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Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Emory Women Writers Resource Project

The Wife's Trials and Triumphs, an electronic edition

by Emma Worboise [Worboise, Emma Jane, 1825-1887]

date: 1860
source publisher: Sheldon and Co.
collection: Genre Fiction

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TEN weeks had passed since Lilian Grey bade adieu to Alice Rayner;since, in the Sabbath calm of the sweet spring evening, she had stood watching the swift current of the river Brough, half thinking of its impetuous course from its cradle in the western hills to the smooth meadow-lands beyond the town, and further on to the deep, deep sea, twenty miles away, and half wondering whether the stream of her life would flow in such varied and interrupted channels.

Her wedding-day was alternately fine and showery. Now, the sun shone out in as clear a sky as ever arched its glorious dome over this world of flowers and thorns; and now the bright beams faded, and darkness gathered over the landscape's vernal loveliness; and then the clouds rolled away, and the soft, golden rain fell like a veritable Danæan shower on the green, grateful earth.

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Lilian had hoped for a day of unceasing, cloudless sunshine. The showers disquieted her; she had a superstitious notion that the atmospheric complexion of one's marriage-day is an unerring index to the wedded life which is to follow. Elizabeth cared nothing about the weather after the bridal party re-turned from church; no finery was spoiled, only Eleanor allowed her delicate lilac silk to brush against the long, dripping grass as she crossed the churchyard; and the elder sister, who had no fancies, and never encouraged them in others, strove to combat Lilian's nervous apprehensions, and very sensibly remarked, that those Who had an objection to a chequered state of weather on their wedding-day should certainly es-chew April as the time of its celebration.

Eleanor thought little of the sunshine, or of the shower. She believed that Lilian was that day to take out a perpetual patent for unimpeachable happiness. Her sister's marriage seemed to her the most fortunate and promising of human events. She had neither Elizabeth's sober, sensible, tranquil mind, nor Lilian's poetic tendencies and passionate yearnings after the purest and noblest kind of terrestrial enjoyment.

To tell the truth, Eleanor had more of the world in her young heart than any one could have imagined. She was ambitious; she had no idea of dreaming out | | 20 her existence in the sleepy little town of Kirby-Brough; she wanted to be distinguished, and she counted upon Lilian's marriage as a stepping-stone in her uncertain way to fame and fashion.

She always wanted to lead. She was not unkind, but domineering was inherent in her nature; and she seldom paused to consider the probable results of any word or action, which, at the moment, seemed essential to the gratification of her passion for power.

Such were the two sisters whom Lilian left in "the old house at home." Susan, more properly called Susie, was quite a child, and the boys were an aver-age specimen of their age and sex. I dwell more up-on Eleanor's character and temperament, because in after days the current of her life and Lilian's were strikingly and painfully intermingled.

It was the evening of a beautiful midsummer-day. Lilian and her husband were leisurely returning from their afternoon's walk along the St. Cross Meadows, for they were spending several days at Winchester previous to setting out finally for Hopelands, which was not more than sixty miles distant. Lilian was very tired, for they had been rambling on St. Catherine's Hill, crossing the Shawford Downs, and were now retracing their way beneath the shady trees which stud the park-like meadow-lands of the ancient hospital of St. Cross.

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Now and then the winding path came quite close to the Itchin, and Basil stooped once or twice to pluck some wild flowers which grew on its banks.

He presented them to Lilian, who loved wild flowers better than cultivated ones, but of their names and habits she knew nothing; and this rather annoyed Basil, who had been accustomed from childhood to take long botanical rambles with his sisters.

Some beautiful forget-me-nots grew on a little boggy islet not far distant from the bank.

"Oh, Basil!" cried Lilian, "look at those lovely little flowers! Can you not gather them for me? I would rather have them than all the turquoises in the world."

"Gather them, indeed," replied Basil, with a tone that seemed to imply he thought her request a most unreasonable one, but with a glance that slowed he was willing to essay the passage of the Hellespont, if only the Hellespont were there, instead of the little fussy, brawling Itchin, and if Lilian herself desired her own true knight to accomplish the feat.

"Gather them, why not? I could leap the space myself, I have done greater things on the Brough at home; but I suppose it does not comport with my dignity as a married woman to run and jump like an en-franchised school-girl. But, Basil, I must have the forget-me-nots."

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"If there were any footing on that tiny islet," said the young man, poking across the Water with his walking-stick, "but really, Lilian, it looks like a black sponge. There is no fear of being drowned; but, like you, I hesitate on a point of dignity. It is certainly unbecoming on a married man to get ducked in a muddy stream like an unscrupulous school-boy."

"Never mind, then," said Lilian, rather quickly, She knew she was most foolish, most irrational; but she certainly felt annoyed at her husband's hesitation. It Was the first time her expressed—nay, her implied—wish lead not been instantaneously and proudly accorded. She turned away in the direction of the grey pile, that half obscured by the stately trees was very near at hand.

In the solemn evening light the ancient church and its dim cloisters, the high square tower, and the gothic ball looked so calm and reverend, that for the moment the impetuous displeasure was stayed.

There was something in the silent hoary towers of St. Cross that appealed to her better feelings—rather, something that seemed to appeal; for, after all, the most hallowed associations are little to be relied on where there is no strong and abiding root of principle—simple Christian principle—in the human soul, that is tossed upon the waves, and ebbs and flows with the life-current of this troublous world.

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Howbeit, at this moment, the glorious red flush on the old walls, and the peaceful aspect of the quiet meadows seemed to reflect somewhat of their sweet calm back on her own perturbed spirit. The petulancy, the regret, the impression made by the hour, and the scene came and went in less than a minute and a half, and Lilian turned again to Basil, who was measuring his distance.

"No, Basil, clear," she said gently, "you must not go on my foolish errand. There is no fear of a repetition of the flower's legend; the river is neither deep nor rapid, but I cannot let you incur the risk of a plunge-bath for a mere whim of mine."

But Basil had seen the beautiful face turn away with a cloud on its expressive loveliness. He had seen the rosy 'lips quiver, and then contract a little; and he had not seen the passing of the mist, and the contrition of heart for the momentary and childish ebullition of impatience. So he heeded not the quiet words of dissuasion, but, falling back a little, prepared to spring. He was light and active, and found himself immediately on the desired spot. The flowers were quickly gathered, and splendid specimens they were; but Basil's return was not at all triumphant. The ground of the little islet was, as lie said, altogether spongy, and it quaked under his elastic footstep as he made ready to leap ashore.

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He felt his feet almost sliding from under him, and he made a desperate effort to attain the bank, but in vain; he found himself, not on the smooth, green sward, where Lilian awaited him, but in the water, which was much deeper than they had imagined. There was no danger; even Lilian was not frightened, but she felt considerably dismayed. She hurried to the brink, and stretched out her little white hand for her husband's benefit, bewailing both audibly and inaudibly the pertinacity with which she had demanded the flowers.

He did not tale it; perhaps lie thought so frail a support worse than none, and in another minute he was safely landed, but dripping wet, bemired and splashed, and his feet entangled with long tendrils of weeds that grew at the bottom of the stream.

His hat, too, was swimming merrily down the current, and it needed no small degree of skill and patience to extricate it from its unwonted position. Basil was certainly out of temper, and when we take into account the guise in which he was compelled to walk to his lodgings, the chill which is inseparable from a sudden immersion in cold water, and the annoyance which a young man feels when he has been placed in a ridiculous position, a slight degree of crossness is not to be considered marvellous.

The cloud would probably have passed before he | | 25 had walked many yards, if, in getting over a stile, an, unfortunate impetus had not been given to Lilian's risible nerves. He looked so grave, and at the same time so absurd, as he stood assisting her with all due decorum over the stile, holding in his left hand the saturated hat, which had looked so black and glossy when they set out on their walk, that Lilian, after an ineffectual struggle, burst into such a fit of laughing as had not attacked leer since her school-days.

Basil looked his surprise, and, after a moment or two, his displeasure. He saw no cause for merriment, and Lilian's innocent, but perhaps ill-timed mirth, annoyed him almost beyond the possibility of control.

"What amuses you, Lilian?" he said, at length, as drily as possible.

"Amuses me? Oh, Basil!" and Lilian began again on a fresh score, and laughed till she was quite exhausted.

She saw at length that her risibility displeased him, and she tried to compose herself. She dared not speak, for the demon of laughter once excited was in her case very difficult to quell. When she tried to say something about his walking quickly to avoid taking cold, her voice trembled and quivered so that she was obliged to leave her hopes and wishes only half expressed.

They reached their lodgings at last, and Basil, | | 26 without a word of comment, withdrew to change his clothes. Lilian was vexed at herself, at her irritability, which was more apparent than she had intended it to be, and at her foolish want of control. Yes; she, Lilian Hope, a wife of ten weeks' experience had been pouting like a sulky baby, and laughing like a foolish under-bred child! "I have no patience with myself," she said; "I am not Lilian Grey now, with only my sisters to please, and the good people of Kirby-brough to encounter; I am a married woman, with a position to maintain and a husband to please." And she went on lecturing and scolding herself at a fine rate, till she was rather uncomfortably reminded of her duties as a married woman.

Tired and vexed and rather heated, she had been sitting by the open window without thinking of re-moving her walking habiliments, and, worse still, without a thought of inquiry for the tea-things. Lilian lead very dim ideas of housekeeping. Elizabeth, aided by Aunt Dorothy, had supplied every deficiency at home, and she constantly found herself forgetting that eating and drinking cannot be comfortably carried on without some degree of forethought and management, and if she did remember to call up the obsequious landlady without a hint from Basil, and give the requisite orders for dinner, she was sure to make some dismal blunder at tea-time, either putting in too much | | 27 or too little tea, sometimes omitting the refreshing herb altogether, and then looking in comical dismay at the aqua pura that rapidly dissolved the lumps of sugar she had just, with due matronly importance, deposited in the tea-cups. Sometimes the kettle boiled unheeded, and Lilian totally forgot to add water to the tea, or, worse still, she lost her keys, and the caddy had to be forced open, and the marmalade to be dispensed with altogether.

But so far, Basil had never been angry. He had laughed at her mistakes, kissed her for her neglect, and privately rejoiced that his darling Lilian was to have six months' education in her wifely duties at Hopelands, where his mother and his sister Mary were lamed for their superior menage. So far Lilian had never in secret deplored her dear Basil's attachment to creature comforts. She had never moralized, in a lady-like, feminine way, upon the crying weakness of the lords of creation, who unquestionably care a great deal more about a well-spread and thoroughly-served table, than most of the opposite sex. This evening she was to be taught one of those lessons which frequently fall to the lot of young wives when they are not domestically inclined.

Basil came down resolved not to be angry with his wife any more, but at the same time composing a suitable exordium. to be addressed to her at a fitting sea- | | 28 son, on the impropriety and objectionableness of unrepressed laughter, and he opened the door fully disposed to be magnanimous and to enjoy his tea.

Alas! there was no sign of tea. Lilian, with her bonnet in her hand, and her mantle slipping from her shoulders, sat where, he had left her a quarter of an hour before, he said nothing, but walked to the window and shut it with rather more noise than was essential; then he rang the bell so violently that the landlady herself replied to the emphatic peal, half expecting her aid to be required on behalf of Mrs. Hope, who might be faint after her long walk in the country.

"Tea immediately; and this litter cleared away"—pointing to the remains of a dessert of strawberries—said Mr. Hope, in the tone of one who would not be trifled with.

Mrs. Glossop obeyed the imperious mandate, and Lilian flew to her chamber and presented herself again in the drawing-room in less time than she usually occupied for taking off her gloves.

She infused the tea immediately; but either the quantity was insufficient, or the water did not boil, for the inebriating draught thus produced was anything but agreeable. Basil did not complain, but he was silent and looked displeased. When the tea things | | 29 were cleared away, and the candles brought, Lilian began to unlock her writing case.

"What are you going to do?" asked Basil breaking the silence.

"I am going to finish my letter to Elizabeth; it can go by early post in the morning."

"Really you spend every spare moment in writing to Kirby-Brough. I wish you would go to bed now; I cannot have you looking pale and wearied to-morrow when we reach Hopelands."

I am not tired; I do not wish to go to bed yet," said Lilian, who rebelled against Basil's tone more than his words.

"I shall be mortified if I have to present you to my mother and sisters looking jaded and worn from fatigue and want of repose."

A voice within said to Lilian, "Yield, yield, it is your womanly heritage," but she put away the better impulse which would have made her close her writing case, and prepare for bed in a cheerful spirit, and she answered coolly, "I have only the conclusion; I prefer writing to-night, but pray go to bed yourself, I see you are wearied, do not wait for me."

"I do not wish to be disturbed; therefore, I will wait, if you please," returned Basil, coldly.

Lilian wrote on. She felt tired herself, and she had no interest in her occupation; but she did not | | 30 choose to lay aside her pen, lest Basil should think she was conquered. And so she went on, writing she scarcely knew what to Elizabeth, till having, as she imagined, fully displayed her firmness, she folded her letter, directed and stamped it ready for the morning.

When she took up the chamber candle, Basil rose too, and went to his dressing room. He seemed very much annoyed, and Lilian wished he would only scold her; any thing was better than this silence.

The summer morning was breaking before Lilian fell asleep. A series of trifles—common trifles—had disturbed her peace, and her husband's also; but she remembered that "trifles make the sum of human things," and she felt vaguely apprehensive.

She satisfied herself at last, by firmly resolving that it should not happen again—though what it was that should not happen again, she did not very clearly determine. She fell asleep with an uncomfortable consciousness that the first shadow had risen up between her and the husband whom she so passionately loved.

Ah, that first shadow! That hovering shade!—How, as time rolls on, it gathers blackness till all is darkness and misery! till there is cold, silent night, where there ought to be warm, living sunshine, and unbroken communion of heart and soul!

chapter 31 >>