Afterwards one of the young lively visitors sang, and Marian, who had never heard much music, was quite delighted; her stiff company-face relaxed, a tear came to her eyes, and she sat with parted lips, forgetting all her fears and all the party till the singing was over, and Caroline touched her, and told her it was bed-time. Marian wondered to see how well Caroline and Clara managed to escape without being observed; but she marvelled at their going to bed so much as if it was a thing of course to have no "good night" from father or mother. When they were outside the door, in the hall, Marian, her heart still full of the music, could not help exclaiming, "How beautiful!"
"What? Miss Bernard's singing?" said Clara. "I declare, Caroline, Marian was very nearly crying! I saw you were, Marian."
"She does sing very nicely," said Caroline, "but that song does not suit her voice. It is too high."
"And she makes faces," said Clara, "she strains her throat; and she has such great fingers—I could never cry at Miss Bernard's singing, I am sure."
Marian did not like this. "Good night," said she, abruptly.
"You are not vexed, are you?" said Clara, kindly. "I did not think you would mind my noticing your crying. Don't be angry, Marian."
"Oh, no, I am not at all angry," said Marian, trying to speak with ease, but she did not succeed well. Her "good nights," had in them a tone as if she was annoyed, as in fact she was; though not at all in the way Clara supposed. She did not care for the notice of her tears, but she said to herself, "This is what Edmund calls destroying the illusion. If they would but have let me go to bed with the spell of that song resting on me!"
She sighed with a feeling of relief and yet of weariness as she came into her own room, and found Saunders there. Saunders looked rather melancholy, but said nothing for the first two or three minutes; then as she combed Marian's hair straight over her face, she began, "I hope you enjoyed yourself, Miss Marian?"
"Oh, Saunders," said Marian, "I'm very tired; I don't think I shall ever enjoy myself anywhere but at home."
"Ah—hem—ah," coughed Saunders, solemnly; then, after waiting for some observation from Marian, and hearing only a long yawn and a sigh, she went on. "Prettily different is this place from home."
"Indeed it is," said Marian, from her heart.
"Such finery as I never thought to see below stairs, Miss Marian. I am sure the Manor House was a pattern to all the country round for comfort for the servants, and I should know something about it; but here—such a number of them, such eating and drinking all day long, and the very kitchen maids in such bonnets and flowers on Sundays, as would perfectly have shocked Mrs. White. And they are so ignorant. Fancy, Miss Marian, that fine gentleman the butler declaring he could not understand me, and that I spoke with a foreign accent! I speak French indeed!"
"But, Saunders," said Marian, rather diverted, "you do speak Devonshire a little."
"Well, Miss Marian, perhaps I may; I only know 'tisn't for them to boast, for they speak so funny I can't hardly make them out; and with my own ears I have heard that same Mr. Perkins himself calling you Miss Harundel. But that is not all. Why, not half of them ever go to church on a Sunday; and as to Mrs. Mitten, the housekeeper, not a bit does she care whether they do or not; and no wonder, when Mr. Lyddell himself never goes in the afternoon, and has gentlemen to speak to him. And then down at the stables—'tis a pretty set of drinking, good-for-nothing fellows there. I hope from my heart Sir Gerald won't be for getting down there among them; but they say Master Lionel and Master John are always there. And that Mr. Elliot—"
In this manner Saunders discoursed all the while she was putting Marian to bed. Both she and her young lady wore doing what had much better have been let alone. Saunders had no business to carry complaints and gossip, Marian ought not to have listened to them; but the truth was that Saunders was an old attached confidential servant, who had come to Oakworthy, more because she could not bear to let her young master and mistress go entirely alone and unfriended among strangers, than because it would be prudent to save a little more before becoming Mrs. David Chapple. Fern Torr was absolute perfection in her eyes; and had the household at Oakworthy been of superior excellence, she would have found fault with everything in which it differed from the Manor House. Her heart was full; and to Miss Marian, her young lady, a Fern Torrite, a Devonian like herself, she must needs pour it out, where she had no other friend. On the other hand, Saunders was still in Marian's eyes a superior person—an authority—one whom she could never dream of keeping in order, or restraining; and here a friend, a counsellor, the only person, except Gerald, who had known the dear home.
So a foundation was laid for confidences from Saunders, which were not likely to improve Marian's contentment. When she had bidden her maid good night, and sat thinking before she knelt down to say her prayers, she felt bewildered; her head seemed giddy with the strangeness of this new world; she knew not what in it was right and what was wrong; all that she knew was, that she felt lonely and dreary, and as if it could never be home. Her heart seemed to reach out for her mother's embrace and support, and then Marian sank down on her knees, rested her face on her arms, and while the tears began to flow, she murmured, "OUR FATHER, Which art in heaven."
Soon after, her weary head was on her pillow, and the dim grey light of the summer night showed the quiet peace and calmness that had settled on her sleeping face.
"That is not home where, day by day, I wear the busy hours away."
In a short time, Marian had settled into her place at Oak Worthy, lost some part of her shyness towards the inhabitants, and arrived at the terms which seemed likely to continue between her and her cousins.
There was much that was very excellent about Caroline Lyddell; she had warm feeling, an amiable and obliging disposition, and great sweetness of temper; and when first Marian arrived she intended to do all in her power to make her at home, and be like a sister to her. But she did not understand reserve; and before Marian had got over her first shyness and awkwardness, Caroline felt herself repulsed, and ceased to make demonstrations of affection which met with no better response. Marian made none on her side; and so the two cousins remained very obliging and courteous to each other, but nothing more.
Clara had begun by making herself Marian's inseparable companion in rather a teasing manner, caressing her continually, and always wanting to do whatever she was doing; but as novelty was the great charm in Clara's eyes, and as she met with no very warm return to her endearments, all this soon wore off; and though she always came to Marian whenever she had any bit of news to tell,—though she often confided to her little complaints of the boys or Miss Morley,—this was no great compliment, for she would have done the same to anything that had ears. Her talk was no longer, as it had been at first, exclusively for Marian; and this wag rather a relief, for it was not at all like the talk Marian was used to with Agnes or with Edmund.
Young and unformed as Marian was, it would be hard to believe how much, without knowing it, she missed the intercourse with superior minds, to which she had been accustomed. It was just as her eye was dissatisfied with the round green chalk hills, instead of the rocks and streams of her own dear home; or as she felt weary of the straight, formal walks she now took, instead of her dear old rambles,
"Over bank and over brae, Where the copsewood is the greenest, Where the fountain glistens sheenest, Where the lady-fern grows strongest, Where the morning dew lies longest."
Edmund's high spirits, Agnes' playful glee,—how delightful they were! and though Marian often laughed now, it was not as she had laughed at home. Then, too, she grew shy of making remarks, or asking questions, when Clara had nothing to say but "How odd!" or Miss Morley would give some matter-of-fact answer, generally either quite beside the point, or else what Marian know before. Caroline understood what she meant, and would take up the subject, but not always in a satisfactory manner; for she and Marian always seemed to have quite opposite ways of viewing every thing. Each felt that the other had more serious thoughts and principles than most of those around them, but yet their likings and dislikings were very different in the matter of books. "Anna Ross" was almost the only one of Caroline's favourites that Marian cordially liked; and this, as Caroline suspected, might he owing to a certain analogy between Anna's situation and her own, by no means flattering to the Lyddell family. It was wonderful how many were the disparities of tastes, views, and opinions between them; but the root of these differences seemed undiscoverable, since Marian would not or could not argue, replied to all objections with a dry, short, "I don't know," and adhered unalterably to her own way of thinking.
Miss Morley settled the matter by pronouncing that Sir Edmund and Lady Arundel must have been very narrow-minded people; and this judgment was so admired by Caroline and Clara, that it was sure to be brought forward as conclusive, whenever Marian was the subject of conversation. At last Lionel broke in one day, "Stuff! Marian is a good, sensible, downright girl, and it is my belief that all that you mean by narrow-mindedness is that she cares for what is right, and nothing else."
"How much you know about it, Lionel!" said Clara, laughing; but Caroline answered in earnest, "There is reason in what you say, Lionel—Marian does care for what is right; but the question is, whether her views of it are not narrow?"
"The narrower the better, say I," said Lionel, as he plaited his whip-lash.
"Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leadeth unto life," came into Caroline's head, and she stood thoughtful. Clara exclaimed, "Well done, Lionel! I wonder what he'll say next to defend his dear Marian."
"I know what I mean well enough," said Lionel. "I suppose you call it being broad-minded to trace your drawings through against the window, when mamma goes on telling you not. Better have her narrow mind, say I."
"Then why don't you," said Clara, "instead of going down to the stables for ever with that man of Elliot's that mamma said you were never to speak to?"
Lionel whisked his whip-lash before Clara's eyes, so as to make her wink. "I did not say I was good myself;" said he; "I said Marian was." And he ran out of the room.
Clara laughed at Lionel's admiration of Marian, which had begun to be a joke in the schoolroom; but Caroline, as she practised her music, thought a good deal over the conversation. "Is a narrow mind really a fear of doing wrong?" was a question she asked herself several times; and then she thought of all the things she had heard called narrow-minded and scrupulous in Marian or others, but she soon found herself lost in a mist, and wished she could talk it over with her former governess, Miss Cameron. As to what Lionel had said about the drawing, she was conscious she was very wrong; her mamma had called it an idle practice to trace the outline through against the glass, and had forbidden it; but a difficulty had soon brought her back to the window-pane, exclaiming, "Just for this one thing, I am sure mamma would not object."
"If Miss Cameron had been here, it would not have happened," said Caroline to herself with a sigh, and for a few days she kept away from the window; but another difficulty occurred, again she yielded to the temptation, and whoa she heard her mother's step in the passage, hurried back to her desk with guilty precipitation. A few days after, Clara was actually caught in the fact by Mrs. Lyddell, and then Miss Morley began making an excuse, evidently quite as much out of kindness to herself as to her pupil. Marian looked up in surprise, with a wondering, inquiring expression in her eyes. They were cast down the instant the governess turned towards her; but Miss Morley always felt abashed, by meeting that look of astonishment, which awoke in her a sensation of self-reproach such as she had seldom known before.
Miss Morley was a little afraid of Marian's eyes, though not of her in any other respect; nor did she like her much better than Caroline did, though she gave her much less trouble than any of her other pupils, except Caroline. Those questions and observations puzzled her, and she thought the poor child had been reading books beyond her years—it was such a great disadvantage to be an only daughter. Besides, she really believed Marian Arundel had no affection for any one,—no warmth of feeling; she would ten times prefer a less diligent and more troublesome pupil, in whom she could take some interest, and who showed some affection, to one so steady and correct in behaviour, without the frank openness of heart which was so delightful. To make up, however, for this general want of liking for poor Marian, on the other hand, every one was fond of Gerald. His behaviour in the schoolroom was so very nice and good, and out of doors his climbing, running, and riding were no less admired by his contemporaries. Now and then, indeed, a dispute arose between him and the other two boys, when Gerald criticised, and declared that "Edmund and everybody" thought as he did; or when he would try to outdo the sporting exploits reported of Elliot, by Edmund's shooting at Fern Torr. One day there was a very serious quarrel, Gerald having taken up the cause of an unfortunate frog, which Lionel and Johnny were proposing to hunt, by rolling their marbles at it.
Gerald declared they should not, that frogs were harmless, innocent creatures, and that Edmund and everybody liked them. This only made Lionel and Johnny more determined; partly from the absurdity of Gerald's appeal, and partly for the sake of mischief; and Gerald was overpowered, unable to save his protege, and obliged to witness its cruel death. He burst into tears, and then, came the accusation of crying for a frog. Poor little boy, he burst away from his tormentors, and never stopped till, he was safe in his sister's room pouring out his grief to her and Saunders (for it was her dressing-time), and comforted by their sympathising horror and pity.
Saunders said it gave her a turn, and Marian's feelings were much of the same nature. She could not have thought it of Lionel. He was, indeed, reckless and unruly; by reputation the naughty one of the set; but Marian had often thought that much of Johnny's misbehaviour was unjustly charged on him, and there was an honesty about him, together with a cordiality towards herself, which made her like him. And that he should have been wantonly cruel!
She comforted Gerald as well as she could, and they went back to the schoolroom together. Lionel, as he often did, brought her a knot in a piece of string to be untied; she felt almost ready to shrink from him, as capable of such a deed, and gave it back to him after untying it, without a word. Lionel stood leaning against the shutter looking at her for some minutes, while she fetched her books, and sat down to learn her lessons. Tea came in; and while there was something of a bustle, and all the others were talking, and engaged in different ways, Lionel crossed over to her and said in a low voice, "So Gerald has made you angry with me?"
"No; but Lionel, I could not have thought you would have done such a thing."
"'Twas only a frog," said Lionel; "besides, I only did it to tease Gerald."
"I do not see that that makes it any better," said Marian, gravely.
"Why, Gerald was so ridiculous, to say Edmund and everybody liked frogs; but I didn't—I only mean that, if he had not made a fuss, I would never have hurt the frog, and I did not mean to kill it as it was; so never mind, Marian. I'll tell you what, Marian," added he, sinking his voice, "I'd rather Caroline and Clara, and poor unfortunate into the bargain, scolded me till they were black in the face, than that you looked at me as you did just now."
"Did I?" said Marian, rather alarmed. "I am sure I did not know I looked anyhow."
"Didn't you, though? It is just the way you look at poor unfortunate when she sports her humbug."
"Hush, Lionel! this will never do. You know you ought not to talk in that way," said Marian, rising to put an end to the conversation.
"But we have made it up?" said Lionel, holding her dress.
"Yes, yes," said Marian hastily, and with full forgiveness in look and tone. As she took her place at the tea-table, she wondered within herself what was the matter with her eyes to cause such remarks, and still more why she could not help liking Lionel so much the best of her cousins, in spite of all the naughtiness of word and deed, which shocked her so much.
The nest day she was walking in the garden with Clara, when Gerald came running up, with an entreaty that she would come and have a game at cricket with him and Lionel. Clara exclaimed, laughed, and stared in amazement.
"She plays famously," said Gerald; "she, and Agnes, and I, beat all the other Wortleys one day last summer. Come, Marian, don't say no; we have not had a game for a very long time."
"Who is playing?" asked Marian.
"Only Lionel and me; Johnny is out with Mrs. Lyddell Come, we want you very much indeed; there's a good girl."
To Clara's astonishment and Lionel's admiration, Marian complied; and though, of course, no great cricketer, her skill was sufficient to make her a prodigy in their eyes. But the game was brought to a sudden conclusion by Miss Morley, who, seeing them from the window, came out very much shocked, and gave the girls a lecture on decorum, which Marian felt almost as an insult.
When they went in, Gerald told Saunders the whole adventure; and she, who at Fern Torr had been inclined to the same opinion as Miss Morley, and had often sighed and declared it to be unlike young ladies when Marian and Agnes had played, now agreed with him that it was very hard on Miss Marian not to have a little exercise, lamented that she should always be cooped up in the schoolroom, and declared that there could be no harm in playing with such a little boy as Master Lionel.
The most unpleasant result was, that Miss Morley and the cousins took an impression that Agnes Wortley must be a vulgar romp, and were inclined to think her an unsuitable friend for Marian. Their curiosity was excited by the frequent letters between the two friends. Marian always read those which she received with the utmost eagerness, hardly ever telling any part of their contents, but keeping them to be enjoyed with Gerald in her own room; and half her leisure moments were employed in filling fat, black-edged envelopes, which were sent off at least as often as once a week.
"I wonder what she says about us!" said Clara, one day.
"I don't think it would suit you," said Caroline; "I should not think she painted us couleur de rose."
"Except Lionel," said Clara, "if their admiration is mutual. But, by the by, Miss Morley, why do you not desire to see her letters? You always look at mine."
"She is not quite in the same situation," said Miss Morley.
"But could not you?" continued Clara. "It would be very entertaining only to look for once."
"And I think it would be only proper," said Caroline. "Who knows what she may say of us to these dear friends of hers?"
The subject was not allowed to drop; the girls' curiosity led them to find numerous reasons why their cousin's correspondence should not pass without examination, and Miss Morley found she must either endure their importunity, or yield to it. She was driven to choose the part of the oppressor; and one day, when Clara had been tormenting her more than usual, she addressed Marian, who was folding up a letter. "I think," said she, speaking in a timid, deprecating tone—"I think, Marian, if you please, it might be as well, perhaps, if I were sometimes to look over your letters; it has always been the custom here."
Then; was no encouragement to proceed in the look of blank amazement with which Marian replied, "Edmund Arundel and Mr. Lyddell both approve of my writing to Agnes Wortley."
"Ah!" interposed Clara; "but did they mean that your letters should never be looked over?"
"I heard nothing about it," said Marian.
"Miss Cameron always looked over mine," said Caroline.
"I will ask Mr. Lyddell himself as soon as he comes home," said Marian, determinedly.
There was a pause, but Caroline and Clara did not look satisfied. Miss Morley knew they would leave her no peace if she desisted, and she went on,—"I wish I could sometimes see a proof of willingness to yield."
Marian was out of patience, and putting her letter into the desk, locked it up; and Caroline laughingly remarked, "Really, there must be some treason in that letter!" If the observation had been taken as it was meant, all would have been well; but Marian bit her lip with an air that convinced the sisters that Caroline had hit the mark; and their glances stimulated Miss Morley to say, as decidedly as she could, "Marian, your present conduct convinces me that it is desirable that I should see that letter."
Marian's dark eyes gave one indignant flash, as she proudly drew up her head, opened her desk, laid her letter on the table before Miss Morley, and slowly walked out of the room; but as soon as she had shut the door, she ran at full speed along the passage to her own room, where, throwing herself on the bed, she gave way to a fit of violent weeping, and sobs which shook her whole frame. Proud, passionate feelings at first almost choked her, and soon these were followed by a flood of the bitter tears of loneliness and bereavement. "Who would have dared insult her thus, had her father and mother been living?" and for a minute her agony for their loss was more intense than it had ever been. Gradually, "the turbid waters brightening as they ran," became soothing, as she dwelt on the sweet, holy memory of her parents, and wholesome as she mourned over her fit of pride and anger. But for what were they accountable, whose selfish weakness and thoughtless curiosity had caused the orphan's tears to flow?
Caroline had not seen those flashing eyes without an instant perception of the injustice of the accusation. Her half-jesting speech had led the matter much further than she had intended; and alarmed at the consequences, she ran after her cousin to entreat her pardon; but Marian, unconscious of all save the tumult within herself, hurried on too fast to be overtaken, and just as Caroline reached her door, had shut it fast, and drawn the bolt, and a gentle knock and low call of "Marian, dear Marian," were lost in the first burst of sobs. Caroline, baffled and offended, turned away with feelings even more painful than hers; and too proud to repeat the call, walked up and down, waiting till the door should be opened, to assure her cousin that nothing should induce her to touch the letter, and to beg her forgiveness; but as minutes passed away in silence, she grew tired of waiting, thought Marian sullen and passionate, and at length, returned to the schoolroom. As soon as she entered, Clara exclaimed, "O Caroline, only think, how odd—"
"I don't want to hear anything about it," said Caroline, sitting down to the piano; "I wish we had never thought of it."
She began, playing with all her might, but gradually she abated her vehemence, as she caught a few sounds of a conversation between Clara and Miss Morley. At last she turned round, asking, "What? who is his godfather?"
"Mr. Arundel, 'Edmund and every body,' you know," answered Clara. "I never heard anything like it. Only fancy his hearing that boy say his catechism!"
"What? I don't understand," said Caroline; "Mr. Arundel and Gerald! Nonsense! He can't be his godfather. Mamma said he was only four-and-twenty, and Gerald is almost nine."
"Here is Marian's authority for it," said Clara; "and certainly those Arundels are a curious family."
"Mr. Arundel is the next heir, is he not?" inquired Miss Morley.
"Yes," said Caroline; "I heard mamma telling old Mrs. Graves the whole story. His father and mother both died when he was very young, and Sir Edmund brought him up entirely, and every one looked upon him as the heir till Gerald was born; and a groat disappointment it must have been, for now he has next to nothing. But they all were just as fond of each other as before; and it does seem very strange that Sir Edmund should have made him their guardian, at his age, when there was Lord Marchmont, who is their cousin, too."
"I dare say," said Clara, as if a most brilliant thought had struck her, "I dare say there is a family compact, such as one reads of in books, that he is to marry Marian."
"My dear Clara!" said Miss Morley laughing, "How should such a notion come into your little head?"
"Now see if it is not so!" said Clara; "I do believe she is in love with him already, and he is coming to see her."
"Is he?" cried Caroline, "I am very curious to sec him. Mamma says he is very handsome, and quite a distinguished looking person. When does he come?"
"You had better read," said Clara; "I can tell you that there are wonderful things in the letter."
Curiosity again asserted its power, and Caroline yielded. The letter had been opened, and it would not signify if one more person looked at it. She took it, and read eagerly and stealthily, starting at every sound.
"My dear Agnes—I hope you and Jemmy are getting on well in your solitude without the schoolboys. Tell Charles, when you write, that a gentleman staying here caught a trout last week that weighed three pounds, but I believe that those which are caught in these rivers taste of mud, and are not nearly so good as our own. I was very much afraid that Gerald would go to school this summer, but now Mrs. Lyddell has heard that it was settled that he should not go till he was ten, and it is arranged for him to stay till next year, when I hope he will be happier than Charles was at first. You asked after his drawing, so I have put in the last scrap I met with, and in case you should not be able to find out what it is meant for, I must inform you that it is the dog springing on the young Buecleuch. The other day he sent Edmund a letter in hieroglyphics, with pictures instead of nouns, and Edmund answered it in the same way with funny little clever drawings throughout. His regiment is going abroad nest spring, he thinks, to the Cape, but he has promised to come and see us first, and thinks of going home to see about his things. Thank Mrs. Wortley for being so kind as to scold me for not dating my letters. I shall not be likely to forget the date of this on September 30th, for Mr. Lyddell has just paid me my first quarter's allowance, and I am frightened to think how large it is; ten pounds a quarter only for my dress, and I am to have more when I am seventeen. So matters can go on more as they used in the parish. Will you be so kind as to pay this quarter's schooling for Amy Lapthorn and Honor Weeks and Mary Daw, and find out what clothes they want, and if Susan Grey has not a new bonnet, give her one, and a flannel petticoat for old Betty, and if any body else wants anything else let me know, and pay up for all the children that dear mamma used to put into the penny club, and send me word what it comes to, and I will send the money when Edmund comes to pay his visit. I suppose the apples are gathered by this time; you cannot think how I miss the golden and red piles under the trees, and the droning of the old cyder press. And do those beautiful Red Admiral butterflies come in the crowds they did last year to the heaps of apples in our orchard? Do you remember how we counted five that all came and sat on your pink frock while we were watching them?
"Will Mr. Wortley be kind enough to tell me of some book of questions on the Catechism, more advanced than the one he gave me? I suppose we ought to go on with the Catechism, till we are confirmed, and so Gerald and I always go through a section every Sunday, taking the book by turns, and he knows our old one perfectly. He is so good and steady about it that I quite wonder, considering that there is no authority to keep him up to it, but he is very anxious to stand a good examination when his godfather comes, and Edmund is sure to ask hard questions. And Gerald has never missed since we have been here, getting up in time to come and read the Psalms with me before breakfast, and really I think that is exceedingly good of him; but I have come to the end of my paper, so good-bye.
"MARIAN C. ARUNDEL."
Caroline's cheeks glowed as she read, both with shame at her own proceedings, and with respect for her narrow-minded cousin; but she had no opportunity for making remarks, for just as she had finished the letter, and folded it up again, the boys were heard coming in. The first thing Gerald said was, "So Marian has not sent her letter; I will run down with it, or it will be too late."
"It is not sealed," said Clara.
"Clara looks as if she had been peeping," said Johnny.
"I should like to see any one peep into Marian's letters," said Gerald, taking it up, and carrying it away with him.
Lionel stood with his eyes fixed on Clara. "I do believe it is true then!" said he, laying hold of Clara's arm; "I have a great mind to say I'll never speak to you again, Clara. Peeping into people's letters. Why, you ought to be hooted through the town!"
The boys looked nearly ready to put the hooting into effect, but Clara answered angrily, "Peeping! I have been doing no such thing! Don't be so rude, Lionel."
"That is humbug," said Lionel; "you have been looking impudently, if you have not been peeping slyly."
"Lionel, you are a very naughty boy indeed!" said Clara, almost crying; "I have done just as Miss Morley and Caroline have been doing; Miss Morley always looks over——"
"Let who will do it," said Lionel, "it is an impudent, ungentlemanlike thing, that you all ought to be ashamed of. I declare papa shall hear of it."
"Lionel, do you know what you are saying?" said Caroline.
"This is sadly naughty!" feebly murmured Miss Morley.
"Lionel, mamma will be very angry," said Clara.
"I don't care," said Lionel loudly and vehemently; "I know that you all ought to be ashamed of yourselves, every one of you. Why, if you were boys you would never hold up your heads again; but girls can do anything, and that is the reason they have no shame."
"Hush! Lionel, dear Lionel!" said Caroline, coming to him persuasively, but he shook her off:
"I want none of your dears," said he; "ask Marian's pardon, not mine."
He turned his back, and took up a book. The girls dared say no more to him; Miss Morley very nearly cried as she thought how impossible it was for women to manage great boys. She ought to complain of his rudeness, but the explanation of what gave rise to it was impossible, and so, poor woman, she thought herself too good-natured.
Gerald, in the meantime, had gone to his sister's room, where he called hastily on finding the door fastened. She opened it, and he eagerly asked what was the matter.
"Never mind," said Marian; "thank you for remembering my letter. Will you fetch the sealing wax out of——"
"Well, but what is the matter?"
"Nothing that signifies; never mind."
"But I do mind, I can't bear for you to cry. You know I can't, so don't begin again," added he, as his affectionate tones made her lip quiver, and her eyes fill with tears.
"But, Gerald, pray get the wax, or——. But no, no," added she hurriedly, "do not, I will not touch it, till——"
"Till when?" asked Gerald; "I wish you would tell me how they have been vexing you. I am sure they hare, for they all looked guilty. Poor Marian!" He put his arm round her neck, and drew her cheek to his. Who could withstand such a brother? Marian whispered. "Only—but don't make a fuss—only Miss Morley made me show her my letter."
He started from her, and broke forth into a torrent of indignation; and it was not quickly that she succeeded in getting him to listen to her entreaties that he would not tell any one.
"What do you mean to do?" said he. "O I will write such a letter to Edmund, in hopes she will ask to see it. But she won't venture on mine. Shall I tell Edmund?"
"No, no, Gerald, you do nothing; pray don't say anything. I will speak to Mr. Lyddell, for it was he who gave me leave."
"And I hope he will give poor unfortunate a good rowing. Won't it be fun?"
"Now, Gerald, pray don't say such things, or I shall be sorry I told you. I dare say she thought it was right."
"Stuff and nonsense! Right indeed! I hope Mr. Lyddell will give it to her well!"
"If I may not write without having my letters read, I am sure I shall never be able to write at all!"
"And when shall you speak? Luckily there is no company to-night, and I hope I shall be there to hear."
"No, you will not; I shall wait till you are gone to bed, for I am sure Lionel and Johnny ought to know nothing about it. I believe I had better not have told you; but, Gerald, you are all I have, and I can't help telling you everything."
"Of course, Marian, so you ought, for let them laugh at me as they will, I always tell you everything. And won't it be nice when I am grown up, and we can get away from them all, and live at home together, and I go out shooting every day, and you and Ranger stand at the top of the steps to watch me? For Ranger will be too old to go out shooting by that time."
In the midst of this picture of rural felicity, Saunders came to tell Marian that it was time to dress.
When she returned to the schoolroom, Caroline would have given anything not to have read the letter; she was too sure that there was nothing wrong in it, and she could not show the trust in her cousin which would have enabled her to speak freely, and say she was very sorry for her speech and meant nothing by it; nor did she wish to revive the subject before Lionel, whose indignation would be still more unpleasant in Marian's own presence. She therefore said nothing, and on the other hand Marian felt awkward and constrained; Lionel was secretly ashamed of his own improper behaviour to Miss Morley, and well knowing that he should never dare to perform his threat of telling his father, put on a surly kind of demeanour, quite as uncivil to Marian as to anyone else; and but that Clara never minded anything, and that Johnny knew and cared little about the matter, their tea that evening would have been wonderfully unsociable. Gerald had not much to say, but the bent of his thoughts was evident enough when his ever-busy pencil produced the sketch of a cat pricking her paw by patting a hedgehog rolled up in a ball.
Neither Miss Morley nor her pupils ever expected to hear more of the letter, for they knew perfectly well that what Lionel had said was but a threat, for the appeal direct to Mr. or Mrs. Lyddell was a thing never thought of at Oakworthy. Marian had, however, made up her mind; her anxiety overpowered her shyness; she knew that Mr. Lyddell was the proper person, and perhaps the fact was that she was less afraid of him than of his wife. So, though she resisted all the glances cast at her by Gerald, whenever he thought he saw a good opportunity for her, and waited till all the three little boys had gone to bed, she by no means gave up her purpose. It was time for her too, to wish good night; and while her heart beat fast, she said, "Mr. Lyddell, you gave me leave to write to Agnes Wortley. Was it on condition of my letters being looked over?"
"Who meddles with your letters?" said Mr. Lyddell, much surprised.
Caroline, having helped to get her governess into the scrape, thought it but fair to say what she could for her, and answered, "Miss Morley thought that you and mamma would wish it."
"By no means," said Mr. Lyddell, turning to Marian, "I have the highest opinion of Mr. and Mrs. Wortley, the very highest; I wish your correspondence to be perfectly free."
"Thank you," said Marian. "Good night!" and away she went, to tell Gerald how it had passed; and he, who had been lying awake in expectation, was much disappointed to hear no more than this.
As soon as she was gone, Mrs. Lyddell exclaimed, "What could have given Miss Morley reason to think that her letters were to be inspected? Really, Miss Morley must have some courage! I should be sorry to be the person to make the request."
"Ah! Marian was very angry indeed," said Clara; "quite in a passion."
"Very proper," said Mr. Lyddell. "A spirited thing. She is a girl of sense."
Mrs. Lyddell let the matter drop with the girls, but going to the schoolroom, she inquired into it more fully, and found that by poor unfortunate faithful Morley's own account, she had allowed herself to be made the tool of the curiosity of Caroline and Clara. She spoke severely, and Miss Morley had displeasure to endure, which was considerably more disagreeable than all Clara's importunities could have been.
However, the next morning it appeared as if the whole affair was forgotten by all parties; Marian win just as usual, and so were her cousins; but, in secret, Caroline felt guilty, and held her in higher estimation since she had seen the contents of the letter, which, as she could perceive, Marian might well be doubly unwilling to show; she wished that Marian would but be as open to her as she was to Agnes, but this unfortunate business seemed like another great bar to their ever being really intimate, and she did not know how to surmount it.
These reflections were shortly after driven out of Caroline's head by a severe fit of toothache, which for three days made her unfit for anything but to sit by the fire reading idle books. Mrs. Lyddell proposed to take her to Salisbury to consult a dentist, and Lionel was supposed likewise to require inspection. Then, turning to Marian, Mrs. Lyddell said, "This is not the pleasantest kind of expedition, but perhaps you may like to see Salisbury, and I think your bonnet wants renewing."
"Thank you," said Marian, pleased with the Invitation. "I shall be very glad to go; I believe my teeth ought to be looked at. The dentist at Exeter said last winter that they were crowded and ought to be watched."
"Very well," said Mrs. Lyddell, "we will see what Mr. Polkinghorn says."
"Polkinghorn," said Marian, as Mrs. Lyddell left the room; "that is a Devonshire name."
"You are very welcome to him, I am sure," said Caroline; "I wish the trade was abolished."
"What cowards girls are!" said Lionel.
"Let us see how boys behave before we say anything against girls," was Marian's answer.
"Shan't you scream?" said Lionel.
"Of course she will not," said Caroline, "unless with joy at meeting a Devonshire man."
Marian laughed, and Lionel began an exhilarating story about an unfortunate who was strapped to the dentist's chair, dragged nine times round the room, and finally had his jaw broken.
Marian enjoyed her drive to Salisbury, though it added to her contempt for Wiltshire scenery, by showing her more and more of desolate down. She watched the tall Cathedral spire from far in the distance, peering up among the hills like a picture more than a reality, and she admired the green meadows and quiet vale where the town stands. Poor Caroline was taken up with dreadful anticipations of Mr. Pokingtooth, as Lionel called him, and when arrived at his clamber of torture, hung back, so as to allow Marian to be the first victim. The result of the examination was, that it would be better; though not absolutely necessary, that a certain double tooth should be extracted, and Mr. Polkinghorn, left the room in search of an instrument.
"So you think it ought to go?" sighed Marian.
"I should say so," said Mrs. Lyddell, "but you may decide for yourself."
Marian covered her face with her hands, and considered. The dentist returned; she laid back her head and opened her mouth, and the tooth was drawn. Caroline and Lionel escaped more easily, and they left the dentist's. Mrs. Lyddell said something in commendation of Marian's courage, and asked if she would like to see the Cathedral, an offer which she gladly accepted, expecting to go to the service, as the bells now began to ring; but she was disappointed, for Mrs. Lyddell said, "Ah! I had forgotten the hour. We must do our commissions first, and be at the Cathedral before the doors are shut." Marian did not venture to express her wishes, but she thought of the days when attending the Cathedral service had been the crowning pleasure of a drive to Exeter, and in dwelling on the recollection, she spent the attention which Mrs. Lyddell expected her to bestow on her new bonnet.
Their business did not occupy them very long, and they entered the Cathedral before the anthem was over; but Marian felt that it was not fitting to loiter about the nave while worship was going on within the choir; and the uncomfortable feeling occupied her so much, that she could hardly look at the fair clustered columns and graceful arches, and seemed scarcely to know or care for the gallant William Longsword, when led to the side of his mail-clad, cross-legged effigy. The deep notes of the organ, which delighted Caroline, gave her a sense of shame; and even when the service was over, and they entered the choir, these thoughts had not so passed away as to enable her to give full admiration to the exquisite leafy capitals and taper arcades of the Lady Chapel. Perhaps, too, there was a little perverseness in her inability to think that this Cathedral surpassed that of Exeter.
She thanked Mrs. Lyddell rather stiffly, as she thought to herself, "I did not reckon upon this!" and they set out on their homeward drive. Caroline looked thoughtful, and did not say much, Lionel fell asleep, and Mrs. Lyddell, after a few not very successful attempts at talking to Marian, took out her bills, and began to look over them and to reckon. Marian sat looking out of the window, lost in a vision of the hills, woods, and streams of Fern Torr, which lasted till they had reached home.
Such an expedition was so uncommon an event in the lives of the inhabitants of the schoolroom, that those who stayed at home were as excited about it as those who went, and a full and particular account was expected of all they had seen and all they had done. Caroline and Lionel both seemed to think Marian a perfect miracle of courage in voluntarily consenting to lose a tooth.
"And I am sure," said Caroline as they sat at tea, "I cannot now understand what made you have it done."
"To oblige a countryman," said Marian laughing.
"Well, but what was your real reason?" persisted Caroline.
"Mrs. Lyddell thought it best, and so did the dentist," said Marian.
"O," said Caroline, "he only said so because it was his trade."
"Then how could Mrs. Lyddell depend on him?" said Marian, gravely.
"Dentists never are to be depended on," said Caroline; "they only try to fill their own pockets like other people."
"You forget," said Lionel, "Devonshire men are not like other people."
"O yes, I beg their pardon," said Caroline, while every one laughed except Gerald; who thought the praise only their due.
"But why did you have it done?" said Clara, returning to the charge; "I am sure I never would."
"Yes, but Marian is not you," said Lionel.
"You would have disobeyed no one," said Caroline.
"I do not know," said Marian, thinking of one whom she would have disobeyed by showing weakness.
"Then did you think it wrong not to have that tooth drawn?" said Caroline.
"I do not know."
"Did you think it right to have it done?"
"I do not know, unless that I did not like it."
"Do you mean to say that not liking a thing makes it right?" exclaimed Clara.
"Very often," said Marian.
"Miss Morley, now is not that Popish?" cried Clara.
"Perhaps your cousin can explain herself," said Miss Morley.
"Yes, do," said Caroline, "you must tell us what you mean."
"I don't know," was Marian's first answer; but while uttering the reply, the real reason arranged itself in words; and finding she must speak clearly, she said, "Self-denial is always best, and in a doubtful case, the most disagreeable is always the safest."
Miss Morley said that Marian was right in many instances, but that this was not a universal rule, and so the conversation ended.
"O Brignal banks are fresh and fair, And Greta woods are green; I'd rather rove with Edmund there, Than reign our English queen."
Winter came, and with it the time fixed for that farewell visit from Edmund Arundel, to which Marian and Gerald had long looked forward. Marian was becoming very anxious for it on Gerald's account, for she was beginning to feel that he was not quite the same child as when he first arrived at Oakworthy. He was less under control, less readily obedient to Miss Morley, less inclined to quote Edmund upon all occasions, more sensible of his own consequence, and more apt to visit that forbidden ground, the stables.
She longed for Edmund's coming, trusting to him to set everything right, and to explain to her the marvels of this strange new world.
Several gentlemen were staying in the house, and there was to be a dinner party on the day when he was expected, so that she thought the best chance of seeing him would be to stay in the garden with Gerald, while the others took their walk, so that she might be at hand on his arrival. Clara, though by no means wanted, chose to stay also, and the two girls walked up and down the terrace together.
"It is so very odd," said Clara "that you should care about such a great old cousin."
"He is only twenty-four," answered Marian.
"But he must have been grown up ever since you remember."
"Yes, but he is so kind. He used to carry us about and play with us when we were quite little children, and since I have been older he has made me almost a companion. He taught me to ride, and trained my bay pony, my beautiful Mayflower, and read with me, and helped me in my music and drawing."
"That is more than Elliot would do for us, if he could," said Clara. "It is very dull to have no one to care about our lessons, but to be shut up in the schoolroom for ever with poor unfortunate."
Marian did not choose to say how fully she assented to this complaint, but happiness had opened her heart, and she went on,—"I have had so many delightful walks with him through the beautiful wood full of rocks, and out upon the moor. O, Clara, you cannot think what it is to sit upon one of those rocks, all covered with moss and lichen, and the ferns growing in every cleft and cranny, and the beautiful little ivy-leafed campanula wreathing itself about the moss, and such a soft, free, delicious air blowing all around. And Edmund and I used to take out a book, and read and sketch so delightfully there!"
"Do you know, Marian," said Clara mysteriously, "I have heard some one say—I will not tell you who—that it is a wonder that Mr. Arundel is so fond of you, of Gerald, at least, for if it was not for him, he would have had Fern Torr, and have been Sir Edmund."
"But why should he not be fond of Gerald?"
"Really, Marian, you are a very funny person in some things," exclaimed Clara. "To think of your not being able to guess that!"
Here Mrs. Lyddell interrupted them by calling from the window to ask why they were staying in the garden?
"We were waiting to see Mr. Arundel, mamma," answered Clara.
"I think," said Mrs. Lyddell, "that as I am going out, it is not quite the thing for you young ladies to wait to receive a gentleman in my absence. You had better overtake the others. Marian will see Mr. Arundel in the evening."
"How cross!" exclaimed Clara, as soon as they were out of hearing. "Now we have to go along that horrid, stupid path that poor unfortunate is so fond of! If mamma had to go there herself, she would know what a nuisance it is!"
Marian was silent, because she was too much annoyed to speak properly of Mrs. Lyddell, whose interference seemed to her a needless piece of unkindness. At home she would have thought it strange not to hasten to greet cousin Edmund, and she feared he would think she neglected him, yet she could not, in Clara's presence, leave a message for him with her brother. Gerald begged her to remain, but she replied, with, a short, blunt "I can't," and set off with Clara, feeling provoked with everybody. In process of time she recovered candour enough to acknowledge to herself that Mrs. Lyddell was right as far as Clara was concerned, but the struggle kept her silent, her cousin thought her sulky, and the walk was not agreeable.
Gerald did not as usual attend her toilette, but as she passed along the passage on her way to the schoolroom, she heard sounds in the hall so like home that her heart bounded, Gerald's voice and Edmund's in reply! She could not help opening the door which separated the grand staircase from the schoolroom passage, the voice sounded plainer, she looked over the balusters, and saw—yes, actually saw Edmund, the top of his black head was just below her. Should she call? Should she run half-way down stairs, and just exchange one greeting unrestrainedly? But no; her heart beat so fast as to take away her breath, and that gave her time for recollection: Mrs. Lyddell might not think it proper, it would be meeting him in an underhand way, and that would never do!
Marian turned back, shut the door of communication, and in the next moment was in the schoolroom. When Gerald came up to tea, he was in the wildest spirit; making fun, romping with Lionel and John, and putting everything in such an uproar that it was quite a relief when the time came for going down to the drawing-room.
Now, Marian's great fear was that the gentlemen would be cruel enough to stay in the dining-room till after half-past nine, when she would be obliged to go to bed. She could hardly speak to anybody, she shrank away, as near the door as she dared, and half sprang up every time it opened, then sat down ashamed of herself, and disappointed to see only the servants with coffee and tea.
At last, the fatal time had all but come, when the black figures of the gentlemen entered one after the other, Marian scarcely venturing to look at them, and overpowered with a double access of fright and shyness, which chained her to her seat, and her eyes to the ground. But now—Edmund's hand was grasping hers, Edmund was by her side, his voice was saying, "Well, Marian, how are you?"
She looked up at him for one moment, then on the ground again, without speaking.
"Oakworthy has put no colour in your cheeks," said he. "Are you quite well?"
"Quite, thank you," said she, almost as shortly and coldly as if she had been answering Mrs. Lyddell.
"When did you hear from home?"
"Yesterday," said she, speaking more readily. "Agnes always writes once a week. When do you go there?"
"Next week, when I leave this place."
"You come from the Marchmonts, don't you?"
"Yes, Selina sends you her love, and all manner of kind messages. She hopes to see you in London after Easter."
"O dear! There is Mrs. Lyddell looking at me, and I see Caroline is gone! Good night, Edmund."
"So soon? I hoped to have seen more of you to-day; I came early on purpose."
"I thought so, but they would not let me stay at home."
"I understand. Don't squeeze up your lips and look woeful. I knew how it was. Good night."
Marian walked slowly up stairs, sighing as she went, and looked into Gerald's room. He was awake, and called out, "Well, Marian, are you not glad he has come?"
"O yes, very," returned Marian, in a tone of little gladness; "I hope you will be very happy with him."
"Why not you?"
"It will be all disappointment," she answered in a choking voice, as, sheltered by the darkness, she knelt down by Gerald's bed, and burst into tears. "It will all be like to-day."
"No, it shall not!" cried Gerald; "I will tell Edmund all about it, and he shall send them all to the right about! I can't think why you did not tell Mrs. Lyddell that you always stay at home for Edmund."
"Miss Arundel," said Saunders, at the door, "do you know that it is half an hour later than usual?"
The next morning Marian awoke with brighter spirits. It was possible that she might accomplish one walk with him, and Gerald was sure of being constantly at his side, which was the great point. At any rate, she could not be very unhappy while he was in the house.
She heard nothing of him all the morning, but, just as the schoolroom dinner was over, in came Mrs. Lyddell, and with her Edmund himself, to the great surprise of all the inhabitants. Marian looked very happy, but said very little, while there was some talk with Miss Morley, and then Edmund asked if she had no drawings to show him. She brought out her portfolio, and felt it like old times when he observed on her improved shading, or criticised the hardness of her distant hills, while Miss Morley wondered at his taste and science. It was delightful to find that she and Gerald were really to take a walk with him by themselves. She almost flew to fetch her walking dress, and soon the three were on their way together.
There was a great quantity of home news to be talked over, for Edmund had not heard half so often nor so minutely as Marian, and he had to be told how Charles Wortley got on at his new school, that Ranger had been lost for a day and a half, and many pieces of the same kind of intelligence, of which the most important was that Farmer Bright's widow had given up the hill farm, and his nephew wanted to take it, but Mr. Wortley hoped that this would not be allowed, as he was a dissenter.
"Indeed!" said Edmund; "I wonder Carter did not mention that."
"Had you heard this before?" said Marian; "I thought it news."
"Most of it is," said Edmund, "but not about the farm. The letting it is part of my business here, but I did not know of this man's dissent. Your correspondence has done good service."
"I am sure it is my great delight," said Marian; "I do not know what I should do without hearing from Agnes. I think I have learnt to prize her more since I have known other people."
"You don't find the Miss Lyddells quite as formidable as you expected though?" said Edmund; "the eldest has a nice open, countenance."
"We get on very well," said Marian. "Caroline is so good-tempered and clever, and Lionel is delightful."
"O, Edmund," interposed Gerald, "Lionel and I had such fun the other day. We caught the old donkey and blindfolded it with our handkerchiefs, and let it loose, and if you could but have seen how it kicked up its heels——"
They went on with the history of adventures of the same description, enjoying themselves exceedingly, and when Marian went in, she was much pleased to find how favourable an impression Edmund had made on her companions, although some of their commendations greatly surprised her; Miss Morley pronouncing that he had in the greatest degree an air distingue, and was a remarkably fashionable young man. Marian could endure the air distingue, but could hardly swallow the fashionable young man, an expression which only conveyed to her mind the idea of Elliot Lyddell and his moustached friends. However, she knew it was meant for high praise, and her present amiable fit was strong enough to prevent her from taking it as an insult.
The next day was Sunday, and she provokingly missed Edmund three times, in the walks to and from church, he being monopolized by "some stupid person," who had far less right to him than she had; but at last, when she had been completely worried and vexed with her succession of disappointments, and had come into what Lionel would have emphatically called "a state of mind," Edmund contrived to come to her before going in doors, and asked if she could not take a few turns with him on the terrace. She came gladly, and yet hardly with full delight, for the irritation of the continually recurring disappointments through the whole day, still had its influence on her spirits, and she did not at first speak. "Where is Gerald?" asked Edmund.
"I don't know; somewhere with the boys," said Marian, disconsolately.
"Well, why not?" said Edmund laughing.
"I don't know," said Marian.
"That is a meditative 'I don't know,' which conveys more than meets the ear."
"I don't know whether——; I mean I don't think it does Gerald any good."
"I don't know," repeated Marian in a tone which to any one else would have appeared sullen.
"I should like to arrive at your meaning, Marian. Are you not happy about Gerald!"
"I don't know," said Marian; but Edmund, convinced that all was not right, was resolved to penetrate these determined professions of ignorance.
"Is Gerald under Miss Morley?" he asked.
"Yes, during most of the day. They all say he is very good."
"And does not that satisfy you?"
"I don't know."
Edmund perceived that the subject of her brother was too near her heart to be easily approached, and resolved to change his tone.
"How have you been getting on?" he asked. "Does learning flourish under the present dynasty?"
"I don't know," replied Marian for the seventh time, but she did not as usual stop there, and continued, "they think one knows nothing unless one has learnt all manner of dates, and latitudes, and such things. Not one of them knew Orion when they saw him in the sky, and yet even Clara thought me dreadfully stupid because I could not find out on the globe the altitude of Beta in Serpentarius, at New Orleans, at three o'clock in the morning."
Edmund could not help laughing at her half-complaining, half-humorous tone, and this encouraged her to proceed.
"In history they don't care whether a man is good or bad; they only care when he lived. O Edmund, the lists of names and dates, kings and Roman emperors——."
"Metals, semi-metals, and distinguished philosophers," said Edmund; and Marian, who in days of old had read "Mansfield Park," laughed as she used to do at home.
"Exactly," said she, "O, Edmund, it is very different learning from what it used to be. All lesson and no thinking, no explaining, no letting one make out more about the interesting places. I wanted the other day to look out in some history book to find whether Rinaldo in Tasso was a real man, but nobody would care about it; and as to the books, all the real good grown-up ones are down in Mr. Lyddell's library, where no one can get at them."
"Does not Miss Lyddell enter into these things?"
"O yes, Caroline does, a great deal more than Miss Morley; but I don't know—I never can get on with Caroline——."
Marian had now gone on to the moment when her heart was ready to be open, and the whole story, so long laid up for Edmund, began to be poured forth; while he, anxious to hear all, and more sympathizing than he was willing to show himself, only put in a word or two here and there, so as to sustain the narration. Everything was told, how Clara was frivolous and wearisome; how Caroline was cold, incomprehensible, and unsympathetic; how unjust and weak Miss Morley was; how sharp, hasty, and unmotherly she found Mrs. Lyddell; and then, growing more eager, Marian, with tears springing to her eyes, told of the harm the influence of Oakworthy was doing Gerald; his love of the stables, and Saunders' opinion of the company he was likely to meet there. This led her to more of Saunders' communications about the general arrangement of the house, and the want of really earnest care for what is right; further still to what Saunders had told of Elliot and his ways, which were such as to shock her excessively, and yet she had herself heard Mr. Lyddell say that he was a fine spirited fellow!
Edmund was not sorry to find that he had but small space in which to give the reply for which Marian was eagerly looking. He avoided the main subject, and spoke directly to a point on which his little cousin was certainly wrong. "Well, Marian, who would have thought of your taking to gossiping with servants?" Then, as she looked down, too much ashamed to speak, he added, "I suppose poor Saunders has not sought for charms at Oakworthy any more than you have."
"Indeed I do not think I tried to make the worst of it when I came."
"Is that a confession that you are doing so now?"
"I do not know."
"Then let us see if you will give the same account to-morrow; I shall ask you whenever I see you particularly amiable. And now I think I have kept you out quite late enough."
The next day was very pleasant, bright, and frosty; Marian, from having relieved her heart, felt more free and happy, and her lessons went off quickly and smoothly. All went well, even though Edmund was obliged to go and call on a friend at Salisbury instead of coming to walk with her. Her walk with Miss Morley and her cousins was prosperous and pleasant; the boys ran races, and Marian and Clara were allowed to join them without a remonstrance. Marian was running and laughing most joyously, when she was stopped by hearing a horse's feet near her, and looking round saw Edmund returning from his ride. "May I keep her out a little longer?" said he to Miss Morley, as he jumped off his horse, and Marian came to his side. Miss Morley returned a ready assent, and after disposing of the horse, the two cousins walked on happily together, she telling him some pleasant histories of Gerald and the other little boys, and lamenting the loss that Lionel would be when he went to school. After they had talked over Salisbury Cathedral, and Marian had heard with great interest of Edmund's late employments in Scotland, and all he was to do and see in Africa, and saying much about that never-ending subject, Fern Torr, Edmund thought her so cheerful that he said, "Well, may I venture to ask your opinion of the people here?"
"I don't know," said Marian, who was so much ashamed of the accusation of gossiping with Saunders as to be willing to pass over all that had been founded on her information, "perhaps I did say too much yesterday, and yet I do not know I am sure I should never have chosen them for friends."
"Perhaps they would return that compliment."
"Then you really think it is my own fault?"
"No;" (Edmund tried hard to prevent his "no" from being too emphatic, and forced himself to go on thus) "I do not suppose it is entirely your fault, but at the same time you do not strike me as a person likely to make friends easily."
"O, Edmund, I could never bring myself to kiss, and say 'dearest' and 'darling,' and all that, like Clara."
"There is the thing," said Edmund; "not that it is wrong to dislike it, not that I could ever imagine your doing any thing like it;" and, indeed, the idea seemed so preposterous, that both the cousins laughed; "but the disposition is not one likely to be over and above prepossessing to strangers."
"You mean that I am disagreeable?"
"No, far from it. I only mean that you are chilly, and make almost all who come near you the same towards you."
"I cannot help it," said Marian.
"Yes, you could in time, if you did not fairly freeze yourself by constant dwelling on their worst points. Make the best of them with all your might, and you will soon learn to like them better."
"But if the things are so, Edmund, how can I see them otherwise?"
"Don't look out for them, and be glad of every excuse for disliking the people. Don't fancy harshness and unkindness where no one intends it. I am quite sure that Mr. Lyddell wishes to give you every advantage, and that Mrs. Lyddell thinks she treats you like her own child."
"I don't think I should like to be her own child," said Marian. "It is true that she is the same with me as with them, but—"
"Poor Marian," said Edmund, kindly, "you have been used to such gentleness at home, that no wonder the world seems hard and unkind to you. But I did not mean to make you cry; you know you must rough it, and bravely too."
"Never mind my crying," said Marian, struggling to speak; "it is nothing, but I cannot help it. It is so very long since any one has known what I meant."
Edmund could not trust himself to speak, so full was he of affectionate compassion for her, and of indignation against the Lyddells, when these few words revealed to him all her loneliness; and they walked on for a considerable distance in silence, till, with a sudden change of tone, he asked if she had had any riding since she came to Oakworthy.
"O no, I have not been on horseback once. What a treat a good canter on Mayflower would be!"
"I suspect one victory over her would put you in spirits to be amiable for a month," said Edmund.
"Dear old Mayflower!" said Marian. "How delightful that day was when she first came home, and we took that very long ride to the Eastcombe!"
Edmund and Marian fell into a line of reminiscences which enlivened them both, and she went in-doors in a cheerful mood, while he seriously took the riding into consideration; knowing, as he did, that her mother had thought a great deal of out-of-door exercise desirable for her, and guessing that her want of spirits might very probably arise from want of the air and freedom to which she had always been accustomed. The result of his meditations was, that the next morning she was delighted by Gerald's rushing into the school-room, calling out, "Put on your habit, Marian; make haste and put on your habit. You are to have my pony, and I am to have Lionel's, and Edmund is to have Sorell, and we are all to ride together to Chalk Down!"
How fast Marian obeyed the summons may well be believed; and though Gerald's pony was not comparable to Mayflower, it was much to feel herself again in the saddle, with the fresh wind breathing on her checks, and Edmund by her side. Par and joyously did they ride; so far, that Gerald was tired into unusual sleepiness all the evening; but Marian was but the fresher and brighter, full of life and merriment, which quite surprised her cousins.
But visits, alas! are fleeting things, and Edmund's last day at Oakworthy came only too soon. Precious as it was, it was for the most part devoted to business with Mr. Lyddell, though he sent Marian a message that he hoped for a walk with her and her brother in the afternoon.
The hour came, but not the man; and while Caroline and Clara went out with Miss Morley, Marian sat down with a book to wait for him. In about an hour's time the boys came to tell her they were going to the pond with Walter.
"O Gerald, won't you wait for Edmund?"
"I have waited till I am tired. I cannot stay in this whole afternoon, and I do not think he will come this age."
"He is shut up in the study with papa," said Lionel; "I heard their voices very loud, as if they were in such a rage."
"I wish I could see them," said Johnny, "it would be such fun."
Away ran the boys, leaving Marian in a state of wonder and anxiety, but still confident that Edmund would not forget her. She put on her walking dress, and sat down to her book again, but still she was left to wait. The winter twilight commenced, and still no Edmund; steps approached, but not the right ones; and in came the walking party, with a general exclamation of "Poor Marian! what, still waiting?" Miss Morley advised her to take a few turns on the terrace, instead of practising that horrid Mozart. Marian disconsolately went down stairs, looking wistfully at the library door as she went past it, and, at a funeral pace, promenaded along the terrace. As she passed beneath the window of Caroline's room, a head was popped out, and a voice sang—
"So, sir, you're come at last, I thought you'd come no more, I've waited with my bonnet on from one till half-past four! You know I sit alone—"
At that moment, Edmund himself was seen advancing from the door; the song ended in a scream of laughter and dismay, and the window was hastily shut. Edmund smiled a little, but very little, and said, "True enough, I am afraid I have used you very ill."
"Tiresome affairs," said Marian, looking up into his harassed face. "I hope they have not made your head ache?"
"I have been worried, but it is not the fault of the affairs, I wish you had not lost your walk," added he abruptly, beginning to stride on so fast that she could scarcely keep up with him, and apparently forgetting her presence entirely in his own engrossing thoughts. She watched him intently as she toiled to keep by his side, longing, but not daring, to inquire what was the matter. At last he broke out into a muttered exclamation, "destitute of all principle! all labour in vain!"
"This whole day have I been at it, trying to bring him to reason about that farm!"
"What? Did he wish the Dissenter to have it?"
"He saw no objection—treated all I said as the merest moonshine!"
"What? all the annoyance to the Wortleys, and the mischief to the poor people!" exclaimed Marian, "Why, we should have a meeting-house!"
"Nothing more likely, in the Manor field, and fifty pounds subscribed—all for the sake of toleration and Gerald's interests."
"You don't mean that he has done it?" said Marian, alarmed, and not quite understanding Edmund's tone of irony, "Cannot you prevent it?"
"I have prevented It; I said that, with my knowledge of my uncle's intentions, I could never feel justified in consenting to sign the lease."
"And that puts a stop to it? Oh, I am very glad. But I suppose he was very angry?"
"I never saw a man more so. He said he had no notion of sacrificing Gerald's interest to party feeling."
"How could it be for Gerald's interest to bring Dissenters to Fern Torr? I am sure it would be very disagreeable. I thought it, was quite wrong to have any dealings with them."
"He has been popularity-hunting too long to have many scruples on that score."
Marian could not help triumphing. "Well, Edmund, I am glad you have come to my opinion at last. I knew you would not like the Lyddells when you knew them better."
"I never was much smitten with them," said Edmund, abruptly, as if affronted at the imputation of having liked them.
"But Edmund," cried Marian, standing still in the extremity of her amazement, "what have you been about all this time? Have you not been telling me it is all my own fault that I do not get on with them?"
He was silent for a little while; and then turning round half-way, as people do when much diverted, he broke out into a hearty fit of laughter. "It is plain," said he, at last, "that nature never designed me for a young lady's counsellor."
"What do you mean, Edmund?"
"I suspect I have done mischief," said Edmund, after a little consideration, "and I believe all that remains to be done is to tell you all, and come down from my character of Mentor, which certainly I have not fulfilled particularly well."
"I am sure I do not understand you," said Marian.
"Well, then," said Edmund, speaking in a more free and unembarrassed tone than he had used since he had been at Oakworthy, "this is the fact of the matter, as Mrs. Cornthwayte would say, Marian. I always thought it very unlucky that you were obliged to live here; but as it could not be helped, and I really knew nothing against the Lyddells, there was no use in honing and moaning about it beforehand, so I tried to make the best of it. Well, I came here, and found things as bad as I expected, and was very glad to find you steady in the principles we learnt at home. Still, I thought you deficient in kindly feeling towards them, and inclined to give way to repining and discontent, and I think you allowed I was not far wrong. To-day, I must allow, I was off my guard, and have made a complete mess of all my prudence."
"O, I am very glad of it," said Marian. "I understand you now, and you are much more like yourself."
"Yes, it was a very unsuccessful attempt," said Edmund, again laughing at himself, "and I am very glad it is over; for I have been obliged to be the high and mighty guardian all this time, and I am very tired of it;" and he yawned.
"Then you don't like them any better than I do," repeated Marian, in a tone of heartfelt satisfaction.
"Stop, stop, stop; don't think that cousin Edmund means to give you leave to begin hating them."
"Hating them? O no! but now you will tell me what I ought to do, since there is no possibility of getting away from them."
"No, there is no possibility," said Edmund, considering; "I could not ask the Marchmonts again, though they did make the offer in the first fulness of their hearts. Besides, there are objections; I should not feel satisfied to trust you to so giddy a head as Selina's. No, Marian, it cannot be helped; so let us come to an understanding about these same Lyddells."
"Well, then, why is it that we do not do better? I know there are faults on my side; but what are the faults on theirs?"
"Marian, I believe the fault to be that they do not look beyond this present life," said Edmund, in a grave, low tone.
Marian thought a little while, and then said, "Caroline does, but I see what you mean with the others."
"Then your conduct should be a witness of your better principles," said Edmund. "You may stand on very high ground, and it entirely depends on yourself whether you maintain that position, or sink down to their level."
"O, but that is awful!" cried Marian; and then in a tone of still greater dismay, "and Gerald? O, Edmund, what is to become of him?"
"I must trust him to you, Marian."
"You have great influence over him, and that, rightly used, may be his safeguard. Many a man has owed everything to a sister's influence." Then, as Marian's eye glistened with somewhat of tender joy and yet of fear, he went on, "But take care; if you deteriorate, he will be in great danger; and, on the other hand, beware of obstinacy and rigidity in trifles—you know what I mean—which might make goodness distasteful to him."
"O, worse and worse, Edmund! What is to be done? If I can do him so much harm, I know I can do him very little good; and what will it be when he is older, and will depend less on what I say?"
"He will always depend more on what you do than on what you say."
"But what can I do? all the schoolboy temptations that I know nothing about. And Elliot—O, Edmund! think of Elliot, and say if it is not dreadful that Mr. Lyddell should have the management of our own Gerald? Papa never could have known—"
"I think, while he is still so young, that there is not much harm to be apprehended from that quarter," said Edmund; "afterwards, I believe I may promise you that he shall not be left entirely to Oakworthy training."
"And," said Marian, "could you not make him promise to keep away from the stables? Those men—and their language—could you not, Edmund?"
"I could, but I would not," said Edmund. "I had rather that, if he transgresses, he should not break his word as well as run into temptation. There is no such moral crime in going down to the stables, as should make us willing to oblige him to take a vow against it."
"Would it not keep him out of temptation?"
"Only by substituting another temptation," said Edmund. "No, Marian; a boy must be governed by principles, and not by promises."
"Principles—people are always talking of them, but I don't half understand what they are," said Marian.
"The Creed and the Ten Commandments are what I call principles," said Edmund.
"But those are promises, Edmund."
"You are right, Marian; but they are not promises to man."
"I could do better if I had any one to watch me, or care about me," said Marian.
Edmund's face was full of sadness. "We—I mean you, are alone indeed, Marian; but, depend upon it, it is for the best. We might be tempted not to look high enough, and you have to take heed to yourself for Gerald's sake."
"I do just sometimes feel as I ought," said Marian; "but it is by fits and starts. O, Edmund, I would give anything that you were not going."
"It is too late now," said Edmund, "and there are many reasons which convince me that I ought not to exchange. In a year or two, when I have my promotion, I hope to return, and then, Marian, I shall find you a finished young lady."
"Poor child," said Edmund, laughing.
"And you are going home," said Marian, enviously.
"Home, yes," said Edmund, in a tone which seemed as if he did not think himself an object of envy.
"Yes, the hills and woods," said Marian, "and the Wortleys."
"Yes, I am very glad to go," said Edmund. "Certainly even the being hackneyed cannot spoil the beauty or the force of those lines of Gray's."
"What, you mean, 'Ah! happy hills; ah! pleasing shade?'"
"Yes," said Edmund, sighing and musing for some minutes before he again spoke, and then it was very earnestly. "Marian, you must not go wrong, Gerald must not—with such parents as yours——." Marian did not answer, for she could not; and presently he added, "It does seem strange that such care as my uncle's should have been given to me, and then his own boy left thus. But, Marian, you must watch him, you must guard him. If you are in real difficulty or doubt how to act, you have the Wortleys; and if you see anything about which you are seriously uneasy with regard to him, write to me, and I will do my utmost, little as that is."
"Yes, yes, I am glad to be sure of it," said Marian.
"Well, I am glad to have had this talk," said Edmund. "I did you injustice, Marian; you are fit to be treated as a friend: but you must forgive me, for it cost me a good deal to try to be wise with you."
"I think you have seemed much wiser since you left it off," said Marian, "Somehow, though I was glad to hear you, it did not comfort me or set me to rights before."
Edmund and Marian could have gone on for hours longer, but it was already quite dark; and the sound of Elliot's whistle approaching warned them that one was coming who would little understand their friendship,—why the soldier should loiter with the little girl, or why the young girl should cling to the side of her elder cousin. They went in-doors, and hastened different ways; they saw each other again, but only in full assembly of the rest of the family. And at last, soon after breakfast the nest morning, Marian stood in the hall, watching Edmund drive from the door; and while her face was cold, pale, and still as ever, her heart throbbed violently, and her throat felt as if she was ready to choke. She heard of him at Fern Torr, she heard of him at Portsmouth, she heard of his embarkation; and many and many a lonely moment was filled up with tears of storm and tempest; of fever and climate, of the lion and of the Caffre.
"Child of the town! for thee, alas! Glad nature spreads nor tree or grass; Birds build no nests, nor in the sun Glad streams come singing as they run. Thy paths are paved for five long miles, Thy groves and hills are peaks and tiles, Thy fragrant air is yon thick smoke, Which shrouds thee like a mourning cloak."
And so Edmund was gone! But he had bequeathed to Marian a purpose and an object, which gave her a spirit to try hard and feel out a way for herself in this confused tangle of a world around, her. She was happier, though perhaps more anxious; for now it was not mere vague dislike and discontent, but a clearer perception both of the temptations around and of the battle required of her.
In January the whole family went to London, the object of many of Marian's terrors. Caroline and Clara were both sorry to go, and the boys lamented exceedingly; Lionel saying it was very hard that the last two months before his going to school should be spent boxed up there, with nothing to do. Indeed the life of the schoolroom party was here more monotonous than that at Oakworthy; for besides the constant regularity of lessons, there was now no variety in the walks; they only paced round the square, or on fine days went as far as the park.
And then there were the masters! Marian was in a state of great fear, under the anticipation of her first lessons from them; but the reality proved much better than she had expected. To be sure, she disliked the dancing with all her heart, and made no great figure in music; but people were patient with her, and that was a great comfort; and then she thoroughly liked and enjoyed the lessons in languages and in drawing. There were further advantages in the London life, upon which she had not calculated, for here she was nobody, less noticed than Caroline, seldom summoned to see visitors, and, when she went into the drawing-room, allowed to remain in the back-ground as much as she pleased; so that, though her eye pined for green trees and purple hills, and her ear was wearied with the never-ceasing sound of wheels, London so far exceeded her expectations, that she wrote to Agnes, that, "if there were no smoke, and no fog, and no streets, and no people, there would be no great harm in it, especially if there was anything for the boys to do."
The boys were certainly to be pitied; in a house smaller than Oakworthy, and without the occupations out of doors to which they had been accustomed, edicts of silence were more ineffectual than ever, and yawns became painfully frequent. Every one's temper fell into an uncomfortable state of annoyance and irritation; Miss Morley, instead of her usual quiet, piteous way of reproving, was fretful; Caroline was sharp; Clara sometimes rude like the boys, sometimes cross with them; even Marian was now and then tormented into a loss of temper, when there was no obtaining the quiet which she, more than the others, needed in order to learn a lesson properly. Each day Lionel grew more unruly, chiefly from the want of occupation, leading the other two along with him; and each day the female portion of the party grew more inclined to fretfulness, as they felt their own helplessness. It even came to consultations between Miss Morley and Caroline whether they must not really tell of the boys: but the evil day was always put off till "next time."
Gerald was riotous when Lionel and John made him so, but not often on his own account; and he had more resources of his own than they had. His drawing was a great amusement to him, though rather in a perverse way; for he would not be induced to take lessons of the master, seldom drew at the right time, or in the right place, and frequently in the wrong ones.
"I never can learn except when I am drawing," he said, and his slate was often so filled with designs, that the sums were jostled into the narrowest possible space, while his Latin grammar was similarly adorned. There sat the Muse in full beauty, enthroned upon Parnassus, close to musa musae; magister had a wig, and dominus a great rod; while the extraordinary physiognomies round facies faciei would have been worthy of any collection of caricatures. Moreover the illustrations of the verb amo commemorated the gentleman who was married on Sunday, killed his wife on Wednesday, and at the preter-pluperfect tense was hanged on Saturday. Other devices were scattered along the margin, and peeped out of every nook—old men's heads, dogs, hunters, knights, omnibuses; and the habit of drawing so grew upon him, that when he was going to read any book where scribbling was insufferable, Marian generally took the precaution of putting all pencils out of reach.
She often warned him to take care of the school-room Atlas; but, incited by Lionel, he could not resist the temptation of putting a pipe in the mouth of the Britannia who sat in a corner of the map of England. This pipe she carefully rubbed out, but not till it had received from the others a sort of applause which he took as encouragement to repeat the offence; and when next Marian looked at Britannia, she found the pipe restored, and a cocked hat on the lion's head. Again there was much merriment; and though Miss Morley, more than once, told Gerald this would never do, and he really must not, she could not help laughing so much, that he never quite believed her to be in earnest, and proceeded to people the world with inhabitants by no means proportioned to the size of their countries. John-o'-Groat and his seven brothers took possession of their house, Turks paraded in the Mediterranean, and in the large empty space in the heart of Africa, Baron Munchausen caused the lion to leap down the crocodile's throat.
It was about this time that Marian was one day summoned to the drawing-room at an unusual time, and found Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell both there looking exceedingly gracious. "Here is a present for you, Marian," said the former, putting into her hands a large thin parcel.
"For me! O thank you!" said Marian, too much surprised and embarrassed to make much of her thanks; nor did her wonder diminish as, unfolding the paper, she beheld a blue watered silk binding, richly embossed, with the title of "The Wreath of Beauty," and soon there lay before her, in all the smoothness of India paper and mezzotint, a portrait, beneath which she read the name of Selina, Viscountess Marchmont.
"Selina!" repeated she, in the extremity of her amazement.
"Yes," said Mr. Lyddell, resting there in expectation of renewed and eager acknowledgements; but all he received was this—"Can that be Selina?"
"It is said to be a very good likeness," said Mrs. Lyddell.
"O!" cried Marian, and there she checked herself.
"Mr. Lyddell was quite struck with the resemblance to you," added Mrs. Lyddell.
The astonishment of Marian's glance was greater than ever, but here she bethought herself that Mr. Lyddell had intended to give her great pleasure, and that she was very ungrateful; whereupon the room seemed to swim round with her in her embarrassment, and with a great effort she stammered out something about his being very kind, and her being very much obliged to him; and then, perceiving that she ought to add more, in order to satisfy that judge of politeness, Mrs. Lyddell, she said that it was a long time since she had seen Lady Marchmont, and that she could not so well judge of the likeness; and then she bore it away to sigh and wonder over it unrestrainedly with Gerald.
No wonder the Lyddells were surprised, for Lady Marchmont's portrait was incomparably the most beautiful in the book; the classical regularity of the features, the perfect form of nose and chin, the lovely lip, and the undulating line of the hair, all were exquisite; the turn of the long neck, the pose of the tall graceful figure, and the simple elegance of the dress, were such as to call for great admiration. But all that Marian saw was an affectation in that twisted position,—a straining round of the eyes, and a kind of determination at archness of expression in the mouth. Where was the merry, artless, sweet-looking Selina she remembered, whose yet unformed though very pretty features had faded from her memory, and left only the lively, good-natured expression which, here she sought in vain?
"O Selina, Selina, can you be like this'?" exclaimed she; "and to think of their saying I am like it! I am sure I hope one is as true as the other."
Gerald drew his face into a horrible caricature of the expression in the portrait, and set his sister laughing.
"I hope I shall never see her If she has grown like it," said she, sighing.
"I should take the stick to her if she was," said Gerald.
"I am afraid it must be too true," said Marian, "or she would never allow herself to be posted up in this absurd way. I wonder Lord Marchmont allows it!"
"I'll tell you, Marian," said the sympathising Gerald, "if I had ten beauties for my wife—"
"Ten beauties! O, Gerald!"
"Well, one ten times as beautiful as Selina, I mean; I would cure her of vanity well; for I would tell her that, if she chose to have her picture drawn in this Book of Beauty, it should only be with a ring through her nose, and two stars tattooed on her cheeks."
"And a very good plan too," said Marian, laughing; "but I am afraid poor Selina cannot be in such good hands. See, here are the impertinent people writing verses about her, as if they had any business to ask her what she is thinking about. Listen, Gerald; did you ever hear such stuff?"
"Lady, why that radiant smile, Matching with that pensive brow, Like sunbeams on some mountain pile Glowing on solemn heights of snow?
"Lady, why that glance of thought, Joined to that arch lip of mirth, Like shade by fleecy cloudlet brought Over some paradise of earth?
"Yea, thou may'st smile, the world for thee Is opening all its fairest bowers; Yet in that earnest face I see These may not claim thy dearest hours.
"But for thy brow, thy smile we deem The gladsome mirth of fairy sprite; But for thy smile, thy mien would seem Some angel's from the world of light.
"Yet laughing lip and thoughtful brow Are depths and gleams of mortal life; Angel and fay, of us art thou, Then art a woman and a wife!"
"What would they have her to be? a husband?" said Gerald.
Here Caroline and Clara came hastily in, eager to see the portrait and read the verses, and very far were they from being able to imagine why she did not like the portrait. Caroline owned that there might be a little affectation, but she thought the beauty very considerable; and as to Clara, she was in raptures, saying she never did see any one half so lovely. And as to the verses, they were the sweetest things she ever read; and she carried them off to show to Miss Morley, who fully sympathised with her. Marian found no one to share her opinion but Gerald and Lionel, and their criticisms were unsparingly extended to Lady Marchmont's features, as well as her expression, "Such mincing lips! such untidy hair! Hollo! who has given her a black eye?" till they had not left her a single beauty.
Marian hoped the subject was quite forgotten, when she had hidden away the book under all her others: but the nest time there was a dinner-party, Mrs. Lyddell desired her to fetch it, to show to some one who knew Lady Marchmont. She took it up stairs again us soon as she could, but again and again was she obliged to bring it, and condemned to hear it talked over and admired. One day when she was going wearily and reluctantly up stairs, she was arrested by a call from Lionel, who was creeping up outside the balusters in a fashion which had no recommendation but its extreme difficulty and danger.
"Eh, Marian, what, going after beauty again?"
"I wish it was Beauty and the Beast," said Marian, disconsolately. "There are different tastes in the world, that is certain; but don't break that neck of yours, Lionel."
Lionel replied by letting go with one hand and brandishing that and his foot over the giddy space below. Marian frowned and squeezed up her lips, but did not speak till it pleased him to draw himself in again, and throw himself over the balusters before her, saying, "That is a reward for you, Marian; Clara would have screeched."
The next time Marian was desired to fetch the book, it was for a morning visitor,—a broad, stately, pompous old lady, who had had the pleasure of meeting Lady Marchmont, and thought Miss Arundel very like her.
"Are you going after beauty?" said Lionel, again meeting Marian on the stairs.
"Yes," said Marian, with a sigh.
"Well, I hope she will be pleased, that's all," said Lionel.
Marian thought there was a meaning in this speech, but she was in haste, and without considering it, ran down stairs again. As she was opening the drawing-room door, she saw Gerald on the top of the stairs, calling to her, "Marian, have you that book? O, wait—"
"I cannot come now, Gerald," said she, entering the room, and shutting the door after her. She laid the book on the table, and the page was opened.
"O beautiful!" exclaimed the old lady, "How exact a likeness!"
"Why, Marian!" broke involuntarily from Mrs. Lyddell, and Marian, looking at the print, could, in spite of her dismay, hardly keep from laughing; for the elegant Lady Marchmont now appeared decorated with a huge pair of mustachios, an elaborate jewelled ring in the nose, and a wavy star on each cheek, and in the middle of the forehead; while over the balustrade on which she was leaning there peeped a monster with grotesque eyes, a pair of twisted horns, a parrot's beak, vulture's claws, and a scaly tail stretching away in complicated spires far into the distance. No one could for a moment doubt that this was Gerald's work, and Marian felt sure that he had been thereto incited by Lionel. Extreme was her consternation at the thought of the displeasure which he had incurred; but in the mean time there was something very amusing in the sight of the old lady beginning to perceive that something was wrong, and yet not able to make it out, and not choosing to own her difficulties. Mrs. Lyddell, though vexed and angry, carried it off very well. "Ah! some mischief of the boys," said she, decidedly. "I am afraid it is not fit to be seen." And so saying, she closed the book, and changed the conversation.
As soon as the visitor had taken leave, the scene was changed; Mrs. Lyddell walked hastily to the table, threw open the book, and began to examine into the degree of damage it had suffered. "I suppose you know nothing of this, Marian?" said she, surveying her with one of her quickest and most formidable glances.
"O no," said Marian; "I am sure I am very sorry."
"Well, I must inquire about it," said Mrs. Lyddell, taking up the book, and hastening towards the school-room, followed by poor Marian, trembling with all her heart for her brother, and somewhat for Lionel, even though she could not help being angry with him for having got Gerald into such a scrape.
There stood the boys, looking partly exulting, partly frightened; Lionel a little more of the first, Gerald a little more of the second; for this was Gerald's first desperate piece of mischief, whereas Lionel had survived many such. Besides, Gerald's handiwork was too evident to be mistaken, while his companion's part in the folly could be known to no one; and though it might be guessed at by Marian, Lionel thought she might be trusted.