No," was the sorrowful reply. "She knew from the first my opinion of
him, and we never have any talks now. We never have had one since she
was first engaged."
"Whew!" whistled Lionel. "Then she does mean to go and do it, and no
mistake! Then I've done with her, and shan't think about her any more
than I can help. If she won't be warned, she must Lave her own way, and
may marry the Grand Turk, if she likes it better." He whistled again,
proposed a ride, and went to order the horses; while Marian, walking
slowly to the house to prepare, did not so much grieve for Caroline,
for that was an old accustomed sorrow, as marvel at the manner in which
Lionel had spoken, and wonder where he had learnt the right views and
excellent sense he had displayed. Far was she from guessing the value of
such a steady witness to the truth as she had been from the first hour
when Lionel had perceived and maintained "that she had no humbug in
her;" how her cares for her brother had borne fruit in him; how he
learnt from her to reverence goodness, and cleave to the right; and
how he looked up to her, because her words were few, and her deeds
consistent. More right in theory, than steady in practice was Lionel;
very unformed, left untrained by those whose duty it was to watch him;
but the seeds had been sown, and be his future life what it might, it
could not but bear the impress of the years she had spent in the same
She knew nothing of all this; she only thought, as she watched his
quick, bounding run, that he, the least regarded, was the flower of the
flock, with principles as good as Walter's, and so much more manly and
active. For Marian, with all her respect for Walter, could not help
wishing, like the boys, that he had more life and spirit, and less
timidity. A little mental courage would, she thought, have brought him
to expostulate with Caroline, instead of keeping out of the way, and
leaving her to her fate. Edmund would not have done so.
"It's hame, and it's hame, and it's hame."
Edmund and Gerald had promised to spend a few days at Oakworthy, before
the one returned to Portsmouth and the other to Eton; but their plans
were disconcerted by an event which, as Clara said, placed Marian in
mourning in good earnest, namely, the death of her great aunt, old Mrs.
Jessie Arundel, who had always lived at Torquay. For the last four or
five years she had been almost imbecile, and so likely to die at any
time, that, as it seemed for that very reason, every one took her death
as a surprise when it really happened.
Edmund thought it right that both he and Gerald should attend her
funeral. Lord Marchmont, whose wife stood in the same relationship to
her, met them in London, and they all went together to Torquay, instead
of making the intended visit to Oakworthy. Gerald was obliged to return
to Eton on the following day, without coming to Oakworthy; but, to make
up for it, he wrote to his Writer from Torquay, and his letter ended
thus,--"Now I have a capital bit of news for you. Old aunt Jessie has
done what I shall venerate her for ever after--left every scrap of her
property to Edmund, except a legacy or two to her servants, a picture of
my father to me, and some queer old-fashioned jewels to you and Selina.
The will was made just after I was born; so it was to make up to Edmund
for my cutting him out of Fern Torr. You may suppose how Lord Marchmont
and I shook hands with him. It is somewhere about L20,000; there is
good news for you! He is executor, and has got to be here a day or two
longer; but Lord Marchmont and I set off by the first train to-morrow. I
shall look out for Lionel, tell him, in case he is too blind to see me.
Can't you come with him to the station, and have one moment's talk?"
This proved to be possible; and Marian, in the interval between the
coming of the post and the setting off, had time, all the hurry of her
dressing, to wonder if she ought to be very much rejoiced. She did not
believe, that even wealth could spoil Edmund, but she did not think all
this would be of much use to him. It did not give him a home, and in
fact she thought it rather a creditable thing to be as poor as he had
hitherto been. She had rather have heard of something to make him look
less like Tressilian, than he had done the last time she had seen him.
She had a pleasant drive with Lionel, who was very glad of any good luck
befalling Mr. Arundel, and presently, after some meditation, broke out
as follows:--"My eyes! what miles and miles it would buy in Australia"
and then proceeded to talk all the rest of the way about Australian
The meeting at the station was a bright one, though so short, as
scarcely to be worth the journey, if the value of such moments were to
be reckoned by their number. There was Lord Marchmont to be spoken to,
as well as Gerald, which broke into the time. Gerald looked very happy
and pleasant. He said Edmund was the best fellow in the world, and that
he had been very happy--shot lots of things--he wished he could stop to
tell about it. Then Marian hurried what she had to say, while Lionel was
looking after his luggage. "Gerald, would you just try if you can do
anything to spare Lionel's eyes? When you have the same things to do,
could you not read to him, or something? they seem so much worse, and I
am so afraid."
"I'll try," said Gerald, "but I don't think I can do much, and he will
never give in."
The bell rang--Lionel ran up--she wished them good-bye, and drove home,
happier than when last she parted there from Gerald, wondering what had
happened in his journey with Edmund, and re-assured, by his free cordial
tone. She took up a book and read all the way home.
The next thing that was heard of Edmund was in a note to Mr. Lyddell,
saying that he should come and spend one night at Oakworthy, on his way
to Portsmouth; that he hoped to arrive about one o'clock, and that
he should bring Marian her aunt's legacy of the jewels. This was
communicated to her by Mrs. Lyddell, and she could not discover from
whence he wrote; she supposed from London, unless he was still detained
in Devonshire. She looked forward greatly to his coming, as there was
so much to hear about Gerald; and she felt, as if she wanted something
pleasant, very much indeed; for, now that Lionel was gone, she found
what a companion, interest, and occupation he had been, and missed
him very much. The constraint with all the others, except Clara,
was wearisome: and Clara, though never ceasing to talk, and very
affectionately, was anything but a companion, while poor Caroline kept
more than ever aloof, and had a flightiness of spirits--a sort of
gaiety of manner--which, to Marian, seemed to be assumed. This was more
especially the case, after there was an idea of fixing the marriage for
some time in the autumn, and arrangements were talked over. Marian began
to have little doubt that she was secretly unhappy, and grew more and
more tender in feeling towards her; while, by an effect of contraries,
her manner became more frigid and severe, in proportion to the warmth
Clara wondered a little what Mr. Arundel was coming for, and laughed and
looked significant when Marian said she knew perfectly well; but Marian
thought she knew so thoroughly as not to be in the least disconcerted,
though Clara's glances were full upon her when he was announced. In he
came, just at luncheon time; he shook hands with Marian with all his
might, and one glance convinced her that he had not Tressilian's
face--nay, that though the sun of Africa had left its traces, he was
more like the Edmund of the olden time, than she had ever seen him since
her father's death. There were a good many people at luncheon that day.
Mr. Faulkner was there, and there were some visitors staying in the
house. Edmund was a good way from her, and she could only hear his voice
now and then in the buzz; but it was a very pleasant sound to hear, and
when he laughed, it was his own natural, free, gay laugh, such as it
used to be. She was sure he was very happy, and wondered if it was
possible Aunt Jessie's fortune could have made him so, or whether it
could all be the satisfaction of having set Gerald to rights.
As they rose to leave the dining room, he came to her, saying, "Marian,
can you have a walk with me?"
"Oh, yes, I should like it of all things; I will be ready in one
minute." And away she bounded, saying to Caroline, in the boldest and
most innocent manner in the world, as if on purpose to show that she
expected nothing, and would not be laughed at, that Edmund had asked her
to walk with him. He waited for her in the hall, and they went out, she
scarcely pausing till they were on the steps, to say, "Well, how did you
get on with Gerald? I am sure you made him very happy."
"We got on famously. He is a very nice fellow; he only wanted a little
stimulus the right way. He is thoroughly open and candid, and I have no
fear but that he will do very well."
Marian could not speak for joy, and for gratitude to her cousin; and
her heart throbbing with delight, she walked on, waiting for him to say
something more on this most precious of all tidings. But when he spoke
again, it was if he had done with the subject of Gerald. "Marian, I
have something to tell you," He paused--she stood in suspense--he began
again. "Marian, I am going to be married!"
"O!" and the inquiring, joyful, wondering, confident tone of that O, is
what nothing can ever convey. Her eyes were turned full on him with the
same eager curiosity, the same certainty, that he could not do other
than the best. He did not speak; but the half smile on his lip was a
full though mute reply to her confidence, that she had only to hear, in
order to rejoice with all her heart; and he held out a note directed to
her, in Agnes' writing!
Marian took it, but she was too wild, too delighted, too eager to look
at him, and hear him, to be able to open it. "O Edmund!" was what she
said now, and she caught hold of his hand for an ecstatic shake.
"Yes, thank you, yes. I said I must tell you myself, Marian--my sister."
"O, I never heard anything more delightful in my life," said Marian,
with a sort of gasp, as soon as the overwhelming delight gave her
breath. "O, Edmund, Edmund!"
"You have not read her note yet."
Marian tore it open, but there was scarcely any thing to read; it was
"Dearest Marian,--He will have a note to carry you,
but I can't say anything for bewilderment. I know he will
tell you all about it, so it is of no use my writing. Are
not you sorry he should have a wife so far from good enough
"Your affectionate and most amazed
Marian held it up to him, smiling. "But of course you have seen it?"
"No, I have not; I suppose she thought I should not carry such
"Well, I am sure there is no other person in all the wide world that I
could have thought good enough for you. Agnes! Agnes! O, Edmund, I wish
there was any way of not being quite choked with gladness!"
Edmund smiled, and perhaps he was "choked with gladness" beyond the
power of speech; for the two cousins only proceeded to shake hands
again. The next thing that was said was after an interval. "Marian, you
remember our bargain six years ago? Have you grown so very fond of the
Lyddells as to repent of it?"
"O, Edmund, you have not thought of that?"
"Have not we? It was one of the first things we did think of."
"I don't think I can bear to hear of much more happiness," said Marian,
in almost a crying voice. "I am so glad for you that I can't be glad for
myself yet. I can't take it all in; it is too good to be true!"
"Indeed it does seem so. But you agree? Agnes said I must make you agree
first of all."
"Don't I? Only I want to enjoy it for you,--it is so beyond everything!"
"Well, wasn't I a wise man to say I would not miss the pleasure of
telling you myself?"
"Then do tell me; do let us be rational, if we can. Then you came here
from Fern Torr?"
"Yes. Did you not know that?"
"No. I did not hear where you wrote from. How long were you there?"
"I only went on Wednesday."
"Then it was only one whole day! How much you must have had to settle!"
"So much, that we settled scarcely anything."
"Then you don't know when it is to be?"
"No, and Mrs. Wortley talks of having time,--poor Mrs. Wortley, but I
don't think I shall take her away far; I have some notion of looking out
for some place close at hand."
"Just what we settled long ago. But O! begin and tell me all,
Edmund,--as much as you like to tell me, at least. I want to know how
you first came to think of it." Then, as he smiled, she added, "I mean,
how long you have been thinking of it."
"If you mean how long with any hope, only since I knew of good aunt
Jessie's consideration for me. How long it has been in my mind I cannot
tell; certainly before I went to Africa. You see, Marian," he continued,
as if he was apologising, "it was this which made me think it advisable
for me to go, though, as I see now, it was not at all good for Gerald."
"What,--you mean--I am not sure that I understand--"
"Don't you see, Marian, feeling as I did, and knowing how out of
the question it was for a penniless man like me, to think of
marrying,--Agnes so young too, and I with everything to draw me to what
had been my only home,--there was nothing to be done but to keep out
of the way, to guard me against myself; and that was easier with seas
between. I don't know whether I did right or not, but I hoped I did,
because it cost me something; yet it was a forsaking of Gerald which
might have done much harm, though I hope it has not, as it has turned
"I see it all!" said Marian, resting there, because she had not a word
with which to express her honour of his noble conduct.
"You will forgive me now," he added, with a smile, "for what you thought
my neglect of home."
"I am only afraid I must often have given you a great deal of pain," she
"Never, except when I thought it right to silence you. It was only too
delightful to hear their very names. You might well tell me that she had
grown prettier than ever."
On talked and walked the cousins, over the downs, which had certainly
never been trodden by happier people. At last they recollected that they
must return, if they wished to be in time for the post, and retraced
their steps, talking as eagerly as ever. As they were coming near the
house, Marian said, "Does Gerald know?"
"Not yet; I shall write to him to-morrow."
"Is it to be a secret? Of course I should say nothing about it while you
are here, but may I mention it afterwards?"
"They said nothing about secrecy," said Edmund; "in fact I think
attempting it, only results in making one look foolish. Yes, you are
welcome to tell whom you please as soon as I am out of the way. I had
rather the Lyddells know."
"Very well; indeed, I don't think I can keep it to myself, it is too
"Do you expect them to participate in your pleasure at making your
escape from them?"
"There is no one to miss me, except, perhaps, Lionel, a little, when his
eyes are bad. Caroline would once have cared, but that is over now, poor
thing! There never was a time when I should have been more glad to get
away. O, Edmund, if you would do one thing to oblige me, it would be,
to have your wedding the same day as Caroline's, that I might not be
obliged to be at it."
"O, you know!"
"Is it such a very bad affair?"
"O, I am very much grieved about it. The man has no religion at all, you
know; at least, if he has any, it is all natural religion,--anything but
"Do you really mean that the family have accepted him, allowed this to
go on, knowing such things of him?"
"I don't know how far they see it. I don't think they allow it to
themselves, and I don't think they would understand some of it; as, for
instance, when I heard him talking the other day as if he assumed that
Christianity was only a development of people's tendency to believe,--as
fleeting as other forms of faith. It was not very broadly stated, and
I don't think I should have seen it, if it had not chimed in with
something I had read; and, besides, I knew what was in the man."
"How do you know? Not from your own observation?"
"O, no, no; I liked him at first. I could have liked him very much, if
Lord Marchmont had not told me about him, and then I had the key to
"And this poor Miss Lyddell?"
"She knew what I did," said Marian, sadly. "But he is very
agreeable,--at least he is thought so,--and they all admired him so
much, and paid such court to him, that--Yet I did think better things of
Caroline. Lionel is the only one who has found him out, and he thinks of
it just as I do, O, Edmund, I am sure you would like Lionel."
"How are his eyes?" asked Edmund, as they were coming under the portico,
and could not talk of any of the more delicate subjects. "I thought
Gerald gave a very bad account of them; indeed, I scarcely expected that
he could have gone back to Eton."
"I sometimes think," almost whispered Marian, "that it is not he, poor
boy, whose eyes are the worst in the house; but Mrs. Lyddell's head has
been so full of Johnny, and Caroline, and all she has to do, that she
will not see anything amiss with Lionel."
"He must be a boy of a great deal of resolution and principle, to have
struggled on as he has clone, by Gerald's account. Ah! I meant to have
told you about Gerald, but all our time is gone."
"Never mind, we can talk of him in the evening. There is a corner of
mine where I always get out of the way of the people, and where I
have had many a nice talk with Walter, or Lionel, under cover of Miss
Grimley's music. Now where do you like to write your letter? If you had
not rather do it in your own room, there is a nice quiet place in
the old school-room, where I write mine, when the drawing-room is
Edmund accepted the invitation, partly because he was just so shy of
letting his own handwriting be seen in the address, that he meant to
avail himself of Marian's cover. Just as Marian had finished a note, too
joyous to have any sense in it, and containing a promise to write more
sensibly to-morrow, had directed the cover, and told her cousin that
he must wind up if he meant to catch the post, Clara opened the door,
gazed, laughed, and was retiring in haste, when Marian, without a shade
of the confusion Clara had hoped for, called her back. "Edmund came here
to write a note," she said, "don't go away."
Edmund made some demonstration about intruding, and wrote the
conclusion, at which nothing but some interruption would have made him
arrive, put it into the envelope, gave it face downwards to Marian,
and departed. Now Mrs. Lyddell and Clara were both persuaded that Mr.
Arundel had come for no other purpose than to propose to Marian; and
they had been entertaining themselves during their drive with conversing
on the subject; so that Clara was never more surprised and puzzled in
her life than by seeing Marian stand there, smiling, and with beaming
eyes, brighter than ever she had looked before, but without one particle
of a blush,--white-faced as ever, only dancing first on one foot, then
on the other, balancing her bonnet on one hand, and with the other
holding the precious letter.
"Well!" Marian made a pirouette. "I must run and put this letter in the
box." And so saying, away she ran down stairs, up again in a second;
then meeting the astonished Clara at the head of the stairs, she took
her round the waist, and fairly waltzed her to her own door, opened it,
threw herself into a chair, exclaimed, "I beg your pardon, Clara; you'll
think me mad, but I'll tell you all about it to-morrow."
Fanny was present, so Clara could do nothing but stare; and lateness,
and a dinner-party necessitating a hasty toilette, she retreated, while
Marian contained her raptures as best she could, and meditated on the
delightful life she was to lead with Agnes and Edmund, in some cottage
on the borders of Fern Torr. O happiness, such as she had never
known, which seemed to bring back as much of her home as could ever
return,--which would be everything for Gerald! Every care gone, Edmund
happy, Gerald satisfactory, her own exile at an end. Her head almost
swain round with happiness, and she wanted to turn to the glass, to
persuade herself that she could be the same Marian Arundel, wide awake,
and yet so very, very happy.
However, it was all future, as far as concerned herself; and that cares
were in the world she was convinced, by her own pang at seeing Caroline,
whom she overtook on her way down stairs. She had no disposition to
whirl _her_ round; but there was a softened feeling, belonging perhaps
to the fulness of her own joy, that made her, as she came up with her,
put her arm round her, as she had now and then walked with her in former
days. Caroline looked in her face, and drew the arm closer without
speaking. Their faces had always been unlike, but the contrast was
stronger than ever. Marian, with those pale, regular features, plain
dark hair, black eyes and eyebrows, with her mourning dress, and yet
with a radiant, irrepressible joy and buoyancy all round and about her;
while Caroline, with her small pretty features, rosy colour, blue eyes,
glossy curls, her pink dress and gold bracelets, was in general air very
different, and in countenance how much more; for the eyes were restless,
the smile came rather as if it was called, than as if it resided
naturally on her lip,--the colour of her cheeks, though bright, looked
fixed and feverish; and now and then, there was a quiver about the whole
face. How different from the secure expression of happiness, now and
then illuminated, as it were, with some sudden flash of secret joy,
which sat on Marian's broad, serene brow.
They entered the drawing-room together, and from that time Marian was
outwardly her own stiff, distant self, till the promised time in the
evening, when Edmund made his way to her in her corner, where he was
greeted by a most sunny look. "Now for Gerald," said she.
Edmund had a great deal to tell about Gerald. He thought him, on the
whole, a very nice, amiable, right-minded boy, who only wanted more
training and watching than Mr. Lyddell would or could give. He had,
after a time, been brought to be entirely open and confiding; and this,
for which Edmund seemed to be really grateful to him, and to admire him,
was the great point, he had made Edmund a friend, instead of looking at
him as a guardian,--found that he could sympathize, and had ended by
trusting and consulting him. Marian, though wondering how the reserve
had ever been, conquered, felt the relief of knowing that all was safe
now, and was not hurt by his confiding in any one but herself. Edmund
really thought it was safe. "I believe I know the worst of him now, poor
fellow," he said, smiling, "and the worst is not much. He has been going
on in a careless, thoughtless way, out of high spirits and imitation, a
good deal, and the consciousness made him keep back from you; he owns
that, and is very sorry."
"Does he? dear Gerald!"
"He seemed to feel deeply that he had neglected you; but he said, and
very truly, how much there had been against him,--no one, as he said, to
make him mind; and the fellows would have laughed at him, if they had
found out that he attended to his sister."
"Ah! Johnny sowed that mischief long ago!"
"I hope it is not weakness. I do not think it is; for there was
manliness in confessing all, and he seemed to feel the folly strongly."
"Did he tell you about the debts?"
"Yes, and of his own accord. They are nothing in themselves; but he has
been allowed too much money, has had little warning, and his title was
against him too. So if we can break off the habit of extravagance, there
is no great harm done. After all, you know, he is very young, and
there is plenty of time to form his character. I am sure he has good
dispositions of every kind, and if he has but resolution, he will be
sure to do well,"
"I think there is resolution in his temper. Nothing shakes him when his
mind is once made up."
So Marian was very well satisfied on the whole about her brother, and
she might justly be so by Edmund's account. There was nothing to disturb
her happiness, and she only doubted whether she should be able to sleep
for it. Her brother restored, as well as everything else!
When bed-time came, Mrs. Lyddell looked at her, as if expecting
something more to be said than "good night," but nothing came,--nothing
but the dancing light in the eyes. Clara followed her to the room, and
stood gazing at her. "Why, Marian," at last she said, "can't you tell me
anything about it?"
"No; not till to-morrow."
"O, that is too bad, Marian, when you heard all I had to tell directly."
"I can't help it; I am not at liberty to tell other people's affairs."
"Don't look so grand, Marian, pray. I am sure I thought this was your
"So it is in a way."
"In a way? Why, Marian, what an extraordinary girl you are! not your own
affair! Well, if you are impenetrable, I can't help it; but it is not
kind, when we all want to congratulate you."
"Stop, stop, Clara!" exclaimed Marian, and now she did blush, "will you
be satisfied if I tell you that it is not what you suppose? You shall
hear what it is to-morrow, and then you will see what nonsense you have
"What?" cried Clara, "you are not--"
"Don't say it, pray don't! Never was any one further from it. Now do
go to bed, Clara, for I cannot tell you a word more, and keep your
curiosity at rest for to-night."
Marian took care not to be caught alone by Clara before breakfast the
next morning, and almost immediately after breakfast, Edmund departed.
Marian had been out into the hall with him to exchange some last words,
and Mrs. Lyddell, meantime, was observing to Caroline that she never
knew anything so strange; she thought it was due to herself, however
unpleasant it might be, to claim some confidence from Miss Arundel, on
such matters, while living under her care. Marian came back, however,
with her innocent look of delight,--a look so unlike the bashfulness of
a damsel in love, that Mrs. Lyddell felt again doubtful; and before she
could speak, Marian had turned to Clara and said, "Now I will tell you
what makes me so happy. Edmund and Agnes Wortley are engaged, and I am
to go and live with them."
"Miss Wortley!" at once exclaimed Mrs. Lyddell and her daughters, in the
extremity of surprise; and then Mrs. Lyddell and Clara asked all the
usual questions in haste and eagerness, wondering within themselves most
of all at Marian's full rejoicing, for till now they had never been
able to see that Edmund was really to her only like an elder brother.
Caroline scarcely spoke, only went on nervously with her work. At last,
when some interruption had caused her mother and Clara to leave the
room, she laid it down, looked at Marian for a moment or two, then said,
in a trembling voice, "Dear Marian, I am glad you are so happy! I am
glad you are to live with them!" then kissed her, and hastened away
before she could answer or return the caress. Her handkerchief was
raised as she closed the door. Marian sat and grieved, for well did she
know all poor Caroline conveyed by that "I am glad you are to live with
them." It meant that Caroline felt that she had given up the esteem and
friendship in which they had lived,--that she thought her own home unfit
for one brought from such a sphere as Fern Torr,--that she resigned all
those plans for Clara's good, everything that had been valued between
them,--that she looked not for happiness for herself, and though she
had forfeited such affection as once had been hers, yet she still loved
Marian. How could Marian rejoice so much, when such a fate was waiting
for Caroline? Poor Caroline! she contrasted her feelings with those of
Agnes, grieved again over her, and ended by blaming herself for all the
coldness and severity of the last six weeks, requited as it was by so
much kind, fond affection.
Yet Caroline was weakly, wilfully doing wrong. How should she behave
rightly towards her? O, why would nothing happen to save her, and break
off this mockery of a marriage? But as of this there seemed little
hope,--as the Faulkners were at Oakworthy more than ever, and Mrs.
Lyddell was talking in good earnest of wedding clothes, and bridesmaids,
it was a comfort to have these better hopes to occupy herself with.
Especially did she enjoy the idea of Gerald's rejoicing, and it was very
eagerly that she watched for his first letter of delight. It came as
soon as heart could wish; but so mixed are joy and grief in this world,
that even Gerald's letter could not convey unalloyed pleasure, but
filled her with a fresh anxiety,--or more properly, strengthened and
realized what had hitherto been but a vague terror.
"Eton, Sept. 14th.
"My dear Marian,--Never was anything better in this
world than Edmund's plans. I give him infinite credit for
them; and, as head of the family, he has my full consent.
I wish they would go and live at the Manor House
till I am of age,--that would be jolly! Lionel desires me
to tell you that it is all very well, except your going from
Oakworthy, and he shall go about the house like a mad
fury," (here followed his portrait in the character,) "if you
go before he is off after the blue wild beestes at the Cape.
His eyes are very bad, and I wish you would tell Mrs.
Lyddell about them; for I don't believe it is a bit of use
his staying here, and though I am very glad to help him,
doing all his work and my own too is more than I can stand.
It is much worse than last half; then he could see to read,
though it hurt him; now Greek or small print beats him entirely,
and he cannot look out a word in the Lexicon. He
does just manage to write, and he never forgets anything;
so another fellow and I have dragged him through, this
week. But it cannot go on so; and as he won't give up or
complain, I will have something done about it, or he will
blind himself outright before he has done. I cannot think
how it is my tutor has not found it out, but I suppose it is
that Lionel is so sharp, and has such a memory. Do speak
to Mrs. Lyddell.
"Your affectionate brother,
"E. GERALD ARUNDEL"
Marian carried the letter at once to Mrs. Lyddell's dressing-room, but
she found that Gerald had been mistaken in supposing the tutor had not
observed Lionel's failing sight: for the same post had brought a letter
from him, which had at length completely alarmed Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell,
and the former was going at once to write to his son to meet him in
London, where he intended to consult one of the first oculists.
This was a great relief. Mr. Lyddell set off, and the party at home
comforted themselves with predictions that all would soon be remedied;
Marian and Clara agreeing that it would be very pleasant to have Lionel
at home to walk with them, and to be nursed.
Mr. Lyddell had been gone about two days; Caroline and Clara were at
High Down, and Marian was returning from a solitary ramble in the park,
enjoying her last letter from Agnes, when, as she crossed the lawn, she
was startled by finding Lionel stretched on his face on the grass, just
at the turn where some bushes concealed him from the windows. He lay
flat, without his hat, his forehead resting on one arm; while with his
hand he tore up daisies and grass, and threw them hastily over his
shoulder, while his whole frame quivered in a convulsive agony of
"Lionel! Lionel! you come home? What is the matter?" exclaimed she.
"Matter! matter enough, I think," said, or rather muttered Lionel;
"There is an end of the Cape, or anything else."
"How are your eyes?" asked Marian, in consternation.
"Only I am blind for life!" answered Lionel; still hiding his face, and
speaking in a sullen, defiant tone.
Marian, dreadfully shocked, almost beyond all power of speaking or
moving, could only drop down sitting on the grass beside him, and take
"All neglect, too," he added; then vehemently, "I don't believe, no I
don't, there is any pauper's son in the parish that would have been so
Her voice was low with fright: "But, Lionel, what has happened? Let me
see you. Is it worse? can't you see?"
"O yes, I can see now, after a fashion, at least, but that is soon to
go, they say, and then--They have done it themselves, and they may have
that satisfaction!" added he, with a fearful bitterness in his tone.
"Elections, and parliament, and dinners, and that Faulkner,--that is
what they have given my sight for." He withdrew his hand, and turned his
shoulder from Marian, as if resolute not to be comforted; and again he
shook with agony.
"O, don't say such dreadful things, dear Lionel! O, if I could but do
anything for you!" she cried, in a tone of heartfelt grief, which seemed
to soften the poor boy a little; for he twisted round, so that his face,
still pillowed on one arm, was half raised to her, and she could see
how flushed it was, and that the eyelids were inflamed, though not
with tears, and the eyes themselves had not altered from their former
"'Tis not your fault," he said. "If my mother had cared for me one
"Don't blame anybody, pray!" interrupted Marian: "it only makes it
worse. Only tell me all about it. Did the occulist say--"
"Not to me," answered Lionel; "not the worst, at least. He examined my
eyes very closely, and asked me all manner of questions about what I
could see, and what I could not, and what things hurt them, and how long
it had been going on, and how I had been using them. Then he told me
that it was impossible for him to do anything for them as yet, till the
disease had made more progress; that most likely I should quite lose my
sight this winter, and then I must come to him again. So that was bad
enough, but I could have made up my mind to that, and they sent me away.
Then it seems that, after I was gone, he went on about it to papa, and
told him that the mischief had been brewing time out of mind, and some
time ago it might have been stopped; but all that straining of my eyes
at Eton, last half, had done immense harm, and confirmed the disease;
and it is of a kind that--that--there is no cure for!" He buried his
"Did Mr. Lyddell tell you this?"
"No, he only told me we were to go home directly, and wrote to Gerald to
send my things from Eton. He hardly spoke a word all the way,--only led
me about, and poked me in and out of the carriage, as if I was
blind already; it put me almost in a rage. Then as soon as we came
home,--about half an hour ago, I should think,--he told it all straight
out to my mother, did not mince matters, I assure you: indeed, I believe
they both forgot I was there. They are apt to forget me, you know. He
regularly stormed about the neglect, and told her it was all her fault;
and while this was going on, I found I had heard the worst, and I did
not want to be pitied, so I came out here. And so there is the whole
story for you, Marian, and a pretty one it is! A fine sort of life I
shall have instead--"
"Well but, Lionel," cried Marian, eagerly, "are you sure that be said
_for certain_ that it was hopeless? for it seems so odd that he should
have told you one thing, and Mr. Lyddell another."
"Pshaw! I suppose he had got some consideration, and did not want to
knock me down with the worst at once."
"I should think it was more comfortable to know the worst at once!" said
Marian, meditatively, "so as to be able to settle one's mind to it."
"A pretty thing to settle one's mind to," said Lionel, "to know I must
be a good-for-nothing, dependent wretch all my days! As well be a woman,
or an idiot at once! There, I shall never see that tree green again; no,
and spring--I have seen my last of that! and I may look my last at all
your faces. Johnny I shall never see again."
Ho was crying bitterly now,--almost choking with tears; and Marian's
were flowing too. She was much distressed at the present moment; for
though the weeping was likely to relieve him, she feared it might be
doing harm to his eyes, and she did not know in the least whether it
ought to be checked, or, indeed, how to check it. Grieved and in great
consternation she was, in truth, for she was very fond of Lionel,
and full of such strong sympathy and compassion, as to be perfectly
incapable of expressing it, in the slightest degree. But he knew her;
she had been the only person who had ever been uneasy about his
sight, and this went for a great deal with him: so that, with all her
undemonstrativeness, there was no one whom he could have liked so well
to have near him in that moment of dire despair. "O, I am so sorry!"
expressed infinitely more than the simple words.
"You see, Marian," said he, raising himself, and struggling with the
sobs of which he was ashamed, "I could bear it better if I had not had
such a scheme for my life, and my father consenting too. Australia, and
those wild cattle, and that glorious Bush life, always galloping in the
plains; and now to be condemned to be moping about here, for ever, in
darkness and helplessness. O, to think of the plans we have made, all
come to an end for ever!" and again he was weeping violently.
"They might have been stopped otherwise," said Marian, catching at any
possible idea that might answer, or seem to console him; "you know you
might have been ill, or met with an accident, and had a great deal to
"I would suffer anything rather than lose my eyesight! You don't know
what you are talking of."
"Then just suppose this complaint had come on, in some lonely place out
in the wilds, with no one to take care of you."
"It would not, I should have had no Greek to put my eyes out."
"And after all, dear Lionel, you know----;" there she was choked--"you
know that--" and she was choked again--"you know where it comes from."
"I know what you mean," he said; "and if it did--But it is my mother's
neglect; there is the bitterness of it. Why, you and my father tried to
stir her up to it in the spring, and she would not; and then, when for
very shame she must attend, what does she do but let me go muddling on
with that old woman Wells! She has regularly thrown my sight away, as
much as if she had pulled my eyes out and thrown them over the hedge."
"No one could ever have guessed--"
"I tell you she might have guessed. Any other mother in the world would
have been frightened years ago, long before I went to school. If it had
been Elliot or Johnny, wouldn't she have had half the doctors in London?
but what did she ever trouble her head about _me?_"
"Now, Lionel, that must not be said. You know it is wrong, and I am sure
you will see how sorry she is, and how it was really not having time."
"I dare say she is sorry--I should hope so--now it is too late, and she
has done it."
"But why will you accuse any one?" said Marian, sorely perplexed, and
secretly sharing all his indignation against Mrs. Lyddell. "You know it
only embitters you and makes it all worse; and after all, even if man
had actually done the mischief, it still would ultimately be sent from
"I don't see that that makes it any better," murmured Lionel.
"O don't you, Lionel?" said she earnestly; "doesn't it make you sure it
is for the best?"
"I don't know what I have done to be so punished," went on Lionel to
himself; "I have not always been good, but I have tried, and more
lately, to do right; there are many much less steady than I, who--"
"Yes, yes, Lionel, but perhaps it is not as good for them to be
prosperous. Indeed, indeed I am quite sure, though I don't understand it
all, or see the way, that if you will but bear it rightly, you will be
glad, if not before, yet at least when you die, even of this terrible
"I almost wish I was dying now!" said Lionel gloomily, "if I could but
die the last day that I am to see the sky and everything, instead of
droning on in the dark, a burthen to myself and every one else, for
I don't know how long, forty, fifty, sixty years perhaps. You know,
Marian, I am only sixteen--"
There was a burst of tears again, and Marian felt herself an
unsuccessful comforter, nor did she wonder at it, for she could not
fancy that anything could relieve the sense of such a misfortune as poor
Lionel's, except the really high source of consolation, and that as yet
only by faith, which might make him take it on trust as the best in the
end, though for the present he must feel all the misery. She had no time
to answer him again, for the garden door opened, and at the sound he
dashed away his tears, sprang to his feet, and assumed a firm, cold,
would-be indifferent look, as Mrs. Lyddell came out and advanced towards
them. Marian thought her looking flushed and agitated, and her voice
certainly betrayed more emotion than had ever been shown in it, except
when bidding Johnny farewell.
"Lionel, my dear, sitting on the damp grass? You will certainly catch
cold! I have been searching for you everywhere, but I am glad you were
with Marian. I wanted to ask you, my dear, whether you would like to
have your own room or Walter's," added she, wandering on as if anxious
to say what was kindest, yet dreading to come to the subject nearest
"My own, thank you," bluntly answered Lionel, "I'll and unpack." He
brushed hastily by her, and ran into the house up stairs, his roughness
contrasting with her affectionate tone. She looked at Marian, and saw
the trace of tears on her eyelids, and her own lip quivered while her
eyes filled, and she said in a trembling voice, "Poor dear boy! has he
been telling you? Does he know it all?"
"Yes," said Marian, anxiously, "but is it really so very bad? Is there
"No hope? Who said so?" exclaimed Mrs. Lyddell quickly.
"He did," said Marian; "he said Mr. Lyddell told you so."
"Was he there?" exclaimed she: "Ah! that was Mr. Lyddell's strong way of
putting things! So unfortunate--forgetting all about him. Poor fellow! I
must go to him directly, and tell him it was no such thing."
"What? how? O do tell me!" cried Marian, turning and hurrying with her,
and speaking with, such earnestness that Mrs. Lyddell could not doubt of
her sympathy now. She slackened her pace, and explained that what the
surgeon, had said was, that there was confirmed disease, and of a very
serious character, but the precise nature could not be ascertained till
it had made greater progress, and it was then possible that it might
prove capable of removal.
Mrs. Lyddell was resolved that neither herself nor any one else should
believe anything but what was most hopeful. She could not have borne
it otherwise. She really was far from being indifferent to any of her
children, though multiplicity of occupation, and thoughts, engaged on
what she considered the welfare of the family, had prevented her
from being properly attentive to all, and she was so accustomed to
uninterrupted prosperity, as to have almost forgotten that there was
such a thing as anxiety or misfortune. Lionel, neither the eldest nor
the youngest, healthy, and independent, neither remarkable for beauty
nor grace, just unruly enough to be provoking, and just steady enough to
be no cause of anxiety, had been as much a cipher in the family as a One
lively boy could be; but though slow to be roused into anxiety, she felt
it with full force when it came, all the motherly affection, which while
secure had appeared dormant, revived, she was dreadfully shocked, and
would have been utterly overwhelmed by the accusation of neglect, had it
not been for her sanguine spirit. In this temper she represented all to
Marian in the most cheering light, and hastened up stairs to do the same
to Lionel. Marian, relieved and hopeful, was waiting to collect some
properties of hers, to carry to her room, when she met Mr. Lyddell. She
went up to greet him, and thinking that he looked very mournful, there
was more cordiality and fellow-feeling in her way of addressing him than
ever there had been before, though she simply said "Good morning" and
"You have heard about it, Marian?" said he. "Has he been with you, poor
"Yes," said Marian, "he is in his own room now."
"Ah! you spoke long ago," said Mr. Lyddell; "I wish we had attended to
"It was Edmund who remarked it," said she.
"Ay, ay, and senseless it was not to attend. Then it seems that
something might have been done, at any rate he would not have gone on
injuring them with his work at Eton, but now it is as good as a lost
case. Poor fellow!"
"O!" exclaimed Marian, thrown back again, "I thought there was a hope
that it might not prove to be the worst."
"There is just a shade of chance that it may turn out otherwise, and
that, your mother--Mrs. Lyddell I mean--takes hold of, but I have not
the slightest hope. The surgeon said, it had all the appearance of a
confirmed case, such as cannot be removed."
Marian stood aghast, and Mr. Lyddell, with a sort of groan, most painful
to hear, passed her, and shut himself into his study. The only thing she
could think of doing, was to pour out her dismay and compassion in a
letter to Gerald, and she repaired to the schoolroom for the purpose of
writing, but she had not been there long, before Lionel came in, and sat
down astride on the music-stool, just as he used to do, but with a very
different expression of countenance from the wild, reckless spirit of
merriment which used to possess him. He sat and meditated for a little
while, then exclaimed, "Marian, whom have you seen since I left you?"
"Nobody but Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell."
"Did you hear papa say anything about it?"
"Yes, a little."
"Did he say what the doctor thought of it?"
"Tell me the very words," and he leant his elbows on the table, looking
at her fixedly.
"Ah! Lionel, can you bear it? They are so very sad."
"Tell me them, I say."
Marian looked down, as if she could not bear to meet his countenance,
and faltered as she repeated them.
"Ay!" said Lionel, springing up, and flinging himself round
passionately, "I knew it was humbug all the time!"
"What? How? O Lionel, what have I done?"
"As if I was a fool or a baby, to be fed with false hopes," proceeded
Lionel, sitting down, and hiding his face on his crossed arms on the
table; "she might have let that alone, she has done me mischief enough
"Lionel," said Marian, firmly and gravely, for she was really shocked at
his tone, "you must not come to me, if it is to speak in such a manner
of your mother."
"Very well," said Lionel coldly, rising up to leave the room, then
pausing just as his hand was on the door, "I thought _you_ did feel for
"O Lionel, dear Lionel," and she sprang to him, to lead him back to his
seat, but he still retained his hold of the lock and would not move;
"you know"--her tears were flowing--"you know how I grieve for you; but
if you are in trouble, that ought not to make you do wrong," He was
turning the lock, and hardened his face, but Marian went on, "Don't go,
Lionel, only hear me. Mrs. Lyddell is very unhappy about you, and I am
sure you must see yourself, that if she blames herself for any want of
care, her only comfort must be in hoping for the best, making the most
of this little ray."
"Then _you_ think there is a ray!" interrupted Lionel.
"So far as that nothing is certain, but I am afraid it is so slight,
that you had much better not trust to it, but settle your mind to bear
whatever may come."
"Very easy talking! If you had but to do it!" cried Lionel, impetuously
wrenching the door open in spite of her gentle resistance, and running
off determinately, leaving her, poor girl, in great despair, at having
so completely failed either in comforting, softening, or bringing him to
any kind of resigned feeling, having besides vexed him, made him think
her unkind; and though this was unintentional, and might be better for
him, just contradicted what his mother wished him to believe.
Her distress was too great even for writing to Gerald, and she walked
up and down, thinking what to do, longing to find him some better
comforter, and offering up many a prayer for him, till at last she heard
Caroline and Clara come home, and remembering that happen what might,
she must dress for dinner, up she went, heavily and sorrowfully.
As soon as she was dressed, she went to Clara's room, feeling that this
would be but kind. Clara was not there, and she hesitated whether to go
on to Caroline's, once her frequent resort. At that instant, however,
both sisters came up together, and hastened to her. "O Marian Marian!"
"You know all about it, I suppose," said Caroline.
"Yea, indeed I do."
"Come in here," said Caroline opening her door; "I want to know about
him, poor fellow, and how he bears it. Have you seen anything of him?"
Marian told all she could, without betraying what was confidential, and
did her best to soften Lionel's conduct, by which his sisters evidently
had been disappointed, saying that he had scarcely chosen to speak
to them. Marian explained what was on her mind, how she had, without
intending it, flatly contradicted Mrs. Lyddell's cheering assurances,
regretting it much, as injustice towards Mrs. Lyddell, but of this,
Caroline thought little.
"Mamma is always sanguine," she said, "and it was only her colouring
that made Lionel think her account hopeful. It must be better for him,
poor fellow, to know the truth, than to have his mind unsettled with
vain hopes. O dear! O dear! how sad it is, and at his age too! It breaks
one's heart to think of it."
All coldness and distance had left Caroline's manner in speaking to
Marian, and this was a great comfort, in the midst of their troubles.
A very uncomfortable time it was, which thus commenced. Lionel was a
good boy on the whole, with right principles, and some seriousness of
mind, but he was far too undisciplined to meet patiently such a trial
as this. He had pride, and a high spirit, and this made him assume a
bearing, which was a good deal admired in the family, trying to carry
it off with a high hand, never openly uttering a word of complaint, and
seeming as if he would rather die than directly express the miserable
despairing feelings within, though, poor boy, he little knew how
evidently they showed themselves in his gloomy silence, his outbreaks of
temper, and his almost desperate, defiant spirit of independence.
His father and mother, not understanding him in the least, managed, in
the revulsion of feeling which made him now the first object in the
family, to try his temper perpetually. He had in former times, missed
their demonstrations of affection, though healthy, high-spirited, and by
no means sentimental, the craving had been only occasional, he had done
very well without them, and had gained habits of freedom incompatible
with being petted. He had never been used to be interfered with, and
could not understand it at all; and that remembrance of past neglect
embittered all his feelings.
Mr. Lyddell had just found out, as Marian had thought long ago, that
Lionel was the flower of his flock, the one of his sons, who alone
united spirit and steadiness, for the emigration scheme had shown a
degree of sense, enterprise, and consideration which had at the time
pleased and surprised him, and now added much to his sense of the
promise lost. He laid all the blame of the neglect on his wife, but he
did not lament it the less keenly. His extreme kindness and solicitude
for the boy, were, to those who compared them with his general
character, quite affecting, but unluckily they displayed themselves is a
way which harassed Lionel very much, for he treated him as if he fancied
him completely blind already, cautioned him, guided him, and looked
anxious, if he did but walk across the garden alone; whilst Lionel,
who could see quite well enough for all ordinary purposes, was teased,
reminded of his troubles, and vexed above measure by having notice
attracted to his defect of sight.
In the main, however, he owned that his father was kind, and sorry for
him, though each particular instance annoyed him; but it was much worse
with his mother, for her petting was more minute, more constant, and
such as would have been worrying to any boy in full health, even if it
had not, as in poor Lionel's case, been connected with the dark future,
and with a past, which had sadly soured him against her. He was always
rough and morose with her, rebelling against her care, never wakening
into affection, or showing pleasure in what she proposed, though she
continued to press on him her attention, with uunwearied assiduity.
His sisters were treated much in the same manner; Clara made him cross
with over care, and Caroline, though showing better judgment, and much
real tact and affection, was also kept at a distance, and often harshly
answered. Marian too, was quite sufficiently like a sister to come
in for many an unreasonable fit of rudeness, and temper when it was
perfectly impossible to find any means of pleasing him.
Indeed such unoccupied days as his were in themselves a trial of good
humour. Idleness was very pleasant in the holidays, but his was too
active a spirit to bear it for long together, especially when it left
room for such anticipations as those for which his hopes of a Bush life
were exchanged, Yet he treated offers of reading to him as insults, and
far less would he endure to learn any occupation that might serve him
when his sight should be quite gone; he professed to hate music, and
lounged about disconsolately in the house or garden. Now and then, if
he found the young ladies reading on their own account, he would be
beguiled into listening and being amused, and their ingenuity was often
exercised in appearing to be doing it naturally, and he sometimes took
part in conversation, and thus had his attention withdrawn from his
misfortune; but it was not often that his moodiness of manner could be
charmed away, unless strangers were present, when he thought it a point
of honour to seem at his ease and merry.
After luncheon, he liked best to ride, but against this, Mr. and Mrs.
Lyddell set their faces, persuaded that it must be very dangerous. This,
Lionel thought the height of unkindness; he could ride just as safely
as in the holidays; and it was too cruel to make him give up the one
pleasure he best liked, while he was still able to enjoy it, and though
not sufficiently familiar with them to attempt any remonstrance, he
became doubly discontented and sullen. He would not walk with the girls,
but wandered far away over the downs by himself, often not coming back
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