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LIBR.AFLY

OF THL

UNIVERSITY

or ILLINOIS

82. S



JAMESG.COMMIN.

Bookseller.
30. HiQh Street. EXETER.



SYLVAN HOLT'S
DAUGHTER.



BY HOLME LEE,



AUTHOR OF " KATHIE BRANDE,' " GILBERT MASSENOER,
" THORNEY HALL," ETC.



IN THREE VOLUMES.



VOL. IL



LONDON :
SMITH, ELDER AND CO., 65, CORNHILL.

1858.



[TAe Blifht of Translation is reserved.']



Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign



http://www.archive.org/details/sylvanholtsdaugh02leeh



^^3



CONTENTS.



Chap.


Page


I. Margaret's Trial . . . .


1


II. A RUDE Shock . . . . .


17


in. A Visitor at Wildwood


27


IV. CoLOXEL Fielding ....


47


V. Margaret's Love , . . ,


55


VI. Halcyon Days


59


VII. Mirkdale Gossip . .


73


VIII. Ax Adventure at Wildwood


78


IX. Margaret's Hero


103


X. The Bitter Sweet of Life


121


XI. A Retreat ....


136


XII. Bell Rowley's Ball


145


Xm. A Wood Walk ....


173


XIV. The Old Love and the New


183


XV. Before the Wedding


. 196


XVI. Margaret's Marriage


205


XVII. The Arrival at Manselands


. 225


XVni. IMargaret's new Kinsfolk


. 244


XIX. A Critical Revelation


. 275


XX. Light Clouds ....


. 284


XXI. ROWANBANK ....


. 289


XXII. Sweet and Bitter ....


. 313



SYLYAN HOLT'S DAUGHTER.



CHAPTER I.

MARGARET'S TRIAL.

Mr. Meddotves liad conceived an admiring, pa-
ternal regard for Margaret Holt but he dis-
approved highly of the spirit in which she had
received the history of her unhappy mother's
disgrace and death, and determined to take her
to task about it on the first opportunity. This
opportunity was not long in offering itself. Since
the miserable day when the blow fell, Margaret
had given up her out -door rambles entirely;
instead of betaking herself to the moors or the
wood, she used to shut herself up with Oscar in
the deserted winter parlour, and only came out
VOL. n. B



2 SYLVAN HOLT'S DAUGHTER.

when summoned by Jacky to lier meals. Sylvan
Holt made no attempt to draw her back to her
old amusements, and Mrs. Joan Clervaux reasoned
with her in vain ; a sullen resentment seemed to
have got complete possession of her, and there
was no simi that she endeavoured to strussle
against it.

One morning that Sylvan Holt was gone round
his farm alone, Tibbie Ryder brought up a letter
for Margaret, and Jacky, who was becoming shy
of intruding on her young mistress in her angry
mood, carried it into the summer parlour and
laid it down there to wait her coming out of
her retreat. As soon as Meddowes saw it, the
idea occurred to him that it might furnish an
auspicious introduction for his lecture, so he took
it in his hand and went to the door of the room
where she was and knocked. As there was no
answer he opened it and entered. Margaret was
sittinop on the floor beside the window, with her
arm round Oscar's neck and crying bitterly.
This was the first time she had wept since her
trouble came, and there was more violence than
softening in her sorrow. Meddowes hesitated a



moment or two, and tlien approached her and
laid the letter on her lap. She started, and
wiped her eyes, but neither moved nor spoke;
a convulsive sobbing shook her whole frame, and
when she had broken the seal of her letter she
could scarcely read it for her fast-rising tears.
The lawyer half-repented him of his voluntary
office, for Job's comforters were not more miser-
able ones than he, but laying sudden hold on
his retreating courage, he said :

" You will have some news to carry down to
Oakfield to-day if, as I suspect, your letter is
from Mrs. Joan Clervaux's nephew."

'^Anty can take the letter — I am not going
out," replied Margaret.

Meddowes was not very sure of the tempera-
ment with which he had to deal, and it was
several moments before he ventured to suggest
that the walk would cheer her spirits and do
her good. Margaret was silent, and t]iis em-
boldened him to plunge into his subject with-
out further circumlocution.

"My dear, I want a little serious talk with
you," said he, placing himself on the window-

B 2



4 SYLVAN holt's DAUGHTER.

seat opposite to her; '^we see nothing of you
now, and your father is beginning to be deeply
distressed about you — do you think you are
acting rightly when you cause him pain on
your account?"

Margaret looked up with a startled expression,
and her lips quivered, but she did not speak.

" It is the case, indeed," added the lawyer ;
"when you left us this morning after breakfast
he said to me, * Meddowes, I am uneasy for my
poor child, she takes this sad affair more to
heart than I anticipated.' My dear, it is a very
grievous matter, but it is past and it is irre-
parable. Three lives have fallen a sacrifice to
it, as one may say, and it is enough ; yours is
too precious to be lost in miserable and vain
regrets. Look the calamity frankly in the face,
and ask yourself, what can you alter of it?
Nothing, absolutely nothing ! Then be wise, and
endeavour to become your charming self again —
why cause your father an anxiety that he is ill able
to bear ? You have been the only solace of his
life for these fourteen years back, and what will
be the consequences if you are now to become



MARGARET'S TRIAL. 5

a care instead of a blessing to liim^ I dare not
attempt to think."

Margaret was still silent, but she seemed
stirred out of her self- concentrated moodiness,
and listened without apathy.

" We were speaking of your neglected educa-
tion one day, if you recollect," resumed Med-
dowes, equally pleased and surprised at the effect
of his exhortation, "let us return to the con-
sideration of it now. I should earnestly counsel
you to give your mind employment, and so draw
it away from the contemplation of these disastrous
events. Have you spoken to Mrs. Joan Clervaux
yet about yourself? if not, advise with her to-
day : carry Mr. Carew's letter down to Oakfield
this morning, and ask her what must be done."

Margaret was now obliged to open her lips,
and after the first few tremulous words, she re-
covered herself so far as to be able to detail
what had passed between her old friend and
herself on the subject — but she was far from
showing the same interest in it as she had done
when it was broached at Oakfield.

" I know Mrs. Sinclair well," said Meddowes,



6 SYLVAN holt's DAUGHTEE.

" and I tliink she will develope admirably as a
counter-irritant."

Margaret did not know what he meant, neither
did she care to think; she only rose from the
floor and asked if he knew where her father
was, for she wanted to go to him,

" I dare say he is down in the horse-pasture —
he was saying that you must not lose your
rides, and that he would have that beautiful little
brown mare, Mayblossom, trained for you; he
may be about it now," replied the lawyer, satis-
fied that he had done a very good morning's
work, and cheerful accordingly.

Margaret called Oscar and went out into the hall,
where, after a little loitering and hesitation, she
put on her hat and plaid, and sped off rapidly
down towards the horse-pasture.

*^ She will do now," thought Meddowes, " but
no doubt, the shock was tremendous to that
high spirit — still, when the virulence of the sting
to her pride is abated and her passion goes off,
there is so much feminine pliability about her
that it will not leave any lasting effects. "We
will have the governess and set her to work —



MARGARET'S TRIAL. 7

"but slie is so startled about lier father that I
do not think she will relapse into the sullens
again. Now, I'll pack my carpet-bag, and get
back to town as fast as I can. I would not spend
another week here, if Sylvan Holt would give
me Yi^ildwood Grange and all it contains ! "

Margaret found her father employed as Med-
dowes had suggested — Anty, wearing an old
skirt of her own, was riding Mayblossom up
and down the pasture in beautiful style ; May-
blossom w^as own sister to Crosspatch, and like
her in everything except a white star on her
forehead and a better temper. Sylvan Holt went
to meet his daughter as soon as he saw her, and
then for ever so long they stood to watch the
mare's manoeuvring; Margaret's face brightened
unconsciously into an expression of interest, and
she looked positively pleased when her father
said that in a week's time Mayblossom would
be fit for her to mount. While they were still
talking, the twelve o'clock bell rang, and as they
returned to the Grange, Margaret told her father
of the conversation she had had witli Meddowes,
and previously with Mrs. Joan Clervaux, relative



8 SYLVAN holt's DAUGHTER.

to her education. The notion of a governess did
not, at the first sound, seem very acceptable to
him, and Margaret added that she had ceased
to care about it herself, but afterwards when he
came to discuss it with the lawyer he was brought
round to his way of thinking; and Mrs. Joan
Clervaux being furnished with plenary powers,
not many days were suffered to elapse before
Mrs. Sinclair was domiciled for a permanency at
Mill Cottage.

Mrs. Sinclair proved to be a penetrating, viva-
cious woman, full of spirit and activity — one of
those plain, common - sensical people who will
never give to any circumstance more than its
due weight. She had the art of attracting con-
fidence, and Margaret fortunately took a liking
to her at their first interview, which liking soon
become mutual. It was not long before she
freely unbosomed herself of her misgivings on her
own portentous state of ignorance, summing up
the case briefly in the following pithy sentences :

" I have everything to learn ; I know literally
nothing of what is made of most account in girls'
education ; I dare say you will regret you have



MAEGARET'S TRIAL. 9

iindertaken me wlien you begin to find out liow
densely ignorant I am."

Mrs. Sinclair replied with a promise not to
regret if her pupil would begin to be diligent
now, and offered her every incentive that could
be devised. It was not much in Margaret's way,
however, to work steadily, hour after hour and
day after day — her first, though secret, motive
seemed to be lost sight of altogether, and no
secondary one was weighty enough to smooth
the rough places on her path. But ]\Irs. Sin-
clair had one and only one view of her own
duty — she was there to teach and Margaret was
there to learn, so she was resolutely and patiently
blind to all her freaks of indolence or restiveness,
and the more Margaret rebelled, the more she
had to do. It was something like breaking in
the generous-tempered Mayblossom, for, after a
natural degree of chafing against the unac-
customed rule, both gave in and did their duty —
if with no high amount of pleasure — at least
systematically and well. This parallel was Mar-
garet's own, for when Mrs. Joan Clervaux asked
her what account she had to give of herself



10 SYLVAN holt's DAUGHTEK.

when she had been about six weeks under Mrs.
Sinclair's tuition she replied ruefully enough :

'' Oh, Mrs. Joan, I am almost broken in now !
The process was very hard and tiresome at first,
and sometimes I even thought I must ask my
father to let me give it up altogether."

" But you have struggled courageously through
at last, and will be glad of it by and by. How
long have you lessons daily ? "

^^Four hours — and afterwards if I have been
good — don't laugh, Mrs. Joan, I am not always
good — Mrs. Sinclair sings and plays to me. Oh,
I wish I could play like her ! it would be such
perfect heartsease ! "

" Have you ever tried what you can do ? "

'^ Yes, but I soon gave it up again, for I found
that I should never succeed. I hated the feeble
pottering noises I made."

" And your drawing, Gipsy ? "

"That I enjoy more than anything else, and
Mrs. Sinclair tells me for my comfort that I may
really hope to make something out of it."

" Any French, any Italian or German ? "

" Only translations. Mrs. Sinclair wrote out a



MARGARET'S TRIAL. 11

long list of books and Mr. Meddowes sent tliera
from town. He is also to forward a monthly
parcel of new books — and I read aloud to my
father at night, when there is one that suits
him."

"And have you much satisfaction in your
labours, Gipsy ? "

" Sometimes I feel glad that I am trying to do
something, but just as often I am discouraged
at the slowness of my progress. However, it
cannot be helped; I shall never be more than
an half-educated, ignorant creature: I wish,
twenty times a day, that Abbeymeads and Rush-
fall were not in existence, or that they did not
exist for me."

Margaret one day expressed the same sentiment
to Mrs. Sinclau' who rebuked her for it seriously,
and bade her consider what good she might do if
she was not too indolent and selfish to apply the
means.

" I do not know how to do good," was the
curt reply.

" But you can learn, I presume. Try to begin
at once, and think whether there is not some kind



12 SYLVAN holt's DAUGPITER.

turn you can do in Beckford. You have had a
noble example of Christian charity before your
eyes all your life in Mrs. Joan Clervaux."

*• Yes ! but who could be like her? she is one
in ten thousand ! "

" Your powers will be greater, and that ought
to multiply your opportunities. Remember the old
adage, ' Where there 's a will, there 's a way.' "

" I am sure misery has a tendency to make one
selfish then ; I do not want to help anybody or
do anything, but be quiet and out of sight."

Mrs. Sinclair had early discovered w^hat a root
of bitterness concerning her mother's sin there
lived in the poor girl's heart, and she did her
utmost to root it up before it struck its fibres
through all her nature ; she appealed to her
reason, as Mrs. Joan Clervaux had appealed to
her feelings, and together they did much to soothe
her ; but it was no mere human effort that could
ever subdue Margaret's wounded, unforgiving
pride. Now and then— but this was rarely — she
grew impatient of what she called Mrs. Sinclair's
'' lectures." A reckless fit would come over her,
and she would declare she was an outcast — a miser-



MARGARET'S TRIAL. 13

able, disgraced outcast, though by no fault of her
own, and that it was no use to slave at tasks she
hated ! She would stay at Wildwood all her life,
and so long as she had her father, her horse, and
her dog, what did all the rest of the world signify
to her ?

" Nothing, perhaps, but you signify to yourself,"
Mrs. Sinclair would reply on these occasions.
" You have an active brain that craves food ;
starve it and it may perish or work you dire
mischief. You are in an unhealthy frame of mind
just now, and need a tonic."

And the tonic administered was a musical
interlude, or a cheerful w^alk beguiled by pleasant
conversation or a visit to Oakfield — usually the
most successful of the three, for there is a mighty
power of consolation in the presence of any one
beloved.

Amongst minor grievances there was one of
almost daily recurrence — a slight one, perhaps —
but still in its effects a grievance of importance.
Margaret was in the habit of using many home-
spun words and strong provincialisms, and some-
times there blended in her conversation a tone that



14 SYLVAN HOLT'S DAUGHTER.

Mrs. Sinclair assured her was very unbecoming
to feminine lips.

"But why is it wrong to talk of dogs and
horses ? " Margaret would then demand ; " I like
them almost better than anything. You know
that I have been brought up amongst them and
cannot help it."

"There is nothing absolutely ivrong in what
you say, my dear girl, but so much stable-talk
is not pretty in a young lady," her preceptress
assured her gravely. Margaret thought this
fastidious and was chagrined, she even regretted
the day when she had put herself into training to
be made like other women ; but, by degrees, as
her reading supplied her with new themes of
interest and reflection, the obnoxious subjects
were less and less frequently intruded on Mrs.
Sinclair's tingling ears. Then, again, there was
much of Jacky's homely teaching to undo ;
superstitions and prejudices, that flourished
rank as weeds in Margaret's mind, w^ere a sore
trouble to eradicate, and some of them would not
yield an inch to all the powers of argument
or persuasion that could be brought to bear upon



MARGARET'S TRIAL. 15

them. Mrs. Sinclair found that she had, indeed,
undertaken a bewildering task in this neglected,
high-tempered young creature, but she con-
soled herself with the reflection that notwith-
standing her wildness, her peculiarities, and her
ignorance, Margaret was both a talented and
lovable girl, who would not bring discredit on
her labours m the end, and perhaps, her interest
and attachment grew in proportion to the difficul-
ties she encountered.

As Tibbie Ryder, after the sharp fright she had
received, judged it expedient to keep her own
counsel on her ill-gained knowledge, neither
Sylvan Holt's domestic trials nor Margaret's
heiress-ship transpired through her, and Mirk-
dale remained in ignorance of all that had
recently happened at the Grange : but when
Bell RoYvdey heard who had come to live at Mill
Cottage and for what purpose, she made herself
exceedingly merry at Margaret's expense, and
gave it out amongst her gossips that "That
strange Sylvan Holt's daughter had got a gover-
ness at last, and that she was going to be veneered
and polished, preparatory to her introduction into



16 SYLVAN HOLT'S DAUGHTER.

society as heiress of Wildwood." The witty
remark came round to Mrs. Joan Clervaux, and
subsequently to Margaret herself, who winced at
the contempt it implied, and thought, with a hard
cruel throbbing at her heart, how much deeper
might be the scorn when all should be known, and
people came to regard her, not as " Sylvan Holt's
daughter," but as the daughter of the guilty
mother who had betrayed them both.



A BUDE SHOCK. 17



CHAPTER 11.

A RUDE SHOCK.

It was only a few days after this, on tlie occasion
of one of her tonic visits to Oakfield, that Mar-
garet Holt first saw Colonel Fielding's mother —
that Geraldine Favell whose youthful grace and
elegance had become familiar to her through Mrs.
Joan Clervaux's frequent praises. According
to her usual practice she walked through the
shrubbery to the glass-door, and tapping on the
pane she was immediately bid to come in. She
was not aware of the presence of any second
person in the drawing-room until after she
had kissed Mrs. Joan, and told her Mrs. Sinclair
had sent her down to be " set right," when her
old friend turned her round to where an elderly
lady was reclining in a low chair by the further
window, saying —

VOL. II.



18 SYLVAN HOLT'S DAUGHTEE.

^^ This is my very dear little Gipsy, Margaret
Holt ; you must make each other's acquaintance,
Geraldine."

Margaret blushed crimson as she laid her hand
in that which Mrs. Fielding extended towards
her : —

"I have heard my son Rupert speak of
you in a way that makes me know you
already," said the stranger, looking with a
yery earnest but kindly gaze into her face ; she
held the young girl's finger for some moments,
and relinquished them with a gentle pressure.
The impression Margaret had received from
Mrs. Joan Clervaax of her early companion
was fully borne out by her present appearance.
She was a delicate looking woman, and wore
an anxious expression, but she was still beautiful ;
she would indeed be beautiful at every age,
her countenance was so sweetly benign and pure
in feature, while her complexion was scarcely
less brilliant than it had been in her first youth.

Margaret had interrupted the two in the
midst of recalling a long list of the men and
women of their acquaintance who had been



A KUDE SHOCK. 19

young -with them; and tliey now resumed it.
Who had married this one and who that ; who
had had a severe disappointment and had
never rallied from it ; who had made a great
success in life and who as notorious a failure;
whose family had been a crown of honour, and
whose a burden of misery and disgrace; who
was dead, who had mysteriously disappeared,
and who were running on steadily, still in the
old grooves where they ran so long ago. It
sounded a rather tedious ditty to Margaret, to
whom every name, incident, and allusion, was
unfamiliar; but when they reverted to the
theme of Mrs. Fielding's family, which had
already been discussed, but which could never
be worn bald of interest, she listened with close
attention and even with eagerness — an eagerness
which almost betrayed itself in her variable colour
and parted rosy lips.

^' I shall grieve to lose Amy," said Mrs. Eielding,
regretfully; ^^the dear child has always been
so companionable with me; and though we
may trust this marriage is for her happiness,
we who give her up find it hard to reconcile

C 2



20 SYLVAN holt's DAUGHTER.

ourselves to the long separation. Ten years is a
weary while to look forward to, though it seems
but a short time when it is past."

" Katherine will replace her to you, and there
is Cecy besides," suggested Mrs. Joan ; "your
description of Cecy wins my heart."

"Cecy is a darling treasure to her mother!"
said Mrs. Fielding with enthusiasm ; " she is our
youngest — Rupert loves her best. But Kalherine
is quite the dame; I cannot draw her picture
for you — at least not satisfactorily. The Laird's
pet is Katie."

" You would have been glad to keep the Colonel
at home now, Geraldine?"

" Oh yes ! Since we h^ve lost his dear brothers
it has been all our wish that he should leave
the service, but he still says, No. He was
always attached to his profession, and we are
well aware that a braver and better soldier
than R-upert Fielding never drew sword. They
are anticipating a crisis in our Indian affairs,
and he will not miss the struggle, if it should come
to one."

"My nephew, young Martin Carew, went



A RUDE SHOCK. 21

out with his regiment only two months ago. He
longs for active service too."

^^ I sympathize with the ardent young men,
but oh, Joan ! they forget our anxieties at
home! Have you any one out in India for
whom you care?" This question was addressed
to Margaret, who replied —

'' Only Martin Carew."

Mrs. Fielding's eyes lingered with an intent,
scrutinizing expression on Margaret's countenance
for several moments after she had spoken, and at
last she said musingly :

"I cannot tell what it is in this child's face
that reminds me so forcibly of Madeline Digby,
Joan, who wanted to marry her handsome cousin
Sydney Brooke — you must remember her ? " Mrs.
Joan replied, with an appearance of restraint,
that she had never met the lady referred to.

"But you must have heard her spoken of,"
persisted Mrs. Fielding : " she was a gloriously
beautiful woman, though notoriously unprincipled
and extravagant. Sydney Brooke and she were
made for each other, but her parents would not let
them marry."



22 SYLVAN HOLT'S DAUGHTEE.

Mrs. Joan Clervaux's memory seemed to fail
her here altogether : she shook her head and en-
deavoured to speak of something else, but the other
lady was so strongly seized by the idea that
she still soufrht to revive her old friend's dormant
recollection.

'' You may never have seen her, for she was not
introduced until long after either of us, but she
was the town's talk both during her first season
and the season after her marriage' — for she made
an extremely rich marriage after giving up her
cousin. Of course, she was wretched — Ah ! I see
you recall the circumstances now : — well, can you
give me any authentic information as to what became
of her finally?"

Mrs. Joan could not charge her memory with all
the details, she said ; it was generally understood
at the period that she and her husband had se-
parated : and again she tried to divert the subject.

" It was a mysterious, hushed-up affair alto-
gether," Mrs. Fielding remarked ; " there was a
whisper afloat for some time that they led a wretched
life together, and the next news was that she had
fled the country, and joined her cousin abroad.



A RUDE SHOCK. 23

He was never seen again, and some people went so
far as to say that her husband pursued and killed
him ; not in a duel, but that he actually murdered
him, and was imprisoned several years for the
crime. He has never come back to England, I
believe, and if he has, he keeps himself buried in
seclusion. I know they had a child, bat whether
it was a son or a "

Mrs. Fielding was suddenly arrested in her


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