The Two Guardians
Charlotte Mary Yonge
Part 7 out of 8
Marian was very angry, but Edmund and Agnes would do nothing but laugh,
though the whole plan had to be drawn over again, and Edmund was kept at
work with ruler, scale, and compasses the whole evening, Marian scolding
Gerald all the time, and Edmund too, for spoiling him, thinking her
cousin the most heroically good natured and good tempered man in the
world to bear with such an idle monkey, and laugh at the waste of time
and trouble; and getting at last a glimmering perception that these
tricks, thus met, were the greatest proof of good understanding and
friendship. It ended in Gerald's inking in the plan, of his own free
will, and very neatly, and getting up at six, the next morning, to ride
to Exeter, in the dark cold misty December twilight, to take it to the
builder, that no time might be lost; indeed, as he boasted, it was there
a quarter of an hour before it would have come by post, as it would have
done had it gone yesterday.
Gerald's studies were not extensive, but Edmund, by some magic secret,
unknown to Marian, made him read history to himself for a short space
every morning. The sporting paper had disappeared, and nothing was heard
of Elliot or of Queen Pomare, while though he could not yet go the
length of talking to the poor people himself, he stood by very civilly
while Edmund talked to them.
The first ten days of Marian's stay had thus passed, when Caroline one
day mentioned in her letter that mamma had a regularly bad influenza
cold, and was quite laid up. It was aggravated, Caroline said, by the
distress they were all in about Elliot. "But you will hear enough of
this when you come back," wrote she, "so I will not grieve you with
it now; though it is an additional load upon my mind--an additional
offence, I fear, in poor mamma's eyes, since all this would not have
come to light had I persisted. But you must not think I am repenting,
for I never was further from regretting what I have done. The different
spirit in which I could come to this Christmas feast, is a blessing to
be purchased at any price, even at such wretchedness as it has been this
autumn; and most earnestly do I thank you, dearest Marian. I can thank
you by letter, though we never can speak of such things. Yes, I thank
you. I regret nothing but my previous folly and weakness, and bitterly
do I suffer for them; though all is better now, and Christmas has
brought me peace and calm. It is as if the storm was lulled at last, and
nothing left but dreariness, and the longing to be at rest. How bright
the world was before me not a year ago! and now how worn out it
seems,--only three comforts left in it, you, and Walter, and poor
Lionel. For Lionel is a comfort; he is very kind and considerate, and, I
do believe, softens mamma towards me. I suppose it is best for us that
our hearts should have no home but one above; and if I was sure it was
not disgust and disappointment, I should hope I was seeking one there;
for I know the only feeling of rest and refreshment is in turning
thither, and surely that must come from the FATHER, Who is ready to
receive me. But I must leave off, for mamma is too unwell to be long
"Your most affectionate
After this, the letters, hitherto constant, ceased entirely, and Marian
grew very uneasy. Her mother had died of influenza, so that the name
gave her a fatal impression; and she dreaded to hear that Mrs. Lyddell
was very ill, or that Caroline was ill herself. Another week, and at
length she heard from Clara, in answer to a letter of inquiry, and to
fix the day of her return.
"Oakworthy, Jan. 7th.
"MY DEAR MARIAN,--Caroline desires me to write to
tell you, with her love, that she has this horrid influenza, and
has been in bed since Monday. She is very feverish, and
her throat so sore that she can hardly speak or swallow.
Sarah sat up with her last night, and I think she is a little
better this morning. Mamma is better, but only gets up for
a little while in the evening, and cannot leave her room. I
wish you were at home, for I don't know what to do: I am
running backwards and forwards between the two rooms all
day, and poor Lionel is so forlorn and solitary down stairs,
with only papa. There!--that great blot was a tear, for I
am so worn out with fatigue and nursing, that I am almost
overcome. This winter I was to have come out,--how very
different! I forgot to tell you, after all, that the carriage
shall meet you, as you mention, on the 15th. I wish it was
directly; they will be all well by the time you come. But
it is so very forlorn, and I am so nervous; so excuse this
"Your affectionate cousin,
As soon as Marian read this letter, she gave it to Edmund, saying, "I
think I had better go home."
"O, Marian, you must not cheat us!" cried Agnes.
"I think they would be very glad of you," said Edmund, and withal
Marian's mind was made up, and she withstood all the persuasions
of Gerald and Agnes that it was nothing--nonsense--only Clara's
dismality--they would laugh at her for coming for nothing. No; Marian
knew she was no nurse, but she could not bear to think of Lionel left to
his blindness and helplessness, still less of Caroline, ill, and with no
one to cheer her. She was sure she was wanted by those two at least, and
she resolved that she would be at Oakworthy to-morrow evening, wrote
notice of her intention to Clara, and prepared for her journey, giving
up that precious last week, so prized because it was the last. She could
go alone with her maid; there was no use in spoiling Gerald's holidays;
so he would stay for all the delights that she gave up, ruining all by
her absence, as every one declared.
Agnes grumbled and scolded her to her face, but made up for it out of
hearing, by admiring her more than ever. Mr. and Mrs. Wortley gave her
silent approval, and the boys would not wish her a pleasant journey. She
was ready early the next morning, and once more left Fern Torr, bright
with the promise that, when she was there next, it would be no more a
She prosperously arrived at the station nearest Oakworthy, and soon saw
the servant waiting for her. "Is Miss Lyddell better?"
"A little better than last night, ma'am. Mr. Lionel is in the carriage."
Marian had not at all expected any one to meet her, especially Lionel,
coming all this distance in silence and darkness. She hastened to the
carriage, and saw him leaning forward, listening for her. His face
lighted up at her, "Well, Lionel," and he fairly hurt her, by the
tightness of his grasp, when once he had met her hand. "So, you're come!
What a time it has been since you went! Now you are come, I don't care."
"And how are you?" she asked anxiously.
"Bad enough to be going back to the oculist next week," he answered; "I
can't even see the light."
A long silence; then, "How is Caroline?"
"Pretty much the same; it is a bad, feverish cold, and shocking throat.
She breathes as if she was half stifled, and can hardly speak."
"I suppose she has Mr. Wells?"
"Yes, two or three times a day,"
"And Mrs. Lyddell is better?"
"Better, but not out of her room. It has been a tolerable state of
things of late. Not a creature to speak to, except, now and then, Clara
coming down to maunder and sigh over all she has to do, and my father,
who has been thoroughly in a rage about Elliot. Do you know about all
"No," she answered.
"It is out now, why he was so set upon Caroline's marriage, he had got
Faulkner to back a bill for him; you don't know what that means, I
suppose," said Lionel, with his old superior manner;--"made him engage
that the money Elliot borrowed should be paid. There was to be some
shuffle between them about her fortune it seems; so after the engagement
was off, when the bill became due, Faulkner sent the holder of it to
my father for the money and the news of this set on all the other
creditors. No end of bills coming in, and he has been pretty nearly
crazy among them; says we shall be beggars, and I don't know what all! I
vow, it is my old plan coming right!" cried Lionel vehemently. "If the
man in London can but set my eyes to rights, I'd be off to Australia
to-morrow, instead of staying here to make all worse. Well, it's no use
thinking of it: if ever I make my fortune now, it will be with a dog in
a string, and a hat in his mouth."
"But go on, Lionel; are the debts so very bad?"
"I believe they are indeed, and no one knows the worst of them yet. No
wonder Elliot was off to Paris in such a hurry, like a coward as he is,
no one knows how he is ever to come back! And worst of all is to have
mamma going about saying 'tis Caroline's fault! Hadn't I rather come to
the hat and dog in good earnest than to see her marry that man? Why,
Marian, he is actually engaged to Miss Dashwood! What do you say to
that? To the Radical Dashwood's daughter that behaved so shamefully to
"No, the man. Fit company for the apostate, isn't it? He had better have
begun with her. Fine love his must have been. Only six weeks. Should not
that cure Caroline?"
"Has she heard it?"
"No, we have only known it since she was ill, and Clara thought she had
better not tell her."
"Very right of Clara," said Marian; "but I think she will be glad, when
she is well enough to be told."
Fast and eagerly did Marian and Lionel talk all the way, sometimes
gravely and sorrowfully about Elliot and Caroline, sometimes cheerfully
about Fern Torr, Edmund, and Gerald, of whom Lionel wanted much to hear.
He clapped his hands, and danced himself up and down with ecstasy at the
history of Gerald's embellishments of the plans, vowed that Gerald was a
Trojan, and that it was as good as Beauty and the Beast, and seemed to
be enjoying a perfect holiday in having some one to speak to again.
"But," he said, "what a horrid bore it must have been to you to come
"I thought I might be some help to Clara."
"Did she make you think Caroline so very ill? Mr. Wells says it is only
a very bad cold. But I am very glad you are come."
Clara met Marian in the hall. "O Marian, I am glad you are come, but
I am sorry you came home in such a hurry. Mamma says there was no
occasion, and that I need not have frightened you, for it is only a bad
attack of influenza."
"Then I hope Caroline Is better."
"Yes, rather, and she will be so glad to see you. Come to her at once,
won't you? she heard the carriage, and is watching for you."
Marian hastily followed Clara to Caroline's room. In a few seconds both
Caroline's arms were thrown round her neck, and a burning feverish face
pressed to hers, then as she raised herself again, one of her hands
still held fast, and Caroline lay looking up to her with an expression
of relief and comfort. "Thank you," she murmured, in a hoarse low
painful whisper, the sound of which gave an impression of dismay to
Marian. Caroline was far worse than she had been prepared to sec her.
That loud, oppressed, gasping breathing, the burning fever of hands and
cheek, the parched lips,--this was far more than ordinary influenza.
Marian stood watching her a little while; speaking now and then, until
she closed her eyes in weariness, not for sleep, when she was about to
leave the room, but Caroline looked up again anxiously and restlessly,
and tried to say, "Come back."
"Yes, I'll come in a moment," said Marian, "I'll only just take off my
bonnet, and go and see Mrs. Lyddell, if I may."
"O, yes, she is up, she knows you are come," said Clara, and Marian was
presently knocking at Mrs. Lyddell's door.
She found her sitting by the fire in a large easy chair, in her
dressing-gown and shawl, and was surprised at the first sight of her
too, for that very weakening complaint, the influenza, had made a great
change in her, perhaps assisted by all that she had gone through during
the last summer and autumn, beginning with the parting with John, the
grief and anxiety for Lionel, the disappointment and warfare with
Caroline, and worse than all, the discoveries respecting her eldest and
favourite son. She looked a dozen years older, all the clearness of her
complexion was gone, and the colouring that remained, as if ingrained,
was worse than paleness; her hand shook with weakness, and the only
trace of her prompt, decided activity was in the nervous agitation of
her movements, and the querulous sharpness of her tones, as if her
weakness was irritating to her.
"Marian, how are you? I am sorry you have cut short your visit to
come back to a sick house. I am afraid Clara has been alarming you
"I am very sorry to find you so unwell," said Marian; "I thought Clara
would want some help."
"Thank you, it was very kind," said Mrs. Lyddell, rather sharply, as if
her thanks were only for form's sake. "Have you seen Caroline?"
"Yes, and I am afraid she is very ill. Such a terrible oppression on her
"Ah! so Clara says. Mr. Wells has been applying mustard poultices."
"Have you had no further advice?" said Marian.
"No. He managed me very well; he is perfectly competent to attend an
influenza such as this--a very simple affair."
Mrs. Lyddell was evidently under the unreasonable infatuation that so
many people are subject to, who will go on trusting their favourite
apothecary, in spite of proofs that he is not to be trusted; but Marian,
in her short life, had heard a good deal of doctors, and whether
reasonably or not, had imbibed a distrust of country practitioners,
which Lionel's misfortune had not tended to remove in Mr. Wells' case.
Indeed, she had a particular dislike to the man, with his soft manner,
love of set speeches and fine words, and resolution not to own that
anything was the matter. There were stories abroad in the neighbourhood
of his treating cases wrongly because he would not own they were beyond
"Mrs. Lyddell," said she, very earnestly, "I do believe that Caroline is
very ill. I think her throat is in a very alarming state, and I should
not be at all satisfied to go on with no further advice."
Mrs. Lyddell made some answer about girls being easily frightened, and
Marian went back to Caroline, very unhappy and anxious, and trying to
find comfort by telling herself that the cure does not depend alone on
However, the words she had spoken were not without effect. Mrs.
Lyddell's answer had been prompted by her first impulse of dislike and
opposition, as if Marian was taking still further upon her; but she
became very anxious when left alone. She thought that Marian's fresh eye
might be better able to judge of the degree of Caroline's illness; she
remembered how she had reproached herself about Lionel, and at last
worked herself into such a state of alarm and anxiety, that though she
had not yet walked further than to the window, she rose, left her room,
and presently was by her daughter's bed-side.
There needed no more to convince her that Caroline was excessively ill,
and quick and prompt as ever, her first measure was to send Clara for
her father, and hold a consultation with him outside the door; a message
was despatched to hasten Mr. Wells, and the result was that a physician
was sent for. Marian, who had all this time been watching the severe
suffering, unable to do the least thing to alleviate it, was almost as
glad as if she had been told of Caroline's certain recovery. She had
again to tell herself not to put her trust in physicians.
"Preach, read, and study as we will,
Death is the mighty teacher still."
Caroline continued very ill all the evening, hardly able to to look up,
and every attempt to speak or swallow causing her great pain. Her mother
would not leave her again, and sat watching her, and she smiled, and
gave a pleased look of surprise at her kindness, which she had so long
missed; but her chief comfort seemed to be in Marian's presence. She
followed her about the room with her eyes, and was uneasy whenever she
fancied that she was going out of the room.
She was not told that the physician was coming till he was actually
in the house, and then she gave Marian a quick, sharp look of alarmed
inquiry; but Marian was not able to answer, as she had to leave her to
his visit. When it was over, and Marian returned, while Mrs. Lyddell
went to hear his opinion, Caroline was striving hard to speak. Marian
bent over her, and at last heard one word gasped out--"Walter."
"Yes, I will tell Mr. Lyddell; he shall be sent for, dearest," said
Marian; and Caroline seemed satisfied.
It was long before Marian had an opportunity of hearing what the
physician's opinion had been, and there was little comfort in it. It was
a very severe case of inflammation in the windpipe, and the only hope of
subduing it was in instant recourse to strong remedies. How badly it
was thought of she saw plainly enough, without words, in Mr. Lyddell's
restless, hasty manner, and in the exertions which Mrs. Lyddell was
allowed to make, at a time when she ought to have been in her bed. The
worst sign of all was, it seemed to her, that as soon as she mentioned
Caroline's wish to see Walter, Mr. Lyddell took measures for sending a
letter at once by the railroad, instead of waiting for the post, which
would have made a delay of two days.
Lionel sat meanwhile, by himself in the drawing room, or was found
wandering on the stairs, anxiously listening. Marian came on him once,
and had exclaimed at finding him in the dark, before she remembered that
it made no difference to him. She was in haste to fetch something
for Caroline and could do nothing for him but say the sad words, "No
All night Mrs. Lyddell and Marian stayed with Caroline; the one because
she could not bear to go, the other because she could not be spared.
Mrs. Lyddell would not acknowledge the extent of the danger to herself,
far less allow any hint of it to come to Caroline; and for this Marian
was sorry, though she was sure that Caroline was conscious of it
herself; but with Mrs. Lyddell always present, it was impossible to read
any of the things that would have been the only support at such a time.
Poor Caroline could not speak to ask for them, and as if her mother
feared they would bring death, she seemed to be watching Marian
jealously to prevent the least approach to them.
It was a terrible night; the applications did nothing but cause
suffering, instead of removing the disorder,--the oppression grew more
and more severe,--each breath more painful; the two watchers hardly
dared to meet each other's eyes, and Caroline was in too much pain,
too oppressed and overwhelmed, to give any token how far the mind and
thought was awake within her. Such another day succeeded, every hour
extinguishing some faint hope, and bringing the dread certainty more
fully upon them. There was little or nothing to be done: they could only
watch the sufferer, and try to glean her wishes from her looks; but
these usually expressed more of pain than aught else, and no one could
tell whether the ear and thought were free. One, at least, who sat
beside her prayed fervently, and trusted in hope and love; holding fast
by the certainty that Caroline had embraced the good part, and given up
the allurements of the world, in health, for the sake of the treasure to
which she was hastening. That last letter of her's was surely a proof
that she was ready; and who could wish to detain that worn, harassed
spirit from the repose where earthly cares shall "cease from troubling,
and where the weary are at rest?" Yet how Marian loved and clung to her,
and felt as if she could never bear to part, and lose the affection that
had been so long kept off by her own repulsive demeanour, but that
was so ardent and unreserved! How grievous to think of the blooming,
life-like creature that she was so lately, now so suddenly cut down!
Hour after hour went by, bringing no change for the better. Day had
faded into twilight, and twilight became night. Midnight had come, and
Marian was still sitting, as she had done for more than an hour, holding
up the faint head; for Caroline could no longer breathe in a recumbent
posture, and sat partly supported on pillows, partly resting on Marian's
shoulder. Her eyes were shut, and she seemed unconscious; it might be
that she slept, but the features were full of suffering, and Marian
could feel each of her breaths, gasping and convulsive. Her mother hung
over her, feeling her pulse, sometimes sitting, sometimes standing,
or walking to the foot of the bed to speak to Mr. Lyddell, or to the
apothecary, in the restless misery of despair. Mr. Lyddell came in and
out, unable to bear the sight, yet unable to stay away. Clara had been
too much overcome, and growing hysterical, had been sent away, and
advised to go to bed. Lionel, too, had been sent to bed, but his room
was in the same passage, and he lay with his door open, catching, with
his quickened ears, at every sound in the sick room, and hearing each
word of the hushed conferences that took place outside.
A fresh tread was in the house--on the stairs--in the passage; Lionel's
heart could not help bounding at it, as it came so softly along. It was
the tread of the brother who, for his effort of courage and principle
had been allowed to leave home like an exile, and treated as an
offender. Lionel heard his father's step coming to meet him: how would
they meet? He could hear the movement as their hands grasped together,
and then Mr. Lyddell's smothered, choked whisper, "Only just in time,
Walter! she won't know you. Come!"
"Is it so?" said Walter, in a low tone, as of one extremely choked and
A sort of sob came before the answer, "Going fast."
The steps moved on; Lionel could not stay where he was, dressed himself,
and felt his way to the sick room. He heard the stifled breathings: he
felt onward,--found he had hold of the bed-post, and leant against it,
unheeded by all, so intently were all watching Caroline.
"Speak to her," was the first thing he heard whispered by the doctor.
"Caroline!" said Walter's trembling voice, "dear Caroline!"
Poor Lionel could not see how, at the call, the dark blue eyes once more
opened, and looked up in Walter's face; he only heard the steadier tone
in which the brother said the ministerial words, "Peace be with this
The solemn calmness of the tone came gently and soothingly upon Lionel's
ear; and withal there spread over Caroline's face a gleam of joy, and
then a quiet stillness, as of a freedom from suffering. There was an
interval--a gasp--another interval--another gasp--a pause--
Marian's voice was the first, and very low and awe-struck. "It has been
without a struggle."
A slight cry from his mother, and a confused movement, as if they were
lifting something--steps--he stood still, and the next moment felt
Marian's hand on his arm. "Mrs. Lyddell has fainted," said she, in
explanation; "Mr. Lyddell and Walter are taking her to her own room,"
Lionel clasped Marian's hand very tight, and each felt how the other was
trembling. "We must come away," said Marian; then hesitating, and with a
quivering whisper, she said, "Would you like to kiss her?"
"Yes, let me!"
It was strange to guide the blind brother to kiss the white brow of the
dead sister. Marian's throat was aching to such a degree with intense
feeling, that she could hardly utter a word; but Lionel, who could not
see, must hear. "She looks so calm, so sweet," said Marian struggling,
"but I must go to your mother. Let me take you to your room; I'll send
Walter to you. Lionel, Lionel, indeed she is happy!" said Marian,
earnestly, while Lionel burst into a flood of tears, wholesome tears, as
she led him from the room.
She thought Walter would be the greatest comfort to him; and
recollecting Mrs. Lyddell had no woman with her but her maid, she told
Lionel she must go to his mother, ran down, and met Walter waiting in
the dressing-room. "Is she recovering?"
"Will you go to Lionel?"
"This instant, but--" and he looked at her earnestly.
"Yes, yes," said she hastily, "it is all right and beautiful. Here's her
last letter; I've been reading it all day. Take it; you'll see how--"
Marian's voice broke down, and she hastened to the open door of Mrs.
Lyddell's room. There was something for her to do in attempting to
restore her, for the maid was not helpful; and Mr. Lyddell stood at the
foot of the bed, as if all his powers were paralysed. Mr. Wells wanted
assistance; for Mrs. Lyddell, exhausted by watching and her previous
weakness, was in so sinking and depressed a state, as to need the
Marian was employed in attending her till towards morning, when she sank
into a sleep. "You had better go to bed," said Mr. Lyddell, very kindly,
as Marian at length turned away from her, and stood by the fireside,
where he was sitting in the arm-chair, his hands over his forehead "I
must not let you overwork yourself."
"O, I am not tired, if I can be of any use."
"No, no, rest now, thank you," said he, in a broken, dejected tone.
She went, and again found Walter in the outer room, watching for tidings
of his mother. "Asleep," she said. "Lionel?"
"Asleep too, I hope. You are going to bed?"
"Yes, thank you; but Clara--"
"I will go to Clara the first thing in the morning. I shall sit up on my
father's account. Don't you think of it,--sleep as long as you can; you
have had watching enough."
"I have been so glad," Marian said, in a tear-stilled whisper.
"You cannot tell how I have longed to thank you, Marian, for what you
have been to her:" said Walter, speaking from the fulness of heart,
which overcame his natural reserve and bashfulness. "You are thanked
enough by our present feelings on the subject,--by that letter:--may I
keep it a little longer?"
"O yes, yes!" cried Marian, hastily, disclaiming in her heart all his
thanks, though unable to do so with her lips.
"It takes away all regret for the briefness of the illness," added
Walter, as if the speaking of it was a satisfaction he could hardly
"I am sure she thought much; no one can tell what passed," said Marian,
in a low, broken murmur.
"Little did I think last summer--" said Walter, aloud to himself. "Yes,
this is best, far best, if one could but feel it so!"
Marian thought the same, and, like him, could not feel it; but unable to
express herself, she simply said, as soon as her tears would let her,
"Good-night," and went up to her own room.
Fatigue came on her now. When she took off the dress she had worn since
leaving Fern Torr, she found her limbs stiff and aching, and her head
dizzy with weariness. She could hardly get through the operation of
undressing; and when she tried to say her prayers, they would not come.
She could only go through the LORD'S Prayer; and too worn out to be
shocked at herself more than in a dull way, scarcely even alive to the
recollection of what had happened, she laid herself down on the bed,
which seemed strangely soft, but for a long time was too tired to sleep.
With confused thoughts and exhausted spirits, she kept on feeling as
if her aching limbs belonged to somebody else, and going off into odd,
dreamy vagaries, each more uncomfortable than the last,--ever and anon
waking into a moment's remembrance that Caroline was dead, wondering at
herself for being so dull as only to think it strange, then losing the
consciousness again. At last the light of morning made her perceptions
clearer. Fanny knocked at her door, and brought her a cup of tea.
She heard that all was quiet,--said she would get up; but with that
resolution she suddenly became more easy, and while believing she was
getting up, fell into a sound sleep.
She awoke refreshed, and entirely herself again, though feeling stunned
and bewildered by the all-pervading thought. Caroline dead! It seemed
as if it was not otherwise with the rest of the family. Her illness had
been so short, that there had been no time to grow familiar with the
idea of her danger; and it was the first death in the household that had
hitherto been so strong and confident in health,--the first touch that
taught them how little the world they loved was an abiding-place. So
sudden had been the stroke, that they seemed to pause and stand aghast
under it, scarcely conscious how deep the wound might be. Her father
went about the house, bowed down and stricken with grief, his tones low,
sorrowful, and so gentle when speaking to his children, or to Marian,
that they could scarcely be recognised as the same voice; but, without
a word, so far as Marian, Clara, or Lionel knew, of his daughter, or
of his own feelings. Her mother, already very weak, and suffering most
acutely from the remembrance of the coldness with which she had treated
her during the last autumn, became so seriously unwell, between a
return of influenza, and her extreme depression and nervous hysterical
agitation, that Marian and Clara were almost entirely occupied in
nursing her, and trying to soothe her. In this work they were little
successful. Marian had no hold on her affection, no power of talking
soothingly, though most anxious to do what she could, and distressed
excessively by her inability to be a comfort in the painful scenes which
she was obliged to witness. She almost thought her presence made things
worse, and that Mrs. Lyddell wished her away; but poor Clara was so
entirely helpless and frightened, clung to her in so imploring a way,
and was so incapable, from the restraint that had always subsisted
between her and her mother, of saying anything to comfort her, or
assuming any direction, that Marian was obliged, for her sake, to be
almost always in the room. The only thing Marian could do in the way
of consolation was to read aloud; she could not talk of the great
thankfulness, peace, and hope which she felt herself, to Mrs. Lyddell,
though she could have done so a little, with time, to Lionel, or even
Clara; she could only read, and whether this did any good, she knew not.
At any rate, it was what she ought to do; and the sound of the voice
going on continuously had certainly a calming effect. Walter used daily
to come and read, but this she did not seem to like, though she never
made any objection; and there was so much reason for guarding against
agitation and excitement, that he, never familiar with her, could not
venture to attempt speaking to her on the subject of which all their
hearts were full. It was only Mr. Lyddell who had any real serviceable
influence with her. Her hysterical attacks never came on in his
presence, and a few affectionate words or demonstrations from him would
soothe the very worst of them. Marian saw so much real tenderness in his
character, that she positively began to feel considerable affection for
Clara was entirely bewildered and frightened, hardly yet realizing
that she had lost her sister; perplexed and alarmed about her mother,
suddenly thrust forward, from being an unregarded child, into having
all the responsibilities of the eldest daughter of a sick mother on her
hands, she could only depend upon Marian, and hang on her for direction,
assistance, and consolation,--say "yes" to whatever she suggested, and
set about it; and whenever she felt lonely, sisterless, and wretched,
lean on her, pour out her grief, and feel that she had a kind listener,
though only a monosyllabic answerer. She used to have great fits of
crying at night, when they passed Caroline's door; and more than once
she was so inconsolable, that Marian was obliged to come and stay in her
room, and sleep all night with her arm clinging round her. Altogether,
it was very desolate and perplexing; and Marian was grieved at herself
for dwelling more on this, and on the loss of her dear companion and
friend, than on the hope and happiness that ought to occupy her. How
different in the two deaths she had known before, where there was none
of this weary, harassed, doubtful, careworn feeling; only the sorrow,
bitter indeed as it was, of the parting, but with time and scope for
dwelling on all thoughts of comfort, when they would come.
Lionel had his brother, and was thus in the best hands; and she saw very
little of him except at meal-times, when all were silent and subdued.
So passed the week before the funeral. Only the gentlemen attended it;
Marian and Clara stayed with Mrs. Lyddell, who went through the time
better than they had ventured to hope. She was altogether improved, and
was able to sit up a little in the evening. Lionel was to go the next
day to London, to be seen by the oculist; and her sanguine mind was
fastening itself on the hope of his recovery; and though there was
too much danger that she was only hoping in order to be the more
disappointed, yet the present relief was great.
Marian and Clara went down to dinner somewhat cheered, and hoping to
carry satisfaction with them; but there was a deeper despondency in Mr.
Lyddell's air than ever. He scarcely seemed to know what he was doing;
and when at last dinner was over, he rose up, stood by the fire a
moment, coughed, said to Walter, "You tell them," and ran upstairs.
There was a silence: each of the three dreaded to ask what was the
matter; Walter did not know how to begin. Marian began to think it was
some family misfortune, better mentioned in her absence, and was rising
to go away; but Walter exclaimed, "No, don't go, Marian; all the world
must know it soon, I fear."
"Not Johnny!" cried Clara. "O, Walter, Walter, don't let it be Johnny!"
"No," said Lionel; "I know it is something more about Elliot. Is it very
bad indeed, Walter?"
"Very; I do not think he is going to tell my mother the full extent.
There was a letter from Paris this morning, from Captain Evans, saying
he thought it right that my father should be warned that Elliot is going
on there in his old way, and worse still, is reported to be on the brink
of a ruinous marriage."
Clara was the first to break the silence of consternation. "Marriage!
and now! a Frenchwoman! O Walter, Walter it can't be true! he can't do
it now, at any rate!"
"There is some hope that this may make a delay: it is the one chance
that my father trusts to," said Walter. "The history seems to be this,
as far as I can understand. When the discovery of all these debts came
on my father, he wrote Elliot a very indignant letter, refusing to be
answerable for any of them except that which Faulkner had guaranteed
which of course he paid at once. This letter seems to have stirred
Elliot up into a fit of passion; he went on more recklessly than ever,
and now is getting drawn into this miserable connection."
"Yes, just like Elliot!" said Lionel. "And what is papa going to do?"
"He means to go to Paris at once, sacrifice any thing, pay all the debts
at any cost, if he can only bring Elliot back with him, and save him
from ruining himself entirely."
"But he is not going to tell mamma about the marriage, I hope?" said
"No, he will leave her to think it is only the old story, and that he
wants to see if anything can be done about the debts. There is a hope
that the news he must have had by this time may have checked him."
"Perhaps it may be bringing him home," said Marian.
"No, I fear he is too much involved to venture to England."
Again following a silence; no one could think of anything consoling to
suggest; all were unwilling to heap censure upon one who deserved it but
too richly. Only Lionel was heard to give a sort of groan, find after a
time Clara asked, "Is it a Frenchwoman?"
"Yes," said Walter; "a person connected with the theatres."
The four again sat in mournful silence.
"I suppose," said Lionel at length, "that my going to London had better
be put off till he comes back."
"No," said Walter, "he wishes that to be done at once. We are all three
to go to London to-morrow, as was settled before; he will go with you to
see the oculist, and on to Dover by the night-train; and if the oculist
wishes to keep you, I shall stay with you in London till he comes back,
or till my mother and the rest can come."
"Thank you," said Lionel, sighing; "I wish I could help it! Is not it
leaving a pretty state of things behind us, though? not that we are any
great good to the ladies to be sure!"
"Yes, it is leaving you at a very sad time," said Walter, looking at the
two girls, "but we are hardly able to be of much use to my mother, and
if there was any prospect of your improvement, that they all say would
do her more good than anything else. However, my father said that must
be according to your feelings, Clara and Marian, if you were afraid to
be left with the charge of her, I would remain."
One of Walter's awkward ways of putting the question, and it instantly
suggested to Clara to be afraid.
"I am sure I shan't know what to do. Only think, Marian, for us to be
left--what should we do if mamma was to get suddenly worse? We should
have no one to help us, I shall be in such a nervous state, I could do
"No, no, Clara, you won't," said Marian, whilst Walter had begun to
look in consternation at Clara. "Nobody ever has nerves when there is
anything to be done. You know Mrs. Lyddell is much better."
"O but she will be so very unhappy and excited about papa's being
gone, and I am sure I shall never be able to conceal from her all this
dreadful business about Elliot."
"Yes, you will," said Marian quietly. "We shall do very well indeed, it
cannot be for long, and if we wanted him we could get Walter home in a
few hours' time. If he can send us good news of Lionel, it will help us
much more than his staying here could do."
"If dear Caroline,"--and Clara burst into a fit of weeping, which
obliged her to leave the room. Every one was feeling the same thing,
that Caroline, with her energy, good sense, and the power she had once
possessed with her mother, would have made all easy, and the sense of
missing her had come strongly upon them all. Marian followed Clara to
her own room, let her lean upon her and cry, wept with her, joined in
saying how grievous the loss was, and how much they had loved her, and
how they should want her every day and every hour, then called hack the
remembrance that Caroline had not been happy here, and had longed for
rest, and it was come to her, and they must not be selfish, but there
Clara cried more, saying that Marian never knew what a sister was, and
it was unkind to wish her to be glad.
"I don't know," said Marian, pausing as her tears flowed fast, "I have
known death, Clara."
"You weren't glad!" said Clara passionately.
"I don't know," she said thinking, and speaking with difficulty. "Not
then, not always now, O no! But I always knew I ought to be glad, for
dear papa had suffered so much, I could not wish it to be going on
still--no, no. And dear mamma, when he was gone, it was a sad world for
her, she could only have wished to stay for our sakes. Yet, after the
first, I always felt it was right, and so will you too, Clara, in time."
"If she was but here to help me!" sobbed Clara.
"We must try," said Marian, "we can't be as useful and ready as she was,
but we will do our very best. I am sure Mrs. Lyddell likes to have you
sit with her."
"Did you think so?" said Clara, ready to be cheered by any token, of
"Yes, I saw how glad she was to have you instead of me, when you came in
from the garden."
Clara looked pleased.
"You will sit with her, and read to her, and I can help you when you
have too much on your hands at once. You see it is a great comfort to
Mr. Lyddell to have you to leave her with."
The being made important was a great thing with Clara, and she was quite
reconciled to the prospect of her charge by the time they had to go down
stairs to tea.
After tea Marian was left alone with Lionel, while Clara was with her
mother; and Walter in consultation with Mr. Lyddell, for here at least
was one benefit, that Walter seemed to have taken his proper place, and
to be a real comfort and help to his father in a way he had never hoped
"You've cheered up Clara, I hear in her voice," said Lionel.
"O yes, we shall do very well."
"Do you mind it, Marian?" said he, turning his ear towards her, as if
to judge by the minute intonations of her answer, as people do by the
expression of the countenance.
Her reply was brave, "No, not at all."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I don't see what would be gained by keeping you and Walter here.
She does not depend on Walter as she does on your father, and all that
is required we can do as well without Walter in the house. It would be
nonsense to keep you merely for the feel of having some one, and for the
rest, I am sure Clara will be the better for being thrust forward, and
"Very well. I should not in the least mind waiting, for I have not much
hope myself, but it is just as well for oneself and every one else to be
put out of one's misery as soon as possible, and settle down into it."
Marian remembered how differently he had spoken half a year ago, when
the danger first broke on him, and looking up she saw his steadfast
though mournful face. She spoke her thought.
"It has been a great thing to have this long preparation."
"Yes, I am glad of it, though I have been a great plague and nuisance to
every one, especially to you, Marian. I know what you're going to say,
so let alone that. I wish--. But no use talking of that, she was very
kind and we got very comfortable together after you were gone, Marian,
and I like to remember that."
"Ah! I was sure you would. And Walter read you what she said about you?"
"Yes, I wish--I little knew"--then suddenly "Marian, I'll tell you
something: one morning when you were gone, she had to read a bit of a
chapter in the Gospel about the healing the blind man, and you can't
think how hard she tried to get through it without breaking down, but
she could not. She cried at last, as if she could not help it, and then
she got up, and came and kissed me, and I felt her tears on my face. I
didn't know what to say, but that's what I like to remember."
"And the Church-going on Christmas day," whispered Marian.
"Ay, she led me up," said Lionel.
"Everything is so very comforting," said Marian.
"So Walter says."
"Lionel, do you remember the print you and Gerald gave me long ago of S.
Margaret walking through the dark wood of this world, and subduing the
dragon? I am sure she is like it. She had all this world before her, and
she chose vexation and trouble instead of doing wrong! O Lionel, it is
"That it is," said Lionel, "only things never seem so at the time. I
wish they did, but. I am glad my father saw it all right before, and
said he was glad she had given him up."
"Yes, that is a comfort."
"My poor father!" said Lionel presently, "I never guessed he cared so
much about--things. Do you know, Marian, I think even if I do get back
my eyes, I could not go after the Australian bulls, unless 'twas the
only way of getting a living."
"I am glad you have put them out of your head," said Marian, smiling
"Ay, I was very mad upon them once," said Lionel, "but I see that eyes
or no eyes, we must set ourselves in earnest to be some sort of comfort
to them, and if Johnny is to be always at sea, I had better not be on
the other side of the world. If I am to see, why then it is all right;
if not, I'll do the best I can at home."
"That's right, Lionel."
"I can do a good deal already, I am no trouble to any one, am I? I can
go all over the house and park by myself, and find all my own goods
without any one's help, and I'll do more in time, so as to be no bother
to any one, and I do believe now they like to have me at home. Don't you
remember, Marian," and he lowered his voice confidentially, one reason
why I wanted to go to Australia, and make a fortune?"
"Yes," said Marian, knowing that he meant his vision of winning love
from his parents.
"Well, I think," said he, "that being blind has answered as well."
A silence, then he went on, "I know what you meant now about a time when
I might he glad to have been blind. If Caroline had married that man,
she would not have died as happily as that, and there was an end of all
the trouble and vexation; so there will be an end to my blindness some
time or other, and it will keep me out of lots of mischief. I don't mean
that there is not plenty of opportunity of doing wrong as it is," he
added, "but not so much. Better be blind than like Elliot, and perhaps I
might have come to that."
"O Lionel, it is such a comfort you can speak so!"
"I've tried it now, and 'tis not so very bad," said Lionel, turning with
an odd mixture of smile and sadness, "besides I saw almost the last of
her face, and I should only miss her the more like her voice. I have got
her face stored up with all of yours. You know I shan't see when any of
you grow old and ugly, Marian. Well, and after all I am glad it is to
be settled now, I don't think I shall mind it near so much as I should
another time, now I have just heard all that over her grave. I got
Walter to read it to me all over again when we came home. It has been
very nice to have Walter."
Marian guessed how Walter had strengthened and helped him, and she
judged rightly, but she did not know how silently he listened to all
Walter's talkings and readings, unable to pour out his full feeling to
any one but herself.
The others came in from their different quarters, it was late, and
Marian was about to wish good night, when Walter in a low hurried voice
said to her and Clara, "Don't go yet, my father wishes to have prayers."
A moment more and the servants came in, all were kneeling, and Marian's
tears of thankful joy were streaming fast as Walter read an evening
prayer. Was not Caroline glad? was the thought, as she recollected that
first morning, when all had seemed to her childish mind so dreary and
unhallowed, and when Caroline had lamented the omission. Yes! was not
Caroline glad, now that one of the dearest wishes of her heart had been
gained? Was she not glad of this first token that trouble had brought a
change over her father?
Each fresh petition brought such a gush of earnest softened tears that
Marian's face bore evident traces of them, when she rose up, and had to
wish Mr. Lyddell good night. She did not speak, but held out her hand.
He spoke with difficulty, "My dear," he said, "I have wished to thank
you, but I cannot otherwise than by leaving more on your hands. Walter
has told you how it is with us. You are kind enough to help Clara.
I don't know what we should do without you. I rely on your judgment
"I'll do my best," said Marian, "I am glad to be of use."
"You were _her_ best friend," said Mr. Lyddell hastily. "Well, good
night, thank you, my dear," and he kissed her forehead, as though she
had been his own daughter.
"Let us be patient. These severe afflictions
Not from the ground arise
But oftentimes celestial benedictions
Assume this dark disguise.
"We see but dimly through the mists and vapours
Amid these earthly damps
What seems to us but sad funereal tapers
May be heaven's distant lamps."
There were morning prayers before the hurried breakfast, which was
interspersed with numerous directions about what was to be done for Mrs.
Lyddell, and what letters were to be sent after Mr. Lyddell. Lionel was
grave and silent, as became one whose fate was in the balance, without
either shrinking or bravado; but somewhat as if he was more inclined,
than had been the case last night, to hope for a favorable result.
With heartfelt prayers did Marian watch him as be crossed the hall and
entered the carriage, calling out a cheerful good-bye,--prayers that, if
it were the will of Heaven, his affliction might be removed; but that if
not, help might be given him to turn it into a blessing, as he seemed
almost to be beginning to do. His father, too,--little had Marian ever
thought to feel for him the affectionate compassion and sympathy, of
which she was now sensible, as she responded to his kind, fatherly
farewell, and thought of what he must be feeling; obliged to leave his
wife in so anxious and suffering a state; his daughter, the pride of the
family, removed so suddenly; his most promising son probably blind for
life; his eldest, a grief, pain, and shame to them all. Marian must pray
for him too, that he might be supported and aided through these most
bitter trials, and that the work which they had begun in him might go on
and be perfected; that these troubles, grievous as they were, might in
his ease also turn to blessings.
The occupation of the two girls was all day the care of Mrs. Lyddell.
She was not worse, as far as bodily ailments went; the attack of cold,
brought on by leaving her room to attend on Caroline, had gone off,
and her strength was in some degree returning; but she was restless,
excited, irritable, and with an inability to restrain herself, that was
more alarming than Marian liked to own to herself, far less to Clara.
She insisted on getting up at an earlier hour than she had hitherto
attempted; she was worn out and wearied with dressing; she was impatient
and vexed with Clara, for some mistake about her pillows; and the
trembling of her hand, as she was eating some broth, was uncontrollable.
The broth was not what she liked, and she would send for the
housekeeper, to reprove her about it; asked questions about the
arrangements, found them not as she wished; spoke sharply, said no one
took heed to anything while she was ill, and then burst into a fit of
weeping at the thought of the daughter who would have been able to
supply her place.
This spent itself, (for the girls were unable to do anything effectual
in soothing it away); the doctors made their daily visit, and cheered
her up a little. The consequence of this exhilaration was, that she
began talking about Lionel, and anticipating his perfect recovery;
arranging how they were all to go and join him in London, and working
herself up to a state of great excitement; pettish with Marian for not
being able to answer her hopefully, and at last, hysterically laughing
at the picture she drew of Lionel with restored sight.
Marian asked if she would be read to, and took up a serious book, with
which she had put her to sleep two or three times before, but nothing
of the kind would she hear; and as the best chance of at least quieting
her, Marian went on a voyage of discovery among the club books down
stairs, and brought up a book of travels, and a novel. Mrs. Lyddell
chose the novel; it was a very exciting story, and caught the attention
of all three. Marian grew eager about it, and was well pleased to go on;
and so it occupied them most of the afternoon and evening, driving out a
great deal of care, as Marian could not help gratefully acknowledging,
though she would willingly have had space to work out with herself the
question, whether care had best be driven out or grappled with. Mrs.
Lyddell was indeed in no state to grapple with it, and there was nothing
to be done but to take the best present means of distracting her
attention; yet it was to be feared that, though put aside, the enemy was
not conquered,--and might there not be worse to come?
It was about half-past seven and the two girls were drinking tea with
Mrs. Lyddell in her room. She was just beginning to make herself unhappy
about Mr. Lyddell's late journey and night-voyage, when there was a tap
at the door, and on the answer, "Come in!" it opened, and Lionel stood
There was a sudden exclamation: they all three sprang up and looked at
him, but alas! it was still by feeling that he came forward, though his
countenance was cheerful, and there was a smile upon his lips.
"Well, mamma," he said, in a brave, almost a lively tone, "you must
be content to have me at home." And in answer to their broken, half
expressed interrogations, "No, he can't do any thing for me; so it was
not worth while to stay any longer in London. How are you this evening,
He was guiding himself towards her chair, one hand on the table; she
threw herself forward to meet him, flung her arms round his neck and
sobbed, "My boy, my poor dear boy! O Lionel! it has been all my fault
"No, no, don't--don't say that, mamma!" said Lionel, extremely
distressed by her weeping, and not knowing where to rest her, as she
hung with her whole weight abandoned on him. Marian and Clara were
obliged to help him, and seat her in her chair again; while she still
wept piteously, and poor Lionel stood, hearing the sobs, and very much
grieved. "Ought I not to have told her?" said he to Marian. "I thought
if she saw I could bear it, it would be better than writing."
"Yes, yes, you did quite right; she will be better presently."
She was soon better, and leaning back on her pillows exhausted, looked
up at the fine tall boy before her, the glow of youth and health on his
face, spirit and enterprise in every feature,--but those large blue
eyes, bright as they were, for ever darkened and useless.
"O Lionel!" she sighed again.
"The man behaved very well," said Lionel; "he did not plague me at all.
He only pulled up my eyelids--so--and studied them, and I suppose he
gave some sign to my father, for I heard him make a noise that showed me
how I was; so I asked. He told me there was not a chance, and made me
understand the rights of it; and so here I am. Never mind, mamma, there
was a tendency to it all my life, and nothing would have stopped it in
the end; and now I know what it is, I have no doubt but I shall do very
well. I mean to be like the blind man that unharnessed all the horses in
the middle of the night, when the coach was upset, and no one else was
of any use."
He stopped once or twice in his harangue, to judge how his mother was,
by her breathings; and he spoke with a smile and look of resolution
and eagerness, as he concluded with another "Never mind, mamma, for I
don't." She took hold of his hand, and pressed it, too much overcome to
"Is papa gone?" asked Clara.
"Yes." And Lionel proceeded to give a message which he had sent back.
"And where's Walter?"
"In the drawing-room."
More people were already in the room than Marian thought good for Mrs.
Lyddell; and understanding Clara's wishes, she went down to speak to
Walter, to carry a message that his mother would see him after tea, and
to arrange for a substantial supper for the two youths, who had had no
Walter was waiting anxiously to know how his mother had endured the
"She was very much, overcome at first," said Marian; "but now she has
had a good cry, she will be more likely to go to sleep quietly. Poor
Lionel! he did it admirably."
"It has been his chief thought," said Walter. "He begged to come home at
once, saying it would be the best way to have it over before night;
it would save all hoping and worrying, about him; and the instant we
arrived, he ran straight up stairs."
Walter and Marian were not familiar enough to say it to each other, but
both were comparing his present conduct with his former bitterness of
spirit against his mother. Death, sorrow, anxiety, and illness had drawn
close the cords of love, and opened the well-springs of affection, so
long choked up and soured by neglect and worldly care.
"How did he bear it at the first?"
"Bravely; he had wound himself up. He was flushing and turning pale all
through the journey; but when once he came to the door, he was as calm
and steady as possible. My father was much more agitated; he would lead
Lionel himself, and very nearly threw him down the steps. You should
have seen how Lionel never flinched,--did not let one feature quiver
while he was being turned round to the light and examined. We saw how it
was by the doctor's face, but Lionel spoke first, as--no, more steadily,
than I can tell it, 'There is nothing to be done, then?'--attended more
firmly to the explanation of the causes than we could, spoke as freely
as if it had been about some indifferent case. The doctor was quite
struck with it. He shook hands with him when he went, and kept me a
moment after, to say, of all the many cases he had seen, he had never
known greater resolution,--never seen any one he had been more sorry
for. However, it was not only that,--that might have been the pride of
firmness; but it has been the same all along. He set himself to cheer my
father, who was very much overcome; and ever since has been telling me
of all his schemes for employment, and arranging how to spare my mother
as much as possible. Yes, he is a fine fellow!" said Walter, stopping
with a heavy sigh.
"I am sure he will make himself happy," said Marian earnestly; "you
don't know how many resources he has, and you see how wonderfully
independent he is already."
"Yes," said Walter, sadly; "but though I know it is all right--to see
what he might have been! But that is mere nonsense," he added, catching
himself up; "we should never have known what was in him; and perhaps he
would have been very different."
Not a word expressed of Walter's sincere thankfulness for the change
that affliction was bringing on them.
Lionel came down presently, Marian presided at their tea, and would have
enjoyed it very much, if she had not been sorry Clara should not be
relieved from her harassing attendance up stairs. But her mother could
not spare her, and perhaps the being positively useful, and pulled by
force out of her childishness, was the best thing for her.
"Marian, I hope you will be able to ride with me to-morrow, if mamma
does not want you?" said Lionel.
Walter looked full of inquiry and consternation.
"If we can manage it," said Marian, cheerfully; though now that the
custom had been disused for a time, she did not like the notion quite
so well as before; since she could not now even figure to herself that
Lionel guided himself at all, He had said it chiefly for the purpose
of asserting his intention of continuing the practice, and was quite
satisfied by her answer.
Walter went up stairs to his mother shortly after, and Lionel was left
alone with Marian.
"I am sure I hope it won't hurt her," said he; "I thought it was best to
have it out at once."
"Much the best, since it was to come."
"Yes," he said, pausing for some space, then exclaiming, "I don't know,
though! I thought it would be better to know the worst, and have one's
mind made up; but I don't think 'tis more comfortable, after all. I
should like to get back that little spark of hope I had this morning!
O, Marian, there was one time when the sun shone out full, and so warm,
exactly on my face, and some one in the train said it was a glorious
winter day. It was close by Slough; I knew we were in sight of the
castle, and perhaps one might see the chapel, and the trees in the
playing-fields. I thought soon, I might be seeing it all again: and
I vow, Marian, I could have leaped from here to Windsor at the bare
thought. It was being a great fool, to be sure; but as we came back, I
was half glad it was dark, so that nobody else could see it."
"Yet I am sure your last half year at Eton was no happy time; you went
through a great deal."
"I'd do it all again, if I could see as much as I did then," said
Lionel. "I don't mind it so much in general now; I get on much better
than I thought I should, and it is not nearly as bad now I am quite in
the dark, and wake up to it, as when the glimmer of light was going. I
can do very well, except when a great gush--I don't know what to call
it--great rush of remembering the sky and all sorts of things comes
on me, and I know it is to be darkness always. Then!--but it is all
nonsense talking of it. I shall get the better of that, some day or
other, I suppose. But I did not think, yesterday, that the being sure of
it would be half so bad!"
"You braced yourself yesterday, and that helped you to-day."
"Yes; and then there was my father,--he has enough to vex him, without
knowing all this. And, after all, it is nothing; I've got plenty to do,
and I'll manage it capitally. I'll tell you what, Marian, if mamma can
spare you, we'll ride to Salisbury, and get some of that good twine, and
I'll make Gerald the fishing-net you said he wanted."
Lionel had hitherto never consented to learn to net.
Mrs. Lyddell was better the next day, and all was quiet and prosperous,
so that Walter could write a satisfactory account to his father. Clara
had a good walk with her brothers in the morning, and in the afternoon
the ride took effect: Marian came into Mrs. Lyddell's room in her habit,
and gave notice, "we are going to ride," so much as if it was a matter
of course that Mrs. Lyddell asked no questions, and feared no dangers.
Walter went with them, and Marian could have wished him away, for he was
so anxious and nervous as very nearly to make her the same, and though
he said nothing of his anxieties, Lionel found them out, and told him
in his old gruff way that there was nothing to be in a taking about;
indeed, Lionel was the more inclined to be adventurous in order to show
himself entirely at his ease.
However, nothing went wrong, and Marian and he both felt it a point
gained that their riding together was established. A few days passed
on quietly and gravely, a pause of waiting and suspense. Mrs.
Lyddell, though less ill, was not materially improved as regarded the
excitability of her spirits. She would be excessively depressed at
one time, at another in such high spirits as were much more alarming.
Sometimes she would talk about their being all ruined and undone, and go
on rapidly to say they must give up the house in London, retrench, live
on nothing; at others she anticipated Mr. Lyddell's bringing Elliot
back, all his debts paid, to live at home and be a comfort, or some
friend was to give Walter a great living, or Clara was to come out, and
to be presented in the summer. At the same time the fretful irritability
of nerve and temper continued, and any unusual excitement, the talking a
little longer in her room, a letter, or a little disappointment, would
keep her awake all night. One thing, however, seemed certain, that
Lionel's presence had some of the same power over her as her husband's;
she was too much occupied with watching him, to work herself into her
anxious excited moods, and now that he had grown more familiar with her,
his cheerful lively way of speaking always refreshed and pleased her. He
would come in, in a glow of bright health, from a quick walk or ride in
the clear frosty air, and show such genuine pleasure and animation
as must console those who were grieving for his privation; he would
undertake her messages, and find things in a wonderful manner, and he
liked to listen to the reading aloud that always went on in her room.
When Lionel came in, Marian and Clara always felt relieved from half
their present care.
At last came a letter from Mr. Lyddell to Walter. The worst of his
fears were fulfilled. Elliot was actually married, and report had not
exaggerated the disgrace of the connection. Mr. Lyddell had not chosen
to see him, and intended to be at home, by the end of the next day,
after they would receive the letter.
It was a great shock, but perhaps none of the four young people had
such lively hopes of Elliot as to be very much overwhelmed by the
disappointment, as far as he was individually concerned. He had never
been a kind elder brother to Clara or Lionel, and it was only Walter who
could have any of those recollections of a childhood spent together,
which would make the loss of intercourse personally painful. They had
all been brought up to a sort of loyal feeling towards Elliot as the
eldest, and to think his extravagance almost a matter of course, but
only the tie of blood, and sympathy for their parents could cause them
any acute pain on his account.
For their parents they were greatly grieved, for Elliot had with all
his faults, been their especial pride and hope, and the effect on Mrs.
Lyddell in her present state was very much to be apprehended. It was a
comfort however that it was decided in full council that they might put
off the evil day of telling her, for there was no occasion that she
should be informed till her husband returned. He came the next day, and
very worn down, broken and oldened did he look, as he returned to his
mourning household. Not a word did he say in public of the object of his
journey, and all that transpired to Marian, through Lionel, who heard
it from Walter, was "that it was as bad as bad could be; it was thought
Elliot had done it out of spite, at any rate he was never likely to
bring his wife to England." Neither did Mrs. Lyddell speak of it, and
Marian only knew that she had been informed of it, by the increased
excitability and irritation of her nerves. Poor Clara underwent
plenty of scolding, for she was the only victim, since Mrs. Lyddell's
continuous dislike to Marian kept her on her ordinary terms of
ceremony, scarcely ever asking her to do her any service, thanking her
scrupulously, and never finding fault to her face.
Marian was at first very sorry for Clara, who was bewildered, and
disconcerted, but after a day or two, things seemed to right themselves
wonderfully. Clara grew used to the fretfulness, and was no longer
frightened by it, nor made unhappy, but learnt how to meet it and smooth
it down without being hurt by it. It was surely the instinct of natural
affection, for inferior in every way as she was to Marian, yet in her
mother's sick room she suddenly acquired all the tact, power, and
management that Marian failed in. Hitherto she had been childish and
astray, as if she wanted her vocation; now she had found it, and settled
admirably into it, acquiring a sense, energy, and activity that no one
could have supposed her capable of.
Outside that room, she was the same Clara still, without much either of
rational tastes or conversation, afraid of her father, and not much of a
companion to her brother, helpless in everything that did not regard her
mother, and clinging to Marian for help and direction, Marian must speak
for her, tell her what to say if she had to write a note, take the
responsibility of every arrangement. Nothing was much harder than to
shove Clara forward into becoming the ostensible lady of the house,
as it seemed as if she must continue for some time to come, since the
doctors spoke of the most absolute rest and freedom from excitement
being necessary to restore her mother's shattered health and spirits.
She was to see no visitors, be soothed as much as possible, have no
cares or anxieties brought to her, be only moderately occupied and
amused, or the nervous attacks would return. Marian had a suspicion that
they feared for her mind. She became stronger, was able to rise earlier,
and to drive out in the carriage, but she never dined with the family,
and remained in her sitting room up stairs, with Clara for her regular
attendant, and visits from the rest.
Walter returned to his curacy as soon as he could be spared, and Lionel
became, as usual, chiefly dependent on Marian, who read to him, walked
with him, rode with him, assisted him in his contrivances for helping
himself, and was his constant guide and companion; doing at the same
time all she could for Clara's service, but keeping in the back ground
and making Clara do all the representative part for herself.
They missed Caroline every hour of the day, far more since they had
settled into an every-day course of habits and most especially in the
evening and at meal times. There always used to be so much conversation
going on at dinner and now no one seemed to say anything; Clara sat at
the head of the table in awe of her father, Lionel and Marian did not
feel disposed to talk in their own way before him there never had been
any freedom of intercourse, and nobody knew how to begin.
Marian thought the silent party very sad and forlorn for poor Mr.
Lyddell, and that it must remind him grievously of the state of his
family. Some one must talk, but how were they ever to begin? She was the
worst person in the world to do it, yet try she must.
She began talking over the ride they had taken that day, but Clara was
not at her ease enough to ask questions, or make observations, Lionel
did not second her, and Mr. Lyddell said no more than "O." Another day
she tried giving a history of a call that had been made by some of their
neighbors, but nobody would be interested. How could she be so stupid?
She almost dreaded dinner time. At last one day, she luckily cast her
eyes on the newspaper, and it is a melancholy truth that the sight of a
horrid murder gave her a certain degree of satisfaction! She began about
it at dinner, when every one talked about it, every one had some view as
to the perpetrator, and it really carried them through all dinner time
without one dreary tract of silence, and served them on a second day.
A second day and a third, for more intelligence came out, and then
luckily for her, came a revolution, next a dreadful accident, and at
last the habit of talking became so well established that there was no
need to look for topics in the newspaper. It was without an effort that
she could originate a remark addressed to Mr. Lyddell. Lionel began to
shake off his old schoolboy reserves, and rattle on freely. Clara grew
more at ease, and Mr. Lyddell began to be entertained, to be drawn into
the conversation, and to narrate his day's doings, just as of old
when his wife was there, pleased with their interest in them, making
explanations, and diverted with Lionel's merry comments.
It was however dreary and uncomfortable, with all these vague anxieties
for Mrs. Lyddell, and with the whole house in the unsettled state
consequent on missing its moving power. The servants had been used to
depend on her, and could not go on without her; they teased Clara,
and Clara teased Marian about them, no one knew what to do, nor what
authority to assume, and the petty vexations were endless that were
borne by the two girls rather than annoy Mr. Lyddell; perplexities,
doubts whether they were doing what was wise or right by the house or by
the servants; Marian's good sense making her judge the right, but her
awkwardness, and Clara's incapacity, breaking down in the execution;
continual worry and no dignity in it.
The loss of Caroline as a companion was severely felt. Marian had not
been fully conscious how very closely entwined their hearts had been,
how necessary they had grown to each other even before those latter days
of full confidence. Every pursuit was mixed up with Caroline, every walk
recalled her, every annoyance would have given way at her light touch.
There was no one left with whom Marian could have anything like the
conversations they had been used to enjoy from almost the earliest
days of her coming to Oakworthy. Lionel was indeed a very agreeable
companion, nay more, a friend, full of right feeling, principle, good
sense, thought, and liveliness; but a younger boy could never make up
for the loss of such a friend of her own sex. Each evening as she sat
over the fire in her room, her heart ached with longing for Caroline's
tap at the door, or with the wish to go and knock at hers, and then the
thrill at thinking that there was only gloom and vacancy in her room.
Had they but found each other out before! But oh! how much better to
think of her as she did of her own parents, added to her store in
Paradise, than to see her the wife of that man, unhappy as she must have
been unless she had lost all that was excellent and hopeful.
These thoughts would comfort Marian when she went up to bed, harassed,
weary, disgusted with cares and vexations, and craving for rest and
sympathy. She thought of the home that awaited her at Fern Torr, the
hope that had carried her through last autumn, but withal came a dim
vague perception that a great sacrifice might be before her. Would it be
right to seek her own happiness and repose there, and leave the Lyddells
to their present distress? She did not think she was of much use, Clara
was all-sufficient for her mother, and Marian was rather less liked by
Mrs. Lyddell than formerly; but as a support to Clara, as a companion to
Lionel, and as some one to talk to Mr. Lyddell, she was not absolutely
useless. She had no doubt Clara and Lionel would miss her sadly, indeed
it would be unkind to leave them, it would be positively wrong to
forsake them when she was of some value, and go where she could not
suppose herself to be actually wanted, though she might be loved and
cherished. Yet to give up that beloved hope! The vision that had
delighted her from the first years of her orphanhood; the hope become
tangible beyond all expectations, the wish of her heart. To give up
home, Edmund and Agnes, for this weary life! How could she? But it was
not worth while to think about it yet, things might change, before they
were ready for her, Mrs. Lyddell might recover, Clara and Lionel might
grow sufficient for each other, anything might, would or should happen,
rather than she would give up her beloved hope of the home she longed
for, especially now the house was actually building, and each letter
brought her accounts of its progress.
"Perchance it was ours on life's journey to enter
Some path through whose shadows no lovelight was thrown,
With heart that could breast the fierce storms of its winter,
And gather the wealth of its harvest alone;
It is well there are stars in bright heaven to guide us
To heights we ne'er dreamt of,--but oh, to forget
The fortunes that bar, and the gulfs that divide us
From paths that looked lovely, with some we have met."
Many weeks had passed away, and nothing had changed, in any
material way, since the spring. Mrs. Lyddell's condition was still
unsatisfactory, and she seemed to be settling into a confirmed state of
ill health, and almost of hypochondriacism. So many shocks, following
each other in such quick succession, on a person entirely unprepared by
nature, experience or self-regulation, had entirely broken her down, and
shattered her nerves and spirits in a manner which she seemed less and
less like to recover. She was only able to rise late in the day, take a
short drive, and after dining in her own room, come down in the evening,
if they were alone, and it was a good day with her.
No change, neither sea air, nor London advice, had made much difference,
and her condition had become so habitual, that her family had ceased to
expect any considerable amendment; and it was likely that Clara would,
for many years, have full employment as her companion and attendant.
Lionel was perfectly, hopelessly blind, but growing reconciled to his
misfortune, and habituated to the privation, as well as resigned in
will. His natural character, of a high-spirited, joyous, enterprising
boy, showed itself still in his independence and fearlessness, joined to
cheerfulness, and enlivened the house. He had even gone the length of
talking freely and drolly to his father, and Mr. Lyddell had learnt to
smile, and even laugh at his fun.
There had been fears that the removal to London, for the session of
Parliament, would be a great privation to him, since he would miss the
wandering about the downs by himself, and the riding with Marian; but
his temper and spirits did not fail. He walked every day with her, and
was entertained with all he heard, both by his own quick ears, and by
her description. They went to exhibitions, where she saw for him, and
there were lectures, readings, and other oral amusements, to which his
father, or some good-natured friend, would take him. He began to acquire
a taste for music, which he had hitherto never cared to hear, and
concerts became a great delight to him: though he had not the correct
ear, and admirable appreciation of music, that often, in blind persons,
seems like a compensation for the loss of the pleasures of the eye.
Lady Marchmont became very kind to him. She was thoroughly good natured,
and the sight of the blind youth, whose arm Marian held as they walked
together, stirred all her kindly feelings. He was gentlemanlike
and pleasant looking, and his manner, now divested of schoolboy
_brusquerie_, was frank and confiding. Selina was disposed to like him,
and to be interested in him. She found, too, that Marian did not like to
go out when his amusement was not provided for; so at first for Marian's
sake, then for his own, she made him join them when they went to
concerts, or to any other amusement that could gratify him. Her bright
liveliness and spirited way of talking, won him; and it delighted Marian
to see what great friends they became, even to the length of laughing
over the old Wreath of Beauty story together. And when at length she was
brought, of her own accord, in some degree to patronise Clara, it was a
triumph indeed; and Mrs. Lyddell was more obliged to Marian than for all
the real benefits she had conferred, when she saw Clara dressed to go to
a party at Lady Marchmont's.
All this time Marian was becoming more and more a prey to that secret
doubt, whether it might not be a duty to give up her cherished hope of a
home at Fern Torr. She did not see how she could be spared. Clara was an
admirable attendant on her mother, and was becoming a better mistress of
the house; but she was not able to be at the same time a companion to
her father and Lionel, and, poor girl, she would be very forlorn and
much at a loss, without Marian's elder sisterhood; for the sense of help
and reliance that Marian's presence gave her was little less. For her to
go away, would be to bring home to Clara the loss of Caroline more than
she had ever been left to feel it.
Yet, on the other hand, Clara was no companion. They talked, indeed, but
they never discussed,--never had any interchange of higher sympathies or
reflections; it was not getting beyond the immediate matter in hand;
and often Marian, would be sensible that, if her own pleasure were
consulted, a walk or ride, with her thoughts free to range in meditation
or day-dream, was preferable to Clara's chatter.
Her own pleasure,--that she enjoyed but little, and less now than ever,
for her time was never her own. There was Lionel on her hands almost
every day, to be read to, or walked with; and if he went out with his
father, or spent an hour in his mother's room, there was Clara wanting
her quite as much, for gossip, exercise, or consultation. Mrs. Lyddell,
too, must be visited; for though Marian was not the most beloved,
or most welcome person in the world, yet a change of society and
conversation was desirable, both for her sake and Clara's; so more
than two hours every day were spent in her sitting-room. Then, in the
evening, Marian's thoughts and ears must be free for Mr. Lyddell and
Lionel. All her own pursuits were at an end, she had hardly touched a
pencil the whole year, nor opened a German book, nor indeed any book,
excepting what she read to Lionel, and these were many. She was very
seldom able to enjoy the luxury of being alone; she could hardly even
write her letters, except by sitting up for them; and even the valuable
hour before midnight was not certain to be her own, for if Clara had no
other time to pour out her cares, she used to come then, and linger in
her cousin's room, reiterating petty perplexities, endless in detail.
How delightful to escape from all this, to quietness, peace, freedom
from her own cares and other people's,--Fern Torr air and scenery,
Edmund and Agnes for companions, and liberty to teach school children,
go about among her own people, do good in her own way, and enjoy her own
studies. It was like a captive longing to be set free,--a wanderer in
sight of home.
But the captive paused on the threshold of the dungeon; the wanderer
stood still on the brow of the last hill. Marian paced up and down her
own room, and thought and reasoned half aloud,--
"Sweet is the smile of home, the mutual look,
When hearts are of each other sure;
Sweet all the joys that crown the household nook,
The haunt of all affections pure:
Yet in the world even these abide, and we
Above the world our calling boast."
"And I am making them the world, if for their sake I give up what my
conscience calls on me to do. I know, though I do little good here, my
going away would make them more uncomfortable. Have I any right to seek
my pleasure? But I should do more good there; I should go to school,
read to the poor people, go to Church in the week, be more improved
myself. O that home of peace and joy! And Gerald--my first duty is to
him. But what harm would it do him? I could go home for his holidays. I
must not deceive myself; I have been put in the way of positive duties
here, or rather, ways of being useful have grown up round me. Is it
right to run away from them,--poor Lionel, poor Clara! Would not every
weary hour of Lionel's--every time Clara was teased, and teased
her father,--be my fault? But how Edmund and Agnes will be
disappointed!--they who will have been throwing away so much kind care!
O you goose of a Marian! are you going to fancy it is for your sake that
they mean to marry? don't you think they can do very well without you?
How very silly to be sorry that it must be so!--how very, very silly!
And even Gerald will marry one of these days, and will not want me; and
shall I always be alone then? For as to that other sort of affection, I
am sure it is quite certain that I can never care for any body enough to
marry,--never half as well as for Gerald. No, no one will ever love me
as I do others; every one has some one nearer to them; a lonely life,
and never a home! Well, then there is a home somewhere else, and those
who made my earthly home are waiting for me there, in the Land of the
Such was the tenor of Marian's oft-repeated musings. The practical
result was a resolution to consult Edmund when she should go to Fern
Torr to his wedding, early in August. She could not write her pros and
cons, but to Edmund she could tell them, and trust to him as a just and
impartial judge; and if Agnes was angry, it would serve them, thought
Marian, smiling, for a quarrel, for they won't have many other chances
However, the time drew on when, behold, every one's calculations were
disturbed by a sudden dissolution of Parliament. Hitherto such events
had not made much difference to the Lyddells; as Mr. Lyddell's election
had been, for the last twenty years, unopposed; and the only doubt
at present was, whether he thought it worth while to stand again,
considering that he was growing old and weary of business, and besides
could not well afford the London house.
He had been hinting something of the kind to Lionel and Marian in the
evening, as a matter under consideration and they had heard it with
joy, when the next morning made a sudden change in affairs, by bringing
tidings that Mr. Faulkner was soliciting the votes of Mr. Lyddell's
constituents on the opposite interest, taking the wrong side of the
question,--a most important one, upon which the dissolution had taken
Here was indignation indeed. There was something so unfeeling in such a
proceeding, on his part, that the mildest word spoken against him was
Marian's, and that was "atrocious." To give up was one thing, to be thus
turned out was quite another; and it was clearly right to the moral
sense, as well as satisfactory to the indignant temper, that Mr. Lyddell
should oppose "to the last gasp," as the furious Lionel expressed it,
one who espoused principles so pernicious both in politics and religion.
One thing was certain, that nobody would ever wish again that Caroline
had married him. Ill as Mr. Lyddell could afford the expense of a
contested election, his blood was up, and he was determined not to yield
an inch. Never had Marian believed she could grow so vehement about
anything that concerned him, but now her whole soul seemed to be in his
success. He had always been on the right side; and now that a steadily
growing sense of religion was influencing all his actions, he was just
the fit person for his position, and Marian could, on principle, wish
earnestly to see him retain it, for his own sake, as well as to keep out
Mr. Faulkner. But, alas! poor Marian, that the ministers should have
chosen this precise time, so as just to bring the election the very week
of Edmund's wedding!
What was to be done? Mrs. Lyddell could not believe that an election
would go on right without dinner-parties of every visitable individual
in the county; and how was Clara to manage them all? Mrs. Lyddell's only
experiment, in coming into the room when there was company, had done her
so much harm, that it was not on any account to be repeated; and her
restlessness and anxiety,--her persuasion that nothing could be done
well in which she was not concerned,--made the keeping her quiet a more
anxious business than even the receiving company. There was Mr. Lyddell
wanting to have lists written, and needing all sorts of small helps to
which he had been used from his active wife; everything came on the two
girls, and Marian did not see how she could be spared even for the three
days it would take to go to the wedding.
Perhaps that excitement about the election would have somewhat dulled
the acuteness of the sacrifice, if it had not been for what was to come
after it. The die must be cast without consultation with Edmund; she
must write and tell them that their kind design for her was in vain.
Gerald was at Oakworthy for the first week of his holidays, and he was
the only person she could call to hold council with her. She had some
difficulty in catching him; for he was galloping about with messages
all day, figuring to himself that he produced a grand effect in the
canvass,--making caricatures, describing them to Lionel, and conducting
him wherever he was not expected to be seen. However, catch him she did,
at bed-time, and pulling him into her room, propounded her difficulty.
"Gerald, I don't see how I am ever to manage to go with you to their
Ha? don't you? Well, it would be a pity to lose the nomination-day, and
the show of hands; I should travel all night to be in time, but you
could not, I suppose?"
"I? why you don't think I should go to it?"
"Lionel will--I am to take care of Lionel. Can't you go? What a bore it
must be to be a woman! Well, then, why don't you come to the wedding?"
"Because I think Clara will get into such a fuss, if there is no one to
help her at the dinner the evening before. There is Mrs. Pringle coming
to dine and sleep, so it can't be only a gentleman's party: and there is
so much to do."
"Whew! it will be very stupid of you not to come; and how Agnes will
scold! But I suppose yen can't be everywhere. One would give up
something for the sake of beating such a rogue as that Faulkner."
"If we were but sure of doing it."
"Sure! Why we shall smash him to shivers, if one fortieth part of the
people are but as good as their word. Did I tell you, Marian, how I
answered that old farmer to-day?" &c., &c., all which Marian had to
hear, before she could get him back to the matter in hand.
"I am almost sorry to give up those three days," he said, "though it is
for their wedding; but you see, Marian," and the boy spoke with his air
of consequence, "I think it is expected of me, and they would all be
disappointed. It would not look as if it was well between Edmund and mo,
if I was not present; but you can please yourself, you know."
"Yes, yes, you could not stay away," said Marian; "I should be very
sorry that you should. You must go."
"And if I come away that afternoon, I may be back by the mail train by
one at night, and be in time for the show of hands. Hurrah! I've a'mind
to write to Jemmy, to buy up all the rotten eggs in Fern Torr."
"You wild animal! But do be sensible a little while, Gerald, for I have
something serious to ask your advice upon."
"Well,"--and all the wisdom of sixteen was at her service.
"I want to know what you think about my living here, or at Fern Torr?"
"Hollo! why I thought it was settled long ago that you were to live at
the Quarry with them."
"So it was; but I don't know whether I am not more wanted here than
"You don't mean that that have changed their mind, and don't want to
"Not a bit--O dear, no! but I think, somehow, Clara and Lionel find me
of more use than they would."
"To be sure, this place would be in a pretty tolerable sort of a mess
without you. I don't know how any of them would get on."
"Well, then, I wanted your opinion, Gerald; I had better tell Edmund and
Agnes that I ought to stay on here."
"But what am I to do? I mean to be at Fern Torr in the holidays, I
assure you, except a week or two, just to see Lionel; and I don't mean
to have my holidays without you, I declare!"
"O, I hope always to come home for them."
"Why, then, if I have you when I am at home, I don't care,--I mean--"
said Gerald, conscious of the egotism he was committing, "I mean you
don't like it half so well, do you?"
"O no--I mean--I don't know--"
"Which do you mean?"
"I don't know--at least, of course, I had rather be with Edmund and
Agnes than anybody else, except you; but then, if I was thinking Lionel
had no one to read to him, or to ride with, or that Mrs. Lyddell was
worse, and Clara unhappy, I could hardly enjoy it."
"You would not think so much about it if you were away from them."
"Perhaps not, but it would be the same, and it would haunt me at night."
"But, Marian, you can't give up Edmund and Agnes now they have built a
room for you."
"I must have it when I come for your holidays."
"Well, you must do as you please," said Gerald.
"And you won't be vexed?"
"Vexed! Why should I? It is nothing to me, if I have you when I am at
home; and, indeed, I don't see what poor Lionel would do without you. I
suppose it is the best way, since you like it; only you must settle it
with Agnes your own way. I shall tell her it is not my fault. Won't she
be in a rage, that's all!"
With which sentence Sir Gerald's acquiescence was conveyed, with little
perception of the struggle in his sister's mind, and of the pain and
grief it was to her to write to her cousin and friend, begging them to
release her from her promise.
As to the rest of the house, they never appeared to think at all about
her quitting them; or if Clara and Lionel did, perchance, remember that
it had been spoken of, they hoped it had blown over, and dreaded the
revival of the idea too much to refer to it. Not one of the whole family
guessed that to them was sacrificed the most treasured project of
She had made up her mind, but she could not bear to write to tell her
friend that her plans were frustrated; so it was to Edmund that she
wrote the full detail of her reasons and regrets, begging him to forgive
her, and to make her peace with Agnes; while she begged Mrs. Wortley to
excuse her for missing the wedding.
Edmund's answer was just what she wished, and indeed expected. "You are
right," he said, "and it is of no use to tell you how sorry we are. It
is impossible to be so selfish as to wish you to act otherwise, and in
process of time you may perhaps obtain Agnes' pardon: in the mean time
we never walk to the Quarry, without her abusing you for giving so much
trouble for nothing. I would only advise one thing, namely, that you
make no promise nor engagement respecting your place of residence, since
circumstances may alter; and you had better not feel yourself bound.
With this proviso we resign you to your own judgment, and to the place
where you seem indeed at present to be most wanted."
So wrote Edmund: Agnes did not write at all. Marian announced that she
had given up going to the wedding. Clara was sorry she should miss it,
but could not guess how she should have managed without her; and no
one else had leisure to think at all, or else considered it quite as a
matter of course that site should not go away when she was wanted.
If any one had, seven years, or even one year ago, told Marian how she
would spend that bridal day, her incredulity would have been complete.
So absorbed was she in Mr. Lyddell's election affairs that she hardly
had time to think about it, between hopes and alarms, doubts and
intelligence, visitors and preparations, notes to be written and papers
to be found, Clara to be helped, Mrs. Lyddell to be kept quiet, Lionel's
news to hear, the dinner party to be entertained. Very differently had
Marian now learnt to sit in company from former days. She had a motive
now, in the wish to help Clara, and all her distant coldness had melted
into a quiet, kind, obliging manner, which had taught her to take
genuine interest even in common-place people, and caused it to be said
that Miss Arundel had ceased to be shy and haughty. It was all one
whirl, leaving no time for sitting down, and still less for musing.
Lionel went indeed with his father to the committee-room, and was there
half the day; for his services were wonderful, and particularly his
memory for names and places, to which Mr. Lyddell declared he would
rather trust than to any memorandum. He was thus out of Marian's way all
the morning, but there was enough to occupy her without him, and in the
afternoon he came home, full of news, and especially full of glory, in
a conquest of his own, a doubtful voter, whom he had recollected, and
undertaken to secure, had made the servant drive him round that way,
canvassed on his own account, and obtained a promise, extracted as
Marian suspected, by admiration of the blind young gentleman's high
spirit and independence.
Mr. Lyddell was particularly delighted; when became home very late, just
before the eight o'clock dinner, he came up into his wife's room, and
told her the whole story, told Marian all over again on the stairs, and
told it a third time to some of the dinner guests, before Lionel came
down. Marian saw he valued that vote above all the rest.
Busy as the day had been, Marian was resolved to sit up till her
brother's return at two o'clock in the morning, to hear his tidings, and
she expected to enjoy the space for thinking; but the thoughts would
not be settled, and instead of dwelling on Edmund and Agnes, she found
herself continually going back to the voters' list, and counting up the
forces on each side. Then she grew sleepy, and fell into a long musing
dream of shapeless fancies, woke herself, tried to write to Agnes, and
went off into her former vision of felicity in the house at the Quarry,
which she indulged in, forgetting that she had renounced it. At last
came the sounds of a carriage, and of opening doors. She met Gerald on
the stairs, but he was sleepy and would say little. "It had all gone off
very well--yes--nobody cried--he had a bit of wedding-cake for her, and
here was a note, she should hear all about it another time;"--yawn, and
he shut himself into his own room. That was all Marian obtained by her
vigil. You, there was the note, put in with the wedding cards.
"MY DEAR MARIAN,--I can't relieve my mind by scolding
you, and I don't know what else you have a right to
expect after the way you have treated us. They tell me I
must write, and I have not a word to say, though I always
promised you should have the first letter from
"Your affectionate cousin,
Wild as ever, thought Marian, as a little disappointed, she laid down
the note, but she understood how Agnes had felt obliged to write, in
hurry and agitation, and just because she felt deeply, had been unable
to express herself otherwise than what some people would call foolishly
There was not much more of the wedding to be heard from Gerald the next
morning, for he was full of the nomination, and proud of having Lionel
under his especial charge.
This day was as wild a bustle as the former one, and there was still
more excitement in the evening. Of course the show of hands had been in
favour of Mr. Faulkner, of course he and his proposer and seconder had
behaved one only more disgracefully than the other, of course the rabble
bad behaved shamefully, and the boys were almost beside themselves with
wrath; and besides the details of all these matters-of-course, the boys
had adventures of their own, for somehow Gerald and Lionel had been left
in the midst of a vituperative mob, out of which Gerald had brought off
his companion in a most spirited and successful way, without letting
any one discover Lionel's blindness, which would have been the most
efficient protection for both. Again and again Marian was told of the
gallant way in which both boys had conducted themselves, and proud and
pleased was she.
Mr. Lyddell lost his seat, and the boys were half mad, a hundred times
more concerned than he was himself, while Marian moralized to herself
on why it was allowed to happen that he should be set aside from public
life, just when he would have begun to act on truly sound principles.
And yet perhaps the leisure he thus obtained, and the seclusion from the
whirl of politics were the very things he needed, to draw him entirely
apart from the world which had so long engrossed him.
It was about sis weeks after this that Mr. and Mrs. Edmund Arundel, in
acceptance of a warm invitation from Mr. Lyddell, were driving along
the white road leading to Oakworthy, after a very pleasant visit to the
Marchmonts, when Selina had treated Agnes so affectionately, as to cause
her to forget all past neglect, and had, as Edmund said, scaled their
friendship, by raving at Marian's decision, "It was too bad," said she,
"when they had given up London,--the only thing that made it tolerable."
To which, however, Agnes did not quite agree.
"And now," said she, "I shall see whether Marian is happy."
"I don't believe you wish her to be so," said Edmund.
"No, I am not quite so spiteful," rejoined Agnes, "but in order to
forgive her, I must think it a very great sacrifice."
"And have a marvellously high estimate of our two selves," said Edmund.
"What do I see?" said Agnes. "Look at those two people riding on the
down up there against the sky, don't you see their figures? It is a
lady. Gould it be Marian? No, she is riding so close to the other--he
can't be a servant."
"Lionel, I suspect," said Edmund.
"The poor blind boy! O surely she does not ride alone with him! O what a
pretty cantering on the turf. It is really Marian, I see now. How I do
like to see her ride."
A moment or two more, and descending from the high green slope, the two
riders were on the road meeting the carriage. Marian looked her best
on horseback, with her excellent seat, and easy, fearless manner, her
little hat and feathers became her fine features, and the air and
exercise gave them animation, which made her more like a picture of
Velasquez and less like a Grecian statue than she was at any other time.
Lionel rode almost close to her, a bright glow of sunshine on his lively
face, and a dexterity and quickness in his whole air that made Agnes
hesitate for a second or two, whether he could really be the blind
youth. A joyous "How d'ye do?" was called out on each side. "Well,
Lionel," then said Edmund, "are you quite well?"
"O yes, thank you," replied a gay voice, "we thought we would see if we
could not meet you."
"We rode over the down," said Marian, "and we are going back the same
way. We shall be at home as soon as you are. Good-bye. To the right,
And they were seen trotting up the hill again, then as the carriage came
in sight of the front door, there was Lionel jumping Marian down from
her saddle. Agnes did not know how to believe that he could not see, as
she watched his upright bearing, and rapid, fearless step, so unlike the
groping ways of persons who have lost their sight later in life.
Clara presently came down, and Agnes was struck with her more thoughtful
face, and collected manner, so unlike the giddy child she had last seen,
not intellectual indeed, but quiet, lady-like, and sensible. And as to
Mr. Lyddell, he looked so worn and so much older, so subdued in manner,
and so free from those over civilities of former times, that Agnes made
up her mind that he must not be hated.
Of Mrs. Lyddell she saw very little, only sitting in her room for an
hour each morning, as a visitor, but it was evident she was very much
out of health, and a great charge to them all. Agnes could be sorry for
her, but could not like her while she did not speak more cordially of
Marian. All praise of her had something forced and against the grain,
and Agnes thought her intensely ungrateful.
Lionel interested Agnes extremely, with his happy, independent ways,
unrepining temper and spirit of enterprise. He was always eager about
some contrivance of his own, and just at this time it was wood-carving.
His left hand showed as much sticking-plaster as skin, and he used to
come into the drawing-room with it wrapped up in his handkerchief and
say, "Here's another, Marian," when Marian very quietly produced her
sticking-plaster, as if it was quite an ordinary matter; nay, would
not follow up the suggestion that he should not have so sharp a knife,
saying that it was much better to cut one's finger with a sharp knife
than a blunt one. He had cut about twenty bits of wood to waste, to say
nothing of hands, but he persevered with amusing energy, and before the
end of the visit had achieved a capital old man's head for the top of a
walking stick, which he presented to Edmund. He promised Agnes a set of
silk winders, and in the mean time made great friends with her, getting
her to tell him about her brother's sporting adventures, and in return
making himself very amusing with relations out of his sailor brother's
letters. Johnny had been concerned in the great exploit of climbing the
Peter Bottle mountain, and Lionel was as proud of it as if he had done
it himself, making Marian show everybody a drawing which Gerald had made
of the appearance that Johnny must have cut, standing on one leg on the
highest stone. They were also struck with the change in the manner in
which Walter was regarded, and the pride and affection with which all
the family spoke of his doings at his curacy.
But that Marian, though not prominent, and apparently merely a guest,
was necessary to the comfort of each member of the family, was a thing
that at the end of a fortnight, Agnes could not deny. Nor could she
attempt to make up a case to show that she and her husband were equally
in want of her.
"So, Marian," said she, as they parted, "I forgive you on condition of
your spending Christmas with us."
"And I ought to forgive you," said Edmund, "in consideration of the
fulfilment of my prediction that you would not be able to leave the
Lyddells when I was ready to receive you."
Marian smiled, and watched them from the door. As they lost sight of
the house, Edmund turned to his wife, saying, "How little we are fit to
order events! Here, Agnes, I looked back at this house six years ago
in a sort of despair. I was ready to reproach Providence, to reproach
everything. I thought I saw my uncle's children in the way to be ruined,
all his work undone, and there was I, unable to act, and yet with the
responsibility of the care of them. I tell you, Agnes, I never was so
wretched in my life. And yet what short-sightedness! There has Marian
been, placed, like a witness of the truth, calm, firm, constant,
guarding herself and her brother first, and then softening, and winning
all that came under her influence."
"Oh! but, Edmund, your coming home saved Gerald," said the wife, who
could not see her husband's credit given away even to Marian.
"I brought the experience and authority that she could not have, but
vain would have been my attempts without the sense of right she had
always kept up in his mind. Trouble has done much for those Lyddells,
but I don't believe that without her, it would have had that effect:
When I remember what Mr. Lyddell was, his carelessness, the painful
manner in which he used to talk; when I see him now, when I think of
what that poor Caroline was saved from, when I see the alteration in
Clara, and watch that blind boy, then I see indeed that our little
Marian, whom we thought thrown away and spoilt, was sent there to be
a blessing. If she had been naturally a winning, gentle, persuasive
person, I should have thought less of the wonder; but in her it is
the simple force of goodness, undecorated. I once feared the constant
opposition in which she lived, would harden her, but instead, she has
softened, sweetened, and lost all that was hard and haughty in her ways,
when it was no longer needed for a protection. Selina Marchmont has
failed too in giving her the exclusive spirit which I once feared
for her. It is as if she had a spell for passing through the world
"And you think she is happy?"
"As happy as those that never look for their happiness in this world."
Agnes sighed. "My vision has always been," said she, "to see Marian as
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