- CHAPTER VII. HOME.
|<< chapter 6||< chapter 1||chapter 8 >||chapter 31 >>|
A NEW life was before Lilian, and it was wonderful how pleasant anticipations of the future sweetened the little bitterness which almost every day was presented in one form or another. The certainty of freedom of action and freedom of speech was an unspeakable boon; she had lived so long in a state of comparative vassalage, that a perspective of social liberty seemed sufficient to compensate for the long series of annoyances and persecutions which she had sustained during, her residence at Hopelands.
Whether the end which their sojourn under the parental roof was intended to reach was really attained or not, remained somewhat problematical. Lilian when she left Hopelands, knew more of the formalities of the well-appointed establishment, more of the
78 THE WIFE'S TRIALS.conventionalities and luxuries of high life, than she had hitherto dreamed of; she smiled quietly to herself, when she thought what absurd notions Eleanor and she lead formed of the manners and habits of persons of family. She was fain to confess that second and third-rate novels were very incorrect informants, and by no means to be relied upon as authority respecting the daily life and speech of the upper classes of society. But though she had advanced so far, though she had learned somewhat of etiquette, and was in no danger of shocking her husband by any solecism of good breeding, she was almost as ignorant of the mysteries of housekeeping as when she forgot to order dinner, and lost the key of the tea-caddy, in the blissful days of her bridal tour.
She was going to make a great experiment—the greatest, perhaps, that women in her social position can make. She was going to govern a little kingdom of her own—to order, conduct,: beautify, and replenish the said little kingdom to the best of her ability; she was going to organize home to ensure a husband's happiness, and to take her place among the matrons of the land, to occupy that position in society which befitted the wife of Mr. Basil Hope, the heir of beautiful ancient, time-honored Hopelands! When Basil told Lilian flow much she might spend in her house-
79 HOME.keeping, and how much she might devote to her personal requirements, she thought the sum immense.
"Why, my dear," she exclaimed, "you told me our income would not be nearly sufficient; you said we had just half as much as we wanted. I shall never be able to spend so much money, either in my house keeping or on myself; I am afraid you are retaining nothing for yourself."
Basil smiled. "Never fear, Lily, I have taken excellent care of myself, and of my menus plaisirs."
"But, Basil, I made Elizabeth give me her last year's housekeeping book, just that I might see what I ought to order, and how much I ought to give for things; for Aunt Dorothy says the London trades-people are sure to impose upon one if they can; and the whole year's expenditure, taking in the boys' schooling, and the charitable subscriptions, and the doctor's bill that went on for four years, because Mr. Thwaites never would send it in, does not amount to half the sum you are giving me for the next six months' expenses."
"Lilian, my love, how can you be so absurd as to draw a parallel between my establishment, and that quiet household of women and children in the fastnesses of the North Riding of Yorkshire?"
"Do you mean on account of numbers?" asked Lilian, half guessing, however, at his meaning.
80 THE WIFE'S TRIALS.
"No Lilian, numbers have nothing whatever to do with the question; I referred to position, habits, to everything, in short, which places Mrs. Basil hope in a totally different state of existence from that which she occupied as Miss Lilian Grey. Pray, let Elizabeth's ledger, or whatever it may be called, let it be returned to her forthwith; your sister's expenditure can be no guide for yours. I do not want you to go about asking the price of vegetables and paying your butcher's bills in propria persona; your servants will take all that off your hands; but be sure you keep an exact account of everything; examine all your bills and keep your receipts, for though my mother's intimate friend, Lady Grace Granby, found you your cook and your Housemaid, and I dare say they are honest, and all that, it is well for the mistress of the house to be particular in money matters. And, besides, Lilian dear, immense as you now think your allowance, I assure you it is but barely sufficient for the purpose to which it is to be devoted. Without care and economy we shall be in difficulties, and I tell you candidly I had almost as soon turn tradesman, and gain my living over the counter, as apply to my father for further assistance."
81 HOME.called his study. There a few books were arranged in order, and many newspapers were strewn about; there were fishing-rods, landing-nets, hooks, materials for artificial fly-making; guns, choice revolvers, and other murderous weapons. Basil turned back. "Now we are settled dear, in our own house, I should like to ask Eleanor to come and pay me a long visit. It would be such a pleasure to her to come to town, and such an advantage to her to go into really good society; then she would be here to attend to your comforts when I am ill, and she could write notes and answer inquiries for me."
Basil bit his lips, and looked impatient as Lilian proceeded. He had an instantaneous vision of Miss Eleanor Grey, with her rosy cheeks and her overpowering vivacity; he had a vivid recollection of her extraordinary theories of fashionable life, and he fancied her sitting in his drawing-room attired in the latest Kirby-Brough fashion, with her feet in the first position, uttering sundry trifles of small-talk in indifferent English, interlarded with anti-Parisian French. He saw Lilian's color rising, and the light shining in her beautiful dark eyes, that always kindled there when she began to be angry.
82 THE WIFE'S TRIALS.has a morbid desire to cast aside the trammels of the class in which she was born. Has she not an insane craving to bring round herself the fetters of fashionable society? Eleanor is ambitions, Lilian; she is not like my own pure, graceful Lily; she wants to make you a stepping-stone in her perilous course; she will never achieve her end; she may become the stylish wife of some excellent retired tradesman, or she may even figure as the squire's lady, and lead the fashion and govern all the votaries of dissipation in a country town or village; but she will never establish herself within the charmed circle which those only can reach who are——"
Basil did not conclude; while he hesitated for a fitting expression, Lillian burst forth—"I see how it it, you despise my family; you despise me, because my father gained his money instead of inheriting it; because my ancestors were nameless and obscure, while yours led the melee in the old strife between Saxon and Norman, fought gallantly in the wars of the Roses, held command when Elizabeth Tudor, speechified at Tilbury Fort, and well-nigh ruined themselves in maintaining the cause of the treacherous, luckless Stuarts. Because of this you hold my sisters in disdain, and you despise me!"
83 HOME.wife. I am not aware that I despise any one—east of all your kindred!"
"My kindred! are they not also yours?"
"Legally and conventionally speaking, to a certain extent they are; and at one time I intended myself to ask Elizabeth to be here in February. I have a great respect for Miss Grey, and I shall always be happy to receive her under my roof. I thought, if she were here, you would not be anxious about domestic concerns, and you would be better cared for than if trusted to the sole care of a hireling nurse. Eleanor, Young, inexperienced, and fond of excitement, would be no suitable companion for a young mother in her first trial. I intended, I say, to beg Miss Gray to come to you; but your temper convinces me that such a step would be inexpedient. I have no wish to make my domestic esclandres the talk of Brough-Dale; it is unfortunate that you and my mother cannot agree better, but I have no doubt we shall find some kind, matronly friend who will be more serviceable than either of your sisters, and who will be so good as to afford the benefit of her experience when needful."
Lilian had felt all the morning rather unwell; her new arrangements had wearied her, and, apart from her present delicate health, the annoyance and harass of her six months' probation at Hopelands had not improved her constitution; and now, this fresh vexa-
84 THE WIFE'S TRIALS.tion, this thwarting of a scheme which she had long nursed in silence, and which had been the subject of correspondence between herself and Eleanor, ever since Mr. Hope had desired that she should be mistress of her own house, was more than her equanimity could sustain.
She burst into a flood of passionate tears; and Basil, like the majority of his set, hated to see his wife cry, especially when she was out of temper, so he walked out of the room, and out of the house to his club.
When he returned to dinner, Lilian's little maid met him on the staircase, and with many tears told him that her mistress had been in dreadful hysterics, and then had become so faint and strange, that cook, and Mary, and herself had wanted to find him, but no one knew where he was; and so they fetched the doctor of themselves, and he said it was a dangerous attack, and Mrs. Basil must be kept very quiet.
Basil was stricken with remorse. "What a barbarian he was not to consider her delicate health. What a wretch he had been to drive her into fits, and then leave her to servants." He went very gently to the room where he had left her; she was not there, and he proceeded to hen bed-room. She was lying on the bed, and she had fallen asleep. He sat down at a distance lest he should awake her, and he gazed long and
85 HOME.earnestly at the young pale face, still bearing the trace of tears, and almost as colorless as the white pillow to which it was pressed.
Was that the bright, beautiful Lilian of a year ago—the lovely "Lily of Kirby-Brough?"
She was white now as her spotless namesake, and looked nearly as fragile; might she not be as short-lived? Yes, a few weeks more, and the transplanted Lily might be seen no longer; the little one whom he longed to take to his heart and bosom, might never know its fair young mother, never gaze on the fatal beauty which had caused her removal from the scenes and joys of her youth, from the home where she had been so peaceful and happy.
There was agony in the thought. Basil did not know till that moment low precious his wife was. Large tears fell unheeded from his eyes as he continued to gaze on the sweet pale features of the sleeper. He would yield everything; give up family, position, all, so that her dear life was spared; she should have Kirby-Brough itself if it were possible!
The fire crackled, and Lilian awoke. Her husband flew to her side, and folded her in his arms. Even his tenderness was too much for her exhausted system, and she began to sob again, to his infinite terror.
86 THE WIFE'S TRIALS.heart flutters like a wild bird in a cane. You shall have Eleanor, dearest. I will write to her to-night; she shall come by express train forthwith. Elizabeth shall come too, if' you wish it; only keep well and be happy, and you shall have all that I can give you. Forgive me, my Lily, for grieving you."
Lilian grew calmer as Basil spoke; she kissed and thanked him, and there was a tender little scene between the wedded lovers, and Lilian rejoiced that she was in her own house and not at Hopelands, or she would never have gained the victory. She never imagined Basil would yield so readily; he was vulnerable, then, like other men. She thanked him so prettily for his compliance that he thought himself ten times a wretch for refusing her request.
It was settled, however, that only Eleanor should pay the first visit, and that the invitation should be posted on the following day. Lilian spent a very happy evening, lying on the sofa, petted and read to by her husband. And so the first storm of their new life came and passed.
|<< chapter 6||< chapter 1||chapter 8 >||chapter 31 >>|