- CHAPTER XVII. OLD FACES.
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THERE was nothing now to detain Lilian at Windsor: Alice lay in her peaceful resting-place, and she herself was stronger and better; yet still she lingered. Alas! she had no home ties. An empty nursery; silent rooms, where once she had lived happily and lovingly with Basil—at least, it seemed so now in comparison with the utter alienation that had now come between them—a lonely life in the dull town, far away from the blithe green-wood, and the pure, bracing, country air;—tliese were no tempting inducements to leave the kindly roof, under which she had now sojourned for a fortnight, and go back to her solitary, deserted home. She had given orders for all letters to be forwarded to her, without loss of time; and many came. Countless letters of sympathy and condolence, from her town | | 185 friends more or less genuine in spirit; and also a large number of tradesmen's accounts, who, finding out that Mr. and Mrs. Hope had both left town, thought it was time to send in their claims without further delay but there was no word from Basil; he had been absent almost a month, and not one line had Lilian received to certify her of his safety, to inquire of her own shattered health, or to give notice of his whereabouts, so that. any letter of appeal, or penitence, might find him on his travels.
One day, she accompanied Mr. Brookes to Windsor. He had business in the Castle, and, while he was absent, Lilian, who was executing some commissions for Bridget, in Thames Street, Beard the chapel-bell begin to toll for afternoon service. She hastened to complete her purchases, and managed to enter the choir, just as the service was beginning. In the stall before her sat two ladies in mourning, and, from time to time, Lilian fancied she perceived something familiar in their figure and carriage. The prayers were over, and Lilian, as Mr. Brookes had advised her, sought out some one who would take her over the chapel. She had nearly made the circuit of the nave, and was advancing reverently to a royal tomb, just before her, when the ladies, whom she had before noticed, came towards her. They also were being shown over the Chapel Royal, and were evidently strangers. | | 186 Lilian had lifted her veil, in order the better to observe the exquisite monument of the Princess Charlotte, and, as for the moment she turned her full gaze on the visitors and their guide, she started to recognize them, They Were Mrs. Hope and Olivia. Lilian halted, waiting to be accosted, Wishing, yet not daring, to stretch forth her hand; but the mother and daughter—Basil's mother and sister—passed on, with only a stately bend. Mrs. Hope, indeed, looked at her, with a face of grave, almost indignant surprise; but Olivia scarcely honored her with a glance: she merely acknowledged her sister-in-law; that was all.
When they Were gone, Lilian had lost all her interest in tombs and shrines, She listened, but received no impression, while the verger informed her, that, under a certain stone in the middle of the choir, lay the remains of the fierce Harry Tudor, his third wife, the Lady Jane Seymour, the unfortunate Charles I., and an infant child of Queen Anne. She heard him make some explanations respecting the knightly banners that hung over the dark, carved stalls, but her mind failed to grasp the sense of his observations. She was thinking all the while of Mrs. Hope's displeased gravity, and Olivia's scornful indifference. Had she dishonored the venerated name of Hope, this treatment of her could scarcely have been more contemptuous—more decidedly frigid.| | 187
She left St. George's Chapel, and went to the hotel, where she had ordered tea, not without many misgivings that she should again encounter her offended relatives.
As Mr. Brookes did not appear, she quitted the inn, leaving word that she would be found on the terrace, or in the cloisters, if the hour of closing the gates arrived before he came to seek her. She thought she heard Olivia's voice in the adjoining room, and she was most anxious to be out of the house, skrinking as she did from any further meeting with her husband's hostile kindred. She believed that Mrs. hope and her daughter avoided her, as a disobedient wife, an unnatural mother, and a frivolous, pleasure-seeking, vain woman of the world. They did so, certainly; but she, in her dejection and innocence, little guessed how scandalized they were at meeting her, thus walking abroad, in so public a place as Windsor, without attendance; and when many persons knew, or suspected, that some kind of separation had taken place between her and her husband; when the fact of her being at Mrs. Carisforth's fete, against the express command of Mr. Basil, and while her child was actually dying, had somehow become patent in certain circles.
She little thought—poor, subdued Lilian!—that | | 188 that very night, a letter went forth to Norway, by the Windsor post, containing this paragraph:—
"Windsor is very gay, but Olivia and I keep our-selves secluded, as we in-List needs do, considering the recent death of your little boy, and your own unfortunate domestic position, which, unhappily, is not quite a secret among ourselves. You will be astonished to hear that, this afternoon, we met your wife amusing herself within the precincts of the Castle. She looks very well, and in good spirits, and was altogether unattended; even her maid was not with her. Of course, we did not speak; Olivia merely bowed. I endeavored to convey into the expression of my countenance as severe a rebuke as if I had fully uttered my surprise and indignation in words."
Then came maternal condolences, not unmixed with reproaches, for his having married a person so unworthy of the station she was called to fill. Alas! poor Lilian!
It was rather late before Mr. Brookes concluded his business, and he found Lilian walking gravely and wearily by Cardinal Wolsey's tomb-house.
"Kings and queens lie here," said the old man, as they stood at the eastern end of St. George's chapel; they dwelt in palaces, and wore regal robes, and all men did them reverence; lout they are equal now with the meanest of their subjects. Those of them who | | 189 have passed into the mansions of the redeemed are not more blessed, more glorious, than my Mice in her crown of righteousness and her spotless garments: for there all are kings and priests to God!"
Thoughts of Alice filled both their hearts, and, as they drove home in the twilight to the lodge, little conversation passed between them. They were seated at the supper-table, when Mr. Brookes exclaimed—
"I beg your pardon, Mrs. Hope, I have a letter for you. I found it at the post-office, when I went to in-quire for my own."
Lilian stretched forth her band, rattier impatiently; she hoped, nay, she half fancied, it was from Basil; this long, relentless silence of his was becoming an intolerable pain; and she would have welcomed the most reproachful sarcasms, the bitterest vituperations, from his pen, rather than continue to endure this dreary blank—this weary, weary void. She even began to enter Into poor Desdemona's adjuration—"Oh! stay with me, and curse me!"
She was disappointed; the direction was in a delicate female hand and the postmark was London, not Christiansand.
Slowly and indifferently she opened it: but when she saw its contents, her color rose, and her eyes ran eagerly down the paper; when they came to the bottom she uttered a faint shriek, and turned so pale, that | | 190 Mr. Brookes feared she was going to faint. He poured out a glass of wine, and placed it before her, begging her to drink.
"Don't!" she replied, in a hoarse, tremulous voice."Thank you, I cannot; I ant sick! What shall I do?"
"Forgive me, Mrs. Hope," respectfully interposed her companion, "but can I serve you in any way?"
She shook her head, and, after a moment's hesitation, laid before him the paper, which he had already perceived to be a bill.
It was the one that Lilian dreaded: the bill from one of the first modisstes in town, for all Eleanor's extravagances, and very many of her own. The sum total was large—large even for a fashionable lady; to the unsophisticated Mr. Brookes, who had thought himself very liberal when he gave from time to time, a five pound note to his daughter, for her private expenses, it seemed tremendous and ruinous. He looked up inquiringly, and rather bashfully, at his guest.
"This is one of many," she said, despairingly; "but this is the largest."
"Mr. Hope must pay them," said Mr. Brookes, gravely; "he, as other men, is answerable for his wife's——" he, hesitated for a moment—"for his wife's debts."
"I am aware of that," replied Lilian; "but I dare | | 191 not let him know it: he would never forgive me; be-sides all is wrong between us now."
"What is wrong between you, Mrs. Hope," said Mr. Brookes, kindly. "Dear lady, 1 am an old man. I have seen much of the world and its entanglements. Perhaps if I knew where the difficulty lies, I could advise you; but you must tell nee candidly whether the greater blame is with you or with Mr. Hope?"
"It is I who and most to blame," replied Lilian; and then she told Air. Brookes the whole history of her married life, ending with the final misunderstanding between herself and her husband; not attempting in the least to justify her misconduct, or to extenuate her absence from her child, by any force of circumstances.
Mr. Brookes was silent. He was no sage—no diplomatist; but he was an upright Christian man, possessed of excellent sense, fine discrimination, and a measure of delicacy and refinement, that seemed almost inconsistent with his station in society.
"What must I do?" asked Lilian, imploringly; for she intuitively recognized his sound judgment, and the clearness of his perceptions; and she feared his silence intimated the hopelessness of her case.
"My dear!"—he spoke as if it were his own child he were counselling—"you must win back your husband's heart."| | 192
"But how—how?" asked Lilian, earnestly. I have no influence with him; he thinks me worse than I am; he misunderstands me; he prejudges me continually; and there are those who do their utmost to widen the breach between us. How can I, under these adverse circumstances, will back my husband's heart?"
"My dear, may I speak plainly to you, as I should speak to my own Catherine, if she were in England, and if (which God forbid!) she stood in the same unhappy position as yourself?"
"Say what you please; act like the surgeon, who probes the festering wound to the core, and heeds not the shrinking of the patient, whose life he is saving."
"You must win back his heart, I said: but it can-not be clone by tears, and lamentations; mere professions of contrition will avail nothing; melancholy and pining will be ineffectual: you can only win back the inestimable blessing of your husband's affection by patient, unwearing continuance in duty First, you must solemnly covenant with yourself that, neat to your spiritual interests, you will resolutely, unflinchingly pursue the path which, under God's blessing, will bring you once more side by side, and heart in heart, with him who is bone of your bone, and flesh of your flesh. Having so purposed, you must humbly ask of God wisdom, and strength, and patience; you | | 193 must go to your own home; you must live there or wherever he may see fit to fit your abode, gravely, prudently, and blamelessly. No duty must be slighted; the voice of conscience must be always heeded; the past must be remembered only as a warning; the present must be the day of action, in which no opportunity of good, no work of love and mercy may be neglected; and the future you must leave in the hands of your heavenly Father, in whose care and guidance you must fully confide. And through all things love always; never let your heart grow cold towards your husband; he will try your affection hardly. I think he has already done so; but you must keep a pure, true loving wife's heart in your bosom; and, above all, fear the Lord, and walk in His ways; and in His own good time, your Father in heaven will give you the desire of your soul."
"But the debts," urged Lilian, piteously. How can I tell him? He will despise me more than ever: he will feel more and more estranged from me. Thus, at the very outset of my undertaking, new barriers will be raised, that years may be ineffectual to demolish."
Trust in God, and do what is right, my dear! A Christian cannot be in debt—a Christian cannot be disingenuous. You must start on the race without any Hindrances from insincerity and concealment. You | | 194 must face the worst at once: it may not be so bad as you fear, after all."
Lilian shook her head.
Mr. Brookes went on:—"And you have chosen the better part, so my Alice told me before she went to rest; and you must remember that, in little things as well as in great things, you leave God to please and to glorify. Your every-day life, your common duties, are as important in his eyes as works of brayer and praise. You must not think that religion consists only in singing hymns, and reading the Bible, and going often to church or chapel. God has sent you into the world to work in it, to perform your part therein worthily, to do common things, and associate with common people, in such a way that all may see you are influenced by something higher and stronger than any mere earthly motive. One cannot live always in an atmosphere of poetry; we must not always be thinking of the crown and the palm, and the heavenly city, and so forget to take up the cross, and do battle with our foes in the wilderness. Where would be the wisdom of sitting down in the morning, with a hard day's work before you, thinking only of the joys of sunset?"
"Thank you, thank you," said Lilian, quickly, "I need your admonition more than you can tell. Far too well I have loved the romance, the flowers, the day-dreams of life, and still the old temperament is up- | | 195 on me. Perhaps I shall have rough work to do that will make me steady and practical
"Rough work for you I doubt not there will be. You may not be called to scrub, and wash, and bake, like some of your poorer sisters (though it may come to that if you go on being so extravagant,) but you will have many a struggle, many a weary hour, before you have finished the great work before you—the regaining of your husband!"
"I wish I were obliged to work," exclaimed Lilian. "I would joyfully wash, and cook, and make Basil's shirts, and clean his shoes, if only he would love me as he did when he tool: me from my old home."
"A little temporal adversity would do neither of you any Liam," returned Mr. Brookes, smiling; "but I fancy you would find housewifely duties, of the kind you mention, by no means pleasant or easy. And now I must send you away to bed, you look sadly pale and worn; to-morrow I will take you again to the churchyard, and across the forest, that you may see our Alice's quiet resting-place before you go; and then you must think of returning, that the new life may be begun heartily and at once."
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