Part 7 out of 14
The longing for ignoble things,
The strife for triumph more than truth,
The hardening of the heart, that brings
Irreverence for the dreams of youth.--LONGFELLOW
After his week at Thorndale Park, Captain Morville returned to make his
farewell visit at Hollywell, before joining his regiment at Cork,
whence it was to sail for the Mediterranean. He reckoned much on this
visit, for not even Laura herself could fathom the depth of his
affection for her, strengthening in the recesses where he so sternly
concealed it, and viewing her ever as more faultless since she had been
his own. While she was his noble, strong-minded, generous, fond Laura,
he could bear with his disappointment in his sister, with the loss of
his home, and with the trials that had made him a grave, severe man.
She had proved the strength of her mind by the self-command he had
taught her, and for which he was especially grateful to her, as it made
him safer and more unconstrained, able to venture on more demonstration
than in those early days when every look had made her blush and
Mr. Edmonstone brought the carriage to fetch him from the station, and
'I suppose, as you have not written, you have found nothing out?'
'And you could do nothing with him. Eh?'
'No; I could not get a word of explanation, nor break through the fence
of pride and reserve. I must do him the justice to say that he bears
the best of characters at Oxford; and if there were any debts I could
not get at them from the tradesmen.'
'Well, well, say no more about it; he is an ungrateful young dog, and I
am sick of it. I only wish I could wash my hands of him altogether.
It was mere folly to expect any of that set could ever come to good.
There's everything going wrong all at once now; poor little Amy
breaking her heart after him, and, worse than all, there's poor Charlie
laid up again,' said Mr. Edmonstone, one of the most affectionate
people in the world; but his maundering mood making him speak of
Charles's illness as if he only regarded it as an additional
provocation for himself.
'Charles ill!' exclaimed Philip.
'Yes; another, of those formations in the joint. I hoped and trusted
that was all over now; but he is as bad as ever,--has not been able to
move for a week, and goodness knows when he will again.'
'Indeed! I am very sorry. Is there as much pain as before?'
'Oh, yes. He has not slept a wink these four nights. Mayerne talks of
opium; but he says he won't have it till he has seen you, he is so
anxious about this unlucky business. If anything could persuade me to
have Guy back again it would be that this eternal fretting after him is
so bad for poor Charlie.'
'It is on Amy's account that it is impossible to have him here,' said
'Ay! He shall never set eyes on Amy again unless all this is cleared
up, which it never will be, as I desire mamma to tell her. By the bye,
Philip, Amy said something of your having a slip with Charles on the
There was very nearly an accident; but I believed he was not hurt. I
hope it has nothing to do with this illness?'
'He says it was all his own fault,' said Mr. Edmonstone, 'and that he
should have been actually down but for you.'
'But is it really thought it can have caused this attack?'
'I can hardly suppose so; but Thompson fancies there may have been some
jar. However, don't distress yourself; I dare say it would have come
on all the same.'
Philip did not like to be forgiven by Mr. Edmonstone, and there was
something very annoying in having this mischance connected with his
name, though without his fault; nor did he wish Charles to have the
kind of advantage over him that might be derived from seeming to pass
over his share in the misfortune.
When they arrived at Hollywell, it was twilight, but no one was in the
drawing-room, generally so cheerful at that time of day; the fire had
lately been smothered with coals, and looked gloomy and desolate. Mr.
Edmonstone left Philip there, and ran up to see how Charles was, and
soon after Laura came in, sprang to his side, and held his hand in both
'You bring no good news?' said she, sadly, as she read the answer in
his face. '0! how I wish you had. It would be such a comfort now.
You have heard about poor Charlie?'
'Yes; and very sorry I am. But, Laura, is it really thought that
accident could have occasioned it?'
'Dr. Mayerne does not think so, only Mr. Thompson talked of remote
causes, when Amy mentioned it. I don't believe it did any harm, and
Charlie himself says you saved him from falling down-stairs.'
Philip had begun to give Laura his version of the accident, as he had
already done to her father, when Mrs. Edmonstone came down, looking
harassed and anxious. She told her nephew that Charles was very
desirous to see him, and sent him up at once.
There was a fire in the dressing-room, and the door was open into the
little room, which was only lighted by a lamp on a small table, where
Amy was sitting at work. After shaking hands, she went away, leaving
him alone with Charles, who lay in his narrow bed against the wall,
fixed in one position, his forehead contracted with pain, his eyelids
red and heavy from sleeplessness, his eyes very quick and eager, and
his hands and arms thrown restlessly outside the coverings.
'I am very sorry to find you here,' said Philip, coming up to him, and
taking, rather than receiving, his hot, limp hand. 'Is the pain very
'That is a matter of course,' said Charles, in a sharp, quick manner,
his voice full of suffering. 'I want to hear what you have been doing
at Oxford and St. Mildred's.'
'I am sorry I do not bring the tidings you wish.'
'I did not expect you would. I know you too well; but I want to hear
what you have been doing--what he said,' answered Charles, in short,
'It can be of no use, Charlie. You are not in a state to enter on
'I tell you I will hear all,' returned Charles, with increased
asperity. 'I know you will say nothing to his advantage that you can
help, but still I know you will speak what you think the truth, and I
want to judge for myself.'
'You speak as if I was not acting for his good.'
'Palaver!' cried Charles, fully sensible of the advantage his illness
gave him. 'I want the facts. Begin at the beginning. Sit down--
there's a chair by you. Now tell me, where did you find him?'
Philip could not set Charles down in his present state, and was obliged
to submit to a cross-examination, in which he showed no abatement of
his natural acuteness, and, unsparing as he always was, laid himself
under no restraint at all. Philip was compelled to give a full history
of his researches; and if he had afforded no triumph to Guy, Charles
'Pray, what did Guy say when he heard the result of this fine voyage of
'I did not see him again.'
'Not see him! not tell him he was so far justified!'
'I had no time--at least I thought not. It would have been useless,
for while these mysteries continue, my opinion is unchanged, and there
was no benefit in renewing vain disputes.'
'Say no more!' exclaimed Charles. 'You have said all I expected, and
more too. I gave you credit for domineering and prejudice, now I see
it is malignity.'
As he spoke, Laura entered from the dressing-room, and stood aghast at
the words, and then looked imploringly at her cousin. Dr. Mayerne was
following her, and Charles called out,--
'Now, doctor, give me as much opium as you please. I only want to be
stupefied till the world has turned round, and then you may wake me.'
Philip shook hands with Dr. Mayerne, and, without betraying a shade of
annoyance, wished Charles good night; but Charles had drawn the
coverings over his head, and would not hear him.
'Poor fellow!' said Philip to Laura, when they were out of the room.
'He is a very generous partisan, and excitement and suffering make him
carry his zeal to excess.'
'I knew you could not be angry with him.'
'I could not be angry at this time at far more provocation given by any
one belonging to you, Laura.'
Laura's heart had that sensation which the French call "se serrer", as
she heard him allude to the long separation to which there seemed no
limit; but they could say no more.
'Amy,' said Charles, when she returned to him after dinner, 'I am more
than ever convinced that things will right themselves. I never saw
prejudice more at fault.'
'Did he tell you all about it?'
'I worked out of him all I could, and it is my belief Guy had the best
of it. I only wonder he did not horsewhip Philip round the quadrangle.
I wish he had.'
'Oh, no, no! But he controlled himself?'
'If he had not we should have heard of it fast enough;' and Charles
told what he had been able to gather, while she sat divided between joy
Philip saw very little more of Charles. He used to come to ask him how
he was once a day, but never received any encouragement to lengthen his
visit. These gatherings in the diseased joint were always excessively
painful, and were very long in coming to the worst, as well as
afterwards in healing; and through the week of Philip's stay at
Hollywell, Charles was either in a state of great suffering, or else
heavy and confused with opiates. His mother's whole time and thoughts
were absorbed in him; she attended to him day and night, and could
hardly spare a moment for anything else. Indeed, with all her
affection and anxiety for the young lovers, Charles was so entirely her
engrossing object, that her first feeling of disappointment at the
failure of Philip's journey of investigation was because it would
grieve Charlie. She could not think about Guy just then, and for Amy
there was nothing for it but patience; and, good little creature, it
was very nice to see her put her own troubles aside, and be so cheerful
a nurse to her brother. She was almost always in his room, for he
liked to have her there, and she could not conquer a certain shrinking
Laura had once pleaded hard and earnestly for Guy with Philip, but all
in vain; she was only taught to think the case more hopeless than
before. Laura was a very kind nurse and sister, but she could better
be spared than her mother and Amy, so that it generally fell to her lot
to be down-stairs, making the drawing-room habitable. Dr. Mayerne,
whenever Charles was ill, used to be more at Hollywell than at his own
house, and there were few days that he did not dine there. When Amy
was out of the way, Philip used to entertain them with long accounts of
Redclyffe, how fine a place it was, how far the estate reached on the
Moorworth road, of its capacities for improvement, wastes of moorland
to be enclosed or planted, magnificent timber needing nothing but
thinning. He spoke of the number of tenantry, and the manorial rights,
and the influence in both town and county, which, in years gone by, had
been proved to the utmost in many a fierce struggle with the house of
Thorndale. Sir Guy Morville might be one of the first men in England
if he were not wanting to himself. Mr. Edmonstone enjoyed such talk,
for it made him revel in the sense of his own magnanimity in refusing
his daughter to the owner of all this; and Laura sometimes thought how
Philip would have graced such a position, yet how much greater it was
to rest entirely on his own merits.
'Ah, my fine fellow!' muttered Dr. Mayerne to himself one day, when
Philip and his uncle had left the room, just after a discourse of this
kind, 'I see you have not forgotten you are the next heir.'
Laura coloured with indignation, exclaimed, 'Oh!' then checked
herself, as if such an aspersion was not worthy of her taking the
trouble to refute it.
'Ah! Miss Edmonstone, I did not know you were there.'
'Yes, you were talking to yourself, just as if you were at home,' said
Charlotte, who was specially pert to the old doctor, because she knew
herself to be a great pet. 'You were telling some home truths to make
'Well, he would make a very good use of it if he had it,' said the
'Now you'll make me angry,' said Charlotte; 'and you have not mended
matters with Laura. She thinks nothing short of four-syllabled words
good enough for Philip.'
'Hush! nonsense, Charlotte!' said Laura, much annoyed.
'There Charlotte, she is avenging herself on you because she can't
scold me' said the doctor, pretending to whisper.
'Charlotte is only growing more wild than ever for want of mamma,' said
Laura, trying to laugh it off, but there was so much annoyance evident
about her, that Dr. Mayerne said,--
'Seriously, I must apologize for my unlucky soliloquy; not that I
thought I was saying much harm, for I did not by any means say or think
the Captain wished Sir Guy any ill, and few men who stood next in
succession to such a property would be likely to forget it.'
'Yes, but Philip is not like other men,' said Charlotte, who, at
fourteen, had caught much of her brother's power of repartee, and could
be quite as provoking, when unrestrained by any one whom she cared to
Laura felt it was more for her dignity not to notice this, and replied,
with an effort for a laugh,--
'It must be your guilty conscience that sets you apologizing, for you
said no harm, as you observe.'
'Yes,' said Dr. Mayerne, good-humouredly. 'He does very well without
it, and no doubt he would be one of the first men in the country if he
had it; but it is in very good hands now, on the whole. I don't think,
even if the lad has been tempted into a little folly just now, that he
can ever go very far wrong.'
'No, indeed,' said Charlotte; 'but Charlie and I don't believe he has
done anything wrong.'
She spoke in a little surly decided tone, as if her opinion put an end
to the matter, and Philip's return closed the discussion.
Divided as the party were between up-stairs and down-stairs, and in the
absence of Charles's shrewd observation, Philip and Laura had more
opportunity of intercourse than usual, and now that his departure would
put an end to suspicion, they ventured on more openly seeking each
other. It never could be the perfect freedom that they had enjoyed
before the avowal of their sentiments, but they had many brief
conversations, giving Laura feverish, but exquisite, delight at each
renewal of his rare expressions of tenderness.
'What are you going to do to-day?' he asked, on the last morning before
he was to leave Hollywell. 'I must see you alone before I go.'
She looked down, and he kept his eyes fixed on her rather sternly, for
he had never before made a clandestine appointment, and he did not like
feeling ashamed of it. At last she said,--
'I go to East-hill School this afternoon. I shall come away at half-
Mary Ross was still absent; her six nephews and nieces having taken
advantage of her visit to have the measles, not like reasonable
children, all at once, so as to be one trouble, but one after the
other, so as to keep Aunt Mary with them as long as possible; and Mr.
Ross did not know what would have become of the female department of
his parish but for Laura, who worked at school-keeping indefatigably.
Laura had some difficulty in shaking off Charlotte's company this
afternoon, and was obliged to make the most of the probability of rain,
and the dreadful dirt of the roads. Indeed, she represented it as so
formidable, that Mrs. Edmonstone, who had hardly time to look out of
window, much less to go out of doors, strongly advised her to stay at
home herself; and Charlotte grew all the more eager for the fun.
Luckily, however, for Laura, Dr. Mayerne came in, laughing at the
reports of the weather; and as he was wanted to prescribe for a poor
old man in an opposite direction, he took Charlotte with him to show
the way, and she was much better pleased to have him for a companion
than the grave Laura.
Philip, in the meantime, had walked all the way to Broadstone, timing
his return exactly, that he might meet Laura as she came out of the
school, and feel as if it had been by chance. It was a gray, misty
November day, and the leaves of the elm-trees came floating round them,
yellow and damp.
'You have had a wet walk,' said Laura, as they met.
'It is not quite raining,' he answered; and they proceeded for some
minutes in silence, until he said,--'It is time we should come to an
She looked at him in alarm, and his voice was immediately gentler;
indeed, at times it was almost inaudible from his strong emotion. 'I
believe that no affection has ever been stronger or truer than ours.'
'Has been!' repeated Laura, in a wondering, bewildered voice.
'And is, if you are satisfied to leave things as they are.'
'I must be, if you are.'
'I will not say I am satisfied with what must be, as I am situated; but
I felt it due to you to set the true state of the case before you. Few
would venture their love as I do mine with you, bound in reality,
though not formally, with no promise sought or given; yet I am not more
assured that I stand here than I am that our love is for ever.'
'I am sure it is!' she repeated fervently. '0 Philip, there never was
a time I did not love you: and since that day on Ashen Down, I have
loved you with my whole heart. I am sometimes afraid it has left no
proper room for the rest, when I find how much more I think of your
going away than of poor Charles.'
'Yes,' he said, 'you have understood me as none but you would have
done, through coldness and reserve, apparently, even towards yourself,
and when to others I have seemed grave and severe beyond my years. You
have never doubted, you have recognized the warmth within; you have
trusted your happiness to me, and it shall be safe in my keeping, for,
Laura, it is all mine.'
'There is only one thing,' said Laura, timidly; 'would it not be better
if mamma knew?'
'Laura, I have considered that, but remember you are not bound; I have
never asked you to bind yourself. You might marry to-morrow, and I
should have no right to complain. There is nothing to prevent you.'
She exclaimed, as if with pain.
'True,' he answered; 'you could not, and that certainty suffices me. I
ask no more without your parents' consent; but it would be giving them
and you useless distress and perplexity to ask it now. They would
object to my poverty, and we should gain nothing; for I would never be
so selfish as to wish to expose you to such a life as that of the wife
of a poor officer; and an open engagement could not add to our
confidence in each other. We must be content to wait for my promotion.
By that time'--he smiled gravely--'our attachment will have lasted so
many years as to give it a claim to respect.'
'It is no new thing.'
'No newer than our lives; but remember, my Laura, that you are but
'You have made me feel much older,' sighed Laura, 'not that I would be
a thoughtless child again. That cannot last long, not even for poor
'No one would wish to part with the deeper feelings of elder years to
regain the carelessness of childhood, even to be exempted from the
suffering that has brought them.'
'For instance, these two years have scarcely been a time of great
happiness to you.'
'Sometimes,' whispered Laura, 'sometimes beyond all words, but often
dreary and oppressive.'
'Heaven knows how unwillingly I have rendered it so. Rather than dim
the brightness of your life, I would have repressed my own sentiments
'But, then, where would have been my brightness?'
'I would, I say, but for a peril to you. I see my fears were
unfounded. You were safe; but in my desire to guard you from what has
come on poor Amy, my feelings, though not wont to overpower me, carried
me further than I intended.'
'Do not suppose I regret it. No, no, Laura; those were the most
precious moments in my life, when I drew from you those words and looks
which have been blessed in remembrance ever since; and doubly, knowing,
as I do, that you also prize that day.'
'In the midst of much that was adverse, and with a necessity for a
trust and self-control of which scarce a woman but yourself would have
been capable, you have endured nobly--'
'I could bear anything, if you were not going so far away,'
'You will bear that too, Laura, and bravely. It will not be for ever.'
'How long do you think?'
'I cannot tell. Several years may pass before I have my promotion. It
may be that I shall not see that cheek in its fresh bloom again, but I
shall find the same Laura that I left, the same in love, and strength,
'Ah; I shall grow faded and gray, and you will be a sun-burnt old
soldier,' said Laura, smiling, and looking, half sadly, half proudly,
up to his noble features; 'but hearts don't change like faces!'
After they came near the house, they walked up and down the lane for a
long time, for Philip avoided a less public path, in order to keep up
his delusion that he was doing nothing in an underhand way. It grew
dark, and the fog thickened, straightening Laura's auburn ringlets, and
hanging in dew-drops on Philip's rough coat, but little recked they; it
was such an hour as they had never enjoyed before. Philip had never so
laid himself open, or assured her so earnestly of the force of his
affection; and her thrills of ecstasy overcame the desolate expectation
of his departure, and made her sensible of strength to bear seven, ten,
twenty years of loneliness and apparent neglect. She knew him, and he
would never fail her.
Yet, when at last they went in-doors, and Amy followed her to her room,
wondering to find her so wet, and so late, who could have seen the two
sisters without reading greater peace and serenity in the face of the
Philip felt an elder brother's interest for poor little Amy. He did
not see much of her; but he compassionated her as a victim to her
mother's imprudence, hoping she would soon be weaned from her
attachment. He thought her a good, patient little thing, so soft and
gentle as probably not to have the strength and depth that would make
the love incurable; and the better he liked her, the more unfit he
thought her for Guy. It would have been uniting a dove and a tiger;
and his only fear was, that when he was no longer at hand, Mr.
Edmonstone's weak good-nature might be prevailed on to sacrifice her.
He did his best for her protection, by making his uncle express a
resolution never to admit Guy into his family again, unless the
accusation of gambling was completely disproved.
The last morning came, and Philip went to take leave of Charles. Poor
Charles was feebler by this time, and too much subdued by pain and
languor to receive him as at first, but the spirit was the same; and
when Philip wished him good-bye, saying he hoped soon to hear he was
better, he returned for answer,
'Good-bye, Philip, I hope soon to hear you are better. I had rather
have my hip than your mind.'
He was in no condition to be answered, and Philip repeated his good-
bye, little thinking how they were to meet again.
The others were assembled in the hall. His aunt's eyes were full of
tears, for she loved him dearly, her brother's only son, early left
motherless, whom she had regarded like her own child, and who had so
nobly fulfilled all the fondest hopes. All his overbearing ways and
uncalled-for interference were forgotten, and her voice gave way as she
embraced him, saying,
'God bless you, Philip, wherever you may be. We shall miss you very
Little Amy's hand was put into his, and he squeezed it kindly; but she
could hardly speak her 'good-bye,' for the tears that came, because she
was grieved not to feel more sorry that her highly-esteemed cousin, so
kind and condescending to her, was going away for so very long a time.
'Good-bye, Philip,' said Charlotte; 'I shall be quite grown up by the
time you come home.'
'Don't make such uncivil auguries, Puss,' said her father; but Philip
heard her not, for he was holding Laura's hand in a grasp that seemed
as if it never would unclose.
I will sing, for I am sad,
For many my misdeeds;
It is my sadness makes me glad,
For love for sorrow pleads.--WILLIAMS.
After his last interview with Philip, Guy returned to his rooms to
force himself into occupation till his cousin should come to
acknowledge that here, at least, there was nothing amiss. He trusted
that when it was proved all was right in this quarter, the prejudice
with regard to the other might be diminished, though his hopes were
lower since he had found out the real grounds of the accusation,
reflecting that he should never be able to explain without betraying
He waited in vain. The hour passed at which Philip's coming was
possible; Guy was disappointed, but looked for a letter; but post after
post failed to bring him one. Perhaps Philip would write from
Hollywell, or else Mr. Edmonstone would write, or at least he was sure
that Charles would write--Charles, whose confidence and sympathy,
expressed in almost daily letters, had been such a comfort. But not a
line came. He reviewed in memory his last letter to Charles, wondering
whether it could have offended him; but it did not seem possible; he
thought over all that Philip could have learnt in his visit, to see if
it could by any means have been turned to his disadvantage. But he
knew he had done nothing to which blame could be attached; he had never
infringed the rules of college discipline; and though still backward,
and unlikely to distinguish himself, he believed that was the worst
likely to have been said of him. He only wished his true character was
as good as what would be reported of him.
As he thought and wondered, he grew more and more restless and unhappy.
He could imagine no reason for the silence, unless Mr. Edmonstone had
absolutely forbidden any intercourse, and it did not seem probable that
he would issue any commands in a manner to bind a grown-up son, more
especially as there had been no attempt at communication with Amy. It
was terrible thus, without warning, to be cut off from her, and all
besides that he loved. As long as Charles wrote, he fancied her
sitting by, perhaps sealing the letter, and he could even tell by the
kind of paper and envelope, whether they were sitting in the dressing-
room or down-stairs; but now there was nothing, no assurance of
sympathy, no word of kindness; they might all have given him up; those
unhappy words were like a barrier, cutting him off for ever from the
happiness of which he had once had a glimpse. Was the Redclyffe doom
of sin and sorrow really closing in upon him?
If it had not been for chapel and study, he hardly knew how he should
have got through that term; but as the end of it approached, a feverish
impatience seized on him whenever the post came in, for a letter, if
only to tell him not to come to Hollywell. None came, and he saw
nothing for it but to go to Redclyffe; and if he dreaded seeing it in
its altered state when his spirits were high and unbroken, how did he
shrink from it now! He did, however, make up his mind, for he felt
that his reluctance almost wronged his own beloved home. Harry Graham
wanted to persuade him to come and spend Christmas at his home, with
his lively family, but Guy felt as if gaiety was not for him, even if
he could enjoy it. He did not wish to drown his present feelings, and
steadily, though gratefully, refused this as well as one or two other
After lingering in vain till the last day of term, he wrote to desire
that his own room and the library might be made ready for him, and that
'something' might be sent to meet him at Moorworth.
Railroads had come a step nearer, even to his remote comer of the
world, in the course of the last three years; but there was still
thirty miles of coach beyond, and these lay through a part of the
country he had never seen before. It was for the most part bleak,
dreary moor, such as, under the cold gray wintry sky, presented nothing
to rouse him from his musings on the welcome he might have been at that
very moment receiving at Hollywell.
A sudden, dip in the high ground made it necessary for the coach to put
on the drag, and thus it slowly entered a village, which attracted
attention from its wretched appearance. The cottages, of the rough
stone of the country, were little better than hovels; slates were torn
off, windows broken. Wild-looking uncombed women, in garments of
universal dirt colour, stood at the doors; ragged children ran and
shrieked after the coach, the church had a hole in the roof, and stood
tottering in spite of rude repairs; the churchyard was trodden down by
cattle, and the whole place only resembled the pictures of Irish
'What miserable place is this?' asked a passenger. 'Yes, that's what
all gentlemen ask,' replied the coachman; 'and well you may. There's
not a more noted place for thieves and vagabonds. They call it Coombe
Guy well knew the name, though he had never been there. It was a
distant offset of his own property, and a horrible sense of
responsibility for all the crime and misery there came over him.
'Is there no one to look; after it?' continued the traveller. 'No
squire, no clergyman?'
'A fox-hunting parson,' answered the coachman; 'who lives half-a-dozen
miles off, and gallops over for the service.'
Guy knew that the last presentation had been sold in the days of his
grandfather's extravagance, and beheld another effect of ancestral sin.
'Do you know who is the owner of the place?'
'Yes, sir; 'tis Sir Guy Morville. You have heard tell of the old Sir
Guy Morville, for he made a deal of noise in the world.'
'What! The noted--'
'I ought not to allow you to finish your sentence,' said Guy, very
courteously, 'without telling you that I am his grandson.'
'I beg your pardon!' exclaimed the traveller.
'Nay,' said Guy, with a smile; 'I only thought it was fair to tell
'Sir Guy himself!' said the coachman, turning round, and touching his
hat, anxious to do the honours of his coach. 'I have not seen you on
this road before, sir, for I never forget a face; I hope you'll often
be this way.'
After a few more civilities, Guy was at liberty to attend to the fresh
influx of sad musings on thoughtless waste affecting not only the
destiny of the individual himself, but whole generations besides. How
many souls might it not have ruined? 'These sheep, what had they
done!' His grandfather had repented, but who was to preach repentance
unto these? He did not wonder now that his own hopes of happiness had
been blighted; he only marvelled that a bright present or future had
ever been his--
While souls were wandering far and wide,
And curses swarmed on every side.
The traveller was, meanwhile, observing the heir of Redclyffe,
possessor of wealth and wide lands. Little did he guess how that
bright-eyed youth looked upon his riches.
Miles were passed in one long melancholy musing, till Guy was roused by
the sight of familiar scenes, and found himself rattling over the
stones of the little borough of Moorworth, with the gray, large-
windowed, old-fashioned houses, on each side, looking at him with
friendly eyes. There, behind those limes cut out in arches, was the
commercial school, where he had spent many an hour in construing with
patient Mr. Potts; and though he had now a juster appreciation of his
old master's erudition, which he had once thought so vast, he
recollected with veneration his long and patient submission to an
irksome, uncongenial life. Rumbling on, the coach was in the square
market-place, the odd-looking octagon market-house in the middle, and
the inn--the respectable old 'George'--with its long rank of stables
and out-buildings forming one side. It was at this inn that Guy had
been born, and the mistress having been the first person who had him in
her arms, considered herself privileged to have a great affection for
him, and had delighted in the greetings he always exchanged with her
when he put up his pony at her stable, and went to his tutor.
There was a certainty of welcome here that cheered him, as he swung
himself from the roof of the coach, lifted Bustle down, and called out
to the barmaid that he hoped Mrs. Lavers was well.
The next moment Mrs. Lavers was at the door herself, with her broad,
good-humoured face, close cap, bright shawl, and black gown, just as
Guy always recollected, and might, if he could, have recollected, when
he was born. If she had any more guests she neither saw nor cared for
them; her welcome was all for him; and he could not but smile and look
cheerful, if only that he might not disappoint her, feeling, in very
truth, cheered and gratified by her cordiality. If he was in a hurry,
he would not show it; and he allowed her to seat him in her own
peculiar abode, behind the glass-cases of tongue and cold chicken, told
her he came from Oxford, admired her good fire, and warmed his hands
over it, before he even asked if the 'something' had arrived which was
to take him home. It was coming to the door at the moment, and proved
to be Mr. Markham's tall, high-wheeled gig, drawn by the old white-
faced chestnut, and driven by Markham himself--a short, sturdy, brown-
red, honest-faced old man, with frosted hair and whiskers, an air more
of a yeoman than of a lawyer; and though not precisely gentlemanlike,
yet not ungentlemanlike, as there was no pretension about him.
Guy darted out to meet him, and was warmly shaken by the hand, though
the meeting was gruff.
'So, Sir Guy! how d'ye do? I wonder what brings you here on such short
notice? Good morning, Mrs. Lavers. Bad roads this winter.'
'Good morning, Mr. Markham. It is a treat, indeed, to have Sir Guy
here once more; so grown, too.'
'Grown--hum!' said Markham, surveying him; 'I don't see it. He'll
never be as tall as his father. Have you got your things, Sir Guy?
Ay, that's the way,--care for nothing but the dog. Gone on by the
coach, most likely.'
They might have been, for aught Guy knew to the contrary, but Boots had
been more attentive, and they were right. Mrs. Lavers begged he would
walk in, and warm himself; but Markham answered,--
'What do you say, Sir Guy? The road is shocking, and it will be as
dark as a pit by the time we get home.'
'Very well; we won't keep old Whiteface standing,' said Guy. 'Good-
bye, Mrs. Lavers thank you. I shall see you again before long.'
Before Markham had finished a short private growl on the shocking state
of the Moorworth pavement, and a protest that somebody should be called
over the coals, Guy began,--'
'What a horrible place Coombe Prior is!'
'I only know I wish you had more such tenants as Todd,' was Markham's
answer. 'Pays his rent to a day, and improves his land.'
'But what sort of man is he?'
'A capital farmer. A regular screw, I believe; but that is no concern
'There are all the cottages tumbling down.'
'Ay? Are they? I shouldn't wonder, for they are all in his lease; and
he would not lay out an unproductive farthing. And a precious bad lot
they are there, too! There were actually three of them poaching in
Cliffstone hanger this autumn; but we have them in jail. A pretty pass
of impudence to be coming that distance to poach.'
Guy used to be kindled into great wrath by the most distant hint of
poachers; but now he cared for men, not for game; and instead of
asking, as Markham expected, the particulars of their apprehension,
'The clergyman is that Halroyd, is he not?'
'Yes; every one knows what he is. I declare it went against me to take
his offer for the living; but it could not be helped. Money must be
had; but there! least said, soonest mended.'
'We must mend it,' said Guy, so decidedly, that Markham looked at him
'I don't see what's to be done till Halroyd dies; and then you may give
the living to whom you please. He lives so hard he can't last long,
that is one comfort.'
Guy sighed and pondered; and presently Markham resumed the
'And what has brought you home at a moment's notice? You might as well
have written two or three days before, at least.'
'I was waiting in hopes of going to Hollywell,' said Guy sorrowfully.
'Well, and what is the matter? You have not been quarrelling with your
guardian, I hope and trust! Going the old way, after all!' exclaimed
Markham, not in his usual gruff, grumbling note, but with real anxiety,
and almost mournfulness.
'He took up some unjust suspicion of me. I could not bear it
patiently, and said something that has offended him.'
'Oh, Sir Guy! hot and fiery as ever. I always told you that hasty
temper would be the ruin of you.'
'Too true!' said Guy, so dejectedly, that the old man instantly grew
kinder, and was displeased with Mr, Edmonstone.
'What could he have taken into his head to suspect you of?'
'Of gaming at St. Mildred's.'
'You have not?'
'Then why does not he believe you?'
'He thinks he has proof against me. I can't guess how he discovered
it; but I was obliged to pay some money to a gambling sort of man, and
he thinks I lost it.'
'Then why don't you show him your accounts?'
'For one reason--because I have kept none.'
As if it was an immense relief to his mind, Markham launched out into a
discourse on the extreme folly, imprudence, and all other evils of such
carelessness. He was so glad to find this was the worst, that his
lecture lasted for two miles and a half, during which Guy, though
attentive at first, had ample space for all the thrills of recognition
at each well-known spot.
There was the long green-wooded valley between the hills where he had
shot his first woodcock; there was the great stone on which he had
broken his best knife in a fit of geological research; there was the
pool where he used to skate; there the sudden break in the lulls that
gave the first view of the sea. He could not help springing up at the
sight--pale, leaden, and misty as it was; and though Markham forthwith
rebuked him for not listening, his heart was still beating as at the
first sight of a dear old friend, when that peep was far behind. More
black heaths, with stacks of peat and withered ferns. Guy was
straining his eyes far off in the darkness to look for the smoke of the
old keeper's cottage chimney, and could with difficulty refrain from
interrupting Markham to ask after the old man.
Another long hill, and then began a descent into a rich valley,
beautiful fields of young wheat, reddish soil, full of fatness, large
spreading trees with noble limbs, cottages, and cottage gardens, very
unlike poor Coombe Prior; Markham's house--a perfect little snuggery
covered all over with choice climbing plants, the smart plastered
doctor's house, the Morville Arms, looking honest and venerable, the
church, with its disproportionately high tower, the parsonage rather
hidden behind it; and, on the opposite side of the road, the park-wall
and the gate, where old Sarah stood, in an ecstasy of curtsies.
Guy jumped out to meet her, and to spare Whiteface; for there was a
sharp, steep bit of hill, rising from the lodge, trying to horses, in
spite of the road being cut out in long spirals. On he ran, leaving
the road to Markham, straight up the high, steep, slippery green slope.
He came in sight at the great dark-red sandstone pile of building; but
he passed it, and ran on to where the ground rose on one side of it
still more abruptly, and at the highest point was suddenly broken away
and cut off into a perpendicular crag, descending in some parts sheer
down to the sea, in others a little broken, and giving space for the
growth of stunted brushwood. He stood at the highest point, where the
precipice was most abrupt. The sea was dashing far beneath; the
ripple, dash, and roar were in his ears once more; the wind--such wind
as only blows over the sea--was breathing on his face; the broad, free
horizon far before him; the field of waves, in gray and brown shade
indeed, but still his own beloved waves; the bay, shut in with rocks,
and with Black Shag Island and its train of rocks projecting far out to
the west, and almost immediately beneath him, to the left, the little
steep street of the fishing part of the village, nestled into the cove,
which was formed by the mouth of a little mountain-stream, and the
dozen boats it could muster rocking on the water.
Guy stood and looked as if he could never cease looking, or enjoying
the sea air and salt breeze. It was real pleasure at first, for there
were his home, his friends, and though there was a throb and tightness
of heart at thinking how all was changed but such as this, and how all
must change; how he had talked with Amy of this very thing, and had
longed to have her standing beside him there; yet there was more of
soothing than suffering in the sensation.
So many thoughts rushed through his mind, that he fancied he had stood
there a long time, when he turned and hastened down again, but he had
been so rapid as to meet Markham before the servants had had time to
The servants were indeed few. There was, alas! William of Deloraine,
waiting to hold Whiteface; there was Arnaud, an old Swiss, first
courier and then butler to old Sir Guy; there was Mrs. Drew, the
housekeeper, also a very old servant; and these were all; but their
welcome was of the heartiest, in feeling, if not in demonstration as
the gig went with an echoing, thundering sound under the deep archway
that led into the paved quadrangle; round which the house was built,
that court where, as Philip had truly averred, the sun hardly ever
shone, so high were the walls on each side.
Up the stone steps into the spacious dark hall, and into the large,
gloomy library, partially lighted by a great wood fire, replying to
Mrs. Drew's questions about his dinner and his room, and asking Markham
to stay and dine with him, Guy at length found himself at home, in the
very room where he had spent every evening of his boyhood, with the
same green leather arm-chair, in the very place where his grandfather
used to sit.
Markham consented to dine with him, and the evening was spent in
talking over the news of Redclyffe. Markham spoke with much bitterness
of the way in which Captain Morville had taken upon him; his looking
into the accounts, though any one was welcome to examine them, was, he
thought, scarcely becoming in so young a man--the heir-at-law, too.
'He can't help doing minutely whatever he undertakes,' said Guy. If
you had him here, you would never have to scold him like me.'
'Heaven forbid!' said Markham, hastily. 'I know the same place would
not hold him and me long.'
'You have told me nothing of our new vicar. How do you get on with
'None the better for that same Captain Morville,' replied Markham,
plunging forthwith into his list of grievances, respecting which he was
waging a petty warfare, in the belief that he was standing up for his
Mr. Bernard, the former clergyman, had been a quiet, old-fashioned man,
very kind-hearted, but not at all active, and things had gone on in a
sleepy, droning, matter-of-fact way, which Markham being used to,
thought exactly what ought to be. Now, Mr. Ashford was an energetic
person, desirous to do his utmost for the parish, and whatever he did
was an offence to Markham, from the daily service, to the objecting to
the men going out fishing on Sunday. He opposed every innovation with
all his might, and Captain Morville's interference, which had borne
Markham down with Mr. Edmonstone's authority, had only made him more
determined not to bate an inch. He growled every time Guy was inclined
to believe Mr. Ashford in the right, and brought out some fresh
complaint. The grand controversy was at present about the school.
There was a dame's school in the cove or fishing part of the parish,
maintained at the expense of the estate, in a small cottage far from
the church, and Mr. and Mrs. Ashford had fixed their eyes on a house in
the village, and so near the church as to be very convenient for a
Sunday School. It only wanted to be floored, and to have a partition
taken down, but to this Markham would not consent, treating it as a
monstrous proposal to take away the school from old Jenny Robinson.
'I suppose Mr. Ashford meant to pension her off?' said Guy.
'He did say something about it; but who is to do it, I should like to
'We are, I suppose.'
'Pay two schoolmistresses mistresses at once! One for doing nothing!
A pretty tolerable proposal for Mr. Ashford to be making?'
'I don't see why. Of course it is my business!'
'Besides, I don't see that she is not as fit to keep school as ever she
'That may well be,' said Guy, smiling. 'We never used to be noted for
'Don't you be for bringing new lights into the parish, Sir Guy, or we
shall never have any more peace.'
'I shall see about old Jenny,' answered Guy. 'As to the house, that
must be done directly. Her cottage is not fit to keep school in.'
Grunt, grunt; but though a very unbending viceroy, a must from the
reigning baronet had a potent effect on Markham, whether it was for
good or evil. He might grumble, but he never disobeyed, and the boy he
was used to scold and order had found that Morville intonation of the
must, which took away all idea of resistance. He still, however
'As you please, Sir Guy, but we shall have the deer frightened, and the
plantations cut to pieces, if the boys from the Cove are to be crossing
'I'll be answerable for all the damage. If they are once properly
spoken to, they will be on honour to behave well. I have seen a little
of what a village school ought to be at East-hill, and I should like to
see Redclyffe like it.'
Grunt again; and Guy found that to make Markham amiable, he must
inquire after all his nephews and nieces.
All the evening he had much to occupy him, and the dreaded sense of
solitude and bereavement did not come on till he had parted with
Markham, and stood alone before the fire in the large, gloomy room,
where the light of the lamp seemed absorbed in the darkness of the
distant corners, and where he had scarcely been since the moment when
he found his grandfather senseless in that very chair. How different
had that room once been in his eyes, when his happy spirits defied
every association of gloom, and the bookshelves, the carved chairs, the
heavy dark-green curtains and deep windows were connected with merry
freaks, earnest researches, delightful achievements or discoveries!
How long ago that time seemed! and how changed was he!
There was a certain tendency to melancholy in Guy's mind. High
spirits, prosperity, and self-discipline, had kept it from developing
itself until the beginning of his troubles, but since that time it had
been gradually gaining ground, and this was a time of great suffering,
as he stood alone in his forefathers' house, and felt himself, in his
early youth, a doomed man, destined to bear the penalty of their crimes
in the ruin of his dearest hopes, as if his heirloom of misery had but
waited to seize on him till the very moment when it would give him the
most to endure.
'But bear it, I must and will!' said he, lifting his head from the
carved chimney-piece, where he had been resting it. 'I have been in
will a murderer myself, and what right have I to repine like the
Israelites, with their self-justifying proverb? No; let me be thankful
that I was not given up even then, but have been able to repent, and do
a little better next time. It will be a blessing as yet ungranted to
any of us, if indeed I should bear to the full the doom of sorrow, so
that it may be vouchsafed me only to avoid actual guilt. Yes, Amy,
your words are still with me--"Sintram conquered his doom,"--and it was
by following death! Welcome, then, whatever may be in store for me,
were it even a long, cheerless life without you, Amy. There is another
With the energy of freshened resolution, he lighted his candle, and
walked, with echoing steps, up the black oak staircase, along the broad
gallery, up another flight, down another passage, to his own room. He
had expressly written 'his own room,' and confirmed it on his arrival,
or Mrs. Drew would have lodged him as she thought more suitably for the
master of the house. Nothing had been done to alter its old familiar
aspect, except lighting a fire, which he had never seen there before.
There were all his boyish treasures, his bows and arrows, his
collection of birds' wings, his wonderful weapons and contrivances,
from his fire-balloon down to the wren's-egg, all just as he left them,
their good condition attesting the care that Mrs. Drew had taken for
He renewed his acquaintance with them with a sort of regretful
affection and superiority; but there was a refreshment in these old
memories which aided the new feeling of life imparted to him by his
resolution to bear. Nor had he only to bear, he had also to do; and
before the late hour at which he fell asleep, he had made up his mind
what was the first step to be taken about Coombe Priory, and had
remembered with rejoicing that whereas he had regretted leaving the
chapel at college which had so comforted and helped him, there was now
daily service at Redclyffe Church. The last thing in his mind, before
reflection was lost in sleep, was this stanza--
Gales from Heaven, if so He will,
Sweeter melodies may wake
On the lowly mountain rill
Than the meeting waters make.
Who hath the Father and the Son,
May be left, but not alone.
And when the solemn deep church-bell
Entreats the soul to pray,
The midnight phantoms feel the spell,
The shadows sweep away.
Down the broad Vale of Tears afar,
The spectral camp is fled;
Faith shineth as a morning star,
Our ghastly fears are dead.--LONGFELLOW
Mr. Ashford was a connection of Lady Thorndale's, and it was about a
year since the living of Redclyffe had been presented to him. Mr. and
Mrs. Ashford were of course anxious to learn all they could about their
young squire, on whom the welfare of the parish depended, even more
than in most cases, as the whole was his property. Their expectations
were not raised by Mr. Markham's strenuous opposition to all their
projects, and his constant appeals to the name of 'Sir Guy'; but, on
hand, they were pleased by the strong feeling of affection that all the
villagers manifested for their landlord.
The inhabitants of Redclyffe were a primitive race, almost all related
to each other, rough and ignorant, and with a very strong feudal
feeling for 'Sir Guy,' who was king, state, supreme authority, in their
eyes; and Mrs. Ashford further found that 'Master Morville,' as the old
women called him in his individual character, was regarded by them with
great personal affection.
On the occasion when Captain Morville came to Redclyffe, and left James
Thorndale to spend a couple of hours at the parsonage, they
interrogated the latter anxiously on his acquaintance with Sir Guy. He
had not the least idea of creating prejudice, indeed, he liked him as a
companion, but he saw everything through the medium of his friend, and
spoke something to this effect: He was very agreeable; they would like
his manners; he was tolerably clever, but not to be named in the same
day with his cousin for abilities, far less in appearance. Very
pleasant, generally liked, decidedly a taking man; but there was some
cloud over him just now--debts, probably. Morville had been obliged to
go to Oxford about it; but Mr. Thorndale did not profess to understand
it, as of course Morville said as little of it as he could. Thereupon
all began to admire the aforesaid Morville, already known by report,
and whose fine countenance and sensible conversation confirmed all that
had been said of him.
And as, after his interference, Mr. Markham's opposition became surly,
as well as sturdy, and Sir Guy's name was sure to stand arrayed against
them whichever way they turned, the younger part of the family learnt
to regard him somewhat in the light of an enemy, and their elders
awaited his majority with more of fear than of hope.
'Mamma!' cried Edward Ashford, rushing in, so as to bring the first
news to his mother, who had not been to the early service, 'I do
believe Sir Guy is come!'
'Sir Guy was at church!' shouted Robert, almost at the same moment.
Mr. Ashford confirmed the intelligence.
'I saw him speaking, after church, to some of the old men, so
afterwards I went to ask old John Barton, and found him with tears in
his eyes, positively trembling with delight, for he said he never
thought to have heard his cheery voice again, and that he was coming
down by and by to see the last letter from Ben, at sea.'
'That is very nice! Shall you call?'
'Yes. Even if he is only here for a day or two, it will be better to
have made the acquaintance.'
Mr. Ashford went to the Park at two in the afternoon, and did not
return till near four.
'Well,' said he, 'it is as James Thorndale says, there is something
very prepossessing about him.'
'Have you been there all this time?'
'Yes. He was not at home; so I left my card, and was coming away, when
I met him at the turn leading to the Cove. He need not have seen me
unless he had liked, but he came up in a good-natured cordial way, and
thanked me for coming to call.'
'Is he like his cousin?'
'Not in the least; not nearly so tall or so handsome, but with a very
pleasant face, and seeming made up of activity, very slight, as if he
was all bone and sinew. He said he was going to see the Christmas ox
at the farm, and asked me to come with him. Presently we came to a
high gate, locked up. He was over it in an instant, begged me to wait
while he ran on to the farm for the key, and was back in a second with
'Did he enter on any of the disputed subjects!'
'He began himself about the school, saying the house should be altered
directly; and talked over the whole matter very satisfactorily;
undertook himself to speak to Jenny Robinson; and was very glad to hear
you meant her still to keep the infants at the Cove; so I hope that
matter is in a right train.'
'If Mr. Markham will but let him.'
'0, he is king or more here! We met Markham at the farm; and the first
thing, after looking at the cattle, Sir Guy found some planks lying
about, and said they were the very thing for flooring the school.
Markham mentioned some barn they were intended for, but Sir Guy said
the school must be attended to at once, and went with us to look at it.
That was what kept me so long, measuring and calculating; and I hope it
may be begun in a week.'
'This is delightful! What more could we wish?'
'I don't think he will give trouble in parish matters, and in personal
intercourse he will be sure to be most agreeable. I wish I knew there
was nothing amiss. It seems strange for him to come here for the
vacation, instead of going to his guardian's, as usual, and altogether
he had an air of sadness and depression, not like a youth, especially
such an active one. I am afraid something is wrong; those engaging
people are often unstable. One thing I forgot to tell you. We were
walking through that belt of trees on the east side of the hill, when
he suddenly called out to ask how came the old ash-tree to be marked.
Markham answered in his gruff way, it was not his doing, but the
Captain's. He turned crimson, and began some angry exclamation, but as
Markham was going on to tell something else about it, he stopped him
short, saying, 'Never mind! I dare say it's all right. I don't want
to hear any more!' And I don't think he spoke much again till we got
into the village. I am afraid there is some misunderstanding between
'Or more likely Mr. Markham is teaching him some jealousy of his heir.
We could not expect two Captain Morvilles in one family, and I am glad
it is no worse.'
All that the Ashfords further saw of their young baronet made an
impression in his favour; every difficulty raised by the steward
disappeared; their plans were forwarded, and they heard of little but
his good-nature to the poor people; but still they did not know how far
to trust these appearances, and did not yet venture to form an opinion
on him, or enter into intimacy.
'So the singers will not come to us on Christmas Eve, because they say
they must go to the Park,' said Edward, rather savagely.
'I was thinking,' said Mrs. Ashford, 'how forlorn it will be for that
poor youth to spend his Christmas-day alone in that great house. Don't
you think we might ask him to dinner?'
Before Mr. Ashford could answer, the boys made such an uproar at the
proposal of bringing a stranger to spoil their Christmas, that their
parents gave up the idea.
It was that Christmas-day that Guy especially dreaded, as recalling so
many contrasts both with those passed here and at Hollywell. Since his
return, he had been exerting himself to attend to what he felt to be
his duty, going about among his people, arranging for their good or
pleasure, and spending a good deal of time over his studies. He had
written to Mr. Ross, to ask his advice about Coombe Prior, and had set
Markham, much against his will, to remonstrate with Farmer Todd about
the repairs; but though there was a sort of satisfaction in doing these
things--though the attachment of his dependants soothed him, and
brought a new sense of the relation between himself and them--though
views of usefulness were on each side opening before him--yet there was
a dreariness about everything; he was weary even while he undertook and
planned energetically; each new project reminding him that there was no
Amy to plan with him. He could not sufficiently care for them.
Still more dreary was his return to his old haunts, and to the scenery
which he loved so devotedly--the blue sea and purple hills, which had
been like comrades and playfellows, before he had known what it was to
have living companions. They used to be everything to him, and he had
scarcely a wish beyond; afterwards his dreams had been of longing
affection for them, and latterly the idea of seeing Amy love them and
admire them had been connected with every vision of them; and now the
sight of the reality did but recall the sense that their charm had
departed; they could no longer suffice to him as of old; and their
presence brought back to him, with fresh pangs of disappointment, the
thought of lost happiness and ruined hopes, as if Amy alone could
restore their value.
The depression of his spirits inclined him to dwell at present more on
the melancholy history of his parents than on anything else. He had
hitherto only heard the brief narration of his grandfather, when he
could ask no questions; but he now obtained full particulars from
Markham, who, when he found him bent on hearing all, related
everything, perhaps intending it as a warning against the passions
which, when once called into force, he dreaded to find equally
ungovernable in his present master.
Mr. Morville had been his great pride and glory, and, in fact, had been
so left to his care, as to have been regarded like a son of his own.
He had loved him, if possible, better than Guy, because he had been
more his own; he had chosen his school, and given him all the reproofs
which had ever been bestowed on him with his good in view, and how he
had grieved for him was never known to man. It was the first time he
had ever talked it over, and he described, with strong, deep feeling,
the noble face and bearing of the dark-eyed, gallant-looking stripling,
his generosity and high spirit tainted and ruined by his wild temper
and impatience of restraint. There seemed to have been a great
sweetness of disposition, excellent impulses, and so strong a love of
his father, in spite of early neglect and present resentment, as showed
what he might have been with only tolerable training, which gave Guy's
idea of him more individuality than it had ever had before, and made
him better understand what his unhappy grandfather's remorse had been.
Guy doubted for a moment whether it had not been selfish to make
Markham narrate the history of the time when be had suffered so much;
and Markham, when he had been led into telling it, and saw the
deepening sadness on his young master's countenance, wished it had not
been told, and ended by saying it was of no use to stir up what was
He would have regretted the telling it still more if he had known how
Guy acted it all over in his solitude; picturing his father standing an
outcast at the door of his own home, yielding his pride and resentment
for the sake of his wife, ready to do anything, yearning for
reconciliation, longing to tread once more the friendly, familiar hall,
and meeting only the angry repulse and cruel taunt! He imagined the
headlong passion, the despair, the dashing on his horse in whirlwind-
like swiftness, then the blow--the fall--the awful stillness of the
form carried back to his father's house, and laid on that table a dead
man! Fierce wrath--then another world! Guy worked himself up in
imagining the horror of the scene, till it was almost as if he had been
an actor in it.
Yet he had never cared so much for the thought of his father as for his
mother. His yearning for her which he had felt in early days at
Hollywell, had returned in double force, as he now fancied that she
would have been here to comfort him, and to share his grief, to be a
Mrs. Edmonstone, whose love no fault and no offence could ever cancel.
He rode to Moorworth, and made Mrs. Lavers tell him all she remembered.
She was nothing loath, and related how she had been surprised by Mr.
Morville arriving with his fair, shrinking young wife, and how she had
rejoiced in his coming home again. She described Mrs. Morville with
beautiful blue eyes and flaxen hair, looking pale and delicate, and
with clinging caressing ways like a little child afraid to be left.
'Poor thing!' said Mrs. Lavers, wiping her eyes; 'when he was going,
she clung about him, and cried, and was so timid about being left, that
at last he called me, and begged me to stay with her, and take care of
her. It was very pretty to see how gentle and soft he was to her,
sharp and hasty as he was with most; and she would not let him go,
coaxing him not to stay away long; till at last he put her on the sofa,
saying, "There, there, Marianne, that will do. Only be a good child,
and I'll come for you." I never forget those words, for they were the
last I ever heard him speak.'
'Poor dear! she cried heartily at first; but after a time she cheered
up, and quite made friends with me. I remember she told me which were
Mr. Morville's favourite songs, and sang little scraps of them.'
'Can you remember what they were?' eagerly exclaimed Guy.
'Law, no, air; I never had no head for music. And she laughed about
her journey to Scotland, and got into spirits, only she could not bear
I should go out of the room; and after a time she grew very anxious for
him to come back. I made her some tea, and tried to get her to bed,
but she would not go, though she seemed very tired; for she said Mr.
Morville would come to take her to Redclyffe, and she wanted to hear
all about the great house, listening for him all the time, and I trying
to quiet her, and telling her the longer he stayed the better chance
there was. Then came a call for me, and down-stairs I found everything
in confusion; the news had come--I never knew how. I had not had time
to hear it rightly myself, when there was a terrible cry from up-
stairs. Poor thing! whether she thought he was come, or whether her
mind misgave her, she had come after me to the head of the stairs, and
heard what they were saying. I don't believe she ever rightly knew
what had happened, for before I could get to her she had fainted; and
she was very ill from that moment.'
'And it was the next day she died!' said Guy, looking up, after a long
silence. 'Did she--could she take any notice of me?'
'No, sir; she lived but half an hour, or hardly that, after you were
born.' I told her it was a son; but she was not able to hear or mind
me, and sank away, fainting like. I fancied I heard her say something
like "Mr. Morville," but I don't know; and her breath was very soon
gone. Poor dear!' added Mrs. Lavers, wiping away her tears. 'I
grieved for her as if she had been my own child; but then I thought of
her waking up to hear he was dead. I little thought then, Sir Guy,
that I should ever see you stand there,--strong and well grown. I
almost thought you were dead already when I sent for Mr. Harrison to
'Was it you that did so?' said Guy, his face, mournful before, lighting
up in a sudden beam of gratitude. 'Then I have to thank you for more
than all the world besides.'
'Law, sir!' said Mrs. Lavers. smiling, and looking pleased, though as
if but half entering into his meaning. 'Yes, it was in that very
china bowl; I have kept it choice ever since, and never let it be used
for anything. I thought it was making very bold, but the doctor and
all thought you could not live, and Mr. Harrison might judge. I was
very glad just before he came that Mr. Markham came from Redclyffe. He
had not been able to leave poor Sir Guy before.'
Guy soon after set out on his homeward ride. His yearning to hear of
his mother had been satisfied; but though he could still love the fair,
sweet vision summoned up by her name, he was less disposed to feel that
it had been hard upon him that she died. It was not Amy. In spite of
his tender compassion and affection, he knew that he had not lost a
Verena in her. None could occupy that place save Amy; and his mind,
from custom, reverted to Amy as still his own, thrilled like a freshly-
touched wound, and tried to realize the solace that even yet she might
be praying for him.
It was dreariness and despondency by day, and he struggled with it by
energy and occupation; but it was something even worse in the evening,
in the dark, solitary library, where the very size of the room gave an
additional sense of loneliness; and in the silence he could hear,
through the closed shutters, the distant plash and surge of the tide,--
a sound, of which, in former years, he had never been sensible. There,
evening after evening, he sat,--his attention roaming from his
employment to feed on his sad reflections.
One evening he went to the large dark dining-room, unlocked the door,
which echoed far through the house, and found his way through the
packed-up furniture to a picture against the wall, to which he held up
his light. It was a portrait by Lely, a half-length of a young man,
one hand on his sword, the other holding his plumed hat. His dark
chestnut hair fell on each side of a bright youthful face, full of life
and health, and with eyes which, even in painting, showed what their
vividness must have been. The countenance was full of spirit and joy;
but the mouth was more hard and stern than suited the rest; and there
was something in the strong, determined grasp of the sword, which made
it seem as if the hand might be a characteristic portrait. In the
corner of the picture was the name--'Hugo Morville. AEt. 20, 1671.'
Guy stood holding up his light, and looking fixedly at it for a
considerable time. Strange thoughts passed through his mind as the
pictured eyes seemed to gaze piercingly down into his own. When he
turned away, he muttered aloud,--
'He, too, would have said--"Is thy servant a dog, that he should do
It seemed to him as if he had once been in a happier, better world,
with the future dawning brightly on him; but as if that once yielding
to the passions inherited from that wretched man, had brought on him
the doom of misery. He had opened the door to the powers of evil, and
must bear the penalty.
These feelings might partly arise from its having been only now that,
had all been well, he could have been with Amabel; so that it seemed as
if he had never hitherto appreciated the loss. He had at first
comforted himself by thinking it was better to be without her than to
cause her distress; but now he found how hard it was to miss her--his
bright angel. Darkness was closing on him; a tedious, aimless life
spread out before him; a despair of doing good haunted him, and with it
a sense of something like the presence of an evil spirit, triumphing in
his having once put himself within its grasp.
It was well for Guy that he was naturally active, and had acquired
power over his own mind. He would not allow himself to brood over
these thoughts by day, and in the evening he busied himself as much as
possible with his studies, or in going over with Markham matters that
would be useful to him to know when he came to the management of his
property. Yet still these thoughts would thicken on him, in spite of
himself, every evening when he sat alone in the library.
The late hours of Christmas Eve was the time when he had most to
suffer. The day had been gloomy and snowy, and he had spent it almost
entirely in solitude, with no companion or diversion to restore the
tone of his mind, when he had tried it with hard study. He tried to
read, but it would not do; and he was reduced to sit looking at the
fire, recalling this time last year, when he had been cutting holly,
helping the sisters to deck the house, and in the evening enjoying a
merry Christmas party, full of blitheness and glee, where there were,
of course, special recollections of Amabel.
As usual, he dwelt on the contrast, mused on the estrangement of Mrs.
Edmonstone, and tormented himself about Charles's silence, till he fell
into the more melancholy train of thought of the destiny of his race.
Far better for him to bear all alone than to bring on Amy grief and
horror, such as had fallen on his own mother, but it was much to bear
that loneliness and desolation for a lifetime. The brow was
contracted, and the lip drawn into a resolute expression of keeping
down suffering, like that of a man enduring acute bodily pain; as Guy
was not yielding, he was telling himself--telling the tempter, who
would have made him give up the struggle--that it was only for a life,
and that it was shame and ingratitude to be faint-hearted, on the very
night when he ought to be rejoicing that One had come to ruin the power
of the foe, and set him free. But where was his rejoicing? Was he
cheered,--was he comforted? Was not the lone, blank despondency that
had settled on him more heavily than ever, a token that he was shut out
from all that was good,--nay, that in former years there had been no
true joy in him, only enjoyment of temporal pleasure? Had his best
days of happiness been, then, nothing but hollowness and self-
At that moment the sound of a Christmas carol came faintly on his ear.
It was one of those tunes which, when the village choir were the only
musicians he knew, he had thought, unrivalled; and now, even to his
tutored, delicate ear, softened as it was by distance, and endeared by
association, it was full of refreshing, soothing harmony. He undrew
the curtain, opened the shutter, and looked into the court, where he
saw some figures standing. As soon as the light shone from the window,
the carol was resumed, and the familiar tones were louder and harsher,
but he loved them, with all their rudeness and dissonance, and throwing
up the window, called the singers by name, asking why they stood out in
the snow, instead of coming into the hall, as usual.
The oldest of the set came to the window to answer,--so old a man that
his voice was cracked, and his performance did more harm than good in
the psalms at church.
'You see, Sir Guy,' said he, 'there was some of us thought you might
not like to have us coming and singing like old times, 'cause 'tis not
all as it used to be here with you. Yet we didn't like not to come at
all, when you had been away so long, so we settled just to begin, and
see whether you took any notice.'
'Thank you. It was a very kind thought, James,' said Guy, touched by
the rough delicacy of feeling manifested by these poor men; 'I had
rather hear the carols than anything. Come to the front door; I'll let
'Thank you, sir,' with a most grateful touch of the hat; and Guy
hastened to set things in order, preferring the carols to everything at
that moment, even though disabused of his pristine admiration for James
Robinson's fiddle, and for Harry Ray's grand shake. A long space was
spent in listening, and a still longer in the endeavour to show what
Mr. Ashford meant by suggesting some improvements which they were
regarding with dislike and suspicion, till they found Sir Guy was of
the same mind. In fact, when he had sung a verse or two to illustrate
his meaning, the opinion of the choir was, that, with equal advantages,
Sir Guy might sing quite as well as Harry Ray.
It was the first time he had heard his own voice, except at church,
since the earlier days of St. Mildred's, but as he went up the long
stairs and galleries to bed, he found himself still singing. It was,
Who lives forlorn,
On God's own word doth rest,
His path is bright
With heavenly light,
His lot among the blest.
He wondered, and remembered finding music for it with Amy's help. He
sighed heavily, but the anguish of feeling, the sense of being in the
power of evil, had insensibly left him, and though sad and oppressed,
the unchangeable joy and hope of Christmas were shedding a beam on him.
They were not gone when he awoke, and rose to a solitary breakfast
without one Christmas greeting. The light of the other life was
beginning to shine out, and make him see how to do and to bear, with
that hope before him. The hope was becoming less vague; the
resolution, though not more firm, yet less desponding, that he would go
on to grapple with temptation, and work steadfastly; and with that hope
before him, he now felt that even a lifetime without Amy would be
The power of rejoicing came more fully at church, and the service
entered into his soul as it never had done before. It had never been
such happiness, though repentance and mournful feelings were ever
present with him; nor was his 'Verena' absent from his mind. He walked
about between the services, saw the poor people dining in their holly-
decked houses, exchanging Christmas wishes with them, and gave his old,
beautiful, bright smile as he received demonstrations of their
attachment, or beheld their enjoyment. He went home in the dark,
allowed Mrs. Drew to have her own way, and serve him and Bustle with a
dinner sufficient for a dozen people, and was shut up for the solitary
Christmas evening which he had so much dreaded, and which would have
been esteemed a misfortune even by those who had no sad thoughts to
Yet when the clock struck eleven he was surprised, and owned that it
had been more than not being unhappy. The dark fiends of remorse and
despair had not once assaulted him, yet it had not been by force of
employment that they had been averted. He had read and written a
little, but very little, and the time had chiefly been spent in a sort
of day-dream, though not of a return to Hollywell, nor of what
Redclyffe might be with Amy. It had been of a darkened and lonely
course, yet, in another sense, neither dark nor lonely, of a cheerless
home and round of duties, with a true home beyond; and still it had
been a happy, refreshing dream, and he began the next morning with the
fresh brightened spirit of a man who felt that such an evening was sent
him to reinvigorate his energies, and fit him for the immediate duties
that lay before him.
On the breakfast-table was what he had not seen for a long time--a
letter directed to him. It was from Mr. Ross, in answer to his
question about Coombe Prior, entering readily into the subject, and
advising him to write to the Bishop, altogether with a tone of friendly
interest which, especially as coming from one so near Hollywell, was a
great pleasure, a real Christmas treat. There was the wonted wish of
the season--a happy Christmas--which he took gratefully, and lastly
there was a mention that Charles Edmonstone was better, the suffering
over, though he was not yet allowed to move.
It was a new light that Charles's silence had been occasioned by
illness, and his immediate resolution was to write at once to Mr. Ross,
to beg for further particulars. In the meantime, the perception that
there had been no estrangement was such a ray as can hardly be imagined
without knowing the despondency it had enlivened. The truth was,
perhaps, that the tone of mind was recovering, and after having fixed
himself in his resolution to endure, he was able to receive comfort and
refreshment from without as well as from within.
He set to work to write at once to the Bishop, as Mr. Ross advised. He
said he could not bear to lose time, and therefore wrote at once. He
should be of age on the 28th of March, and he hoped then to be able to
arrange for a stipend for a curate, if the Bishop approved, and would
kindly enter into communication on the appointment with Mr. Halroyd,
the incumbent. After considering his letter a little while, and
wishing he was sufficiently intimate with Mr. Ashford to ask him if it
would do, he wrote another to Mr. Ross, to inquire after Charles; then
he worked for an hour at mathematics, till a message came from the
gamekeeper to ask whether he would go out shooting, whereat Bustle,
evidently understanding, jumped about, and wagged his tail so
imploringly, that Guy could not resist, so he threw his books upon the
top of the great pile on the sofa, and, glad that at least he could
gratify dog and man, he sent word that he should be ready in five
He could not help enjoying the ecstasy of all the dogs, and, indeed he
was surprised to find himself fully alive to the delight of forcing his
way through a furze-brake, hearing the ice in the peaty bogs crackle
beneath his feet; getting a good shot, bringing down his bird, finding
snipe, and diving into the depths of the long, winding valleys and
dingles, with the icicle-hung banks of their streamlets. He came home
through the village at about half-past three o'clock, sending the
keeper to leave some of his game at the parsonage, while he went
himself to see how the work was getting on at the school. Mr. and Mrs.
Ashford and the boys were come on the same errand, in spite of the
cloud of dust rising from the newly-demolished lath-and-plaster
partition. The boys looked with longing eyes at the gun in his hand,
and the half-frozen compound of black and red mud on his gaiters; but
they were shy, and their enmity added to their shyness, so that even
when he shook hands with them, and spoke good-naturedly, they did not
get beyond a monosyllable.
Mr. and Mrs. Ashford, feeling some compunction for having left him to
his solitude so long, asked him to dinner for one of the ensuing days,
with some idea of getting some one to meet him, and named six o'clock.
'Won't that put you out? Don't you always dine early?' said he. 'If
you would let me, I should like to join you at your tea-time.'
'If you will endure a host of children,' said Mr. Ashford, 'I should
like it of all things,' said Guy. 'I want to make acquaintance very
much,' and he put his hand on Robert's shoulder. 'Besides, I want to
talk to you about the singing, and how we are to get rid of that fiddle
without breaking James Robinson's heart.'
The appointment was made, and Guy went home to his hasty dinner, his
Greek, and a little refreshing return afterwards to the books which had
been the delight of younger days. There was no renewal of the burthen
of despair that had so long haunted his evenings. Employments
thickened on his hands as the days passed on. There was further
correspondence about Coombe Prior and the curate, and consultations
with Markham about farmer Todd, who was as obstinate and troublesome as
possible. Guy made Markham come to Coombe Prior with him, examine and
calculate about the cottages, and fairly take up the subject, though
without much apparent chance of coming to any satisfactory result. A
letter came from Mr. Ross, telling him even more than he had ventured
to hope, for it brought a message from Charles himself. Charles had
been delighted to hear of him, and had begged that he might be told how
very sorry he had been not to write; and how incapable he had been, and
still was; but that he hoped Guy would write to him, and believe him in
the same mind. Mr. Ross added an account of Charles's illness, saying
the suffering had been more severe than usual, and had totally disabled
him for many weeks; that they had since called in a London surgeon, who
had given him hope that he might be better now than ever before, but
had prescribed absolute rest for at least six weeks longer, so that
Charles was now flat on his back all day, beginning to be able to be
amused, and very cheerful and patient.
The pleasure of entering into communication with Hollywell again, and
knowing that Charles at least would be glad to hear from him, was so
exquisite, that he was almost surprised, considering that in essentials
he was where he was before, and even Charles could not be Amy.
They hadna sailed a league, a league,
A league, but barely three,
When the lift grew dark, and the wind grew loud,
And gurly grew the sea.--SIR PATRICK SPENS.--(Old Ballad.)
Guy's evening with the Ashfords threw down many of the barriers in the
way of intimacy. He soon made friends with the children, beginning
with the two years old baby, and ending with gaining even the shy and
sturdy Robin, who could not hold out any longer, when it appeared that
Sir Guy could tell him the best place for finding sea-urchins, the
present objects of his affections.
'But we should have to go through the park,' said Edward,
disconsolately, when Guy had described the locality.
'Well, why not?'
'We must not go into the park!' cried the children, in chorus.
'Not go into the park!' exclaimed Guy, looking at Mrs. Ashford, in
amazement; then, as it flashed on him that it was his part to give
leave, he added,--'I did not know I was such a dog in the manger. I
thought all the parish walked naturally in the park. I don't know what
else it is good for. If Markham will lock it up, I must tell him to
give you a key.'
The boys were to come the next day--to be shown the way to the bay of
urchins, and thenceforth they became his constant followers to such a
degree, that their parents feared they were very troublesome, but he
assured them to the contrary; and no mother in the world could have
found it in her heart to keep them away from so much happiness. There
was continually a rushing home with a joyous outcry,--'Mamma! Sir Guy
gave me a ride on his horse!' 'Mamma! Sir Guy helped us to the top of
that great rock!' 'Oh, papa! Sir Guy says we may come out shooting
with him to-morrow, if you will let us!' 'Mamma! papa! look! Do you
see? I shot this rabbit my own self with Sir Guy's gun!' 'Papa! papa!
Sir Guy showed us his boat, and he says he will take us out to the Shag
Rock, if you will give us leave!'
This was beyond what papa, still further beyond what mamma, could like,
since the sea was often very rough in parts near the Shag; there were a
good many sunken rocks, and boys, water, and rocks, did not appear by
any means a safe conjunction, so Mrs. Ashford put the matter off for
the present by the unseasonableness of the weather; and Mr. Ashford
asked one or two of the fishermen how far they thought landing on the
Shag a prudent attempt.
They did not profess to have often tried, they always avoided those
rocks; but it could hardly be very dangerous, they said, for when Sir
Guy was a boy, he used to be about there for ever, at first with an old
boatman, and afterwards alone in his little boat. They had often
wondered he was trusted there; but if any one knew the rocks, he did.
Still, Mrs. Ashford could not make up her mind to like the idea, and
the boys came to Sir Guy in a state of great discomposure.
'Never mind' he said, 'perhaps we shall manage it in the summer. We
will get your father to go out with us himself; and, in the meantime,
who likes to come with me after the rabbits in Cliffstone Copse?
Farmer Holt will thank Robin for killing a dozen or so, for he makes
grievous complaints of them.'
Guy conducted the boys out of sight of the sea, and, to console them,
gave them so much more use of the gun than usual, that it might be
considered as a wonder that he escaped being shot. Yet it did not
prevent a few sighs being spent on the boating.
'Can't you forget it?' said Guy, smiling. 'You have no loss, after
all, for we are likely to have no boating weather this long time.
Hark! don't you hear the ground-swell?'
'What's that?' said the boys, standing still to listen to the distant
surge, like a continuous low moan, or roar, far, far away, though there
was no wind, and the sea was calm.
'It is the sound that comes before stormy weather,' said Guy. 'It is
as if the sea was gathering up its forces for the tempest.'
'But what?--how? Tell me what it really is,' said Robin.
'I suppose it is the wind on the sea before it has reached us,' said
Guy. 'How solemn it is!'
Too solemn for the boys, who began all manner of antics and noises, by
way of silencing the impression of awfulness. Guy laughed, and joined
in their fun; but as soon as they were gone home, he stood in silence
for a long time, listening to the sound, and recalling the mysterious
dreams and fancies with which it was connected in his boyhood, and
which he had never wished thus to drive away.
The storm he had predicted came on; and by the evening of the following
day, sea and wind were thundering, in their might, against the foot of
the crags. Guy looked from the window, the last thing at night, and
saw the stars twinkling overhead, with that extreme brilliancy which is
often seen in the intervals of fitful storms, and which suggested
thoughts that sent him to sleep in a vague, soothing dream.
He was wakened by one tremendous continued roar of sea, wind, and
thunder combined. Such was the darkness, that he could not see the
form of the window, till a sheet of pale blue lightning brought it
fully out for the moment. He sat up, and listened to the 'glorious
voice' that followed it, thought what an awful night at sea, and
remembered when he used to fancy it would be the height of felicity to
have a shipwreck at Redclyffe, and shocked Mrs. Bernard by inhuman
wishes that a ship would only come and be wrecked. How often had he
watched, through sounds like these, for a minute gun! Nay, he had once
actually called up poor Arnaud in the middle of the night for an
imaginary signal. Redclyffe Bay was a very dangerous one; a fine place
for a wreck, with its precipitous crags, its single safe landing-place,
and the great Shag Stone, on the eastern side, with a whole progeny of
nearly sunken rocks, dreaded in rough weather by the fishermen
themselves; but it was out of the ordinary track of vessels, and there
were only a few traditions of terrible wrecks long before his time.
It seemed as if he had worked up his fancy again, for the sound of a
gun was for a moment in his ear. It was lost in the rush of hail
against the window, and the moaning of the wind round the old house;
but presently it returned too surely to be imaginary. He sprang to the
window, and the broad, flickering glare of lightning revealed the black
cliff and pale sea-line; then all was dark and still, while the storm
was holding its breath for the thunder-burst which in a few more
seconds rolled overhead, shaking door and window throughout the house.
As the awful sound died away, in a moment's lull, came the gun again.
He threw up the window, and as the blast of wind and rain swept howling
into the room, it brought another report.
To close the window, light his candle, throw on his clothes, and hasten
down-stairs, was the work of a very few seconds. Luckily, the key of
the boat-house was lying on the table in the hall, where he had left
it, after showing the boat to the Ashford boys; he seized it, caught up
the pocket telescope, put on a rough coat, and proceeded to undo the
endless fastenings of the hall-door, a very patience-trying occupation;
and, when completed, the gusts that were eddying round the house, ready
to force their way in everywhere, took advantage of the first opening
to blow out his candle.
However, they had in one way done good service, for the shower had been
as brief as it was violent, and the inky cloud was drifting away
furiously towards the east, leaving the moon visible, near her setting,
and allowing her white cold light to shine forth, contrasting with the
distant sheets of pale lightning, growing fainter and fainter.
Guy ran across the court, round to the west side of the house, and
struggled up the slope in the face of the wind, which almost swept him
down again; and when at length he had gained the summit, came rushing
against him with such force that he could hardly stand. He did,
however, keep his ground, and gazed out over the sea. The swell was
fearful; marked by the silver light on one side, where it caught the
moonbeams, and the black shade on the other, ever alternating, so that
the eye could, not fix on them for a moment; the spray leapt high in
its whiteness, and the Shag stood up hard, bold, and black. The waves
thundered, bursting on the cliff and, high as he stood, the spray
dashed almost blinding in his face, while the wind howled round him, as
if gathering its might for the very purpose of wrenching him from the
cliff; but he stood firm, and looked out again, to discern clearly what
he thought he had seen. It was the mast of a vessel, seen plainly
against the light silvery distance of sea on the reef west of the Shag.
It was in a slanting direction, and did not move; he could not doubt
that the ship had struck on the dangerous rocks at the entrance of the
bay; and as his eyes became more accustomed to the unusual light, and
made out what objects were or were not familiar, he could perceive the
ship herself. He looked with the glass, but could see no one on board,
nor were any boats in sight; but observing some of the lesser rocks, he
beheld some moving figures on them. Help!--instant help!--was his
thought; and he looked towards the Cove. Lights were in the cottage
windows, and a few sounds came up to him, as if the fishing population
He hastened to the side of the cliff, which was partly clothed with
brushwood. There was a descent--it could hardly be called a path--
which no one ventured to attempt but himself and a few of the boldest
birds'-nesting boys of the village; but he could lose no time, and
scrambling, leaping, swinging himself by the branches, he reached the
foot of the cliff in safety, and in five minutes more was on the little
quay at the end of the steep street of the Cove.
The quay was crowded with the fisher-people, and there was a strange
confusion of voices; some saying all was lost; some that the crew had
got to the rock; others, that some one ought to put off and help them;
others, that a boat would never live in such a sea; and an old
telescope was in great requisition.
Ben Robinson, a tall, hardy young man, of five-and-twenty, wild,
reckless, high-spirited and full of mischief and adventure, was
standing on a pile at the extreme verge above the foaming water, daring
the others to go with him to the rescue; and, though Jonas Ledbury, a
feeble old man, was declaring, in a piteous tone, it was a sin and a
shame to let so many poor creatures be lost in sight, without one man
stirring to help them; yet all stood irresolute, watching the white
breakers dashing on the Shag, and the high waves that swelled and
'Do you know where the crew are?' exclaimed Guy, shouting as loud as he
could, for the noise of the winds and waves was tremendous.
'There, sir, on the flat black stone,' said the fortunate possessor of
the telescope. 'Some ten or eleven of them, I fancy, all huddled
'Ay, ay!' said old Ledbury. 'Poor creatures! there they be; and what
is to be done, I can't say! I never saw a boat in such a sea, since
the night poor Jack, my brother, was lost, and Will Ray with him.'
'I see them,' said Guy, who had in the meantime looked through his
glass. 'How soon is high water?'
It was an important question, for the rocks round the Shag were covered
before full tide, even when the water was still. There was a looking
up at the moon, and then Guy and the fishermen simultaneously
exclaimed, that it would be in three hours; which gave scarcely an hour
Without another word, Guy sprang from the quay to the boat-house,
unlocked it, and, by example, showed that the largest boat was to be
brought out. The men helped him vigorously, and it stood on the narrow
pebbly beach, the only safe landing-place in the whole bay; he threw
into it a coil of rope, and called out in his clear commanding voice--
'Five to go with me!'
Hanging back was at an end. They were brave men, who had wanted
nothing but a leader, and with Sir Guy at their head, were ready for
anything. Not five, but five-and-twenty were at his command; and even
in the hurry of the moment, a strong, affectionate feeling filled his
eyes with tears as he saw these poor fellows ready to trust their lives
in his hands.
'Thank you--thank you!' he exclaimed. 'Not all, though; you, Ben
Robinson, Harry Ray, Charles Ray, Ben Ledbury, Wat Green.'
They were all young men, without families, such as could best be
spared; and each, as his name was called, answered, 'Here, Sir Guy!'
and came forward with a resolute satisfied air.
'It would be best to have a second boat,' said Guy. 'Mr. Brown,' to
the owner of the telescope, 'will you lend yours? 'tis the strongest
and lightest. Thank you. Martin had best steer it, he knows the
rocks;' and he went on to name the rest of the crew; but at the last
there was a moment's pause, as if he doubted.
A tall athletic young fisherman took advantage of it to press forward.
'Please your honour, Sir Guy, may not I go?'
'Better not, Jem,' answered Guy. 'Remember,' in a lower voice, 'your
mother has no one but you. Here!' he called, cheerfully, 'Jack Horn,
you pull a good oar! Now, then, are we ready?'
'All ready,--yes, sir!'
The boat was launched, not without great difficulty, in the face of
such a sea. The men stoutly took their oars, casting a look forward at
the rocks, then at the quay, and on the face of their young steersman.
Little they guessed the intense emotion that swelled in his breast as
he took the helm, to save life or to lose it; enjoying the enterprise,
yet with the thought that his lot might be early death; glad it was
right thus to venture, earnest to save those who had freely trusted to
him, and rapidly, though most earnestly, recalling his own repentance.
All this was in his mind, though nothing was on his face but cheerful
Night though it was, tidings of the wreck had reached the upper part of
the village; and Mr. Ashford, putting his head out of his window to
learn the cause of the sounds in the street, was informed by many
voices that a ship was on the Shag reef, and that all were lost. To
hasten to the Cove to learn the truth, and see if any assistance could
yet be afforded, was his instant thought; and he had not taken many
steps before he was overtaken by a square, sturdy figure, wrapped in an
'So, Mr. Markham, you are on your way to see about this wreck.'
'Why, ay,' said Markham, roughly, though not with the repellent manner
usual with him towards Mr. Ashford, 'I must be there, or that boy will
be in the thickest of it. Wherever is mischief, there is he. I only
wonder he has not broken his neck long ago.'
'By mischief, you mean danger?'
'Yes. I hope he has not heard of this wreck, for if he has, no power
on earth would keep him back from it.'
Comparing the reports they had heard, the clergyman and steward walked
on, Markham's anxiety actually making him friendly. They reached the
top of the steep street of the Cove; but though there was a good view
of the sea from thence, they could distinguish nothing, for another
cloud was rising, and had obscured the moon. They were soon on the
quay, now still more crowded, and heard the exclamations of those who
were striving to keep their eyes on the boats.
'There's one!' 'No!' 'Yes, 'tis!' 'That's Sir Guy's!'
'Sir Guy!' exclaimed Markham. 'You don't mean he is gone? Then I am
too late! What could you be thinking of, you old fool, Jonas, to let
that boy go? You'll never see him again, I can tell you. Mercy! Here
comes another squall! There's an end of it, then!'
Markham seemed to derive some relief from railing at the fishermen,
singly and collectively, while Mr. Ashford tried to learn the real
facts, and gather opinions as to the chance of safety. The old
fishermen held that there was frightful risk, though the attempt was
far from hopeless; they said the young men were all good at their oars,
Sir Guy knew the rocks very well, and the chief fear was, that he might
not know how to steer in such a sea; but they had seen that, though
daring, he was not rash. They listened submissively to Mr. Markham,
but communicated in an under-tone to the vicar, how vain it would have
been to attempt to restrain Sir Guy.
'Why, sir,' said old James Robinson, 'he spoke just like the captain of
a man-of-war, and for all Mr. Markham says, I don't believe he'd have
been able to gainsay him.'
'Your son is gone with him?'
'Ay, sir; and I would not say one word to stop him. I know Sir Guy
won't run him into risk for nothing; and I hope, please God, if Ben
comes back safe, it may be the steadying of him.'
''Twas he that volunteered to go before Sir Guy came, they say?'
'Yes, sir,' said the old man, with a pleased yet melancholy look.
'Ben's brave enough; but there's the difference. He'd have done it for
the lark, and to dare the rest; but Sir Guy does it with thought, and
because it is right. I wish it may be the steadying of Ben!'
The shower rushed over them again, shorter and less violent than the
former one, but driving in most of the crowd, and only leaving on the
quay the vicar, the steward, and a few of the most anxious fishermen.
They could see nothing; for the dark slanting line of rain swept over
the waves, joining together the sea and thick low cloud; and the
roaring of the sea and moaning of the wind were fearful. No one spoke,
till at last the black edges of the Shag loomed clearer, the moon began
to glance through the skirts of the cloud, and the heaving and tossing
of the sea, became more discernible.
'There!--there!' shouted young Jem, the widow's son.
'Where?--where?--for heaven's sake! That's nothing!' cried Markham.
'Yes--yes! I see both,' said Jem. 'The glass! Where's Mr, Brown's
Markham was trying to fix his own, but neither hand nor eye were steady
enough; he muttered,--'Hang the glass!' and paced up and down in
uncontrollable anxiety. Mr. Ashford turned with him, trying to speak
consolingly, and entirely liking the old man. Markham was not
ungrateful, but he was almost in despair.
'It is the same over again!' said he. 'He is the age his father was,
though Mr. Morville never was such as he--never--how should he? He is