- chapter: THE WIFE'S TRIALS. CHAPTER I. LILIAN GREY.
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THE WIFE'S TRIALS.
THIS day week!" said Lilian Grey, as she sat with her sister at their chamber window watching the last hues of sunset fade from the wavy hills, that almost encircled the quiet little town of Kirby-Brough; "this day week, at this time, I shall be far, far away."
Elizabeth sighed, and tried to thread her needle in the faint light that still radiated from the glowing west; but she made no reply. Lilian went on: "It seems so strange, Elizabeth, to think that after next Tuesday Kirby-Brough will never be, my home again. That Sundays will come, and the bells will ring, and I shall not be sitting between you and Eleanor, where I have sat ever since I first went to church And | | 6 then the summer—the long, sultry, July days, when I always went into the deep wood yonder, and sat listening to the birds, and the rustling leaves, and dreaming over my book, or thinking perhaps of the very time that is now come, and wondering whether I ever could care about any one so much as to be willing to leave my dear home and go quite away and have new associations, and new relatives, and new duties. Summer Will soon be here again, and you and the children will go there; but I shall not go With you. I shall be Lilian Grey no longer!"
"You will be Lilian Hope, dearest!" said Elizabeth trying to speak gaily.
"Yes," said the young girl, shaking back her long, dark, glossy curls, and springing up as she spoke.—"Yes, that is it, Elizabeth. I shall be Basil's wife, and that thought puts away all my sadness. I must be happy while I am with him. It would be dreadful to go amongst strangers if I were not going with my husband, but his mother will be my mother, and his sisters Will be my sisters, and his home and his friends mine also. Oh, Elizabeth, I wish you were as happy as I am! I wish there were two more Basils in the world, one for you and one for Eleanor, when she is Old enough to be married. But I might as well wish for two suns; there could not be another like Basil. I may say so now, Elizabeth dear; I think it is not un- | | 7 maidenly, for in one little week he will be my Basil, and I shall be his own wife. You, and Eleanor, and the children, and Aunt Dorothy will miss me, I know; but I shall come to see you, and you and Eleanor must pay me long, very long visits, as soon as we. have our own home. And then we can write; oh, what amusing letters I shall send you from town, and from Hopelands-park, and what volumes of news I shall have from Kirby-Brough! You must tell me everything, Elizabeth; try to make me see with your eyes; tell me how the hills look; how the sunlight is slanting on the common; how the shadows of the old castle-ruins fall on the meadows beneath; how the cricket-field looks. You will miss me at first, but you will soon be used to it."
"I shall miss you. very much!" said Elizabeth, and her voice sank and trembled as she spoke but I hope, dear, the gain of others will be greater than our loss. I hope you will be very happy. I dare say Basil's mother and sisters will be all you could wish; but, Lilian, my dear, you must not expect to find things henceforth as smooth as they have been. A wife may have deeper happiness and fuller joys, than a young girl in the home of her childhood; but she must inevitably be exposed to greater trials, incur heavier responsibilities, and perhaps meet with stronger temptations to evil than when she lived with her | | 8 sisters and brothers under the shelter of her father's roof. I admire Basil exceedingly, but I cannot help wishing you were going to marry some one nearer Home, and some one in our own station."
"I do not see," interrupted Lilian, proudly, "that there is any such great inequality of station. Basil's family is rich, and boasts a pedigree some centuries in length; but when all is said and done, one can be no more than a lady. The Queen is a lady with extraordinary distinctions; you and I are ladies by habit and education, though without any further distinction than thin which is inseparable from gentle breeding."
"I am afraid your visions will be considered too levelling among the aristocratic Hopes," said Elizabeth, this time with a genuine smile. "But, dear Lilian, you must forgive me if I seem to cast a shadow over the bright vista of your coming days; it is that I am so anxious, so fearful lest any—any inadvertence, I will say, should raise a barrier at the first between you and your husband's family. Basil can not be expected to——I hardly knew what I would say, for I am not clever as you are but, Lilian, try to think of yourself henceforward as a Hope; take not only Basil, but all who belong to him to your heart."
Elizabeth Grey was nearly twenty-four; she was the eldest of a large family early bereft of a mother's | | 9 care. A maiden aunt resided with them, but Elizabeth was really the head and mainspring of the household. She was not a beauty, by no means talented, and quite unable at times to comprehend the poetic flights of her brilliant sister Lilian, five years younger than herself, and the pride and beauty of the old-fashioned little town of Kirby-Brough. There was another girl, named Eleanor, just sixteen; Susan, eleven, and George and John coming in between Eleanor and Susan. The eldest brother, Arthur, was in India; he was nearly three years older than Lilian. Mr. Grey, a retired woollen manufacture, died when Elizabeth was twenty, leaving a comfortable provision for his children. Aunt Dorothy continued to reside with her orphan nephews and nieces, in order to give an air of stability to a household whose mistress and members were so extremely juvenile.
Nothing particular occurred till Lilian was turned eighteen, and then Basil Hope came into the neighborhood to pay a visit to a college-friend. He met the sisters in their walks, both in the town and the country; and was much struck with Lilian's peculiar style and beauty. Somehow an introduction took place; Basil Hope first admired and then loved the fair girl who seemed to him far lovelier than the loneliest of the high-born daughters of his own caste and station. The quiet, sensible Elizabeth saw the attachment | | 10 which was growing up between the stranger and her sister, and feared the result; but her misgivings were but slightly communicated. Basil proposed in due and honorable form, and Lilian promised to be his wife.
That there was stormy work at Hopelands when the young heir returned to the parental roof, and requested his father's countenance to the marriage which was already arranged, the sisters never knew. Basil only admitted that there had been difficulties, that his parents had entertained other views for him; but that all was settled now. They were to reside at first at Hopelands, and then take up their residence in town, and begin housekeeping for themselves. In process of time, letters reached Kirby-Brough from two of Basil's sisters, Olivia and Harriet; stiff, cold letters they seemed to the young fiancee, written, it would seem, rather in compliance with certain conventionalities, than From a desire to welcome to their domestic circle the young and lovely new sister, who was leaving, for their brother's sake, the happy home of her early years.
As the time fixed for Lilia's marriage drew near, Elizabeth's anxieties increased tenfold. She knew Lilian so well; she was such 'a paradoxical creature; so humble and gentle in an atmosphere of love, so proud and uncompromising when she felt or fancied herself wronged; so cold and reserved to those whom she | | 11 could not respect; so clinging and ingenuous where she encountered goodness and sympathy. Then she was so sensitive, and so quick to hide the disappointment and pain which from tithe to time persons of her temperament are certain to encounter.
Yes; Lilian Grey was perilously fashioned: a child in the great world's ways, yet a woman in strength of feeling, and earnestness, and purpose; gifted with that dangerous, and too often fatal, dower of remarkable beauty, with an ardent and poetic temperament, a brilliant imagination, and a very imperfectly developed, but rather alarming, capacity for acute sarcasm.
And with regard. to religion? Here Lilian ,was altogether wanting. The light of truth which every day grows clearer and larger, had not yet penetrated to Kirby-Brough. The inhabitants thought they were good, consistent Church-people, because they congregated once or twice every Sunday in the grand old minster-like church of their quiet, respectable town, lived, generally speaking, moral and reputable lives, and responded four times annually to the rector's invitation to come to the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. No controversial questions vexed the good people of Kirby-Brough, no sectarian or party spirit disturbed the even tenor of their way. High Church and Low Church were terms but imperfectly understood, and never discussed. Tractarianism and the Evangelical | | 12 Alliance were alike unknown. The tide of time actually seemed to stagnate at Kirby-Brough; but the rector gave hood dinners, the wife of the head-master of the grammar-school bare delightful evening parties, and on the high-days and festivals the bells clanged till the old church-tower rocked again, and the breeze from the hills fluttered the silken folds of the parish flag, and displayed the motto of the loyal but undemonstrative Kirby-Broughians, "Church and Queen."
The last Sunday of Lilian's maiden life came and went. She repeated mechanically the responses after the drowsy clerk, and listened wearily to the thirty-fourth edition of the rector's sermon on Jacob wrest-ling with the angel. After the evening service, she went to see Alice Rayner, her old school-fellow, who was confined by perpetual indisposition to- her couch.
Elizabeth and Eleanor walked home with the children. Aunt Dorothy n ever attended evening service; she read Blair's sermons or "the Week's Preparation" at home; so Lilian went alone up the quiet hill, and along the green lane, to Alice Rayner's cottage-home. The sweet April day had come to its close, the sun had gone down behind the distant hills, leaving on their lonely summits a glorious flush of crimson and golden light; the rush of the river sounded solemnly in the hushed Sabbath twilight, and the young moon and the faint stars gleamed forth in the clear blue sky, | | 13 that hung so peacefully over the quiet, darkening world.
Lilian paused at the top of the hill; her eye rested lovingly on the grey church beneath, and on the silent churchyard, where her father and mother, with some of their infant children, slumbered side by side. Next Sunday she would be far away; and the tears rose unhidden, as she thought of her old home forsaken, her old and tried friends no longer by her side. But Basil, he for whom she was willing to break all the tender ties of her youth, he would be by her side, he would be always with her, her guide, her protector, her best and nearest friend!
Slowly she turned along the lane, and reached Alice's cottage. Alice lay as usual on her couch by the fire; the lamp was not lighted, and she was gazing at the silvery stars, as one by one they shone out in the pure ether above.
"Dear, dear Lilian!" she said, "how kind of you. You have come to have a last quiet talk!"
"Yes, Alice. I thought there would be so many things to do to-morrow; and Tuesday, you know, Tuesday is to be the day."
"Yes, yes! I know. God bless you, Lilian; may he make you very, very happy. You look rather sad; you repent?"
"Repent. Oh no, Alice. I know I shall be | | 14 happy; for, after Tuesday morning, Basil's path and mine will be one. I can never know sorrow with him; never suffer while he loves me as he loves me now!"
"Lilian," said Alice thoughtfully, "do you know I think of many things that would never, perhaps, occur to anyone who was well and able to be about; and I am afraid it is not good to rest one's peace, one's inmost self, on any mortal creature. It seems to me that any one without trust in God is just like a ship on a deceitful sea; as the earth would be, if gravitation were to cease; as the planets would be, if their laws of motion were suddenly suspended."
"But I do trust in God, Alice dear. I am not a heathen: all Christian people trust in God, do they not?"
"All Christian people do, undoubtedly; but oh, Lilian, how hard it is to be a Christian! It is, I am sure, the hardest thing that is not impossible. One has need of so much faith, and so much patience!"
"Poor Alice!" said Lilian tenderly. "It must indeed require patience to bear so much weakness and pain; to see others entering on a life of happiness, and known that no such change can await yourself."
"I Was not thinking of myself, Lilian. I am sheltered here from many trials and temptations that beset others, whose lot seems brilliant compared with | | 15 mine. I have many comforts in my quiet hours that no one knows of; then I know there will come a time when all this trouble will cease. This poor body will wear out some day, and then the spirit that cannot die will be clothed afresh, and dwell with its Father and King for ever. Ah! it is not I who need so much patience, so much trust, such unwavering hope. It is in the world, in the seat struggle that must be carried on through life, that faith and patience is so much needed. Lilian, you must pray for it; you will need it."
"Alice, you talk to me as if I were about to enter upon a world of misery and pain; your words would better suit a pale, careworn child of sorrow, who longs for the rest and quiet of the cloister, than a young bride of nineteen, who is giving her hand and her heart to the man she would have chosen had she been able to select from the whole universe. Why do you talk of patience? With Basil by my side what evil can befall me?"
"Dear Lilian, Basil is not omnipotent; but I do not wish to sadden you to-night. I do trust you will be very happy. May God make you so, both you and your Basil. May God Almighty bless you both, and make you happy everlastingly!"
"Amen," said Lilian, solemnly. "I can say Amen | | 16 to that prayer most earnestly. Alice, dear, I wish I were as good as you are!"
"A poor wish, Lilian; but may you be as happy in your pleasant path in the world as I am in my lonely chamber."
"How did you learn to be happy, Alice? I remember when you were always fretting. Who taught you the secret of perpetual peace and content?"
Alice drew forth her little Bible. "No one taught me", she said, "at least, no one on earth. I learnt it here. And, Lilian, I will give you this Bible; it seems a poor wedding-gift, but it is really worth more than all the jewels in the world. Some day you may feel care-laden and weary, and then you, too, may learn the secret."
Lilian took the little Bible, and kissed it fervently. It was time to go, and she took leave of her friend with a strange yearning for the calm that reigned on the white brow and in the patient heart of her whose earthly hope had long ago faded never more to revive. She went her way homeward by the silvery sweeping river, watching its swift current, remembering how its bright waves were borne to the great sea; and dimly picturing how like to a stream was mortal life, that sped on and on, never turning back, but reaching at last the great ocean of Eternity.
She knew that on the shores of that boundless sea | | 17 was eternal joy and pleasure for evermore. In her band she held a chart, a way-book, that would lead her safe there—even Alice's little pocket Bible; but her eyes were blinded, and she saw not yet the celestial road. Alice's battle had been with pain, and solitude, and irritability. Lilian's scene of conflict was to be the great world of every-day life.
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