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The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte M. Yonge

Part 12 out of 14

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from her. Mrs. Edmonstone would not allow that she ought to remain for
his sake, and told her it was her duty to resolve to leave the place.
She said, 'Yes, but for him;' and it ended in Mrs. Edmonstone going,
without telling her, to inform him that she thought Amy ought to be at
home as soon as possible; but that it was difficult to prevail on her,
because she thought him as yet not well enough to be left. He was, of
course, shocked at being thus considered, and as soon as he next saw
Amabel, told her, with great earnestness, that he could not bear to see
her remaining there on his account; that he was almost well, and meant
to leave Recoara very soon; the journey was very easy, the sea voyage
would be the best thing for him, and he should be glad to get to the
regimental doctor at Corfu.

Amabel sighed, and knew she ought to be convinced. The very pain it
gave her to lose sight of that green, grave, the chestnut-tree, and the
white mountain; to leave the rooms and passages which still, to her
ears, were haunted by Guy's hushed step and voice, and to part with the
window where she used each wakeful night to retrace his profile as he
had stood pausing before telling her of his exceeding happiness; that
very pain made her think that opposition would be selfish. She must go
some time or other, and it was foolish to defer the struggle; she must
not detain her parents in an infected place, nor keep her mother from
Charles. She therefore consented, and let them do what they pleased,--
only insisting on Arnaud's being left with Philip.

Philip did not think this necessary, but yielded, when she urged it as
a relief to her own mind; and Arnaud, though unwilling, and used to his
own way, could make no objection when she asked it as a personal
favour. Arnaud was, at his own earnest wish, to continue in her
service; and, as soon as Philip was able to embark, was to follow her
to Hollywell.

All this time nothing passed about Laura. Amabel asked several times
whether papa had spoken, but was always answered, 'Not yet;' and at
last Mrs. Edmonstone, after vainly trying to persuade him, was obliged
to give it up. The truth was, he could not begin; he was afraid of his
nephew, and so unused to assume superiority over him that he did not
know what to do, and found all kinds of reasons for avoiding the
embarrassing scene. Since Philip still must be dealt with cautiously,
better not enter on the subject at all. When reminded that the
suspense was worse than anything, he said, no one could tell how things
would, turn out, and grew angry with his wife for wishing him to make
up a shameful affair like that, when poor Guy had not been dead a week,
and he had been the death of him; but it was just like mamma, she
always spoilt him. He had a great mind to vow never to consent to his
daughter's marrying such an overbearing, pragmatical fellow; she ought
to be ashamed of even thinking of him, when he was no better than her
brother's murderer.

After this tirade, Mrs. Edmonstone might well feel obliged to tell
Amabel, that papa must not be pressed any further; and, of course, if
he would not speak, she could not (nor did she wish it).

'Then, mamma,' said Amabel, with the air of decision that had lately
grown on her, 'I must tell him. I beg your pardon,' she added,
imploringly; 'but indeed I must. It is hard on him not to hear that
you had not his letter, and that Laura has told. I know Guy would wish
me, so don't be displeased, dear mamma.'

'I can't be displeased with anything you do.'

'And you give me leave?'

'To be sure I do,--leave to do anything but hurt yourself.'

'And would it be wrong for me to offer to write to him? No one else
will, and it will be sad for him not to hear. It cannot be wrong, can
it?' said she, as the fingers of her right hand squeezed her wedding-
ring, a habit she had taken up of late.

'Certainly not, my poor darling. Do just as you think fit. I am sorry
for him, for I am sure he is in great trouble, and I should like him to
be comforted--if he can. But, Amy, you must not ask me to do it. He
has disappointed me too much.'

Mrs. Edmonstone left the room in tears.

Amabel went up to the window, looked long at the chestnut-tree, then up
into the sky, sat down, and leant her forehead on her hand in
meditation, until she rose up, cheered and sustained, as if she had
been holding council with her husband.

She did not over-estimate Philip's sufferings from suspense and
anxiety. He had not heard a word of Laura; how she had borne his
illness, nor how much displeasure his confession had brought upon her;
nor could he learn what hope there was that his repentance was
accepted. He did not venture to ask; for after engaging to leave all
to them, could he intrude his own concerns on them at such a time? It
was but a twelvemonth since he had saddened and shadowed Guy's short
life and love with the very suffering from uncertainty that he found so
hard to bear. As he remembered this, he had a sort of fierce
satisfaction in enduring this retributive justice; though there were
moods when he felt the torture so acutely, that it seemed to him as if
his brain would turn if he saw them depart, and was left behind to this
distracting doubt.

The day had come, on which they were to take their first stage, as far
as Vicenza, and his last hopes were fading. He tried to lose the sense
of misery by bestirring himself in the preparations; but he was too
weak, and Mrs. Edmonstone, insisting on his attempting no more, sent
him back: to his own sitting-room.

Presently there was a knock, and in came Amabel, dressed, for the first
time, in her weeds, the blackness and width of her sweeping crape
making her young face look smaller and paler, while she held in her
hand some leaves of chestnut, that showed where she had been. She
smiled a little as she came in, saying, 'I am come to you for a little
quiet, out of the bustle of packing up. I want you to do something for
me.'

'Anything for you.'

'It is what you will like to do,' said she, with _that_ smile, 'for it
is more for _him_ than for me. Could you, without teasing yourself,
put that into Latin for me, by and by? I think it should be in Latin,
as it is in a foreign country.'

She gave him a paper in her own writing.

GUY MORVILLE,
OF REDCLYFFE, ENGLAND.
DIED THE EVE OF ST. MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS, 18--
AGED 21 1/2.
I BELIEVE IN THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS.

'Will you be so kind as to give it to Arnaud when it is done?' she
continued; 'he will send it to the man who is making the cross. I
think the kind people here will respect it.'

'Yes,' said Philip,' it is soon done, and thank you for letting me do
it. But, Amy, I would not alter your choice; yet there is one that
seems to me more applicable "Greater love hath no man--"'

'I know what you mean,' said Amy; 'but that has so high a meaning that
he could not bear it to be applied to him.'

'Or rather, what right have I to quote it?' said Philip, bitterly.
'His friend! No, Amy; you should rather choose, "If thine enemy
thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire
on his head." I am sure they are burning on mine,' and he pressed his
hand on his forehead.

'Don't say such things. We both know that, at the worst of times, he
looked on you as a sincere friend.'

Philip groaned, and she thought it best to go on to something else. 'I
like this best,' she said. 'It will be nice to think of far away. I
should like, too, for these Italians to see the stranger has the same
creed as themselves.'

After a moment's pause, during which he looked at the paper, he said,
'Amy, I have one thing to ask of you. Will you write my name in the
Prayer-book?'

'That I will,' said she, and Philip drew it from under the sofa
cushion, and began putting together his pocket gold pen. While he was
doing this, she said, 'Will you write to me sometimes? I shall be so
anxious to know how you get on.'

'Yes, thank you,' said he; with a sigh, as if he would fain have said
more.

She paused; then said, abruptly, 'Do you know they never had your
letter?'

'Ha! Good heavens!' cried he, starting up in consternation; 'then they
don't know it!'

'They do. Sit down, Philip, and hear. I wanted to tell you about it.
They know it. Poor Laura was so unhappy when you were ill, that mamma
made it out from her.'

He obeyed the hand that invited him back to his seat, and turned his
face earnestly towards her. He must let her be his comforter, though a
moment before his mind would have revolted at troubling the newly-made
widow with his love affairs. Amabel told him, as fully and clearly as
she could, how the truth had come out, how gently Laura had been dealt
with, how Charles had been trying to soften his father, and papa had
not said one angry word to her.

'They forgive her. Oh, Amy, thanks indeed! You have taken away one of
the heaviest burdens. I am glad, indeed, that she spoke first. For my
own part, I see through all their kindness and consideration how they
regard me.'

'They know how sorry you are, and that you wrote to tell all,' said
Amabel. 'They forgive, indeed they do; but they cannot bear to speak
about it just yet.'

'If you forgive, Amy,' said he, in a husky voice, 'I may hope for
pardon from any.'

'Hush! don't say that. You have been so kind, all this time, and we
have felt together so much, that no one could help forgetting anything
that went before. Then you will write to me; and will you tell me how
to direct to you?'

'You will write to me?' cried Philip, brightening for a moment with
glad surprise. 'Oh, Amy, you will quite overpower me with your
goodness! --The coals of fire,' he finished, sinking his voice, and
again pressing his hand to his brow.

'You must not speak so, Philip,' then looking at him, 'Is your head
aching?'

'Not so much aching as--' he paused, and exclaimed, as if carried away
in spite of himself, 'almost bursting with the thoughts of--of you,
Amy,--of him whom I knew too late,--wilfully misunderstood, envied,
persecuted; who,--oh! Amy, Amy, if you could guess at the anguish of
but one of my thoughts, you would know what the first murderer meant
when he said, "My punishment is greater than I can bear."'

'I can't say don't think,' said Amy, in her sweet, calm tone; 'for I
have seen how happy repentance made him, but I know it must be
dreadful. I suppose the worse it is at the time, the better it must be
afterwards. And I am sure this Prayer-book'--she had her hand on it
all the time, as if it was a pleasure to her to touch it again--'must
be a comfort to you. Did you not see that he made me give it to you to
use that day, when, if ever, there was pardon and peace--'

'I remember,' said Philip, in a low, grave, heartfelt tone; and as she
took the pen, and was writing his name below the old inscription, he
added, 'And the date, Amy, and--yes,' as he saw her write 'From G. M.'-
-'but put from A. F. M. too. Thank you! One thing more;' he
hesitated, and spoke very low, 'You _must_ write in it what you said
when you came to fetch me that day,--"A broken"'--

As she finished writing, Mrs. Edmonstone came in. ' My Amy, all is
ready. We must go. Good-bye, Philip,' said she, in the tone of one so
eager for departure as to fancy farewells would hasten it. However,
she was not more eager than Mr. Edmonstone, who rushed in to hurry them
on, shaking hands cordially with Philip, and telling him to make haste
and recover his good looks. Amabel held out her hand. She would fain
have said something cheering, but the power failed her. A deep colour
came into her cheeks; she drew her thick black veil over her face, and
turned away.

Philip came down-stairs with them, saw her enter the carriage followed
by her mother, Mr. Edmonstone outside. He remembered the gay smile
with which he last saw her seated in that carriage, and the active
figure that had sprung after her; he thought of the kind bright eyes
that had pleaded with him for the last time, and recollected the
suspicions and the pride with which he had plumed himself on his
rejection, and thrown away the last chance.

Should he ever see Amabel again? He groaned and went back to the
deserted rooms.

CHAPTER 37

And see
If aught of sprightly, fresh, or free,
With the calm sweetness may compare
Of the pale form half slumbering there.
Therefore this one dear couch about
We linger hour by hour:
The love that each to each we bear,
All treasures of enduring care,
Into her lap we pour.--LYRA INNOCENTUM

The brother and sisters, left at home together, had been a very sad and
silent party, unable to attempt comforting each other. Charlotte's
grief was wild and ungovernable; breaking out into fits of sobbing, and
attending to nothing till she was abashed first by a reproof from Mr.
Ross, and next by the description of Amabel's conduct; when she grew
ashamed and set herself to atone, by double care, for her neglect of
Charles's comforts.

Charles, however, wanted her little. He had rather be let alone.
After one exclamation of, 'My poor Amy!' he said not a word of
lamentation, but lay hour after hour without speaking, dwelling on the
happy days he had spent with Guy,--companion, friend, brother,--the
first beam that had brightened his existence, and taught him to make it
no longer cheerless; musing on the brilliant promise that had been cut
off; remembering his hopes for his most beloved sister, and feeling his
sorrow with imagining hers. It was his first grief, and a very deep
one. He seemed to have no comfort but in Mr. Ross, who contrived to
come to him every day, and would tell him how fully he shared his
affection and admiration for Guy, how he had marvelled at his whole
character, as it had shown itself more especially at the time of his
marriage, when his chastened temper had been the more remarkable in so
young a man, with the world opening on him so brightly. As to the
promise lost, that, indeed, Mr. Ross owned, and pleased Charles by
saying how he had hoped to watch its fulfilment; but he spoke of its
having been, in truth, no blight, only that those fair blossoms were
removed where nothing could check their full development or mar their
beauty. 'The hope in earthly furrows sown, would ripen in the sky;'
Charles groaned, saying it was hard not to see it, and they might speak
as they would, but that would not comfort him in thinking of his
sister. What was his sorrow to hers? But Mr. Ross had strong trust in
Amabel's depth and calm resignation. He said her spirit of yielding
would support her, that as in drowning or falling, struggling is fatal,
when quietness saves, so it would be with her: and that even in this
greatest of all trials she would rise instead of being crushed, with
all that was good and beautiful in her purified and refined. Charles
heard, strove to believe and be consoled, and brought out his letters,
trying, with voice breaking down, to show Mr. Ross how truly he had
judged of Amy, then listened with a kind of pleasure to the reports of
the homely but touching laments of all the village.

Laura did not, like her brother and sister, seek for consolation from
Mr. Ross or Mary. She went on her own way, saying little, fulfilling
her household cares, writing all the letters that nobody else would
write, providing for Charles's ease, and looking thoroughly cast down
and wretched, but saying nothing; conscious that her brother and sister
did not believe her affection for Guy equal to theirs; and Charles was
too much dejected, and too much displeased with Philip, to try to
console her.

It was a relief to hear, at length, that the travellers had landed, and
would be at home in the evening, not till late, wrote Mrs. Edmonstone,
because she thought it best for Amabel to go at once to her room, her
own old room, for she particularly wished not to be moved from it.

The evening had long closed in; poor Bustle had been shut up in
Charlotte's room, and the three sat together round the fire, unable to
guess how they should meet her, and thinking how they had lately been
looking forward to greeting their bride, as they used proudly to call
her. Charles dwelt on that talk on the green, and his 'when shall we
three meet again?' and spoke not a word; Laura tried to read; and
Charlotte heard false alarms of wheels; but all were so still, that
when the wheels really came, they were heard all down the turnpike
road, and along the lane, before they sounded on the gravel drive.

Laura and Charlotte ran into the hall, Charles reached his crutches,
but his hands shook so much that he could not adjust them, and was
obliged to sit down, rising the next minute as the black figures
entered together. Amy's sweet face was pressed to his, but neither
spoke. That agitated 'My dear, dear Charlie!' was his mother's, as she
threw her arms around him, with redoubled kisses and streaming tears;
and there was a trembling tone in his father's 'Well, Charlie boy, how
have you got on without us?'

They sat down, Charles with his sister beside him, and holding a hand
steadier than his own, but hot and feverish to the touch. He leant
forward to look at her face, and, as if in answer, she turned it on
him. It was the old face, paler and thinner, and the eyelids had a
hard reddened look, from want of sleep: but Charles, like his mother at
first, was almost awed by the melancholy serenity of the expression.
'Have you been quite well?' she asked, in a voice which sounded
strangely familiar, in its fond, low tones.

'Yes, quite.'

There was a pause, followed by an interchange of question and answer
between the others, on the journey, and on various little home
circumstances. Presently Mrs. Edmonstone said Amy had better come up-
stairs.

'I have not seen Bustle,' said Amy, looking at Charlotte.

'He is in my room,' faltered Charlotte.

'I should like to see him.'

Charlotte hastened away, glad to wipe her tears when outside the door.
Poor Bustle had been watching for his master ever since his departure,
and hearing the sounds of arrival, was wild to escape from his prison.
He rushed out the moment the door was open, and was scratching to be
let into the drawing-room before Charlotte could come up with him. He
dashed in, laid his head on Amabel's knee, and wagged his tail for
welcome; gave the same greeting to Mr. and Mrs. Edmonstone, but only
for a moment, for he ran restlessly seeking round the room, came to the
door, and by his wistful looks made Charlotte let him out. She
followed him, and dropping on her knees as soon as she was outside,
pressed her forehead to his glossy black head, whispered that it was of
no use, he would never come back. The dog burst from her, and the next
moment was smelling and wagging his tail at a portmanteau, which he
knew as well as she did, and she could hardly refrain from a great
outburst of sobbing as she thought what joy its arrival had hitherto
been.

Suddenly Bustle bounded away, and as Charlotte stood trying to compose
herself enough to return to the drawing-room, she heard the poor fellow
whining to be let in at Guy's bed-room door. At the same time the
drawing-room door opened, and anxious that Amy should neither see nor
hear him, she ran after him, admitted him, and shut herself in with him
in the dark, where, with her hands in his long silky curls, and sitting
on the ground, she sobbed over him as long as he would submit to her
caresses.

Amabel meantime returned to her room, and looked round on its well-
known aspect with a sad smile, as she thought of the prayer with which
she had quitted it on her bridal day, and did not feel as if it had
been unanswered; for surely the hand of a Father had been with her to
support her through her great affliction.

Though she said she was very well, her mother made her go to bed at
once, and Laura attended on her with a sort of frightened, respectful
tenderness, hardly able to bear her looks of gratitude. The first time
the two sisters were alone, Amabel said, 'Philip is much better.'

Laura, who was settling some things on the table, started back and
coloured, then, unable to resist the desire of hearing of him, looked
earnestly at her sister.

'He is gone to Corfu,' continued Amabel. 'He only kept Arnaud three
days after we were gone, and Arnaud overtook us at Geneva, saying his
strength had improved wonderfully. Will you give me my basket? I
should like to read you a piece of a note he sent me.'

Laura brought it, and Amabel, holding her hand, looked up at her face,
which she vainly tried to keep in order. 'Dearest, I have been very
sorry for you, and so has Guy.'

'Amy!' and Laura found herself giving way to her tears, in spite of all
her previous exhortations to Charlotte, about self-control; 'my own,
own sister!' To have Amy at home was an unspeakable comfort.

'Papa and mamma were both as kind as possible to Philip,' continued
Amabel; 'but they could not bear to enter on _that_. So I told him you
had told all, and he was very glad.'

'He was not displeased at my betraying him?' exclaimed Laura. 'Oh, no!
he was glad; he said it was a great relief, for he was very anxious
about you, Laura. He has been so kind to me,' said Amabel, so
earnestly, that Laura received another comfort, that of knowing that
her sister's indignation against him had all passed by. 'Now I will
read you what he says. You see his writing is quite itself again.'

But Laura observed that Amabel only held towards her the 'Lady
Morville' on the outside, keeping the note to herself, and reading, 'I
have continued to gain strength since you went; so that there is no
further need of detaining Arnaud. I have twice been out of doors, and
am convinced that I am equal to the journey; indeed, it is hardly
possible for me to endure remaining here any longer.' She read no
more, but folded it up, saying, 'I had rather no one saw the rest. He
makes himself so unhappy about that unfortunate going to Sondrio, that
he says what is only painful to hear. I am glad he is able to join his
regiment, for a change will be the best thing for him.'

She laid her head on the pillow as if she had done with the subject,
and Laura did not venture to pursue it, but went down to hear her
mother's account of her.

Mrs. Edmonstone was feeling it a great comfort to have her son to talk
to again, and availed herself of it to tell him of Philip, while Laura
was absent, and then to return to speak of Amy on Laura's re-entrance.
She said, all through the journey, Amy had been as passive and tranquil
as possible, chiefly leaning back in the carriage in silence, excepting
that when they finally left the view of the snowy mountains, she gazed
after them as long as the least faint cloud-like summit was visible.
Still she could not sleep, except that now and then she dozed a little
in the carriage, but at night she heard every hour strike in turn, and
lay awake through all, nor had she shed one tear since her mother had
joined her. Mrs. Edmonstone's anxiety was very great, for she said she
knew Amy must pay for that unnatural calmness, and the longer it was
before it broke down, the worse it would be for her. However, she was
at home, that was one thing to be thankful for, and happen what might,
it could not be as distressing as if it had been abroad.

Another night of 'calm unrest,' and Amabel rose in the morning, at her
usual hour, to put on the garments of her widowhood, where she had last
stood as a bride. Charles was actually startled by her entering the
dressing-room, just as she used to do, before breakfast, to read with
him, and her voice was as steady as ever. She breakfasted with the
family, and came up afterwards with Laura, to unpack her dressing-case,
and take out the little treasures that she and her husband had enjoyed
buying in the continental towns, as presents for the home party.

All this, for which she had previously prepared herself, she underwent
as quietly as possible; but something unexpected came on her.
Charlotte, trying to pet and comfort her in every possible way, brought
in all the best flowers still lingering in the garden, and among them a
last blossom of the Noisette rose, the same of which Guy had been
twisting a spray, while he first told her of his love.

It was too much. It recalled his perfect health and vigour, his light
activity, and enjoyment of life, and something came on her of the
sensation we feel for an insect, one moment full of joyous vitality,
the next, crushed and still. She had hitherto thought of his feverish
thirst and fainting weariness being at rest, and felt the relief, or
else followed his spirit to its repose, and rejoiced; but now the whole
scene brought back what he once was; his youthful, agile frame, his
eyes dancing in light, his bounding step, his gay whistle, the strong
hand that had upheld her on the precipice, the sure foot that had
carried aid to the drowning sailors, the arm that was to have been her
stay for life, all came on her in contrast with--death! The thought
swept over her, carrying away every other, and she burst into tears.

The tears would have their course; she could not restrain them when
once they began, and her struggles to check them only brought an
increase of them. Her sobs grew so violent that Laura, much alarmed,
made a sign to Charlotte to fetch her mother; and Mrs. Edmonstone,
coming in haste, found it was indeed the beginning of a frightful
hysterical attack. The bodily frame had been overwrought to obey the
mental firmness and composure, and now nature asserted her rights; the
hysterics returned again and again, and when it seemed as if exhaustion
had at length produced quiet, the opening of a door, or a sound in the
distance, would renew all again.

It was not till night had closed in that Mrs. Edmonstone was at all
satisfied about her, and had at length the comfort of seeing her fall
into a sound deep sleep; such an unbroken dreamless sleep as had
scarcely visited her since she first went to Recoara. Even this sleep
did not restore her; she became very unwell, and both Dr. Mayerne and
her mother insisted on her avoiding the least exertion or agitation.
She was quite submissive, only begging earnestly to be allowed to see
Mr. Ross, saying she knew it would do her good rather than harm, and
promising to let him leave her the instant she found it too much for
her; and though Mrs. Edmonstone was reluctant and afraid, they agreed
that as she was so reasonable and docile, she ought to be allowed to
judge for herself.

She begged that he might come after church on All Saints' day. He
came, and after his first greeting of peace, Mrs. Edmonstone signed to
him to read at once, instead of speaking to her. The beautiful lesson
for the day overcame Mrs. Edmonstone so much that she was obliged to go
out of Amabel's sight, but as the words were read, Amy's face recovered
once more the serenity that had been swept away by the sight of the
flowers. Peace had returned, and when the calm every-day words of the
service were over, she held out her hand to Mr. Ross, and said, 'Thank
you, that was very nice. Now talk to me.'

It was a difficult request, but Mr. Ross understood her, and talked to
her as she sought, in a gentle, deep, high strain of hope and faith,
very calm and soothing, and with a fatherly kindness that was very
pleasant from him who had baptized her, taught her, and whom she had
last seen blessing her and her husband. It ended by her looking up to
him when it was time for him to go, and saying, 'Thank you. You will
come again when you have time, I hope. My love to dear Mary, I should
like to see her soon, but I knew you would do me more good than
anybody, and know better how it feels.'

Mr. Ross knew she meant that he must better understand her loss,
because he was a widower, and was greatly touched, though he only
answered by a blessing, a farewell, and a promise to come very soon to
see her again.

Amabel was right, the peace which he had recalled, and the power of
resignation that had returned, had a better effect on her than all her
mother's precautions; she began to improve, and in a few days more was
able to leave her bed, and lie on the sofa in the dressing-room, though
she was still so weak and languid that this was as much as she could
attempt. Any exertion was to be carefully guarded against, and her
tears now flowed so easily, that she was obliged to keep a check on
them lest they might again overpower her. Mr. Ross came again and
again, and she was able to tell him much of the grounds for her great
happiness in Guy, hear how entirely he had understood him, and be
assured that she had done right, and not taken an undue responsibility
on herself by the argument she had used to summon Philip, that last
evening. She had begun to make herself uneasy about this; for she said
she believed she was thinking of nothing but Guy, and had acted on
impulse; and she was very glad Mr. Ross did not think it wrong, while
Mr. Ross meanwhile was thinking how fears and repentance mingle with
the purest sweetest, holiest deeds.

She was able now to take pleasure in seeing Mary Ross; she wrote to
Philip at Corfu, and sent for Markham to begin to settle the executor's
business. Poor Markham! the Edmonstones thought he looked ten years
older when he arrived, and after his inquiry for Lady Morville, his
grunt almost amounted to a sob. The first thing he did was to give
Mrs. Edmonstone a note, and a little box sent from Mrs. Ashford. The
note was to say that Mrs. Ashford had intended for her wedding present,
a little cross made out of part of the wood of the wreck, which she now
thought it beat to send to Mrs. Edmonstone, that she might judge
whether Lady Morville would like to see it.

Mrs. Edmonstone's judgment was to carry it at once to Amabel, and she
was right, for the pleasure she took in it was indescribable. She
fondled it, set it up by her on her little table, made Charlotte put it
in different places that she might see what point of view suited it
best, had it given back to her, held it in her hands caressingly, and
said she must write at once to Mrs. Ashford to thank her for
understanding her so well. There was scarcely one of the mourners to
be pitied more than Markham, for the love he had set on Sir Guy had
been intense, compounded of feudal affection, devoted admiration, and
paternal care--and that he, the very flower of the whole race, should
thus have been cut down in the full blossom of his youth and hopes, was
almost more than the old man could bear or understand. It was a great
sorrow, too, that he should be buried so far away from his forefathers;
and the hearing it was by his own desire, did not satisfy him, he
sighed over it still, and seemed to derive a shade of comfort only when
he was told there was to be a tablet in Redclyffe church to the memory
of Guy, sixth baronet.

In the evening Markham became very confidential with Charles; telling
him about the grievous mourning and lamentation at Redclyffe, when the
bells rung a knell instead of greeting the young master and his bride,
and how there was scarcely one in the parish that did not feel as if
they had lost a son or a brother. He also told more and more of Sir
Guy's excellence, and talked of fears of his own, especially last
Christmas; that the boy was too unlike other people, too good to live;
and lastly, he indulged in a little abuse of Captain Morville, which
did Charles's heart good, at the same time as it amused him to think
how Markham would recollect it, when he came to hear of Laura's
engagement.

In the course of the next day, Markham had his conference with Lady
Morville in the dressing-room, and brought her two or three precious
parcels, which he would not, for the world, have given into any other
hands. He could hardly bear to look at her in her widow's cap, and
behaved to her with a manner varying between his deference and respect
to the Lady of Redclyffe, and his fatherly fondness for the wife of
'his boy.' As to her legal powers, he would have thought them
foolishly bestowed, if they had been conferred by any one save his own
Sir Guy, and he began by not much liking to act with her; but he found
her so clear-headed, that he was much surprised to find a woman could
have so much good sense, and began to look forward with some
satisfaction to being her prime minister. They understood each other
very well; Amabel's good sense and way of attending to the one matter
in hand, kept her from puzzling and alarming herself by thinking she
had more to do than she could ever understand or accomplish; she knew
it was Guy's work, and a charge he had given her,--a great proof of his
confidence,--and she did all that was required of her very well, so
that matters were put in train to be completed when she should be of
age, in the course of the next January.

When Markham left her she was glad to be alone, and to open her
parcels. There was nothing here to make her hysterical, for she was
going to contemplate the living soul, and felt almost, as if it was
again being alone with her husband. There were his most prized and
used books, covered with marks and written notes; there was Laura's
drawing of Sintram, which had lived with him in his rooms at Oxford;
there was a roll of music, and there was his desk. The first thing
when she opened it was a rough piece of spar, wrapped in paper, on
which was written, 'M. A. D., Sept. 18.' She remembered what he had
told her of little Marianne's gift. The next thing made her heart
thrill, for it was a slip of pencilling in her own writing, 'Little
things, on little wings, bear little souls to heaven.'

Her own letters tied up together, those few that she had written in the
short time they were separated just before their marriage! Could that
be only six months ago? A great bundle of Charles's and of Mrs.
Edmonstone's; those she might like to read another time, but not now.
Many other papers letters signed S. B. Dixon, which she threw aside,
notes of lectures, and memoranda, only precious for the handwriting;
but when she came to the lower division; she found it full of verses,
almost all the poetry he had ever written.

There were the classical translations that used to make him inaccurate,
a scrap of a very boyish epic about King Arthur, beginning with a storm
at Tintagel, sundry half ballads, the verses he was suspected of, and
never would show, that first summer at Hollywell, and a very touching
vision of his fair young mother. Except a translation or two, some
words written to suit their favourite airs (a thing that used to seem
to come as easily to him as singing to a bird), and a few lively mock
heroic accounts of walks or parties, which had all been public
property, there was no more that she could believe to have been
composed till last year, for he was more disposed to versify in sorrow
than in joy. There were a good many written during his loneliness, for
his reflections had a tendency to flow into verse, and pouring them out
thus had been a great solace. The lines were often imperfect and
irregular, but not one that was not deep, pure, and genuine, and here
and there scattered with passages of exquisite beauty and harmony, and
full of power and grace. No one could have looked at them without
owning in them the marks of a thorough poet, but this was not what the
wife was seeking, and when she perceived it, though it made her face
beam with a sort of satisfied pride, it was a secondary thing. She was
studying not his intellect, but his soul; she did not care whether he
would have been a poet, what she looked for was the record of the
sufferings and struggles of the sad six months when his character was
established, strengthened, and settled.

She found it. There was much to which she alone had the clue, too
deep, and too obscurely hinted, to be understood at a glance. She met
with such evidence of suffering as made her shudder and weep, tokens of
the dark thoughts that had gathered round him, of the manful spirit of
penitence and patience that had been his stay, and of the gleams that
lighted his darkest hours, and showed he had never been quite forsaken.
Now and then came a reference which brought home what he had told her;
how the thought of his Verena had cheered him when he dared not hope
she would be restored. Best of all were the lines written when the
radiance of Christmas was, once for all, dispersing the gloom, and the
vision opening on him, which he was now realizing. In reading them,
she felt the same marvellous sympathy of subdued wondering joy in the
victory of which she had partaken as she knelt beside his death-bed.
These were the last. He had been too happy for poetry, except one or
two scraps in Switzerland, and these had been hers from the time she
had detected them.

No wonder Amabel almost lived on those papers! It would not be too
much to say she was very happy in her own way when alone with them; the
desk on a chair by her sofa. They were too sacred for any one else;
she did not for many weeks show one even to her mother; but to her they
were like a renewal of his presence, soothing the craving after him
that had been growing on her ever since the first few days when his
sustaining power had not passed away. As she sorted them, and made out
their dates, finding fresh stores of meaning at each fresh perusal she
learnt through them, as well as through her own trial, so patiently
borne, to enter into his character even more fully than when he was in
her sight. Mrs. Edmonstone, who had at first been inclined to dread
her constant dwelling on them, soon perceived that they were her great
aids through this sad winter.

She had much pleasure in receiving the portrait, which was sent her by
Mr. Shene. It was a day or two before she could resolve to look at it,
or feel that she could do so calmly. It was an unfinished sketch,
taken more with a view to the future picture than to the likeness; but
Guy's was a face to be better represented by being somewhat idealized,
than by copying merely the material form of the features. An ordinary
artist might have made him like a Morville, but Mr. Shene had shown all
that art could convey of his individual self, with almost one of his
unearthly looks. The beautiful eyes, with somewhat of their peculiar
lightsomeness, the flexible look of the lip, the upward pose of the
head, the set of that lock of hair that used to wave in the wind, the
animated position, 'just ready for a start,' as Charles used to call
it, were recalled as far as was in the power of chalk and crayon, but
so as to remind Amabel of him more as one belonging to heaven than to
earth. The picture used to be on her mantel-shelf all night, the
shipwreck cross before it, and Sintram and Redclyffe on each side; and
she brought it into the dressing-room with her in the morning, setting
it up opposite to the sofa, before settling herself.

Her days were much alike. She felt far from well, or capable of
exertion, and was glad it was thought right to keep her entirely
upstairs; she only wished to spare her mother anxiety, by being
submissive to her care, in case these cares should be the last for her.
She did not dwell on the future, nor ask herself whether she looked for
life or death. Guy had bidden her not desire the last, and she
believed she did not form a wish; but there was repose to her in the
belief that she ought not to conceal from herself that there was more
than ordinary risk, and that it was right to complete all her affairs
in this world, and she was silent when her mother tried to interest her
in prospects that might cheer her; as if afraid to fasten on them, and
finding more peace in entire submission, than in feeding herself on
hope that must be coupled with fear.

Christmas-day was not allowed to pass without being a festival for her,
in her quiet room, where she lay, full of musings on his lonely
Christmas night last year, his verses folded among her precious books,
and the real joy of the season more within her grasp than in the
turmoil of last year. She was not afraid now to let herself fancy his
voice in the Angel's Song, and the rainbow was shining on her cloud.

CHAPTER 38

The coldness from my heart is gone,
But still the weight is there,
And thoughts which I abhor will come
To tempt me to despair.--SOUTHEY

Amabel's one anxiety was for Philip. For a long time nothing was heard
of him at Hollywell, and she began to fear that he might have been less
fit to take care of himself than he had persuaded her to believe. When
at length tidings reached them, it was through the De Courcys. 'Poor
Morville,' wrote Maurice, 'had been carried ashore at Corfu, in the
stupor of a second attack of fever. He had been in extreme danger for
some time, and though now on the mend, was still unable to give any
account of himself.'

In effect, it was a relapse of the former disease, chiefly affecting
the brain, and his impatience to leave Recoara, and free himself from
Arnaud, had been a symptom of its approach, though it fortunately did
not absolutely overpower him till after he had embarked for Corfu, and
was in the way to be tended with the greatest solicitude. Long after
the fever was subdued, and his strength returning, his mind was astray,
and even when torturing delusions ceased, and he resumed the perception
of surrounding objects, memory and reflection wavered in dizzy
confusion, more distressing than either his bodily weakness, or the
perpetual pain in his head, which no remedy could relieve.

The first date to which he could afterwards recur, though for more than
a week he had apparently been fully himself, was a time when he was
sitting in an easy-chair by the window, obliged to avert his heavy eyes
from the dazzling waters of the Corcyran bay, where Ulysses'
transformed ship gleamed in the sunshine, and the rich purple hills of
Albania sloped upwards in the distance. James Thorndale was, as usual,
with him, and was explaining that there had been a consultation between
the doctor and the colonel, and they had decided that as there was not
much chance of restoring his health in that climate in the spring.

'Spring!' he interrupted, with surprise and eagerness, 'Is it spring?'

'Hardly--except that there is no winter here. This is the 8th of
January.'

He let his head fall on his hand again, and listened with indifference
when told he was to be sent to England at once, under the care of his
servant, Bolton, and Mr. Thorndale himself, who was resolved to see him
safe in his sister's hands. He made no objection; he had become used
to be passive, and one place was much the same to him as another; so he
merely assented, without a question about the arrangements. Presently,
however, he looked up, and inquired for his letters. Though he had
done so before, the request had always been evaded, until now he spoke
in a manner which decided his friend on giving him all except one with
broad black edges, and Broadstone post-mark; the effect of which, it
was thought, might be very injurious to his shattered nerves and
spirits.

However, he turned over the other letters without interest, just
glancing languidly through them, looked disappointed, and exclaimed--

'None from Hollywell! Has nothing been heard from them? Thorndale, I
insist on knowing whether De Courcy has heard anything of Lady
Morville.'

'He has heard of her arrival in England.'

'My sister mentions that--more than two months ago--I can hardly
believe she has not written, if she was able. She promised, yet how
can I expect--' then interrupting himself, he added, authoritatively,
'Thorndale, is there no letter for me? I see there is. Let me have
it.'

His friend could not but comply, and had no reason to regret having
done so; for after reading it twice, though he sighed deeply, and the
tears were in his eyes, he was more calm and less oppressed than he had
been at any time since his arrival in Corfu. He was unable to write,
but Colonel Deane had undertaken to write to Mrs. Henley to announce
his coming; and as the cause of his silence must be known at Hollywell,
he resolved to let Amabel's letter wait for a reply till his arrival in
England.

It was on a chilly day in February that Mrs. Henley drove to the
station to meet her brother, looking forward with a sister's
satisfaction to nursing his recovery, and feeling (for she had a heart,
after all) as if it was a renewal of the days, which she regarded with
a tenderness mixed with contempt, when all was confidence between the
brother and sister, the days of nonsense and romance. She hoped that
now poor Philip, who had acted hastily on his romance, and ruined his
own prospects for her sake in his boyish days, had a chance of having
it all made up to him, and reigning at Redclyffe according to her
darling wish.

As she anxiously watched the arrival of the train, she recognized Mr.
Thorndale, whom she had known in his school-days as Philip's protege--
but could that be her brother? It was his height, indeed; but his slow
weary step as he crossed the platform, and left the care of his baggage
to others, was so unlike his prompt, independent air, that she could
hardly believe it to be himself, till, with his friend, he actually
advanced to the carriage, and then she saw far deeper traces of illness
than she was prepared for. A confusion of words took place; greetings
on one hand, and partings on the other, for James Thorndale was going
on by the train, and made only a few minutes' halt in which to assure
Mrs. Henley that though the landing and the journey had knocked up his
patient to-day, he was much better since leaving Corfu, and to beg
Philip to write as soon as possible. The bell rang, he rushed back,
and was whirled away.

'Then you are better,' said Mrs. Henley, anxiously surveying her
brother. 'You are sadly altered! You must let us take good care of
you.'

'Thank you! I knew you would be ready to receive me, though I fear I
am not very good company.'

'Say no more, my dearest brother. You know both Dr. Henley and myself
have made it our first object that our house should be your home.'

'Thank you.'

'This salubrious air must benefit you,' she added. 'How thin you are!
Are you very much fatigued?'

'Rather,' said Philip, who was leaning back wearily; but the next
moment he exclaimed, 'What do you hear from Hollywell?'

'There is no news yet.'

'Do you know how she is? When did you hear of her?'

'About a week ago; when she wrote to inquire for you.'

'She did? What did she say of herself?'

'Nothing particular, poor little thing; I believe she is always on the
sofa. My aunt would like nothing so well as making a great fuss about
her.'

'Have you any objection to show me her letter?' said Philip, unable to
bear hearing Amabel thus spoken of, yet desirous to learn all he could
respecting her.

'I have not preserved it,' was the answer. 'My correspondence is so
extensive that there would be no limit to the accumulation if I did not
destroy the trivial letters.'

There was a sudden flush on Philip's pale face that caused his sister
to pause in her measured, self-satisfied speech, and ask if he was in
pain.

'No,' he replied, shortly, and Margaret pondered on his strange manner,
little guessing what profanation her mention of Amabel's letter had
seemed to him, or how it jarred on him to hear this exaggerated
likeness of his own self-complacent speeches.

She was much shocked and grieved to see him so much more unwell than
she had expected. He was unfit for anything but to go to bed on his
arrival. Dr. Henley said the system had received a severe shock, and
it would be long before the effects would be shaken off; but that there
was no fear but his health would be completely restored if he would
give himself entire rest.

There was no danger that Margaret would not lavish care enough on her
brother. She waited on him in his room all the next day, bringing him
everything he could want, and trying to make him come down-stairs, for
she thought sitting alone there very bad for his spirits; but he said
he had a letter to write, and very curious she was to know why he was
so long doing it, and why he did not tell her to whom it was addressed.
However, she saw when it was put into the post-bag, that it was for
Lady Morville.

At last, too late to see any of the visitors who had called to inquire,
when the evening had long closed in, she had the satisfaction of seeing
Philip enter the drawing-room, and settling him in the most comfortable
of her easy-chairs on one side of the fire to wait till the Doctor
returned for dinner. The whole apartment was most luxurious, spacious,
and richly furnished; the fire, in its brilliant steel setting,
glancing on all around, and illuminating her own stately presence, and
rich glace silk, as she sat opposite her brother cutting open the
leaves of one of the books of the club over which she presided. She
felt that this was something like attaining one of the objects for
which she used to say and think she married,--namely, to be able to
receive her brother in a comfortable home. If only he would but look
more like himself.

'Do you like a cushion for your head, Philip? Is it better?'

'Better since morning, thank you.'

'Did those headaches come on before your second illness?'

'I can't distinctly remember.'

'Ah! I cannot think how the Edmonstones could leave you. I shall
always blame them for that relapse.'

'It had nothing to do with it. Their remaining was impossible.'

'On Amabel's account? No, poor thing, I don't blame her, for she must
have been quite helpless; but it was exactly like my aunt, to have but
one idea at a time. Charles used to be the idol, and now it is Amy, I
suppose.'

'If anything could have made it more intolerable for me, it would have
been detaining them there for my sake, at such a time.'

'Ah! I felt a great deal for you. You must have been very sorry for
that poor little Amy. She was very kind in writing while you were ill.
How did she contrive, poor child? I suppose you took all the head work
for her?'

'I? I was nothing but a burden.'

'Were you still so very ill?' said Margaret, tenderly. 'I am sure you
must have been neglected.'

'Would that I had!' muttered Philip, so low that she did not catch the
words. Then aloud,--'No care could have been greater than was taken
for me. It was as if no one had been ill but myself, and the whole
thought of every one had been for me.'

'Then Amabel managed well, poor thing! We do sometimes see those weak
soft characters--'

'Sister!' he interrupted.'

'Have not you told me so yourself?'

'I was a fool, or worse,' said he, in a tone of suffering. 'No words
can describe what she proved herself.'

'Self-possessed? energetic?' asked Mrs. Henley, with whom those were
the first of qualities; and as her brother paused from repugnance to
speak of Amabel to one so little capable of comprehending her, she
proceeded: 'No doubt she did the best she could, but she must have been
quite inexperienced. It was a very young thing in the poor youth to
make her executrix. I wonder the will was valid; but I suppose you
took care of that.'

'I did nothing.'

'Did you see it?'

'My uncle showed it to me.'

'Then you can tell me what I want to hear, for no one has told me
anything. I suppose my uncle is to be guardian?'

'No; Lady Morville.'

'You don't mean it? Most lover-like indeed. That poor girl to manage
that great property? Everything left to her!' said Mrs. Henley,
continuing her catechism in spite of the unwillingness of his replies.
'Were there any legacies? I know of Miss Wellwood's.'

'That to Dixon's daughter, and my own,' he answered.

'Yours? How was it that I never heard of it? What is it?'

'Ten thousand,' said Philip, sadly.

'I am delighted to hear it!' cried Margaret. 'Very proper of Sir Guy--
very proper indeed, poor youth. It is well thought of to soften the
disappointment.'

Philip started forward. 'Disappointment!' exclaimed he, with horror.

'You need not look as if I wished to commit murder,' said his sister,
smiling. 'Have you forgotten that it depends on whether it is a son or
daughter?'

His dismay was not lessened. 'Do you mean to say that this is to come
on me if the child is a daughter?'

'Ah! you were so young when the entail was made, that you knew nothing
of it. Female heirs were expressly excluded. There was some aunt whom
old Sir Guy passed over, and settled the property on my father and you,
failing his own male heirs.'

'No one would take advantage of such a chance,' said Philip.

'Do not make any rash resolutions, my dear brother, whatever you do,'
said Margaret. 'You have still the same fresh romantic generous spirit
of self-sacrifice that is generally so soon worn out, but you must not
let it allow you--'

'Enough of this,' said Philip, hastily, for every word was a dagger.

'Ah! you are right not to dwell on the uncertainty. I am almost sorry
I told you,' said Margaret. 'Tell me about Miss Wellwood's legacy,'
she continued, desirous of changing the subject. 'I want to know the
truth of it, for every one is talking of it.''How comes the world to
know of it?'

'There have been reports ever since his death, and now it has been
paid, whatever it is, on Lady Morville's coming of age. Do you know
what it is? The last story I was told was, that it was 20,000, to
found a convent to pray for his grand--'

'Five thousand for her hospital,' interrupted Philip. 'Sister!' he
added; speaking with effort, 'it was for that hospital that he made the
request for which we persecuted him.'

'Ah! I thought so, I could have told you so!' cried Margaret,
triumphant in her sagacity, but astonished, as her brother started up
and stood looking at her, as if he could hardly resolve to give credit
to her words.

'You--thought--so,' he repeated slowly.

'I guessed it from the first. He was always with that set, and I
thought it a very bad thing for him; but as it was only a guess, it was
not worth while to mention it: besides, the cheque seemed full
evidence. It was the general course, not the individual action.'

'If you thought so, why not mention it to me? Oh! sister, what would
you not have spared me!'

'I might have done so if it had appeared that it might lead to his
exculpation, but you were so fully convinced that his whole course
confirmed the suspicions, that a mere vague idea was not worth dwelling
on. Your general opinion, of him satisfied me.'

'I cannot blame you,' was all his reply, as he sat down again, with his
face averted from the light.

And Mrs. Henley was doubtful whether he meant that she had been
judicious! She spoke again, unconscious of the agony each word
inflicted.

'Poor youth! we were mistaken in those facts, and of course, all is
forgiven and forgotten now; but he certainly had a tremendous temper.
I shall never forget that exhibition. Perhaps poor Amabel is saved
much unhappiness.'

'Once for all,' said Philip, sternly, 'let me never hear you speak of
him thus. We were both blind to a greatness of soul and purity of
heart that we shall never meet again. Yours was only prejudice; mine I
must call by a darker name. Remember, that he and his wife are only to
be spoken of with reverence.'

He composed himself to silence; and Margaret, after looking at him for
some moments in wonder, began in a sort of exculpatory tone:

'Of course we owe him a great deal of gratitude. It was very kind and
proper to come to you when you were ill, and his death must have been a
terrible shock. He was a fine young man; amiable, very attractive in
manner.'

'No more!' muttered Philip.

'That, you always said of him,' continued she, not hearing, 'but you
have no need to reproach yourself. You always acted the part of a true
friend, did full justice to his many good qualities, and only sought
his real good.'

'Every word you speak is the bitterest satire on me,' said Philip,
goaded into rousing himself for a moment. 'Say no more, unless you
would drive me distracted!'

Margaret was obliged to be silent, and marvel, while her brother sat
motionless, leaning back in his chair, till Dr. Henley came in; and
after a few words to him, went on talking to his wife, till dinner was
announced. Philip went with them into the dining-room, but had
scarcely sat down before he said he could not stay, and returned to the
drawing-room sofa. He said he only wanted quiet and darkness, and sent
his sister and her husband back to their dinner.

'What has he been doing?' said the Doctor; 'here is his pulse up to a
hundred again. How can he have raised it?'

'He only came down an hour ago, and has been sitting still ever since.'

'Talking?'

'Yes; and there, perhaps, I was rather imprudent. I did not know he
could so little bear to hear poor Sir Guy's name mentioned; and,
besides, he did not know, till I told him, that he had so much chance
of Redclyffe. He did not know the entail excluded daughters.'

'Did he not! That accounts for it. I should like to see the man who
could hear coolly that he was so near such a property. This suspense
is unlucky just now; very much against him. You must turn his thoughts
from it as much as possible.'

All the next day, Mrs. Henley wondered why her brother's spirits were
so much depressed, resisting every attempt to amuse or cheer them; but,
on the third, she thought some light was thrown on the matter. She was
at breakfast with the Doctor when the post came in, and there was a
black-edged letter for Captain Morville, evidently from Amabel. She
took it up at once to his room. He stretched out his hand for it
eagerly, but laid it down, and would not open it while she was in the
room. The instant she was gone, however, he broke the seal and read:--

'Hollywell, February 20th.

'MY DEAR PHILIP,--Thank you much for writing to me. It was a great
comfort to see your writing again, and to hear of your being safe in
our own country. We had been very anxious about you, though we did not
hear of your illness till the worst was over. I am very glad you are
at St. Mildred's, for I am sure Margaret must be very careful of you,
and Stylehurst air must be good for you. Every one here is well;
Charles growing almost active, and looking better than I ever saw him.
I wish I could tell you how nice and quiet a winter it has been; it has
been a great blessing to me in every way, so many things have come to
me to enjoy. Mr. Ross has come to me every Sunday, and often in the
week, and has been so very kind. I think talking to him will be a
great pleasure to you when you are here again. You will like to hear
that Mr. Shene has sent me the picture, and the pleasure it gives me
increases every day. Indeed, I am so well off in every way, that you
must not grieve yourself about me, though I thank you very much for
what you say. Laura reads to me all the evening from dinner to tea. I
am much better than I was in the winter, and am enjoying the soft
spring air from the open window, making it seem as if it was much later
in the year.
'Good-bye, my dear cousin; may God bless and comfort you. Remember,
that after all, it was God's will, not your doing; and therefore, as he
said himself, all is as it should be, and so it will surely be.

'Your affectionate cousin,
'AMABEL F. MORVILLE.'

Childishly simple as this letter might be called, with its set of facts
without comment, and the very commonplace words of consolation, it
spoke volumes to Philip of the spirit in which it was written--
resignation, pardon, soothing, and a desire that her farewell, perhaps
her last, should carry with it a token of her perfect forgiveness.
Everything from Amabel did him good; and he was so perceptibly better,
that his sister exclaimed, when she was next alone with Dr. Henley, 'I
understand it all, poor fellow; I thought long ago, he had some secret
attachment; and now I see it was to Amabel Edmonstone.'

'To Lady Morville?'

'Yes. You know how constantly he was at Hollywell, my aunt so fond of
him? I don't suppose Amy knew of it; and, of course, she could not be
blamed for accepting such an offer as Sir Guy's; besides, she never had
much opinion of her own.'

'How? No bad speculation for him. She must have a handsome jointure;
but what are your grounds?'

'Everything. Don't you remember he would not go to the marriage? He
mentions her almost like a saint; can't hear her name from any one
else--keeps her letter to open alone, is more revived by it than
anything else. Ah! depend upon it, it was to avoid her, poor fellow,
that he refused to go to Venice with them.'

'Their going to nurse him is not as if Sir Guy suspected it.'

'I don't suppose he did, nor Amy either. No one ever had so much power
over himself.'

Philip would not have thanked his sister for her surmise, but it was so
far in his favour that it made her avoid the subject, and he was thus
spared from hearing much of Amabel or of Redclyffe. It was bad enough
without this. Sometimes in nursery tales, a naughty child, under the
care of a fairy, is chained to an exaggeration of himself and his own
faults, and rendered a slave to this hateful self. The infliction he
underwent in his sister's house was somewhat analogous, for Mrs.
Henley's whole character, and especially her complacent speeches, were
a strong resemblance of his own in the days he most regretted. He had
ever since her marriage regarded her as a man looks at a fallen idol,
but never had her alteration been so clear to him, as he had not spent
much time with her, making her short visits, and passing the chief of
each day at Stylehurst. Now, he was almost entirely at her mercy, and
her unvarying kindness to him caused her deterioration to pain him all
the more; while each self-assertion, or harsh judgment, sounded on his
ear like a repetition of his worst and most hateful presumption. She
little guessed what she made him endure, for he had resumed his wonted
stoicism of demeanour, though the hardened crust that had once grown
over his feelings had been roughly torn away, leaving an extreme
soreness and tenderness to which an acute pang was given whenever he
was reminded, not only of his injuries to Guy, but of the pride and
secret envy that had been their root.

At the same time he disappointed her by his continued reserve and
depression. The confidence she had forfeited was never to be restored,
and she was the last person to know how incapable she was of receiving
it, or how low she had sunk in her self-exaltation.

He was soon able to resume the hours of the family, but was still far
from well; suffering from languor, pain in the head, want of sleep and
appetite; and an evening feverishness. He was unequal to deep reading,
and was in no frame for light books; he could not walk far, and his
sister's literary coteries, which he had always despised, were at
present beyond his powers of endurance. She hoped that society would
divert his thoughts and raise his spirits, and arranged her parties
with a view to him; but he never could stay long in the room, and Dr.
Henley, who, though proud of his wife and her talents, had little
pleasure in her learned circle, used to aid and abet his escape.

Thus Philip got through the hours as best he might, idly turning the
pages of new club-books, wandering on the hills till he tired himself,
sitting down to rest in the damp air, coming home chilled and fatigued,
and lying on the sofa with his eyes shut, to avoid conversation, all
the evening. Neither strength, energy, nor intellect would, serve him
for more; and this, with the load and the stings of a profound
repentance, formed his history through the next fortnight.

He used often to stand gazing at the slowly-rising walls of Miss
Wellwood's buildings, and the only time he exerted himself in his old
way to put down any folly in conversation, was when he silenced some of
the nonsense talked about her, and evinced his own entire approval of
her proceedings.

CHAPTER 39

Beneath a tapering ash-tree's shade
Three graves are by each other laid.
Around the very place doth brood
A strange and holy quietude.--BAPTISTERY

Late on the afternoon of the 6th of March, Mary Ross entered by the
half-opened front door at Hollywell, just as Charles appeared slowly
descending the stairs.

'Well! how is she?' asked Mary eagerly.

'Poor little dear!' he answered, with a sigh; 'she looks very nice and
comfortable.'

'What, you have seen her?'

'I am at this moment leaving her room.'

'She is going on well, I hope?'

'Perfectly well. There is one comfort at least,' said Charles, drawing
himself down the last step.

'Dear Amy! And the babe--did you see it?'

'Yes; the little creature was lying by her, and she put her hand on it,
and gave one of those smiles that are so terribly like his; but I could
not have spoken about it for the world. Such fools we be!' concluded
Charles, with an attempt at a smile.

'It is healthy?'

'All a babe ought to be, they say, all that could be expected of it,
except the not being of the right sort, and if Amy does not mind that,
I don't know who should,' and Charles deposited himself on the sofa,
heaving a deep sigh, intended to pass for the conclusion of the
exertion.

'Then you think she is not disappointed?'

'Certainly not. The first thing she said when she was told it was a
girl, was, "I am so glad!" and she does seem very happy with it, poor
little thing! In fact, mamma thinks she had so little expected that it
would go well with herself, or with it, that now it is all like a
surprise.'

There was a silence, first broken by Charles saying, 'You must be
content with me--I can't send for anyone. Bustle has taken papa and
Charlotte for a walk, and Laura is on guard over Amy, for we have made
mamma go and lie down. It was high time, after sitting up two nights,
and meaning to sit up a third.'

'Has she really--can she bear it?'

'Yes; I am afraid I have trained her in sitting up, and Amy and all of
us know that anxiety hurts her more than fatigue. She would only lie
awake worrying herself, instead of sitting peaceably by the fire,
holding the baby, or watching Amy, and having a quiet cry when she is
asleep. For, after all, it is very sad!' Charles was trying to brave
his feelings, but did not succeed very well. 'Yesterday morning I was
properly frightened. I came into the dressing-room, and found mamma
crying so, that I fully believed it was all wrong, but she was just
coming to tell us, and was only overcome by thinking of not having him
to call first, and how happy he would have been.'

'And the dear Amy herself!'

'I can't tell. She is a wonderful person for keeping herself composed
when she ought. I see she has his picture in full view, but she says
not a word, except that mamma saw her to-day, when she thought no one
was looking, fondling the little thing, and whispering to it--"Guy's
baby!" and "Guy's little messenger!"' Charles gave up the struggle,
and fairly cried, but in a moment rallying his usual tone, he went on,
half laughing,--'To be sure, what a morsel of a creature it is! It is
awful to see anything so small calling itself a specimen of humanity!'

'It is your first acquaintance with infant humanity, I suppose? Pray,
did you ever see a baby?'

'Not to look at. In fact, Mary, I consider it a proof of your being a
rational woman that you have not asked me whether it is pretty.'

'I thought you no judge of the article.'

'No, it was not to inspect it that Amy sent for me; though after all it
was for a business I would almost as soon undertake, a thing I would
not do for any other living creature.'

'Then I know what it is. To write some kind message to Captain
Morville. Just like the dear Amy!'

'Just like her, and like no one else, except-- Of course my father
wrote him an official communication yesterday, very short; but the fact
must have made it sweet enough, savage as we all were towards him, as
there was no one else to be savage to, unless it might be poor Miss
Morville, who is the chief loser by being of the feminine gender,' said
Charles, again braving what he was pleased to call sentimentality.
'Well, by and by, my lady wants to know if any one has written to "poor
Philip," as she will call him, and, by no means contented by hearing
papa had, she sends to ask me to come to her when I came in from
wheeling in the garden; and receives me with a request that I would
write and tell him how well she is, and how glad, and so on. There's a
piece of work for me!'

'Luckily you are not quite so savage as you pretend, either to him, or
your poor little niece.'

'Whew! I should not care whether she was niece or nephew but for him;
at least not much, as long as she comforted Amy; but to see him at
Redclyffe, and be obliged to make much of him at the same time, is more
than I can very well bear; though I may as well swallow it as best I
can, for she will have me do it, as well as on Laura's account. Amy
believes, you know, that he will think the inheritance a great
misfortune; but that is only a proof that she is more amiable than any
one else.'

'I should think he would not rejoice.'

'Not exactly; but I have no fear that he will not console himself by
thinking of the good he will do with it. I have no doubt that he was
thoroughly cut up, and I could even go the length of believing that
distress of mind helped to bring on the relapse, but it is some time
ago. And as to his breaking his heart after the first ten minutes at
finding himself what he has all his life desired to be, in a situation
where the full influence of his talents may be felt,' said Charles,
with a shade of imitation of his measured tones, 'why that, no one but
silly little Amy would ever dream of.'

'Well, I dare say you will grow merciful as you write.'

'No, that is not the way to let my indignation ooze out at my fingers'
ends. I shall begin by writing to condole with Markham. Poor man!
what a state he must be in; all the more pitiable because he evidently
had entirely forgotten that there could ever be a creature of the less
worthy gender born to the house of Morville; so it will take him quite
by surprise. What will he do, and how will he ever forgive Mrs.
Ashford, who, I see in the paper, has a son whom nobody wants, as if
for the express purpose of insulting Markham's feelings! Well-a-day!
I should have liked to have had the sound of Sir Guy Morville still in
my ears, and yet I don't know that I could have endured its being
applied to a little senseless baby! And, after all, we are the
gainers; for it would have been a forlorn thing to have seen Amy go off
to reign queen-mother at Redclyffe,--and most notably well would she
have reigned, with that clear little head. I vow 'tis a talent thrown
away! However, I can't grumble. She is much happier without greatness
thrust on her, and for my own part, I have my home-sister all to
myself, with no rival but that small woman--and how she will pet her!'

'And how you will! What a spoiling uncle you will be! But now, having
heard you reason yourself into philosophy, I'll leave you to write. We
were so anxious, that I could not help coming. I am so glad that
little one thrives! I should like to leave my love for Amy, if you'll
remember it,'

'The rarity of such a message from you may enable me. I was lying here
alone, and received the collected love of five Harpers to convey up-
stairs, all which I forgot; though in its transit by Arnaud and his
French, it had become "that they made their friendships to my lady and
Mrs. Edmonstone."'

Charles had not talked so like himself for months; and Mary felt that
Amabel's child, if she had disappointed some expectations, had come
like a spring blossom, to cheer Hollywell, after its long winter of
sorrow and anxiety. She seemed to have already been received as a
messenger to comfort them for the loss, greatest of all to her, poor
child, though she would never know how great. Next Mary wondered what
kind of letter Charles would indite, and guessed it would be all the
kinder for the outpouring he had made to her, the only person with whom
he ventured to indulge in a comfortable abuse of Philip, since his good
sense taught him that, ending as affairs must, it was the only wise way
to make the best of it, with father, mother, and Charlotte, all quite
sufficiently disposed to regard Philip with aversion without his help.

Philip was at breakfast with the Henleys, on the following morning, a
Sunday,--or rather, sitting at the breakfast-table, when the letters
were brought in. Mrs. Henley, pretending to be occupied with her own,
had an eager, watchful eye on her brother, as one was placed before
him. She knew Mr. Edmonstone's writing, but was restrained from
exclaiming by her involuntary deference for her brother. He flushed
deep red one moment, then turned deadly pale, his hand, when first he
raised it, trembled, but then became firm, as if controlled by the
force of his resolution. He broke the black seal, drew out the letter,
paused another instant, unfolded it, glanced at it, pushed his chair
from the table, and hastened to me door.

'Tell me, tell me, Philip, what is it?' she exclaimed, rising to follow
him.

He turned round, threw the letter on the table, and with a sign that
forbade her to come with him, left the room.

'Poor fellow! how he feels it! That poor young creature!' said she,
catching up the letter for explanation.

'Ha! No! Listen to this, Dr. Henley. Why, he must have read it
wrong!'

'Hollywell, March 5th.

'DEAR PHILIP,--I have to announce to you that Lady Morville was safely
confined this morning with a daughter. I shall be ready to send all
the papers and accounts of the Redclyffe estate to any place you may
appoint as soon as she is sufficiently recovered to transact business.
Both she and the infant are as well as can be expected.

--Yours sincerely,
'C. EDMONSTONE.'

'A daughter!' cried Dr. Henley. 'Well, my dear, I congratulate you!
It is as fine a property as any in the kingdom. We shall see him pick
up strength now.'

'I must go and find him. He surely has mistaken!' said Margaret,
hastening in search of him; but he was not to be found, and she saw him
no more till she found him in the seat at church.

She hardly waited to be in the churchyard, after the service, before
she said, 'Surely you mistook the letter!'

'No, I did not.'

'You saw that she is doing well, and it is a girl.'

'I--'

'And will you not let me congratulate you?'

She was interrupted by some acquaintance; but when she looked round he
was nowhere to be seen, and she was obliged to be content with telling
every one the news. One or two of her many tame gentlemen came home
with her to luncheon, and she had the satisfaction of dilating on the
grandeur of Redclyffe. Her brother was not in the drawing-room, but
answered when she knocked at his door.

'Luncheon is ready. Will you come down?'

'Is any one there?'

'Mr. Brown and Walter Maitland. Shall I send you anything, or do you
like to come down?'

'I'll come, thank you,' said he, thus secured from a tete-a-tete.

'Had you better come? Is not your head too bad?'

'It will not be better for staying here; I'll come.'

She went down, telling her visitors that, since his illness, her
brother always suffered so much from excitement that he was too unwell
to have derived much pleasure from the tidings: and when he appeared
his air corresponded with her account, for his looks were of the
gravest and sternest. He received the congratulations of the gentlemen
without the shadow of a smile, and made them think him the haughtiest
and most dignified landed proprietor in England.

Mrs. Henley advised strongly against his going to church, but without
effect, and losing him in the crowd coming out, saw him no more till
just before dinner-time. He had steeled himself to endure all that she
and the Doctor could inflict on him that evening, and he had a hope of
persuading Amabel that it would be only doing justice to her child to
let him restore her father's inheritance, which had come to him through
circumstances that could not have been foreseen. He was determined to
do nothing like an act of possession of Redclyffe till he had implored
her to accept the offer; and it was a great relief thus to keep it in
doubt a little longer, and not absolutely feel himself profiting by
Guy's death and sitting in his seat. Not a word, however, must be said
to let his sister guess at his resolution, and he must let her torture
him in the meantime. He was vexed at having been startled into
betraying his suffering, and was humiliated at the thought of the
change from that iron imperturbability, compounded of strength, pride,
and coldness in which he had once gloried.

Dr. Henley met him with a shake of the hand, and hearty exclamation:--

'I congratulate you, Sir Philip Morville.'

'No; that is spared me,' was his answer.

'Hem! The baronetcy?'

'Yes,' said Margaret, 'I thought you knew that only goes to the direct
heir of old Sir Hugh. But you must drop the "captain" at least. You
will sell out at once?'

He patiently endured the conversation on the extent and beauty of
Redclyffe, wearing all the time a stern, resolute aspect, that his
sister knew to betoken great unhappiness. She earnestly wished to
understand him, but at last, seeing how much her conversation increased
his headache, she desisted, and left him to all the repose his thoughts
could give him. He was very much concerned at the tone of the note
from his uncle, as if it was intended to show that all connection with
the family was to be broken off. He supposed it had been concerted
with some one; with Charles, most likely,--Charles, who had judged him
too truly, and with his attachment to Guy, and aversion to himself, was
doubtless strengthening his father's displeasure, all the more for this
hateful wealth. And Laura? What did she feel?

Monday morning brought another letter. At first, he was struck with
the dread of evil tidings of Amabel or her babe, especially when he
recognized Charles's straggling handwriting; and, resolved not to be
again betrayed, he carried it up to read in his own room before his
sister had noticed it. He could hardly resolve to open it, for surely
Charles would not write to him without necessity; and what, save
sorrow, could cause that necessity? He saw that his wretchedness might
be even more complete! At length he read it, and could hardly believe
his own eyes as he saw cheering words, in a friendly style of interest
and kindliness such as he would never have expected from Charles, more
especially now.

'Hollywell, March 6th.

'MY DEAR PHILIP,--I believe my father wrote to you in haste yesterday,
but I am sure you will be anxious for further accounts, and when there
is good news there is satisfaction in conveying it. I know you will be
glad to hear our affairs are very prosperous; and Amy, whom I have just
been visiting, is said by the authorities to be going on as well as
possible. She begs me to tell you of her welfare, and to assure you
that she is particularly pleased to have a daughter; or, perhaps, it
will be more satisfactory to have her own words. "You must tell him
how well I am, Charlie, and how very glad. And tell him that he must
not vex himself about her being a girl, for that is my great pleasure;
and I do believe, the very thing I should have chosen if I had set to
work to wish." You know Amy never said a word but in all sincerity, so
you must trust her, and I add my testimony that she is in placid
spirits, and may well be glad to escape the cares of Redclyffe. My
father says he desired Markham to write to you on the business matters.
I hope the sea-breezes may do you good. All the party here are well;
but I see little of them now, all the interest of the house is
upstairs.
--Your affectionate,
'C. M, EDMONSTONE.

P. S. The baby is very small, but so plump and healthy, that no one
attempts to be uneasy about her.'

Never did letter come in better time to raise a desponding heart. Of
Amabel's forgiveness he was already certain; but that she should have
made Charles his friend was a wonder beyond all others. It gave him
more hope for the future than he had yet been able to entertain, and
showed him that the former note was no studied renunciation of him, but
only an ebullition of Mr. Edmonstone's disappointment.

It gave him spirit enough to undertake what he had long been
meditating, but without energy to set about it--an expedition to
Stylehurst. Hitherto it had been his first walk on coming to St.
Mildred's, but now the distance across the moor was far beyond his
powers; and even that length of ride was a great enterprise. It was
much further by the carriage road, and his sister never liked going
there. He had never failed to visit his old home till last year, and
he felt almost glad that he had not carried his thoughts, at that time,
to his father's grave. It was strange that, with so many more
important burdens on his mind, it had been this apparent trivial
omission, this slight to Stylehurst, that, in both his illnesses, had
been the most frequently recurring idea that had tormented him in his
delirium. So deeply, securely fixed is the love of the home of
childhood in men of his mould, in whom it is perhaps the most deeply
rooted of all affections.

Without telling his sister his intention, he hired a horse, and pursued
the familiar moorland tracks. He passed South Moor Farm; it gave him
too great a pang to look at it; he rode on across the hills where he
used to walk with his sisters, and looked down into narrow valleys
where he had often wandered with his fishing-rod, lost in musings on
plans for attaining distinction, and seeing himself the greatest man of
his day. Little had he then guessed the misery which would place him
in the way to the coveted elevation, or how he would loathe it when it
lay within his grasp.

There were the trees round the vicarage, the church spire, the
cottages, whose old rough aspect, he knew so well, the whole scene,
once 'redolent of joy and youth:' but how unable to breathe on him a
second spring! He put up his horse at the village inn, and went to
make his first call on Susan, the old clerk's wife, and one of the
persons in all the world who loved him best. He knocked, opened the
door, and saw her, startled from her tea-drinking, looking at him as a
stranger.

'Bless us! It beant never Master Philip!' she exclaimed, her head
shaking very fast, as she recognized his voice. 'Why, sir, what a turn
you give me! How bad you be looking, to be sure!'

He sat down and talked with her, with feelings of comfort. Tidings of
Sir Guy's death had reached the old woman, and she was much grieved for
the nice, cheerful-spoken young gentleman, whom she well remembered;
for she, like almost every one who had ever had any intercourse with
him, had an impression left of him, as of something winning, engaging,
brightening, like a sunbeam. It was a refreshment to meet with one who
would lament him for his own sake, and had no congratulations for
Philip himself; and the 'Sure, sure, it must have been very bad for
you,' with which old Susan heard of the circumstances, carried more of
the comfort of genuine sympathy than all his sister's attempts at
condolence.

She told him how often Sir Guy had been at Stylehurst, how he had
talked to her about the archdeacon; and especially she remembered his
helping her husband one day when he found him trimming the ash over the
archdeacon's grave. He used to come very often to church there, more
in the latter part of his stay; there was one Sunday--it was the one
before Michaelmas--he was there all day, walking in the churchyard, and
sitting in the porch between services.

'The Sunday before Michaelmas!' thought Philip, the very time when he
had been most earnest in driving his uncle to persecute, and delighting
himself in having triumphed over Guy at last, and obtained tangible
demonstration of his own foresight, and his cousin's vindictive spirit.
What had he been throwing away? Where had, in truth, been the hostile
spirit?

He took the key of the church, and walked thither alone, standing for
several minutes by the three graves, with a sensation as if his father
was demanding of him an account of the boy he had watched, and brought
to his ancestral home, and cared for through his orphaned childhood.
But for the prayer-book, the pledge that there had been peace at the
last, how could he have borne it?

Here was the paved path he had trodden in early childhood, holding his
mother's hand, where, at each recurring vacation during his school
days, he had walked between his admiring sisters, in the consciousness
that he was the pride of his family and of all the parish. Of his
family? Did he not remember his return home for the last time before
that when he was summoned thither by his father's death? He had come
with a whole freight of prizes, and letters full of praises; and as he
stood, in expectation of the expression of delighted satisfaction, his
father laid his hand on his trophy, the pile of books, saying,
gravely,--' All this would I give, Philip, for one evidence of humility
of mind.'

It had been his father's one reproof. He had thought it unjust and
unreasonable, and turned away impatiently to be caressed and admired by
Margaret. His real feelings had been told to her, because she
flattered them and shared them, he had been reserved and guarded with
the father who would have perceived and repressed that ambition and the
self-sufficiency which he himself had never known to exist, nor
regarded as aught but sober truth. It had been his bane, that he had
been always too sensible to betray outwardly his self-conceit, in any
form that could lead to its being noticed.

He opened the church door, closed it behind him, and locked himself in.

He came up to the communion rail, where he had knelt for the first time
twelve years ago, confident in himself, and unconscious of the fears
with which his father's voice was trembling in the intensity of his
prayer for one in whom there was no tangible evil, and whom others
thought a pattern of all that could be desired by the fondest hopes.

He knelt down, with bowed head, and hands clasped. Assuredly, if his
father could have beheld him then, it would have been with rejoicing.
He would not have sorrowed that robust frame was wasted, and great
strength brought low; that the noble features were worn, the healthful
cheek pale, and the powerful intellect clouded and weakened; he would
hardly have mourned for the cruel grief and suffering, such would have
been his joy that the humble, penitent, obedient heart had been won at
last. Above all, he would have rejoiced that the words that most
soothed that wounded spirit were,--'A broken and contrite heart, 0 God,
Thou wilt not despise.'

There was solace in that solemn silence; the throbs of head and heart
were stilled in the calm around. It was as if the influences of the
prayers breathed for him by his father, and the forgiveness and loving
spirit there won by Guy, had been waiting for him there till he came to
take them up, for thenceforth the bitterest of his despair was over,
and he could receive each token of Amabel's forgiveness, not as heaped
coals of fire, but as an earnest of forgiveness sealed in heaven.

The worst was over, and though he still had much to suffer, he was
becoming open to receive comfort; the blank dark remorse in which he
had been living began to lighten, and the tone of his mind to return.

He spoke more cheerfully to Susan when he restored the key; but she had
been so shocked at his appearance, that when, the next day, a report
reached her that Mr. Philip was now a grand gentleman, and very rich,
she answered,--

'Well, if it be so, I am glad of it, but he said never a word of it to
me, and it is my belief he would give all the money as ever was coined,
to have the poor young gentleman back again. Depend upon it, he hates
the very sound of it.'

At the cost of several sheets of paper, Philip at length completed a
letter to Mr. Edmonstone, which, when he had sent it, made his suspense
more painful.

'St. Mildred's, March 12th.

'MY DEAR MR. Edmonstone,--It is with a full sense of the unfitness of
intruding such a subject upon you in the present state of the family,
that I again address you on the same topic as that on which I wrote to
you from Italy, at the first moment at which I have felt it possible to
ask your attention. I was then too ill to be able to express my
contrition for all that has passed; in fact, I doubt whether it was
even then so deep as at present, since every succeeding week has but
added to my sense of the impropriety of my conduct, and my earnest
desire for pardon. I can hardly venture at such a time to ask anything
further, but I must add that my sentiments towards your daughter are
unaltered, and can never cease but with my life, and though I know I
have rendered myself unworthy of her, and my health, both mental and
bodily, is far from being re-established, I cannot help laying my
feelings before you, and entreating that you will put an end to the
suspense which has endured for so many months, by telling me to hope
that I have not for ever forfeited your consent to my attachment. At
least, I trust to your kindness for telling me on what terms I am for
the present to stand with your family. I am glad to hear such
favourable reports of Lady Morville, and with all my heart I thank
Charles for his letter.

'Yours ever affectionately,
'P. H. MORVILLE.'

He ardently watched for a reply. He could not endure the idea of
receiving it where Margaret's eyes could scan the emotion he could now
only conceal by a visible rigidity of demeanour, and he daily went
himself to the post-office, but in vain. He received nothing but
business letters, and among them one from Markham, with as much
defiance and dislike in its style as could be shown, in a perfectly
formal, proper letter. Till he had referred to Lady Morville, he would
not make any demonstration towards Redclyffe, and evaded all his
sister's questions as to what he was doing about it, and when he should
take measures for leaving the army, or obtaining a renewal of the
baronetcy.

Anxiety made him look daily more wretchedly haggard; the Doctor was at
fault, Mrs. Henley looked sagacious, while his manner became so dry and
repellent that visitors went away moralizing on the absurdity of
"nouveaux riches" taking so much state on them.

He wondered how soon he might venture to write to Amabel, on whom alone
he could depend; but he felt it a sort of profanity to disturb her.

He had nearly given up his visits to the post in despair, when one
morning he beheld what never failed to bring some soothing influence,
namely, the fair pointed characters he had not dared to hope for. He
walked quickly into the promenade, sat down, and read:--

'Hollywell, March 22nd.

'MY DEAR PHILIP,--Papa does not answer your letter, because he says
speaking is better than writing, and we hope you are well enough to
come to us before Sunday week. I hope to take our dear little girl to
be christened on that day, and I want you to be so kind as to be her
godfather. I ask it of you, not only in my own name, but in her
father's, for I am sure it is what he would choose. Her Aunt Laura and
Mary Ross are to be her godmothers, I hope you will not think me very
foolish and fanciful for naming her Mary Verena, in remembrance of our
old readings of Sintram. She is a very healthy, quiet creature, and I
am getting on very well. I am writing from the dressing-room, and I
expect to be down-stairs in a few days. If you do not dislike it very
much, could you be so kind as to call upon Miss Wellwood, and pay
little Marianne Dixon's quarter for me? It is 10, and it will save
trouble if you would do it; besides that, I should like to hear of her
and the little girl. I am sorry to hear you are not better,--perhaps
coming here may do you good.--Four o'clock. I have been keeping my
letter in hopes of persuading papa to put in a note, but he says he had
rather send a message that he is quite ready to forgive and forget, and
it will be best to talk it over when you come."

'Your affectionate cousin,
'A. F. MORVILLE.'

It was well he was not under his sister's eye, for he could not read
this letter calmly, and he was obliged to take several turns along the
walk before he could recover his composure enough to appear in the
breakfast-room, where he found his sister alone, dealing her letters
into separate packets of important and unimportant.

'Good morning, Philip. Dr. Henley is obliged to go to Bramshaw this
morning, and has had an early breakfast. Have you been out?'

'Yes, it is very fine--I mean it will be--the haze is clearing.'

Margaret saw that he was unusually agitated, and not by grief; applied
herself to tea-making, and hoped his walk had given him an appetite;
but there seemed little chance of this so long were his pauses between
each morsel, and so often did he lean back in his chair.

'I am going to leave you on--on Friday,' he said at length, abruptly.

'Oh, are you going to Redclyffe?'

'No; to Hollywell. Lady Morville wishes me to be her little girl's
sponsor; I shall go to London on Friday, and on, the next day.'

'I am glad they have asked you. Does she write herself? Is she pretty
well?

'Yes; she is to go down-stairs in a day or two.'

'I am rejoiced that she is recovering so well. Do you know whether she
is in tolerable spirits?'

'She writes cheerfully.'

'How many years is it since I saw her? She was quite a child, but very
sweet-tempered and attentive to poor Charles,' said Mrs. Henley,
feeling most amiably disposed towards her future sister-in-law.

'Just so. Her gentleness and sweet temper were always beautiful; and
she has shown herself under her trials what it would be presumptuous to
praise.'

Margaret had no doubt now, and thought he was ready for more open
sympathy.

'You must let me congratulate you now on this unexpected dawn of hope,
after your long trial, my dear brother. It is a sort of unconscious
encouragement you could hardly hope for.'

'I did not know you knew anything of it,' said Philip.

'Ah! my dear brother, you betrayed yourself. You need not be
disconcerted; only a sister could see the real cause of your want of
spirits. Your manner at each mention of her, your anxiety, coupled
with your resolute avoidance of her--'

'Of whom? Do you know what you are talking of, sister!' said Philip,
sternly.

'Of Amabel, of course.'

Philip rose, perfectly awful in his height and indignation.

'Sister!' he said--paused, and began again. 'I have been attached to
Laura Edmonstone for years past, and Lady Morville knows it.'

'To Laura!' cried Mrs. Henley, in amaze. 'Are you engaged?' and, as he
was hardly prepared to answer, she continued, 'If you have not gone too
far to recede, only consider before you take any rash step. You come
into this property without ready money, you will find endless claims,
and if you marry at once, and without fortune, you will never be clear
from difficulties.'

'I have considered,' he replied, with cold loftiness that would have
silenced any one, not of the same determined mould.

'You are positively committed, then!' she said, much vexed. 'Oh,
Philip! I did not think you would have married for mere beauty.'

'I can hear no more discussion on this point,' answered Philip, in the
serious, calm tone that showed so much power over himself and every one
else.

It put Margaret to silence, though she was excessively disappointed to
find him thus involved just at his outset, when he might have married
so much more advantageously. She was sorry, too, that she had shown
her opinion so plainly, since it was to be, and hurt his feelings just
as he seemed to be thawing. She would fain have learned more; but he
was completely shut up within himself, and never opened again to her.
She had never before so grated on every delicate feeling in his mind;
and he only remained at her house because in his present state of
health, he hardly knew where to bestow himself till it was time for him
to go to Hollywell.

He went to call on Miss Wellwood, to whom his name was no slight
recommendation, and she met him eagerly, asking after Lady Morville,
who, she said, had twice written to her most kindly about little
Marianne.

It was a very pleasant visit, and a great relief. He looked at the
plans, heard the fresh arrangements, admired, was interested, and took
pleasure in having something to tell Amabel. He asked for Marianne,
and heard that she was one of the best of children--amiable, well-
disposed, only almost too sensitive. Miss Wellwood said it was
remarkable how deep an impression Sir Guy had made upon her, and how
affectionately she remembered his kindness; and her distress at hearing
of his death had been far beyond what such a child could have been
supposed to feel, both in violence and in duration.

Philip asked to see her, knowing it would please Amabel, and in she
came--a long, thin, nine-year-old child, just grown into the
encumbering shyness, that is by no means one of the graces of "la
vieillesse de l'enfance".

He wished to be kind and encouraging; but melancholy, added to his
natural stateliness, made him very formidable; and poor Marianne was
capable of nothing beyond 'yes' or 'no.'

He told her he was going to see Lady Morville and her little girl,
whereat she eagerly raised her eyes, then shrank in affright at
anything so tall, and so unlike Sir Guy. He said the baby was to be
christened next Sunday, and Miss Wellwood helped him out by asking the
name.

'Mary,' he said, for he was by no means inclined to explain the Verena,
though he knew not half what it conveyed to Amabel.

Lastly, he asked if Marianne had any message; when she hung down her
head, and whispered to Miss Wellwood, what proved to be 'My love to
dear little cousin Mary.'

He promised to deliver it, and departed, wishing he could more easily
unbend.

CHAPTER 40

Blest, though every tear that falls
Doth in its silence of past sorrow tell,
And makes a meeting seem most like a dear farewell.--WORDSWORTH

On Saturday afternoon, about half-past five, Philip Morville found
himself driving up to the well-known front door of Hollywell. At the
door he heard that every one was out excepting Lady Morville, who never
came down till the evening, save for a drive in the carriage.

He entered the drawing-room, and gazed on the scene where he had spent
so many happy hours, only darkened by that one evil spot, that had
grown till it not only poisoned his own mind, but cast a gloom over
that bright home.

All was as usual. Charles's sofa, little table, books, and inkstand,
the work-boxes on the table, the newspaper in Mr. Edmonstone's old
folds. Only the piano was closed, and an accumulation of books on the
hinge told how long it had been so; and the plants in the bay window
were brown and dry, not as when they were Amabel's cherished nurslings.
He remembered Amabel's laughing face and abundant curls, when she
carried in the camellia, and thought how little he guessed then that he
should be the destroyer of the happiness of her young life. How should
he meet her--a widow in her father's house--or look at her fatherless
child? He wondered how he had borne to come thither at all, and shrank
at the thought that this very evening, in a few hours, he must see her.

The outer door opened, there was a soft step, and Amabel stood before
him, pale, quiet, and with a smile of welcome. Her bands of hair
looked glossy under her widow's cap, and the deep black of her dress
was relieved by the white robes of the babe that lay on her arm. She
held out her hand, and he pressed it in silence.

'I thought you would like just to see baby,' said she, in a voice
something like apology.

He held out his arms to take it, for which Amy was by no means
prepared. She was not quite happy even in trusting it in her sister's
arms, and she supposed he had never before touched an infant. But that
was all nonsense, and she would not vex him with showing any
reluctance; so she laid the little one on his arm, and saw his great
hand holding it most carefully, but the next moment he turned abruptly

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