- CHAPTER XXV. NEW HOPES.
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THAT long, dreary winter! how heavily the dull, dismal days went by. Storm, and mist, and wet without, and gloom and sadness within. Basil began to write his book—the book that was to stamp his fame as an author—the book that was to circulate with the rapidity of slander—the book that was to be in all men's hands, and upon all men's tongues, and that was to rival and finally eclipse "David Copperfield," "Janie Eyre," and "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
Basil, however, refused to carry on his labors in the common sitting-room, and Lilian selected a small upper chamber, which she fitted up with infinite pains, and with no small satisfaction to herself; for | | 271 already her pretty crimson table-cloth displayed two small islands and an extensive continent of ink; already the carpet bad been subjected to rubbings and scrubbings and ablutions of hot water, and Bridget had prophesied that by Christmas everything in the room would be as black as sin.
Still she felt very lonely, when, as soon as breakfast was over, Basil marched away to his study, never stopping to consider how she would employ or amuse herself till they met again. It was no weather for outdoor exercise; the roads and lanes were almost impassable, and often Lilian found herself compelled to abandon even her walk to church. Sometimes the mist came down so heavily that she was afraid of wandering out of her way; and twice the mud was so soft and so deep that with great difficulty she managed to extricate herself, and go back home with such goloshes and such dress-skirt as she had never before even faintly imagined. She saw very little of her friends at the vicarage. Basil showed no inclination to cultivate their acquaintance, and the season and the weather were equally opposed to anything like continuous intercourse. Now and then Miss William came up the muddy, windy hill, and spent a pleasant hour by Lilian's solitary hearth; and often the little footboy from the vicarage, who could not speak ten consecutive words of English, came up to Bryn- | | 272 dyffryn with a kind note and a new book from his mistress to Mrs. Hope, and Bridget listened, in alternate disgust and wrath, to the wonderful clatter, the loud gutturals, and, what seemed to her English sense of propriety, the too free joking and laughing between the Cambrian youth and his stout, untidy-looking countrywomen. Certainly the Welsh women do hold all their conversations in alto; a stupid Saxon might suppose every word to be fierce invective and unmitigated scolding.
So every morning, when Basil went up stairs to his literary labors, Lilian went to the kitchen, a practice which Bridget strenuously insisted on; for, as she sagaciously observed, "if a mistress looks after things in the kitchen, larder, and pantry, one hour out of the twenty-four, things will not go very far wrong, and she will have no need to give up her playing and drawing, and reading, in order to go peeping and prying into affairs that have been neglected, and are consequently in arrears, and she and her servant or servants, be they one or many, will go on the more comfortable; for no good servant dislikes the watchful eye of a reasonable mistress, and a bad domestic is better out of the house at once."
So Bridget reasoned; not that she intended her mistress to remain from inspecting her domestic concerns at any time that it might be needful; but she further | | 273 Remarked, "When people had a thing to do, and they thought to do it any time, it was very like it would be done no time at all; and a time for everything, and everything to its time, was as good a rule for the lady of the house as the old adage, 'a place for everything,' #38;C."
And so Lilian fell into the habit of fully discharging, her domestic duties before reading, practising, or study were allowed their turn. At first she watched Bridget's manipulations in the culinary art, then she made an attempt herself; and, long before the dreary winter melted into sunny spring-time, she had become quite all adept in the science of household confectionery, and plain, economical cooking. She even improved oil Bridget's celebrated soup that cost so little and yet was acceptable to a gourmand; and Basil, little knowing whose skilful hands had contrived the delicious and inexpensive repast, declared his table was better served than in the days when he could afford a professed cook.
Then, when all was completed, Lilian divested herself of her print apron, re-arranged her dark braids of hair, and sat down to leer studies. Her habits of promiscuous reading had prevented anything like serious forgetfulness of the knowledge acquired in schooldays; but she began now to perceive that the education she believed finished the six years before was in | | 274 fact barely begun; that the edifice which she flattered herself had long ago been built up perfect and complete, had scarcely risen above the foundations, and was in fact hardly discernible amid the confused heap of scaffolding which desultory reading and shallow, straitened school studies had necessarily produced. It was astonishing how much she found to investigate in little things with which she once imagined herself quite conversant, but whose surface, she was now assured, had been merely skimmed.
She began a thorough course of history, taking notes as she went, making many researches by the way, in order to comprehend fully the minutes of historical detail. And this course of study became so charming, that to her fervent, earnest nature there was danger of becoming too completely engrossed in its pursuance. How it enlightened her to find things, which had formerly been incomprehensible or obscure, gradually growing clear and distinct; how pleasant it was to feel the full force of many beautiful similes and many apt allusions, which had been till now a more dead letter.
And one branch of inquiry naturally led to another, till the field of investigation became tantalizingly extensive. It was to, Lilian like walking in a paradise of flowers, with permission to call all, but with time only for the gathering of a few. There | | 275 was a fear lest, in flitting from flower to flower, in order to see which was most worthy of selection, the limited season should bass by, and fewer than might have been remain appropriated to herself.
But always when Basil came down stairs, whether he was conversable or sullen, the books were laid aside. The history, the biography, the poetry, and the novel were alike dismissed when his step was heard in the vestibule, and Lilian took up her work-basket that was always at hand, and sewed while it pleased him to talk, or to smoke his cigar in reserved silence.
That Lilian was strangely altered could not fail to be apparent to Basil; but what had wrought the change he did not trouble himself to inquire. She was often very pale and quiet, but she always looked cheerful when he made his appearance. She never reproached him as formerly; and all through that long, dreary winter, though doomed to hours of solitude, she did not utter a single complaint. "Certainly," he muttered to himself one day when for a moment he descended to the parlor, and saw the bright face which his wife raised from the volume in her hand, "certainly some women thrive better in adversity than in affluence. Here is Lilian sitting alone for hour on a cold, dark, wet January day, in a solitary house, without hope of visiting, or concerts, or operas, or new novels, or even the day's paper, | | 276 looking as bright and serene as if all the world was at leer feet, while a few months ago all the fetes and operas in. London could not content her; she was always fretting, or sulking, or crying in her own room—really it is altogether incomprehensible."
Then Basil began to notice that the tone of her conversation was much improved. Lady-like and refined it bad ever been, and, to a certain extent, sparkling and amusing; but now her remarks and sentiments betrayed an amount of cultivation for which he had never given her credit. He little dreamed low, for the sake of making herself a suitable companion for her more highly educated husband, she had patiently toiled life a child over the arcana of different languages; low she had waded through thick volumes of history and biography, and puzzled herself over rudimentary pamphlets on various sciences! True learning had proved to her, as it does to all its single-hearted votaries, its own. exceeding great reward but in the first place, the desire of improvement had originated in the hope of rendering her society more agreeable to her husband, and thereby winning him to love his home, and seek for pleasures within its precincts.
Whether leer work of gaining Lack his heart was progressing She could not tell. Sometimes she hoped it was; he would linger after dinner and chat very | | 277 comfortably over the fire, and in the evenings he now and then volunteered to read to her, as he used to do in the dear old time. Still, she feared the deep steady love, that, with all its intensity, all its trust, its passion, and its truth, should make beautiful the every-day paths of married life, had quite died away; or rather that it had never existed; for "love is love for evermore!"
She trembled lest she had never been loved as she and as all true-hearted noble men and women look to be loved; she was afraid passion and gratified fancy had alone dictated the sentiment, which led Basil to prefer her to other women;—" And what more did I deserve?" she asked herself bitterly; "never was woman more unfit to take upon herself the sacred obligations of marriage. True, I loved him with all my heart; but that was not enough. I thought only of my pleasures, not my trials, as Basil's wife; and now the pleasures, at least, such as I then called pleasures, are gone, and the trials are come upon me. Perhaps now it is too late—perhaps we shall always go on to our lives' end, in this sad, unsatisfactory way—perhaps the barrier, the void will be always there, and there will never, never be the union of heart and soul!"
But Lilian had one bright hope, that as yet she only whispered to herself as a secret to sweet and | | 278 precious to be named even to Miss Williams. When the early roses came, when the blossoms faded on the trees in the orchard, and when the birds sang their sweetest melodies she hoped God would give her another little child, and with very different feelings from those which had heralded the advent of her firstborn; she anticipated the time when, if it pleased God, she should again be the mother of a living child. Surely Basil would love her once more—love her as he used to do; or if he had never truly loved, take her to his inmost heart, when he saw her nursing and tending the little one, who had come to them in their poverty and in their solitary mountain-home.
But it would not take the place of the lost one who lay in his little grave, in the sombre old chapel at Hopelands. That one was, and would ever be, distinct and individual in the mother's heart; the new hope would never absorb the old, departed joy, the great joy that is given to women when they remember not their anguish and sorrow, for joy that a man is born into the world.
Lilian always thought of her dead babe, as many a mother thinks of her son, who is gone away into a far country, never to return, while she lives in her thoughts he was hers always; still her beautiful child whom on earth she had lulled to sleep on her bosom; but who now needed no more parental care, no more | | 279 watchings, no more lullabies, for he listened ever to the "angels' song." And she wondered whether the babe who was to come with the early summer would be like his little brother; and as soon as the infant mind began to unfold, she meant to talk to the other baby that belonged to her and Basil; who had gone so early to see his Saviour face to face, to walk the golden streets of heaven, and hold converse with the saints and prophets, and martyrs of olden time, and with the spirits of all the just made perfect.
Do we think enough of heaven? Are there any among us who think of it as they ought? Stand still one minute, pause in the busy round of mortal life, and look back to the very foundation of the Church militant. Force back the waves of time, read reverently the dim pages of the past, and take note of the men who walked with God, of whom the world was not worthy.
The proto-martyr Abel; the translated Enoch; Abraham, the father of the faithful; Isaac, who meditated in the fields at evening-time; Moses, the man of God, whom God honored by calling him specially "My servant Moses;" Joshua, who led the children of Israel over Jordan; David, the shepherd-king, the sweet singer of old time; Elijah, borne heavenward in a chariot of fire; and all the prophets, and all the saints and martyrs that ever walked the earth; all, | | 280 all the glorious company of heaven are gathered there, out of every land and tongue, and kindred, and clime; a great multitude, "whom no man can number, walking the glorious streets, and dwelling in the many mansions prepared for the redeemed. Such is the blessed company with whom we are to mingle in the heavenly country. We shall sit down with those whose names have thrilled our childish spirits, and made our hearts in manhood burn within us; and above all, we shall be face to face with Him whose name has been first and sweetest in the hymns we sang on earth; whose voice spoke to our souls the word of pardon and peace, and whose presence has been with us always from the cradle to the tomb. No pain, no parting, no sighing nor weeping, no sin.
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