- CHAPTER III. HOPELANDS.
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LOOK, Lilian! that is Hopelands!" said Basil Hope, on the following afternoon, as their horses stopped to rest on the summit of a long and tedious hill.
Lilian looked up. Her eye glanced quickly over the rugged descent their carriage had still to traverse, to a rich undulating country beyond. Rivers woods, broad sweeps of green, sunny meadowland; picturesque hamlets nestling under the shade of fir-clad slopes; vast clumps of glorious forest trees; fields of waving corn, and tangled dells suggestive of waterfalls, and cool, mossy grots, made up the magnificent landscape to which her attention was called. Her face brightened exceedingly, as the lovely prospect met her view. "Oh, Basil, how exquisite! and we are to live here!" she exclaimed. "This is a thousand times hotter than Kirby-Brough!"| | 32
"My dear Lilian, once for all, never think of comparing Kirby-Brough with Hope-lands and its neighborhood; nothing would annoy my mother and sisters more than such a comparison!"
"But, my dear Basil, as far as externals are concerned, the comparison must he vastly in favor of Hopelands; it is so natural that I should compare my new home with the one I have just left. How I wish Elizabeth and Eleanor were here to see this view! I suppose, Basil, there will be no chance of my inviting them, till we have an establishment of our own?"
"Certainly not; my mother has an insuperable aversion to multiplying family connections; she never asks any one to Hopelands who is not in her own set,"
There was something in both Basil's last speeches annoying to the young wife. She had begun to fancy lately that he did not care to talk about Kirby-Brough, or to encourage her to talk about it either; and now this allusion to Mrs. Hope's "set" led to cogitations of an uncomfortable character.
She wisely, however, kept her misgivings to herself, and asked Basil where Hopelands actually lay.
"Do you see that piece of red rock crowned with firs?" he asked with animation.
"Yes, perfectly; it rises up from that crescent- | | 33 shaped meadow, where there are such beautiful trees."
"Well, carry your eye along the stream that bounds that meadow, till far away it readies a wild district of brushwood; all that, on both sides of the water, as far as you can see, belongs to Hopelands. You can catch the chimneys of the house peeping over that little wood to the right; and—yes, look this minute; there is the eastern gable where the swallows' nests are, that I told you of."
Lilian looked with as eager an interest as her husband desired. How often he had described to her the scene she now beheld, and how faithfully, her own gratified glances bore witness. Yes! they were at the bottom of the hill now, and they were rolling swiftly along an umbrageous lane, almost carpeted with smooth, green turf, and shut in by bowery hedges where wild roses of every species, luscious honey-suckles, and tall purple foxgloves rivalled the cultured children of the garden and greenhouse.
Along that lane Basil always had returned home for the holidays; along that green flowery lane he had rambled with his sisters and their governess in his more juvenile days; and now, as he had often pictured, when they two were wandering on the banks of the Brough, or watching the sunset from Kirby Moor—now he was bringing home his bride to his ancestral | | 34 dwelling-place; for the Hopes of Hopelands had held all that countryside for many a century, with one short interregnum, when they had been summarily ejected for their attachment to the unpopular dynasty of the Stuarts.
But the Restoration set everything to rights as far as the Hopes were concerned; they returned to their ancient possessions, richer and more powerful than ever; and firmly resolved never to receive the patent of nobility which the "merry monarch," or rather his gracious advisers, would fain have conferred upon them.
Lilian began to feel very nervous, for Basil announced that the lodge was close at hand; even as he spoke the road took a sudden turn, and the carriage swept round to the open gates which led into a long majestic avenues of elms. Lilian had a foolish fancy that the family, or at least the young ladies, or certainly Basil's favorite sister Harriet, would meet them at this lodge; but no one was present, save a very old woman, who stood at the little garden-wicket of the porter's domain, dropping curtsies in rapid succession, and several little children, too shy to make their appearance, who peeped from the open window at Mr. Basil's new lady. The old lady wore a gown of great amplitude and wonderful stiffness, so that every time she curtsied, the skirt of her garment swelled round | | 35 her like a balloon in the way which school-girls are wont to describe as "cheeses." Lilian perfectly re-membered this; it was not so very long since she and Eleanor had astonished the Young ladies of Miss Macduff's seminary, at their breaking-up party, by making unparalleled cheeses in their new silk dresses, and the sight of the grave, wrinkled grandam performing the same feat once more roused Lilian's risible propensities.
Basil was seriously annoyed. He himself was far more nervous than his bride; she little knew the storm of opposition, the sweeping censures, and the unqualified contempt her marriage had called forth; she little guessed with what pains and perseverance Basil had succeeded in wringing from his parents a tardy, reluctant consent to his objectionable union with "the half bred, half-educated daughter of a vulgar Yorkshire clothier."
Most indignantly he had exclaimed against the illiberal harshness of his mother and sisters; most strenuously he had declared that her extraordinary beauty, her grace,and her fascinating manners would make her the pride and glory of Hopelands. Now he was about to justify his choice; to present to his proud, exclusive mother and his consequential sisters, the bride for whose sake he had declared he would live in perpetual celibacy if defrauded of her hand. He knew | | 36 the eagle eyes that would be upon every movement; the critical ears that would be open to every word; the prejudicial observation with which Lilian's every action would be minutely scanned. The long blissful dream was over. He and his beautiful Lilian had been all in all to each other since the day of their marriage. Till the evening before, no shadow had crossed their golden sunny pathway; now they were to live in the world once more, to join the great human family, to think of conventionalities, to conform to rules, and to male themselves acceptable to those who had it in their power so greatly to mar or brighten their prospects.
He looked anxiously at Lilian. Was she really so very,very beautiful? Yes! he felt satisfied there; the fair critics could not impeach his taste; but then her manners, her cultivation! Many times during the last ten weeks lie had referred to things, and persons, whom it was customary to discuss in the home-circle at Hopelands; but of which Lilian was ignorant.And this uncontrolled laughter! Could there be anything more tiresome? True, Lilian's laughter, however excessive, was low and silvery; but still it was not in the fitness of things to give way to such irrepressible demonstrations of feeling, especially in a family where both crying and laughing were almost proscribed.| | 37
Basil forgot how thoroughly he had enjoyed the merry, unpretending circle in Lilian's old home; how entirely he had entered into their mirth; how he had loved to hear Lilian's sweet musical peals of laughter when there were no censors present to vote it unbecoming and plebeian.
She saw how grave he was looking, and she fancied perhaps he thought she was laughing at him again, so she hastened to explain the cause of her merriment. Worse and worse! The idea of Mrs. Basil Hope making "cheeses" in Miss Macduff's omnium gatherum schoolroom, only as far back as Christmas! If Lilian made such revelations to her new family, it was certain they would vote her a hoyden. His carefully educated sisters, Mary, Theresa, Olivia, and Harriet, would as soon think, or have thought of going into the dairy, and making veritable cheeses of milk rennet. And then this laughter—why the old walls of Hopelands would ring again! and—and, oh dear! no one but himself could calculate the long train of disagreeables which must certainly follow. However, it was no time to lecture now—he hated to vex Lilian; besides he might make her shy and awkward, and further still, he was not quite sure about her temper.
Presently the house came in view—a large sober family mansion, rebuilt its the youth of the present proprietor—that is to say, a portion of it had been re- | | 38 built, for some part of the ancient edifice, which was obscured from general view still existed in its pristine grandeur and gloom. The carriage swept up to the stately portico. Where were the sisters? Where the mother, waiting to bless and welcome to her heart the bride of her only son? Echo answered "where," Basil led his wife into the wide solemn-looking hall, and told her that one day she would be mistress of this, her new home.
Home! It did not look much like home. She thought what it would be when some day George or John brought home his wife to Kirby-Brough. Not much resembling her reception, that was certain. Then the marble floor, the grim portraits oil the dark walls, the wide staircase, and the rich sombre light, which streamed in through vary-colored glass; how unlike the narrow entrance with its strip of oil-cloth, and its two parlors opening on each side, and its steep oak-painted staircase beyond!
Basil began to feel furious. "Where is your mistress? where are the young ladies? where is my father?" he asked excitedly of one of the sleek servants who had come forward to marshal the luggage in safety into the house.
"My master is at Whitcombe, Mr. Basil; he will return to dinner. My mistress, and Miss Hope, and Miss Harriet are gone out in the carriage. Miss The- | | 39 resa is at the school, and Miss Olivia, I believe, is in her own apartment," said the obsequious domestic, bowing very low at the conclusion of his speech. "Shall I desire Mrs. Harrop to inform Miss Olivia that Mr. and Mrs. Basil Hope have arrived?"
"Yes, this moment; tell Harrop to go this minute! This way, Lilian, my love; throw that shawl down; the women will see to your things. This way, my dear. How very unfortunate that they should be out!"
So Lilian thought, in one point of view; but as to her personal feelings, she thought it would be rather a relief to encounter a single member of her husband's family, before she was presented to the whole group. Basil led her across the hall, along an arched corridor, till he came to a certain well-known floor.
"This is the morning-room, Lilian!" he said, as he installed her on the sofa, and rang the bell to enlighten Mrs. Harrop as to the direction in which her young lady would have to steer.
Lilian looked timidly round. Everything was so far beyond her previous ideas. She had fancied Hopelands being like Cranbourne-house, where Sir John Metcalf, Knt., and his lady lived, about live miles from Kirby-Brough. Poor Lilian had neither Elizabeth's invaluable composure, nor Eleanor's tact and insouciance, so she felt very nervous and weary, while she expected the advent of her sister-in-law,and | | 40 answered her husband's anxious inquiries at random.
At length, just as Basil's fidgets were becoming unbearable, and Lilian's paleness and gravity had reached its climax, the door opened, and a young lady of rather diminutive stature made her appearance.
"My dear Basil!" said the graceful brunette; and she received a fraternal embrace with great meekness and submission—"how long have you been here? Do you know papa is at Whitcombe? Did you see anything of mamma on the road? Is this Mrs. Basil Hope? Are you tired? Did you take luncheon at the Red-cross-station?"
"My dear Olivia," replied Basil, "you have certainly become the patron of a querist's society since you and I parted; but before I give myself to the diffusion of useful knowledge, allow me to introduce my wife. Lilian, my love, this is Olivia, my third sister. Olivia, allow me to introduce to you your new sister, Lilian Hope."
Olivia extended her small slender fingers, and curtsied with a better grace than the old woman at the lodge; but Lilian fancied with less amicable intentions.
"I wish," said Basil, you would take my wife to | | 41 her own room; the day has been so dusty and hot, I am sure she is anxious to attend to her toilet."
Olivia hesitated whether she should go herself, or depute Mrs. Harrop to do the honors of Lilian's dressing-room, but a glance from her brother decided her; and besides, she thought it would be very entertaining to have the bride all to herself, and to find out what she was like before the rest of the family could have an opportunity.
So she led the way up the broad staircase, and through galleries and passages till Lilian began to fear she should never find her way back again.
The room into which she was ushered would have contained every chamber in the house at Kirby-Brough. Lilian felt like an atom, and a very uncomfortable atom, too. "There will be just time to dress before dinner," said Olivia. "I hear the carriage; mamma is come back, and the dressing-bell will ring in two minutes. Shall I send some one to assist you?"
"Yes, please," said Lilian, almost piteously, for she felt nearly desperate. She did not dare to help her-self; she would thankfully have unpacked the requisite articles, and attended to her own toilet, but she thought it would not do. Basil had desired her never to do anything that this sisters did not do; and she was pretty sure Miss Olivia would as soon have thought of making a trunk, as of unpacking it. What | | 42 if she were too late? what if she could not manage her hair?
Olivia hastened away when the dressing-bell rang; it was later than she thought, and she was obliged to forego her intention of investigating the state of Lilian's mind and morals for the present.
Basil had a short confabulation with his mother, who seemed more dignified than ever. He was proceeding to his own room by a back way, which he had accustomed himself to take when a boy; just as he reached the door which led to his mother''s apartment, he heard congregated voices. He stopped, for his own name struck his ear, and then he heard Olivia say—" a regular school-girl, stupid and shy, but very pretty, certainly; still a mere country beauty, quite uninformed, and, I should think, not at all educated!"
Basil bit his lips, and went on his way to Lilian's dressing-room in a state of feud with his clever sister Olivia.
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