The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte Yonge
This warld's wealth, when I think o't, Its pride, and a' the lave o't, Fie, fie on silly coward man, That he should be the slave o't. —BURNS
In another week Mr. Edmonstone and his eldest daughter were to depart on their Irish journey. Laura, besides the natural pain in leaving home, was sorry to be no longer near Philip, especially as it was not likely that he would be still at Broadstone on their return; yet she was so restless and dissatisfied, that any change was welcome, and the fear of betraying herself almost took away the pleasure of his presence.
He met them at the railway station at Broadstone, where Mr. Edmonstone, finding himself much too early, recollected something he had forgotten in the town, and left his daughter to walk up and down the platform under Philip's charge. They felt it a precious interval, but both were out of spirits, and could hardly profit by it.
'You will be gone long before we come back,' said Laura.
'In a fortnight or three weeks, probably.'
'But you will still be able to come to Hollywell now and then?'
'I hope so. It is all the pleasure I can look for. We shall never see such a summer again.'
'Oh, it has been a memorable one!'
'Memorable! Yes. It has given me an assurance that compensates for all I have lost; yet it has made me feel, more than ever before, how poverty withers a man's hopes.'
'O Philip, I always thought your poverty a great, noble thing!'
'You thought like a generous-tempered girl who has known nothing of its effects.'
'And do you know that Guy says the thing to be proud of is of holding the place you do, without the aid of rank or riches.'
'I would not have it otherwise—I would not for worlds that my father had acted otherwise,' said Philip. 'You understand that, Laura.'
'Of course I do.'
'But when you speak—when Guy speaks of my holding the place I do, you little know what it is to feel that powers of usefulness are wasted—to know I have the means of working my way to honour and distinction, such as you would rejoice in Laura, to have it all within, yet feel it thrown away. Locksley Hall, again—"every door is barred with gold, and opens but to golden keys.'"
'I wish there was anything to be done,' said Laura.
'It is my profession that is the bar to everything. I have sold the best years of my life, and for what? To see my sister degrade herself by that marriage.'
'That is the real grief,' said Laura.
'But for that, I should never have cast a look back on what I relinquished. However, why do I talk of these things, these vain regrets? They only occurred because my welfare does not concern myself alone—and here's your father.'
Mr. Edmonstone returned, out of breath, in too much bustle remark his daughter's blushes. Even when the train was moving off, he still had his head out at the window, calling to Philip that they should expect a visit from him as soon as ever they returned. Such cordiality gave Philip a pang; and in bitterness of spirit he walked back to the barracks. On the way he met Mrs. Deane who wanted to consult him about inviting his cousin, Sir Guy to a dinner-party she intended to give next week. 'Such an agreeable, sensible youth, and we feel we owe him some attention, he took so much pains to make apologies about the ball.'
'I dare say he will be very happy to come.'
'We will write at once. He is a very fine young man, without a shade of vanity or nonsense.'
'Yes; he has very pleasant, unaffected manners.'
'I am sure he will do credit to his estate. It is a very handsome fortune, is it not?'
'It is a very large property.'
'I am glad of it; I have no doubt we shall see him one of the first men of his time.'
These words brought into contrast in Philip's mind the difference between Guy's position and his own. The mere possession of wealth was winning for Guy, at an age when his merits could only be negative, that estimation which his own tried character had scarcely achieved, placing him not merely on a level with himself, but in a situation where happiness and influence came unbidden. His own talents, attainments, and equal, if not superior claims, to gentle blood, could not procure him what seemed to lie at Guy's feet. His own ability and Laura's heart alone were what wealth could not affect; yet when he thought how the want of it wasted the one, and injured the hopes of the other, he recurred to certain visions of his sister Margaret's, in days gone by, of what he was to do as Sir Philip, lord of Redclyffe. He was speculating on what would have happened had Guy died in his sickly infancy, when, suddenly recollecting himself, he turned his mind to other objects.
Guy was not much charmed with Mrs. Deane's invitation. He said he knew he must go to make up for his rudeness about the ball; but he grumbled enough to make Mrs. Edmonstone laugh at him for being so stupid as to want to stay hum-drum in the chimney corner. No doubt it was very pleasant there. There was that peculiar snugness which belongs to a remnant of a large party, when each member of it feels bound to prevent the rest from being dull. Guy devoted himself to Charles more than ever, and in the fear that he might miss the late variety of amusement, exerted even more of his powers of entertainment than Lady Eveleen had called forth.
There were grave readings in the mornings, and long walks in the afternoons, when he dragged Charles, in his chair, into many a place he had never expected to see again, and enabled him to accompany his mother and sisters in many a delightful expedition. In the evening there was music, or light reading, especially poetry, as this was encouraged by Mrs. Edmonstone, in the idea that it was better that so excitable and enthusiastic a person as Guy should have his objects of admiration tested by Charles's love of ridicule.
Mr. Edmonstone had left to Guy the office of keeping the 1st of September, one which he greatly relished. Indeed, when he thought of his own deserted manors, he was heard to exclaim, in commiseration for the neglect, 'Poor partridges!' The Hollywell shooting was certainly not like that at Redclyffe, where he could hardly walk out of his own grounds, whereas here he had to bear in mind so many boundaries, that Philip was expecting to have to help him out of some direful scrape. He had generally walked over the whole extent, and assured himself that the birds were very wild, and Bustle the best of dogs, before breakfast, so as to be ready for all the occupations of the day. He could scarcely be grateful when the neighbours, thinking it must be very dull for him to be left alone with Mrs. Edmonstone and her crippled son, used to ask him to shoot or dine. He always lamented at first, and ended by enjoying himself.
One night, he came home, in such a state of eagerness, that he must needs tell his good news; and, finding no one in the drawing-room, he ran up-stairs, opened Charles's door, and exclaimed—'There's to be a concert at Broadstone!' Then perceiving that Charles was fast asleep, he retreated noiselessly, reserving his rejoicings till morning, when it appeared that Charles had heard, but had woven the announcement into a dream.
This concert filled Guy's head. His only grief was that it was to be in the evening, so that Charles could not go to it; and his wonder was not repressed at finding that Philip did not mean to favour it with his presence, since Guy would suffice for squire to Mrs. Edmonstone and her daughters.
In fact, Philip was somewhat annoyed by the perpetual conversation about the concert, and on the day on which it was to take place resolved on making a long expedition to visit the ruins of an old abbey, far out of all reports of it. As he was setting out, he was greeted, in a very loud voice, by Mr. Gordon.
'Hollo, Morville! how are you? So you have great doings to-night, I hear!' and he had only just forced himself from him, when he was again accosted, this time in a hasty, embarrassed manner,—
'I beg your pardon, sir, but the ties of relationship—'
He drew himself up as if he was on parade, faced round, and replied with an emphatic 'Sir!' as he behold a thin, foreign-looking man, in a somewhat flashy style of dress, who, bowing low, repeated breathlessly,—
'I beg your pardon—Sir Guy Morville, I believe!'
'Captain Morville, sir!'
'I beg your pardon—I mistook. A thousand pardons,' and he retreated; while Philip, after a moment's wonder, pursued his walk.
The Hollywell party entered Broadstone in a very different temper, and greatly did they enjoy the concert, both for themselves and for each other. In the midst of it, while Amy was intent on the Italian words of a song, Guy touched her hand, and pointed to a line in the programme—
Solo on the violin.... MR. S. B. DIXON.
She looked up in his face with an expression full of inquiry; but it was no time for speaking, and she only saw how the colour mantled on his cheek when the violinist appeared, and how he looked down the whole time of the performance, only now and then venturing a furtive though earnest glance.
He did not say anything till they were seated in the carriage, and then astonished Mrs. Edmonstone by exclaiming—
'It must be my uncle!—I am sure it must. I'll ride to Broadstone the first thing to-morrow, and find him out.'
'Your uncle!' exclaimed Mrs. Edmonstone. 'I never thought of that.'
S. B. Dixon,' said Guy. 'I know his name is Sebastian. It cannot be any one else. You know he went to America. How curious it is! I suppose there is no fear of his being gone before I can come in to-morrow.'
'I should think not. Those musical people keep late hours.'
'I would go before breakfast. Perhaps it would be best to go to old Redford, he will know all about him; or to the music-shop. I am so glad! It is the very thing I always wished.'
'Did you?' said Mrs. Edmonstone to herself. 'I can't say every one would be of your mind; but I can't help liking you the better for it. I wish the man had kept further off. I wish Mr. Edmonstone was at home. I hope no harm will come of it. I wonder what I ought to do. Shall I caution him? No; I don't think I can spoil his happiness—and perhaps the man may be improved. He is his nearest relation, and I have no right to interfere. His own good sense will protect him—but I wish Mr. Edmonstone was at home.'
She therefore did not check his expressions of delight, nor object to his going to Broadstone early the next morning. He had just dismounted before the inn-yard, when a boy put a note into his hand, and he was so absorbed in its contents, that he did not perceive Philip till after two greetings had passed unheard. When at length he was recalled, he started, and exclaimed, rapturously, as he put the note into his cousin's hand,
'See here—it is himself!'
'My uncle. My poor mother's own brother.'
'Sebastian Bach Dixon,' read Philip. 'Ha! it was he who took me for you yesterday.'
'I saw him at the concert—I was sure it could be no other. I came in on purpose to find him, and here he is waiting for me. Is not it a happy chance?'
'Happy!' echoed Philip, in a far different tone.
'How I have longed for this—for any one who could remember and tell me of her—of my mother—my poor, dear young mother! And her own brother! I have been thinking of it all night, and he knows I am here, and is as eager as myself. He is waiting for me,' ended Guy, hurrying off.
'Stop!' said Philip, gravely. 'Think before acting. I seriously advise you to have nothing to do with this man, at least personally. Let me see him, and learn what he wants.'
'He wants me,' impatiently answered Guy. 'You are not his nephew.'
'Thank heaven!' thought Philip. 'Do you imagine your relationship is the sole cause of his seeking you?'
'I don't know—I don't care!' cried Guy, with vehemence. 'I will not listen to suspicions of my mother's brother.'
'It is more than suspicion. Hear me calmly. I speak for your good. I know this man's influence was fatal to your father. I know he did all in his power to widen the breach with your grandfather.'
'That was eighteen years ago,' said Guy, walking on, biting his lip in a fiery fit of impatience.
'You will not hear. Remember, that his position and associates render him no fit companion for you. Nay, listen patiently. You cannot help the relationship. I would not have you do otherwise than assist him. Let him not complain of neglect, but be on your guard. He will either seriously injure you, or be a burden for life.'
'I have heard you so far—I can hear no more,' said Guy, no longer restraining his impetuosity. 'He is my uncle, that I know, I care for nothing else. Position—nonsense! what has that to do with it? I will not be set against him.'
He strode off; but in a few moments turned back, overtook Philip, said— 'Thank you for your advice. I beg your pardon for my hastiness. You mean kindly, but I must see my uncle.' And, without waiting for an answer, he was gone.
In short space he was in the little parlour of the music-shop, shaking hands with his uncle, and exclaiming,—
'I am so glad! I hoped it was you!'
'It is very noble-hearted! I might have known it would be so with the son of my dearest sister and of my generous friend!' cried Mr. Dixon, with eagerness that had a theatrical air, though it was genuine feeling that filled his eyes with tears.
'I saw your name last night' continued Guy. 'I would have tried to speak to you at once, but I was obliged to stay with Mrs. Edmonstone, as I was the only gentleman with her.'
'Ah! I thought it possible you might not be able to follow the dictate of your own heart; but this is a fortunate conjuncture, in the absence of your guardian.'
Guy recollected Philip's remonstrance, and it crossed him whether his guardian might be of the same mind; but he felt confident in having told all to Mrs. Edmonstone.
'How did you know I was here?' he asked.
'I learnt it in a most gratifying way. Mr. Redford, without knowing our connection—for on that I will always be silent—mentioned that the finest tenor he had ever known, in an amateur, belonged to his pupil, Sir Guy Morville. You can imagine my feelings at finding you so near, and learning that you had inherited your dear mother's talent and taste.'
The conversation was long, for there was much to hear. Mr. Dixon had kept up a correspondence at long intervals with Markham, from whom he heard that his sister's child survived, and was kindly treated by his grandfather; and inquiring again on the death of old Sir Guy, learnt that he was gone to live with his guardian, whose name, and residence Markham had not thought fit to divulge. He had been much rejoiced to hear his name from the music-master, and he went on to tell how he had been misled by the name of Morville into addressing the captain, who had a good deal of general resemblance to Guy's father, a fine tall young man, of the same upright, proud deportment. He supposed he was the son of the Archdeacon, and remembering how strongly his own proceedings had been discountenanced at Stylehurst, had been much disconcerted, and deeming the encounter a bad omen, had used more caution in his advances to his nephew. It was from sincere affection that he sought his acquaintance, though very doubtful as to the reception he might meet, and was both delighted and surprised at such unembarrassed, open-hearted affection.
The uncle and nephew were not made to understand each other. Sebastian Dixon was a man of little education, and when, in early youth, his talents had placed him high in his own line, he had led a careless, extravagant life. Though an evil friend, and fatal counsellor, he had been truly attached to Guy's father, and the secret engagement, and runaway marriage with his beautiful sister, had been the romance of his life, promoted by him with no selfish end. He was a proud and passionate man, and resenting Sir Guy's refusal to receive his sister as a daughter, almost as much as Sir Guy was incensed at the marriage, had led his brother-in-law to act in a manner which cut off the hope of reconciliation, and obliged Archdeacon Morville to give up his cause. He had gloried in supporting his sister and her husband, and enabling them to set the old baronet at defiance. But young Morville's territorial pride could not brook that he should be maintained, and especially that his child, the heir of Redclyffe, should be born while he was living at the expense of a musician. This feeling, aided by a yearning for home, and a secret love for his father, mastered his resentment; he took his resolution, quarrelled with Dixon, and carried off his wife, bent with desperation on forcing his father into receiving her.
Sebastian had not surmounted his anger at this step when he learnt its fatal consequences. Ever since that time, nothing had prospered with him: he had married and sunk himself lower, and though he had an excellent engagement, the days were past when he was the fashion, and his gains and his triumphs were not what they had been. He had a long list of disappointments and jealousies with which to entertain Guy, who, on his side, though resolved to like him, and dreading to be too refined to be friends with his relations, could not feel as thoroughly pleased as he intended to have been.
Music was, however, a subject on which they could meet with equal enthusiasm, and by means of this, together with the aid of his own imagination, Guy contrived to be very happy. He stayed with his uncle as long as he could, and promised to spend a day with him in London, on his way to Oxford, in October.
The next morning, when Philip knew that Guy would be with his tutor, he walked to Hollywell, came straight up to his aunt's dressing-room, asked her to send Charlotte down to practise, and, seating himself opposite to her, began—
'What do you mean to do about this unfortunate rencontre?'
'Do you mean Guy and his uncle? He is very much pleased, poor boy! I like his entire freedom from false shame.'
'A little true shame would be hardly misplaced about such a connection.'
'It is not his fault, and I hope it will not be his misfortune,' said Mrs. Edmonstone.
'That it will certainly be,' replied Philip, 'if we are not on our guard; and, indeed, if we are, there is little to be done with one so wilful. I might as well have interfered with the course of a whirlwind.'
'No, no, Philip; he is too candid to be wilful.'
'I cannot be of your opinion, when I have seen him rushing into this acquaintance in spite of the warnings he must have had here—to say nothing of myself.'
'Nay, there I must defend him, though you will think me very unwise; I could not feel that I ought to withhold him from taking some notice of so near a relation.'
Philip did think her so unwise, that he could only reply, gravely—
'We must hope it may produce no evil effects.'
'How?' she exclaimed, much alarmed. 'Have you heard anything against him?'
'You remember, of course, that Guy's father was regularly the victim of this Dixon.'
'Yes, yes; but he has had enough to sober him. Do you know nothing more?' said Mrs. Edmonstone, growing nervously anxious lest she had been doing wrong in her husband's absence.
'I have been inquiring about him from old Redford, and I should judge him to be a most dangerous companion; as, indeed, I could have told from his whole air, which is completely that of a roué.'
'You have seen him, then?'
'Yes. He paid me the compliment of taking me for Sir Guy, and of course made off in dismay when he discovered on whom he had fallen. I have seldom seen a less creditable-looking individual.'
'But what did Mr. Redford say? Did he know of the connection?'
'No; I am happy to say he did not. The fellow has decency enough not to boast of that. Well, Redford did not know much of him personally: he said he had once been much thought of, and had considerable talent and execution, but taste changes, or he has lost something, so that, though he stands tolerably high in his profession, he is not a leader. So much for his musical reputation. As to his character, he is one of those people who are called no one's enemy but their own, exactly the introduction Guy has hitherto happily wanted to every sort of mischief.'
'I think,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, trying to console herself, 'that Guy is too much afraid of small faults to be invited by larger evils. While he punishes himself for an idle word, he is not likely to go wrong in greater matters.'
'Not at present.'
'Is the man in debt or difficulties? Guy heard nothing of that, and I thought it a good sign.'
'I don't suppose he is. He ought not, for he has a fixed salary, besides what he gets by playing at concerts when it is not the London season. The wasting money on a spendthrift relation would be a far less evil than what I apprehend.'
'I wish I knew what to do! It is very unlucky that your uncle is from home.'
Mrs. Edmonstone was frightened by the sense of responsibility, and was only anxious to catch hold of something to direct her.
'What would you have me do?' she asked, hopelessly.
'Speak seriously to Guy. He must attend to you: he cannot fly out with a woman as he does with me. Show him the evils that must result from such an intimacy. If Dixon was in distress, I would not say a word, for he would be bound to assist him but as it is, the acquaintance can serve no purpose but degrading Guy, and showing him the way to evil. Above all, make a point of his giving up visiting him in London. That is the sure road to evil. A youth of his age, under the conduct of a worn-out roué, connected with the theatres! I can hardly imagine anything more mischievous.'
'Yes, yes; I will speak to him,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, perfectly appalled.
She promised, but she found the fulfilment difficult, in her dislike of vexing Guy, her fear of saying what was wrong, and a doubt whether the appearance of persecuting Mr. Dixon was not the very way to prevent Guy's own good sense from finding out his true character, so she waited, hoping Mr. Edmonstone might return before Guy went to Oxford, or that he might write decisively.
Mrs. Edmonstone might have known her husband better than to expect him to write decisively when he had neither herself nor Philip at his elbow. The same post had brought him a letter from Guy, mentioning his meeting with his uncle, and frankly explaining his plans for London; another from Philip, calling on him to use all his authority to prevent this intercourse, and a third from his wife. Bewildered between them, he took them to his sister, who, being as puzzle-headed as himself, and only hearing his involved history of the affair, confused him still more; so he wrote to Philip, saying he was sorry the fellow had turned up, but he would guard against him. He told Guy he was sorry to say that his uncle used to be a sad scamp, and he must take care, or it would be his poor father's story over again; and to Mrs. Edmonstone he wrote that it was very odd that everything always did go wrong when he was away.
He thought these letters a great achievement, but his wife's perplexity was not materially relieved.
After considering a good while, she at length spoke to Guy; but it was not at a happy time, for Philip, despairing of her, had just taken on himself to remonstrate, and had angered him to the verge of an outbreak.
Mrs. Edmonstone, as mildly as she could, urged on him that such intercourse could bring him little satisfaction, and might be very inconvenient; that his uncle was in no distress, and did not require assistance; and that it was too probable that in seeking him out he might meet with persons who might unsettle his principles,—in short, that he had much better give up the visit to London.
'This is Philip's advice,' said Guy.
'It is; but—'
Guy looked impatient, and she paused.
'You must forgive me,' he said, 'if I follow my own judgment. If Mr. Edmonstone chose to lay his commands on me, I suppose I must submit; but I cannot see that I am bound to obey Philip.'
'Not to obey, certainly; but his advice—'
'He is prejudiced and unjust,' said Guy.
'I don't believe that my uncle would attempt to lead me into bad company; and surely you would not have me neglect or look coldly on one who was so much attached to my parents. If he is not a gentleman, and is looked down on by the world, it is not for his sister's son to make him conscious of it.'
'I like your feelings, Guy; I can say nothing against it, but that I am much afraid your uncle is not highly principled.'
'You have only Philip's account of him.'
'You are resolved?'
'Yes. I do not like not to take your advice, but I do believe this is my duty. I do not think my determination is made in self-will,' said Guy, thoughtfully; 'I cannot think that I ought to neglect my uncle, because I happen to have been born in a different station, which is all I have heard proved against him,' he added, smiling. 'You will forgive me, will you not, for not following your advice? for really and truly, if you will let me say so, I think you would not have given it if Philip had not been talking to you.'
Mrs. Edmonstone confessed, with a smile, that perhaps it was so; but said she trusted much to Philip's knowledge of the world. Guy agreed to this; though still declaring Philip had no right to set him against his uncle, and there the discussion ended.
Guy went to London. Philip thought him very wilful, and his aunt very weak; and Mr. Edmonstone, on coming home, said it could not be helped, and he wished to hear no more about the matter.