Part 6 out of 8
till very late, and till both his parents had been in some alarm. At
last, after about a week, Marian ventured to expostulate; she prevailed,
and he was allowed to resume his rides, under a restriction that it must
never be alone. Now, taking a servant with him was an avowal of his
misfortune which he never would endure; so Marian, who never in her life
was afraid of what any horse could do, became his companion, and rode
out with him a good deal, feeling him indeed a charge, but not nearly so
heavy a one as her cousins fancied.
Still, though not afraid of accidents to him or to herself, these rides
were almost a subject of dread to Marian, daily as was their occurrence,
for it was then that poor Lionel made up for the reserve he exercised
with all the rest. If she could have done him any good, it would have
been a different thing, but surely, the world did not contain, as she
thought, a worse comforter than herself; for day after day, answer
as she would, came the same sad strain of regrets, and laments over
vanished plans, repelling every attempt at leading him to resignation,
and only varied by the different moods in which he would sometimes look
on his case as hopeless, and sometimes be angry with her for assuming
that it was so. Still worse were the complaints of his parents, in
which he would indulge after each fresh provocation, or rather, what he
thought so, though she never gave him the least encouragement to talk
in this manner, argued for them, and often blamed him; yet do what she
would, he never was convinced. The same battle on some other ground was
sure to recur, often the next day, and Marian, right as she knew she
was, never felt as if she had the victory; for five times out of six, it
was in a surly, impatient manner that he turned away from her, as they
dismounted. She often wondered whether she ought to let him go on thus,
whether it was right in her, if it did him harm, by confirming all his
unpleasant feelings, or whether it might not be worse for him to let
them rankle in his heart instead of pouring them out. It seemed too
unkind to silence him, when he fancied such talk a comfort, and she was
the only person in his confidence, yet what was right? what was good for
him? Her head ached with the self debate; she felt positively worn and
depressed, with the continued useless, harassing conversations; she knew
he was beyond her management, yet, with all her doubts, she was too
tender-hearted to vex him; she let him go on and only combated each
point, instead of refusing to listen.
Why would not Walter come home, the only true comforter Lionel was
likely to find, whom he really respected and loved? Walter was by this
time ordained, yet he did not propose coming home; indeed Marian had
not even heard whether he had written, and she was inclined to think he
could not have been informed of the state of things at home.
At length, when Lionel had been at home nearly a month, there came one
morning a letter directed to him. His mother and Clara both offered to
read it for him, but he gruffly refused, glanced it over, and put it in
his pocket. He loitered through the morning, and rode with Marian in the
afternoon. As they happened to meet with some entertaining subject of
conversation, the ride was more cheerful than usual, and she hoped she
had escaped the ordinary discussion; but when he helped her to dismount
under the portico, he said, "Don't go in just yet. Come and take a turn
in the plantations."
Her heart sank at the task that was coming, but she would not disappoint
him, and gathering up her habit, she followed his quick steps. As soon
as they were out of sight of the house, he produced the letter, saying,
"Here, read me this."
"O! I was in hopes that you could."
"I thought I could at first, but it was only 'my dear Lionel,' that I
could read. It was all haze after that. There is a step In these three
weeks," he added in a voice meant to be manly and careless. "Come, let
us hear. 'Tis from Walter, is not it?"
The letter had been written on first receiving intelligence of Lionel's
condition, which had been communicated by his father when he had to
write about something else. Marian, as she read, rejoiced in the letter,
it was so exactly what she wanted to have said, and yet never could
venture on, about regarding the affliction as a cross, and bending to
bear it patiently. She had often felt that here was the best relief, but
she had never dared to set it openly before Lionel, fearing that her
awkwardness, and his waywardness, might lead to his saying something
scornful, which would be worse than all. Here it was put before him in
just the right way, and one to which he must attend, and she watched
eagerly for some token of the way in which he took it.
He made no remark, however, seeming to hear it as a matter of course
that Walter would say something of the kind. After asking if she was
certain she had read all, and pointing to a few crossed lines at the
head of the first page, to make sure that she had not missed them, he
only said, "Then there is not a word about coming. Well, I do think he
might come when he knows that after this time I shall never be able to
"I don't suppose he thinks of that," said Marian--"I mean perhaps
he would not think of your caring for the mere _sight_ of him as a
"He does not know then," said Lionel, "I am trying to learn all your
faces, and I don't think I shall forget them."
"I am sure if he guessed you wished for him he would come that instant."
"I am not going to ask him," said Lionel proudly.
"What, I really think, is the reason of his stayin away," said Marian,
hesitating, "is about Mr. Faulkner. I think more especially now he is a
Clergyman, he will not have anything to do with him."
"Ay, ay," said Lionel, "that is a reason good for something. I only
should like to do the same, except that if I was Walter I would have
done more long ago, instead of just keeping out of the way, and told
Caroline it was a regular shame, and she ought not to be taken in with
his fine speeches, and balls, and stuff."
"I don't know--" said Marian.
"What don't you know?"
"How far even Walter would be authorised to interfere about what Mr. and
Mrs. Lyddell approve."
"Don't talk nonsense, Marian. If a thing is right, it is right, if it is
wrong, it's wrong, and all the world ought to try to prevent it. I know
I would, if anybody would mind me, for it makes me sick to see that man
come into the room, and the fuss mamma makes with him. I think he grows
worse. I declare I'd as soon see her marry Julian the Apostate! I am so
glad he is gone to those races. I should like to ask Caroline what sort
of happiness she expects with a man that talks of the Bible as if it was
no better than the Iliad! I only wish he would talk so to her, perhaps
that would shock her."
"I don't think she is very happy," said Marian.
"I am sure she ought not to be," was the answer.
"The more talk there has been of fixing the day the more unhappy she has
looked," said Marian. "You know she has begged the Faulkners to let it
be put off a little longer, because she could not bear that it should be
while you are in this doubtful state."
"I did not know it," said Lionel, "and much good does it do me! A nice
life I shall have with no one but Clara to speak to! And when is your
marriage, Marian? Mr. Arundel's, I mean, for that is as bad."
"O that will not be till next summer," said Marian: "Mrs. Wortley wishes
Agnes to be twenty-one first, and Edmund has to build a house."
And Marian was ready to forgive them for the delay when she saw how
glad it made Lionel look. Yes, rejoiced as she must be to escape from
Oakworthy, she could not go without a chequered feeling. If she was
adroit at managing people, she would make Clara take the place she held
now with Lionel, which would be good for both, but she was far too
clumsy to bring that about; and O! what a refuge Fern Torr would be
after all this harassing life! It would be better for Lionel not to have
her to divert his confidence from his own family, and at any rate she
should be there to help him through this sad autumn of uncertainty. Then
would come the peace, rest, and guidance she had longed for all her
life, in her own home, and that hope might well cheer her through life.
"The brass, by long attrition tried,
Placed by the purer metal's side,
Displays at length a dingy hue,
That proves its former claim untrue;
So time's discerning hand hath art
To set the good and ill apart."
Lionel's affliction had certainly tended to lessen the gulf which the
engagement with Mr. Faulkner had made between Caroline and Marian.
Caroline was very anxious about her brother, and knowing that Marian had
his confidence, was continually coming to her for reports of his state
of mind and spirits, and with despairing questions as to what was likely
to please him,--questions which Marian was quite unqualified to answer,
and which were curious, since she had no tact, and Caroline had a great
Thus it came to pass, that nightly sittings by each other's bed-room
fire were renewed, and long consultations took place, always at first
about Lionel, but sometimes branching to things in general, even as in
the olden time. Caroline was, however, very unlike what she had been a
year ago, when as Marian full well remembered, they had first talked of
Mr. Faulkner's visit. She was gayer in public, but her spirits were very
low when alone with Marian; and now and then the conversation flagged,
till she sat for full half an hour, her head on her hand, without a
word. At first she would try to excuse such a reverie, by calling
herself very tired; but as days went on, and it recurred, she smiled
as she woke from it, and told Marian "it was such repose to be with a
person who would let her be silent."
There was much confidence in such silence. Marian began to grow even
more sorry for her than at first, because it was impossible to continue
to be angry; and tried in every way to show her kindness, becoming,
unconsciously, much more demonstrative in affection than ever she had
been before. On the day on which Lionel received the letter mentioned
at the end of the last chapter, Caroline came into Marian's room at
dressing-time; and after lingering about a little, she said, "Could
Lionel read that letter to day?"
Marian shook her head sadly.
"He brought it to you, then?" sighed Caroline, "Ah! I saw who it came
She looked wistfully at Marian, as if longing to hear something of the
letter, though she would not ask; and Marian, though much touched, was
determined against saying one word about it, however indifferent, as
she felt that, without Lionel's consent, she ought to be as mute as the
paper it was written upon. Caroline paused, then continued, "Do you
think he will ask you to write his answer for him?"
"No, I think not. You know he wrote a note to Gerald in one of my
letters the other day. I dare say he will always be able to write; Mrs.
Wortley has a blind friend who does."
Caroline did not answer, but gazed at the fire for almost ten minutes.
At last she said, "Poor Walter! I wonder what he is doing."
"I am sure he must be making himself very useful," said Marian.
"That is one thing we may be sure of," said Caroline, smiling
mournfully. "Walter is excellent wherever he is; but O, Marian,"
continued she, in a voice of inexpressible sadness, "who would have told
me, a year ago, that all I should hear of Walter's ordination would be
in the newspaper?"
Marian could make no answer but some sound expressive of sorrow.
"He has only written to me once since--since June!" proceeded Caroline,
in the same utterly dejected tone.
Then Walter had remonstrated, which was a great comfort to Marian, by
restoring him to his place in her estimation. Still she maintained her
expressive silence, and Caroline went on after another interval. "You
and he have been consistent from the first, Marian."
At that moment Fanny came in, and no more could be said, for Marian
was obliged to dress for dinner in a hurry. She took an opportunity of
saying to Lionel that evening, something about the pleasure it would
give Caroline if he would tell her about his letter.
"What! you have been telling her about it?" said he, in a tone of great
vexation; "that is always the way with women--no trusting them!"
"No, indeed, Lionel, I said not one word; but she saw it was Walter's
"And you went and told her I could not read it?"
"If she asked me, what could I do but speak the truth?" said Marian
gently; but he only made an impatient exclamation.
"I gave not the least hint of what it was about," added Marian,
pleadingly. "Of course I could not think of that, nor she either; but
she looked as if she did so long for some news of Walter: she has not
heard from him since the summer."
"That is her own fault," said Lionel, in his surly voice.
"That only makes it the worse for her. She is so much out of spirits,
Lionel; and if you would only tell her that part about his schools and
his lodging, I am sure she would be so much obliged to you."
"I shan't do any such thing," was his reply; "I always keep my letters
to myself, and I wish you would not talk about me."
He turned sharply away, and crossed the room; but his temper was not
improved by the consequences of his stumbling over a footstool which had
been left full in the way, and in rather a dark place, where it would
have been a trap for any one. He recovered in an instant without
falling; so that it would not have signified if Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell
had not both been startled. The former issued an edict that no
stumbling-block should be left in the way, and the latter entered upon
an investigation as to who had been the delinquent in the present case,
so as to make a great deal of discussion of the very worst kind for
Thenceforth the evening was uncomfortable. Marian felt as if she
was guilty of all, and was extremely provoked with herself for that
blundering way of driving at her point, which made things worse when she
most wanted to set them right. She had not comforted Caroline, and
she had led poor Lionel to fancy his confidence betrayed, and himself
discussed and--as he would call it--gossiped about. No wonder he looked
as if she had been injuring him; yet, unjust as it was, she had only her
own mal-adroitness to blame. A person of tact would have smoothed it all
at once, instead of ruffling everything up.
The tact Marian longed for is a natural talent; the consideration, the
delicacy of feeling, that she really had, were a part of her sterling
goodness, such as may be acquired by all; and her thorough truth,
trustiness, kindness, and above all her single-mindedness, had a value,
where she was really known, which weighed down, in the long run, all
that was involuntarily against her in manner, and won her not only
esteem, but such warm affection, such thorough reliance, as neither she
herself, nor those who felt it could fathom. Tact is an excellent thing,
but genuine love to our neighbour, seeking to show true kindness,
delicacy, and consideration,--striving in fact to do as it would be done
by,--is as much more precious, as a spiritual gift is than a natural
That very night, as Marian was sitting in her own room in her
dressing-gown, pondering on these unfortunate blunders, there was a
knock at her door, and in came Caroline. Sitting down by the fire, she
held out a letter on two or three sheets of closely written notepaper.
"Read that, Marian," said she, turning her face straight, to the fire as
she gave it.
It was from Walter, and the date showed that it had been written,
immediately on receiving the announcement of Caroline's engagement.
It was grave, earnest, and affectionate; not accusing Mr. Faulkner of
anything, not positively objecting to him, but reminding Caroline of the
solemnity of the duties she was about to undertake, and of the extreme
danger of allowing herself to be so attracted by agreeableness of
manner, or led on by the opinion of those around her, as to forget that
the connection she was about to form was to last for life, and that she
must be responsible for the influence her husband would exercise on her
life here, and therefore on her life hereafter. He said he was sure she
could not enter lightly on such an engagement, and therefore trusted
that her own mind was thoroughly convinced that she had chosen one
who would be a guide, an aid, and a support in the path that all were
It was exactly Walter's way, as Marian well knew, to manage to say, in
his simple, and as he thought, guarded manner of representing things,
what to sharper people had very much the air of irony; and as she gave
back the letter, her observation, as the first that would occur, was,
"It is very like Walter."
"Very," said Caroline.
"Did you answer him?"
"I wrote again, but--but"--her voice began to fail--"it was not an
answer. I would not seem to understand him. I wrote a lively, careless
sort of letter, and only said papa and mamma were delighted, or
something of that kind. And O, Marian, Marian, he has never written to
me again, and I have deserved it." She burst into tears.
"But why don't you write now? He must be very anxious to hear of Lionel,
and there is no one to tell him."
"I cannot," she replied; "I cannot, while--while he thinks of me as he
must--as he ought!" She wept bitterly, and Marian stood by perplexed and
distressed. "Dear Caroline," was the utmost that she could say.
"Marian!" cried Caroline, looking up for a moment, then hiding her face
again--"I would give anything in the world that he had been at home last
summer; or that you had slept at High Down that night."
A flash of hope and joy came across Marian. "If you think so," she
began, but Caroline cut her short. "I know what you mean, but that it?
impossible, quite Impossible--decidedly so," she added, as if these
assurances were to strengthen her own belief in its impossibility, and
not arguing, from a consciousness that her friend would overthrow every
one of her arguments. "I don't know what made me come to you, and tease
you," said she, rising and taking her letter; "good night."
"Tease me! O, Caroline, Caroline, you know--"
What she knew was lost in a most affectionate embrace; but Caroline
would not stay any longer, and left Marian as usual, regretting
everything that had passed.
The nest night, however, Caroline came again, as if there was some
irresistible spell that drew her to Marian. It was Sunday, and Marian
had long since observed that on such days Caroline was always most out
of spirits. She sat down, and let a long time pass without talking; but
at last she said, "Marian, it is very kind in you to let me come and sit
here. You cannot--no--you will never know how wretched I am."
"My dear, dear Caroline, if I could but do anything for you! but," she
proceeded, gathering resolution from her day's reflections, "you are the
only person who can do anything for yourself."
"Impossible!" repeated Caroline.
Marian was not exactly silenced, but involved in deep considerations
as to the propriety of interfering, and whether attempting to persuade
Caroline would be doing evil that good might come. Before she had made
up her mind,--as, indeed, how could she in five minutes come to a
conclusion to which hours of previous perplexity had failed to bring
her?--Caroline spoke again, "If it had but never begun! but now it has,
it must go on."
"I don't know--"
"It must, I tell you!" repeated Caroline. "If it had all to begin over
again, it would be very different. O, if it was but this time last
"But Caroline, Caroline," repeated Marian, carried away by the thought
that rose to her lips, "only think; you say now if it was this time last
year--now, while you can escape. Shall not you say so all the more when
it is really too late,--when you will wish you had drawn back now?"
"You have no right to say I should wish, that!" said Caroline, offended.
"You don't know what the love is that you are holding so cheaply."
"I beg your pardon, Caroline," and Marian was thrown into herself again;
but she thought a little longer, and seeing that Caroline was still
waiting and musing, she ventured on saying, in a timid voice, "Somehow,
I think, it would seem to me that the more affection there was, the more
painful it would all be."
"You are right there, Marian," exclaimed Caroline, in a voice of acute
It was a strange question that Marian next asked abruptly, on an impulse
sudden at the moment, though it was what she had long eagerly desired to
know. "Do you love him after all?"
Caroline did not seem vexed by the inquiry, but went on speaking rather
as if she was examining herself as to the answer,--"Love him? I don't
know; sometimes I think I do, sometimes I think not. It is not as
people in books love, and--and it can't be as your Agnes must love Mr.
A most emphatic "O no!" escaped from Marian, she hardly knew how, as if
it was profanation to compare Mr. Faulkner to Edmund; and perhaps the
strongest proof that Caroline's was not a real attachment, was that she
let it pass. "But then," pursued she warmly, "I am sure he is attached
to me--yes, very much--and--well, and I am glad to see him come into the
room; I like to walk with him. There is no one--no--no one in the whole
world whom I like so well. All my doubts and fears go away at the first
sound of his voice, and I am quite happy then. O, Marian, that surely is
"I don't know," said Marian; "I can't fancy love that has not begun with
esteem, with looking up,"
"I do look up!" said Caroline, eagerly. "He is so clever, so sensible,
has such a mind."
"I did not mean looking up intellectually,"
"Ah! you can live in that way," said Caroline, quickly; "your own people
are all of _that sort_. But you know I should never have had any one at
all to love, if I had begun looking for _that kind of thing_, even at
Too true, thought Marian, while she answered, "It is a different thing
where you have to begin afresh, and take it voluntarily upon you."
"Voluntarily!" repeated Caroline; "I am sure my will had very little
to do with it. I found myself in the midst of it, without knowing how,
before I had made up my mind one way or the other. O, Marian! if you had
but been with me that morning."
"Would that have prevented you?"
"I do really believe it would. You would have looked as if you thought
it so impossible, that I should have been strengthened up to do
something they could not have taken for consent. I'll tell you all about
it, Marian, from the beginning, and you will see how little free will I
had in it, and how distracted I am now."
Caroline went through the whole story, incoherently, and often only half
expressing her sentiments, and passing over what Marian knew already.
It seemed that she had been pleased with Mr. Faulkner's agreeableness,
flattered by his attention, and entered upon the same sort of
intercourse with him as with any other pleasant acquaintance. It would
never have been her way, brought up as she had been, to shrink from him
with such shuddering aversion as Marian did, simply from what she had
heard of his opinions. He was so agreeable, that it was just as well
quite to forget that, or only half to believe it. Then came the growing
perceptions of his intentions towards her, and of her mother's triumph
in them. But this was not till the archery arrangements were so far
advanced, that she could not have drawn back from them; and she was,
besides, in a whirl of gaiety and excitement that left little time for
serious thought: that she put off till his offer should be made, if it
was really coming. It came, and when she did not expect it. She knew
not what to do she was too confused for consideration. The next day was
bewilderment, and in the evening she found herself engaged. The new
sensation given her by her lover's affection, her genuine admiration of
his personal superiority, and wonder at herself for having attracted
such a man,--her gratitude to his family for their kindness, the triumph
of her parents,--all formed such a mixture of pleasurable, almost
intoxicating feelings, as at first to giddy her, (or, as the French will
express it, _l'ètourdir_,) as to what she had done, and what she
was about to do. Marian's grave, still face, and omission of one
congratulatory, even of one sympathetic word, were indeed witnesses; but
the impression of her unaccommodating ways was then recent, and
Caroline thought of her as one who showed goodness to be unpleasing and
impracticable, and looked on her silent disapproval as part of that
system of severity in which, she was consistent, but which her conduct
only proved to be absurd and unreasonable.
In the same spirit Caroline disregarded Walter's letter,--only a letter,
which could therefore be laid aside, and which, in truth, did not say
all he meant as forcibly or as well as it might have been said, since,
as every one knew, Walter was more good than clever. A tenderness of
feeling, reminding her that Walter loved her, would not let her destroy
the letter, or be offended; but she intrenched herself in her parents'
satisfaction, and being resolved not to attend to it, she would not seem
to understand it. So time passed; at first she was really not exactly
happy, but possessing what passed very well for happiness with herself
and every one else; then came a time when an effort became necessary to
persuade herself that she was so. It was not that Mr. Faulkner showed
his character more openly, or startled her with any such plain
expressions as had so much shocked Lionel; for he held that most subtle
and perilous of all views partaking of unbelief,--that Christianity was
the best and most beautiful form of religion yet promulgated, that it
was all very well now for women and weak-minded people, and it was a
step to some wonderful perfectibility, which was a sort of worship of an
essence of beauty and intellect.
He did not say such things to her, but they were the principles on which
all his sentiments were founded: and as she knew him mire and more
intimately, compared and discussed their tastes and likings, and the
grounds on which they were formed, there were tokens, which could not
help now and then showing themselves, of those opinions of which Marian
had warned her.
Very slow was she to admit the conviction, for she was growing much
attached to him; and whenever he praised the beauty, the poetry, the
morality, the majesty of anything belonging to religion, she caught at
it and silenced all her doubts with it,--hoped she had silenced them for
ever,--but the perception would return that it was only the beauty that
he praised, because it was beauty, and struck him as such. Shade upon
shade, imperceptible in itself, but each tint adding to its depth,
the cloud of misgiving darkened, and though she tried to fight it
off,--though she told herself it was too late,--though she was very
angry with herself for it, there it still hung; and the ever-present
consciousness of Marian's disapproval heightened it, till in impatient
moods she began to dislike Marian, and wish her out of the house,
Then came the news of Edmund Arundel's engagement, rousing Marian into
such a glow of warm-hearted delight, as to waken Caroline to a complete
sense of her power of affection, as well as of the contrast of the
manner in which she regarded the prospects of her two friends. Caroline
grew more unhappy, and strove both against her own growing wretchedness,
and an almost magnetic attraction, which drew her to impart it all to
Marian, in spite of the chill with which it would be first met, and of
the advice which could never be taken; whilst a yearning, longing desire
for the long-suspended intercourse with Walter, and a sense of his
displeasure, formed no slight portion of her miserable feelings. The
arrangements for her marriage she looked on as part of her destiny,--at
any rate, they occupied her mind; and there would be an end, after that,
of these dreadful and vain doubts.
In the midst of all this, poor Lionel's threatened misfortune gave
Caroline, as it were, a glimpse down a long dark road, where nothing had
ever yet caused her to look; yet who could say whether it might not
be her's to tread it? Affliction, sickness, sorrow, death, certain at
last,--there was but one stay in them; and what if she should lose
it,--if she was losing it already? I She thought of bearing them with
_him_,--of the hollowness, the fallacy, the utter misery of trying to be
sustained by aught that had not its foundations firmly fixed beyond the
grave,--of not looking as sorrow as fatherly chastisement. (Caroline
hardly yet entered into its still higher claim,) or at death as the gate
of life. And O! if she loved him as her husband, what would it be to see
him die, thinking, or even having thought, as he too surely did? All the
train of fallacies about sincerity rather than forms of faith,--all the
hopes that he might yet be brought to see the truth, and that she might
be the means, were only soporifics for a moment, which failed to still
the ever growing agony. She knew there was nothing in them, and that
they were only extenuations; but still, amid all her unhappiness, there
was a resolution to persevere, a want of moral courage which determined
her to go on, and enter on such a life as this, rather than go through
all that would ensue on an attempt to break off the match. Thus, though
her reluctance was increasing, and she now sought to put off the
decisive day, instead of precipitating it, as at first, all she
attempted was to have the wedding deferred in consequence of her
brother's condition; and though, logically taken, there was no great
reason in the request, every one agreed it was a very amiable feeling,
and so her desire was complied with. She would have avoided Marian more
than ever, but this could hardly be, now that her cousin was in fuller
sympathy, with all the family than she had ever been before; and little
as was her immediate power with Lionel, Caroline would have given worlds
even for that. Thus, as has been shown, the old sympathy grew up again;
the root, blighted months ago, shot out once more, and at last accident
and impulse led Caroline to do what she had little expected ever to have
done,--to pour out all her griefs, cares, and doubts to Marian, knowing
all the time what she would say, and resolved against her advice, yet
irresistibly impelled to go on, as if talking would relieve her of her
burthen, and resting on the solid, firm truth of that deep love, which
manifested itself by few tokens indeed, but those were of extreme worth.
The confession was a perplexity and a sorrow to Marian while it was
being made, though she was very glad it had been done; and how intense
were the affection and compassion for Caroline that filled her heart is
beyond all power of narration. She answered with earnest sympathy, at
each step helped out the broken words, and showed her comprehension of
the pauses. She was a perfect listener in all but one respect; she
would not give the counsel Caroline wanted; and she would not have been
Marian, she would not have had her own reality and bracing severity, if
she had. She could not cheer Caroline up, bid her banish fear, and look
forward to happiness; she could not even tell her there was no help for
it: she only said, "I don't know," and sat considering whenever Caroline
reiterated that it was impossible, and too late.
Some power those "I don't knows" had beyond eloquence; for when Caroline
had seven times fully proved how entirely out of the question any
attempt to escape from her destiny would be, she ended by asking, in
quite a different tone, "What would you have me do?"
The reply was, of course, "I don't know;" but this was immediately
followed by a repetition of the former counsel, "Write to Walter."
Caroline could not--would not; it would be of no use: poor Walter should
not be tormented. If, in his strict sense of right, he chose to come and
try, as he would think, to save her, there would be nothing but uproar
and confusion in the family; and to think of him, with his timidity,
bringing his father's anger on himself for her sake, seemed to her
at the moment beyond all things dreadful. No, no, no, it was utterly
impossible; and therewith the fire being out, and the clock striking
two, Caroline thanked Marian for her kindness, said it was all of no
use, kissed her, and bade her good night.
Marian thought no good was done, and only made herself very unhappy at
seeing her led, by weakness, to sacrifice herself against her better
judgment. The next night, Caroline came again, and the conversation was
resumed, or rather gone over again, with no more satisfactory result
than before; and so it was the next, and the next. To be comforter and
adviser sounds like a delightful privilege, and so, thought Marian, it
would be, if one could only do it; but to have all the opportunity,--to
have people coming for comfort, and not in the least be able to afford
it, neither to relieve them, nor to be sure that she had not done them
harm was to the highest degree painful and unsatisfactory. And from
Lionel's repinings to Caroline's doubts, she went, suffering for each,
equally unable to console either, and wondering which was the saddest
case. Lionel's was, she thought, far the best, if he would but perceive
it; but then Caroline's might yet be remedied, if she had but strength
for one struggle. All that Marian could do without mistrust, was to pray
for them both, and to pray that she might not be the means of doing them
She saw how wrong it would be in her, personally to interfere between
Caroline and her parents' wishes; and it was this that made her adhere
to that one piece of advice, that Walter should be written to, since on
his judgment and sense of right there was the most absolute reliance;
and, both as brother and Clergyman, he was by far the most proper person
for Caroline to consult, or to act for her.
For three days, however, it was all in vain, Caroline would not write;
and she began to despair, and to grow angry with the feebleness that
would not take one step in the right direction. On the fourth, Caroline,
who the night before had seemed as averse as ever, showed her, as she
crossed the hall on the way to luncheon, a letter directed to
the Reverend Walter Lyddell. Her heart leapt, but as she smiled
satisfaction, she saw Caroline's face so wan, dejected, and miserable,
that she could not make herself too happy. There were other doubts, now
that this point was gained, as to how Walter might be able to manage
Caroline,--whether he would lead her to the right, or unconsciously turn
her to the wrong, by his want of skilfulness; what might be his idea of
her duty to her parents, or to her promise; whether he might think
it right to take upon himself to advise, or whether either he or his
sister, when it came to the point, would have nerve enough to excite
their father's displeasure.
The only thing Marian thought at all favourable, was that Elliot and Mr.
Faulkner were both at Newmarket, and there was no present appearance of
their coming home. Elliot was likely to make more opposition than any
one else, and Mr. Faulkner's influence was of course to be dreaded.
Indeed, had he been at hand, believing, as Caroline did, in his
affection for her, it was most probable that she would never have spoken
of her misgivings at all, and very possibly have hardly acknowledged
them to herself.
Caroline's letter had been written on Thursday. It was Monday, and no
answer had come, which caused her to look more worn and dispirited than
before, unable even to keep up the appearance of cheerfulness which she
had hitherto assumed when with the rest of the family. It was a cold,
gloomy, wintry day, with gusts of sleety rain, and no one chose to
attempt going out, except Marian and Lionel, the former of whom was
a systematic despiser of weather, and never was hurt by anything but
staying in-doors, while the latter would rather have done anything than
idle away a whole afternoon as well as a morning in the drawing-room.
Even they thought it too bad for riding; so after making the circuit of
the park, they went into the town, where Lionel wanted to buy a silk
handkerchief. He had been told the day before that his neck-tie was
growing unfit to be seen, he did not choose to ask any one to get one
for him, and it was against his will that he was obliged to take Marian
to secure him from buying "any thing awful," as he expressed it.
The purchase prospered very well, Lionel hoped that the shopman had not
found out how entirely he trusted to his companion for the choice, and
was proud that his old precaution of substituting a key for a slider at
the gold end of his purse, had saved him from making any mistakes about
the money. They were walking away, arm in arm; it was not yet necessary
to guide him, but Marian thought, beginning now would soften the first
commencement of dependence. And, indeed, even in the holidays Lionel, in
his first tail-coat, had been well-pleased to find himself man enough to
have his arm taken by a young lady.
A carriage was passing. "There is Walter!" joyfully exclaimed Marian, as
she saw the well-known spectacled face peering from the window of one of
the carriages from the Great Western Station.
"Walter! what, come at last?" cried Lionel, looking up and frowning in
that painful way that had become habitual to him when he strained his
eyes to see distinctly. Walter had at the same moment spied them,
stopped, thrown the door open, sprung out, and was shaking hands with
them, but scarcely speaking. He turned again to order the driver to go
on and set his things down at the house, and then joined his brother and
cousin, looting very anxiously at Lionel, whose arm Marian had quitted,
and still keeping silence. Marian on her side was very glad; but at the
same time almost overcome by the thought of what this return home must
be to Walter, and feeling a strange, solemn sensation at first meeting
her cousin and companion, after he had become in an especial manner
the servant of the Most High. He was Walter still, Walter with his
near-sighted eyes, and nervous manner, yet he was so much more, and his
clerical dress would not let her forget it for a moment.
Lionel was the most unembarrassed of the three, he was very glad to
meet his brother, and wishing to show that he could bear his troubles
manfully, he spoke joyously, "So you have thought better of it and come
at last, Walter; I hope it is for a good long time."
"Only till Saturday," was Walter's answer.
"Well, that is something, only I can't think why you did not come
Walter murmured something about having been much occupied, and then
seemed to be watching Lionel too intently to say any more. Marian
thought the brothers would get on much better without her, and, coming
to a cottage, said she wanted to speak to somebody in it. "O Marian, we
will wait for you," said Walter, with a pleading look, and she saw from
his agitated, fidgeting manner, that he was excessively nervous at the
notion of being left to take care of Lionel back to the house.
"Very well," she said, "I will not be a moment;" and delivering her
message, which had been only devised as an excuse, she walked on with
them, in a sort of despair as to Walter's being of any use. "If he is
afraid to walk home with Lionel," thought she, "what will it be about
stirring up his father? Why cannot people have a little courage?" She
consoled herself by remembering that Walter could not know the degree of
Lionel's blindness, and probably thought it worse than it yet was; but
even if it had been total, she could not see that he need have been
afraid of guiding him in the street and through the park. If it was the
additional nervousness, of disliking to begin on so painful a subject,
that she thought worse than all. Marian being by no means troubled with
nerves herself, had little toleration for women who had them; and none
at all for men. She thought the case lost, and half repented of her
advice to write to Walter, yet she did not know what else she could
possibly have said. Lionel talked on, told who was at home, and what
every one was about, and when Johnny had last been heard of, all in a
bright, lively tone, not exactly assumed, for he was much cheered by
his brother's arrival, and yet partly from the wonted desire of showing
himself happy. Walter did not make much reply, but when Lionel after
saying Elliot was at Newmarket, added, "And Mr. Faulkner is there too,
so you won't have the pleasure of an introduction," he started, and
Marian saw the trembling of his lips.
Thus they reached the house, and Lionel dashed forward In his own
headlong way before them, to announce Walter's coming. Then Walter
looked at Marian, saying, "Then it is not so bad yet?"
"O no, it is only that he cannot see anything distinctly; he cannot bear
not to be independent."
They were entering the hall by this time, and his mother and sisters had
come out to meet Walter, Caroline very white and trembling, and holding
by the back of a chair instead of coming forward; Mrs. Lyddell kissed
him, and seemed more affectionate than usual, for it had been a great
pleasure to her to see Lionel rush in with that animated face, and a
shout such as he used to get into disgrace for.
Nothing came to pass that evening, there were no private conferences,
and there was nothing remarkable, excepting that Lionel was quite merry
and talkative, and Caroline more silent than ever, seeming hardly to
attend even when Walter was sitting between her and Clara, talking to
Marian and Lionel about the beautiful arrangements of Church and school
in his new curacy. At night she was in such a terrible agitation,
walking up and down the rooms so restless and wretched that Marian,
seriously afraid she would be quite ill the next day, persuaded her with
great difficulty, to go to bed, and did not leave her till very late at
night, when she had read her to sleep.
It was a, great relief to find her pretty well in the morning, at least
with nothing worse than a headache. She and Walter both disappeared
after breakfast, and did not come down till luncheon time, when she
looked so ill that Mrs. Lyddell was alarmed and insisted on her lying
down and keeping quiet. Then Mrs. Lyddell said that Walter ought to go
and call on Lady Julia Faulkner, and offered to take him there. Marian
looked at him by stealth, and could have gasped for breath, for by what
he did now, she thought she could see what line he would take.
"Thank you," he said, or rather hesitated, "but don't let me interrupt
your plans. I thought I heard something about--about. Salisbury. I have
something to do there."
"The girls did talk of wanting to go," said Mrs. Lyddell. "Did not you,
Marian or Clara, which was it?"
"My watch wants to have something done to it," put in Lionel, whose
father had given him a repeater, which of course began its career by
doing anything but going properly.
"Well, perhaps it will he as well to go to Salisbury to-day, as Caroline
has this headache. She never likes going there, and she may be able to
go with us to High Down to-morrow."
So it was settled, and they left the luncheon table. Marian happened to
be the last lady, and whether it was fancy or not she was not sure, but
she thought she heard on Walter's lips, a self-reproachful whisper of
The expedition to Salisbury, in which Marian was obliged to take part,
prevented her from seeing anything of Caroline till the evening, and
then as soon as Clara was out of the way Caroline rose up, caught hold
of her hand, and exclaimed, "O, Marian, what have you made me do?" then
walked about in a paroxysm of distress, almost terrible to witness.
"Caroline, dearest, O don't!" cried Marian quite frightened; "do try to
be calm! O what is it?"
"O it will all be misery!" said Caroline, sitting down and clasping her
hands over her face, "I little knew what it would be when you made me
write to Walter. He says it would be wickedness--yes, those were his
words--he called it wickedness in me to go on with it, as I feel now!"
"And you mean to--"
"I cannot tell--I don't know--he must do as he pleases; O it will make
me wild! He must do as he pleases, for I must be wretched either way,"
"Dear Caroline--but O! how much better to be unhappy for the sake of
doing right than when--"
"Yes, yes--so he said--but O! the horror. It kills me even to think of
what it will be! O, Marian, Marian--"
"It will be over in time," said Marian; "but O! I am glad you have made
up your mind--"
"No, I have not--at least I must, I suppose--for after what Walter said
I can't go on. Walter's words would be a dagger--O! I don't know what
they would be, all the rest of my life if I did. No--you and Walter must
have your own way; I am too wretched already to care what becomes of
inc. But he--O Marian, I never can--"
"If it is right you can," said Marian.
"You can, but you don't know what you say to me," said Caroline. "Right
has never been to me what it is to you."
"Yes, indeed it has, dear Caroline, or you would not be making this
struggle now. Indeed there must be strength in you, or you would have
gone on without faltering."
"Walter said he should never have spoken one word after that first
letter, if I had not begun," said Caroline; "but when he saw my mind
misgave me, and I wanted help, he thought it his duty to come and set
it all before me. O, Marian, he said dreadful things; I did not think
Walter could have been so cruel. O, such things! He made me look at the
Marriage Service, and say how I could answer those things; and he talked
about death and the Last Day. He said it would be a presumptuous sin,
and a profaning of the holy ordinance for me to come to it, knowing and
thinking and feeling as I do. O what things he said! and yet he was very
kind to me."
"I left it all to him. I knew it would be misery, and I did not care in
what way; but then, Marian, O! worse than all, he said it must be my own
"I suppose it must."
"He said he would help me; but I was the only person who had a right to
do anything! O, Marian, Marian, I wish I could die."
"It will be over in time!" repeated Marian.
"Yes, but it will not be over. Mamma, papa, O I shall be reproached with
it for ever; I shall know I have made _him_ unhappy. O would that I
could begin all over again!"
"You will have comfort at last in having been strong. The greater the
effort the nobler it is! O, Caroline, do only hold out nobly. It is so
glorious to have something to suffer for the sake of doing right!"
"Glorious!" murmured Caroline, her desponding gaze raised to contemplate
the grand head, fine brow, firm lips, and dark glancing eye, turned up
for a moment in the enthusiastic spirit of self-devotion. That look,
unknowing as was Marian that she wore it, penetrated into Caroline's
soul, and warmed her too with the temper of martyrdom. "Glorious;" she
repeated a second time, and the tone was not so broken and hopeless as
"To be sure it is!" said Marian, going on with her own thoughts, "and it
is so seldom people can ever partake of it, in ever so slight a degree,
in these days; I always think it so beautiful where the account is given
of the Apostles' great joy when they found a persecution was really
going to begin."
"Persecution--yes, real persecution."
"And every suffering for the sake of the truth, for conscience' sake,
must partake a little of that, I suppose," said Marian reverently.
There they were interrupted by Clara, who came to call Marian down
stairs. Caroline came too, which the others had not expected. She was
more calm and composed, and her headache was supposed by her mother to
account for her want of spirits. She went to bed early, begging Marian
to come and visit her when she came up. Marian contrived to do so as
soon as possible, and found her already in bed, quiet and comfortable.
"Marian," she said, "I have made up my mind. Now read to me, if you
She was worn out with agitation and sleeplessness, and soothed with
having come to a determination, she soon fell asleep, and Marian went
to her own room, wondering over the part Walter had acted, and what he
might be going to do next, whether he had led or driven his sister, and
how far the courage of principle would avail to subdue natural timidity.
Caroline was pretty well the next morning, but the time was broken up in
various ways, so that it was not till the afternoon that she could see
Walter again in private. Lionel was considerably disconcerted when he
found himself left to Marian. He had no notion of what was going on, had
believed Walter's return to be entirely on his account, and was much
disappointed at not having more of his company; for though both had been
of the party to Salisbury, one had been outside the carriage and the
other inside, so that they had not seen much of each other, and this
morning had been interrupted. He was so much vexed and inclined to be
hurt, by what he felt as a slight on his brother's part, that Marian
could not resist telling him what she knew would console him. "I don't
think you will mind it, Lionel, when you know why it is that Caroline
"Ha?" said Lionel, "you don't mean that she has thought better of it,
and is going to send Julian the Apostate to the right about. Eh? You
don't say so. Well, then there is some good in Caroline after all! But
then what should she want of Walter?"
"To help her, to advise her."
"Well, if she likes, but I can't see what advice she wants. She has only
got to make him a curtsey and say, 'Very much obliged to you, sir, but I
had rather be excused.'"
Marian could not help laughing, in spite of her deep feeling on the
matter, and Lionel, who had acted the voice and the curtsey, laughed
too, and then perhaps ashamed of making fun of such an affair, added,
"It is the best news I have heard this long time. What, and that is what
she has been so dismal about these last few days, is it?"
"Yes, she has been very unhappy indeed. It is a terrible struggle."
"What? she likes him, does she? Poor Cary! After all I am glad she is
coming right again, she is very good natured, and a great deal too good
for Ju--. Ah! you won't have him called so, I know. They have taken a
good time for it now he is away and Elliot too, but what a tremendous
row there will be about it. Mamma thought it was such a speculation for
"Yes, I am afraid she will have a great deal to go through."
"Yes," said Lionel, pondering gravely for some minutes; then asking
"What is going to be done?"
"I don't know in the least; I believe she is settling with Walter
"Then nobody knows about it yet?"
There was no more to do but to have the satisfaction of talking over the
engagement together, an occupation which put Lionel into particularly
good spirits, and made their walk very pleasant. In the next glimpse
which Marian had of Caroline, she learnt that Walter had undertaken to
speak to his father that very evening. Caroline looked ghastly white as
she said so in a whisper, but her dreadful agitation seemed to have
left her; she had evidently quite made up her mind, though she said she
believed it would never have been done if it had rested with her to
begin by telling either of her parents. Both she and Marian knew that
nothing but a spirit of moral heroism could have braced Walter to bear
the first brunt of his father's wrath, and she was very much shocked at
her own weakness in suffering it, but still it was much in her to allow
it to be done.
That the conversation had taken place at night, when all the rest had
retired, was evident to Marian when they met the nest morning from the
very dark, severe loots of Mr Lyddell, from his wife's impatient angry
manner, and sharper, louder voice. Walter was almost absolutely silent,
Caroline went through the forms of breakfast as if she was in a dream,
Lionel frowned, fidgeted, and tried with all his might, poor boy, to
scan the faces which were daily growing more obscure to his vision; even
Clara saw something was wrong, and glanced from one to the other in a
puzzled, alarmed manner When they left the dining-room, Marian heard
Mrs. Lyddell say, "Caroline, I want you." She flew up to her own room,
and hiding her face, as she knelt down, she entreated earnestly that her
poor Caroline might have steadfastness to go through this fearful trial.
She was interrupted by Clara, begging to know what was the matter, if
anything was wrong about Mr. Faulkner; she thought Lionel knew, but when
she him be would do nothing but crow like a cock. Marian would have been
glad if she could have made any equally convenient demonstration instead
of an answer, but she could only say that she had heard nothing of Mr.
Faulkner, and could not tell Clara anything about the matter.
"Do you know anything?" said Clara.
"I do know."
"Ah! you are in all Caroline's secrets now, and that is very odd; you
who used to hate the Faulkners. Well, but are not you coming down?"
In spite of his cock-crowings, Lionel was very anxious, and when in the
course of that long desultory forlorn morning he was left alone with
Marian, he earnestly asked her what she knew. "Nothing" was her answer.
"O if Caroline will but hold out!" he exclaimed, "that will be what I
call being good for something! I hope mamma won't be desperately angry,
for that I could stand less than anything, it goes on so much longer
with her than with papa."
"She will be very much disappointed. O how I wish I knew what is
It was a long time before any intelligence could be gained: Mrs. Lyddell
was very much flushed, and looked extremely displeased when she came
down, hardly speaking to any one but Lionel, and glancing most sternly
at Marian, Caroline did not come down at all, and when Marian was going
up stairs after luncheon, Mrs. Lyddell said with extreme coldness, "Do
not go to Caroline, if you please, I wish her to be left quiet."
Marian was in great consternation, since it was evident that Mrs.
Lyddell perceived how her influence had been exerted, and was very much
offended, indeed it was no wonder that she should be. Nothing but "very
well" could be said so she quietly prepared to go out. Lionel had his
brother this afternoon and did not want her, so she had only Clara for
her companion full of surmises and of excitement. When she came in and
was on her way to her room, Caroline opened her door. "Marian! O will
you not come to me?" cried she imploringly.
Marian could not but comply, indeed she had no hesitation, for she
thought Mrs. Lyddell's injunction only applied to the time before she
"O, cheer me up, comfort me, Marian!" said Caroline, drawing her
cousin's arm round her waist, "I do want it so much!"
"You are going on bravely then!" said Marian, caressing her.
"Bravely!" sighed Caroline; "No, indeed, but I have held firmly so far!
I could not but stand by poor Walter, you know, when he confronted it
all for me! I could not say much--I could only cry--but I took care they
should not think I consented again."
"And is Mrs. Lyddell very much displeased?"
"O, don't speak of it, Marian. I cannot bear it."
The door opened and Mrs. Lyddell entered, and the air of indignant
surprise on seeing Marian called for an answer: "I beg your pardon, I
thought you only meant me not to go to Caroline just after luncheon,"
"I wish matters, such as we have been discussing, to be confined
entirely to our own family," replied Mrs. Lyddell, too angry not to say
something, yet too much afraid of Marian not to say it very courteously.
"Mamma!" said Caroline eagerly, "only hear me. I assure you that not one
word did Marian ever say to me till I voluntarily went to her a week
ago, because I was so very miserable I could bear it no longer."
"I should have thought your mother the proper person to go to in such a
case. Miss Arundel's sentiments had so long been visible, that you could
have no doubt of the advice you would receive from her."
"Mrs. Lyddell," said Marian, collecting herself, and speaking slowly,
"I am very sorry I have appeared to act a part which I know must seem
unjustifiable. I never spoke to--to Caroline" (the remembrance of Lionel
prevented her from saying to any one) "of my opinion of this engagement,
after it was formed, till she came to me for advice, in her distress. I
could not speak against my conscience, and I tried not to forget what
was due to you. I only begged her to write to her brother as the fittest
person to help her, as being a clergyman. I beg your pardon for having
acted against your wishes." So saying, Marian went out, surprised and
alarmed at finding herself in open opposition to Mrs. Lyddell, and
bewildered as to how she ought to have acted. Her comfort was in looking
forward to the refuge at Fern Torr, and she smiled as she compared Mrs.
Lyddell with her other guardian's future wife.
Mrs. Lyddell wished her at Fern Torr fully as much as she did. She had
already become jealous of Lionel's preference, and it was too galling to
find the affection of her children stolen from her by that cold, pale,
proud, unprepossessing girl. Had the love been on the part of Elliot or
Walter, Mrs. Lyddell would hardly have regretted it, considering Miss
Arundel's large fortune and high connexions; but nothing was less
probable than this, and Marian's influence over Caroline was at present,
in Mrs. Lyddell's eyes, only a source of mischief.
Lionel was alone in the drawing-room, and met Marian eagerly inquiring
"I have hardly seen her. Has Walter told you nothing?"
"No; he thinks I don't know, and I was not going to let on that you told
me. Is she steady?"
"Yes, so far."
"That is right," said Lionel, thoughtfully, "I am very sorry for her,
but I shall think the better of her ever after."
"Have you been out with Walter?"
"Yes, we have had a very nice talk."
Here Walter came down, and began to talk to Marian about schools and
It was a strange state of things, with all those different pairs of
confidential friends. Both Marian and Walter were the stay and support
of Caroline and Lionel; yet, though acting in concert, and perfectly
agreed, not saying a word in confidence to each other on either head.
Neither did Walter speak of Caroline to Lionel, nor Lionel, though much
interested for her, speak to her of his affairs or her own. Clara indeed
bestowed her communications on every one, but she got nothing in return
that was satisfactory. Marian was the central point with all except
Walter, but the fulness of her heart was bestowed elsewhere. And, alas!
none saw so little of those young hearts as the parents, who had never
earned their confidence; so that when they turn to them, it was from
duty, as to rulers, not as to counsellors and friends.
Very sore was Marian's heart that night, when she felt it her duty to
bid Caroline good night in Mrs. Lyddell's hearing, in spite of the
piteous, imploring glance turned upon her. Might not her support make
all the difference now? she thought. No; shame on her for thinking that
she could do more good than He to whose hands Caroline was trusted!
Folly, to dream that her awkward, blundering words could be more help
than the prayers she could pour out alone!
Yet all these consolations could not prevent poor Marian from being very
miserable, under the dread that Caroline thought her unkind, and felt
herself deserted, after being involved in all this suffering. And O,
should she fail! Walter must go on Saturday, and then she would be left
to fight her battle alone.
On the Friday the whole house knew what was going on. Mr. Lyddell
himself had a conversation with Caroline, but nothing of it transpired.
It only was evident that she still continued in the same mind, and she
looked more wretched than ever. Marian was anxious to show her affection
and sympathy in her manner, but her anxiety only made her cold, and dry,
and awkward. Clara was excited and puzzled, Walter was hardly spoken to
by father or mother; and when at breakfast on Saturday he spoke of his
departure, the silence that he encountered seemed to express that he had
much better not have come home at all.
Marian felt fierce with indignation, and Lionel, perhaps by way of
effusion of the same feeling, dashed his chair away from the table, and
called out, "Mind you come back again as soon as ever you can."
But the dead silence that followed was more painful and marked than it
had been before.
"The flowers do fade, and wanton fields,
To wayward winter reckoning yields,
A honey tongue, a heart of gall
Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall."
SIR W. RALEIGH.
The Sunday after Walter's departure was a very uncomfortable and
melancholy day. It was very sad to see poor Caroline looking wan and
suffering, and turning now and then a wistful appealing glance at
Marian, as if intreating for the help which must not be afforded to
her; and then at each meeting and parting, Marian was dissatisfied with
herself for having been rendered stiff and dry instead of tender and
consoling, by the very wish to be affectionate, which prevented her from
being at ease. She heard from Clara that Caroline's great desire was to
be allowed to write to Mr. Faulkner on the subject before she saw him
again, whilst he was still in London, and that it was this which her
parents so strongly opposed, convinced that a meeting with him would
renew all her feelings of attachment. Marian dreaded the same, for she
could not think Caroline's resolution sufficient to hold out in sight of
his affection, and of his prepossessing qualities, and at the same time,
every day that the engagement continued made it more difficult to break
One comfort was, however, that Lionel's anxiety and interest in
Caroline's affairs, were drawing his attention from his own trouble, and
he was much less irritable and unhappy than before. Perhaps this might
have been in part owing to his conversations with Walter, who could
venture on giving him more lessons on the right principle of endurance
than Marian had ever dared to put before him. She was more pleased than
she had been for a long time, when as they were walking together in the
plantations, after evening service, he said with some abruptness and
yet with some hesitation, "Marian, didn't you once read something with
Gerald in the morning?"
"Yes," said Marian, sure of what the something meant.
"Do you do it still by yourself?"
"Then I wish----. Would you mind reading to me?"
"The Psalms and Lessons? O, Lionel, I should be so glad I Only could you
get up in time? for I don't know when to do it except before breakfast."
"To be sure I could get up in time. I only lie in bed because there is
nothing to do, and nobody to speak to."
"Well then, will you meet me in the schoolroom at eight o'clock in the
No more was said, but Lionel kept his appointment. It was, as Marian
guessed a recommendation of his brother's. Walter had asked him to get
one of his sisters to read to him, and Lionel had made the request to
Marian, as his real sister, though he had never told Walter whether he
meant to take his advice.
The next Sunday, Marian, on coming down after dressing for dinner, was
surprised to find Elliot standing by the fire. He just inclined his
bead, and moved his lips by way of greeting.
"When did you come home?" said she drily.
The answer was brief and with no encouragement to say more. She thought
he looked dark and moody, and, taking up a book, was silent. The next
time the door opened, it was Lionel who entered. He frowned and gazed
up, perceiving the figure but not able to make it out. "Ha, Lionel! How
d'ye do?" said Elliot in a short, gruff, indifferent voice; without
moving or attempting to shake hands, without any token that he thought
of Lionel's misfortune.
Lionel's equally indifferent tone, "How d'ye do?" was sign enough to
Marian that he was hurt. He came and sat by her, talked fast and low,
and laughed several times in the constrained manner he used to put on by
way of bravado; Elliot all the time taking no notice. The others soon
made their appearance. Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell had seen him before, and to
his sisters his greeting was much in the same style, hardly vouchsafing
any recognition of Caroline at all.
The cloud was thicker and darker than ever all dinner time. Mr. and Mrs.
Lyddell tried in vain to talk, he answered them in a short snappish way
which he was apt to assume whenever his father made any attempt to check
The ladies and Lionel were glad to get into the drawing-room, and leave
him and his father to themselves. Tea came and they did not appear, ten
o'clock struck, half-past, and they came not. The ladies were putting
away their books, and thinking of wishing good night when suddenly the
door was thrown open, and in tramped Mr. Lyddell, red with passion,
while behind him came Elliot, with less of violence, but with a dark
scowl of resentment on his downcast and always unpleasant face.
"Caroline!" began Mr. Lyddell, in a voice of thunder, and great was the
alarm of all, for her sake, as she turned pale and trembled. "Caroline!
You have my full consent to do as you please. You may break with
Faulkner to-morrow, if you like!"
Some discovery! thought Marian, transfixed with wonder and hope;
Caroline sat still but for her trembling, her face bent down, and her
hands nervously clasped together.
"Now, sir," proceeded Mr. Lyddell, turning round on Elliot, "you see if
I am the tyrant you would make me. You see if I am going to force my
daughter into a marriage against her wish--sacrifice my whole family
because I have an ill-conditioned scamp of a good-for-nothing son. You
"I do see, sir," muttered Elliot; "and you'll see whether you like the
Marian thought she had better be out of this family scene, and had her
hand on the door, but Mr. Lyddell called out "Stay here! Marian! I
don't care if all the world heard me. He thinks he can threaten me into
tyranny over her inclinations, and I tell him she is as free as air! I
"Mr. Lyddell! do consider, do think," expostulated his wife; "I daresay
Elliot was a little too vehement a partizan for his friend----."
"Friend! Pshaw! He care for his friend!" said Mr. Lyddell scornfully.
"'Tis for himself he is a partizan, I tell you. Nothing else does he
care a straw for. 'Tis for nothing but the saving of her fortune that he
would have me persecute his sister into this marriage! Aye! he has the
face to tell me so! and what more do you think he comes and says to me!
Why! that Lionel will be nothing but a burthen for ever! A pretty pass
things are come to when he speaks after that fashion of his own brother!
He cared for his friend, indeed!"
"No one ever thought of compelling Caroline," pleaded Mrs. Lyddell.
"But I tell you he did," interrupted her husband. "I told him I was very
sorry, but I could not help it; if she would have her own way, I could
not make her marry the man against her will, and he answers in his
sneering way that it is all nonsense, he would be bound to make her give
up in no time--any man could bring a girl to reason. As if I was to
persecute my daughter to force her into what she tells me is against her
conscience. Better too much conscience than none at all, I tell you,
"We had better bring this scene to an end, sir," said Elliot sullenly.
"We understand each other."
So saying, he took up his candle and flung out of the room. The girls
were but too glad to escape, and Lionel followed them, leaving Mr. and
Mrs. Lyddell to themselves.
Caroline and Clara both were trembling like aspen leaves, each threw an
arm round Marian's waist, and leant against her as soon as they were
out of the room. She had been startled and trembling before, but their
fright seemed to give her firmness; and it was well, for Caroline's
knees shook so much, and she was so nervous that she could hardly have
reached her room without support. Clara began to exclaim, but Marian
stopped her, made her fetch some camphor julep, helped Caroline to
undress, and put her to bed. Caroline hardly spoke all the time, but
as Marian bent over her to kiss her, and wish her good night, she
whispered, "I may soon be able to have you again, dear Marian!"
Marian went to bed, wondering at all that had passed, indignant with
Elliot, pleased with Mr. Lyddell, hopeful for Caroline, and cheered by
finding that she had not been thought unkind.
She heard doors opened and shut, and the trampling of feet the next
morning, and when Lionel met her in the schoolroom for their reading,
he told her that be had been overtaken by Elliot running down stairs at
full speed; and had only just time to clear out of his way. "And hark!
is not there something at the front door? Look out, Marian."
Marian looked from the window. "Yes! It is his dog-cart. Can he be going
"Going off in a rage!" said Lionel, looking grave; "I thought there was
mischief in his voice last night."
"Yes, there is his portmanteau," said Marian, in a tone of
consternation; for little as she liked Elliot, it was too shocking to
see a son thus leave his father's roof.
"It is a pretty piece of work," said Lionel. "He has been coming it a
little too strong for my father, it seems! Well, poor Caroline will be
let alone, that is one good thing; but I am afraid he will go and get
into some tremendous scrape, if it is only for the sake of spiting my
"It is very dreadful!" said Marian, sighing.
"I am very glad my father was so angry, though!" said Lionel. "Wanting
him to drive poor Caroline into it by unkindness! That was a little too
"Yes, indeed," said Marian. "But O! here he comes out of the door with
his cigar. He is getting in! There he goes! O, Lionel!"
They both were silent for some little time. Then Marian took up the
prayer-book, and began the Psalm, and when she heard Lionel's voice
join in the Doxology, a thrill came home to her, making her feel that
blindness might yet be indeed the blessing to him that faith taught her
to know it must be. How much better to be thus than like his brother.
When they met the others at breakfast, it proved that they alone knew of
the departure; Mr. Lyddell interrogated Elliot's servant, and heard from
him that he had orders to follow his master to Paris as soon as he had
packed up his goods. This was all that could be learnt, and all that
Marian could make out as to what had passed, was that he had been
strongly averse to Caroline's engagement being broken off, that he
had tried to induce his father to insist upon it, and to drive her to
overcome her reluctance by what could be only understood as domestic
persecution, and that in short he had allowed his unfeeling selfishness
to appear to such a degree, that it had positively revolted his father,
whose displeasure had long been excited by the extravagance that had
been causing serious inconvenience, and who instantly, while under the
influence of his first indignation, resolved to show that he would
not be domineered over, nor sacrifice the rest of the family to the
extravagance which he had already too freely supplied.
Mr. Lyddell had given his consent while angry, and he could not retract
it when he was cool. Caroline therefore might write her letter as soon
as she pleased. She had nothing to dread from him; indeed, as if out of
opposition to Elliot, he was kinder to her than he had ever been before,
called her "my dear" more than once, and observed on her pale looks. Her
mother spoke little to her, and that little was cold and unkind, while
she looked so vexed and unhappy that even Marian had some feeling for
her, and what must it have been for her own daughter? However, all open
opposition was withdrawn, and Caroline had only herself to struggle
with. There was no reason why she should not once more seek comfort from
Marian, yet all that day she kept at a distance, and it was not till the
next evening that she came into Marian's room, and sinking into a chair,
murmured, "I have done it."
"Written your letter?"
"O, I am so glad!"
"Yes, but you will be glad when it is over."
"O!" sighed Caroline, incredulously. "You know nothing about it.
"Every one must be glad to have done right," said Marian, firmly.
"O what a week it has been! And I have sown dissension in the family!
And no one can tell what may be the consequence with Elliot! And he will
be unhappy! O! Marian--I wish--I wish you had let me go on my own way
and be miserable alone," added she with a kind of anger.
"It was your own doing," said Marian gently; "you felt it to be right.
Only worse misery could come of your going on, for that would have been
positive wrong; now it must and will get better."
"I don't know," sighed Caroline. "I never knew till now how much I cared
for him! O, Marian!" and she burst into a hearty fit of crying.
Marian was perplexed, as she always was when any one cried, and stood
without a word till Caroline had relieved herself by tears, and began to
speak again. It was very sad and melancholy, and it was very difficult
to find anything to answer; Marian could see no consolation but that
"it was right," and that did not seem to have much effect on Caroline;
while, added to the former trouble of renouncing the man who loved her,
and of grieving her parents, there was the dread of what Elliot might do
in his anger.
However, the being able to pour everything out to so true a friend was
more of a comfort than anything that, could have been said to her. She
told Marian that she had gone through the conversations with her father
and mother better than she could have thought possible. She could not
desert poor Walter, that was one thing that helped her, she must stand
by him, and papa was not half so angry as she expected. It seemed as if
her strength had grown with each occasion for it. The first effort of
writing to Walter had cost her most of all, then the allowing him to
break the matter to her father had been dreadful; but after all, the
conferences with her parents, singly and together, had not been as bad
as the fear of them, and Marian tried to persuade her that it would be
the same when she saw Mr. Faulkner, but poor Caroline shook her head,
and said Marian knew nothing about it. And Marian was much of the same
opinion, and held her peace, but before the end of the conversation she
had the great pleasure of hearing Caroline say, "The thought of being
able to have you again has been the one great help to me through all!"
Two days after this, as Marian and Lionel were going out riding
together, Marian exclaimed, "I do believe that is Mr. Faulkner!"
"Riding on the Salisbury road," said Marian; "I am sure it is his
"Don't let us meet him! can't we get out of the way?" said Lionel.
"Aren't we somewhere near the thorny lane?"
"No, but we might ride off on the Down. Only take care, Lionel; you had
better keep close to me," said Marian, much more unwilling to meet Mr.
Faulkner than to conduct Lionel through the ups and downs of the green,
She watched and guided his pony up the bank and upon the Down, and on
they trotted fast, for Marian was actuated by a very undignified fit
of terror lest she should meet Mr. Faulkner, towards whom she felt
positively guilty, nor did she wish to be seen fleeing from him.
"We must be out of sight of the road by this time, aren't we?" said
"I don't know," Marian turned her head to see. At that moment Lionel's
pony stepped into a hole, stumbled, and when she looked back again,
there was Lionel on the ground. Her head swam with fear, but the next
moment Lionel was on his feet and laughing.
"Not hurt, Lionel! are you sure?"
"Not a bit! Is that Sorrel?"
Sorrel was rushing off with his bridle loose, and Marian began to dread
having Mr. Faulkner's assistance in catching him. "Stand still, Lionel!"
she called, and then riding between Sorrel and the road, she managed to
turn him towards a long hedge that crossed the Down, saw him stop to eat
a tuft of grass, made a grasp at his bridle, but failed, while he dashed
off across the Down, happily not towards the road.
She called to Lionel, told him of her ill success, and begged him not to
move, while she again pursued the runaway, and a long dance he led her,
far out of sight of Lionel. Once she had considerable hopes, when she
came in sight of a shepherd boy, who stood in amaze at the lady in chase
of the runaway steed, then came up with a run to cut off its course, but
so awkwardly that the pony was still more frightened, and galloped off
in another direction faster than ever! Poor Marian! However after full
half an hour, she succeeded in hunting him into a narrow place between
two fields, ending in a gate, caught safely hold of the rein, kept it
fast, and at length led Sorrel back in triumph to the spot where poor
Lionel stood still patiently. She called out to him as soon as she came
near enough to make her voice heard, and he answered, and walked forward
to meet the dark shapes, which were all that he could see.
Marian feared that he would be very much mortified at having been
obliged to remain thus helpless, while a girl was doing what he would
have so much enjoyed, and she looked anxiously at his face, alas! she
could look there now without his knowing it. It was disconsolate, but
the look was not bitter. She held Sorrel while he mounted, and she then
apologized for having been so long, and said she feared he had thought
she had forgotten him. He made not much reply, did not even ask how she
had managed to catch the pony. Marian conducted him safely into the road
before she would speak again. He did, however, congratulate himself on
not having been obliged to be beholden to Mr. Faulkner for catching
the pony, as well as on Sorrel's not having gone home to tell the tale
"Yes, indeed, they would have been terribly frightened," said Marian.
"Ay, and if they once knew of my tumble, they would never let us go out
"But, Lionel, we must tell," said Marian.
"Just like a girl!" grumbled Lionel. "Then there's an end of all our
rides, and all the comfort that I have in life."
"I don't know," said Marian. "At any rate I can't ride with you, I
should not think it right, unless Mr. Lyddell knew of this fall. It is
my concern and not yours, for it was all through my carelessness."
"You go on just as if you were a child still," said Lionel, still cross.
"Well, Lionel, I believe the only way is to manage ourselves as if we
were children still."
"All very fine," was Lionel's surly answer, and they rode on, while
Marian was very unhappy. She blamed herself for having given way to a
foolish fit of nervous bashfulness, which had led to what might have
been a serious accident to her especial charge. It had further made a
very unpleasant confession needful, and Lionel's vexation and irritation
seemed to have overcome all his late improvement. The thought of what
poor Caroline was going through was enough to stifle everything else,
and Marian wondered at herself, as for a sort of unkindness, in having
been so fully occupied as to have had no time for anxiety.
Both had been very silent ever since Lionel's reply, until Marian asked
him to strike his repeater. It was half-past five, and they turned
homewards, taking a bye road so as to avoid meeting Mr. Faulkner. And
now Lionel began to talk of Caroline, and wonder how she had sped. He
seemed to throw off his own private troubles as he talked of hers, and
his fit of petulance was melting fast away. At last he made up his mind
to inquire how she had caught Sorrel, and was positively interested in
the narration, laughing at the idea of the scrape they would have been
in if Sorrel had made his way to the road, and Mr. Faulkner had caught
He said no more about the confession, but it was evident that he had
conquered his annoyance sooner than he had ever done before. Marian had
not theorized on the matter, but if she had she could not have judged
better, for Lionel was far better dealt with by being bold and
uncompromising. It was very strange to have this concern of their own so
much on their minds when Caroline's fate was at its crisis, yet perhaps
it was good for Marian to be thus occupied, since she was apt to suffer
very much from anxiety, as persons of her calm and reserved demeanour
often do. A sickening, throbbing, trembling feeling came over her,
making her temples beat and her hands cold, as she came into the house,
expecting to hear whether Caroline had endured and been true to herself,
and it was well she had not had longer to suffer from it.
No one was in the drawing-room, and she ran as fast as her trembling
knees would allow to Caroline's room, knocked, received no answer,
opened the door, and saw Caroline stretched out on her bed, in a state
best described by the French word _anéantissement_, for it was not
fainting, but the sort of prostration consequent on the completion of an
effort for which she had wound herself up. She was very pale, her eyes
were shut, and her breath came short. Marian stood watching her in
alarm, wondering whether to speak, and how. At last Caroline looked up,
held out her hand, and drew Marian down on her knees till her face was
level with hers, then put her arm round her neck.
"Dear Caroline!" said Marian, though it was not easy to say anything,
"you will be happier now."
A more caressing person would have been much more at ease herself and
given more comfort to Caroline, that must be confessed, but as there was
no one else to be had, Marian was obliged to do her best, and this was
to kiss Caroline timidly and say, "I am so glad you have done right."
But Caroline only hid her face at the word _glad_ and murmured, "You
never did him justice! You never did!"
"If it had not been for the want of that one thing he would have been
all right," said Marian.
"O, he is very noble! he has such a mind! such--such--O, he loved me so
much," and Caroline fell into a paroxysm of silent misery. Marian began
to dread lest the parting had not been final, and though doubtful
whether she ought to ask, could not help saying, "But is it over?"
"Yes, yes; you have your wish, Marian. It is done! He is angry with me
now! It is over, and I am wretched for life!"
"Not so wretched as if you had done wrong." said Marian. Caroline did
not turn away this time, and Marian gathered courage to say, "You have
persevered, and now there will be comfort. There will always be comfort
in knowing you have tried to do right. Walter will be so glad, and so
"Lionel," repeated Caroline.
"Yes, he has been very anxious about you."
"Poor boy!" sighed Caroline. "Well, Marian, there is one thing still to
be done. Only one, and it is all that I shall live for. I shall devote
myself to him, if I can but do anything to please him, and make him care
for me when you are gone. It will be my one object."
"Yes," said Marian, "it will be very good for you both."
They were interrupted by Clara, who came in, dressed for dinner, pitying
Caroline, and telling Marian it was very late. Caroline sat up, but she
had a violent nervous headache, and they both persuaded her to lie down
Marian ran off to dress, and though the dinner-bell rang in the midst
of her hurried toilette, came back to look at Caroline, beg her to keep
quiet, and promise to come up as soon as dinner was over. As she went
down, the other trouble of having to confess their adventure came over
her, but she was resolute, in spite of the want of favour with which she
knew she was regarded.
Want of favour, evident from the scrupulous formality with which she was
treated; for if she had been like a daughter of the house, as she ought
to have been, would they have waited dinner for her, and let her find
them all looking uncomfortable and expectant in the drawing-room? They
went into the dining-room; there was a silent, formal dinner, nothing
like a family party. As soon as the servants had left the room. Marian
quailing secretly, not from fear of Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell, but lest
Lionel should lose his rides, began, "I have a confession to make, Mr.
Lyddell," and told the story of the accident, explaining how it was
entirely caused by her carelessness.
Exclamations and inquiries arose, and Mrs. Lyddell certified herself by
several questions that Lionel had not been hurt, but not one of them was
addressed to Marian. It was as if this was only one among many injuries,
too frequent for a reproach more or less to be needed. Mr. Lyddell did
not take it half so much to heart, and no prohibition against future
rides was issued, for the truth was that no one liked to mortify Lionel.
It was exactly one of the cases in which the whole danger is not
conquered, because it melts at the very aspect of moral courage.
It was not comfortable to have to walk away to Caroline, knowing how
much she had displeased Mrs. Lyddell; but it must be done, and it was,
at least, agreeable to leave these cold looks. She found Caroline
better, and able to tell her something of what had passed. At first Mr.
Faulkner would not believe her to be in earnest, and had imagined this
was a way of showing her displeasure at his long absence, or some
trifling "lovers' quarrel;" but when he found that she really meant
what she said, and her tears and stifled whispers alike announced her
adherence to what she had expressed in her letter, he became extremely
angry, thought himself, (as indeed he might with some justice) very
ill-used, and though he had retained his gentlemanlike manner and
language, had pretty plainly expressed that Miss Lyddell should have
known her own mind. Poor Caroline wept bitterly, beseeching that they
might not part in anger, but he disavowed all irritation, and took a
cold, courteous leave, which wounded her more than all.
Marian could not easily sympathise with regrets for such a lover, but
she liked to magnify the sacrifice in order to admire it more, and
greatly rejoiced in being able to give full admiration to one whom she
had learnt to love so heartily as Caroline. Such a triumph over natural
timidity and feebleness of character was indeed a great and gallant
thing, and Marian used to muse and wonder at it in her solitary hours.
There was still much to suffer externally as well as internally; there
was the return of letters and presents, with all their associations;
there was the feeling of the pain and offence given to Lady Julia and
her daughters; there was the perception of the opinions of the world,
and the certainty that all the gossips of the neighbourhood were busy
with their conjectures; there was the continued anxiety about Elliot,
and the marked vexation and displeasure of Mrs. Lyddell, who treated
Caroline as one who had disappointed all her best hopes.
Under all this there was only Marian to sustain Caroline, and their
friendship was an additional offence. Marian knew that Mrs. Lyddell
regarded her as the head of a hostile party, and a sower of dissension
in the family, by no means an agreeable footing on which to stand; but
the only way, was to appear completely unconscious, and behave as far as
possible as usual. She was grateful to them for making it no worse, and
still more for not having objected to her continuing her rides with
Lionel, from whom, it may well be believed, she scarcely ever took her
eyes, from the time his foot was in the stirrup.
Lionel was triumphant at the dismissal of "Julian the apostate," but he
was disappointed to find that Caroline did not recover her spirits "now
she had had her own way, and got rid of the man." He did not like to
have her presence announced by a sigh, and to hear the subdued, dejected
tone of her voice, and he used to wonder over it with Marian, who
laughed at him for fancying it was such an easy matter to part with a
lover, yet agreed that it was hard to understand how there could be love
where there was no esteem. Lionel used to consult her as to what was to
be done to cheer his sister, since his mother would only make everything
worse and he could not bear her continued melancholy.
"I do believe, Lionel," said Marian, "that you could do more for her
than any body else. If you would but sometimes let her do things for
you, ask her to help you, as--as you ask me."
Lionel would not take the suggestion as she wished. "I thought you liked
to help me," said he, in a somewhat offended tone.
"O, don't I?" cried Marian, eagerly; "but so does every one, if you
would only allow them."
Lionel flourished the little switch in his hand till it made an
ill-tempered "_swish!_" and Marian knew that he thought her ungrateful
for the exclusive preference with which he honoured her.
"She is your sister," she added.
"Very well," said Lionel, crossly shaking off her arm, "I shall know
what to be at, if you are tired of helping me."
He could not see the tears in her eyes, and though she was extremely
grieved, her voice did not betray how strong her feeling was. "Tired!
O Lionel, how can you think it? But would it not be better to learn to
depend less on me against I go away?"
"Ay, and glad enough you'll be to go."
"For all but your sake and poor Caroline's," said Marian. "Mrs. Lyddell
does not like to have me here."
"It would not be fair to want to keep you," said Lionel, "but----"
"I should have much more comfort in going if I thought you and Caroline
were helping each other," said Marian. "I know she wants to make you her
Lionel made no answer nor any change in his ways for some days, yet
sometimes it seemed, as if when he thought of it, he was more willing
to allow Caroline to do him some of the small services which his fast
increasing blindness rendered necessary. Caroline being more dexterous
and neat-handed than Marian, did them well, and then Marian was vexed
with herself for a few feelings like annoyance at not being equally
necessary to Lionel, but she persevered, encouraged by seeing the
comfort that each approach on his part seemed to give his sister. It was
the hardest thing Marian had ever had to do, to give up the being first
with him, as she must cease to be when the natural affection of the
brother and sister was called into play. But it was right, and she would
bear it. She thought it right as well as very pleasant to accept an
invitation from the Wortleys to come and spend the Christmas holidays
with them, joining her brother on the railroad, and meeting Edmund at
Fern Torr. The repose would be beyond everything delightful, and no less
so, the being in a house where her presence was welcome to every member
of the family. Besides, she longed to see and to talk to Agnes, and the
more she thought of her promised visit the more she enjoyed it.
Caroline and Lionel both were very sorry to part with her, and jointly
and separately lamented her going; but Caroline blamed herself for
selfishness in wishing to keep her, and perceived that it would be a
good thing that her brother should begin to be weaned from his sole
dependance upon her, while Lionel seemed half afraid to trust her to
depart, lest she should never return, and insisted on half a dozen
promises that she would come back at the end of Gerald's holidays.
"They made a famous procession
My good little women and men;
Such a sight was never seen before
And never will again."
A division of a first-class carriage, occupied only by Gerald, received
Marian at the station, and first she had to be shown the hat, cloak, and
umbrella with which he had constructed an effigy, which, as he firmly
believed, had frightened away all who had thought of taking a seat in
"Thinking you a mad monkey, and that your keeper," said Marian, looking
proudly at the handsome face and dancing black eyes of her beautiful
brother. "Why! how you are grown, Gerald! Do stand up, and let me see if
you are not taller than I am."
"No, not quite so tall, unless it is your bonnet," said Gerald, after
craning up his neck in vain.
"At any rate, you are taller than Lionel. He only comes up to my ear,"
"Poor Lionel! How are his eyes?"
"O Gerald, it is very sad. He has very little sight left. I believe he
finds his way about quite by feeling now. It has grown worse so much
faster in these last three weeks."
"Poor fellow! What can he do all day?"
A long description followed, and then Gerald wanted to hear all about
Caroline, and what Marian thought fit to tell him, together with his
comments, lasted till, in spite of his effigy, a lady made an entrance,
and for some time Gerald was reduced to silence, and as he sat on the
same side, to making horrible sidelong scowls at her, out of her sight,
which sorely tried his sister's propriety of countenance.
The tongues of two such happy people could not long, however, continue
tied, and presently Gerald rattled off into a history of his sporting
adventures in Scotland, as if he would detail every shot. The narration
was endless, and very tiresome it would have been to any woman but a
sister, and a sister who had so much of the hunter spirit in her as
Marian; but she listened and sympathised with all her heart and soul,
and understood why such a shot was a good one, and why such another
failed, and was absorbed in the interest of the attempt to recover a
wounded bird when the retriever was stupid, long after the intruder had
made her exit, and they might have returned to matters touching her more
closely, though regarded by Gerald as hardly equal in importance to roe
deer, salmon, and grouse.
They were on Devonshire ground before they ever began to rejoice over
Edmund's engagement, and from thence to talk of Edmund himself. Gerald
pronounced many an eulogium on him, in which praises of his excellence
as a fisherman and sportsman were strangely mixed with a real genuine
appreciation of his goodness and superiority.
"'Tis a capital thing that he is come home to stay," said Gerald,
"I like him specially," said Gerald. "Do you know he showed me some of
my father's letters."
"Did he indeed?"
"That he did. It was before I was born, when he thought he was going to
have Fern Torr and all, he had rather an idle fit, and these were what
papa wrote to him."
"Was Edmund ever idle?" exclaimed Marian, falling into a reverie of
wonder whether this did not make it more hopeful for Gerald.
"I am very glad he has got this money," proceeded Gerald. "I only wish
it was more. One letter he showed me that was best of all. It was from
my father when I was born. You can't think what a nice letter it was.
There was something about its being a disappointment to him--to Edmund,
I mean, but how papa cared for him as much as ever, and thought after
all it might be better for him in the end. And then, Marian, papa said
he could hardly expect to live till I was grown up, and he asked Edmund
to be my godfather, and said he trusted to him to be like an elder
brother to us."
"That he is!" murmured Marian.
"Edmund said he wished me to read it that I might not think him
"You never could have thought so!"
"I don't know. I could not have stood it from some people, but I could
see the sense of what Edmund said."
Without entering into particulars, Gerald was now all freedom and
openness, casting quite away the restraint that had so long grieved his
sister. How happy she was!
Mr. Wortley himself met them at Exeter, and in spite of the early
darkness of the winter day, Charles and James met them at the foot of
Blackstone hill, and Edmund and Agnes were a little further on.
What a happy greeting it was! Marian and Gerald would jump out and walk
home with them, the boys ran and called in the dark, the stars came out
overhead, the tall hedges kept out all the glimmering light, splashes
alone made them aware of the puddles; but on the happy party tramped,
all talking an unmitigated flow of merry nonsense, laughing and enjoying
it, all the more the darker and stranger it grew, and merrier than all,
when they got home, at Mrs. Wortley's dismay at their having dragged
Marian a mile and a half, in the dark and dirt, after her long journey.
"Pretty guardians to have the care of her!"
All the evening again there was nothing but fun and joyousness, fun of
the brightest, happiest kind, positively wild in the three boys, and
Edmund not much less so, the girls weary with laughing, and contributing
their share to the sport. A person must have lived like Marian, pent up
by formalities and the certainty of being disliked, to know what was
the enjoyment of the perfect liberty and absence from constraint, the
thorough home-like feeling of every one loving and understanding each
other, which existed at Fern Torr. How delightful it was to have no
heart achings for Gerald, to see Edmund just like his old self, and the
dear Agnes, so very lovely and bright! so very unlike her only former
experience of betrothed lovers. It was no small happiness to the Fern
Torr party to have one so prized and loved as Marian to rejoice with
them, indeed, all this evening every one was too joyous to dwell on any
of the causes of their felicity, it was nothing but high spirits, and
When they had bidden each other good night, and were gone up stairs,
there was more of gravity and thought. Marian and Agnes could have sat
up talking half the night, if Mrs. Wortley would have allowed them, but
she said Marian must have time to rest, and ruthlessly condemned her to
Never did Marian spend so happy a Christmas. There was plenty of depth
and earnestness in her _tête-à-têtes_ with Agnes, when they talked
over the wonders that had happened to them both, and always ended by
returning to recollections of happy old days before Marian left
Fern Torr, when Edmund had been the prime mover of every delightful
adventure. Marian was as good as a sister to each of the lovers, so
heartily did she help each one to admire the other. Or when they were
"lovering," as the boys chose to call their interminable wanderings in
the manor gardens, Marian used to be extremely happy with Mrs. Wortley,
talking over the history of the engagement, and settling how and when
the love began. Mr. Wortley suggested that the first attraction had been
Agnes' unmitigated horror of the Lyddells, which he declared had won Mr.
Arundel's heart, though he never owned how much he participated in it.
It needs not to be stated how Edmund's noble behaviour was appreciated,
more especially after the new lights which Marian was able to throw upon
Then came the discussion of the plans for the house which Edmund was to
build, on a farm, which had come into the market at the very nick of
time, just on the other side of the hill, and in Fern Torr parish.
Marian and Gerald were taken the first day to look and advise whether
the new house should be on the old site, or under the shelter of a great
old slate quarry, crested with a wood, a beautiful view spread before
it, and capacities for making the loveliest garden that was ever seen.
Edmund sketched house and garden in every possible point of view, each
prettier than the other, and all the young gave their voices eagerly for
the quarry, while the old protested on the difficulty of getting so far
up the hill, and suggested damp. But the young carried the day, and the
plans were drawn and debated on a dozen times in twenty-four hours,
always including the prettiest of little sitting-rooms for Marian, with
a window opening into the garden, and a door into the drawing-room, and
then came letters to architects and calculations with builders, and
reckonings that the house should be habitable by next September, and Mr.
Wortley laughing at their credulity for expecting it.
Marian was surprised to find how far away and secondary seemed the
thoughts that had of late engrossed her entirely. She wondered to
discover how little her mind had been occupied with Caroline and Lionel,
fond as she was of them and very anxious about them. This was so very
different a world! and she felt so much more as if she belonged to it.
She obtained from Agnes some admiration for Caroline's conduct, though
in somewhat of the "better late than never" style, and at the price of
warm abuse of the parents, in which Marian was not indisposed to join.
Caroline wrote nearly every day, saying that she missed Marian
dreadfully, and that her letters were the only comfort she had; she
would not wish her back again, for that would be selfish, but it would
be a joyful day when she returned. These constant letters, which Marian
always kept to herself, rather surprised the Wortleys, but Edmund could
better guess at her position. "Depend upon it," he said to Agnes, "it is
she who has saved Miss Lyddell."
"O, Edmund! do you think so? I wanted to have thought so, but she says
it was the brother."
"He took the steps which would not have become Marian, but Walter
Lyddell could never have moved without his sister, and where could she
have found the principle but in Marian? I see now that her perseverance
in right is beginning to tell on those around her, in spite of all
"I don't know anything like Marian!" said Agnes. "How very fine her
"That steadfast brow and lip."
"I saw her yesterday standing on the edge of a rock looking out on the
view, and she was like some statue of Fortitude."
"Yes, Marian is a grand creature," said Edmund; "so strong and firm, yet
with such feminine, retiring strength. There are still prejudices
and little roughnesses, but I doubt whether they have not been her
safeguard, outworks to secure the building, and I think they are
disappearing with the occasion."
"Ah! papa and mamma think her very much softened down."
"She has had a very hard part to act, and her shyness and rigidity have
been great helps to her, but I am glad to see them wearing away, and
especially pleasant it is to see her expand and show her true self
"And to know she may soon be free of them all for ever!" said Agnes.
The time when Marian was to be free of them for ever, as Agnes said,
was to be the next summer. Edmund and Agnes were to be married in July,
Marian would then come to Fern Torr, and comfort Mrs. Wortley for losing
her daughter, till the holidays began, when Edmund and Agnes would
return, and some undefined scheme of delight was to be settled on for
Gerald's holidays, until the house should be ready. Gerald was in the
meantime very agreeable and satisfactory on the whole. He was too busy
drawing varieties of stables for Edmund, to talk about his own, and
marvellous were the portraits of the inhabitants with which he would
decorate Edmund's elevations, whenever he found them straying about
the room. Very mischievous indeed was the young gentleman, and Marian
considered him to have been "a great deal too bad" when on a neat,
finished plan, just prepared to be sent to the builder, she found
unmistakeable likenesses of the whole Wortley family, herself and
Gerald, assembled round a great bowl of punch, large enough to drown
them all, drinking to the health of Edmund and Agnes, who were riding in
at the gate, pillion fashion, supposed to be returning after the honey
moon, which in one corner of the picture was represented in a most
waning state, but the man in the moon squinting down at them with a
peculiarly benignant expression of countenance.