"Gorgeous dames and statesmen bold In bearded majesty appear."
Amy Robsart, Katherine Seymour, Anne Clifford, Frances Walsingham, Mildred Cecil, and other ladies of the time were mentioned, and then came the counting up of their eight living representatives,—the two Misses Faulkner, Caroline, yes, and Clara herself, who started and danced with ecstasy, then glanced entreatingly at her mother, who looked doubtful; Marian, two cousins of the Faulkners, who were always ready for anything, and a Miss Mordaunt, were reckoned up, and their dresses quickly discussed; but all the time Marian said not a word. She was thinking of the waste of time and consideration, the folly, levity and vanity, the throwing away of money, all this would occasion, and enjoying in her own mind the pleasure of resisting it in toto. She supposed she must go to the archery meeting, though why people could not be contented to shoot on their own lawns, instead of spoiling their pleasure by all this fuss, she could not guess; but make a show of herself and her shooting, be stared at by all the world,—that she would never do. Nor would she make a figure of herself at the ball, and spend the money which she wanted very much for her poor people and her books, now that her court dress and London finery had eaten up such an unconscionable share of her allowance. Increased as it was, she had never felt so poor as at present; she wanted Mrs. Jameson's "Sacred and Legendary Art" for herself, and there were all the presents to be sent to the old people at Fern Torr; and should these be given up for the sake of appearing as the fair Anne Clifford, or some such person, for one evening, during which she would be feeling most especially unnatural and uncomfortable? No indeed! and she trusted that she had a very good and sufficient defence against all such foolery, in the slight mourning which she was wearing for one of the Marchmont connection. True, she had thought of leaving it off next Sunday, but no matter; it would be such armour as was not to be lightly parted with; and if she went to the ball at all, it should never, never be as the heiress of the Cliffords, but as the faithful mourning relation of old Mr. Thomas Marchmont, her second cousin once removed, whom she had never beheld in her life, and who would have been dead at least nine weeks by the time it took place.
She said nothing about it in the drawing-room; but when they went up stairs, she told Caroline not to reckon upon her, for she should be in mourning, and could not wear a fancy dress. Caroline looked much vexed. "It was a great pity," she said, "and Julia Faulkner wished it to be all their own set. Besides, would not Marian shoot,—she who did it so well?"
"O, no, no, I could do no such thing with all those people staring."
"Not even for a silver arrow? You would be sure to win it."
"I should be ashamed of the very sight of it ever after. O no! I should like—at least I should not mind seeing it all as a spectator, but as to making a part of the show, never, never, Caroline!"
"Well, I know it is of no use to try to persuade you!" said Caroline, with a little annoyance in her tone. "Good night."
Lady Julia, with her son and daughter, came to call the next day. Marian thought herself fortunate in not being in the drawing-room. She put on her bonnet, slipped out at the garden door, and walked away with a book in her hand, to the remotest regions of the park, where she sat down under a thorn-tree, and read Schiller's Thirty Years' War with a sort of exemplary diligence and philosophy, till it was so late that she thought herself perfectly secure of the Faulkners' being gone. Yet she only just missed them, for their carriage was driving off at one door, as she reached the other.
"Where have you been, Marian?" was the first greeting.
"I have been walking to the old thorn."
"O, have you? We hunted for you everywhere in the house: we would hardly believe Fanny when she said you were gone out, for I knew you meant to walk with us."
"I thought you would be engaged so long that it was not worth while to wait for you."
"Well, but did you know you had missed the Faulkners?" said Clara.
"I knew they were here."
Every one understood this except Clara, and very little did it please Mrs. Lyddell or Caroline.
"Marian," said Mrs. Lyddell, "you really must not be so absurd about this matter. Your mourning is nothing. You need not be wearing it even now; and it will annoy Lady Julia, and put her to serious inconvenience, if you continue to refuse."
"I am sure I do not wish to inconvenience her," said Marian; "but there must be many young ladies who would be only too happy to take the part."
"Of course," said Mrs. Lyddell, "any one else would rejoice to be asked; but the point is, that it is so unpleasant to admit any thing of a stranger into the intimacy these things occasion."
"I am almost a stranger to them."
"Yes, but not to us, Marian," said Clara. "You have known them as long, or longer than we have; and you would look so very well. Lady Julia said herself that such a distinguished face and figure as yours would set the whole thing off to advantage."
Caroline well knew this was but the way to make Marian still more determined against it. She held her tongue through all the persuasions of her mother and Clara; and trusting a little, but not much, to the superior influence which she knew herself to possess, she followed Marian to her room, and began,—"Marian, are you still resolute against this unfortunate archery? because, if you do not really think it a matter of right and wrong, I should be very much obliged to you if you would only yield."
It was not so easy to withstand Caroline speaking in this way, as Mrs. Lyddell almost scolding and Clara talking nonsense; but Marian had made up her mind, and would not let herself be shaken. "I don't think I can," was her answer.
"Will you say whether you really think it wrong?"
"I don't know." Not her considering "I don't know," but the dry, provoking end-of-the-matter answer of half sullen days gone by.
"If you really thought it positively wrong," proceeded Caroline, "not another word would I say: but I don't see how you can without condemning all gaeties, and that I know you do not."
"I only think it a—a waste of time—a great deal of nonsense," said Marian, faltering for an answer; "and really I have spent so much money; I do not like to throw away any more."
"O, you do not know how we have settled that," said Caroline, beginning to be hopeful now that she had something tangible to attack. "The dresses for the morning will be nothing,—only a white skirt and green polka, which will do to wear for ever after, and a little ruff, very pretty, and no expense at all; and a little alteration will make our court dresses perfectly suitable for Queen Elizabeth's ladies. You need not be at all afraid of being ruined."
Marian saw that, though there would be many a little expense to make a mickle one, yet it would still only cost her Mrs. Jameson, instead of the gifts to the poor people; but as this was what chiefly justified her in her own eyes, she would not admit the conviction, and answered, "Those things that are altered and adapted really are as costly in the end as if they were new altogether. Besides, I could not, I really could not shoot before such an assembly."
"I should so like to see you get the arrow."
"O Caroline, that would be worse than anything!"
"Well, then, don't get it; shoot as badly as you please: only do be kind and make one of us, or you will spoil the whole concern."
"How can that be? What difference can my dressing up or shooting make to any one?"
"Why, for one thing, if you are not one, as you must be, living with us and all, Julia will be obliged to ask that Miss Grimley; don't you know her?"
"What, that old young lady who has been figuring in the newspaper so long as getting all the archery prizes?"
"Yes, the veteran archer, as Elliot calls her; and Mr. Faulkner says, if she appears in character at all, it must be as Queen Elizabeth herself dancing a stately pavise to the sound of the little fiddle. She is some connection of theirs, and must be asked, if you will not take it; and she is almost as bad as Queen Elizabeth herself, and will give none of us any peace about the dresses, O Marian! Julia said she should esteem it as a real kindness from you if you would be Lady Anne, if only for the sake of keeping her out!"
"I think it would be very absurd for a person who hates the whole concern to be dragged in, for the sake of keeping out one who likes it!"
"Then you are still resolved? Well, I had not much expectation, but still I was half inclined to hope you would relent, if you did not think it a point of principle, when you knew that it would be a real favor to me."
"To you, Caroline! you do not care for such trumpery."
"I do care about seeing my friends mortified and vexed," said Caroline, mournfully.
"Your friends!" exclaimed Marian, in a voice of contempt.
"Yes, as much as kindness can make them."
"And esteem? O Caroline!"
"Kindness—readiness to oblige," repeated Caroline.
"They are my friends, and I am very fond of them."
Caroline went away without another word, and Marian felt that her words implied that she preferred readiness to oblige, to rigid, unbending superiority in goodness. Marian felt it, and was disappointed in Caroline, and pleased to have kept her determination, without asking herself how far it was satisfied pride in obstinacy.
This was the last time for many weeks that Caroline lingered talking in Marian's room. The old chill had come on again. Both knew, though neither said so, that it was not so much because it was a display and expense that Marian refused, as because it was the Faulkners' party. If it had been Lady Marchmont's, it would have been very different. Now Caroline liked the Faulkners; they were all good natured, and much more agreeable than any others in the neighbourhood—than any, indeed, with whom she had yet been brought into close intercourse. She thought Marian was unjust and ungracious, both to them and to her; that she had been prejudiced from the first, and now was very decidedly making herself disagreeable by a rigidity in trifles, which was almost positive unkindness. Caroline's home, as has been shown, was neither a very happy, nor a very satisfactory one; so that of late she had learnt to look upon her brother Walter and Marian as her chief comforts, and was now much more hurt and disappointed at Marian's conduct than she was willing to show. It was particularly unfortunate just at this time, when there was so much to invite and gratify her at High Down, when she was in especial need of a true and affectionate friend and counsellor, and when Walter was absent, being engaged in preparing for his ordination, which was to take place in the course of the autumn.
Mrs. Lyddell was much displeased with Marian, and showed it by her coldness and formality; and Marian began to live more alone with herself, and at war with the outer world, than she had done even before Edmund's first visit five years ago. Caroline and Clara were a great deal with the Faulkners, either at High Down or at home. Clara was in a perfect transport at being admitted into the number of the archeresses, and had struck up one of her eternal friendships with Louisa, the second Miss Faulkner; and Marian might very fairly be provoked at seeing how entirely her mind was diverted from all the rationality which she and Caroline had been endeavouring—and as they had hoped, not without success—to infuse into her during the past year. To get Clara to settle quietly down to anything was an utter impossibility; her wisest employment was the study of Elizabethan costumes, her most earnest, the practice of archery. Now Marian always maintained that archery, on their own lawn, and among themselves, was a very pretty sport; and for the sake of consistency with her own principles, she very diligently shot whenever the Faulkners were not there, and did her very best, by precept and example, to make Clara fit her arrows to the string in her own direct and purpose-like way, draw the bow-string to her ear with a steady effort and aim, instead of a fitful jerk or twitch; and in fact shoot, if she was to shoot, like a sensible woman, who really intended damage to the target. Clara was very much obliged, and made some progress; but Marian thus did herself little good with any one else, for her love of the sport, and her excellence at it, made her spirit of disdain all the more marked. Clara, was again, as in former times, her chief friend in the family; for Marian, after the first vexation, held her sense too cheap to blame her for her folly. It was the fault of the others that she had been put in the way of what could not fail to turn her head; so she listened, without showing many tokens of contempt, to her endless histories of dear Louisa, and all the plans at High Down,—of the witticisms that were perpetrated, the anticipations of amusement and admiration, and of the tracasseries which Miss Grimley had not failed to occasion. Marian was often entertained, and Clara more than once hoped she was on the point of regretting that she was not one of the favoured eight; but nothing could be further from Marian's mind. She did not intend to absent herself either from the archery or from the ball, but she must wear her own character, and no other; and people were allowed to assume fancy dresses or not, just as suited their inclination, so that she was in no fear of rendering herself remarkable.
Caroline and Clara were to go to High Down two days before the great occasion, and stay till the day after; Marian to remain at Oakworthy. Just before they went, Clara danced into her room, saying, "Marian, do you know some of the officers at Portsmouth have been asked to the ball? You know there is a railroad all the way. I wonder if Mr. Arundel will be there?"
"Decidedly not," replied Marian.
"What, not when he knows what an attraction there will be?"
"Don't talk such nonsense, Clara; the idea of thinking a man would take such a journey for a ball! Well, I hope you will be very happy."
"O do come and see my dress, Marian, before it is packed up; it is on mamma's bed, and it is so beautiful!"
Marian came, and admired. Caroline was to be Amy Robsart, and Clara, Janet Foster; a part her mother had chosen for her, as more appropriate to a girl not yet come out. Certainly, Tony Foster would scarcely have recognized his demure little Puritan under the little lace hood, the purple bodice, and white skirt, at which Clara looked with such exultation; and Janet was further to be supposed to have taken possession of the Countess's orient neck-pearls, and was to wear them as the only ornament that could with any propriety be bestowed on her. It happened that Marian had a remarkably fine set of pearls. She had few jewels of any kind; but these had been her grandmother's, and there was some tradition belonging to them which no one ever could remember. Janet's necklace was so much less pretty, that Marian could not help exclaiming that Clara had better wear hers. Clara demurred, for she knew Marian relied on these pearls to help out a dress which had seen more than one London party; but it ended in Marian's having her own way, and being contemptuous at the gratitude with which her loan was received. Yet she was surprised to find that it was a relief to her that Mrs. Lyddell departed a little from her cold politeness, and showed herself really pleased and obliged.
Certainly, if Mrs. Lyddell had not in some degree relaxed, those two days would have been very forlorn. As it was, it was very odd to sit down to dinner with only Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell and Elliot, and to have no one but Mrs. Lyddell to speak to in the drawing-room. She was glad when the day came, to have it over; and she was not sufficiently hard-hearted to regret that it was as fine as could be wished. To High Down they went, and everything was just as Marian had expected,—every one walked about and idled, and wondered when the shooting would begin; and when it did begin, no one paid much attention to it except those who were interested in some of the competitors. Marian watched her pupil anxiously, and Clara, between excitement and nervousness, shot much worse than if she had been in the garden at home, and went so wide of the mark, that Marian was ashamed of her. Caroline did better, but not well; and the prize was of course borne off by Miss Grimley, who was popularly reported to have arrows enough to stock the quivers of two or three cupids.
Clara ran up to Marian, and walked with her a little while; telling her all that had come to pass during the last two days,—a great deal of bustle, and merriment, and nonsense, which Clara seemed to have enjoyed excessively, and of which Marian could have said, "Every one to his taste." Of Caroline she saw little or nothing; and after wandering about in the rear of Mrs. Lyddell, and exchanging a great many cold salutations, and colder sentences of small-talk, she was very glad to find herself once more in the carriage, though it was only to go home, dine and dress for the ball, and then High Down again.
She wore white, with jet ornaments, and a row of pearls round her hair,—the only thing that saved her from being rather shabbily dressed than otherwise. However, Mrs. Lyddell had long since announced that she had done saying anything about Marian's dress, and Fanny had not been a ladies' maid long enough to grow into a tyrant; so that she had her own way, and no one repeated to her, what she knew full well, that her white silk was yellow where it swept the ground, and the lace did not stand out as freshly as once it did.
Mrs. Lyddell and Elliot talked and laughed all the way, quizzing the company very sociably, and both appearing in the highest spirits. Mr. Lyddell was asleep in his corner; Marian with her forehead against the window, and her thoughts with Gerald. They reached High Down in the midst of a stream of carriages; and Marian, in her plain white, had to walk into the ball-room with Elliot, who had completed his offences in her eyes, by daring to assume the dress of Sir Philip Sidney. She soon, however, was free of him, for he liked her as little as she liked him, and moreover had to go and perform his part in the noted Kenilworth quadrille. Marian was left standing by Mrs. Lyddell, as she usually did, through the greater part of a ball; for as she never waltzed, there were few dances in which she could take a part. She had made half the Oakworthy neighbours afraid of her; and Mrs. Lyddell, having found that all activity in the way of being a useful chaperon was thrown away, had acquiesced in leaving her to herself, "doing her justice" sufficient by taking her to the ball.
Marian was entertained by the pageant, as she deemed it. It was a very pretty scene, with so many gay dresses, in the bright light; and it was amusing to recognise her acquaintances in the wonderful costumes some of them had seen fit to assume. She would have liked some one to laugh with, at a shepherdess dancing, crook and all; and she highly appreciated a good-natured old gentleman, who was willing to do anything, however absurd, that could please his friends, and had come out as my grave Lord Keeper himself, with
"His bushy beard and shoe-strings green, His high-crowned hat and satin-doublet."
Caroline looked more like a beauty than she had ever seen her before. Her fair ringlets and white neck had a peculiar elegance, set off by the delicate fan-like ruff, and graceful head-gear of the Countess Amy. The only fault that Marian could find was, that poor Amy never could have looked as if she had so much mind as Caroline's countenance expressed. As to her partner, Marian did not behold him with very different feelings, from those with which she would have regarded the real Earl of Leicester, could she have had one peep at the actual pageant of Kenilworth, with its outward pomp, masking the breaking hearts beneath. Thereupon she fell deep into musings on "Kenilworth," which she had read at home, when, so young and unlearned in novels as not to have a guess at what would happen, when it was all a wonder and fairy-land of delight, and when poor Tressilian's name of Edmund had been his first charm in her eyes, even before she loved him for his deep character and melancholy fate. She thought how unlike all this common-place world was to the world it aped—how far these Raleighs and Sidneys were from being worthy to usurp the name even for one evening! and as to Tressilian, how impossible to see any face here that would even shadow her idea of him! And yet she did not know; she might have to change her mind. There actually was a countenance handsome, thoughtful, almost melancholy enough for Tressilian himself, with the deep dark eyes, pale, clear, sun-burnt, brown complexion, and jetty hair that befitted her hero; a short beard and dark dress would have completed him, but she almost thought it a pity that such a face should appear above a scarlet coat and gold epaulettes.
However, Tressilian had been moving towards the end of the room where she was standing, and was coming so near that she could not study him after the first; so she turned to speak to Miss Faulkner, who had finished her quadrille, and just as a polka was commencing, she was surprised by finding Tressilian himself standing by her, and asking to have the honour of dancing with her.
"Thank you, I don't dance the Polka," she replied; and as she spoke quick flashes of thought crossed her thus—"I have not been introduced to him—I have met him before—how horrid of Tressilian's face to talk of polkas—ha! it is Edmund!"
Edmund Arundel's eye it was that was glancing at her with a look of great amusement at her bewilderment.
"The next quadrille," he proceeded, in the same ceremonious voice.
"O Edmund, Edmund, I did not know you in the least! Who would have thought of seeing you here?"
"Why not? Did you not know we were asked?"
"Asked? yes; but who would have come who could have helped it?"
"I wanted particularly to see you." Then, after speaking to Mrs. Lyddell, he turned to her again, and resumed, "But am I not to have the pleasure of dancing the next quadrille with you?"
"If it is any pleasure to you, I am sure you are very welcome."
"In the mean time, what is the meaning of your not being amongst the performers? You used to be a capital shot."
"I? O, of course I could not shoot before all the world."
"Well, I was in hopes my pupil had been doing me credit; so much so, that I tried very hard to make that lady with the silver arrow into you, and—" as Marian looked at Miss Grimley's thin, freckled face, and reddish, sandy locks, and could not help smiling, he continued, "when that would not quite do, I went on trying to turn each maid of honour into you, till, just as I gave you up, I saw young Dashwood fixed in contemplation; and well he might be, for there was something so majestic as could be nothing but Zenobia, Queen of the East, or Miss Arundel herself."
"Majestic! nonsense! nothing can feel less majestic."
"Then decidedly you are not what you seem."
"I was trying all the time to make you into Tressilian, only your red coat was in the way. You know I never saw you in it before."
"And so you have given up archery?"
"O, no! I shoot at home; only I cannot make a spectacle of myself,—I hate the whole thing so much."
"And you would not wear a fancy dress?"
"You see I am in mourning."
"Why, who is dead?"
"Don't you know? Old Mr. Thomas Marchmont."
"Yes, and his great-grandfather likewise! Well, you certainly are inclined to make the most of your connection with the peerage,"
"Edmund!" and for the first time Marian felt as if she had been making herself more foolish than magnanimous. He gave his arm and they walked along together. He presently began abruptly, "What I came here for was to consult you about a plan for Gerald. You see I shall never get at him unless I have him alone. Now I don't like to take him away from you for the holidays, but I do not see how it is to be managed otherwise."
"I don't do him any good now," said Marian sadly.
"What I thought of was this; I find I can get leave for two months this summer. Now suppose I was to take him to Marchmont's grouse shooting place in Scotland, and about among the Highlands and Islands. Perhaps the pleasure of that excursion would make up for the being carried off by an awful guardian, and those scrambles might bring him to the old footing with me."
"O it would be very nice to have him with you," said Marian; "but——"
"Well, what is the but?"
"I don't know, only would not taking him home be more likely to revive old associations than anything else?"
"No," answered Edmund most decidedly; then in a more hesitating manner, as if casting about for reasons, he added, "I mean he was at home last year—it would not appear so inviting as this expedition—it would be giving every one a great deal of trouble."
"To have the Manor House set to rights—yes—but just a week at the Parsonage—just to revive the old feelings with you. For you to teach him how to behave to the Fern Torr people."
"No," repeated Edmund, "it would not do."
He spoke in a manner that made Marian look up in his face with surprise, and exclaim as if hurt, "Then you are really casting off poor old Fern Torr."
The next moment she was sorry she had said so, for his namesake in "Kenilworth" could never have worn a more melancholy aspect than he, as he answered in a very low voice of deep feeling, "I am the last man in the world to be reproached with too little affection for Fern Torr."
Marian was grieved, surprised, confused, but she had no time to find an answer, for the quadrille was forming, Edmund began a search for vis a vis, and she found herself dancing before she had made up her mind what she should have said if she could have replied at once; but it was too late to return to the subject, and she thought it best to begin entirely another, by asking, the next time they were standing still, how he liked the officers of his new regiment.
"Very much, most of them," replied Edmund; "one or two are particularly nice people."
"Do you like any as well as Captain Gresham or—"
"New friends are not old ones," quickly answered Edmund.
"O no, but if you knew them as well, are there any equally worthy to be liked? I want you to be comfortable there very much, as it is all our fault."
"Don't say any more of that, Marian. Thank you, I am very comfortable—they are a very pleasant set."
"Are there any of them here?"
"Yes, three of them."
L'Ete cut short his speech, and when they paused again he began, "I mean you to dance with Dashwood—there that rosy tall boy standing partnerless behind the lady in a Swiss fly-away cap."
"O I see," said Marian.
"Yes, and don't be high and mighty with him."
"High and mighty, when I am only shy."
"Effects are seen, causes are not equally on the surface."
"Well, he is a very nice right-minded boy, very shy himself; so don't be grand, for I have a great regard for him, and I want him to have a pleasant evening."
Marian was considerably frightened by being told to be agreeable, the thing which of all others she thought the most difficult; but she would attempt anything for the sake of obliging Edmund, and making no answer, consoled herself with thinking how far off the next quadrille was. In the mean time, whilst she danced in the most business-like and least pleasure-like way possible, she was pondering on what she had to say on her own account to her cousin, and when the quadrille was over and he took her to the supper room in quest of ices, she eagerly began, "Then you think me wrong about my fancy dress?"
"Shall I give your own favourite reply?"
"Don't you think it a good thing to avoid all this folly and expense?"
"And to prove Miss Arundel's lofty contempt for finery and foolery?"
"I do not want to set myself up, but how am I to help thinking all this nonsense?"
"A hard question, since no one attempts to say it is far otherwise; but after all, everything in this world is nonsense, except as a means of doing right or wrong."
"And you do not think I made this nonsense a means of doing right?"
"If it had been any body else, I should have admired, but I do not trust you. However I know nothing about it, I cannot judge of the amount of sacrifice. Cream ice or water ice?"
They could not converse any more just then, and in the next polka, Clara, who not being come out, was not well off for partners, was extremely honoured and delighted by being asked to dance by Mr. Arundel. When the turn of a quadrille came round again, Edmund, as good as his word, introduced to Marian his youthful ensign, and she, dreadfully afraid of not obeying Edmund by being agreeable to his friend, set herself to talk with all her might; told him what some of the costumes were intended to represent, speculated as to the others, found him very pleasant, and ended by making him consider his friend's cousin as delightful as she was handsome, and he had been very much impressed with her countenance. She saw Edmund was well pleased to see him looking animated and gratified, and the consequence was that she had to dance with another of his brother officers, and after all it had not been by any means such hard work to be amiable as she was apt to imagine. At any rate she never liked a ball so well, but then she had never met Edmund at any other, which might account for it. After the last quadrille, Mrs. Lyddell summoned her to come home, they took their leave of Caroline and Clara, whom Mrs. Lyddell promised to fetch to-morrow: Lady Julia was particularly full of empressement and affection, delighted that dear Caroline had been looking so lovely. She even came out with them to the cloak-room, where her son was assiduous in shawling Mrs. Lyddell, and all manner of civilities seemed to be passing among them in a low voice, while Edmund having disengaged Marian's shawl from the surrounding drapery, said, as he put it round her, "Then it is settled that I take Gerald and try to do for the best?"
"O if you are so kind—"
"Don's trust too much to it. I will try, which is all I can do."
"No one can do him any good if you cannot."
"Hush! And I must thank you for taking my scolding in such good part."
"I deserved it."
"I have since been thinking you are probably right. I am sure you are in the principle of the thing. It was the particular application that startled me."
Mrs. Lyddell moved on, the carriage was at the door, they were all in it, Elliot of course last, and as he threw himself back in his corner and the door was shut, he exclaimed in a satisfied tone, "Well! he is coming it pretty strong!" Who was coming what? thought Marian, but her suspense did not last long, for Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell both chimed in with exclamations of satisfaction which left no doubt that they were delighting themselves in the prospect of seeing Caroline mistress of High Down. Marian had been in some slight degree prepared for this, she knew Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell would highly approve, nay, consider such a marriage as fulfilling their highest expectations, such an establishment as all that could be wished; and depending as she did on Caroline's principle and right feeling, she was sorry to think how much vexation and worrying was in store for her. As she sat disregarded and forgotten through that long dark drive, hearing all the eager gratulations and anticipations of her three companions, regarding a marriage which she could not think of without a sort of horror, how did she despise them, feel imprisoned, and long to make her escape. She had not the least doubt as to what Caroline would do; her rejection of such a man was a matter of certainty; but Marian was vexed with her for having allowed herself to become so intimate with the Faulkners, and thought she had brought on herself all the annoyances that would follow.
Tired, irritated, excited, Marian was very glad to escape from the carriage, wish the rest good night, and run up to her own room. She sat before her glass, slowly brushing out her long dark hair, and trying to bring home her feverish thoughts, and dwell on what had passed, especially with Edmund, on whom she had not yet had time to think, and of all those hints of his, as to her behaviour in this matter. Had he approved it or not? or would he if he had known all the circumstances? There was something that struck her a good deal in his saying "I cannot judge of the amount of sacrifice." Had it been a sacrifice to wear a plain dress, to abstain from archery? It would have been, to Clara, but was it to her? and as she looked at the two grey volumes, with their store of pretty engravings and pleasant reading which lay on her table, and thought that they were her own for life, and that Anne Clifford's dress would now be laid aside and useless for ever after the archery prize, if she had won it, would be worthless, and the admiration, had she valued it, passed from her ears, she could not feel, for one instant, that it had been a sacrifice. Then again came his words, "every thing in this world is nonsense, except as a means of doing right or wrong." Yes, pretty books, pleasant pictures, taste and intellect were in themselves as little precious as dress and finery, things as fleeting when compared with eternity, except so far as they trained the soul and the higher faculties which might endure for ever. She thought of "Whether there he prophecies, they shall fail, whether there be tongues, they shall cease, whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away." All was a shadow except that charity which never faileth, a beautiful picture, even as a costly dress! the way we treat these things alone enduring. Her head throbbed as she tried to be certain as to whether she had acted right. If the dress had required the money set apart for the poor she would have been perfectly clear about it, but she knew it need not have done so. Would her vanity have been gratified? Decidedly not—admiration of her face was so distasteful to her proud shrinking bashfulness, that she felt it like an insult when reported to her, and could almost have wished not to be so handsome, if it had not been more agreeable to an artist-like eye to see a tolerable physiognomy in the glass, when obliged to look there, and besides she would not but be like the Arundels, and was well satisfied with the consciousness of having their features, as indeed she would have been if their noses had been turned up and their "foreheads villainous low." If her vanity was gratified, it was by standing apart from, and being able to look down on the rest of the world; and as Marian became conscious of this, her mind turned from it with the vexation of spirit, the disgust and sensation of dislike, and willingness to forget all about it, that every one is apt to feel with regard to a vanity passed away—something analogous to the contempt and dislike with which we turn from the withered shreds of tangible vanity, faded and crumpled artificial flowers, and tumbled gauze ribbon when disinterred from some dusty and forgotten corner. No feeling is much more unpleasant than the loathing of an old vanity; and though this of Marian's was not yet old, yet that touch of Edmund's which had shown her how he regarded her "high-and-mightiness," had made her very much ashamed of it. Then came the question whether it was, after all, self-will that had actuated her, pride and self-will, leading her contrary to every one's wishes, where she was not sure that she was fulfilling a duty. Again, on the other hand, there was this point about the Faulkner family, her dislike to them was founded on principle; indeed it was not dislike, for she allowed their agreeableness of manner, it was disapproval; it was determination not to enter into anything approaching to intimate acquaintance with a man whom she believed to be little better than an infidel. If Edmund knew this, would not he think her right? But then to be consistent, she should not have accepted his hospitality in any degree; she ought not to have gone to the ball, nor ever to have dined at his house. How far was she called on to set her face against him, how far was she independent, how far was obedience to the Lyddells a duty? This must be for a question for Edmund another time, and she hoped that Caroline's refusal would put an end to the intercourse. Nor were these all her reflections. She thought of Edmund and his kindness to Gerald, and the hopes, nay the confidence which it revived in her, setting her mind fully at rest about her precious brother, for in spite of Edmund's despondency, she could not help trusting entirely to the renewal of his influence; for who was like Edmund? Who so entirely treated, as well as spoke of, the world as nothing except as a means of doing right or wrong?
But then that he should be out of spirits, as she had more plainly than ever perceived to-night, in spite of the gaiety he had at first assumed, his manner of replying when she pressed him to go to Fern Torr, and his absolute avoidance of it, struck and puzzled her much as well as grieved her. She knew his loneliness, and could understand that he might be melancholy, but why he should shrink from the home he so loved was beyond what she could fathom.
She knew Clara would laugh at her for his having come so many miles on her account. Yes, quite sure that it was nonsense. Edmund had talked of coming to see her, so openly, he had laughed at and blamed her so uncompromisingly, that she had no doubt that he had not the least inclination to fall in love with her. She had the best of elder brothers in him, and he would take care of Gerald, and, happy in her confidence she fell asleep.
"What is that which I should turn to, lighting upon days like these? Every door is barr'd with gold and opens but to golden keys. * * * * * "Yearning for the large excitement that the coming years would yield, Eager hearted as a boy when he first leaves his father's field."
Marian was not up much later than usual the next morning, but she had a long time to wait for the rest of the party. She read, wrote, drew, tried to busy herself as usual all the morning, but whether it was that she was tired with her ball, or that she was anxious about Caroline, she did not prosper very much, and grew restless and dissatisfied. She wished she knew whether she had done right, she wished she could feel that she had been kind and accommodating.
Her head was dull and heavy from the struggle to occupy herself when her mind was full, and after luncheon she tried to drive her stupidity away by a very long ride. Groom and horses were always at her service, as a part of Mrs. Lyddell's justice to her, and off she set, in search of breezes, to the highest and furthest downs, by her attainable. On she went, cantering fast, feeling her power over her spirited pony, letting the summer sun shine full on her face, and the wind, when she had ridden where she could meet it, stream in a soft ripple round her head, like the waves of the summer tide. She rode far enough to attain the object she had proposed to herself, namely, to look down on Salisbury spire, pointing up in its green valley with the fresh meadows around it, giving a sense of refreshment, repose and holy influence, which her eye carried to her mind. Good men had raised that pile, had knelt there, sung in praise there, and now lay asleep within its grey walls and shady cloisters; men and women who had been to the full as much wearied and perplexed with sin and worldliness around them as she could ever feel; they had struggled through, their worn and fainting hearts had rested there, and now their time of peace was come. Why should it not be so with her?
Ah! but things were changed; in their time there was energy; there were great crimes indeed, but the Church was active. The bad was very bad, but the good was very good, there were real broad questions then of right and wrong, not the coldness and frivolity, where all was so worthless that there was scarce a possibility of caring or seeing which part was the right.
No, Marian would not accuse the time in which she was born, and the station to which it had pleased God to call her. Mr. Wortley had warned her against that. She had a Church, the one true holy Catholic Church, as surely and truly, nay, the very same that those men of old had, and was as much bound to love it, serve it, fight for it in her own way, as ever they had felt themselves. Life, truth, goodness, there was still, she saw it, knew it, felt it in some; and though there was little of it in her immediate home, so little as to make her heart faint, she knew that
"Israel yet has thousands sealed Who to Baal never kneeled."
If there was this frivolity, this deadness and chilliness about these present days, she knew it was a temptation long since prophesied of, as about to grow on the world "when, the love of many should wax cold," but the help and the hope were never to fail, and while she might but grasp after them, she had enough to do, and need not feel faint and weary.
Her ride had done her good, her sensation of bodily lassitude and mental stupidity had been driven off by the active exercise which had produced a more wholesome kind of fatigue, and the temper which tended to discontent had partly gone with them, partly been chased away by reflection in a right spirit. As she was entering the park, Elliot, also on horseback, came up in time to profit by the same opening of the gate.
"Are you but just come home, Marian?" said he, "I thought I was very late."
"I don't know what o'clock it is, but I see the sun is getting low."
"Have not you been at High Down?"
"No, I have been to Beacon Hill."
"To Beacon Hill! That is a ride! And you have not seen any of them since they came home?"
"No, I have been out all the afternoon."
"Well, I have a notion you will have something to hear. I dare say you have some idea. Catch a young lady not up to a thing like that."
A cold horror and disgust came over Marian, and she would not make a single inquiry, but Elliot went on.
"So you will ask no questions? I believe you are in the secret the whole time."
"No, I am not."
"No? You will never persuade me that you are not. Why, what else can you ladies sit up half the night talking about in your bed rooms?"
Marian despised him too much to deny.
"Then do you really mean to profess," said Elliot, turning full towards her, so as to look her in the face in what she deemed an impertinent way, "that you cannot guess the news that is waiting for you?"
For once in her life she could not say "I don't know," and her answer was a very cold "I believe I do;" while in the meantime she was almost feeling, and quite looking, as if she could have cut off his bead. His disagreeableness was the one present pain, but behind it was undefined consternation, for she perceived that, at any rate, he did not think Caroline had refused Mr. Faulkner.
"You keep your congratulations till it is formally announced," said he maliciously, still looking at her, though few save himself could have failed to be abashed by the firm, severe expression of her dark eyes, and lips compressed into all the sternness of the Queen of Olympus.
Happily they were so close to the house that Marian, who would not deign a reply, could avoid him without absolute rudeness. She threw her rein to the groom, and sprung to the ground before Elliot had time to offer his assistance, then ran hastily across the hall just as Clara was coming out of the drawing-room.
"Why, Elliot!" cried Clara meeting her brother, "you have not been riding with Marian?"
"With Marian? No, I thank you! I only met with her at the gate, and have been spoiling your market."
"You don't mean that you have been telling her?" cried Clara; "O I wanted to have been first."
"Precious little thanks you'll get!" said Elliot; but Clara, without attending to him, flew up stairs after Marian, who had reached her room, and while Fanny was endeavouring to get her dressed in time for dinner, was trying to collect her dismayed thoughts. She would not believe Caroline so foolish, nay, so wicked as to accept him, yet if it could possibly be true, what in the world should she say or do which way should she look, or how should she answer? In the midst of her first confusion in danced Clara, with a face full of delight at having something to tell, then looking blank at Fanny's presence.
"Marian—my dear Marian—what do you think?" was her first eager beginning, then changing into "How—how late you are—where have you been! I really thought you had been out with Elliot," and she laughed.
"I only fell in with him at the gate. I have been to Beacon Hill."
"Have you indeed? O I wish you had come with mamma! So Elliot has been provoking, and told you," she added, stopping there, and looking significant.
Marian glanced at Fanny, and shook her head. She was very glad she had such a protector, to give her time to collect her thoughts, but this was not easy, for Clara went rattling on in an eager discursive way about all sorts of things, the archery, the dancing, the partners, the dresses, hardly knowing what she said, nor Marian either, fidgeting about, trying to expedite the dressing, and looking most impatient, till at last Marian, anxious to know what had really taken place, pitying her eagerness, and willing to have it over, hurried the fastening of her dress, and arranging of her lace, and told Fanny to leave them.
"O Marian! Marian! what a shame of Elliot to have told you all about it. Did you expect it?"
"He only half told me," replied Marian, "but make haste, Clara, let me hear. Is Caroline really engaged?"
"Yes—yes—O yes! and every one is so delighted, Lady Julia, and Julia and Louisa, and all!"
"And she has accepted him?"
"O yes to be sure—at least—yes, only you know it is too soon to settle when they will be married. What a charming wedding it will be, won't it, Marian?—you and I find Julia and Louisa, and their cousins will be bridesmaids O! how delightful it will be. And then I shall come out."
"But Clara, Clara, don't be wild, do tell me all about it."
"Ah! you see you missed something by not coming to stay there as we did. And to tell you a great secret, Marian, Louisa says she really believes that it was you that her brother thought of, when he first accepted Elliot's invitation to come and stay here."
"Nonsense," said Marian, though her colour would rise.
"And he had not seen Caroline then, Louisa says," proceeded Clara, but there she got into an inextricable confusion, and was not speedy in stammering out of it, having suddenly remembered that it was no great compliment to tell Marian that Louisa had said how glad they all were that it was not Miss Arundel. Marian cut the hesitation short by saying, "You have not told me when it was settled, or how you heard it."
"It was settled last night after you were gone—in the conservatory— such a pretty place for a love affair, as Louisa says—at least I mean he asked her, but I don't think she gave him any real regular answer— no, certainly she did not."
"Did you know of it that evening?"
"O yes, Louisa and I had great fun in watching him all day, and all the day before, we saw it all quite plain."
"But did Caroline tell you that night?"
"Yes, of course she did. She could not have kept it from me, you know, for I began to laugh at her the minute we came up, and asked her if she had not been delightfully employed, and you should have seen what a colour she grew directly."
"And what did she say?" asked Marian very anxiously, almost hoping it might prove that Caroline's acceptance might have been taken for granted without having been really given.
"I don't exactly remember what she said, she was very grave and said it was no laughing matter, or something of that kind, and she walked up and down and begged me to be quiet and let her think."
"Then I begged her only to let me know if he had proposed, and what she had said, and she told me she had said nothing—she could not tell—she must have time, and then she leant her head against the side of the bed, and said she wished she knew what to do! And when I tried to cheer her up, and said how delightful it would be——"
"O Clara, how could you?" broke from Marian.
"Ah! I know you can't bear the Faulkners, but you must now, for they will be your cousins, you know, Marian. And I assure you I did not say anything silly, I said it was not only that Mr. Faulkner is handsome and rich, that would not be anything, you know, but he is so sensible and so agreeable, and kind, and good tempered, and we are all so fond of him, and the Faulkners all so fond of her, and it would be so very nice to have her close to us, and mamma would be so charmed. Well, poor dear girl, she did not sleep at all that night, and this morning she only wanted, if she could, to have sent a note for us to be sent for to come home to breakfast, but that could not be, you know, and when we came down, Lady Julia was so kind and affectionate, and kissed her and said she was tired, and took her to lie on the sofa, in the little boudoir. Lady Julia sat with her there first, and then Mr. Faulkner came, and stayed with her a long, long time."
"O!" sighed Marian, "was it settled then?"
"Not exactly settled, but somewhere about three o'clock, Mr. Faulkner ordered his horse, and rode out to find papa, and then Caroline ran up to our room, and bolted the door, and said she could not let me in, but just then mamma came and went up to her, and it was all joy and congratulation through the whole house. Mr. Faulkner came back and papa with him. But dear me, there is the second bell! Come, Marian! O, I do so wish you had been there."
If Marian had been there, perhaps things would not have been exactly as they were at present, though this was very far from what Clara intended by her wish. Marian had done infinite mischief by the severity which had weakened the only home influence excepting Walter's which held Caroline to the right. Caroline respected her extremely, but the confidence and affection which had been growing up slowly but surely out of that root of esteem, had been grievously dulled and blighted, and at a most critical time. It had in fact been almost killed down to the ground, and though the root was a healthy one, and might yet shoot forth again, the opportunity had been missed when it might have been turned to good account.
Caroline knew Mr. Faulkner not to be a religious man, and her better principles warned her against him; but on the other hand she really liked his manners extremely, her heart was warmed towards him by his preference and expressions of affection, and she did not know whether she loved him already or not, or whether she should allow herself to love him, as he was sure she could do. She had been used to a world where the service of GOD was not the first object; she had always lived with men whose thoughts and time were otherwise engrossed, and though she might regret what she saw, her standard had been lowered, and she was far less inclined to hold aloof front one whom her conscience did not approve, than if she had been accustomed to see everything desirable in her own family; in those whom nature and duty obliged her to love and respect.
By the Faulkners she was greeted with such kindness as to win her heart, and she thought the power she would enjoy at High Down would enable her to set things on a footing there, on which she could never place them at home; she could not fail to be happy with Mr. Faulkner; she might work upon his mind, if he loved her as he said he did. Still there stood the great unanswerable obstacle, the three words, "It is wrong!" If she stood alone, if there was no family on either side, she could, she would refuse, but dismay seized on her when she thought of the displeasure, the persecution at home if she rejected him; on the other hand she shrank from ingratitude for the kindness of the Faulkners. There was Clara putting her in mind of all that could bias her in his favour, rejoicing already, saying how all the family would rejoice.
O that interval, that night! if Marian had but stood there with the grave, earnest, heartfelt voice that repelled all sophistry with the wonted "I don't know," if the dark eyes had been there to look with contempt on all but the "right," and to fill with tears, the more touching because so rare, as her tenderness, her deep feeling would have been called out by the sensation of seeing and aiding a friend to struggle nobly against a temptation, if Caroline had felt and seen the superiority, the loveableness of real, true, uncompromising regard for right, and right alone, if she had been by one touch made to partake of the horror Marian felt of any failure in faith, then all the innate strength and nobleness of her character might have been awakened, and she would have clung to "the right" at any cost, supported, carried through by Marian's approval and sympathy, keeping her up to feel that higher approval was with her.
But alas! alas! Marian was at a distance, and her image had at present connected itself with harshness and haughtiness. She might be good; but such goodness did not invite imitation; she did not appear half as agreeable as the Faulkners. Caroline turned away from the recollection of her, was all night and all the morning distressed, undecided, and vacillating; then came Lady Julia's affection, her lover pressing his suit, she hardly knew what she had said, but she found her consent was assumed, both families were rejoicing in it, she found herself considered to be engaged, and she returned home bewildered at all that had passed, flattered, almost intoxicated with the attention of various kinds paid her by every one, at High Down, and when her wonted dread of Marian's disapproving eye would return, hardening herself against it with the thought that Marian could not make every one as Utopian as her own Edmund and Fern Torr, that she was proud and determined in prejudice, and after all what right had she to interfere? Of Walter, Caroline did not dare to think.
Marian came down with Clara, wearing a rigid company countenance, expressing more of indifference than of anything else; she would not look at Caroline lest her eye should seem to judge her, and only by furtive glances perceived that she looked pale, worn and wearied. There was talk about the ball going on all dinner-time, but Caroline hardly put in a word, and Marian's were not many. Directly after dinner Caroline said she was tired, and should lie down till tea-time; she went and Mrs. Lyddell, taking Marian by the hand, exclaimed, "Now, Marian, I must be congratulated. I suppose Clara has told you all about it."
"Yes, Clara told me," said Marian, resolved not to offend except where she could not avoid it without sacrificing truth.
"You could scarcely be surprised," said Mrs. Lyddell. "It has been evident for a long time. Dear Caroline! Well, I am sure this is a satisfaction! Settled so near home, and family and connection exactly what could be wished; and so extremely fond of her."
"Yes, Lady Julia is very fond of her."
Mrs. Lyddell was too much rejoiced herself not to take sympathy for granted. The point, on which Caroline's scruples were founded, and which caused Marian's dislike, had never even occurred to her: she lived little, or rather not at all, in Marian's confidence, and really did not know that she disliked the Faulkners more than any one else, since her manners were so universally distant, that a little ungraciousness more or less was not very visible to a casual observer like Mrs. Lyddell. That same ordinary coldness and undemonstrativeness which had never thawed to Mrs. Lyddell was the reason that the entire absence of any expression of gladness or congratulation was not remarked, or at least only taken as her way, and besides at the bottom of her heart, Mrs. Lyddell was very much obliged to Marian for the repelling manner which had left the field to her daughter. So Marian got very well through half an hour's interview, without giving offence; but she feared the tete-a-tete with Caroline, and resolved as much as possible to avoid it, since she could do no good, and did not think it right to express her sentiments unless they were positively called for. Disappointed in Caroline, grieved, giving her up for lost, yet loving and pitying her, she had rather never meet her again, certainly not have any confidential intercourse with her.
She need not have feared: Caroline was quite as much inclined to avoid her as she could be to avoid Caroline; by mutual consent they shunned being left alone together, and talked of indifferent matters if they were, for there was not familiarity enough for silence. When with the others Caroline was the same as usual, lively, agreeable, obliging; perhaps, and Marian thought it strange, a shade gayer than her wont. In her behaviour to Mr. Faulkner every one agreed that she was exactly the right thing, quiet and sensible, and, as people said, "evidently so very much attached to him." Marian would have given worlds to know what was passing in her secret soul, but the right of reading there was gone. What did Walter think? To this also there was no answer; if he wrote, Marian heard nothing about his letter, and he did not come home. He was to be ordained in the autumn to a curacy in a large manufacturing town in the north of England, and in the meantime he was staying there with one of the other curates, helping in the schools, and learning something of the work before him. There was not a doubt in Marian's mind that his sister's engagement must be a great sorrow to him, and that this was the reason why he would not come home, even for a short visit. For Caroline, so really good, right thinking and excellent as she was, so far above the general tone of her family, wilfully to place herself in such a situation, to cast away all the high and true principles with which she had once been imbued, was too sad and grievous to be borne by one who loved her as Marian, did all the time, and how much worse it must be for her brother?
Yes, little did most of those who saw Marian's unmoved, marble countenance, and heard her stiff, formal words, guess at the intensity of feeling beneath, which to those who knew her best was betokened by that very severity; how acutely she was suffering for the future before Caroline, how strong were the impulses to plead with her once more, how sick and loathing her heart felt at the manner in which this hateful connection was treated by all around. If that reserve could, or ought to, have been broken, Marian would have astonished them all.
If her former anxieties about Gerald had been as of old, she really did not know how she could have endured them in addition to all this; but while she was at ease about him nothing could quite overwhelm her. And she was very happy about him; Mr. Lyddell had readily consented to the Highland plan, and Gerald was so enchanted that he forgot all his former fears of Edmund, saw in him only a fellow-sportsman, and when he wrote to tell his sister of the project, decorated his letter with a portrait of the holidays, every one of the thirty-seven days represented in a sort of succession of clouds one behind the other, in each of which Gerald was doing something delightful,—boating, shooting, bagging his game, and enjoying an infinite variety of sports, the invention and representation of which did considerable credit to his ingenuity. On the very day after the Eton election, he met Edmund in London, and they set off together to spend the time before the ecstatic twelfth of August in visits to the Trosachs, to Fingal's cave and every other Scottish wonder of note.
Lionel returned alone, and the first thing he said as he skimmed his hat across the hall table was, "There! thank goodness, I shan't touch a book again these five weeks!" Every one asked after his eyes, but they told their own story, for they were considerably inflamed, and so evidently out of order that Mrs. Lyddell herself grew anxious, and the apothecary, Mr. Wells, was sent for. He spoke of their having been over tried by the school work, advised complete rest, and sent his mixture to bathe them, which in a day or two reduced the inflammation, made them comfortable, and restored them to their ordinary appearance, so that all anxiety passed off again.
Marian, like the others, dismissed the fear, though a flash of apprehension now and then crossed her mind. She was more with Lionel than the others, they had always been great allies, and at present were more thrown together than had ever been the case before. Johnny had been appointed to a ship which was to sail from Plymouth in a very short time, and he only came home for two or three days, from the school where he had been prepared. Mr. Lyddell took him to London for his outfit, and then on to Plymouth; Mrs. Lyddell was extremely overset, more so than Marian had thought her capable of being, for Johnny was her favourite, she regarded him as a victim, and could not bear to expose him to all the perils of sea and climate.
Johnny however went to Plymouth, and then there was nothing to be desired but that he should soon sail, that his mother might settle her mind, for in the mean time she was nervously anxious and restless, and could scarcely give her attention to anything, not even to the Faulkners, far less to what Marian was observing from time to time about Lionel's eyes.
Now that John and Gerald were away, Lionel was deprived of his wonted companions: Elliot did not patronize him, and was besides too busy about the races to occasion on his own account any home sports in which Lionel might have taken a share, so that there was no companionship for him excepting with the young ladies. Caroline's and Clara's time was a great deal taken up with the Faulkners, and Marian and Lionel were thus left out by all and almost obliged to make a coalition.
Lionel haunted the drawing-room in the morning, either talking in the half-rhodomontade, half-in-earnest fashion of boys of sixteen, or listening if there was any reading aloud going forward. Clara's readings with Marian and Caroline had well-nigh fallen to the ground now, and Caroline almost always spent the morning in her own room, but Marian now and then caught Clara and managed to get her to do something rational. More often, however, the reading was on Marian's part to Lionel; he liked to hear her read scraps of any book she might have in hand, and she was very merciful to him in the selection, not being by any means too wise. She read him likewise the new numbers of the periodical tales, as well as the particulars of the rowing matches and cricket matches, overcoming for his sake her dislike to touching Elliot's sporting newspaper. Indeed she had not so forgotten her cricket as not to be very much interested, to enter into all his notes and comments, and to be as anxious for the success of Eton as he was himself, so that if she had been called to give an account of her whole morning's work for three days, she could have said nothing of it but that she had been studying the matches at Lord's.
In the afternoon, if Marian could escape from the drive in the carriage, they walked or rode together, the latter when it was not too bright a day, for Lionel avoided the sunshine like an owl; and when in their walks a sunny field, or piece of down had to be passed, he drew his hat down and came under the shelter of Marian's parasol, as if he fairly dreaded the glare. He was very apt too not to recognise people whom they met, and now and then made such strange mistakes about small objects near at hand, that though they were laughed at just at the moment, Marian thought them fearful signs when she recollected them afterwards, in that half-waking half-sleeping time when she had learnt to entertain herself with anxieties. Chess or backgammon was the great resource in the evening, when there was no dining out, and no grand dinner party, and the number of games Marian played with him were beyond all reckoning. He played, she thought, more by the touch than the eye, often feeling the head of a piece to satisfy himself whether it had the king's crown or the queen's round head, the bishop's mitre or the knight's ears, but he was so quick and ready that it was impossible to tell how far the defect of sight went, and she could not bear to ask or awaken his fears.
She did not think he had any; she did not believe that he had ever seen quite as well as other people, and therefore trusted to sight less than most; and his eyes had been so often ailing, and then better, that he was not likely to take alarm now. If he had, she believed he would have told her, for he was very confidential with her, and she often thought it a great pity that no one else had thought it worth while to enter into him enough to find out what a right-thinking, sensible boy he was, and how affectionate he would be if they would only let him. One day, when they had been taking a long ride together, he began talking about his intentions for the future. It arose out of some observation about the value of a tree in a new and an old country. Marian had been lamenting that no modern houses were ever built with the beautiful patterns of dark timbers, as we see them in old farm-houses; and Lionel answering that so much wood could never be afforded in England now.
"No, you must go to a primeval forest for that," said Marian; "and very stupid it is of the people in the colonies to build houses as bad or worse than ours, when they have all the materials for nothing."
"Well, I will build a famous house when I emigrate," said Lionel; "a regular model of an old English farm-house it shall be,—stout, and strong, and handsome,—just to put the people in mind that they do belong to an old country, after all."
"When you emigrate, Lionel?"
"Yes, I really have a great mind to do so, seriously, Marian," and he rode nearer to her. "I do think it would be the best thing I could do. Don't you think so?"
"I don't know," said Marian, considering, while his eager face was turned towards her.
"You see," Lionel continued, "we must all do something for ourselves; and I am sure my eyes will never be fit for study. To be a clergyman is out of the question for me, even if I was good enough; and so is the law—"
"Yes, yes, certainly."
"Well, then, there is only the army, and there one can't get on without money. Now you know Elliot has been a monstrous expense to my father of late, and the times have grown so bad, and everything altogether has gone wrong; so that I think the only thing for it would be for me to go off to some new part of the world, where, when I once had a start, my own head and hands would maintain me,—no thanks to anybody."
"I dare say it would," said Marian, rather sadly, "I am sure these are right grounds, Lionel; but it is a terrible severing of all home ties."
"O, but I should come back again. I should be an Englishman still, and come back when I had made my fortune."
"O, Lionel, don't be in a hurry to make a fortune; that spoils every one."
"No, no, I am not going to grasp and grub for money; I hate that. Only if the fortune comes, one does not know how, with cattle, or horses, or lands—O, Marian, think of being an Australian stockman, riding after those famous jockeys of wild bulls—hurra!" Lionel rose in his stirrups, and flourished his whip round his head, so as greatly to amaze his steed. "There is a life to lead in a great place bigger than all Europe, instead of being stifled up in this little bit of a poky England, every profession choke full of people!"
"Well done, Lionel, you do want a field indeed!"
"So I do. I hate to be fenced up, and in, every way. I should like to break out in some fresh place, and feel I had all the world before me! Then I'll tell you what, Marian," and he spoke with infinite relish, "suppose matters got a little worse here, and they were all of them really in distress!"
"Well, but listen. Then I should like to come home with all this fortune that I had made somehow, and get them all on their legs again; buy back the estate, perhaps, and give it to papa again; and then—and then"—his voice quivered a little, and his eyes winked, as if the sun had dazzled them—"see if mamma would not think me worth something, after all!"
This was the only time Lionel had ever said a word to show that he was conscious of his mother's disregard of him; and the feeling it called up made Marian's heart so full that she could not reply. But he wanted no answer, and went on. "Would not that be worth living for, Marian? But, after all, that is all nonsense," he added, with a sigh; "at least it is all a chance. But what I really think is, that I should do much better for myself and every one else, in one of the colonies; and I have a great mind to speak to my father about it. By the by, I wish Mr. Arundel would come here when he has finished his journey with Gerald; I should like to talk to him about the Cape. I rather fancy the Cape, because of the lions; and one might have a chance of a row now and then with the Caffres."
Marian began telling all she could about the Cape, and from that time her tete-a-tetes with Lionel were chiefly spent in discussions upon the comparative merits of the colonies. One thing Lionel was resolved on. "I will go somewhere where there is a Church within a tolerable distance,—say twenty miles; that is a short one for a colony, you know, Marian; for I know I am such a wild fellow, that I should very soon forget everything good, if I had not something to put me in mind of it. Or, by the by, Marian, what would be jolly would be to get Walter to go; I dare say he would, if it was some place where they were very badly off indeed, with plenty of natives, and all very savage."
Marian understood quite well enough, to agree that it must be some place "very badly off indeed" to invite Walter, and Lionel greatly enjoyed the further arranging of plans for taking care of his intended chaplain, whom he meant to save from roughing it as much as possible. However, this might be regarded as a very aerial pinnacle of his castle, the first foundation of which was yet to be laid, by broaching the subject to his father. Lionel talked over the proposing it many times with his counsellor, and at length resolved upon it, with some slight hope that it might save his eyes from the suffering of another half year at Eton, which, as the holidays came nearer to an end, he began to dread.
"You see, Marian," he said, "I do not like to give out, when I can help it, for they think it shirking, and there was a time when I did shirk; but a great many times last half, I was nearly mad with the aching and smarting of my eyes after I had been reading. And all I did was by bits now and then; for if I went on long the letters danced, and there was a mist between me and them."
"I wish you would tell Mr. Lyddell; I am sure it is not fit to go on in such a way."
"I have told Wells," answered Lionel.
A pause—then Lionel said, "I believe papa is in the library; I'll go and speak to him about the emigration."
Marian was very anxious to hear the result of the conference, but she could not find out anything just at first as she had to drive out with Mrs. Lyddell and Caroline to make calls. In the evening, over the game at chess, Lionel told her that his father said he should talk to his mother about it; and two days after he came to her in the hall, saying, "Come and take a turn in the plantation walk, Marian; 'tis nice and shady there, and I have something to tell you."
The something was as follows: "Well, Marian, my father was very kind, paid something about its being a sensible notion, and that he would see about it."
"But are you to go back to Eton?"
"Yes, that must be; and I must scramble on as best I may. It will be better at first, after all this rest. It is something gained that the whole plan is not knocked on the head at once."
"Then he gives his consent?"
"Why, he says it will be time to think of it in a year or two, and I am too young as yet, which is true enough; only, I wish I was to be learning farming, instead of torturing my eyes with what will be no good out there. Then he said, as to giving up the army, I need not think that was necessary, because it was only that he did not want to have two sons in it, and now Johnny is otherwise disposed of; and, besides Mr. Faulkner had behaved in such a handsome way about Caroline's fortune.'
"O!" said Marian.
"Yes, I don't like that at all," said Lionel. "Johnny always was crazy to be a sailor, so he is all right, and that is not what I care for; but I don't want to be beholden to Mr. Faulkner. I had rather Caroline had her own money, and not that we should all profit by her making this grand marriage."
"I should quite feel with you."
"Marian, we have never talked that over; but I know you cannot bear the Faulkners."
"What is the use of asking me, Lionel?"
"O, I know you can't, as well as if you had said so; and I want to know how you could let Caroline go and do such a thing?"
"I? How could I help it?" said Marian smiling, at the boy's assuming that she had power of which she was far from being conscious. "Besides, I thought you liked Mr. Faulkner; you, all of you, did nothing but praise him at Christmas."
"I did at first, not at last," said Lionel. "Besides, liking a man to go out shooting with is not the same as liking him to marry one's sister."
"By no means!" cried Marian, emphatically. "But what made you think ill of him?"
"Things I heard him say to Elliot when we were out together."
"Did Gerald hear them?" asked Marian, very anxiously, as she remembered what a hero Mr. Faulkner was in her brother's estimation.
"No, I don't think he did. He certainly was not there the worst time of all,—the time that gave a meaning to all the rest. Don't you remember that day when Mr. Faulkner drove Elliot and me in his dog-cart to look at that horse at Salisbury? I am sure I never praised him after that day. He said what Elliot never would have said himself—never."
"How?" Marian could not help asking, though she doubted the next moment whether it was wise to have done so.
"Things about—about religion—the Bible," said Lionel, looking down and mumbling, as if it was with difficulty that he squeezed out the answer. "Now, you know, I have heard," he added, speaking more freely, "I have heard people make fun with a text or a name out of the Bible many a time; and though that is very bad of them, I think they don't mean much harm by it. Indeed, I have now and then done it myself, and should oftener, if I had not known how you hated it."
"It is a very wrong thing," but I see what you mean,—that some people do it from want of thought."
"Yes, just so; but that is a very different thing from almost quizzing the whole Bible,—at least talking as if it was an absurd thing to accept the whole of it, I do declare, Marian, he was worse when he began to praise it than he was before; for he talked of the Old Testament as if it was just like the Greek mythology, and then he compared it to Homer, and AEschylus, and the Koran. To be sure he did say it was better poetry and morality; but the idea of comparing it! I don't mean comparing as if it must be better, but as if it stood on the same ground."
"And did Elliot listen to all this?" said Marian, thinking the poison must have been in rather too intellectual a form for Elliot.
"He listened," said Lionel. "I don't think he would ever set up to say such things for himself; but I believe he rather liked hearing them said. I am quite sure this Faulkner will make him worse than he is already, for all this talk is a hundred times worse than going on in Elliot's way."
"To be sure it is—a thousand times!"
"But what I want to know is this, Marian? has Caroline got any notion of what sort of a man she has got? Because if she does it with her eyes open, it can't be helped; but if not, I think she ought to be warned; for I don't suppose the man is fool enough to talk in this way to her. Indeed, I think I heard him say that believing is all very well for women."
"Why don't you tell her, then?"
"That is the very thing I had on my mind all these holidays; but I know no one would ever listen to me. If Walter was here it would be a very different thing, for he is worth attending to, and Caroline knows that; though she thinks I have no sense at all but for mischief."
"She could not think so, if she heard you speak as you do now."
"Then there is another thing, Marian, and what makes it quite—at least very nearly out of the question; I don't believe they in the least reckoned on my hearing all this. You know the man is very good-natured; well, he took me up to go instead of his servant, and I was sitting back to back with them. I sometimes think my bad eyes have made my ears sharper, for I know I often hear when other people don't; and so I should not expect they supposed in the least that I was attending, though I did not miss a word, for I could not help hearing. Now, you see, I could not possibly go and betray him; and if you were not the safest person in the world, I would never have told you: only, if somebody could just give Caroline a hint that she is going to marry an infidel, it would be a pleasant thing."
"A pleasant thing!" repeated Marian. Then she paused, considering, and Lionel waited patiently while she did so, "I see," she said at last, "that you could hardly tell her of this conversation; and after all, Lionel, I believe we knew what was quite as bad of him from the first: this only proves it a little more fully."
"Yes, Lord Marchmont told me something of it; and I mentioned it to Caroline before he came here at all."
"O, that is right!" said Lionel, greatly relieved, "then it is no concern of mine; though what can possess Caroline, I can't think. Is it love, I wonder?"
"I suppose so," said Marian, sighing.
"Well, it is a queer thing," said the boy. "I should have thought Caroline was one to care about such matters more than I, but perhaps she means to convert him. So! I did think Caroline was good for something, but it is no affair of mine; and I shall be all the more glad to get off to New Zealand to be out of the sight of it all."
"It is very sad indeed!" said Marian. "I am sure it will be nothing but wretchedness. Caroline can blind herself now, but that will not go on."
"And why can't you speak to her, and stop her? She used to mind you. Does she come and talk about this man as if he was perfection?"
"No," was the sorrowful reply. "She knew from the first my opinion of him, and we never have any talks now. We never have had one since she was first engaged."
"Whew!" whistled Lionel. "Then she does mean to go and do it, and no mistake! Then I've done with her, and shan't think about her any more than I can help. If she won't be warned, she must Lave her own way, and may marry the Grand Turk, if she likes it better." He whistled again, proposed a ride, and went to order the horses; while Marian, walking slowly to the house to prepare, did not so much grieve for Caroline, for that was an old accustomed sorrow, as marvel at the manner in which Lionel had spoken, and wonder where he had learnt the right views and excellent sense he had displayed. Far was she from guessing the value of such a steady witness to the truth as she had been from the first hour when Lionel had perceived and maintained "that she had no humbug in her;" how her cares for her brother had borne fruit in him; how he learnt from her to reverence goodness, and cleave to the right; and how he looked up to her, because her words were few, and her deeds consistent. More right in theory, than steady in practice was Lionel; very unformed, left untrained by those whose duty it was to watch him; but the seeds had been sown, and be his future life what it might, it could not but bear the impress of the years she had spent in the same family.
She knew nothing of all this; she only thought, as she watched his quick, bounding run, that he, the least regarded, was the flower of the flock, with principles as good as Walter's, and so much more manly and active. For Marian, with all her respect for Walter, could not help wishing, like the boys, that he had more life and spirit, and less timidity. A little mental courage would, she thought, have brought him to expostulate with Caroline, instead of keeping out of the way, and leaving her to her fate. Edmund would not have done so.
"It's hame, and it's hame, and it's hame."
Edmund and Gerald had promised to spend a few days at Oakworthy, before the one returned to Portsmouth and the other to Eton; but their plans were disconcerted by an event which, as Clara said, placed Marian in mourning in good earnest, namely, the death of her great aunt, old Mrs. Jessie Arundel, who had always lived at Torquay. For the last four or five years she had been almost imbecile, and so likely to die at any time, that, as it seemed for that very reason, every one took her death as a surprise when it really happened.
Edmund thought it right that both he and Gerald should attend her funeral. Lord Marchmont, whose wife stood in the same relationship to her, met them in London, and they all went together to Torquay, instead of making the intended visit to Oakworthy. Gerald was obliged to return to Eton on the following day, without coming to Oakworthy; but, to make up for it, he wrote to his Writer from Torquay, and his letter ended thus,—"Now I have a capital bit of news for you. Old aunt Jessie has done what I shall venerate her for ever after—left every scrap of her property to Edmund, except a legacy or two to her servants, a picture of my father to me, and some queer old-fashioned jewels to you and Selina. The will was made just after I was born; so it was to make up to Edmund for my cutting him out of Fern Torr. You may suppose how Lord Marchmont and I shook hands with him. It is somewhere about L20,000; there is good news for you! He is executor, and has got to be here a day or two longer; but Lord Marchmont and I set off by the first train to-morrow. I shall look out for Lionel, tell him, in case he is too blind to see me. Can't you come with him to the station, and have one moment's talk?"
This proved to be possible; and Marian, in the interval between the coming of the post and the setting off, had time, all the hurry of her dressing, to wonder if she ought to be very much rejoiced. She did not believe, that even wealth could spoil Edmund, but she did not think all this would be of much use to him. It did not give him a home, and in fact she thought it rather a creditable thing to be as poor as he had hitherto been. She had rather have heard of something to make him look less like Tressilian, than he had done the last time she had seen him.
She had a pleasant drive with Lionel, who was very glad of any good luck befalling Mr. Arundel, and presently, after some meditation, broke out as follows:—"My eyes! what miles and miles it would buy in Australia" and then proceeded to talk all the rest of the way about Australian bulls.
The meeting at the station was a bright one, though so short, as scarcely to be worth the journey, if the value of such moments were to be reckoned by their number. There was Lord Marchmont to be spoken to, as well as Gerald, which broke into the time. Gerald looked very happy and pleasant. He said Edmund was the best fellow in the world, and that he had been very happy—shot lots of things—he wished he could stop to tell about it. Then Marian hurried what she had to say, while Lionel was looking after his luggage. "Gerald, would you just try if you can do anything to spare Lionel's eyes? When you have the same things to do, could you not read to him, or something? they seem so much worse, and I am so afraid."
"I'll try," said Gerald, "but I don't think I can do much, and he will never give in."
The bell rang—Lionel ran up—she wished them good-bye, and drove home, happier than when last she parted there from Gerald, wondering what had happened in his journey with Edmund, and re-assured, by his free cordial tone. She took up a book and read all the way home.
The next thing that was heard of Edmund was in a note to Mr. Lyddell, saying that he should come and spend one night at Oakworthy, on his way to Portsmouth; that he hoped to arrive about one o'clock, and that he should bring Marian her aunt's legacy of the jewels. This was communicated to her by Mrs. Lyddell, and she could not discover from whence he wrote; she supposed from London, unless he was still detained in Devonshire. She looked forward greatly to his coming, as there was so much to hear about Gerald; and she felt, as if she wanted something pleasant, very much indeed; for, now that Lionel was gone, she found what a companion, interest, and occupation he had been, and missed him very much. The constraint with all the others, except Clara, was wearisome: and Clara, though never ceasing to talk, and very affectionately, was anything but a companion, while poor Caroline kept more than ever aloof, and had a flightiness of spirits—a sort of gaiety of manner—which, to Marian, seemed to be assumed. This was more especially the case, after there was an idea of fixing the marriage for some time in the autumn, and arrangements were talked over. Marian began to have little doubt that she was secretly unhappy, and grew more and more tender in feeling towards her; while, by an effect of contraries, her manner became more frigid and severe, in proportion to the warmth within.
Clara wondered a little what Mr. Arundel was coming for, and laughed and looked significant when Marian said she knew perfectly well; but Marian thought she knew so thoroughly as not to be in the least disconcerted, though Clara's glances were full upon her when he was announced. In he came, just at luncheon time; he shook hands with Marian with all his might, and one glance convinced her that he had not Tressilian's face—nay, that though the sun of Africa had left its traces, he was more like the Edmund of the olden time, than she had ever seen him since her father's death. There were a good many people at luncheon that day. Mr. Faulkner was there, and there were some visitors staying in the house. Edmund was a good way from her, and she could only hear his voice now and then in the buzz; but it was a very pleasant sound to hear, and when he laughed, it was his own natural, free, gay laugh, such as it used to be. She was sure he was very happy, and wondered if it was possible Aunt Jessie's fortune could have made him so, or whether it could all be the satisfaction of having set Gerald to rights.
As they rose to leave the dining room, he came to her, saying, "Marian, can you have a walk with me?"
"Oh, yes, I should like it of all things; I will be ready in one minute." And away she bounded, saying to Caroline, in the boldest and most innocent manner in the world, as if on purpose to show that she expected nothing, and would not be laughed at, that Edmund had asked her to walk with him. He waited for her in the hall, and they went out, she scarcely pausing till they were on the steps, to say, "Well, how did you get on with Gerald? I am sure you made him very happy."
"We got on famously. He is a very nice fellow; he only wanted a little stimulus the right way. He is thoroughly open and candid, and I have no fear but that he will do very well."
Marian could not speak for joy, and for gratitude to her cousin; and her heart throbbing with delight, she walked on, waiting for him to say something more on this most precious of all tidings. But when he spoke again, it was if he had done with the subject of Gerald. "Marian, I have something to tell you," He paused—she stood in suspense—he began again. "Marian, I am going to be married!"
"O!" and the inquiring, joyful, wondering, confident tone of that O, is what nothing can ever convey. Her eyes were turned full on him with the same eager curiosity, the same certainty, that he could not do other than the best. He did not speak; but the half smile on his lip was a full though mute reply to her confidence, that she had only to hear, in order to rejoice with all her heart; and he held out a note directed to her, in Agnes' writing!
Marian took it, but she was too wild, too delighted, too eager to look at him, and hear him, to be able to open it. "O Edmund!" was what she said now, and she caught hold of his hand for an ecstatic shake.
"Yes, thank you, yes. I said I must tell you myself, Marian—my sister."
"O, I never heard anything more delightful in my life," said Marian, with a sort of gasp, as soon as the overwhelming delight gave her breath. "O, Edmund, Edmund!"
"You have not read her note yet."
Marian tore it open, but there was scarcely any thing to read; it was only—
"Dearest Marian,—He will have a note to carry you, but I can't say anything for bewilderment. I know he will tell you all about it, so it is of no use my writing. Are not you sorry he should have a wife so far from good enough for him?
"Your affectionate and most amazed
Marian held it up to him, smiling. "But of course you have seen it?"
"No, I have not; I suppose she thought I should not carry such nonsense."
"Well, I am sure there is no other person in all the wide world that I could have thought good enough for you. Agnes! Agnes! O, Edmund, I wish there was any way of not being quite choked with gladness!"
Edmund smiled, and perhaps he was "choked with gladness" beyond the power of speech; for the two cousins only proceeded to shake hands again. The next thing that was said was after an interval. "Marian, you remember our bargain six years ago? Have you grown so very fond of the Lyddells as to repent of it?"
"O, Edmund, you have not thought of that?"
"Have not we? It was one of the first things we did think of."
"I don't think I can bear to hear of much more happiness," said Marian, in almost a crying voice. "I am so glad for you that I can't be glad for myself yet. I can't take it all in; it is too good to be true!"
"Indeed it does seem so. But you agree? Agnes said I must make you agree first of all."
"Don't I? Only I want to enjoy it for you,—it is so beyond everything!"
"Well, wasn't I a wise man to say I would not miss the pleasure of telling you myself?"
"Then do tell me; do let us be rational, if we can. Then you came here from Fern Torr?"
"Yes. Did you not know that?"
"No. I did not hear where you wrote from. How long were you there?"
"I only went on Wednesday."
"Then it was only one whole day! How much you must have had to settle!"
"So much, that we settled scarcely anything."
"Then you don't know when it is to be?"
"No, and Mrs. Wortley talks of having time,—poor Mrs. Wortley, but I don't think I shall take her away far; I have some notion of looking out for some place close at hand."
"Just what we settled long ago. But O! begin and tell me all, Edmund,—as much as you like to tell me, at least. I want to know how you first came to think of it." Then, as he smiled, she added, "I mean, how long you have been thinking of it."
"If you mean how long with any hope, only since I knew of good aunt Jessie's consideration for me. How long it has been in my mind I cannot tell; certainly before I went to Africa. You see, Marian," he continued, as if he was apologising, "it was this which made me think it advisable for me to go, though, as I see now, it was not at all good for Gerald."
"What,—you mean—I am not sure that I understand—"
"Don't you see, Marian, feeling as I did, and knowing how out of the question it was for a penniless man like me, to think of marrying,—Agnes so young too, and I with everything to draw me to what had been my only home,—there was nothing to be done but to keep out of the way, to guard me against myself; and that was easier with seas between. I don't know whether I did right or not, but I hoped I did, because it cost me something; yet it was a forsaking of Gerald which might have done much harm, though I hope it has not, as it has turned out."
"I see it all!" said Marian, resting there, because she had not a word with which to express her honour of his noble conduct.
"You will forgive me now," he added, with a smile, "for what you thought my neglect of home."
"I am only afraid I must often have given you a great deal of pain," she almost whispered.
"Never, except when I thought it right to silence you. It was only too delightful to hear their very names. You might well tell me that she had grown prettier than ever."
On talked and walked the cousins, over the downs, which had certainly never been trodden by happier people. At last they recollected that they must return, if they wished to be in time for the post, and retraced their steps, talking as eagerly as ever. As they were coming near the house, Marian said, "Does Gerald know?"
"Not yet; I shall write to him to-morrow."
"Is it to be a secret? Of course I should say nothing about it while you are here, but may I mention it afterwards?"
"They said nothing about secrecy," said Edmund; "in fact I think attempting it, only results in making one look foolish. Yes, you are welcome to tell whom you please as soon as I am out of the way. I had rather the Lyddells know."
"Very well; indeed, I don't think I can keep it to myself, it is too much joy."
"Do you expect them to participate in your pleasure at making your escape from them?"
"There is no one to miss me, except, perhaps, Lionel, a little, when his eyes are bad. Caroline would once have cared, but that is over now, poor thing! There never was a time when I should have been more glad to get away. O, Edmund, if you would do one thing to oblige me, it would be, to have your wedding the same day as Caroline's, that I might not be obliged to be at it."