- CHAPTER IX. THE GAY WORLD.
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THE GAY WORLD.
MORE than a year had passed since the conversation thus recorded. It was a beautiful summer, and the height of the London season; and while the woods and dells of old England were donning their loveliest array, and wooing the passer-by to tarry among their greed fragrant depths; while roses and woodbine were wreathing the hedgerows in the bowery lanes, and while the restless sea was lifting up his softest voice, and breaking in deep-toned murmurs on the rock and the shingle, or quietly rippling on the cool firm sand, the votaries of the great world were thronging concert and ball-rooms, or taking the air in the dusty ring of the Park, caring little or nothing for the blue sweeping streams, the breezy commons, and the sweet leafy nooks that were far away from the hot, bustling, noisy town.| | 99
It was past noon, and a broiling midsummer day. Lilian lay rather carelessly attired on a couch, in her dressing-room. Eleanor lounged on a luxurious fauteuil. The breakfast things were on a small table between them.
Lilian's beauty was now thoroughly matured. She had become an extremely beautiful woman—mare perfect grace and loveliness were not to be found amid the fairy-like forms who nightly thronged the dazzling haunts of gaiety. Yet, there was something gone from the sweet brow, and the deep, earnest eye, that, in other days, gave Lilian's expressive features their chief loveliness.
The "Lily of Brough-dale" was a flower of fashion now. She was changed since those innocent girlish days, when she poetized under the shadow of the apple-trees in the old garden at home; and still more changed from the clinging, shrinking bride, who had almost withered in the dry atmosphere and sapless soil of Hopelands.
Lilian and her husband had never been to Hopelands since they ceased to be residents there, but Mrs. Hope and three of her daughters were now in town. Theresa was no longer "an evangelical Sunday-school teacher"—that is to say, she no longer called herself one. Destiny, in the shape of a high-born white-handed, Puseyite curate met her one day; and | | 100 straightway she was seen embroidering altar-cloths, and working at extraordinary vestments. which she called by names unheard of before, save in Olivia's stores of erudition. Then she took to walking three miles to the daily service at Brandscoombe; and, finally, Mr. Hope was one clay almost electrified by the apparition of the Honorable and Rev. Ambrose Shrewsbury appearing in his library, and demanding, according to form, the hand of his third daughter, Theresa Margaretta!
Mr. Hope was so thoroughly taken by surprise, that he consented on the spot, although he cordially detested this clerical sprig of the aristocracy, and had already settled in his own mind that, if he were indeed a legitimate successor of the apostles, it must be from Judas Iscariot that his line of descent was traceable. Nevertheless, Mr. Hope would not retract his hastily-pledged word; and there is no doubt that, had he dared to do so, his son-in-law elect would have anathematized him there and then. Mrs. Hope fretted; Miss Hope, was annoyed—she had a superstitious dread of a Puseyite, as of a Jesuit in disguise, and expected to be converted or perverted by storm, and forced to take the veil in the nearest convent. Olivia liked the connexion, and began to read the tracts for herself. Harriet cared nothing about it; and so, in due time, Mr. Shrewsbury was preferred to an excel- | | 101 lent living in the diocese of Exeter, and Theresa Hope became his wife—and, as Basil laughingly said, a "priestess." One or two pungent witticisms on that most vulnerable subject, Tractarianism, caused him to be excluded from his sister's wedding; so he revenged himself by sending, as his nuptial gift,a crucifix, a rosary, and a missal, to be ready as soon as they should be needed! To his profound astonishment, they came not back again.
And now, having accounted for Mrs. Hope's presence in town, with a trio instead of a quartette of daughters, we will go back to Lilian.
She and her mother-in-law managed matters better than heretofore. Mrs. Basil Hope had learnt self-control to a certain extent, and she stood upon her own dignity, and compelled Mrs. Hope the elder to pay her at least some outward respect. But when Basil and his, wife were spoken of and their doings and sayings commented on, Mrs.Hope shook her head oracularly, and uttered a few mysterious sentences, which might be vulgarly translated into the old adage, that "the proof of the pudding is in the eating."
Lilian and Eleanor, as they sat over their late breakfast, looked rather wearied; and no wonder, for they had not returned home till five o'clock that morning. Eleanor, too, seemed more thoughtful than usual; and well she might, for she had the day before | | 102 refused an excellent offer from a worthy young man in her own town, and the brilliant match on which she had set her whole heart seemed quite as much in perspective as ever.
"Is it not vexatious this illness of Elizabeth's?" said Eleanor, as she sipped her coffee. "I cannot endure the thought of returning to Kirby-Brough now; though young Robinson will probably go away, it would be very awkward; besides, leaving town just when we have so many delightful plans, would be too cruel!"
"It would be a dreadful nuisance," returned Lilian; "but what can little Susan do? It is rather too much for a girl of fourteen to be housekeeper and head-nurse at once. What could possess Aunt Dorothy to go to Ireland, I cannot think."
"Oh, she said Elizabeth was quite old enough to be sole head of her own household; and, as for steadiness, you know, Lilian, she is as grave as a judge; she might pass for fifty, with her bonnet on; and then, Aunt always thought of those poor, wild, motherless, children in county Kerry. Their mamma, you know, was her friend, and their father is a dreadful man. However, I wish she had stayed till the autumn. I shall be provoked if I have to go home now!"
"And I am sure I cannot tell what I shall do without you'' sighed Lilian. "Basil is colder and crosser | | 103 than ever; he told me yesterday I had quite a rakish look, and was dreadfully gone off in my appearance; but I know better than that. Surely I have a right to amuse myself, when he is seeking his own pleasure from morning till night."
"And from night to morning, very often," said Eleanor, maliciously. "Eleanor, you are a tame little thing to take it so quietly. I would know where he spends his time."
"I am not curious," replied her sister, coldly, though a rosy flush spread over her face as she spoke; "and whatever reason I may feel to be annoyed at Basil's conduct, believe me, I have perfect, unwavering trust in his good faith towards myself."
Eleanor saw that on this point Lilian was invulnerable, and she turned the subject. "I suppose we shall have cards for this breakfast at Richmond?"
"We have them," replied Lilian; "they came yesterday, and I forgot to tell you; but, can you imagine it? Basil says I must not go, and you are better away—it is only putting you out of your station."
"I am sure I am much obliged to Mr. Basil Hope," rejoined Eleanor, bitterly, and turning scarlet with anger as she spoke. "And pray why are you to be precluded from accepting Mrs. Carrisforth's invitation?"
"He says, the child looks pale and heavy, and I am | | 104 to go to Rhyl or Llandudno with him and the nurse."
"Go to Llandudno, indeed, in the midst of the season, how barbarous! And where is my lord to bestow himself in the meantime?"
"He talks of going to Norway with Captain Leavers; and oh, Eleanor, I dare not tell him what a mess I am in about those bills. Really, Madame sent her account in the other day, and it was something stupendous! and what have I had?—just a dress or two, and a few gloves, and a bonnet. I am sure I never bought half the things she has put down, and Basil has no idea I owe her five pounds. You cannot think how disagreeable he is if I only hint at wanting a little money."
"Ah!" said Eleanor, carelessly, "that's easily accounted for; that disagreeable Major Holmes told me the other day he had lent money to Basil; and if he wins sometimes, no doubt he often loses, and those debts of honor are troublesome things."
"Debts of honor, Eleanor! What do you mean? Do you think Basil gambles?"
"Every one but yourself knows he does; it is no secret, and it is no kindness keeping you in the dark. Basil is generally supposed to play pretty deep; at least, that seems to be the received impression. Peo- | | 105 ple, you know, my dear, who would not give you a hint, speak plainly to me."
Lilian was speechless with indignation. "I understand it all now," she exclaimed, after a long silence. "I see why he is so anxious about retrenching. I am to economize in Wales, in order to meet his gambling debts. He talked of letting the house, but I thought that was only to plague me; now I see it all. Everything is to be sacrificed to his extravagances. And this talk about horses. I am more than half afraid Basil is involved there."
"I know some one who met at Tattersall's," said Eleanor, "and they do say he was on the losing side of Ascot, the other day."
They were interrupted by the appearance of the subject of their discourse. Basil threw himself into a chair, and contemplate the two ladies, who quietly finished their breakfast, but did not address him.
Eleanor did not go away, as he would have done some months since, on Basil's entrance into his wife's dressing-room. She began a diligent inspection of her tablets, and Lilian settled herself on the couch, as if for a comfortable doze.
"Lilian!" said Basil at length, "if you are not quite asleep, I shall be glad to know your plans. When do you go to Llandudno?"
"Not at all, or not for three months, certainly," | | 106 replied Lilian, coldly, and with the most provoking composure. "As for my plans they are scarcely settled yet; I have various little schemes in contemplation, but they are quite apart from your pursuits, and I do not think the detail would interest you in the least."
"Is going to Mrs. Carisforth's breakfast one of the 'little schemes' you mention?"
"Certainly! Who would miss that? All the world will be there!"
"All the world—by which I suppose you mean all the world of fashion—being there, Mrs. Carrisforth can perfectly well dispense with Mrs. Basil Hope."
"I do not intend that she should. Eleanor and I have already arranged our dresses."
"I am sorry that you have taken such unnecessary trouble. Eleanor, of course, returns immediately to Yorkshire. Elizabeth's illness promises to be of a tedious nature, and she must require the constant attendance of her sister."
"Susan is a very good child," said Eleanor, apologetically; she makes herself very useful, and she is so thoughtful of her age; besides, Elizabeth would be worried at the idea of having shortened my visit."
"Still," returned Basil, "a child under fourteen must be a very inefficient, manager in a time of sickness."
"It will teach her to rely upon herself," said Lilian.
"It will make her a conceited little goose," answer- | | 107 ed Basil. "Never tell me! I detest your premature small women, ordering the next day's dinner when they ought to have said their prayers, put the doll to sleep, and gone to bed themselves; or flirting with schoolboys while they are in short frocks, and wear their hair in a crop!"
At another time, Lilian would have laughed, but she merely observed, "Your illustrations are too ridiculous; what do you know of little girls?"
"Not much, I confess; but one thing I know, Lilian: this day fortnight you will be in Wales, and the nursery paraphernalia along with you, and Eleanor will be at Kirby-Brough, attending to the preserves, and nursing Miss Grey, and letting little Susy play the gipsy in the woods for a while. Good morning, I have business to attend to. I shall dine at my club, and make the final arrangements about Norway, if Captain Leavers is there. Good morning,"
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