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The Two Guardians
by Charlotte Mary Yonge
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"At which?"

"O, you know!"

"Is it such a very bad affair?"

"O, I am very much grieved about it. The man has no religion at all, you know; at least, if he has any, it is all natural religion,—anything but the truth."

"Do you really mean that the family have accepted him, allowed this to go on, knowing such things of him?"

"I don't know how far they see it. I don't think they allow it to themselves, and I don't think they would understand some of it; as, for instance, when I heard him talking the other day as if he assumed that Christianity was only a development of people's tendency to believe,—as fleeting as other forms of faith. It was not very broadly stated, and I don't think I should have seen it, if it had not chimed in with something I had read; and, besides, I knew what was in the man."

"How do you know? Not from your own observation?"

"O, no, no; I liked him at first. I could have liked him very much, if Lord Marchmont had not told me about him, and then I had the key to him."

"And this poor Miss Lyddell?"

"She knew what I did," said Marian, sadly. "But he is very agreeable,—at least he is thought so,—and they all admired him so much, and paid such court to him, that—Yet I did think better things of Caroline. Lionel is the only one who has found him out, and he thinks of it just as I do, O, Edmund, I am sure you would like Lionel."

"How are his eyes?" asked Edmund, as they were coming under the portico, and could not talk of any of the more delicate subjects. "I thought Gerald gave a very bad account of them; indeed, I scarcely expected that he could have gone back to Eton."

"I sometimes think," almost whispered Marian, "that it is not he, poor boy, whose eyes are the worst in the house; but Mrs. Lyddell's head has been so full of Johnny, and Caroline, and all she has to do, that she will not see anything amiss with Lionel."

"He must be a boy of a great deal of resolution and principle, to have struggled on as he has clone, by Gerald's account. Ah! I meant to have told you about Gerald, but all our time is gone."

"Never mind, we can talk of him in the evening. There is a corner of mine where I always get out of the way of the people, and where I have had many a nice talk with Walter, or Lionel, under cover of Miss Grimley's music. Now where do you like to write your letter? If you had not rather do it in your own room, there is a nice quiet place in the old school-room, where I write mine, when the drawing-room is uninhabitable."

Edmund accepted the invitation, partly because he was just so shy of letting his own handwriting be seen in the address, that he meant to avail himself of Marian's cover. Just as Marian had finished a note, too joyous to have any sense in it, and containing a promise to write more sensibly to-morrow, had directed the cover, and told her cousin that he must wind up if he meant to catch the post, Clara opened the door, gazed, laughed, and was retiring in haste, when Marian, without a shade of the confusion Clara had hoped for, called her back. "Edmund came here to write a note," she said, "don't go away."

Edmund made some demonstration about intruding, and wrote the conclusion, at which nothing but some interruption would have made him arrive, put it into the envelope, gave it face downwards to Marian, and departed. Now Mrs. Lyddell and Clara were both persuaded that Mr. Arundel had come for no other purpose than to propose to Marian; and they had been entertaining themselves during their drive with conversing on the subject; so that Clara was never more surprised and puzzled in her life than by seeing Marian stand there, smiling, and with beaming eyes, brighter than ever she had looked before, but without one particle of a blush,—white-faced as ever, only dancing first on one foot, then on the other, balancing her bonnet on one hand, and with the other holding the precious letter.

"Well, Marian!"

"Well!" Marian made a pirouette. "I must run and put this letter in the box." And so saying, away she ran down stairs, up again in a second; then meeting the astonished Clara at the head of the stairs, she took her round the waist, and fairly waltzed her to her own door, opened it, threw herself into a chair, exclaimed, "I beg your pardon, Clara; you'll think me mad, but I'll tell you all about it to-morrow."

Fanny was present, so Clara could do nothing but stare; and lateness, and a dinner-party necessitating a hasty toilette, she retreated, while Marian contained her raptures as best she could, and meditated on the delightful life she was to lead with Agnes and Edmund, in some cottage on the borders of Fern Torr. O happiness, such as she had never known, which seemed to bring back as much of her home as could ever return,—which would be everything for Gerald! Every care gone, Edmund happy, Gerald satisfactory, her own exile at an end. Her head almost swain round with happiness, and she wanted to turn to the glass, to persuade herself that she could be the same Marian Arundel, wide awake, and yet so very, very happy.

However, it was all future, as far as concerned herself; and that cares were in the world she was convinced, by her own pang at seeing Caroline, whom she overtook on her way down stairs. She had no disposition to whirl her round; but there was a softened feeling, belonging perhaps to the fulness of her own joy, that made her, as she came up with her, put her arm round her, as she had now and then walked with her in former days. Caroline looked in her face, and drew the arm closer without speaking. Their faces had always been unlike, but the contrast was stronger than ever. Marian, with those pale, regular features, plain dark hair, black eyes and eyebrows, with her mourning dress, and yet with a radiant, irrepressible joy and buoyancy all round and about her; while Caroline, with her small pretty features, rosy colour, blue eyes, glossy curls, her pink dress and gold bracelets, was in general air very different, and in countenance how much more; for the eyes were restless, the smile came rather as if it was called, than as if it resided naturally on her lip,—the colour of her cheeks, though bright, looked fixed and feverish; and now and then, there was a quiver about the whole face. How different from the secure expression of happiness, now and then illuminated, as it were, with some sudden flash of secret joy, which sat on Marian's broad, serene brow.

They entered the drawing-room together, and from that time Marian was outwardly her own stiff, distant self, till the promised time in the evening, when Edmund made his way to her in her corner, where he was greeted by a most sunny look. "Now for Gerald," said she.

Edmund had a great deal to tell about Gerald. He thought him, on the whole, a very nice, amiable, right-minded boy, who only wanted more training and watching than Mr. Lyddell would or could give. He had, after a time, been brought to be entirely open and confiding; and this, for which Edmund seemed to be really grateful to him, and to admire him, was the great point, he had made Edmund a friend, instead of looking at him as a guardian,—found that he could sympathize, and had ended by trusting and consulting him. Marian, though wondering how the reserve had ever been, conquered, felt the relief of knowing that all was safe now, and was not hurt by his confiding in any one but herself. Edmund really thought it was safe. "I believe I know the worst of him now, poor fellow," he said, smiling, "and the worst is not much. He has been going on in a careless, thoughtless way, out of high spirits and imitation, a good deal, and the consciousness made him keep back from you; he owns that, and is very sorry."

"Does he? dear Gerald!"

"He seemed to feel deeply that he had neglected you; but he said, and very truly, how much there had been against him,—no one, as he said, to make him mind; and the fellows would have laughed at him, if they had found out that he attended to his sister."

"Ah! Johnny sowed that mischief long ago!"

"I hope it is not weakness. I do not think it is; for there was manliness in confessing all, and he seemed to feel the folly strongly."

"Did he tell you about the debts?"

"Yes, and of his own accord. They are nothing in themselves; but he has been allowed too much money, has had little warning, and his title was against him too. So if we can break off the habit of extravagance, there is no great harm done. After all, you know, he is very young, and there is plenty of time to form his character. I am sure he has good dispositions of every kind, and if he has but resolution, he will be sure to do well,"

"I think there is resolution in his temper. Nothing shakes him when his mind is once made up."

So Marian was very well satisfied on the whole about her brother, and she might justly be so by Edmund's account. There was nothing to disturb her happiness, and she only doubted whether she should be able to sleep for it. Her brother restored, as well as everything else!

When bed-time came, Mrs. Lyddell looked at her, as if expecting something more to be said than "good night," but nothing came,—nothing but the dancing light in the eyes. Clara followed her to the room, and stood gazing at her. "Why, Marian," at last she said, "can't you tell me anything about it?"

"No; not till to-morrow."

"O, that is too bad, Marian, when you heard all I had to tell directly."

"I can't help it; I am not at liberty to tell other people's affairs."

"Don't look so grand, Marian, pray. I am sure I thought this was your own."

"So it is in a way."

"In a way? Why, Marian, what an extraordinary girl you are! not your own affair! Well, if you are impenetrable, I can't help it; but it is not kind, when we all want to congratulate you."

"Stop, stop, Clara!" exclaimed Marian, and now she did blush, "will you be satisfied if I tell you that it is not what you suppose? You shall hear what it is to-morrow, and then you will see what nonsense you have been talking."

"What?" cried Clara, "you are not—"

"Don't say it, pray don't! Never was any one further from it. Now do go to bed, Clara, for I cannot tell you a word more, and keep your curiosity at rest for to-night."

Marian took care not to be caught alone by Clara before breakfast the next morning, and almost immediately after breakfast, Edmund departed. Marian had been out into the hall with him to exchange some last words, and Mrs. Lyddell, meantime, was observing to Caroline that she never knew anything so strange; she thought it was due to herself, however unpleasant it might be, to claim some confidence from Miss Arundel, on such matters, while living under her care. Marian came back, however, with her innocent look of delight,—a look so unlike the bashfulness of a damsel in love, that Mrs. Lyddell felt again doubtful; and before she could speak, Marian had turned to Clara and said, "Now I will tell you what makes me so happy. Edmund and Agnes Wortley are engaged, and I am to go and live with them."

"Miss Wortley!" at once exclaimed Mrs. Lyddell and her daughters, in the extremity of surprise; and then Mrs. Lyddell and Clara asked all the usual questions in haste and eagerness, wondering within themselves most of all at Marian's full rejoicing, for till now they had never been able to see that Edmund was really to her only like an elder brother. Caroline scarcely spoke, only went on nervously with her work. At last, when some interruption had caused her mother and Clara to leave the room, she laid it down, looked at Marian for a moment or two, then said, in a trembling voice, "Dear Marian, I am glad you are so happy! I am glad you are to live with them!" then kissed her, and hastened away before she could answer or return the caress. Her handkerchief was raised as she closed the door. Marian sat and grieved, for well did she know all poor Caroline conveyed by that "I am glad you are to live with them." It meant that Caroline felt that she had given up the esteem and friendship in which they had lived,—that she thought her own home unfit for one brought from such a sphere as Fern Torr,—that she resigned all those plans for Clara's good, everything that had been valued between them,—that she looked not for happiness for herself, and though she had forfeited such affection as once had been hers, yet she still loved Marian. How could Marian rejoice so much, when such a fate was waiting for Caroline? Poor Caroline! she contrasted her feelings with those of Agnes, grieved again over her, and ended by blaming herself for all the coldness and severity of the last six weeks, requited as it was by so much kind, fond affection.

Yet Caroline was weakly, wilfully doing wrong. How should she behave rightly towards her? O, why would nothing happen to save her, and break off this mockery of a marriage? But as of this there seemed little hope,—as the Faulkners were at Oakworthy more than ever, and Mrs. Lyddell was talking in good earnest of wedding clothes, and bridesmaids, it was a comfort to have these better hopes to occupy herself with.

Especially did she enjoy the idea of Gerald's rejoicing, and it was very eagerly that she watched for his first letter of delight. It came as soon as heart could wish; but so mixed are joy and grief in this world, that even Gerald's letter could not convey unalloyed pleasure, but filled her with a fresh anxiety,—or more properly, strengthened and realized what had hitherto been but a vague terror.

"Eton, Sept. 14th.

"My dear Marian,—Never was anything better in this world than Edmund's plans. I give him infinite credit for them; and, as head of the family, he has my full consent. I wish they would go and live at the Manor House till I am of age,—that would be jolly! Lionel desires me to tell you that it is all very well, except your going from Oakworthy, and he shall go about the house like a mad fury," (here followed his portrait in the character,) "if you go before he is off after the blue wild beestes at the Cape. His eyes are very bad, and I wish you would tell Mrs. Lyddell about them; for I don't believe it is a bit of use his staying here, and though I am very glad to help him, doing all his work and my own too is more than I can stand. It is much worse than last half; then he could see to read, though it hurt him; now Greek or small print beats him entirely, and he cannot look out a word in the Lexicon. He does just manage to write, and he never forgets anything; so another fellow and I have dragged him through, this week. But it cannot go on so; and as he won't give up or complain, I will have something done about it, or he will blind himself outright before he has done. I cannot think how it is my tutor has not found it out, but I suppose it is that Lionel is so sharp, and has such a memory. Do speak to Mrs. Lyddell.

"Your affectionate brother,

"E. GERALD ARUNDEL"

Marian carried the letter at once to Mrs. Lyddell's dressing-room, but she found that Gerald had been mistaken in supposing the tutor had not observed Lionel's failing sight: for the same post had brought a letter from him, which had at length completely alarmed Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell, and the former was going at once to write to his son to meet him in London, where he intended to consult one of the first oculists.

This was a great relief. Mr. Lyddell set off, and the party at home comforted themselves with predictions that all would soon be remedied; Marian and Clara agreeing that it would be very pleasant to have Lionel at home to walk with them, and to be nursed.

Mr. Lyddell had been gone about two days; Caroline and Clara were at High Down, and Marian was returning from a solitary ramble in the park, enjoying her last letter from Agnes, when, as she crossed the lawn, she was startled by finding Lionel stretched on his face on the grass, just at the turn where some bushes concealed him from the windows. He lay flat, without his hat, his forehead resting on one arm; while with his hand he tore up daisies and grass, and threw them hastily over his shoulder, while his whole frame quivered in a convulsive agony of distress.

"Lionel! Lionel! you come home? What is the matter?" exclaimed she.

"Matter! matter enough, I think," said, or rather muttered Lionel; "There is an end of the Cape, or anything else."

"How are your eyes?" asked Marian, in consternation.

"Only I am blind for life!" answered Lionel; still hiding his face, and speaking in a sullen, defiant tone.

Marian, dreadfully shocked, almost beyond all power of speaking or moving, could only drop down sitting on the grass beside him, and take his hand.

"All neglect, too," he added; then vehemently, "I don't believe, no I don't, there is any pauper's son in the parish that would have been so used!"

Her voice was low with fright: "But, Lionel, what has happened? Let me see you. Is it worse? can't you see?"

"O yes, I can see now, after a fashion, at least, but that is soon to go, they say, and then—They have done it themselves, and they may have that satisfaction!" added he, with a fearful bitterness in his tone. "Elections, and parliament, and dinners, and that Faulkner,—that is what they have given my sight for." He withdrew his hand, and turned his shoulder from Marian, as if resolute not to be comforted; and again he shook with agony.

"O, don't say such dreadful things, dear Lionel! O, if I could but do anything for you!" she cried, in a tone of heartfelt grief, which seemed to soften the poor boy a little; for he twisted round, so that his face, still pillowed on one arm, was half raised to her, and she could see how flushed it was, and that the eyelids were inflamed, though not with tears, and the eyes themselves had not altered from their former appearance.

"'Tis not your fault," he said. "If my mother had cared for me one quarter—"

"Don't blame anybody, pray!" interrupted Marian: "it only makes it worse. Only tell me all about it. Did the occulist say—"

"Not to me," answered Lionel; "not the worst, at least. He examined my eyes very closely, and asked me all manner of questions about what I could see, and what I could not, and what things hurt them, and how long it had been going on, and how I had been using them. Then he told me that it was impossible for him to do anything for them as yet, till the disease had made more progress; that most likely I should quite lose my sight this winter, and then I must come to him again. So that was bad enough, but I could have made up my mind to that, and they sent me away. Then it seems that, after I was gone, he went on about it to papa, and told him that the mischief had been brewing time out of mind, and some time ago it might have been stopped; but all that straining of my eyes at Eton, last half, had done immense harm, and confirmed the disease; and it is of a kind that—that—there is no cure for!" He buried his face again.

"Did Mr. Lyddell tell you this?"

"No, he only told me we were to go home directly, and wrote to Gerald to send my things from Eton. He hardly spoke a word all the way,—only led me about, and poked me in and out of the carriage, as if I was blind already; it put me almost in a rage. Then as soon as we came home,—about half an hour ago, I should think,—he told it all straight out to my mother, did not mince matters, I assure you: indeed, I believe they both forgot I was there. They are apt to forget me, you know. He regularly stormed about the neglect, and told her it was all her fault; and while this was going on, I found I had heard the worst, and I did not want to be pitied, so I came out here. And so there is the whole story for you, Marian, and a pretty one it is! A fine sort of life I shall have instead—"

"Well but, Lionel," cried Marian, eagerly, "are you sure that be said for certain that it was hopeless? for it seems so odd that he should have told you one thing, and Mr. Lyddell another."

"Pshaw! I suppose he had got some consideration, and did not want to knock me down with the worst at once."

"I should think it was more comfortable to know the worst at once!" said Marian, meditatively, "so as to be able to settle one's mind to it."

"A pretty thing to settle one's mind to," said Lionel, "to know I must be a good-for-nothing, dependent wretch all my days! As well be a woman, or an idiot at once! There, I shall never see that tree green again; no, and spring—I have seen my last of that! and I may look my last at all your faces. Johnny I shall never see again."

Ho was crying bitterly now,—almost choking with tears; and Marian's were flowing too. She was much distressed at the present moment; for though the weeping was likely to relieve him, she feared it might be doing harm to his eyes, and she did not know in the least whether it ought to be checked, or, indeed, how to check it. Grieved and in great consternation she was, in truth, for she was very fond of Lionel, and full of such strong sympathy and compassion, as to be perfectly incapable of expressing it, in the slightest degree. But he knew her; she had been the only person who had ever been uneasy about his sight, and this went for a great deal with him: so that, with all her undemonstrativeness, there was no one whom he could have liked so well to have near him in that moment of dire despair. "O, I am so sorry!" expressed infinitely more than the simple words.

"You see, Marian," said he, raising himself, and struggling with the sobs of which he was ashamed, "I could bear it better if I had not had such a scheme for my life, and my father consenting too. Australia, and those wild cattle, and that glorious Bush life, always galloping in the plains; and now to be condemned to be moping about here, for ever, in darkness and helplessness. O, to think of the plans we have made, all come to an end for ever!" and again he was weeping violently.

"They might have been stopped otherwise," said Marian, catching at any possible idea that might answer, or seem to console him; "you know you might have been ill, or met with an accident, and had a great deal to suffer."

"I would suffer anything rather than lose my eyesight! You don't know what you are talking of."

"Then just suppose this complaint had come on, in some lonely place out in the wilds, with no one to take care of you."

"It would not, I should have had no Greek to put my eyes out."

"And after all, dear Lionel, you know——;" there she was choked—"you know that—" and she was choked again—"you know where it comes from."

"I know what you mean," he said; "and if it did—But it is my mother's neglect; there is the bitterness of it. Why, you and my father tried to stir her up to it in the spring, and she would not; and then, when for very shame she must attend, what does she do but let me go muddling on with that old woman Wells! She has regularly thrown my sight away, as much as if she had pulled my eyes out and thrown them over the hedge."

"No one could ever have guessed—"

"I tell you she might have guessed. Any other mother in the world would have been frightened years ago, long before I went to school. If it had been Elliot or Johnny, wouldn't she have had half the doctors in London? but what did she ever trouble her head about me?"

"Now, Lionel, that must not be said. You know it is wrong, and I am sure you will see how sorry she is, and how it was really not having time."

"I dare say she is sorry—I should hope so—now it is too late, and she has done it."

"But why will you accuse any one?" said Marian, sorely perplexed, and secretly sharing all his indignation against Mrs. Lyddell. "You know it only embitters you and makes it all worse; and after all, even if man had actually done the mischief, it still would ultimately be sent from Heaven."

"I don't see that that makes it any better," murmured Lionel.

"O don't you, Lionel?" said she earnestly; "doesn't it make you sure it is for the best?"

"I don't know what I have done to be so punished," went on Lionel to himself; "I have not always been good, but I have tried, and more lately, to do right; there are many much less steady than I, who—"

"Yes, yes, Lionel, but perhaps it is not as good for them to be prosperous. Indeed, indeed I am quite sure, though I don't understand it all, or see the way, that if you will but bear it rightly, you will be glad, if not before, yet at least when you die, even of this terrible affliction."

"I almost wish I was dying now!" said Lionel gloomily, "if I could but die the last day that I am to see the sky and everything, instead of droning on in the dark, a burthen to myself and every one else, for I don't know how long, forty, fifty, sixty years perhaps. You know, Marian, I am only sixteen—"

There was a burst of tears again, and Marian felt herself an unsuccessful comforter, nor did she wonder at it, for she could not fancy that anything could relieve the sense of such a misfortune as poor Lionel's, except the really high source of consolation, and that as yet only by faith, which might make him take it on trust as the best in the end, though for the present he must feel all the misery. She had no time to answer him again, for the garden door opened, and at the sound he dashed away his tears, sprang to his feet, and assumed a firm, cold, would-be indifferent look, as Mrs. Lyddell came out and advanced towards them. Marian thought her looking flushed and agitated, and her voice certainly betrayed more emotion than had ever been shown in it, except when bidding Johnny farewell.

"Lionel, my dear, sitting on the damp grass? You will certainly catch cold! I have been searching for you everywhere, but I am glad you were with Marian. I wanted to ask you, my dear, whether you would like to have your own room or Walter's," added she, wandering on as if anxious to say what was kindest, yet dreading to come to the subject nearest their hearts.

"My own, thank you," bluntly answered Lionel, "I'll and unpack." He brushed hastily by her, and ran into the house up stairs, his roughness contrasting with her affectionate tone. She looked at Marian, and saw the trace of tears on her eyelids, and her own lip quivered while her eyes filled, and she said in a trembling voice, "Poor dear boy! has he been telling you? Does he know it all?"

"Yes," said Marian, anxiously, "but is it really so very bad? Is there no hope?"

"No hope? Who said so?" exclaimed Mrs. Lyddell quickly.

"He did," said Marian; "he said Mr. Lyddell told you so."

"Was he there?" exclaimed she: "Ah! that was Mr. Lyddell's strong way of putting things! So unfortunate—forgetting all about him. Poor fellow! I must go to him directly, and tell him it was no such thing."

"What? how? O do tell me!" cried Marian, turning and hurrying with her, and speaking with, such earnestness that Mrs. Lyddell could not doubt of her sympathy now. She slackened her pace, and explained that what the surgeon, had said was, that there was confirmed disease, and of a very serious character, but the precise nature could not be ascertained till it had made greater progress, and it was then possible that it might prove capable of removal.

Mrs. Lyddell was resolved that neither herself nor any one else should believe anything but what was most hopeful. She could not have borne it otherwise. She really was far from being indifferent to any of her children, though multiplicity of occupation, and thoughts, engaged on what she considered the welfare of the family, had prevented her from being properly attentive to all, and she was so accustomed to uninterrupted prosperity, as to have almost forgotten that there was such a thing as anxiety or misfortune. Lionel, neither the eldest nor the youngest, healthy, and independent, neither remarkable for beauty nor grace, just unruly enough to be provoking, and just steady enough to be no cause of anxiety, had been as much a cipher in the family as a One lively boy could be; but though slow to be roused into anxiety, she felt it with full force when it came, all the motherly affection, which while secure had appeared dormant, revived, she was dreadfully shocked, and would have been utterly overwhelmed by the accusation of neglect, had it not been for her sanguine spirit. In this temper she represented all to Marian in the most cheering light, and hastened up stairs to do the same to Lionel. Marian, relieved and hopeful, was waiting to collect some properties of hers, to carry to her room, when she met Mr. Lyddell. She went up to greet him, and thinking that he looked very mournful, there was more cordiality and fellow-feeling in her way of addressing him than ever there had been before, though she simply said "Good morning" and shook hands.

"You have heard about it, Marian?" said he. "Has he been with you, poor fellow?"

"Yes," said Marian, "he is in his own room now."

"Ah! you spoke long ago," said Mr. Lyddell; "I wish we had attended to you."

"It was Edmund who remarked it," said she.

"Ay, ay, and senseless it was not to attend. Then it seems that something might have been done, at any rate he would not have gone on injuring them with his work at Eton, but now it is as good as a lost case. Poor fellow!"

"O!" exclaimed Marian, thrown back again, "I thought there was a hope that it might not prove to be the worst."

"There is just a shade of chance that it may turn out otherwise, and that, your mother—Mrs. Lyddell I mean—takes hold of, but I have not the slightest hope. The surgeon said, it had all the appearance of a confirmed case, such as cannot be removed."

Marian stood aghast, and Mr. Lyddell, with a sort of groan, most painful to hear, passed her, and shut himself into his study. The only thing she could think of doing, was to pour out her dismay and compassion in a letter to Gerald, and she repaired to the schoolroom for the purpose of writing, but she had not been there long, before Lionel came in, and sat down astride on the music-stool, just as he used to do, but with a very different expression of countenance from the wild, reckless spirit of merriment which used to possess him. He sat and meditated for a little while, then exclaimed, "Marian, whom have you seen since I left you?"

"Nobody but Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell."

"Did you hear papa say anything about it?"

"Yes, a little."

"Did he say what the doctor thought of it?"

"Yes."

"Tell me the very words," and he leant his elbows on the table, looking at her fixedly.

"Ah! Lionel, can you bear it? They are so very sad."

"Tell me them, I say."

Marian looked down, as if she could not bear to meet his countenance, and faltered as she repeated them.

"Ay!" said Lionel, springing up, and flinging himself round passionately, "I knew it was humbug all the time!"

"What? How? O Lionel, what have I done?"

"As if I was a fool or a baby, to be fed with false hopes," proceeded Lionel, sitting down, and hiding his face on his crossed arms on the table; "she might have let that alone, she has done me mischief enough already."

"Lionel," said Marian, firmly and gravely, for she was really shocked at his tone, "you must not come to me, if it is to speak in such a manner of your mother."

"Very well," said Lionel coldly, rising up to leave the room, then pausing just as his hand was on the door, "I thought you did feel for me, Marian."

"O Lionel, dear Lionel," and she sprang to him, to lead him back to his seat, but he still retained his hold of the lock and would not move; "you know"—her tears were flowing—"you know how I grieve for you; but if you are in trouble, that ought not to make you do wrong," He was turning the lock, and hardened his face, but Marian went on, "Don't go, Lionel, only hear me. Mrs. Lyddell is very unhappy about you, and I am sure you must see yourself, that if she blames herself for any want of care, her only comfort must be in hoping for the best, making the most of this little ray."

"Then you think there is a ray!" interrupted Lionel.

"So far as that nothing is certain, but I am afraid it is so slight, that you had much better not trust to it, but settle your mind to bear whatever may come."

"Very easy talking! If you had but to do it!" cried Lionel, impetuously wrenching the door open in spite of her gentle resistance, and running off determinately, leaving her, poor girl, in great despair, at having so completely failed either in comforting, softening, or bringing him to any kind of resigned feeling, having besides vexed him, made him think her unkind; and though this was unintentional, and might be better for him, just contradicted what his mother wished him to believe.

Her distress was too great even for writing to Gerald, and she walked up and down, thinking what to do, longing to find him some better comforter, and offering up many a prayer for him, till at last she heard Caroline and Clara come home, and remembering that happen what might, she must dress for dinner, up she went, heavily and sorrowfully.

As soon as she was dressed, she went to Clara's room, feeling that this would be but kind. Clara was not there, and she hesitated whether to go on to Caroline's, once her frequent resort. At that instant, however, both sisters came up together, and hastened to her. "O Marian Marian!" exclaimed Clara.

"You know all about it, I suppose," said Caroline.

"Yea, indeed I do."

"Come in here," said Caroline opening her door; "I want to know about him, poor fellow, and how he bears it. Have you seen anything of him?"

Marian told all she could, without betraying what was confidential, and did her best to soften Lionel's conduct, by which his sisters evidently had been disappointed, saying that he had scarcely chosen to speak to them. Marian explained what was on her mind, how she had, without intending it, flatly contradicted Mrs. Lyddell's cheering assurances, regretting it much, as injustice towards Mrs. Lyddell, but of this, Caroline thought little.

"Mamma is always sanguine," she said, "and it was only her colouring that made Lionel think her account hopeful. It must be better for him, poor fellow, to know the truth, than to have his mind unsettled with vain hopes. O dear! O dear! how sad it is, and at his age too! It breaks one's heart to think of it."

All coldness and distance had left Caroline's manner in speaking to Marian, and this was a great comfort, in the midst of their troubles.

A very uncomfortable time it was, which thus commenced. Lionel was a good boy on the whole, with right principles, and some seriousness of mind, but he was far too undisciplined to meet patiently such a trial as this. He had pride, and a high spirit, and this made him assume a bearing, which was a good deal admired in the family, trying to carry it off with a high hand, never openly uttering a word of complaint, and seeming as if he would rather die than directly express the miserable despairing feelings within, though, poor boy, he little knew how evidently they showed themselves in his gloomy silence, his outbreaks of temper, and his almost desperate, defiant spirit of independence.

His father and mother, not understanding him in the least, managed, in the revulsion of feeling which made him now the first object in the family, to try his temper perpetually. He had in former times, missed their demonstrations of affection, though healthy, high-spirited, and by no means sentimental, the craving had been only occasional, he had done very well without them, and had gained habits of freedom incompatible with being petted. He had never been used to be interfered with, and could not understand it at all; and that remembrance of past neglect embittered all his feelings.

Mr. Lyddell had just found out, as Marian had thought long ago, that Lionel was the flower of his flock, the one of his sons, who alone united spirit and steadiness, for the emigration scheme had shown a degree of sense, enterprise, and consideration which had at the time pleased and surprised him, and now added much to his sense of the promise lost. He laid all the blame of the neglect on his wife, but he did not lament it the less keenly. His extreme kindness and solicitude for the boy, were, to those who compared them with his general character, quite affecting, but unluckily they displayed themselves is a way which harassed Lionel very much, for he treated him as if he fancied him completely blind already, cautioned him, guided him, and looked anxious, if he did but walk across the garden alone; whilst Lionel, who could see quite well enough for all ordinary purposes, was teased, reminded of his troubles, and vexed above measure by having notice attracted to his defect of sight.

In the main, however, he owned that his father was kind, and sorry for him, though each particular instance annoyed him; but it was much worse with his mother, for her petting was more minute, more constant, and such as would have been worrying to any boy in full health, even if it had not, as in poor Lionel's case, been connected with the dark future, and with a past, which had sadly soured him against her. He was always rough and morose with her, rebelling against her care, never wakening into affection, or showing pleasure in what she proposed, though she continued to press on him her attention, with uunwearied assiduity.

His sisters were treated much in the same manner; Clara made him cross with over care, and Caroline, though showing better judgment, and much real tact and affection, was also kept at a distance, and often harshly answered. Marian too, was quite sufficiently like a sister to come in for many an unreasonable fit of rudeness, and temper when it was perfectly impossible to find any means of pleasing him.

Indeed such unoccupied days as his were in themselves a trial of good humour. Idleness was very pleasant in the holidays, but his was too active a spirit to bear it for long together, especially when it left room for such anticipations as those for which his hopes of a Bush life were exchanged, Yet he treated offers of reading to him as insults, and far less would he endure to learn any occupation that might serve him when his sight should be quite gone; he professed to hate music, and lounged about disconsolately in the house or garden. Now and then, if he found the young ladies reading on their own account, he would be beguiled into listening and being amused, and their ingenuity was often exercised in appearing to be doing it naturally, and he sometimes took part in conversation, and thus had his attention withdrawn from his misfortune; but it was not often that his moodiness of manner could be charmed away, unless strangers were present, when he thought it a point of honour to seem at his ease and merry.

After luncheon, he liked best to ride, but against this, Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell set their faces, persuaded that it must be very dangerous. This, Lionel thought the height of unkindness; he could ride just as safely as in the holidays; and it was too cruel to make him give up the one pleasure he best liked, while he was still able to enjoy it, and though not sufficiently familiar with them to attempt any remonstrance, he became doubly discontented and sullen. He would not walk with the girls, but wandered far away over the downs by himself, often not coming back till very late, and till both his parents had been in some alarm. At last, after about a week, Marian ventured to expostulate; she prevailed, and he was allowed to resume his rides, under a restriction that it must never be alone. Now, taking a servant with him was an avowal of his misfortune which he never would endure; so Marian, who never in her life was afraid of what any horse could do, became his companion, and rode out with him a good deal, feeling him indeed a charge, but not nearly so heavy a one as her cousins fancied.

Still, though not afraid of accidents to him or to herself, these rides were almost a subject of dread to Marian, daily as was their occurrence, for it was then that poor Lionel made up for the reserve he exercised with all the rest. If she could have done him any good, it would have been a different thing, but surely, the world did not contain, as she thought, a worse comforter than herself; for day after day, answer as she would, came the same sad strain of regrets, and laments over vanished plans, repelling every attempt at leading him to resignation, and only varied by the different moods in which he would sometimes look on his case as hopeless, and sometimes be angry with her for assuming that it was so. Still worse were the complaints of his parents, in which he would indulge after each fresh provocation, or rather, what he thought so, though she never gave him the least encouragement to talk in this manner, argued for them, and often blamed him; yet do what she would, he never was convinced. The same battle on some other ground was sure to recur, often the next day, and Marian, right as she knew she was, never felt as if she had the victory; for five times out of six, it was in a surly, impatient manner that he turned away from her, as they dismounted. She often wondered whether she ought to let him go on thus, whether it was right in her, if it did him harm, by confirming all his unpleasant feelings, or whether it might not be worse for him to let them rankle in his heart instead of pouring them out. It seemed too unkind to silence him, when he fancied such talk a comfort, and she was the only person in his confidence, yet what was right? what was good for him? Her head ached with the self debate; she felt positively worn and depressed, with the continued useless, harassing conversations; she knew he was beyond her management, yet, with all her doubts, she was too tender-hearted to vex him; she let him go on and only combated each point, instead of refusing to listen.

Why would not Walter come home, the only true comforter Lionel was likely to find, whom he really respected and loved? Walter was by this time ordained, yet he did not propose coming home; indeed Marian had not even heard whether he had written, and she was inclined to think he could not have been informed of the state of things at home.

At length, when Lionel had been at home nearly a month, there came one morning a letter directed to him. His mother and Clara both offered to read it for him, but he gruffly refused, glanced it over, and put it in his pocket. He loitered through the morning, and rode with Marian in the afternoon. As they happened to meet with some entertaining subject of conversation, the ride was more cheerful than usual, and she hoped she had escaped the ordinary discussion; but when he helped her to dismount under the portico, he said, "Don't go in just yet. Come and take a turn in the plantations."

Her heart sank at the task that was coming, but she would not disappoint him, and gathering up her habit, she followed his quick steps. As soon as they were out of sight of the house, he produced the letter, saying, "Here, read me this."

"O! I was in hopes that you could."

"I thought I could at first, but it was only 'my dear Lionel,' that I could read. It was all haze after that. There is a step In these three weeks," he added in a voice meant to be manly and careless. "Come, let us hear. 'Tis from Walter, is not it?"

The letter had been written on first receiving intelligence of Lionel's condition, which had been communicated by his father when he had to write about something else. Marian, as she read, rejoiced in the letter, it was so exactly what she wanted to have said, and yet never could venture on, about regarding the affliction as a cross, and bending to bear it patiently. She had often felt that here was the best relief, but she had never dared to set it openly before Lionel, fearing that her awkwardness, and his waywardness, might lead to his saying something scornful, which would be worse than all. Here it was put before him in just the right way, and one to which he must attend, and she watched eagerly for some token of the way in which he took it.

He made no remark, however, seeming to hear it as a matter of course that Walter would say something of the kind. After asking if she was certain she had read all, and pointing to a few crossed lines at the head of the first page, to make sure that she had not missed them, he only said, "Then there is not a word about coming. Well, I do think he might come when he knows that after this time I shall never be able to see him."

"I don't suppose he thinks of that," said Marian—"I mean perhaps he would not think of your caring for the mere sight of him as a pleasure."

"He does not know then," said Lionel, "I am trying to learn all your faces, and I don't think I shall forget them."

"I am sure if he guessed you wished for him he would come that instant."

"I am not going to ask him," said Lionel proudly.

"What, I really think, is the reason of his stayin away," said Marian, hesitating, "is about Mr. Faulkner. I think more especially now he is a Clergyman, he will not have anything to do with him."

"Ay, ay," said Lionel, "that is a reason good for something. I only should like to do the same, except that if I was Walter I would have done more long ago, instead of just keeping out of the way, and told Caroline it was a regular shame, and she ought not to be taken in with his fine speeches, and balls, and stuff."

"I don't know—" said Marian.

"What don't you know?"

"How far even Walter would be authorised to interfere about what Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell approve."

"Don't talk nonsense, Marian. If a thing is right, it is right, if it is wrong, it's wrong, and all the world ought to try to prevent it. I know I would, if anybody would mind me, for it makes me sick to see that man come into the room, and the fuss mamma makes with him. I think he grows worse. I declare I'd as soon see her marry Julian the Apostate! I am so glad he is gone to those races. I should like to ask Caroline what sort of happiness she expects with a man that talks of the Bible as if it was no better than the Iliad! I only wish he would talk so to her, perhaps that would shock her."

"I don't think she is very happy," said Marian.

"I am sure she ought not to be," was the answer.

"The more talk there has been of fixing the day the more unhappy she has looked," said Marian. "You know she has begged the Faulkners to let it be put off a little longer, because she could not bear that it should be while you are in this doubtful state."

"I did not know it," said Lionel, "and much good does it do me! A nice life I shall have with no one but Clara to speak to! And when is your marriage, Marian? Mr. Arundel's, I mean, for that is as bad."

"O that will not be till next summer," said Marian: "Mrs. Wortley wishes Agnes to be twenty-one first, and Edmund has to build a house."

And Marian was ready to forgive them for the delay when she saw how glad it made Lionel look. Yes, rejoiced as she must be to escape from Oakworthy, she could not go without a chequered feeling. If she was adroit at managing people, she would make Clara take the place she held now with Lionel, which would be good for both, but she was far too clumsy to bring that about; and O! what a refuge Fern Torr would be after all this harassing life! It would be better for Lionel not to have her to divert his confidence from his own family, and at any rate she should be there to help him through this sad autumn of uncertainty. Then would come the peace, rest, and guidance she had longed for all her life, in her own home, and that hope might well cheer her through life.



CHAPTER XVI.

"The brass, by long attrition tried, Placed by the purer metal's side, Displays at length a dingy hue, That proves its former claim untrue; So time's discerning hand hath art To set the good and ill apart."

Lionel's affliction had certainly tended to lessen the gulf which the engagement with Mr. Faulkner had made between Caroline and Marian. Caroline was very anxious about her brother, and knowing that Marian had his confidence, was continually coming to her for reports of his state of mind and spirits, and with despairing questions as to what was likely to please him,—questions which Marian was quite unqualified to answer, and which were curious, since she had no tact, and Caroline had a great deal.

Thus it came to pass, that nightly sittings by each other's bed-room fire were renewed, and long consultations took place, always at first about Lionel, but sometimes branching to things in general, even as in the olden time. Caroline was, however, very unlike what she had been a year ago, when as Marian full well remembered, they had first talked of Mr. Faulkner's visit. She was gayer in public, but her spirits were very low when alone with Marian; and now and then the conversation flagged, till she sat for full half an hour, her head on her hand, without a word. At first she would try to excuse such a reverie, by calling herself very tired; but as days went on, and it recurred, she smiled as she woke from it, and told Marian "it was such repose to be with a person who would let her be silent."

There was much confidence in such silence. Marian began to grow even more sorry for her than at first, because it was impossible to continue to be angry; and tried in every way to show her kindness, becoming, unconsciously, much more demonstrative in affection than ever she had been before. On the day on which Lionel received the letter mentioned at the end of the last chapter, Caroline came into Marian's room at dressing-time; and after lingering about a little, she said, "Could Lionel read that letter to day?"

Marian shook her head sadly.

"He brought it to you, then?" sighed Caroline, "Ah! I saw who it came from."

She looked wistfully at Marian, as if longing to hear something of the letter, though she would not ask; and Marian, though much touched, was determined against saying one word about it, however indifferent, as she felt that, without Lionel's consent, she ought to be as mute as the paper it was written upon. Caroline paused, then continued, "Do you think he will ask you to write his answer for him?"

"No, I think not. You know he wrote a note to Gerald in one of my letters the other day. I dare say he will always be able to write; Mrs. Wortley has a blind friend who does."

Caroline did not answer, but gazed at the fire for almost ten minutes. At last she said, "Poor Walter! I wonder what he is doing."

"I am sure he must be making himself very useful," said Marian.

"That is one thing we may be sure of," said Caroline, smiling mournfully. "Walter is excellent wherever he is; but O, Marian," continued she, in a voice of inexpressible sadness, "who would have told me, a year ago, that all I should hear of Walter's ordination would be in the newspaper?"

Marian could make no answer but some sound expressive of sorrow.

"He has only written to me once since—since June!" proceeded Caroline, in the same utterly dejected tone.

Then Walter had remonstrated, which was a great comfort to Marian, by restoring him to his place in her estimation. Still she maintained her expressive silence, and Caroline went on after another interval. "You and he have been consistent from the first, Marian."

At that moment Fanny came in, and no more could be said, for Marian was obliged to dress for dinner in a hurry. She took an opportunity of saying to Lionel that evening, something about the pleasure it would give Caroline if he would tell her about his letter.

"What! you have been telling her about it?" said he, in a tone of great vexation; "that is always the way with women—no trusting them!"

"No, indeed, Lionel, I said not one word; but she saw it was Walter's writing."

"And you went and told her I could not read it?"

"If she asked me, what could I do but speak the truth?" said Marian gently; but he only made an impatient exclamation.

"I gave not the least hint of what it was about," added Marian, pleadingly. "Of course I could not think of that, nor she either; but she looked as if she did so long for some news of Walter: she has not heard from him since the summer."

"That is her own fault," said Lionel, in his surly voice.

"That only makes it the worse for her. She is so much out of spirits, Lionel; and if you would only tell her that part about his schools and his lodging, I am sure she would be so much obliged to you."

"I shan't do any such thing," was his reply; "I always keep my letters to myself, and I wish you would not talk about me."

He turned sharply away, and crossed the room; but his temper was not improved by the consequences of his stumbling over a footstool which had been left full in the way, and in rather a dark place, where it would have been a trap for any one. He recovered in an instant without falling; so that it would not have signified if Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell had not both been startled. The former issued an edict that no stumbling-block should be left in the way, and the latter entered upon an investigation as to who had been the delinquent in the present case, so as to make a great deal of discussion of the very worst kind for Lionel.

Thenceforth the evening was uncomfortable. Marian felt as if she was guilty of all, and was extremely provoked with herself for that blundering way of driving at her point, which made things worse when she most wanted to set them right. She had not comforted Caroline, and she had led poor Lionel to fancy his confidence betrayed, and himself discussed and—as he would call it—gossiped about. No wonder he looked as if she had been injuring him; yet, unjust as it was, she had only her own mal-adroitness to blame. A person of tact would have smoothed it all at once, instead of ruffling everything up.

The tact Marian longed for is a natural talent; the consideration, the delicacy of feeling, that she really had, were a part of her sterling goodness, such as may be acquired by all; and her thorough truth, trustiness, kindness, and above all her single-mindedness, had a value, where she was really known, which weighed down, in the long run, all that was involuntarily against her in manner, and won her not only esteem, but such warm affection, such thorough reliance, as neither she herself, nor those who felt it could fathom. Tact is an excellent thing, but genuine love to our neighbour, seeking to show true kindness, delicacy, and consideration,—striving in fact to do as it would be done by,—is as much more precious, as a spiritual gift is than a natural quality.

That very night, as Marian was sitting in her own room in her dressing-gown, pondering on these unfortunate blunders, there was a knock at her door, and in came Caroline. Sitting down by the fire, she held out a letter on two or three sheets of closely written notepaper. "Read that, Marian," said she, turning her face straight, to the fire as she gave it.

It was from Walter, and the date showed that it had been written, immediately on receiving the announcement of Caroline's engagement. It was grave, earnest, and affectionate; not accusing Mr. Faulkner of anything, not positively objecting to him, but reminding Caroline of the solemnity of the duties she was about to undertake, and of the extreme danger of allowing herself to be so attracted by agreeableness of manner, or led on by the opinion of those around her, as to forget that the connection she was about to form was to last for life, and that she must be responsible for the influence her husband would exercise on her life here, and therefore on her life hereafter. He said he was sure she could not enter lightly on such an engagement, and therefore trusted that her own mind was thoroughly convinced that she had chosen one who would be a guide, an aid, and a support in the path that all were treading.

It was exactly Walter's way, as Marian well knew, to manage to say, in his simple, and as he thought, guarded manner of representing things, what to sharper people had very much the air of irony; and as she gave back the letter, her observation, as the first that would occur, was, "It is very like Walter."

"Very," said Caroline.

"Did you answer him?"

"I wrote again, but—but"—her voice began to fail—"it was not an answer. I would not seem to understand him. I wrote a lively, careless sort of letter, and only said papa and mamma were delighted, or something of that kind. And O, Marian, Marian, he has never written to me again, and I have deserved it." She burst into tears.

"But why don't you write now? He must be very anxious to hear of Lionel, and there is no one to tell him."

"I cannot," she replied; "I cannot, while—while he thinks of me as he must—as he ought!" She wept bitterly, and Marian stood by perplexed and distressed. "Dear Caroline," was the utmost that she could say.

"Marian!" cried Caroline, looking up for a moment, then hiding her face again—"I would give anything in the world that he had been at home last summer; or that you had slept at High Down that night."

A flash of hope and joy came across Marian. "If you think so," she began, but Caroline cut her short. "I know what you mean, but that it? impossible, quite Impossible—decidedly so," she added, as if these assurances were to strengthen her own belief in its impossibility, and not arguing, from a consciousness that her friend would overthrow every one of her arguments. "I don't know what made me come to you, and tease you," said she, rising and taking her letter; "good night."

"Tease me! O, Caroline, Caroline, you know—"

What she knew was lost in a most affectionate embrace; but Caroline would not stay any longer, and left Marian as usual, regretting everything that had passed.

The nest night, however, Caroline came again, as if there was some irresistible spell that drew her to Marian. It was Sunday, and Marian had long since observed that on such days Caroline was always most out of spirits. She sat down, and let a long time pass without talking; but at last she said, "Marian, it is very kind in you to let me come and sit here. You cannot—no—you will never know how wretched I am."

"My dear, dear Caroline, if I could but do anything for you! but," she proceeded, gathering resolution from her day's reflections, "you are the only person who can do anything for yourself."

"Impossible!" repeated Caroline.

Marian was not exactly silenced, but involved in deep considerations as to the propriety of interfering, and whether attempting to persuade Caroline would be doing evil that good might come. Before she had made up her mind,—as, indeed, how could she in five minutes come to a conclusion to which hours of previous perplexity had failed to bring her?—Caroline spoke again, "If it had but never begun! but now it has, it must go on."

"I don't know—"

"It must, I tell you!" repeated Caroline. "If it had all to begin over again, it would be very different. O, if it was but this time last year!"

"But Caroline, Caroline," repeated Marian, carried away by the thought that rose to her lips, "only think; you say now if it was this time last year—now, while you can escape. Shall not you say so all the more when it is really too late,—when you will wish you had drawn back now?"

"You have no right to say I should wish, that!" said Caroline, offended. "You don't know what the love is that you are holding so cheaply."

"I beg your pardon, Caroline," and Marian was thrown into herself again; but she thought a little longer, and seeing that Caroline was still waiting and musing, she ventured on saying, in a timid voice, "Somehow, I think, it would seem to me that the more affection there was, the more painful it would all be."

"You are right there, Marian," exclaimed Caroline, in a voice of acute feeling.

It was a strange question that Marian next asked abruptly, on an impulse sudden at the moment, though it was what she had long eagerly desired to know. "Do you love him after all?"

Caroline did not seem vexed by the inquiry, but went on speaking rather as if she was examining herself as to the answer,—"Love him? I don't know; sometimes I think I do, sometimes I think not. It is not as people in books love, and—and it can't be as your Agnes must love Mr. Arundel."

A most emphatic "O no!" escaped from Marian, she hardly knew how, as if it was profanation to compare Mr. Faulkner to Edmund; and perhaps the strongest proof that Caroline's was not a real attachment, was that she let it pass. "But then," pursued she warmly, "I am sure he is attached to me—yes, very much—and—well, and I am glad to see him come into the room; I like to walk with him. There is no one—no—no one in the whole world whom I like so well. All my doubts and fears go away at the first sound of his voice, and I am quite happy then. O, Marian, that surely is love?"

"I don't know," said Marian; "I can't fancy love that has not begun with esteem, with looking up,"

"I do look up!" said Caroline, eagerly. "He is so clever, so sensible, has such a mind."

"I did not mean looking up intellectually,"

"Ah! you can live in that way," said Caroline, quickly; "your own people are all of that sort. But you know I should never have had any one at all to love, if I had begun looking for that kind of thing, even at home."

Too true, thought Marian, while she answered, "It is a different thing where you have to begin afresh, and take it voluntarily upon you."

"Voluntarily!" repeated Caroline; "I am sure my will had very little to do with it. I found myself in the midst of it, without knowing how, before I had made up my mind one way or the other. O, Marian! if you had but been with me that morning."

"Would that have prevented you?"

"I do really believe it would. You would have looked as if you thought it so impossible, that I should have been strengthened up to do something they could not have taken for consent. I'll tell you all about it, Marian, from the beginning, and you will see how little free will I had in it, and how distracted I am now."

Caroline went through the whole story, incoherently, and often only half expressing her sentiments, and passing over what Marian knew already. It seemed that she had been pleased with Mr. Faulkner's agreeableness, flattered by his attention, and entered upon the same sort of intercourse with him as with any other pleasant acquaintance. It would never have been her way, brought up as she had been, to shrink from him with such shuddering aversion as Marian did, simply from what she had heard of his opinions. He was so agreeable, that it was just as well quite to forget that, or only half to believe it. Then came the growing perceptions of his intentions towards her, and of her mother's triumph in them. But this was not till the archery arrangements were so far advanced, that she could not have drawn back from them; and she was, besides, in a whirl of gaiety and excitement that left little time for serious thought: that she put off till his offer should be made, if it was really coming. It came, and when she did not expect it. She knew not what to do she was too confused for consideration. The next day was bewilderment, and in the evening she found herself engaged. The new sensation given her by her lover's affection, her genuine admiration of his personal superiority, and wonder at herself for having attracted such a man,—her gratitude to his family for their kindness, the triumph of her parents,—all formed such a mixture of pleasurable, almost intoxicating feelings, as at first to giddy her, (or, as the French will express it, l'etourdir,) as to what she had done, and what she was about to do. Marian's grave, still face, and omission of one congratulatory, even of one sympathetic word, were indeed witnesses; but the impression of her unaccommodating ways was then recent, and Caroline thought of her as one who showed goodness to be unpleasing and impracticable, and looked on her silent disapproval as part of that system of severity in which, she was consistent, but which her conduct only proved to be absurd and unreasonable.

In the same spirit Caroline disregarded Walter's letter,—only a letter, which could therefore be laid aside, and which, in truth, did not say all he meant as forcibly or as well as it might have been said, since, as every one knew, Walter was more good than clever. A tenderness of feeling, reminding her that Walter loved her, would not let her destroy the letter, or be offended; but she intrenched herself in her parents' satisfaction, and being resolved not to attend to it, she would not seem to understand it. So time passed; at first she was really not exactly happy, but possessing what passed very well for happiness with herself and every one else; then came a time when an effort became necessary to persuade herself that she was so. It was not that Mr. Faulkner showed his character more openly, or startled her with any such plain expressions as had so much shocked Lionel; for he held that most subtle and perilous of all views partaking of unbelief,—that Christianity was the best and most beautiful form of religion yet promulgated, that it was all very well now for women and weak-minded people, and it was a step to some wonderful perfectibility, which was a sort of worship of an essence of beauty and intellect.

He did not say such things to her, but they were the principles on which all his sentiments were founded: and as she knew him mire and more intimately, compared and discussed their tastes and likings, and the grounds on which they were formed, there were tokens, which could not help now and then showing themselves, of those opinions of which Marian had warned her.

Very slow was she to admit the conviction, for she was growing much attached to him; and whenever he praised the beauty, the poetry, the morality, the majesty of anything belonging to religion, she caught at it and silenced all her doubts with it,—hoped she had silenced them for ever,—but the perception would return that it was only the beauty that he praised, because it was beauty, and struck him as such. Shade upon shade, imperceptible in itself, but each tint adding to its depth, the cloud of misgiving darkened, and though she tried to fight it off,—though she told herself it was too late,—though she was very angry with herself for it, there it still hung; and the ever-present consciousness of Marian's disapproval heightened it, till in impatient moods she began to dislike Marian, and wish her out of the house,

Then came the news of Edmund Arundel's engagement, rousing Marian into such a glow of warm-hearted delight, as to waken Caroline to a complete sense of her power of affection, as well as of the contrast of the manner in which she regarded the prospects of her two friends. Caroline grew more unhappy, and strove both against her own growing wretchedness, and an almost magnetic attraction, which drew her to impart it all to Marian, in spite of the chill with which it would be first met, and of the advice which could never be taken; whilst a yearning, longing desire for the long-suspended intercourse with Walter, and a sense of his displeasure, formed no slight portion of her miserable feelings. The arrangements for her marriage she looked on as part of her destiny,—at any rate, they occupied her mind; and there would be an end, after that, of these dreadful and vain doubts.

In the midst of all this, poor Lionel's threatened misfortune gave Caroline, as it were, a glimpse down a long dark road, where nothing had ever yet caused her to look; yet who could say whether it might not be her's to tread it? Affliction, sickness, sorrow, death, certain at last,—there was but one stay in them; and what if she should lose it,—if she was losing it already? I She thought of bearing them with him,—of the hollowness, the fallacy, the utter misery of trying to be sustained by aught that had not its foundations firmly fixed beyond the grave,—of not looking as sorrow as fatherly chastisement. (Caroline hardly yet entered into its still higher claim,) or at death as the gate of life. And O! if she loved him as her husband, what would it be to see him die, thinking, or even having thought, as he too surely did? All the train of fallacies about sincerity rather than forms of faith,—all the hopes that he might yet be brought to see the truth, and that she might be the means, were only soporifics for a moment, which failed to still the ever growing agony. She knew there was nothing in them, and that they were only extenuations; but still, amid all her unhappiness, there was a resolution to persevere, a want of moral courage which determined her to go on, and enter on such a life as this, rather than go through all that would ensue on an attempt to break off the match. Thus, though her reluctance was increasing, and she now sought to put off the decisive day, instead of precipitating it, as at first, all she attempted was to have the wedding deferred in consequence of her brother's condition; and though, logically taken, there was no great reason in the request, every one agreed it was a very amiable feeling, and so her desire was complied with. She would have avoided Marian more than ever, but this could hardly be, now that her cousin was in fuller sympathy, with all the family than she had ever been before; and little as was her immediate power with Lionel, Caroline would have given worlds even for that. Thus, as has been shown, the old sympathy grew up again; the root, blighted months ago, shot out once more, and at last accident and impulse led Caroline to do what she had little expected ever to have done,—to pour out all her griefs, cares, and doubts to Marian, knowing all the time what she would say, and resolved against her advice, yet irresistibly impelled to go on, as if talking would relieve her of her burthen, and resting on the solid, firm truth of that deep love, which manifested itself by few tokens indeed, but those were of extreme worth.

The confession was a perplexity and a sorrow to Marian while it was being made, though she was very glad it had been done; and how intense were the affection and compassion for Caroline that filled her heart is beyond all power of narration. She answered with earnest sympathy, at each step helped out the broken words, and showed her comprehension of the pauses. She was a perfect listener in all but one respect; she would not give the counsel Caroline wanted; and she would not have been Marian, she would not have had her own reality and bracing severity, if she had. She could not cheer Caroline up, bid her banish fear, and look forward to happiness; she could not even tell her there was no help for it: she only said, "I don't know," and sat considering whenever Caroline reiterated that it was impossible, and too late.

Some power those "I don't knows" had beyond eloquence; for when Caroline had seven times fully proved how entirely out of the question any attempt to escape from her destiny would be, she ended by asking, in quite a different tone, "What would you have me do?"

The reply was, of course, "I don't know;" but this was immediately followed by a repetition of the former counsel, "Write to Walter."

Caroline could not—would not; it would be of no use: poor Walter should not be tormented. If, in his strict sense of right, he chose to come and try, as he would think, to save her, there would be nothing but uproar and confusion in the family; and to think of him, with his timidity, bringing his father's anger on himself for her sake, seemed to her at the moment beyond all things dreadful. No, no, no, it was utterly impossible; and therewith the fire being out, and the clock striking two, Caroline thanked Marian for her kindness, said it was all of no use, kissed her, and bade her good night.

Marian thought no good was done, and only made herself very unhappy at seeing her led, by weakness, to sacrifice herself against her better judgment. The next night, Caroline came again, and the conversation was resumed, or rather gone over again, with no more satisfactory result than before; and so it was the next, and the next. To be comforter and adviser sounds like a delightful privilege, and so, thought Marian, it would be, if one could only do it; but to have all the opportunity,—to have people coming for comfort, and not in the least be able to afford it, neither to relieve them, nor to be sure that she had not done them harm was to the highest degree painful and unsatisfactory. And from Lionel's repinings to Caroline's doubts, she went, suffering for each, equally unable to console either, and wondering which was the saddest case. Lionel's was, she thought, far the best, if he would but perceive it; but then Caroline's might yet be remedied, if she had but strength for one struggle. All that Marian could do without mistrust, was to pray for them both, and to pray that she might not be the means of doing them harm.

She saw how wrong it would be in her, personally to interfere between Caroline and her parents' wishes; and it was this that made her adhere to that one piece of advice, that Walter should be written to, since on his judgment and sense of right there was the most absolute reliance; and, both as brother and Clergyman, he was by far the most proper person for Caroline to consult, or to act for her.

For three days, however, it was all in vain, Caroline would not write; and she began to despair, and to grow angry with the feebleness that would not take one step in the right direction. On the fourth, Caroline, who the night before had seemed as averse as ever, showed her, as she crossed the hall on the way to luncheon, a letter directed to the Reverend Walter Lyddell. Her heart leapt, but as she smiled satisfaction, she saw Caroline's face so wan, dejected, and miserable, that she could not make herself too happy. There were other doubts, now that this point was gained, as to how Walter might be able to manage Caroline,—whether he would lead her to the right, or unconsciously turn her to the wrong, by his want of skilfulness; what might be his idea of her duty to her parents, or to her promise; whether he might think it right to take upon himself to advise, or whether either he or his sister, when it came to the point, would have nerve enough to excite their father's displeasure.

The only thing Marian thought at all favourable, was that Elliot and Mr. Faulkner were both at Newmarket, and there was no present appearance of their coming home. Elliot was likely to make more opposition than any one else, and Mr. Faulkner's influence was of course to be dreaded. Indeed, had he been at hand, believing, as Caroline did, in his affection for her, it was most probable that she would never have spoken of her misgivings at all, and very possibly have hardly acknowledged them to herself.

Caroline's letter had been written on Thursday. It was Monday, and no answer had come, which caused her to look more worn and dispirited than before, unable even to keep up the appearance of cheerfulness which she had hitherto assumed when with the rest of the family. It was a cold, gloomy, wintry day, with gusts of sleety rain, and no one chose to attempt going out, except Marian and Lionel, the former of whom was a systematic despiser of weather, and never was hurt by anything but staying in-doors, while the latter would rather have done anything than idle away a whole afternoon as well as a morning in the drawing-room. Even they thought it too bad for riding; so after making the circuit of the park, they went into the town, where Lionel wanted to buy a silk handkerchief. He had been told the day before that his neck-tie was growing unfit to be seen, he did not choose to ask any one to get one for him, and it was against his will that he was obliged to take Marian to secure him from buying "any thing awful," as he expressed it.

The purchase prospered very well, Lionel hoped that the shopman had not found out how entirely he trusted to his companion for the choice, and was proud that his old precaution of substituting a key for a slider at the gold end of his purse, had saved him from making any mistakes about the money. They were walking away, arm in arm; it was not yet necessary to guide him, but Marian thought, beginning now would soften the first commencement of dependence. And, indeed, even in the holidays Lionel, in his first tail-coat, had been well-pleased to find himself man enough to have his arm taken by a young lady.

A carriage was passing. "There is Walter!" joyfully exclaimed Marian, as she saw the well-known spectacled face peering from the window of one of the carriages from the Great Western Station.

"Walter! what, come at last?" cried Lionel, looking up and frowning in that painful way that had become habitual to him when he strained his eyes to see distinctly. Walter had at the same moment spied them, stopped, thrown the door open, sprung out, and was shaking hands with them, but scarcely speaking. He turned again to order the driver to go on and set his things down at the house, and then joined his brother and cousin, looting very anxiously at Lionel, whose arm Marian had quitted, and still keeping silence. Marian on her side was very glad; but at the same time almost overcome by the thought of what this return home must be to Walter, and feeling a strange, solemn sensation at first meeting her cousin and companion, after he had become in an especial manner the servant of the Most High. He was Walter still, Walter with his near-sighted eyes, and nervous manner, yet he was so much more, and his clerical dress would not let her forget it for a moment.

Lionel was the most unembarrassed of the three, he was very glad to meet his brother, and wishing to show that he could bear his troubles manfully, he spoke joyously, "So you have thought better of it and come at last, Walter; I hope it is for a good long time."

"Only till Saturday," was Walter's answer.

"Well, that is something, only I can't think why you did not come before."

Walter murmured something about having been much occupied, and then seemed to be watching Lionel too intently to say any more. Marian thought the brothers would get on much better without her, and, coming to a cottage, said she wanted to speak to somebody in it. "O Marian, we will wait for you," said Walter, with a pleading look, and she saw from his agitated, fidgeting manner, that he was excessively nervous at the notion of being left to take care of Lionel back to the house.

"Very well," she said, "I will not be a moment;" and delivering her message, which had been only devised as an excuse, she walked on with them, in a sort of despair as to Walter's being of any use. "If he is afraid to walk home with Lionel," thought she, "what will it be about stirring up his father? Why cannot people have a little courage?" She consoled herself by remembering that Walter could not know the degree of Lionel's blindness, and probably thought it worse than it yet was; but even if it had been total, she could not see that he need have been afraid of guiding him in the street and through the park. If it was the additional nervousness, of disliking to begin on so painful a subject, that she thought worse than all. Marian being by no means troubled with nerves herself, had little toleration for women who had them; and none at all for men. She thought the case lost, and half repented of her advice to write to Walter, yet she did not know what else she could possibly have said. Lionel talked on, told who was at home, and what every one was about, and when Johnny had last been heard of, all in a bright, lively tone, not exactly assumed, for he was much cheered by his brother's arrival, and yet partly from the wonted desire of showing himself happy. Walter did not make much reply, but when Lionel after saying Elliot was at Newmarket, added, "And Mr. Faulkner is there too, so you won't have the pleasure of an introduction," he started, and Marian saw the trembling of his lips.

Thus they reached the house, and Lionel dashed forward In his own headlong way before them, to announce Walter's coming. Then Walter looked at Marian, saying, "Then it is not so bad yet?"

"O no, it is only that he cannot see anything distinctly; he cannot bear not to be independent."

They were entering the hall by this time, and his mother and sisters had come out to meet Walter, Caroline very white and trembling, and holding by the back of a chair instead of coming forward; Mrs. Lyddell kissed him, and seemed more affectionate than usual, for it had been a great pleasure to her to see Lionel rush in with that animated face, and a shout such as he used to get into disgrace for.

Nothing came to pass that evening, there were no private conferences, and there was nothing remarkable, excepting that Lionel was quite merry and talkative, and Caroline more silent than ever, seeming hardly to attend even when Walter was sitting between her and Clara, talking to Marian and Lionel about the beautiful arrangements of Church and school in his new curacy. At night she was in such a terrible agitation, walking up and down the rooms so restless and wretched that Marian, seriously afraid she would be quite ill the next day, persuaded her with great difficulty, to go to bed, and did not leave her till very late at night, when she had read her to sleep.

It was a, great relief to find her pretty well in the morning, at least with nothing worse than a headache. She and Walter both disappeared after breakfast, and did not come down till luncheon time, when she looked so ill that Mrs. Lyddell was alarmed and insisted on her lying down and keeping quiet. Then Mrs. Lyddell said that Walter ought to go and call on Lady Julia Faulkner, and offered to take him there. Marian looked at him by stealth, and could have gasped for breath, for by what he did now, she thought she could see what line he would take.

"Thank you," he said, or rather hesitated, "but don't let me interrupt your plans. I thought I heard something about—about. Salisbury. I have something to do there."

"The girls did talk of wanting to go," said Mrs. Lyddell. "Did not you, Marian or Clara, which was it?"

"My watch wants to have something done to it," put in Lionel, whose father had given him a repeater, which of course began its career by doing anything but going properly.

"Well, perhaps it will he as well to go to Salisbury to-day, as Caroline has this headache. She never likes going there, and she may be able to go with us to High Down to-morrow."

So it was settled, and they left the luncheon table. Marian happened to be the last lady, and whether it was fancy or not she was not sure, but she thought she heard on Walter's lips, a self-reproachful whisper of "Coward."

The expedition to Salisbury, in which Marian was obliged to take part, prevented her from seeing anything of Caroline till the evening, and then as soon as Clara was out of the way Caroline rose up, caught hold of her hand, and exclaimed, "O, Marian, what have you made me do?" then walked about in a paroxysm of distress, almost terrible to witness.

"Caroline, dearest, O don't!" cried Marian quite frightened; "do try to be calm! O what is it?"

"O it will all be misery!" said Caroline, sitting down and clasping her hands over her face, "I little knew what it would be when you made me write to Walter. He says it would be wickedness—yes, those were his words—he called it wickedness in me to go on with it, as I feel now!"

"And you mean to—"

"I cannot tell—I don't know—he must do as he pleases; O it will make me wild! He must do as he pleases, for I must be wretched either way,"

"Dear Caroline—but O! how much better to be unhappy for the sake of doing right than when—"

"Yes, yes—so he said—but O! the horror. It kills me even to think of what it will be! O, Marian, Marian—"

"It will be over in time," said Marian; "but O! I am glad you have made up your mind—"

"No, I have not—at least I must, I suppose—for after what Walter said I can't go on. Walter's words would be a dagger—O! I don't know what they would be, all the rest of my life if I did. No—you and Walter must have your own way; I am too wretched already to care what becomes of inc. But he—O Marian, I never can—"

"If it is right you can," said Marian.

"You can, but you don't know what you say to me," said Caroline. "Right has never been to me what it is to you."

"Yes, indeed it has, dear Caroline, or you would not be making this struggle now. Indeed there must be strength in you, or you would have gone on without faltering."

"Walter said he should never have spoken one word after that first letter, if I had not begun," said Caroline; "but when he saw my mind misgave me, and I wanted help, he thought it his duty to come and set it all before me. O, Marian, he said dreadful things; I did not think Walter could have been so cruel. O, such things! He made me look at the Marriage Service, and say how I could answer those things; and he talked about death and the Last Day. He said it would be a presumptuous sin, and a profaning of the holy ordinance for me to come to it, knowing and thinking and feeling as I do. O what things he said! and yet he was very kind to me."

"Well, and—"

"I left it all to him. I knew it would be misery, and I did not care in what way; but then, Marian, O! worse than all, he said it must be my own doing."

"I suppose it must."

"He said he would help me; but I was the only person who had a right to do anything! O, Marian, Marian, I wish I could die."

"It will be over in time!" repeated Marian.

"Yes, but it will not be over. Mamma, papa, O I shall be reproached with it for ever; I shall know I have made him unhappy. O would that I could begin all over again!"

"You will have comfort at last in having been strong. The greater the effort the nobler it is! O, Caroline, do only hold out nobly. It is so glorious to have something to suffer for the sake of doing right!"

"Glorious!" murmured Caroline, her desponding gaze raised to contemplate the grand head, fine brow, firm lips, and dark glancing eye, turned up for a moment in the enthusiastic spirit of self-devotion. That look, unknowing as was Marian that she wore it, penetrated into Caroline's soul, and warmed her too with the temper of martyrdom. "Glorious;" she repeated a second time, and the tone was not so broken and hopeless as before.

"To be sure it is!" said Marian, going on with her own thoughts, "and it is so seldom people can ever partake of it, in ever so slight a degree, in these days; I always think it so beautiful where the account is given of the Apostles' great joy when they found a persecution was really going to begin."

"Persecution—yes, real persecution."

"And every suffering for the sake of the truth, for conscience' sake, must partake a little of that, I suppose," said Marian reverently.

There they were interrupted by Clara, who came to call Marian down stairs. Caroline came too, which the others had not expected. She was more calm and composed, and her headache was supposed by her mother to account for her want of spirits. She went to bed early, begging Marian to come and visit her when she came up. Marian contrived to do so as soon as possible, and found her already in bed, quiet and comfortable. "Marian," she said, "I have made up my mind. Now read to me, if you please."

She was worn out with agitation and sleeplessness, and soothed with having come to a determination, she soon fell asleep, and Marian went to her own room, wondering over the part Walter had acted, and what he might be going to do next, whether he had led or driven his sister, and how far the courage of principle would avail to subdue natural timidity.

Caroline was pretty well the next morning, but the time was broken up in various ways, so that it was not till the afternoon that she could see Walter again in private. Lionel was considerably disconcerted when he found himself left to Marian. He had no notion of what was going on, had believed Walter's return to be entirely on his account, and was much disappointed at not having more of his company; for though both had been of the party to Salisbury, one had been outside the carriage and the other inside, so that they had not seen much of each other, and this morning had been interrupted. He was so much vexed and inclined to be hurt, by what he felt as a slight on his brother's part, that Marian could not resist telling him what she knew would console him. "I don't think you will mind it, Lionel, when you know why it is that Caroline wants him."

"Ha?" said Lionel, "you don't mean that she has thought better of it, and is going to send Julian the Apostate to the right about. Eh? You don't say so. Well, then there is some good in Caroline after all! But then what should she want of Walter?"

"To help her, to advise her."

"Well, if she likes, but I can't see what advice she wants. She has only got to make him a curtsey and say, 'Very much obliged to you, sir, but I had rather be excused.'"

Marian could not help laughing, in spite of her deep feeling on the matter, and Lionel, who had acted the voice and the curtsey, laughed too, and then perhaps ashamed of making fun of such an affair, added, "It is the best news I have heard this long time. What, and that is what she has been so dismal about these last few days, is it?"

"Yes, she has been very unhappy indeed. It is a terrible struggle."

"What? she likes him, does she? Poor Cary! After all I am glad she is coming right again, she is very good natured, and a great deal too good for Ju—. Ah! you won't have him called so, I know. They have taken a good time for it now he is away and Elliot too, but what a tremendous row there will be about it. Mamma thought it was such a speculation for Caroline."

"Yes, I am afraid she will have a great deal to go through."

"Yes," said Lionel, pondering gravely for some minutes; then asking "What is going to be done?"

"I don't know in the least; I believe she is settling with Walter to-day."

"Then nobody knows about it yet?"

There was no more to do but to have the satisfaction of talking over the engagement together, an occupation which put Lionel into particularly good spirits, and made their walk very pleasant. In the next glimpse which Marian had of Caroline, she learnt that Walter had undertaken to speak to his father that very evening. Caroline looked ghastly white as she said so in a whisper, but her dreadful agitation seemed to have left her; she had evidently quite made up her mind, though she said she believed it would never have been done if it had rested with her to begin by telling either of her parents. Both she and Marian knew that nothing but a spirit of moral heroism could have braced Walter to bear the first brunt of his father's wrath, and she was very much shocked at her own weakness in suffering it, but still it was much in her to allow it to be done.

That the conversation had taken place at night, when all the rest had retired, was evident to Marian when they met the nest morning from the very dark, severe loots of Mr Lyddell, from his wife's impatient angry manner, and sharper, louder voice. Walter was almost absolutely silent, Caroline went through the forms of breakfast as if she was in a dream, Lionel frowned, fidgeted, and tried with all his might, poor boy, to scan the faces which were daily growing more obscure to his vision; even Clara saw something was wrong, and glanced from one to the other in a puzzled, alarmed manner When they left the dining-room, Marian heard Mrs. Lyddell say, "Caroline, I want you." She flew up to her own room, and hiding her face, as she knelt down, she entreated earnestly that her poor Caroline might have steadfastness to go through this fearful trial. She was interrupted by Clara, begging to know what was the matter, if anything was wrong about Mr. Faulkner; she thought Lionel knew, but when she him be would do nothing but crow like a cock. Marian would have been glad if she could have made any equally convenient demonstration instead of an answer, but she could only say that she had heard nothing of Mr. Faulkner, and could not tell Clara anything about the matter.

"Do you know anything?" said Clara.

"I do know."

"Ah! you are in all Caroline's secrets now, and that is very odd; you who used to hate the Faulkners. Well, but are not you coming down?"

In spite of his cock-crowings, Lionel was very anxious, and when in the course of that long desultory forlorn morning he was left alone with Marian, he earnestly asked her what she knew. "Nothing" was her answer.

"O if Caroline will but hold out!" he exclaimed, "that will be what I call being good for something! I hope mamma won't be desperately angry, for that I could stand less than anything, it goes on so much longer with her than with papa."

"She will be very much disappointed. O how I wish I knew what is happening!"

It was a long time before any intelligence could be gained: Mrs. Lyddell was very much flushed, and looked extremely displeased when she came down, hardly speaking to any one but Lionel, and glancing most sternly at Marian, Caroline did not come down at all, and when Marian was going up stairs after luncheon, Mrs. Lyddell said with extreme coldness, "Do not go to Caroline, if you please, I wish her to be left quiet."

Marian was in great consternation, since it was evident that Mrs. Lyddell perceived how her influence had been exerted, and was very much offended, indeed it was no wonder that she should be. Nothing but "very well" could be said so she quietly prepared to go out. Lionel had his brother this afternoon and did not want her, so she had only Clara for her companion full of surmises and of excitement. When she came in and was on her way to her room, Caroline opened her door. "Marian! O will you not come to me?" cried she imploringly.

Marian could not but comply, indeed she had no hesitation, for she thought Mrs. Lyddell's injunction only applied to the time before she went out.

"O, cheer me up, comfort me, Marian!" said Caroline, drawing her cousin's arm round her waist, "I do want it so much!"

"You are going on bravely then!" said Marian, caressing her.

"Bravely!" sighed Caroline; "No, indeed, but I have held firmly so far! I could not but stand by poor Walter, you know, when he confronted it all for me! I could not say much—I could only cry—but I took care they should not think I consented again."

"And is Mrs. Lyddell very much displeased?"

"O, don't speak of it, Marian. I cannot bear it."

The door opened and Mrs. Lyddell entered, and the air of indignant surprise on seeing Marian called for an answer: "I beg your pardon, I thought you only meant me not to go to Caroline just after luncheon," said Marian.

"I wish matters, such as we have been discussing, to be confined entirely to our own family," replied Mrs. Lyddell, too angry not to say something, yet too much afraid of Marian not to say it very courteously.

"Mamma!" said Caroline eagerly, "only hear me. I assure you that not one word did Marian ever say to me till I voluntarily went to her a week ago, because I was so very miserable I could bear it no longer."

"I should have thought your mother the proper person to go to in such a case. Miss Arundel's sentiments had so long been visible, that you could have no doubt of the advice you would receive from her."

"Mrs. Lyddell," said Marian, collecting herself, and speaking slowly, "I am very sorry I have appeared to act a part which I know must seem unjustifiable. I never spoke to—to Caroline" (the remembrance of Lionel prevented her from saying to any one) "of my opinion of this engagement, after it was formed, till she came to me for advice, in her distress. I could not speak against my conscience, and I tried not to forget what was due to you. I only begged her to write to her brother as the fittest person to help her, as being a clergyman. I beg your pardon for having acted against your wishes." So saying, Marian went out, surprised and alarmed at finding herself in open opposition to Mrs. Lyddell, and bewildered as to how she ought to have acted. Her comfort was in looking forward to the refuge at Fern Torr, and she smiled as she compared Mrs. Lyddell with her other guardian's future wife.

Mrs. Lyddell wished her at Fern Torr fully as much as she did. She had already become jealous of Lionel's preference, and it was too galling to find the affection of her children stolen from her by that cold, pale, proud, unprepossessing girl. Had the love been on the part of Elliot or Walter, Mrs. Lyddell would hardly have regretted it, considering Miss Arundel's large fortune and high connexions; but nothing was less probable than this, and Marian's influence over Caroline was at present, in Mrs. Lyddell's eyes, only a source of mischief.

Lionel was alone in the drawing-room, and met Marian eagerly inquiring "What news?"

"I have hardly seen her. Has Walter told you nothing?"

"No; he thinks I don't know, and I was not going to let on that you told me. Is she steady?"

"Yes, so far."

"That is right," said Lionel, thoughtfully, "I am very sorry for her, but I shall think the better of her ever after."

"Have you been out with Walter?"

"Yes, we have had a very nice talk."

Here Walter came down, and began to talk to Marian about schools and lending libraries.

It was a strange state of things, with all those different pairs of confidential friends. Both Marian and Walter were the stay and support of Caroline and Lionel; yet, though acting in concert, and perfectly agreed, not saying a word in confidence to each other on either head. Neither did Walter speak of Caroline to Lionel, nor Lionel, though much interested for her, speak to her of his affairs or her own. Clara indeed bestowed her communications on every one, but she got nothing in return that was satisfactory. Marian was the central point with all except Walter, but the fulness of her heart was bestowed elsewhere. And, alas! none saw so little of those young hearts as the parents, who had never earned their confidence; so that when they turn to them, it was from duty, as to rulers, not as to counsellors and friends.

Very sore was Marian's heart that night, when she felt it her duty to bid Caroline good night in Mrs. Lyddell's hearing, in spite of the piteous, imploring glance turned upon her. Might not her support make all the difference now? she thought. No; shame on her for thinking that she could do more good than He to whose hands Caroline was trusted! Folly, to dream that her awkward, blundering words could be more help than the prayers she could pour out alone!

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