THE TWO GUARDIANS
or, HOME IN THIS WORLD
by CHARLOTTE MARY YONGE
THE AUTHOR OF “THE HEIR OF REDCLYFFE,” “HENRIETTA’S WISH,” “KENNETH,” “HEARTSEASE,” “THE CASTLE BUILDERS,” ETC.
[Illustration: “Stay here, Marian! I don’t care if all the world heard me.”]
In putting forth another work, the Author is anxious to say a few words on the design of these stories; not with a view to obviate criticism, but in hopes of pointing to the moral, which has been thought not sufficiently evident, perhaps because it has been desired to convey, rather than directly inculcate it.
Throughout these tales the plan has been to present a picture of ordinary life, with its small daily events, its pleasures, and its trials, so as to draw out its capabilities of being turned to the best account. Great events, such as befall only a few, are thus excluded, and in the hope of helping to present a clue, by example, to the perplexities of daily life, the incidents, which render a story exciting, have been sacrificed, and the attempt has been to make the interest of the books depend on character painting.
Each has been written with the wish to illustrate some principle which may be called the key note. “Abbeychurch” is intended to show the need of self-control and the evil of conceit in different manifestations; according to the various characters, “Scenes and Characters” was meant to exemplify the effects of being guided by mere feeling, set in contrast with strict adherence to duty. In “Henrietta’s Wish” the opposition is between wilfulness and submission–filial submission as required, in the young people, and that of which it is a commencement as well as a type, as instanced in Mrs. Frederick Langford. The design of the “Castle Builders” is to show the instability and dissatisfaction of mind occasioned by the want of a practical, obedient course of daily life; with an especial view to the consequences of not seeking strength and assistance in the appointed means of grace.
And as the very opposite to Emmeline’s feeble character, the heroine of the present story is intended to set forth the manner in which a Christian may contend with and conquer this world, living in it but not of it, and rendering it a means of self-renunciation. It is therefore purposely that the end presents no great event, and leaves Marian unrecompensed save by the effects her consistent well doing has produced on her companions. Any other compensation would render her self-sacrifice incomplete, and make her no longer invisibly above the world.
_October 14th_, 1852.
“With fearless pride I say
That she is healthful, fleet, and strong And down the rocks will leap along,
Like rivulets in May.”
Along a beautiful Devonshire lane, with banks of rock overhung by tall bowery hedges, rode a lively and merry pair, now laughing and talking, now summoning by call or whistle the spaniel that ran by their side, or careered through the fields within the hedge.
The younger was a maiden of about twelve years old, in a long black and white plaid riding-skirt, over a pink gingham frock, and her dark hair hidden beneath a little cap furnished with a long green veil, which was allowed to stream behind her in the wind, instead of affording the intended shelter to a complexion already a shade or two darkened by the summer sun, but with little colour in the cheeks; and what there was, only the pale pink glow like a wild rose, called up for the moment by warmth and exercise, and soon to pass away. Still there was no appearance of want of health; the skin was of a clear, soft, fresh shade of brown; the large dark eyes, in spite of all their depth of melancholy softness, had the wild, untamed animation of a mountaineer; the face and form were full of free life and vigour, as she sat erect and perfectly at ease on her spirited little bay pony, which at times seemed so lively that it might have been matter of surprise to a stranger that so young a horsewoman should be trusted on its back.
Her companion was a youth some ten or eleven years her senior, possessing a handsome set of regular features, with a good deal of family likeness to hers; dark eyes and hair, and a figure which, though slight, was rather too tall to look suitable to the small, stout, strong pony which carried him and his numerous equipments, consisting of a long rod-case, a fishing-basket and landing-net, in accordance with the lines of artificial flies wreathed round his straw hat, and the various oddly contrived pockets of his grey shooting-coat.
In the distance at the end of the lane there appeared two walking figures. “Mrs. Wortley!” exclaimed the young lady.
“No, surely not out so soon!” was the answer. “She is in the depth of lessons.”
“No, but Edmund, it is, look, and Agnes too! There, Ranger has better eyes than you; he is racing to them.”
“Well, I acknowledge my mistake,” said Edmund, drawing up his rein as they came upon the pair,–a pleasing lady, and a pretty blue-eyed girl of fourteen. “I did not believe my eyes, Mrs. Wortley, though Marian tried to persuade me. I thought you were always reading Italian at this time in the morning, Agnes”.
“And I thought you were reading Phædrus with Gerald,” said Mrs. Wortley.
“Ay,” said Agnes, “we did not know what to make of you coming up the lane; you with your lance there, like the Red Cross Knight himself, and Marian with her palfry for Una.”
“The knight must have borrowed the dwarf’s ass,” said Edmund, laughing, and putting his lance in rest.
“And where have you been, then, at this portentous time of day, Agnes?” asked Marian.
“We heard a report of Betty Lapthorn’s child having another fit,” said Agnes, “and set off to see; but it turned out to be a false alarm. And now we are going up to the Manor House to ask Lady Arundel if she has any arrowroot for it, for ours is all used up.”
“Shall we find her at leisure?” added Mrs. Wortley.
“Yes,” said Marian. “Gerald has finished his lessons by this time. Mamma thought it would be too far for him to go with us, and besides he frightens the fish.”
“Which you are in too good training to do, Marian,” said Mrs. Wortley. “And how is your papa to-day?”
“Oh, it is a good day,” said Marian: “he was up before we set off.”
“Down stairs? For perhaps we had better not go now, just after he is tired with coming down,” said Mrs. Wortley. “Now, Mr. Arundel, you will tell me honestly, and this arrowroot will do just as well another time; or if Marian will carry home the message–“
“Well,” said Edmund, smiling, “to give you a proof of my sincerity, I think you had better perhaps go rather later in the day. My uncle very unnecessarily hurried himself, thinking that he was keeping me waiting to help him down stairs, and I thought he seemed rather tired; but he will be very glad to see you in the afternoon. Indeed, he would be very glad now, only you asked me as a question of prudence.”
“Don’t make civil speeches at the end to spoil just such a reply as I wanted,” said Mrs. Wortley. “I am afraid you do not think Sir Edmund much better since you were last at home.”
Edmund shook his head. “If he has not lost ground, it is well,” said he, “and I think at least there is less pain.”
“Well, I will not keep you any longer,” said Mrs. Wortley; “good-bye, and good sport to you.”
And with a wave of the hand on rode the two cousins, Edmund and Marian Arundel.
“What an excellent thing it is for the village that those Wortleys are come!” said Edmund.
“Yes; now that mamma cannot attend much to the school and poor people, I don’t know what we should do without them. How different it was in old Mr. May’s time! I hope we shall get the Church set to rights now, when papa is well enough to attend to it.”
“It is high time, certainly,” said Edmund; “our Church is almost a disgrace to us, especially with the Arundel aisle, to show what our ancestors did.”
“No, not quite to us,” said Marian; “you know papa would have done it all long ago, if the idea had not vexed poor old Mr. May so much. But Ranger! Ranger! where is Ranger, Edmund?”
Edmund whistled, and presently, with whirring, rushing wing, there flew over the hedge beside them a covey of partridges, followed by Ranger’s eager bark. Marian’s pony started, danced, and capered; Edmund watched her with considerable anxiety, but she reined it in with a steady, dexterous, though not a strong hand, kept her seat well, and rode on in triumph, while Edmund exclaimed, “Capital, Marian!” Then looking back, “What a shot that was!” he added in a sort of parenthesis, continuing, “I am proud, Mayflower is not a bit too much for you now, though I think we must have given her up if you had had another tumble.”
“Oh, no, no, I do so delight in Mayflower, pretty creature!” said Marian, patting her neck. “I like to feel that the creature I ride is alive–not an old slug, like that animal which you are upon, Edmund.”
“That is decidedly ungrateful of you, Marian, when you learnt to ride upon this identical slug, and owe the safety of your neck to its quiet propensities. Now take care down this stony hill; hold her up well–that is right.”
Care was certainly needed as they descended the steep hill side; the road, or rather pathway, cut out between high, steep, limestone rocks, and here and there even bare of earth. Any one but a native would have trembled at such a descent but though the cousins paid attention to their progress, they had no doubts or alarms. At the bottom a clear sparkling stream traversed the road, where, for the convenience of foot passengers, a huge flat stone had been thrown across from one high bank to the other, so as to form a romantic bridge. Marian, however, did not avail herself of it, but rode gallantly through the shallow water, only looking back at it to observe to Edmund, “We must make a sketch of that some day or other.”
“I am afraid we cannot get far enough off,” said Edmund, “to make a good drawing of it. Too many things go to the making of the picturesque.”
“Yes, I know, but that is what I never can understand. I see by woeful experience that what is pretty in itself will not make a pretty drawing, and everyone says so; but I never could find out why.”
“Perhaps because we cannot represent it adequately.”
“Yes, but there is another puzzle; you sometimes see an exact representation, which is not really a picture at all. Don’t you know that thing that the man who came to the door did of our house,–the trees all green, and the sky all blue, and the moors all purple?”
“As like as it can stare; yes, I know.”
“Well, why does that not satisfy us? why is it not a picture?”
“Because it stares, I suppose. Why does not that picture of my aunt at Mrs. Week’s cottage satisfy you as well as the chalk sketch in the dining-room?”
“Because it has none of herself–her spirit.”
“Well, I should say that nature has a self and a spirit which must be caught, or else the Chinese would be the greatest artists on the face of the earth.”
“Yes, but why does an archway, or two trees standing up so as to enclose the landscape, or–or any of those things that do to put in the foreground, why do they enable you to make a picture, to catch this self and spirit.”
“Make the phial to enclose the genie,” said Edmund. “Abstruse questions, Marian; but perhaps it is because they contract the space, so as to bring it more to the level of our capacity, make it less grand, and more what we can get into keeping. To be sure, he would be a presumptuous man who tried to make an exact likeness of that,” he added, as they reached the top of the hill, and found themselves on an open common, with here and there a mass of rock peeping up, but for the most part covered with purple heath and short furze, through which Ranger coursed, barking joyously. The view was splendid, on one side the moors rising one behind the other, till they faded in grey distance, each crowned with a fantastic pile of rocks, one in the form of a castle, another of a cathedral, another of a huge crouching lion, all known to the two cousins by name, and owned as familiar friends. On the other side, between two hills, each surmounted by its own rocky crest, lay nestled in woods the grey Church tower and cottages of the village of Fern Torr; and far away stretched the rich landscape of field, wood, and pasture, ending at length in the blue line of horizon, where sky and sea seemed to join.
“Beautiful! how clear!” was all Marian’s exclamation, though she drew up her horse and gazed with eager eyes, and a deep feeling of the loveliness of the scene, but with scarcely a remark. There was something in the sight which made her heart too full for words.
After a time of delighted contemplation, Ranger was summoned from a close investigation of a rabbit-hole, and turning into a cart track, the cousins rode down the side of the hill, where presently appeared an orchard full of gnarled old apple trees, covered with fruit of all shades of red, yellow, and green. A little further on were the large stone barns, and picturesque looking house, which enclosed a farm-yard strewn with heaps of straw, in which pigs, poultry, and red cows were enjoying themselves. The gate was opened by a wild-looking cow-boy, who very respectfully touched his cap; and at the house door appeared a nice elderly looking old fashioned farmer’s wife, who came forward to meet them with bright looks of cordiality, and kindly greetings to Master Edmund and Miss Marian.
“Thank you, thank you, Mrs. Cornthwayte,” said Edmund, as he held Marian’s pony; “we are come to ask if you will give our ponies stable room for a couple of hours, while we go fishing up the river.”
“O yes, certainly, sir, but won’t you come in a little while and rest? it is a long walk for Miss Marian.”
They did comply with her invitation so far as to enter the large clean kitchen; the kitchen for show, that is to say, with the sanded floor, the bunch of evergreens in the covered kitchen-range, the dark old fashioned clock, the bright range of crockery, and well polished oaken table; and there, while Marian laid aside her riding-skirt, the good woman commenced her anxious inquiries for Sir Edmund.
“Pretty much the same as usual, thank you,” said Edmund.
“No better, then, sir? Ah! I was afraid how it was; it is so long since I have seen him at church, and he used to come sometimes last summer: and my husband said when he saw him last week about the rent, he was so fallen away that he would hardly have known him.”
“It has been a very long illness,” said Edmund.
“Yes, sir; I do wish we could see him about among us again, speaking as cheerful as he used.”
“Why he is very cheerful now, Mrs. Cornthwayte,” said Edmund. “No one who only heard him talk would guess how much he has to suffer.”
Mrs. Cornthwayte shook her head with a sort of gesture of compassionate admiration, and presently added,
“But do you think he gets better on the whole, Master Edmund? Do the doctors say there is much likelihood of his being well again, and coming among us?”
Edmund looked down and did not reply very readily. “I am afraid we must not hope for that; we must be satisfied as long as he does not lose ground, and I certainly think he has had less pain of late.”
A little more conversation passed between Edmund and the good wife, and a few words from Marian; after which they set off across one or two fields towards the place of their destination, Marian carrying her little sketching-basket in silence for some distance, until she suddenly exclaimed, “Edmund, is papa really getting worse?”
“Why should you think so, Marian?”
“I don’t know, only from what you say when people inquire after him; and sometimes when I come to think about it, I believe he can do less than last year. He gets up later, and does not go out so often, and now you say he will never get quite well, and I always thought he would.”
“No, I am afraid there is no likelihood of that, Marian: the doctors say he may be much better, but never quite well.”
“But do you think he is better?”
“He has had less suffering of late, certainly, and so far we must be thankful; but, as you say, Marian, I am afraid he is weaker than last time I was at home, and I thought him much altered when I came. Still I do not think him materially worse, and I believe I might have thought him improved, if I had been here all the winter.”
Marian became silent again, for her disposition was not to express her feelings readily, and besides, she was young enough to be able to put aside anxiety which, perhaps, she did not fully comprehend. It was the ordinary state of things for her father to be unwell, and his illness scarcely weighed upon her spirits, especially on a holiday and day of pleasure like the present; for though she often shared Edmund’s walks and rides, a long expedition like this was an unusual treat.
After traversing several fields, they entered a winding path through a copse, which, descending a steep hill side, conducted them at length to the verge of a clear stream, which danced over or round the numerous rocks which obstructed its passage, making a pleasant, rippling sound. Here and there under the overhanging trees were deep quiet pools, where the water, of clear transparent brown color, contained numbers of little trout, the object of Edmund’s pursuit. But more frequently the water splashed, dashed, and brawled along its rocky way, at the bottom of the narrow wooded ravine in which the valley ended. It was indeed a beautiful scene, with the sun glancing on the green of the trees and the bright sparkling water; and Marian could scarcely restrain her exclamations of delight, out of consideration for the silence required by her cousin’s sport. She helped him to put his rod together, and arrange his reel, with the dexterity of one who well understood the matter; and then sat down under a fern-covered rock with a book in her hand, whilst he commenced his fishing. As he slowly proceeded up the stream, she changed her place so as to follow him at a distance; now and then making expeditions into the wood at the side of the hill to study some remarkable rock, some tree of peculiar form, or to gather a handsome fern-leaf, or nodding fox-glove with its purple bells. Or the little sketch-book came out, and she caught the form of the rock with a few strokes of bold outline and firm shading, with more power over her soft pencil than is usual at her age, though her foliage was not of the most perfect description. Her own occupations did not, however, prevent her from observing all her cousin’s proceedings; she knew whenever he captured a trout, she was at hand to offer help when his hook, was caught in a bramble, and took full and complete interest in the sport.
At last, after a successful fishing up the glen, they arrived at a place where the ravine was suddenly closed in by a perpendicular rock of about twenty feet in height, down which the water fell with its full proportion of foam and spray, forming a cascade which Marian thought “magnificent,”–Edmund, “very pretty.”
“Edmund, I am afraid the Lake country has spoilt you for Devonshire. I wish they had never sent your regiment to the north!”
“That would not prevent the falls in Westmoreland from being twice the height of this.”
“It would prevent you from saying that here it is not as beautiful as any thing can be.”
“And nothing short of that will satisfy you. You had better stand in a narrow pass, and challenge every passer-by to battle in defence of the beauty of Fern Torr.”
“I don’t care about every body; but you, Edmund, ought to be more dutiful to your own home.”
“You are exclusive, Marian; but come,” and he stuck his rod into the ground, “let us have some of your sandwiches.”
“Not till you confess that you like Fern Torr better than all the fine places that you ever saw.”
“Liking with all one’s heart is one thing, admiring above all others is another, as you will find when you have seen more of the world, Marian.”
“I am sure I shall never think so.”
While this contest was going on, Marian had unpacked some sandwiches and biscuits, and they sat down to eat them with the appetite due to such a walk. Then came a conversation, in which Marian submitted to hear something of the beauties of the Lakes, in the shape of a comment on the “Bridal of Triermain,” which she had brought with her; next an attempt at sketching the cascade, in which Edmund was successful enough to make Marian much discontented with her own performance, and declare that she was tired of sitting still, and had a great mind to try to climb up the rocks by the side of the fall. She was light, active, and well able to scramble, and with a little help here and there from her cousin’s strong hand, the top was merrily gained; and springing along from rock to rock, they traced the windings of the stream even to the end of the copse and the opening of the moor. It was a great achievement for Marian, for even Edmund had only once been this way before when out shooting. She would fain have mounted to the top of a peak which bounded her view, but being assured that she would only find Alps on Alps arise, she submitted to Edmund’s judgment, and consented to retrace her steps, through wood and wild, to Mrs. Cornthwayte’s, where they found a feast prepared for them of saffron buns, Devonshire cream, and cyder. Then mounting their steeds, and releasing Ranger from durance in the stable, they rode homewards for about three miles, when they entered the village in the valley at the foot of the steep rocky hill, from which it was named Fern Torr. Excepting the bare rugged summit, this hill was well covered with wood, and opposite to it rose more gently another elevation, divided into fields and meadows. The little old Church, with its square tower, and the neat vicarage beside it, were the only buildings above the rank of cottages, of which some twenty stood irregularly ranged in their gardens and orchards, along the banks of the bright little stream which bounded the road, at present scarcely large enough to afford swimming space for the numerous ducks that paddled in it; but the width of its stony bed, and the large span of the one-arched bridge that traversed it, showing what was its breadth and strength in the winter floods.
A little beyond this bridge was a wicket gate, leading to a path up the wooded height; and Edmund at this moment seeing a boy in a stable jacket, asked Marian if he should not let him lead the ponies round by the drive, while they walked up the steps. She readily agreed, and Edmund helping her to dismount, they took their way up the path, which after a very short interval led to a steep flight of steps, cut out in the face of the limestone rock, and ascending through ferns, mountain-ash, and rhododendrons for about fifty or sixty feet, when it was concluded by what might be called either a broad terrace or narrow lawn, upon which stood a house irregularly built of the rough stone of the country, and covered with luxuriant myrtles and magnolias. Immediately behind, the ground again rose so precipitously, that scarcely could coign of vantage be won for the garden, on a succession of narrow shelves or ledges, which had a peculiarly beautiful effect, adorned, as they were, with gay flowers, and looking, as Edmund was wont to say, as gorgeous and as deficient in perspective as an old piece of tapestry.
“There is papa out of doors,” exclaimed Marian, as she emerged upon the lawn, and ran eagerly up to a Bath chair, in which was seated a gentleman whose face and form showed too certain tokens of long and wasting illness. He held out his hand to her, saying, “Well, Marian, good sport, I hope, and no more tumbles from Mayflower.”
“Marian sits like a heroine,” said Edmund, coming up; “I am glad to see you out.”
“It is such a fine evening that I was tempted to come and see the magnolia that you have all been boasting of: and really it is worth seeing. Those white blossoms are magnificent.”
“But where is mamma?” asked Marian.
“Carried off by Gerald, to say whether he may have a superannuated sea kale pot for some purpose best known to himself, in his desert island. They will be here again in another minute. There, thank you, Edmund, that is enough,” he added, as his nephew drew his chair out of a streak of sunshine which had just come over him. “Now, how far have you been? I hope you have seen the cascade, Marian?”
“O yes, papa, and scrambled up the side of it too. I had no idea of any thing so beautiful,” said Marian. “The spray was so white and glancing. Oh! I wish I could tell you one half of the beauty of it.”
“I remember well the delight of the first discovery of it,” said Sir Edmund, “when I was a mere boy, and found my way there by chance, as I was shooting. I came up the glen, and suddenly found myself in the midst of this beautiful glade, with the waterfall glancing white in the sun.”
“I wish we could transplant it,” said Edmund; “but after all, perhaps its being so remote and inaccessible is one of its great charms. Ah! young monkey, is it you?” added he, as Gerald, a merry bright-eyed boy of seven years old, came rushing from behind and commenced a romping attack upon him. “Take care, not such a disturbance close to papa.”
“O mamma, we have had the most delightful day!” cried Marian, springing to the side of her mother, who now came forward from the kitchen garden, and whose fair and gentle, but careworn, anxious face, lighted up with a bright sweet smile, as she observed the glow on her daughter’s usually pale cheek, and the light that danced in her dark brown eye.
“I’m glad you have had such a pleasant day, my dear,” said she. “It is very kind in Edmund to be troubled with such a wild goose.”
“Wild geese are very good things in their way,” said Edmund; “water and land, precipice and moor, ’tis all the same to them.”
“And when will you take me, Edmund?” asked Gerald.
“When you have learnt to comport yourself with as much discretion as Marian, master,” said Edmund, sitting down on the grass, and rolling the kicking, struggling boy over and over, while Marian stood by her papa, showing him her sketches, and delighted by hearing him recognize the different spots. “How can you remember them so well, papa,” said she, “when it is so very long since you saw them?”
“That is the very reason,” he answered, “we do not so much dwell on what is constantly before us as when we have long lost sight of it. To be confined to the house for a few years is an excellent receipt for appreciating nature.”
“Yes, because it must make you wish for it so much,” said Marian sadly.
“Not exactly,” said her father. “You cannot guess the pleasure it has often given me to recall those scenes, and to hear you talk of them; just as your mamma likes to hear of Oakworthy.”
“Certainly,” said Lady Arundel. “I have remembered much at poor old Oakworthy that I never thought of remarking at the time I was there. Even flaws in the glass, and cracks in the ceiling have returned upon me, and especially since the house has been pulled down.”
“I cannot think how the natives of an old house can wilfully destroy all their old associations, their heirloooms,” said Edmund.
“Sometimes they have none,” said his aunt.
“Ay,” said Sir Edmund, “when Gerald brings home a fine wife from far away, see what she will say to all our dark passages and corner cupboards, and steps up and steps down.”
“Oh! I shall not be able to bear her if she does not like them,” cried Marian.
“I suppose that was the case with Mrs. Lyddell,” added Sir Edmund, “that she discovered the deficiencies of the old house, as well as brought wherewith to remedy them. He does not look like a man given to change.”
“He has no such feeling for association as these people,” said Lady Arundel, pointing to Edmund and Marian; “he felt his position, in the country raised by her fortune, and was glad to use any means of adding to his consequence.”
“I should like to see more of them. I wish we could ask them to stay here,” said Sir Edmund, with something like a sigh. “But come, had we not better go in? The hungry fishers look quite ready for tea.”
“And now I set thee down to try
How thou canst walk alone.”
Scarcely eight months had passed since the last recorded conversation, when Marian, in a dress of deep mourning, was slowly pacing the garden paths, her eyes fixed on the ground, and an expression of thoughtful sadness on her face. Heavy indeed had been the strokes that had fallen upon her. Before the last summer had closed, the long sufferings of her father had been terminated by one of the violent attacks, which had often been expected to be fatal. Nor was this all that she had to mourn. With winter had come severe colds and coughs; Lady Arundel was seized with an inflammation of the chest, her constitution had been much enfeebled by watching, anxiety, and grief, and in a very few days her children were orphans.
It was the day following the funeral. Mrs. Wortley was staying in the house, as were also the two guardians of the young Sir Gerald Arundel and his sister. These were Mr. Lyddell, a relation of Lady Arundel; and our former acquaintance, Edmund Arundel, in whom, young as he was, his uncle had placed full confidence. He had in fact been entirely brought up by Sir Edmund, and knew no other home than Fern Torr, having been sent thither an orphan in earliest childhood. His uncle and aunt had supplied the place of parents, and had been well rewarded for all they had done for him, by his consistent well doing and completely filial affection for them.
Marian was startled from her musings by his voice close at hand, saying, “All alone, Marian?”
“Gerald is with Jemmy Wortley, somewhere,” she replied, “and I begged Mrs. Wortley and Agnes to go down the village and leave me alone. I have been very busy all the morning, and my head feels quite confused with thoughts!”
“I am glad to have found you,” said Edmund. “I have seen so little of you since I have been here.”
“Yes, you have been always with Mr. Lyddell. When does he go?”
“And you stay longer, I hope?”
“Only till Monday; I wish it was possible to stay longer, but it is something to have a Sunday to spend here.”
“And then I am afraid it will be a long time before we see you again.”
“I hope not; if you are in London, it will be always easier to meet.”
“In London! Ah! that reminds me I wanted to ask you what I am to say to Selina Marchmont. I have a very kind letter from her, asking us to come to stay with her directly, and hoping that it may be arranged for us to live with them.”
“Ah! I have a letter from her husband to the same effect,” said Edmund. “It really is very kind and friendly in them.”
“Exceedingly,” said Marian. “Will you read her letter, and tell me how I am to answer her!”
“As to the visit, that depends upon what you like to do yourself. I should think that you would prefer staying with the Wortleys, since they are so kind as to receive you.”
“You don’t mean,” exclaimed Marian, eagerly, “staying with them for ever!”
Edmund shook his head. “No, Marian, I fear that cannot be.”
“Then it is as I feared,” sighed Marian. “I wonder how it is that I have thought so much about myself; but it would come into my head, what was to become of us, and I was very much afraid of living with the Lyddells; but still there was a little glimmering of hope that you might be able to manage to leave us with the Wortleys.”
“I heartily wish I could,” said Edmund, “but it is out of my power. My uncle–“
“Surely papa did not wish us to live with the Lyddells?” cried Marian.
“I do not think he contemplated your living any where but at home.”
“But the Vicarage is more like home than any other place could ever be,” pleaded Marian, “and papa did not like the Lyddells nearly so well as the Wortleys.”
“We must abide by his arrangements, rather than our own notions of his wishes,” said Edmund. “Indeed, I know that he thought Mr. Lyddell a very sensible man.”
“Then poor Gerald is to grow up away from his own home, and never see the dear old moors! But if we cannot stay here, I had rather be with Selina. She is so fond of Gerald, and she knows what home was, and she knew and loved–them. And we should not meet so many strangers. Only think what numbers of Lyddells there are! Boys to make Gerald rude, and girls, and a governess–all strangers. And they go to London!” concluded poor Marian, reaching the climax of her terrors. “O Edmund, can you do nothing for us?”
“You certainly do not embellish matters in anticipation. You will find them very different from what you expect–even London itself, which, by the by, you would have to endure even if you were with Selina, whom I suspect to be rather too fine and fashionable a lady for such a homely little Devonshire girl.”
“That Mrs. Lyddell will be. She is a very gay person, and they have quantities of company. O Edmund!”
“The quantities of company,” replied her cousin, “will interfere with you far less in your schoolroom with the Miss Lyddells, than alone with my Lady Marchmont, where, at your unrecognized age, you would be in rather an awkward situation.”
“Or I could go to Torquay, to old Aunt Jessie?”
“Aunt Jessie would not be much obliged for the proposal of giving her such a charge.”
“But I should take care of her, and make her life less dismal and lonely.”
“That may be very well some years hence, when you are your own mistress: but at present I believe the trouble and change of habits which having you with her would occasion, would not be compensated by all your attention and kindness. Have you written to her yet?”
“No, I do not know how, and I hoped it was one of the letters that you undertook for me.”
“I think I ought not to relieve you of that. Aunt Jessie is your nearest relation; I am sure this has been a great blow to her, and that it has cost her much effort to write to you herself. You must not turn her letter over to me, like a mere complimentary condolence.”
“Very well,” said Marian, with a sigh, “though I cannot guess what I shall say. And about Selina?”
“You had better write and tell her how you are situated, and I will do the same to Lord Marchmont.”
“And when must we go to the Lyddells? I thought he meant more than mere civility, when he spoke of Oakworthy this morning, at breakfast.”
“He spoke of taking you back to London immediately, but I persuaded him to wait till they go into Wiltshire, so you need not be rooted up from Fern Torr just yet.”
“Thank you, that is a great reprieve.”
“And do not make up your mind beforehand to be unhappy at Oakworthy. Very likely you will take root there, and wonder you ever shrank from being transplanted to your new home.”
“Never! never! it is cruel to say that any place but this can be like home! And you, Edmund, what shall you do, where shall you go, when you have leave of absence?”
“I shall never ask for it,” said he with an effort, while his eye fell on the window of the room which had been his own for so many years, and the thought crossed him, “Mine no more.” It had been his home, as fully as that of his two cousins, but now it was nothing to him; and while they had each other to cling to, he stood in the world a lonely man.
Marian perceived his emotion, but rather than seem to notice it, she assumed a sort of gaiety. “I’ll tell you, Edmund. You shall marry a very nice wife, and take some delightful little house somewhere hereabouts, and we will come and stay with you till Gerald is of age.”
“Which he will be long before I have either house or wife,” said Edmund, in the same tone, “but mind, Marian, it is a bargain, unless you grow so fond of the Lyddells as to retract.”
“Well, I will not strengthen your prejudices by contending with them.”
“Prejudice! to say that I can never be as happy anywhere as at my own dear home! To say that I cannot bear strangers!”
“If they were to remain strangers for all the years that you are likely to spend with them, there might be something in that. But I see you cannot bear to be told that you can ever be happy again, so I will not say so any more, especially as I must finish my letters.”
“And I will try to write mine,” said Marian with a sigh, as she reached the door, and went up to take off her bonnet.
Edmund lingered for a moment in the hall, and there was met by Mrs. Wortley, who said she was glad to see that he had been out, for he was looking pale and harassed. “I did not go out for any pleasant purpose,” said he. “I had to pronounce sentence on poor Marian.”
“Is it finally settled?” said Mrs. Wortley. “We still had hopes of keeping her.”
“Sir Gerald and Miss Arundel are of too much distinction in Mr. Lyddell’s eyes to be left to their best friends,” said Edmund. “It was hard to persuade him not to take possession directly, on the plea of change being good for their spirits.”
“It is very kind of you to put off the evil day,” said Mrs. Wortley; “it will be a grievous parting for poor Agnes.”
“A grievous business for every one,” said Edmund.
“How? Do not you think well of Mr. and Mrs. Lyddell?”
“I know my uncle never thought of these poor children’s living with them. He thought Mr. Lyddell a good man of business, but neither he nor my aunt ever dreamed of such a home for them.”
“Would they have preferred Lady Marchmont’s? Marian is very fond of her, and was much gratified by a very nice affectionate letter that she received this morning.”
“Yes, but I am glad she is out of the question. It is offering a great deal both on her part and her husband’s to take charge of these two, but it would never do. She is almost a child herself,–a bride and beauty under twenty,–excessively admired, very likely to have her head turned. No, it would be too absurd. All her kindness, amiability, desire to make Marian her friend and companion, would only serve to do harm.”
“Yes, you are right; yet I cannot help half wishing it could be, if it was only to save poor Marian her terrors of going among strangers.”
“I know exactly how it will be,” said Edmund. “She will shut herself up in a double proof case of shyness and reserve. They will never understand her, nor she them.”
“But that cannot go on for ever.”
“No; and perhaps it might be better if it could.”
“Well, but do you really know anything against them? He seems inclined to be very kind and considerate.”
“Electioneering courtesy,” said Edmund. “But now you begin to question me, I cannot say that my–my mistrust shall I call it–or aversion? is much better founded than the prejudices I have been scolding poor Marian for. Perhaps it is only that I am jealous of them, and cannot think any one out of Fern Torr worthy to bring up my uncle’s children. All I know of them is, that Mrs. Lyddell was heiress to a rich banker, she goes out a good deal in London, and the only time that I met her I thought her clever and agreeable. In their own county I believe she is just what a popular member’s wife should be–I don’t mean popular in the sense of radical. I think I have heard too something about the eldest son not turning out well; but altogether, you see, I have not grounds enough to justify any opposition to their desire of having the children.”
“How are they as to Church principles?”
“That I really cannot tell. I should think they troubled themselves very little about the matter, and would only dislike any thing strong either way. If my aunt had but been able to make some arrangement! No doubt it was upon her mind when she asked so often for me!”
“Yes, but there is this comfort,” said Mrs. Wortley, seeing him much troubled, “that she did not seem to make herself anxious and restless on their account. She trusted them, and so may we.”
“Yes, that is all that one can come to,” said Edmund, sighing deeply. “But Gerald! One pities Marian the most now, but it is a more serious matter for him.”
“Gerald will be more in your power than his sister,” said Mrs. Wortley.
“As if that was much comfort,” said Edmund, half smiling, then again sighing, “when even for my own concerns I miss my uncle’s advice at every turn. And probably I may have to go on foreign service next year.”
“Then he will be at school.”
“Yes. He was not to have gone till he was ten years old, but I shall try to hasten it now. He must go with his sister to Oakworthy though, for to begin without him there would be complete desolation in her eyes.”
Here the conversation was concluded by Marian’s coming down to write her painfully composed letters. That to her cousin, Lady Marchmont, who, as Selina Grenville, had been a frequent and favourite visitor at the manor, ran glibly enough off the pen, and the two or three quiet tears that blotted the paper, fell from a feeling of affection rather than of regret; but the letter to old Mrs. Jessie Arundel, her great aunt, and one or two others which Edmund had desired her to write, were works of time. Marian’s feelings were seldom freely expressed even to those whom she loved best, and to write down expressions of grief, affection, or gratitude, as a matter of course, was positively repugnant to her.
The great work was not finished till late, and then came in Gerald and Agnes, and the tea drinking among themselves was rendered cheerful by Agnes’ anticipations of pleasure in their going the next day to the parsonage for a long visit. Gerald began to play with her, and soon got into quite high spirits, and Marian herself had smiled, nay, almost laughed, before the gentlemen came in from the dining room, when the presence of Mr. Lyddell cast over her a cloud of dull dread and silence, so that she did not through the rest of the evening raise her head three inches from her book.
Yet as Mrs. Wortley had said, Mr. Lyddell was evidently inclined to be kind to her and her brother. He patted Gerald on the head as he wished him good night, and said good-naturedly to Marian that she must be great friends with his girls, Caroline and Clara.
Marian tried to look civil, but could not find an answer both sincere and polite, and Mrs. Wortley, speaking for her, asked if they were nearly of the same age as she was.
“Well, I can’t exactly tell,” said Mr. Lyddell. “I should think she was between them. You are thirteen, aren’t you, Marian? Well, Caroline may be a couple of years older, and Clara–I know her birthday was the other day, for I had to make her a present,–but how old she was I can’t exactly recollect, whether it was twelve or thirteen. So you see you will not want for companions at Oakworthy, and you will be as happy there as your poor mamma used to be in the old house. Many was the laugh she has had there with my poor sister, and now they are both gone–well, there, I did not mean to overset you,–but–“
Marian could not bear it. She could talk of her mother to Mrs. Wortley, Agnes, or Edmund, with complete composure, but she could not bear Mr. Lyddell’s hearty voice trying, as she thought, at sentiment, and forcing the subject upon her, and without a word or a look she hurried out of the room, and did not come back all the evening. Agnes followed her, and pitied her, and thought Mr. Lyddell should have said nothing of the kind, and sat down over the fire with her in her own room to read hymns.
The next day Mr. Lyddell left Fern Torr, and Marian was so glad to gee him depart as to be able to endure much better his invitations to Oakworthy. That same day Marian and Gerald went to the parsonage, and Edmund, after spending a quiet Sunday at Fern Torr, bade them farewell on the Monday morning.
“Where once we dwelt our name is heard no more, Children not thine ‘may tread’ my nurseryfloor.”
The way of life at Fern Torr parsonage was so quiet as to afford few subjects for narration. Mrs. Wortley was a gentle, sensible person, very fond of Marian and Gerald, both for their own sake and their mother’s, and to be with her was to them as like being at home as anything could be. Agnes was quite wrapped up in her friend, whom she pitied so heartily, and was to lose so soon. She had known no troubles except through Marian, she reverenced Marian’s griefs, and in her respect for them was inclined to spoil her not a little. Then, through nothing against the Lyddells had ever been said to Agnes, she had caught all Marian’s prejudiced dislike to them, and sometimes in lively exaggeration, sometimes in grave condolence, talked of them “as these horrid people.”
Marian felt every day was precious as it passed, and the time seemed to her far less than two months, when one day there arrived a letter from Mrs. Lyddell to announce that the family were about to leave London, and in the course of a week Mr. Lyddell would come to fetch her and Gerald to Oakworthy.
The letter was kindly expressed, but this was lost upon Marian in the pain its purport gave her, and the difficulty of composing an answer. She chose her smallest sheet of writing-paper with the deepest black edge, wrote as widely as she could, and used the longest words, but with all Mrs. Wortley’s suggestions, she could not eke out what she had to say beyond the first page. She would not even send her love to her cousins, for she said she could have no particular affection for them, and to express any pleasure in the prospect of seeing so many strangers would be an actual untruth.
What a week was that which followed! Marian loved her home with that enthusiasm which especially belongs to the inhabitants of mountainous districts, and still more acutely did she feel the separation from all that reminded her of her parents. If she had not had Gerald to go with her she did not know how she could have borne it, but Gerald, her own beautiful brother, with his chestnut curls, dark bright eyes, sweet temper, and great cleverness and goodness, he must be a comfort to her wherever she was. Gerald was one of those children who seem to have a peculiar atmosphere of bright grace and goodness around them, who make beautiful earnest sayings in their simplicity which are treasured up by their friends, who, while regarding them with joy and something like veneration, watch them likewise with fear and trembling. Thus had his mother looked upon Gerald, and thus in some degree did Mrs. Wortley; but Marian had nothing but pride, joy, and confidence in him, unalloyed save now and then by the secret, half superstitious fear that such goodness might mark him for early death.
By Marian’s own especial desire, she went to almost every cottage to take leave, but all she could do was to stand with her head averted and her lips compressed, while Mrs. Wortley spoke for her. Her next task was to look over the boxes and drawers at the manor house, in case it should be let; for no one else could be trusted to decide what hoards of highly prized trifles should be locked up, and what must be thrown away. She alone could choose the little keepsakes to be given to old servants and village friends, and she must select what she would take to Oakworthy.
She stood lingering before each picture, viewing the old familiar furniture with loving eyes, and sighing at the thought that strangers would alter the arrangements, look carelessly or critically on her father’s portrait, think her wild garden a collection of weeds, and root up the flowering fern which Edmund had helped her to transplant. She went into her own room, and felt almost ready to hate the person who might occupy it; she lay down on the bed, and looking up at the same branch of lime tree, and the same piece of sky which had met her eyes every morning, she mused there till she was roused by hearing Gerald’s voice very loud in the nursery. Hastening thither, she found him insisting that his collection of stones and spars was much too precious to mend the roads with, as their maid Saunders proposed, and Agnes settling the matter satisfactorily by offering to take them to adorn a certain den in the vicarage garden with. The ponies were to be turned out to grass, the rabbits were bestowed on James Wortley, and Ranger was to be kept at the vicarage till Edmund could come and fetch him, together with his books, which Marian had to look out, and she found it a service of difficulty, since “Edmund Gerald” could scarcely be said to answer the purpose of a proper name in the Arundel family.
The last day at home arrived, the eve of S. James. Marian went to prepare her class at the weekly school, resolved to do just as usual to the last. She had to read them the conversation on S. James’s Day in “Fasts and Festivals,” but she could hardly get through with it, the separation between early friends reminded her so much of herself and Agnes, and then the comparison of the two roads, one in burning and scorching sunshine, the other in the cool fresh shade, almost overset her, for though she could not tell why, she chose to be persuaded that the first must be hers. But they both ended in the same place. She felt tears coming into her eyes, but she kept them down, and went on reading in a steady monotonous voice, as if the meaning was nothing to her; she asked the children questions in a dry, grave, matter-of-fact way, as if she had not the slightest interest in them or in the subject, though her heart was full of affection to the dullest and roughest among them, and when she went away, her nod, and “well, good morning,” to the school mistress were several shades further from warmth than usual.
All the way back from the school she was eagerly telling Agnes exactly the point where she left each child in her class, and begging her to say the kind things which she meant to have said to Grace Knight, the mistress.
Agnes laughed and said, “I hope she will take my word for it all. Why could you not speak to her? At least I thought you were not afraid of her.”
“I don’t know,” said Marian. “I thought I could, but it is very odd. You see, Agnes, how it is; the more I care, the more I can’t speak, and I can’t help it.”
“Well, don’t be unhappy about it,” said Agnes. “I know what you mean, and am ready to take you as you are, and if other people don’t, it is their own fault.”
Agnes was rather too fond of Marian to be exactly right here, for it was not at all a good thing that she should be encouraged in a reserve which led her not always to do as she would be done by.
The two girls came in, lingered in each other’s rooms while they dressed, and at last were called down stairs by Mrs. Wortley, who was ready to finish with them the last chapter of the book they had been reading aloud together. Gerald sat in the window, his friend Jemmy hanging over him, and the two together composing a marvellous battlepiece, in which Gerald drew horses, men, cannon, and arrows, and Jemmy, like a small Homer, suggested the various frightful wounds they should be receiving, and the attitudes in which they should fall. The general, with a tremendous Turkish sabre, an immense cocked hat, and a horse with very stiff legs, was just being represented receiving an unfortunate-looking prisoner, considerably spotted with vermillion paint, when a sound of wheels was heard, and both boys starting up, exclaimed, “Here he comes!”
He, as Marian knew full well, was Mr. Lyddell; and a chilliness came over her as he entered, tall, broad, ruddy, treading heavily, and speaking loudly: and Gerald pressed close to her, squeezing her hand so tight that she could hardly withdraw it to shake hands with her guardian. With one hand he held her cold reluctant fingers, with the other gave Gerald’s head a patronizing pat. “Well, my dears, how d’ye do? quite well? and ready to start with me to-morrow? That is right. Caroline and Clara have had their heads full of nothing but you this long time–only wanted to have come with me.”
Here Marian succeeded in drawing back her hand, and retreated to the window; Gerald was creeping after her, but Mr. Lyddell laid hold of his chin, and drew him back, saying. “What, shy, my man? we shall cure you at Oakworthy My boys will give you no peace if they see you getting into your sister’s pocket.”
Gerald disengaged himself, and made a rapid retreat. It was a long time before he again appeared, and when Mrs. the housekeeper at the Manor House, came down in the course of the evening to say good-bye, she said, “And ma’am, where do you think I found that dear child, Sir Gerald, not two hours ago?” She wiped away a gush of tears, and went on. “I thought I heard a noise in the drilling room, and went to see, and there, ma’am, was the dear little fellow lying on the floor, the bare boards, for the carpet is taken up, you know, Miss Marian, before his papa’s picture, crying and sobbing as if his heart would break. But as soon as I opened the door, and he saw me, he snatched up his hat, and jumped out at the open window, which he had come in by, I suppose, for I never heard him open the door.”
Marian, after her usual fashion, had no reply, but it was pleasant to her to think of what had taken place, since Gerald had not in general shown much concern at the leaving home.
They all met at breakfast next morning; Marian, was firmly determined against crying, and by dint of squeezing up her lips, and not uttering a word, succeeded in keeping her resolution; but poor Agnes could eat no breakfast, and did nothing but cry, till Mr. Lyddell, by saying that her tears were a great honour both to herself and Marian, entirely checked them.
“I hope,” said Mr. Wortley, “that Mrs. Lyddell will not be very strict in inquiring into the quantity of Marian’s idle correspondence. The friends there mean to console themselves with multitudes of letters.”
“Oh, certainly, certainly,” said Mr. Lyddell. “Old friends for ever! So mind, Marian, I mean to be very angry if you forget to write to Miss Wortley.”
“Thank you,” said Marian, knowing that she was saying something silly, and trying to smile.
“Come, then,” said Mr. Lyddell, “thank your friends once more for their kindness, and let us be going.”
Thanks from Marian were out of the question, and she tried to get out of hearing of the sentences beginning, “I am sure we shall always be sensible,” “Nothing could be kinder,” which her guardian was pouring out. She moved with Agnes to the door: the summer sky was deeply blue, without a cloud, the fresh green branches of the trees stood up against it as if bathed in light, the flower beds were glowing with gay blossoms, Gerald and Jemmy were playing with Ranger under the verandah, and the Church bells rang cheerfully for morning service, but alas! at the gate was the carriage, Saunders sitting sobbing on the outside, and David Chapple, Mr. Wortley’s man, standing on one leg on the step talking to her. Near at hand was the gardener from the Manor House, waiting with his hands full of Miss Arundel’s favourite flowers, and there stood old Betty Lapthorn and her grandchild, Gerald’s nurse who had married, and the old man to whom the children had so often carried the remains of their dinner; all the school children too, and Grace in the middle of them, waiting for the last view of Miss Arundel and little Sir Gerald.
Mr. Lyddell finished his acknowledgments, and Marian and her brother received an embrace and good-bye from their friends, David jumped down and shut the door, Saunders sobbed aloud, there was another good-bye from each of the Wortleys, and a hearty response from Gerald, Mr. Lyddell called out, “All right,” and away they went.
On went the carriage, past the Church, with its open door and pealing bell, the rocky steps up to the Manor House, nestled in the shrubs, the well known trees, the herds of longhorned, red cattle, the grey stone cottages, and the women and tiny children at the doors, the ford through the sparkling shallow brook, the hill with the great limestone quarry, the kiln so like a castle, the river and its bridge of one narrow, high pitched, ivy grown arch, the great rod rock, remembered as having been the limit of papa’s last drive, the farm house in the winding valley beyond, with its sloping orchard and home field, the last building in the parish. They drove through the little market town, slowly wound up the heights beyond, looked down into the broad, beautiful space where the river Exe winds its blue course amid wood, field, and castled hill, descended, losing sight of the last of the Torrs, glanced at Exeter and its Cathedral, arrived at the station, and there, while waiting hand in hand on the platform, gazing at the carriage, and starting at each puff, snort, cough, and shriek of the engines, Marian and Gerald did indeed feel themselves severed from the home of their childhood.
It was not till the afternoon that they left the railroad, and then they had a two hours’ drive through a country which Marian found very unlike her own: the bleak, bare downs of Wiltshire, low green hills rising endlessly one after the other, the white road visible far away before them, the chalk pits white and cold, a few whitey brown ponds now and then, and at long intervals a farm house, looking as if it had been set down there by mistake, and did not like it, carts full of chalk, and flocks of sheep the chief moving objects they met, and not many of them.
Marian sighed, yawned, and looked at Gerald many a time before they at length came to a small, very neat-looking town, where the houses stood far back from the street, and had broad clean pavement in front of them. “This is Oakworthy,” said Mr. Lyddell, and Marian looked with interest. The church was just outside the town, white, and clean looking, like everything else, and with a spire. That was all she could see, for they drove on by the side of a long park wall, enclosing a fir plantation. The gate of a pretty lodge was thrown back, and they entered upon a gravelled carriage-road, which, after some windings, led to a large house, built of white brick, regular and substantial. They stopped under the portico at the door, and Mr. Lyddell, as he handed Marian out of the carriage, exclaimed, “Welcome to Oakworthy Park!”
It seemed to Marian that there was a whole crowd waiting for her in the hall, and she had received at least three kisses before she had time to look around her, and perceive that this formidable troop consisted of a tall, fresh-coloured lady, two girls, and two little boys. Each of the girls eagerly grasped one of her hands, and drew her into the drawing-room, exclaiming, “I am glad you are come!” Here were two more strangers, youths of the age at which their juniors call them men, and their seniors, boys. They did not trouble the guests with any particular demonstrations of welcome, only shaking hands with them carelessly, and after another moment or two Marian found herself sitting on a chair, very stiffly and upright, while Gerald stood about two feet from her, afraid of a second accusation of getting into her pocket, looking down, and twisting the handles of her basket.
“Lionel, Johnny,” said Mrs. Lyddell, “have you nothing to say to your cousin? Come here, my dear, and tell me, were you very sorry to leave Fern Torr?”
Gerald coloured and looked at his sister, who replied by a hesitating, faltering, “Yes, very.”
“Ah! yes, I see,” said Mrs. Lyddell, “but you will soon be at home here. It shall not be my fault or your cousins’ if you are not,–eh, Caroline?”
“Indeed it shall not,” returned Caroline, again taking Marian’s hand, at first pressing it cordially, but letting it go on feeling the limp, passive fingers, which were too shy and frightened to return the pressure.
Mr. Lyddell came in, and while his wife was engaged in speaking to him, Marian had time to make her observations, for the chilling embarrassment of her manner had repelled the attentions of her cousins. Though she had never seen them before, she knew enough about them to be able to fit the names to the persons she saw before her, and make a few conjectures as to how she would like them.
That youth in the odd-looking, rough, shapeless coat, yet with a certain expensive, fashionable air about the rest of his dress, who stood leaning against the chimney-piece in a nonchalant attitude, was her eldest cousin, Elliot Lyddell. The other, a great contrast in appearance, small, slender, and pale, with near-sighted spectacles over his weak, light grey eyes, dressed with scrupulous precision and quietness, who had retreated to the other end of the room and taken up a book, was Walter. The elder girl, Caroline, was about fifteen, a very pleasing likeness of her mother, with a brilliant complexion, bright blue eyes, and a remarkably lively and pleasant smile, which Marian was so much taken with, that she wished she could have found something to say, but the dress and air both gave her the appearance of being older than Agnes, and thus made Marian feel as if she was a great way above and beyond her. The other sister had a fair, pretty face, much more childish, with beautiful glossy light hair, and something sweet and gentle in her expression, and Marian felt warmly towards her because she was her mother’s god-child, and bore the same name.
The younger boys, Lionel and John, were nice-looking little fellows of nine and seven. They had drawn towards Walter, gazing all the time at Gerald, and all parties were rejoiced when Mrs. Lyddell, after a few more attempts at conversation, proposed to take the guests to their rooms.
With a light, quick step, she led the way up two staircases and a long passage, to a good-sized, comfortable room intended for Marian, while Gerald’s was just opposite. With a civil welcome to Saunders, kind hopes that Marian would make herself at home, and information that dinner would he ready at seven, she left the room, and Saunders proceeded with the young lady’s toilette. Gerald stood gazing from the window at the trees and little glimpse of the town in the distance. He said little, and seemed rather forlorn till leave was given him to unpack some goods which he could not easily damage. Just as Marian was dressed, there was a knock at the door, and without waiting for an answer, Caroline and Clara entered, the former saying, “I hope you find everything comfortable: you see we make you quite at home, and stand on no ceremony.”
It was pleasantly said, but Marian only gave a constrained smile, and answered, “Thank you,” in such an awkward, cold way, that Caroline was thrown back. Her sister, only conscious of freedom from the restraints of the drawing-room, began exclaiming in short sentences, “O what a pretty basket! so you have out your work already! what a lovely pattern! how quick you have been in dressing! we came to see how you were getting on. O what is this pretty box? do let me see.”
“A work-box,” said Marian, by no means disposed to turn out all the small treasures it contained for Clara’s inspection.–Caroline perceived this, and said with a little reproof to Clara,
“You curious child! Perhaps Marian would like to come and see the schoolroom before going down.”
“Oh, yes,” said Clara; “you must come. You have not seen Miss Morley yet,–our governess,–poor, unfortunate, faithful Morley, as we always call her.”
This manner of mentioning the governess, and before Saunders too, greatly surprised Marian, and she felt little inclination to face another stranger; but she could think of no valid objection, and allowed herself and Gerald to be conducted down one of the flights of stairs into a passage less decorated than the rest of the house. Clara threw open a door, calling out, “Here they are!” and Marian found herself in the presence of a little, nicely dressed lady, who looked very little older than Caroline, and had a very good-natured face. Coming forward with a smile, she said, “Miss Arundel, I believe. I hope you are quite well, and not tired. Sir Gerald, how d’ye do? We shall be good friends, I am sure.”
Gerald shook hands, and Marian thought she ought to do so too; but it had not been her first impulse, and it was too late, so she only made a stiff bend of head and knee. Clara, happily unconscious of the embarrassment with which Marian had infected Caroline, went on talking fast and freely:
“So, you see, this is the schoolroom. There is Caroline’s desk, and here is mine; and we have made room for you here. I suppose you have a desk. And here are all our books, and our chiffonnière; Caroline has one side and I the other. Oh, I must show you my last birthday presents. Ah! aren’t we lucky to have got such a nice view of the terrace and the portico from here! We can always see the people coming to dinner, and when the gentlemen go out riding, it is such fun, and–“
“My dear Clara,” interposed Miss Morley, seeing Marian’s bewildered looks, “your cousin is not used to such a chatterbox. I assure you, Miss Arundel, that Clara has been quite wild for the last week with the prospect of seeing you. I have actually not known what to do with her.”
Marian gave one of her awkward smiles, and said nothing.
“You left Devonshire this morning, I think?” said Miss Morley.
“Yes, we did.”
“Fern Torr is in a very beautiful part of the country, is it not?”
They were getting on at this rate when Mrs. Lyddell came in, and took Marian and Gerald down to the drawing-room with her, as it was almost dinner time. No sooner had the door closed behind them, than governess and pupils at once exclaimed, “How pale!” “how shy!” “how awkward!”
“I dare say that is only shyness,” said Caroline, “but I must say I never saw anything so stiff and chilly.”
“Yes, that she is,” said Clara, “but it’s only shyness; I am sure she is a dear girl. But how white she is! I thought she would have been pretty, because they say the Arundels are all so handsome.”
“She has fine eyes,” said Miss Motley; “and that dear little Sir Gerald, I am sure we shall all be in love with him.”
“Well, I hope we may get on better in time,” said Caroline, taking up a book, and settling herself in a most luxurious attitude in spite of the unaccommodating furniture of the schoolroom.
Marian recovered a little at dinner, and was not quite so monosyllabic in her replies. Her netting was a great resource when she went into the drawing-room after dinner, and she began to feel a little less rigid and confused, made some progress in acquaintance with Clara, and when she went to bed was not without hopes of, in time, liking both her and Caroline very much.
“A place where others are at home,
But all are strange to me.”
Marian began the next morning by wondering what a Sunday at Oakworthy would be like, but she was glad the formidable first meeting was over, and greeted Gerald cheerfully when he came into the room.
After a few minutes a bell rang, and Marian, thinking it must be for family prayers, hastened into the passage, wondering at herself for not having asked last night where she was to go. She was glad to meet Caroline coming out of her room, and after quickly exchanging a “good morning,” she said, “Was that the bell for prayers?”
“No, it was for the servants’ breakfast,” said Caroline “and for ours in the schoolroom too.”
“But don’t you have prayers in the morning?” said Gerald,
“No,” answered Caroline gravely.
“Why not,” the little boy was beginning but Marian pressed his hand to check him, shocked herself, and sorry for Caroline’s sake that the question had been asked.
Caroline spoke rather hurriedly, “I wish we could, but you see papa is out so often, and there are so many people staying here sometimes: and in London, papa is so late at the House–it is very unlucky, but it would not do, it is all so irregular.”
“What?” said Clara, hopping down stairs behind them. “O, about prayers! We have not had any in the school room since Miss Cameron’s time.”
“Miss Cameron used to read a chapter and pray with us afterwards,” said Caroline; “but when she was gone, mamma said she did not like the book she used.”
“Besides, it was three quarters out of her own head, and that wasn’t fair, for she used to go on such a monstrous time,” said Clara.
“Hush, Clara,” said her sister, “and mamma has never found a book she does think quite fit.”
“There’s the Prayer Book,” said Gerald.
“O that is only for Church,” said Clara, opening the schoolroom door; “O she is not here! Later than ever. Well, Marian, what do you think of her?”
“Of whom?” asked Marian.
“Of poor unfortunate faithful Morley,” said Clara.
“You call her so after Queen Anne?”
“Yes,” said Caroline, “and you will see how well the name suits her when you are fully initiated.”
“But does she like it?”
“Like it?” and Clara fell into a violent fit of laughing, calling out to Lionel, who just then came in, “Here is Marian asking if we call Miss Morley ‘poor unfortunate’ whenever we speak to her.”
“She is coming,” said Lionel, and Clara sunk her boisterous laughter into a titter, evident enough to occasion Miss Morley to ask what made them so merry, but the only answer she received was from Lionel, “Something funny,” and then both he and Clara burst out again into laughter, his open, and hers smothered.
Marian looked amazed. “Ah! you are not used to such ways,” said the governess; “Clara and Lionel are sometimes sad creatures.”
Breakfast took a very long time, and before it was quite over, Mrs. Lyddell came in, spoke in her rapid, good-natured tone to Marian and Gerald, and remarked rather sharply to Miss Morley that she thought they grew later and later every Sunday. Nevertheless, no one went on at all the faster after she was gone. Miss Morley continued her talk with Caroline and Clara about some young friends of theirs in London, and Lionel and Johnny went on playing tricks with their bread and butter, accompanied by a sort of secret teasing of Clara. Nothing brought them absolutely to a conclusion till one of the servants appeared in order to take away the things, and unceremoniously bore away John’s last piece of bread and cup of tea.
Johnny looked up at the man and made a face at him; Miss Morley shook her head, and Caroline said, “How can you be so naughty, Johnny? it serves you quite right, and I only wish it happened every morning.”
“Come, Gerald, and see the ponies,” said Lionel.
“My dears,” said Miss Morley, “you know your mamma never likes you to go out before Church especially to the stables; you only get hot, and you make us late with waiting for you.”
“Nobody asked you to wait for us,” said John. “Come, Gerald.”
“No, I see Sir Gerald is a good little boy, and is coming steadily with us,” said Miss Morley.
“Yes, Gerald, do,” said Marian.
“There will be plenty of time by and by,” said Gerald, sitting down again.
“O very well,” said John. “Well, if you won’t, I will; I want to see Elliot’s colt come in from exercising, and he will be sure to be there himself now.”
Lionel and Johnny ran off, Caroline looked distressed, and went out into the passage leaving the door open. Walter was coming along it, and as she met him, she said, “Walter, the boys are off to the stable again; we shall have just such a fuss as we had last Sunday if you cannot stop them. Is Elliot there again?”
“I am afraid he is,” said Walter.
“Then there is no chance!” said Caroline, retreating; but at that moment Lionel and John came clattering down from their own distant abode at the top of the house. “Who likes to walk with me through, the plantations to Church?” said Walter; “I was coming to ask if you liked to show that way to Gerald.”
Lionel and John, who had a real respect for Walter, thought it best to keep silence on their disobedient designs, and accept the kind offer. Gerald gladly joined them, and off they set. Miss Morley, Caroline, and Clara, had all gone different ways, and Marian remained, leaning her forehead against the window, thinking what her own dear Sunday-school class were doing at Fern Torr, and feeling very disconsolate. She had stood in this manner for some minutes when Clara came to tell her it was time to prepare for Church, followed her to her room, and contrived to make more remarks on her dress than Marian could have thought could possibly have been bestowed on a plain black crape bonnet and mantle.
Through all the rather long walk, Clara still kept close to her, telling who every one was, and talking incessantly, till she felt almost confused, and longed for the quietness of the church. Mr. Lyddell’s pew was a high, square box, curtained round, with a table and a stove, so that she hardly felt as if she was in church, and she was surprised not to see Elliot Lyddell there.
They had to walk quickly back after the service, dine hurriedly, and then set off again for the afternoon service. Miss Morley sighed, and said that the second long hot walk almost killed her, and she went so slowly that the schoolroom party all came in late. They found no one in the pew but Mrs. Lyndell and Walter, and Marian once more sighed and wondered.
On coming home, Miss Morley went in to rest, but as it was now cool and pleasant, her pupils stayed out a little longer to show the park and garden. They were very desirous of making the Arundels admire all they saw, and Lionel and John were continually asking, “Have you anything like that at Fern Torr?”
Gerald, jealous for the honor of home, was magnificent in his descriptions, and unconscious that he was talking rhodomontade. According to him, his park took in a whole mountain, his house was quite as large and much handsomer than Mr. Lyddell’s, the garden was like the hanging gardens of Babylon, and greenhouses were never wanted there, for “all sorts of things” would grow in the open air. His cousins were so amazed that they would hardly attend to Marian’s explanations, and thought her description of the myrtle, which reached to the top of the house, as fabulous as his hanging gardens.
“And, Marian, what do you think of this place?” asked Clara.
After some pressing, the following reply was extracted:–“It is so shut in with fir-trees, but I suppose you want them to hide the town, and there is nothing to see if they were away.”
“O Marian!” said Caroline, “when we showed you the beautiful view over the high gate.”
“But there was no hill, and no wood, and no water.”
“Did you not see Oakworthy Hill?”
“That tame green thing!” said Marian.
“The truth is,” said Johnny, “that she likes it the best all the time, only she won’t own it.”
“Nonsense, Johnny,” replied Lionel, “every one likes their own home best, and I like Marian for not pretending to be polite and nonsensical.”
“And I tell you,” said Gerald, “that you never saw anything so good as my Manor house in your whole life.”
Here they went in, and Marian gently said to Gerald as they came into her room, “I wish you would not say _my_, Gerald, it seems like boasting. My park–my house–“
Gerald hung his head, and the colour came deeply into his cheeks. “Marian,” said he, “you know how I wish it wasn’t mine now,” and the tears were in his eyes. “But they boast over me, and they ought not, for I’m Sir–“
“Oh! hush, Gerald. You used never to like to hear yourself called so, because it put you in mind–. Yes, I know they boast; but this is not the way to stop them, it only makes them go on; and what does it signify to you? it does not make this place really better than home.”
“Yes, but I want them to know it.”
“But you should not want to set yourself up above them. If you don’t answer, and, let them say what nonsense they please, it would be the best way, and the right way, and so you would humble yourself, which is what we must all do Gerald.”
Gerald was silenced, but looked dissatisfied; however, there was no more time to talk, for Clara came to say that tea was almost ready, and Marian rang for Saunders. Gerald looked as if he was meditating when first they sat down to tea, and after some little time he abruptly began, “I don’t like your church at all. It is just like a room, and nobody makes any noise.”
“Nobody makes any noise,” repeated Caroline, smiling; “is that Fern Torr fashion?”
“I do not mean exactly a noise,” said Gerald, “but people read their verse of the psalm, and say Amen, and all that, quite loud. They don’t leave it all to the clerk in his odd voice.”
Lionel mimicked the clerk so drolly, that in spite of “Don’t, my dear,” and “O! Lionel,” nobody could help laughing; and Johnny added an imitation of the clerk at their church in London. After the mirth was over, Gerald went on, “Why does not every one say Amen here?”
“Like so many charity children,” said Lionel, with a nasal drawl.
“No, indeed!” cried Gerald, indignantly; “Edmund does it, and everybody.”
“Everybody! as if you could tell, who never went to church in your life, except at that little poky place,” said Johnny,
Gerald’s colour rose, but Marian’s eye met his, and he remembered what she had said, and answered quietly, “I don’t know whether Fern Torr is poky, but it is a place where people are taught to behave well.”
“Capital, Gerald, excellent!” cried Caroline, laughing heartily, “that is a hit, Lionel, for you!” while Gerald looked round him, amazed at the applause with which his speech, made in all simplicity, was received.
As soon as tea was over, Miss Morley called Lionel and John to repeat the Catechism, and added doubtfully, “Perhaps Sir Gerald would rather wait for next Sunday.”
“O no, thank you,” said Marian, “we always say it.”
“You need not, Marian,” said Caroline, “we never do, only it would be so troublesome for the boys to have to learn it at school.”
“I should like to say it if Miss Morley has no objection,” said Marian.
“Oh! yes, certainly,” was the answer. “See, Lionel, there is an example for you.”
Marian and Gerald stood upright, with their hands behind them, just as they had stood every Sunday since they could speak; Lionel was astride on the music stool, spinning round and round, and Johnny balancing himself with one leg on the floor, and one hand on the window sill. When the first question was asked, the grave voice that replied, “Edmund Gerald,” was drowned in a loud shout–
“Jack Lyddell, Jack Lyddell,
Shall play on the fiddle”–
evidently an old worn out joke, brought to life again in the hope of making the grave cousins laugh, instead of which they stood aghast. Miss Morley only said imploringly, “Now, Johnny, my dear boy, _do_,” and proceeded to the next question. Throughout the two boys were careless and painfully irreverent, and the governess, annoyed and ashamed, hurried on as fast as she could, in order to put an end to the unpleasant scene. When it was over she greatly admired the correctness of Gerald’s answers, seeming to think it extraordinary that he should not have made a single mistake; whereas Marian would have been surprised if he had. Gerald whispered to his sister as they went down to the drawing-room, “Would it not be fun to see what Mr. Wortley would say to Lionel and Johnny, if he had them in his class?”
On Monday, Marian and Gerald began to fall into the habits of the place, and to learn the ways of their cousins, though it was many years before they could be said really to understand them.
Of their guardian himself, they found they should see very little, for their four schoolroom companions, his own children, had but little intercourse with him. Sometimes, indeed, Johnny, who enjoyed the privileges of the youngest, would make a descent upon him, and obtain some pleasure or some present, or at least a game of play; and sometimes Lionel fell into great disgrace, and was brought to him for reproof, but Caroline and Clara only saw him now and then in the evening, and never seemed to look to him as the friend and approver that Marian thought all fathers were. As to Miss Morley, she had only spoken twice to him since she had been in the house.
Mrs. Lyddell seemed supreme in everything at home. She was quick, active, and clever, an excellent manager, nor was she otherwise than very kind in word and deed; and Marian could by no means understand the cause of the mixture of dread and repugnance with which she regarded her. Perhaps it was, that though not harsh, her manner wanted gentleness; her tones were not soft, and she would cut off answers before they were half finished. Her bright, clear, cold, blue eye had little of sympathy in it, and every look and tone showed that she expected implicit obedience, to commands, which were far from unpleasant in themselves, though rendered ungracious by the want of softness and mildness with which they were given. Marian often wondered, apart from the principle, how her cousins, and even Miss Morley, could venture to disregard orders given in that decided manner; but she soon perceived that they trusted to Mrs. Lyddell’s multifarious occupations, which kept her from knowing all their proceedings with exactness, and left them a good deal at liberty.
Marian was disposed to like Miss Morley, with her gentle voice and kind manner, but she was much surprised at her letting things go on among her pupils, which she must have known to be wrong in themselves, as well as against express commands of Mrs. Lyddell. Once or twice when she heard her talking to Clara, she said to herself, “Would not mamma say that was silly?” but at any rate it was a great thing to have a person of whom she was not in the least shy or afraid, and who set her quite at her ease in the schoolroom.
The first business on Monday morning, after the little boys had gone off for two hours to a tutor, was an examination into Marian’s attainments, beginning with French and Italian reading and translation, in which she acquitted herself very well till Mrs. Lyddell came in, and put her in such a state of trepidation that she no longer knew what she was about. In truth, Marian’s education had been rather irregular in consequence of her father’s illness, and its effect had been to give her a general cultivation of mind, and appreciation of excellence, to train her to do her best, and fed an eagerness for information, but without instructing her in that routine of knowledge for which Mrs. Lyddell and Miss Morley looked. She was not ready in answering questions, even upon what she knew perfectly well; she had no tables of names and dates at finger’s ends, and when she saw that every one thought her backward and ignorant, the feeling that she was not doing justice to her mamma’s teaching added to her confusion, her mistakes and puzzles increased, and at last she was almost ready to cry. At that moment Caroline said, “Mamma, you have not seen Marian’s drawings yet. Do fetch them, Marian.”
The drawings served in some degree to save Marian in the opinion; at least, of Miss Morley: for an artist-like hand and eye were almost an inheritance in the Arundel family, and teaching her had been a great amusement to Sir Edmund. Miss Morley and Caroline thought her drawings wonderful; but Mrs. Lyddell, who had never learnt to draw, was, as Marian quickly perceived, unable to distinguish the merits from the faults, and was only commending them in order to reassure her. Her music was the next subject of inquiry, and here again she did not shine, for practising had been out of the question during the last two years of her father’s life; but as she could not bear to offer this as an excuse, she only said she knew she could hardly play at all, but she hoped to improve. To her great relief, Mrs. Lyddell did not stay to listen to her performance, but went away, leaving her to Miss Morley, who found something to commend in her taste and touch.
When the business of learning actually commenced, Marian grew more prosperous; for she had the good custom of giving her whole attention, and learnt therefore fast and correctly. Her exercise was very well done; her arithmetic, in which Edmund had helped her, was almost beyond Miss Morley’s knowledge; and she was quite at home in the history they were reading aloud. Moreover, when they came to talk of what they had read, it proved that Marian was well acquainted with many books which were still only names to Caroline; and when Gerald came in with his books, his reference to her showed that she knew as much Latin as he did.
They dined in the schoolroom at half-past one, then took a walk on the long, dull, white road, and came back at a little past four; after which the girls had each to practise for an hour, to look over some lessons for the next day, and to dress; but all the rest of their time was at their own disposal. There was to be a dinner-party that evening, and Clara advised her not to dress till after tea. “For we don’t go down till after dinner,” said she, “and I don’t like to miss seeing the people come. Gerald, you had better get ready, though, for you boys always go down before.”
“Must I?” said Gerald.
“O yes, that we must!” said Lionel; “and you will see how Johnny there likes to be petted by all the old ladies, and called their pretty dear.”
Johnny rushed upon his brother, and there was a skirmish between them, during which Miss Morley vainly exclaimed by turns, “Now Lionel!” and “Now Johnny!” It ended by John’s beginning to cry, Lionel laughing at him, and declaring that he had done nothing to hurt him, and both walking off rather sullenly to dress for the evening. Gerald was bent on the same errand; and no sooner was he gone than Miss Morley, Caroline, and Clara all broke out into loud praises of him. He was so docile, he shut the door so gently, he seemed so very clever. He had quite won Miss Morley’s heart by running back to the schoolroom to fetch her parasol for her when she found she had left it behind; Caroline admired him for being so merry and playful without rudeness, and Clara chimed in with them both. All expressed wonder at not finding him a spoiled child; and this, though the praises gratified Marian greatly, rather offended her in her secret soul; and she wondered too that Caroline and Clara seemed disposed to make the very worst of their own little brothers, so as to set off Gerald’s perfections by force of contrast.
Mrs. Lyddell came in while they were still talking. She was beautifully dressed, and looked very handsome, and, in Marian’s eyes, very formidable; but she sat down and joined heartily in the praises of Gerald, till Marian thought, “What could they have expected poor Gerald to be, if they are so amazed at finding him the dear good little fellow he is!” It was in fact true that he was an agreeable surprise, for as an only son–a great treasure–and coming so early to his title, he was exactly the child whom all would have presumed most likely to be spoiled; and his ready obedience struck the Lyddells as no less unusual than those habits in which he had been trained, in consequence of the necessity of stillness during Sir Edmund’s long illness. It was more natural to him to shut the door quietly than to bang it, to speak than to shout, and to amuse himself tranquilly in the house than to make a great uproar. He was courteous, too, and obliging; and though Lionel and Johnny were in consequence inclined to regard him as a “carpet knight so trim,” the ladies fully appreciated these good qualities. Mrs. Lyddell perhaps made the more of her satisfaction, because she was conscious of not liking his sister’s stiff, formal, frightened manners.
Mrs. Lyddell waited till the boys came from dressing, and took them all three down with her. Clara sat down in the window-seat to watch the arrivals, as soon as she had recovered from her amazement at hearing that Marian had not been in a house with a dinner-party since Gerald was born. “Is it possible!” she went on saying, and then bursting into a laugh, till Caroline said sharply, “How can you be so silly, Clara! you know the reason perfectly well.”
“But it is so odd,” continued Clara. “Why, we are never a week without a party, and sometimes two!”
“Hush,” said Caroline, “or I shall never finish my Italian.”
The little boys came up to tea; Gerald would not make much answer when Clara asked if the ladies had talked to him, but Johnny looked cross, and Lionel reported “it was because his nose was put out of joint.” Coming up to Marian, to whom he seemed to have taken a fancy, Lionel further explained confidentially how all the ladies made a fuss with Johnny, and admired his yellow curls, and called him the rose-bud, and all sorts of stuff; and how Johnny liked to go down in his fine crimson velvet, and show off, and have all his nonsense praised, “And the pretty dear is so jealous,” said Lionel, “that he can’t bear any one to say one word to poor me–oh no!”
“Why, do you wish for them to do so?” said Marian.
“Oh no, not I–I never did; and I’m glad I’m grown too big and ugly for them. I always get as near Elliot as I can and try to hear if they are saying any thing about the hunt; and the ladies never trouble their heads about what is good for any thing, so they never talk to me.”
“That is no great compliment to Gerald,” said Marian.
“Ah! you’ll soon see. If there is any fun in him, they will soon cast him off; but now he is new, and he has not found them out yet, and they _do_ dearly like to say Sir Gerald; so Johnny is regularly thrown out, and that is what makes him look sulky.”
“Well, but it is using him very ill to desert him for Gerald,” said Marian.
“Oh, they won’t desert him. They like mamma’s good dinners too well for that; only Johnny can’t bear any one else to be taken notice of. Trust the county member’s son for their making much of him.”
“But that applies to you too, Lionel.”
“Ay, and I could soon get their civility if I cared for it,” said Lionel grandly. “But I know well enough what it is worth. Why, there is Walter, who is the best of us all–nobody cares one straw for him, except Caroline and–“
“And you?” asked Marian.
“Why–why–yes, if he was not so much of a parson already.”
“Oh, Lionel!” said Marian, shocked; and he turned it rather hastily into “I mean, he is not up to any thing; he does not shoot, and he does not care for dogs, or horses; nothing but books for ever.”
A summons to the tea-table put an end to Lionel’s communications, which had so amazed Marian that she could do nothing but ponder on them all the time that Clara would leave her in quiet.
The going into the drawing-room was to her a most awful affair; and Saunders seemed to be very anxious about it, brushing and settling her hair, and arranging the plain black frock, as if she would never have done; seeming, too, not a little worried by Clara, who chose to look on at all her proceedings. At last it was over Marian wished Gerald good night, and descended with her two cousins and Miss Morley. Caroline and Clara were in blue, Miss Morley in white; and as they entered just opposite to a long pier glass, Marian thought that with her white face, straight dark hair, and deep mourning dress, she looked like a blot between them, and wished to shrink out of sight, instead of being conspicuous in blackness.
The ladies came in a few minutes after, and Caroline and Clara went forward, shaking hands, smiling, and replying in a way which was by no means forward, and with ease that to Marian was marvellous. If people would but be kind enough not to look at her! But Mrs. Lyddell was a great deal too civil for that too come to pass, and presently Marian was called and introduced to two ladies. She was seated between them, and they began talking to her in a patronising manner; telling her they remembered her dear mamma at her age; saying that they had seen her brother, and congratulating her on having two such delightful companions as the Miss Lyddells. Then they asked about Devonshire; and as Marian’s cold short replies let every subject fall to the ground in a moment, they proceeded to inquire whether she could play. Truth required her to confess that she could, a very little; and then they begged to hear her. Poor Marian! this was too much. She felt as if she was in a horrible mist, and drawing up her head as she always did in embarrassment, she repeated, “Indeed, indeed I cannot!” protestations which her tormentors would not believe, and which grew every moment more ungracious, as, to augment her distress, she saw that Mrs. Lyddell was observing her. At the moment when she was looking most upright and rigid, Caroline came to her relief. The same request had just been made to her, and she came to propose to Marian to join in the one thing she knew she could play–a duet which she had that morning been practising with Clara. It was very kind, and Marian knew it; for Caroline had said that she never liked that duet, and was heartily tired of it; but all the acknowledgement her strange bashfulness would allow her to make was a grateful look, and a whisper, “Oh, thank you!”
Afterwards one of the young lively visitors sang, and Marian, who had never heard much music, was quite delighted; her stiff company-face relaxed, a tear came to her eyes, and she sat with parted lips, forgetting all her fears and all the party till the singing was over, and Caroline touched her, and told her it was bed-time. Marian wondered to see how well Caroline and Clara managed to escape without being observed; but she marvelled at their going to bed so much as if it was a thing of course to have no “good night” from father or mother. When they were outside the door, in the hall, Marian, her heart still full of the music, could not help exclaiming, “How beautiful!”
“What? Miss Bernard’s singing?” said Clara. “I declare, Caroline, Marian was very nearly crying! I saw you were, Marian.”
“She does sing very nicely,” said Caroline, “but that song does not suit her voice. It is too high.”
“And she makes faces,” said Clara, “she strains her throat; and she has such great fingers–I could never cry at Miss Bernard’s singing, I am sure.”
Marian did not like this. “Good night,” said she, abruptly.
“You are not vexed, are you?” said Clara, kindly. “I did not think you would mind my noticing your crying. Don’t be angry, Marian.”
“Oh, no, I am not at all angry,” said Marian, trying to speak with ease, but she did not succeed well. Her “good nights,” had in them a tone as if she was annoyed, as in fact she was; though not at all in the way Clara supposed. She did not care for the notice of her tears, but she said to herself, “This is what Edmund calls destroying the illusion. If they would but have let me go to bed with the spell of that song resting on me!”
She sighed with a feeling of relief and yet of weariness as she came into her own room, and found Saunders there. Saunders looked rather melancholy, but said nothing for the first two or three minutes; then as she combed Marian’s hair straight over her face, she began, “I hope you enjoyed yourself, Miss Marian?”
“Oh, Saunders,” said Marian, “I’m very tired; I don’t think I shall ever enjoy myself anywhere but at home.”
“Ah–hem–ah,” coughed Saunders, solemnly; then, after waiting for some observation from Marian, and hearing only a long yawn and a sigh, she went on. “Prettily different is this place from home.”
“Indeed it is,” said Marian, from her heart.
“Such finery as I never thought to see below stairs, Miss Marian. I am sure the Manor House was a pattern to all the country round for comfort for the servants, and I should know something about it; but here–such a number of them, such eating and drinking all day long, and the very kitchen maids in such bonnets and flowers on Sundays, as would perfectly have shocked Mrs. White. And they are so ignorant. Fancy, Miss Marian, that fine gentleman the butler declaring he could not understand me, and that I spoke with a foreign accent! I speak French indeed!”
“But, Saunders,” said Marian, rather diverted, “you do speak Devonshire a little.”
“Well, Miss Marian, perhaps I may; I only know ’tisn’t for them to boast, for they speak so funny I can’t hardly make them out; and with my own ears I have heard that same Mr. Perkins himself calling you Miss Harundel. But that is not all. Why, not half of them ever go to church on a Sunday; and as to Mrs. Mitten, the housekeeper, not a bit does she care whether they do or not; and no wonder, when Mr. Lyddell himself never goes in the afternoon, and has gentlemen to speak to him. And then down at the stables–’tis a pretty set of drinking, good-for-nothing fellows there. I hope from my heart Sir Gerald won’t be for getting down there among them; but they say Master Lionel and Master John are always there. And that Mr. Elliot–“
In this manner Saunders discoursed all the while she was putting Marian to bed. Both she and her young lady wore doing what had much better have been let alone. Saunders had no business to carry complaints and gossip, Marian ought not to have listened to them; but the truth was that Saunders was an old attached confidential servant, who had come to Oakworthy, more because she could not bear to let her young master and mistress go entirely alone and unfriended among strangers, than because it would be prudent to save a little more before becoming Mrs. David Chapple. Fern Torr was absolute perfection in her eyes; and had the household at Oakworthy been of superior excellence, she would have found fault with everything in which it differed from the Manor House. Her heart was full; and to Miss Marian, her young lady, a Fern Torrite, a Devonian like herself, she must needs pour it out, where she had no other friend. On the other hand, Saunders was still in Marian’s eyes a superior person–an authority–one whom she could never dream of keeping in order, or restraining; and here a friend, a counsellor, the only person, except Gerald, who had known the dear home.
So a foundation was laid for confidences from Saunders, which were not likely to improve Marian’s contentment. When she had bidden her maid good night, and sat thinking before she knelt down to say her prayers, she felt bewildered; her head seemed giddy with the strangeness of this new world; she knew not what in it was right and what was wrong; all that she knew was, that she felt lonely and dreary, and as if it could never be home. Her heart seemed to reach out for her mother’s embrace and support, and then Marian sank down on her knees, rested her face on her arms, and while the tears began to flow, she murmured, “OUR FATHER, Which art in heaven.”
Soon after, her weary head was on her pillow, and the dim grey light of the summer night showed the quiet peace and calmness that had settled on her sleeping face.
“That is not home where, day by day, I wear the busy hours away.”
In a short time, Marian had settled into her place at Oak Worthy, lost some part of her shyness towards the inhabitants, and arrived at the terms which seemed likely to continue between her and her cousins.
There was much that was very excellent about Caroline Lyddell; she had warm feeling, an amiable and obliging disposition, and great sweetness of temper; and when first Marian arrived she intended to do all in her power to make her at home, and be like a sister to her. But she did not understand reserve; and before Marian had got over her first shyness and awkwardness, Caroline felt herself repulsed, and ceased to make demonstrations of affection which met with no better response. Marian made none on her side; and so the two cousins remained very obliging and courteous to each other, but nothing more.
Clara had begun by making herself Marian’s inseparable companion in rather a teasing manner, caressing her continually, and always wanting