« PreviousContinue »
Besides, one must act for oneself, and this was only my own personal amusement.” ““ Yes," said Amy, timidly hesitating.
““Well ?” said he, with the gentle, deferential tone, that contrasted with his hasty, vehement self-accusations. “Well?" and he waited, though not so as to hurry or frighten her, but to encourage by showing her words had weight.
I was thinking of one thing,” said Amy; "is it not sometimes right to consider whether we ought to disappoint people who want us to be pleased ?"
"“There it is, I believe," said Guy, stopping and considering; then going on with a better satisfied air, " that is a real rule. Not to be so bent on myself as to sacrifice other people's feelings to what seems best for me. But I don't see whose pleasure I interfered with.”
*Amy could have answered “ Mine;" but the maidenly feeling checked her again, and she said, “We all thought you would like it." ““Ănd 'I had no right to sacrifice your pleasure! I see, I see.
The pleasure of giving pleasure to others is so much the best there is on earth, that one ought to be passive rather than interfere with it.”
““Yes,” said Amy, "just as I have seen Mary Ross let herself be swung till she was giddy, rather than disappoint Charlotte and Helen, who thought she liked it."
!" !f one could get to look at everything with as much indifference as the swinging! But it is all selfishness. It is as easy to be selfish for one's own good as for one's own pleasure; and I dare say, the first is as bad as the other."
"“I was thinking of something else," said Amy, “I should think it more like the holly-tree in Southey. Don't you know it? The young leaves are sharp and prickly, because they have so much to defend themselves from, but as the tree grows older, it leaves off the spears, after it has won the victory.”'— Pp. 162–165.
Guy goes to Oxford, and, at last, declares his love to Amabel and is accepted. It is no easy matter to escape, in love scenes, from sentimental commonplace; the gracefulness, the deep, tender purity of the love of Guy and Amy are a triumph of Miss Yonge's powers. But their happiness is overclouded by Philip's meddling impertinence. Guy had wished to give a thousand pounds to a Sisterhood of Mercy, and had aided his mother's brother, a loose, second-rate musician, with a cheque, which the uncle parts with to a notorious gambler, who gets it cashed in the presence of Mrs. Henley, Philip's sister, at a provincial town, near to which Guy is spending his long vacation with an Oxford reading party. This, and the request for the thousand pounds, Philip persuades Mr. Edmonstone into believing as proofs that Guy is gambling and dishonest. A letter is written, on the receipt of which, at first, Guy's indignation is extreme. He writes, however, quietly ; but, asserting his innocence, declines explanation. Mr. Edmonstone, under the influence of Philip, breaks off his engagement with Amy. We pass over the transactions of the few months during which this cloud continues. They are not the best part of the book. They provoke and weary our patience by a succession of misunderstandings, which would not, in fact, occur in real life, and would be explained in a moment if they did. Their being necessary to the story does not make them natural. Nor does the example of Miss Burney, who carries this kind of manæuvre to its extreme, by any means tend to reconcile us to its use.
It is true that in the case before us the misrepresentations to which Guy is obliged to submit, and the disruption of intercourse which follows, tend greatly to the illustration of the characters of Guy himself, and Philip, and Amabel, and give occasion to some of the most stirring and beautiful incidents in the volumes. While Guy is spending an Oxford vacation at Redclyffe, he saves the crew of a shipwrecked vessel from a dangerous rock, and the whole scene is described with a reality and spirit seldom to be met with in the writings of even more celebrated persons than Miss Yonge. Indeed it is to be observed throughout this story, that the descriptions of scenery, and especially of the sea-coast, are in the highest degree vivid and imaginative. We cannot give the scene of the shipwreck, but let our readers study this passage from a later portion of the story :
* At length, on Ascension day, the last before he was to leave Redclyffe, with a determination that he would escape for once from his pursuers, he walked to the Cove as soon as he returned from morning service, launched his little boat, and pushed off into the rippling, whispering waters. It was a resumption of the ways of his boyhood; it seemed like a holiday, to have left all these cares behind him, just as it used to be when all his lessons were prepared, and he bad leave to disport himself, by land or water, the whole afternoon, provided he did not go out beyond the Shag Rock. He took up his sculls and rowed merrily, singing and whistling to keep time with their dash; the return to the old pleasure, quite enough at first, the salt breeze, the dashing waves, the motion of the boat. So he went on till he had come as far as his former boundary, then he turned, and gazed back on the precipitous rocks, cleft with deep fissures, marbled with veins of different shades of red, and tufted here and there with clumps of samphire, grass, and a little brusbwood, bright with the early green of spring. The white foam and spray were leaping against their base, and roaring in their hollows; the tract of wavelets between glittered in light, or heaved green under the shadow of the passing clouds; the sea-birds floated smoothly in sweeping undulating lines,
As though life's only call and care
Were graceful motion ; the hawks poised themselves bigh in air near the rocks. The Cove lay in sunshine, its rough stone chimneys and rude slate roofs, overgrown with moss and fern, rising rapidly, one above the other, in the fast descending hollow, through which a little stream rushed to the sea,-more quietly than its brother, which, at some space distant, fell sheer down over the crag in a white line of foam, brawling with a tone of its own, distinguishable among all the voices of the sea contending with the rocks. Above the village, in the space where the outline of two hills met and crossed, rose the pinnacled tower of the village church, the unusual height of which was explained by the old custom of lighting a beacon-lire on its summit, to
serve as a guide to the boats at sea. Still higher, apparently on the very brow of the beetling crag that frowned above, stood the old Gothic hall, crumbling and lofty, a fit eyrie for the eagles of Morville. The sunshine was indeed full upon it; but it served to show how many of the dark windows were without the lining of blinds and curtains, that alone gives the look of life and habitation to a house. How crumbled by sea-wind were the old walls, and the aspect altogether full of a dreary haughtiness, suiting with the whole of the stories connected with its name, from the time when it was said the very dogs crouched and fled from the presence of the sacrilegious murderer of the Archbishop, to the evening when the heir of the line lay stretched a corpse before his father's gate.
Guy sat resting on his oars, gazing at the scene, full of happiness, yet with a sense that it might be too bright to last, as if it scarcely befitted one like himself. The bliss before him, though it was surely a beam from heaven, was so much above him, that he hardly dared to believe it real : like a child repeating, “ Is it my own, my very own?” and pausing before it will venture to grasp at a prize beyond its hopes. He feared to trust himself fully, lest it should carry him away from his self-discipline, and dazzle bim too much to let him keep his gaze on the light beyond ; and he rejoiced in this time of quiet, to enable him to strive for power over his mind, to prevent himself from losing in gladness the balance he had gained in adversity.
• It was such a check as he might have wished for, to look at that grim old castle, recollect who he was, and think of the frail tenure of all earthly joy, especially for one of the house of Morville. Could that abode ever be a home for a creature like Amy, with the bright innocent mirth that seemed too soft and sweet ever to be overshadowed by gloom and sorrow? Perhaps she might be early taken from him in the undimmed beauty of her happiness and innocence, and he might have to struggle through a long lonely life, with only the remembrance of short-lived joy to lighten it; and when he reflected that this was only a melancholy fancy, the answer came from within, that there was nothing peculiar to him in the perception that earthly happiness was fleeting. It was best that so it should be, and that he should rest in the trust that brightened on him through all,—that neither life nor death, sorrow nor pain, could separate, for ever, him and his Amy.
* And he looked up into the deep blue sky over head, murmuring to him. self, “ In heart and mind thither ascend, and with Him continually dwell ;." and gazed long and intently, as he rocked on the green waters, till he again spoke to himself, -—“Why stand ye here gazing up into heaven ?" then pulled vigorously back to the shore, leaving a shining wake far behind him.'-Pp. 90-93.
But this is by the way. The doubts are at last dispelled, Guy's character is appreciated, Philip's influence overturned, and the marriage he had striven so hard to prevent is allowed to take place. Beautiful indeed is the picture of their humble trust and resignation throughout their difficulties; not a common-place word or thought interferes with the perfection of a conception which can be scarcely matched in its singular purity and refinement. This is a piece of love-making when Guy comes back, and just before his marriage. Our readers must agree with us that it is exquisite :
• Amy's face glowed as she moved towards him, and her mother said something about the drawing-room, where the next moment she found herself. She did not use any little restless arts to play with her embarrassment; she did not torment the flowers or the chimney ornaments, nor even her own rings; she stood with her hands folded and her head a little bent down, like a pendant blossom, ready to listen to whatever might be said to her.
"He did not speak at first, but moved uneasily about. At last he came nearer, and began speaking fast and nervously.
"“ Amabel, I want you to consider-you really ought to tbink whether this is not a very bad thing for you."
The drooping head was raised, the downcast lids lifted up, and the blue eves fixed on him with a look at ouce confiding and wondering. He proceeded
•“I have brought you nothing hut unhappiness already. So far as you have taken any interest in me, it could cause you only pain, and the more I think of it, the more unfit it seems that one so formed for light, and joy, and innocent mirth should have anything to do with the darkness that is round me. Think well of it. I feel as if I had done a selfish thing by you, and now, you know, you are not bound. You are quite free! No one knows anything about it; or if they did, the blame would rest entirely with me. I would take care it should. So Amy, think, and think well, before you risk your happiness.”
"“As to that,” replied Amy, in a soft low voice, with such a look of truth in her clear eyes, “I must care for whatever happens to you, and I had rather it was with you, than without you," she said, casting them down again.
«“My Amy !-my own!-my Verena!”- and he held fast one of her hands, as they sat together on the sofa—" I had a feeling that so it might be through the very worst, yet I can hardly believe it now."
"“ Guy," said Amy, looking up with the gentle resolution that had lately grown on her, " you must not take me for more than I am worth, and I should like to tell you fairly. I did not speak last time, because it was all so strange and so delightful, and I had not time to think, because I was so confused. But that is a long time ago, and this has been a very sad winter, and I have thought a great deal. I know, and you know, too, that I am a foolish little thing; I have been silly little Amy always; you and Charlie have helped me to all the sense I have, and I don't think I could ever be a clever, strong-minded woman, such as one admires."
""Heaven forbid !” ejaculated Guy; moved, perhaps, by a certain remembrance of St. Mildred's.
o But," continued Amy, “I believe I do really wish to be good, and I know you have helped me to wish it much more, and I bave been trying to learn to bear things, and so "-out came something, very like a sunny smile, though some tears followed_" so if you do like such a silly little thing, it can't be helped, and we will try to make the best of her. Only don't say any more about my being happier without you; for one thing I. am very sure of, Guy-I had rather bear anything with you, than know you were bearing it alone. I am only afraid of being foolish and weak, and making things worse for you." .6" So much worse! But still," he added, “speak as you may, my Amy, I cannot, must not, feel that I have a right to think of you as my own, till you have heard all. You ought to know what my temper is before you risk yourself in its power. Amy, my first thought towards Philip was nothing short of murder."
She raised her eyes, and saw how far entirely he meant what he said. «« The first-not the second," she murmured.
"" Yes, the second the third. There was a moment when I could have given my soul for my revenge?”
"“Only a moment!"
"“Only a moment, thank Heaven! and I have not done quite so badly since. I hope I have not suffered quite in vain ; but if that shock could overthrow all my wonted guards, it might, though I pray Heaven it may not, it might happen again.
"" I think you conquered yourself then, and that you will again," said Amy.
• “ And suppose I was ever to be mad enough to be angry with you?"
• Amy smiled outright here. “Of course, I should deserve it; but I think the trouble would be the comforting you afterwards. Mamma said” -she added, after a long silence, during which Guy's feeling would not let him speak—"mamma said, and I think, that you are much safer and better with such a quick temper as yours, because you are always struggling and fighting with it, on the real true religious ground, than a person more even tempered by nature, but not so much in earnest in doing right.”
** Yes, if I did not believe myself to be in earnest about that, I could never dare to speak to you at all.”
«“We will help each other,” said Amy; "you have always helped me, long before we knew we cared for each other!"
<< And, Amy, if you knew how the thought of you helped me last winter, even when I thought I bad forfeited you for ever!”-Pp. 51–54.
They are married; and they go to Italy, and there they meet Philip, unchanged, and offensive as ever. But he has lost his power of irritating Guy, who is too happy, and has become too perfect to mind his ways. From the gentle Amy he draws on one occasion a dignified rebuke; but he hardens his heart, and repels the cordial affection which Guy, with heroic forbearance, tries to tender him. He goes, against Guy's warning, into a feverish district, and catches a fever, of which, but for Guy's constant care and nursing, he would certainly have died. As he recovers Guy sickens; Amy has to nurse him, and attend to Philip too; but Guy has no strength of constitution, he fades gradually away, and dies commending Philip to his wife, and leaving the reader (we speak for ourselves) half indignant at the loss of such a character, yet full of admiration at a picture so full of the noblest lessons, in which virginal innocence, and high manly spirit, a simple and profound religion and a pathetic tenderness, are blended in most harmonious proportions.
Before Guy's death the scales fall from Philip's eyes; he sees himself and he sees Guy as they really are, and his remorse is deep and earnest. It is a noble scene where he asks Guy's forgiveness, and Guy tells him he has had it long ago; but the most touching, perhaps, is the passage we extract where he is dying, with Amy watching him. Amy is with child, which will explain the early portion of it.
*He had slept quietly for some time, when she roused him to give him some wive, as she was desired to do constantly. He smiled, and said, “ Is no one here but you?” ("No one."
“My own sweet wife, my Verena, as you have always been. We have been very happy together."