The Heir of Redclyffe by Charlotte Yonge
The hues of bliss more brightly glow Chastised by sober tints of woe. —GRAY
'What use shall I make of him?' said Charles to himself, as he studied Sir Guy Morville, who sat by the table, with a book in his hand.
He had the unformed look of a growing boy, and was so slender as to appear taller than he really was. He had an air of great activity; and though he sat leaning back, there was no lounging in his attitude, and at the first summons he roused up with an air of alert attention that recalled to mind the eager head of a listening greyhound. He had no pretension to be called handsome; his eyes were his best feature; they were very peculiar, of a light hazel, darker towards the outside of the iris, very brilliant, the whites tinted with blue, and the lashes uncommonly thick and black; the eyebrows were also very dark, and of a sharply-defined angular shape, but the hair was much lighter, loose, soft, and wavy; the natural fairness of the complexion was shown by the whiteness of the upper part of the forehead, though the rest of the face, as well as the small taper hands, were tanned by sunshine and sea-breezes, into a fresh, hardy brown, glowing with red on the cheeks.
'What use shall I make of him?' proceeded Charles's thoughts. 'He won't be worth his salt if he goes on in this way; he has got a graver specimen of literature there than I ever saw Philip himself read on a week-day; he has been puritanized till he is good for nothing; I'll trouble myself no more about him!' He tried to read, but presently looked up again. 'Plague! I can't keep my thoughts off him. That sober look does not sit on that sun-burnt face as if it were native to it; those eyes don't look as if the Redclyffe spirit was extinguished.'
Mrs. Edmonstone came in, and looking round, as if to find some occupation for her guest, at length devised setting him to play at chess with Charles. Charles gave her an amiable look, expressing that neither liked it; but she was pretty well used to doing him good against his will, and trusted to its coming right in time. Charles was a capital chess-player, and seldom found any one who could play well enough to afford him much real sport, but he found Sir Guy more nearly a match than often fell to his lot; it was a bold dashing game, that obliged him to be on his guard, and he was once so taken by surprise as to be absolutely check-mated. His ill-humour evaporated, he was delighted to find an opponent worth playing with, and henceforth there were games almost every morning or evening, though Sir Guy seemed not to care much about them, except for the sake of pleasing him.
When left to himself, Guy spent his time in reading or in walking about the lanes alone. He used to sit in the bay-window of the drawing-room with his book; but sometimes, when they least expected it, the girls would find his quick eyes following them with an air of amused curiosity, as Amabel waited on Charles and her flowers, or Laura drew, wrote letters, and strove to keep down the piles of books and periodicals under which it seemed as if her brother might some day be stifled—a vain task, for he was sure to want immediately whatever she put out of his reach.
Laura and Amabel both played and sung, the former remarkably well, and the first time they had any music after the arrival of Sir Guy, his look of delighted attention struck everyone. He ventured nearer, stood by the piano when they practised, and at last joined in with a few notes of so full and melodious a voice, that Laura turned round in surprise, exclaiming, 'You sing better I than any of us!'
He coloured. 'I beg your pardon,' he said, 'I could not help it; I know nothing of music.'
'Really!' said Laura, smiling incredulously.
'I don't even know the notes.'
'Then you must have a very good ear. Let us try again.'
The sisters were again charmed and surprised, and Guy looked gratified, as people do at the discovery of a faculty which they are particularly glad to possess. It was the first time he appeared to brighten, and Laura and her mother agreed that it would do him good to have plenty of music, and to try to train that fine voice. He was beginning to interest them all greatly by his great helpfulness and kindness to Charles, as he learnt the sort of assistance he required, as well as by the silent grief that showed how much attached he must have been to his grandfather.
On the first Sunday, Mrs. Edmonstone coming into the drawing-room at about half-past five, found him sitting alone by the fire, his dog lying at his feet. As he started up, she asked if he had been here in the dark ever since church-time?
'I have not wanted light,' he answered with a sigh, long, deep, and irrepressible, and as she stirred the fire, the flame revealed to her the traces of tears. She longed to comfort him, and said—
'This Sunday twilight is a quiet time for thinking.'
'Yes,' he said; 'how few Sundays ago—' and there he paused.
'Ah! you had so little preparation.'
'None. That very morning he had done business with Markham, and had never been more clear and collected.'
'Were you with him when he was taken ill?' asked Mrs. Edmonstone, perceiving that it would be a relief to him to talk.
'No; it was just before dinner. I had been shooting, and went into the library to tell him where I had been. He was well then, for he spoke, but it was getting dark, and I did not see his face. I don't think I was ten minutes dressing, but when I came down, he had sunk back in his chair. I saw it was not sleep—I rang—and when Arnaud came, we knew how it was.' His, voice became low with strong emotion.'
'Did he recover his consciousness?'
'Yes, that was the comfort,' said Guy, eagerly. 'It was after he had been bled that he seemed to wake up. He could not speak or move, but he looked at me—or—I don't know what I should have done.' The last words were almost inaudible from the gush of tears that he vainly struggled to repress, and he was turning away to hide them, when he saw that Mrs. Edmonstone's were flowing fast.
'You had great reason to be attached to him!' said she, as soon as she could speak.
'Indeed, indeed I had.' And after a long silence—'He was everything to me, everything from the first hour I can recollect. He never let me miss my parents. How he attended to all my pleasures and wishes, how he watched and cared for me, and bore with me, even I can never know.'
He spoke in short half sentences of intense feeling, and Mrs. Edmonstone was much moved by such affection in one said to have been treated with an excess of strictness, much compassionating the lonely boy, who had lost every family tie in one.
'When the first pain of the sudden parting has passed,' said she, 'you will like to remember the affection which you knew how to value.'
'If I had but known!' said Guy; 'but there was I, hasty, reckless, disregarding his comfort, rebelling against—O, what would I not give to have those restraints restored!'
'It is what we all feel in such losses,' said Mrs. Edmonstone. 'There is always much to wish otherwise; but I am sure you can have the happiness of knowing you were his great comfort.'
'It was what I ought to have been.'
She knew that nothing could have been more filial and affectionate than his conduct, and tried to say something of the kind, but he would not listen.
'That is worst of all,' he said; 'and you must not trust what they say of me. They would be sure to praise me, if I was anything short of a brute.'
A silence ensued, while Mrs. Edmonstone was trying to think of some consolation. Suddenly Guy looked up, and spoke eagerly:—
'I want to ask something—a great favour—but you make me venture. You see how I am left alone—you know how little I can trust myself. Will you take me in hand—let me talk to you—and tell me if I am wrong, as freely as if I were Charles? I know it is asking a great deal, but you knew my grandfather, and it is in his name.'
She held out her hand; and with tears answered—
'Indeed I will, if I see any occasion.'
'You will let me trust to you to tell me when I get too vehement? above all, when you see my temper failing? Thank you; you don't know what a relief it is!'
'But you must not call yourself alone. You are one of us now.'
'Yes; since you have made that promise,' said Guy; and for the first time she saw the full beauty of his smile—a sort of sweetness and radiance of which eye and brow partook almost as much as the lips. It alone would have gained her heart.
'I must look on you as a kind of nephew,' she added, kindly. 'I used to hear so much of you from my brother.'
'Oh!' cried Guy, lighting up, 'Archdeacon Morville was always so kind to me. I remember him very well!'
'Ah! I wish—' there she paused, and added,—tête-à-tête 'it is not right to wish such things—and Philip is very like his father.'
'I am very glad his regiment is so near. I want to know him better.'
'You knew him at Redclyffe, when he was staying there?'
'Yes,' said Guy, his colour rising; 'but I was a boy then, and a very foolish, headstrong one. I am glad to meet him again. What a grand-looking person he is!'
'We are very proud of him,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, smiling. 'I don't think there has been an hour's anxiety about him since he was born.'
The conversation was interrupted by the sound of Charles's crutches slowly crossing the hall. Guy sprang to help him to his sofa, and then, without speaking, hurried up-stairs.
'Mamma, tete-a-tete with the silent one!' exclaimed Charles.
'I will not tell you all I think of him,' said she, leaving the room.
'Hum!' soliloquised Charles. 'That means that my lady mother has adopted him, and thinks I should laugh at her, or straightway set up a dislike to him, knowing my contempt for heroes and hero-worship. It's a treat to have Philip out of the way, and if it was but possible to get out of hearing of his perfection, I should have some peace. If I thought this fellow had one spice of the kind, I'd never trouble my head about him more; and yet I don't believe he has such a pair of hawk's eyes for nothing!'
The hawk's eyes, as Charles called them, shone brighter from that day forth, and their owner began to show more interest in what passed around. Laura was much amused by a little conversation she held with him one day when a party of their younger neighbours were laughing and talking nonsense round Charles's sofa. He was sitting a little way off in silence, and she took advantage of the loud laughing to say:
'You think this is not very satisfactory?' And as he gave a quick glance of inquiry—'Don't mind saying so. Philip and I often agree that it is a pity spend so much time in laughing at nothing—at such nonsense.'
'It is nonsense?'
'Listen—no don't, it is too silly.'
'Nonsense must be an excellent thing if it makes people so happy,' said Guy thoughtfully. 'Look at them; they are like—not a picture—that has no life—but a dream—or, perhaps a scene in a play.'
'Did you never see anything like it?'
'Oh, no! All the morning calls I ever saw were formal, every one stiff, and speaking by rote, or talking politics. How glad I used to be to get on horseback again! But to see these—why, it is like the shepherd's glimpse at the pixies!—as one reads a new book, or watches what one only half understands—a rook's parliament, or a gathering of sea-fowl on the Shag Rock.'
'A rook's parliament?'
'The people at home call it a rook's parliament when a whole cloud of rooks settle on some bare, wide common, and sit there as if they were consulting, not feeding, only stalking about, with drooping wings, and solemn, black cloaks.'
'You have found a flattering simile,' said Laura, 'as you know that rooks never open their mouths without cause.'
Guy had never heard the riddle, but he caught the pun instantly, and the clear merry sound of his hearty laugh surprised Charles, who instantly noted it as another proof that was some life in him.
Indeed, each day began to make it evident that he had, on the whole, rather a superabundance of animation than otherwise. He was quite confidential with Mrs. Edmonstone, on whom he used to lavish, with boyish eagerness, all that interested him, carrying her the passages in books that pleased him, telling her about Redclyffe's affairs, and giving her his letters from Markham, the steward. His head was full of his horse, Deloraine, which was coming to him under the charge of a groom, and the consultations were endless about the means of transport, Mr. Edmonstone almost as eager about it as he was himself.
He did not so quickly become at home with the younger portion of the family, but his spirits rose every day. He whistled as he walked in the garden, and Bustle, instead of pacing soberly behind him, now capered, nibbled his pockets, and drew him into games of play which Charles and Amabel were charmed to overlook from the dressing-room window. There was Guy leaping, bounding, racing, rolling the dog over, tripping him up, twitching his ears, tickling his feet, catching at his tail, laughing at Bustle's springs, contortions, and harmless open-mouthed attacks, while the dog did little less than laugh too, with his intelligent amber eyes, and black and red mouth. Charles began to find a new interest in his listless life in the attempt to draw Guy out, and make him give one of his merry laughs. In this, however, he failed when his wit consisted in allusions to the novels of the day, of which Guy knew nothing. One morning he underwent a regular examination, ending in—
'Have you read anything?'
'I am afraid I am very ignorant of modern books.'
'Have you read the ancient ones?' asked Laura.
'I've had nothing else to read.'
'Nothing to read but ancient books!' exclaimed Amabel, with a mixture of pity and astonishment.
'Sanchoniathon, Manetho, Berosus, and Ocellus Lucanus!' said Guy, smiling.
'There, Amy,' said Charles, 'if he has the Vicar of Wakefield among his ancient books, you need not pity him.'
'It is like Philip,' said Laura; 'he was brought up on the old standard books, instead of his time being frittered away on the host of idle modern ones.'
'He was free to concentrate his attention on Sir Charles Grandison,' said Charles.
'How could any one do so?' said Guy. 'How could any one have any sympathy with such a piece of self-satisfaction?'
'Who could? Eh, Laura?' said Charles.
'I never read it,' said Laura, suspecting malice.
'What is your opinion of perfect heroes?' continued Charles.
'Here comes one,' whispered Amy to her brother, blushing at her piece of naughtiness, as Philip Morville entered the room.
After the first greetings and inquiries after his sister, whom he had been visiting, Laura told him what they had been saying of the advantage of a scanty range of reading.
'True,' said Philip; 'I have often been struck by finding how ignorant people are, even of Shakspeare; and I believe the blame chiefly rests on the cheap rubbish in which Charlie is nearly walled up there.'
'Ay,' said Charles, 'and who haunts that rubbish at the beginning of every month? I suppose to act as pioneer, though whether any one but Laura heeds his warnings, remains to be proved.'
'Laura does heed?' asked Philip, well pleased.
'I made her read me the part of Dombey that hurts women's feelings most, just to see if she would go on—the part about little Paul—and I declare, I shall think the worse of her ever after—she was so stony hearted, that to this day she does not know whether he is dead or alive.'
'I can't quite say I don't know whether he lived or died,' said Laura, 'for I found Amy in a state that alarmed me, crying in the green-house, and I was very glad to find it was nothing worse than little Paul.'
'I wish you would have read it,' said Amy; and looking shyly at Guy, she added—'Won't you?'
'Well done, Amy!' said Charles. 'In the very face of the young man's companion!'
'Philip does not really think it wrong,' said Amy.
'No,' said Philip; 'those books open fields of thought, and as their principles are negative, they are not likely to hurt a person well armed with the truth.'
'Meaning,' said Charles, 'that Guy and Laura have your gracious permission to read Dombey.'
'When Laura has a cold or toothache.'
'And I,' said Guy.
'I am not sure about, the expediency for you,' said Philip 'it would be a pity to begin with Dickens, when there is so much of a higher grade equally new to you. I suppose you do not understand Italian?'
'No,' said Guy, abruptly, and his dark eyebrows contracted.
Philip went on. 'If you did, I should not recommend you the translation of "I promessi Sponsi," one of the most beautiful books in any language. You have it in English, I think, Laura.'
Laura fetched it; Guy, with a constrained 'thank you,' was going to take it up rather as if he was putting a force upon himself, when Philip more quickly took the first volume, and eagerly turned over the pages—I can't stand this,' he said, 'where is the original?'
It was soon produced; and Philip, finding the beautiful history of Fra Cristoforo, began to translate it fluently and with an admirable choice of language that silenced Charles's attempts to interrupt and criticise. Soon Guy, who had at first lent only reluctant attention, was entirely absorbed, his eyebrows relaxed, a look of earnest interest succeeded, his countenance softened, and when Fra Cristoforo humbled himself, exchanged forgiveness, and received "il pane del perdono," tears hung on his eyelashes.
The chapter was finished, and with a smothered exclamation of admiration, he joined the others in begging Philip to proceed. The story thus read was very unlike what it had been to Laura and Amy, when they puzzled it out as an Italian lesson, or to Charles, when he carelessly tossed over the translation in search of Don Abbondio's humours; and thus between reading and conversation, the morning passed very agreeably.
At luncheon, Mr. Edmonstone asked Philip to come and spend a day or two at Hollywell, and he accepted the invitation for the next week. 'I will make Thorndale drive me out if you will give him a dinner.'
'Of course, of course,' said Mr. Edmonstone, 'we shall be delighted. We were talking of asking him, a day or two ago; eh, mamma?'
'Thank you,' said Philip; 'a family party is an especial treat to him,' laying a particular stress on the word 'family party,' and looking at his aunt.
At that moment the butler came in, saying, 'Sir Guy's servant is come, and has brought the horse, sir.'
'Deloraine come!' cried Guy, springing up. 'Where?'
'At the door, sir.'
Guy darted out, Mr. Edmonstone following. In another instant, however, Guy put his head into the room again. 'Mrs. Edmonstone, won't you come and see him? Philip, you have not seen Deloraine.'
Off he rushed, and the others were just in time to see the cordial look of honest gladness with which William, the groom, received his young master's greeting, and the delighted recognition between Guy, Bustle, and Deloraine. Guy had no attention for anything else till he had heard how they had prospered on the journey; and then he turned to claim his friend's admiration for the beautiful chestnut, his grandfather's birthday present. The ladies admired with earnestness that compensated for want of knowledge, the gentlemen with greater science and discrimination; indeed, Philip, as a connoisseur, could not but, for the sake of his own reputation, discover something to criticise. Guy's brows drew together again, and his eyes glanced as if he was much inclined to resent the remarks, as attacks at once on Deloraine and on his grandfather; but he said nothing, and presently went to the stable with Mr. Edmonstone, to see about the horse's accommodations. Philip stood in the hall with the ladies.
'So I perceive you have dropped the title already,' observed he to Laura.
'Yes,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, replying for her daughter, 'it seemed to give him pain by reminding him of his loss, and he was so strange and forlorn just at first, that we were glad to do what we could to make him feel himself more at home.'
'Then you get on pretty well now?'
The reply was in chorus with variations—'Oh, excellently!'
'He is so entertaining,' said Charlotte.
'He sings so beautifully,' said Amabel.
'He is so right-minded,' said Mrs. Edmonstone.
'So very well informed,' said Laura.
Then it all began again.
'He plays chess so well,' said Amy.
'Bustle is such a dear dog,' said Charlotte.
'He is so attentive to Charlie,' said Mrs. Edmonstone, going into the drawing-room to her son.
'Papa says he will make up for the faults of all his ancestors,' said Amabel.
'His music! oh, his music!' said Laura.
'Philip,' said Charlotte, earnestly, 'you really should learn to like him.'
'Learn, impertinent little puss?' said Philip, smiling, 'why should I not like him?'
'I was sure you would try,' said Charlotte, impressively.
'Is it hard?' said Amy. 'But, oh, Philip! you could not help liking his singing.'
'I never heard such a splendid voice,' said Laura; 'so clear and powerful, and yet so wonderfully sweet in the low soft notes. And a very fine ear: he has a real talent for music.'
'Ah! inherited, poor fellow,' said Philip, compassionately.
'Do you pity him for it?' said Amy, smiling.
'Do you forget?' said Philip. 'I would not advise you to make much of this talent in public; it is too much a badge of his descent.'
'Mamma did not think so,' said Amy. 'She thought it a pity he should not learn regularly, with such a talent; so the other day, when Mr. Radford was giving us a lesson, she asked Guy just to sing up and down the scale. I never saw anything so funny as old Mr Radford's surprise, it was almost like the music lesson in "La Figlia del Reggimento"; he started, and looked at Guy, and seemed in a perfect transport, and now Guy is to take regular lessons.
'But do you really mean,' said Laura, 'that if your mother had been a musician's daughter, and you had inherited her talent, that you would be ashamed of it.'
'Indeed, Laura,' said Philip, with a smile, 'I am equally far from guessing what I should do if my mother had been anything but what she was, as from guessing what I should do if I had a talent for music.'
Mrs. Edmonstone here called her daughters to get ready for their walk, as she intended to go to East-hill, and they might as well walk with Philip as far as their roads lay together.
Philip and Laura walked on by themselves, a little in advance of the others. Laura was very anxious to arrive at a right understanding of her cousin's opinion of Guy.
'I am sure there is much to like in him,' she said.
'There is; but is it the highest praise to say there is much to like? People are not so cautious when they accept a man in toto.'
'Then, do you not?'
Philip's answer was—
'He who the lion's whelp has nurst, At home with fostering hand, Finds it a gentle thing at first, Obedient to command,'
'Do you think him a lion's whelp?'
'I am afraid I saw the lion just now in his flashing eyes and contracted brow. There is an impatience of advice, a vehemence of manner that I can hardly deem satisfactory. I do not speak from prejudice, for I think highly of his candour, warmth of heart, and desire to do right; but from all I have seen, I should not venture as yet to place much dependence on his steadiness of character or command of temper.'
'He seems to have been very fond of his grandfather, in spite of his severity. He is but just beginning to brighten up a little.'
'Yes; his disposition is very affectionate,—almost a misfortune to one so isolated from family ties. He showed remarkably well at Redclyffe, the other day; boyish of course, and without much self-command, but very amiably. It is very well for him that he is removed from thence, for all the people idolize him to such a degree that they could not fail to spoil him.'
'It would be a great pity if he went wrong.'
'Great, for he has many admirable qualities, but still they are just what persons are too apt to fancy compensation for faults. I never heard that any of his family, except perhaps that unhappy old Hugh, were deficient in frankness and generosity, and therefore these do not satisfy me. Observe, I am not condemning him; I wish to be perfectly just; all I say is, that I do not trust him till I have seen him tried.'
Laura did not answer, she was disappointed; yet there was a justice and guardedness in what Philip said, that made it impossible to gainsay it, and she was pleased with his confidence. She thought how cool and prudent he was, and how grieved she should be if Guy justified his doubts; and so they walked on in such silence as is perhaps the strongest proof of intimacy. She was the first to speak, led to do so by an expression of sadness about her cousin's mouth. 'What are you thinking of, Philip?'
'Of Locksley Hall. There is nonsense, there is affectation in that, Laura, there is scarcely poetry, but there is power, for there is truth.'
'Of Locksley Hall! I thought you were at Stylehurst.'
'So I was, but the one brings the other.'
'I suppose you went to Stylehurst while you were at St. Mildred's? Did Margaret take you there?'
'Margaret? Not she; she is too much engaged with her book-club, and her soirées, and her societies of every sort and kind.'
'How did you get on with the Doctor?'
'I saw as little of him as I could, and was still more convinced that he does not know what conversation is. Hem!' Philip gave a deep sigh. 'No; the only thing to be done at St. Mildred's is to walk across the moors to Stylehurst. It is a strange thing to leave that tumult of gossip, and novelty, and hardness, and to enter on that quiet autumnal old world, with the yellow leaves floating silently down, just as they used to do, and the atmosphere of stillness round the green churchyard.'
'Gossip!' repeated Laura.' Surely not with Margaret?'
'Literary, scientific gossip is worse than gossip in a primary sense, without pretension.'
'I am glad you had Stylehurst to go to. How was the old sexton's wife?'
'Very well; trotting about on her pattens as merrily as ever.'
'Did you go into the garden?'
'Yes; Fanny's ivy has entirely covered the south wall, and the acacia is so tall and spreading, that I longed to have the pruning of it. Old Will keeps everything in its former state.'
They talked on of the old home, till the stern bitter look of regret and censure had faded from his brow, and given way to a softened melancholy expression.