- CHAPTER XXVI. DISAPPOINTMENTS.
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THE winter had passed away, the spring, was well-nigh melting, into summer, when one morning Miss Williams came to Basil, with a face all smiles and tears, to congratulate him on the birth, not of the expected son and heir, but of twin daughters.
Very different was the advent of these young ladies from that of their elder brother. Then Basil lead paced the house in distracted alternations of hope and despair; then he had hurried from his wife's room to despatch a special messenger to Hopelands, with the welcome intelligence that an heir of the third generation was born to the ancient family of the Hopes; then doctor and nurse, and all the admiring circle of servants, had declared the baby, Master Hope, to be the very finest, largest, and most | | 282 beautiful infant ever born into this troublesome world; then neighbors of high degree came and sent with solicitous inquiries after Mrs. Hope, and the young heir, who lay in his grand cot, under the shadow of snowy muslin and rose-colored silk, sucking his thumb and sleeping, as though he had come into existence for the express purpose of enjoying a comfortable nap.
Now he rose calmly from his writing, not however without a sense of thorough relief, and replied in tones in which surprise evidently exceeded satisfaction.
"Two did you say, Miss Williams, two little girls?"
"Yes! two, Mr. Hope; you have a double blessing bestowed upon you."
Basil shrugged his shoulders and hinted that the blessing was a matter of opinion: if he had been consulted, he should have declared his preference for one son rather than two daughters.
Miss Williams looked grave; she did not like the tone in which the young man spoke; and her own delight at welcoming the twin babies had been so extreme, that the father's indifference, or rather discontentment, grated harshly upon her ear.
"Will you not see them?" she said at length, rather coldly; very coldly for her, for she was the most cordial and unformal woman in the world.
"Why ! no:—not yet; but stay, I suppose I had | | 283 better go and look at them, or Lilian will fancy I don't like them, and she will fret herself into a fever."
So he followed Miss Williams to his wife's room, where the two little things lay by their mother, looking so exceedingly small, so fragile, and to his masculine ideas so very unprepossessing in their general aspect, that he unguardedly pronounced them "ugly little monkeys," and declared that so far from feeling like their father, he could hardly believe they were of the same species of animal as himself.
Miss Williams and Bridget were so exasperated at this imprudent speech, and so concerned at the effect produced on the pale, exhausted mother, that they very unceremoniously hustled Mr. Basil out of the chamber; and subsequently Bridget revenged herself, her mistress, and the young ladies, as she ceremoniously called the six-hour old twins, by leaving his dinner entirely to the skill and discretion of the Welsh maiden, who, by the interesting event of the morning had been entirely bereft of the few notions she ever possessed.
Accordingly at four o'clock, Basil sat down in solitary state to a discolored fowl floating in a sea of greasy liquid, variegated with minute islets of olive green. This extraordinary compound Jenny Hughes fondly imagined to be "melted butter and parsley," but, as she had first boiled the parsley for an indefinite time, | | 284 and then bestowed a sprinkle of flour on a quart of water, and a huge lump of salt butter, her efforts met with very indifferent success.
The singular hue of the unlucky fowl disgusted Basil at once; but what was his amazement when he fully contemplated the marvelous sauce in which it reposed! He rang the bell so furiously that Jenny rushed in with the toasting-fork in her hand expecting to find her master in a fit, or the room in flames.
She met, however, with a warmer reception than she had anticipated. Such a torrent of words greeted her at the very threshold, that she stood there transfixed, holding aloft the toasting-fork, as if personating Thetis brandishing Neptune's trident.
Being a very indifferent English scholar, she by no means understood her master's rapid and fiery exhortation. She perfectly comprehended that she was called a fool: why, she could not imagine. Presently, as Basil pointed to the table and continued to rave, a new light gleamed upon her mind, and without a moment's delay she rushed frantically to the kitchen, bore back the forgotten vegetables, and placed them before her master, with a proud little nod and a triumphant chuckle, that so far confounded him as to hush the tempest of words, and cause him to look earnestly at the smiling rosy face before him that be- | | 285 trayed such evident delight at the result of its owner's unaided genius.
She was gone "before he could recover his speech; and with a comical mixture of anger, disgust, and astonishment he commenced a survey of the potatoes. Were they really potatoes? Surely they were some choice petrefactions from the caverns of Penmaenmawr. The greens! which Jenny thought the most admirable accompaniment to boiled fowl—grew they ever in British garden, or were they marine productions of the dingiest green-brown imaginable ?
Again the bell rang; and this time Jenny comprehended that she was required to carry out the first course and take it whence it came.
Nothing daunted, the heroic Welshwoman, having disencumbered herself of the rejected viands, proceeded to usher in the second course, which consisted of apple-pudding and warmed-up fritters. It met with no better success.
The pudding was not a pudding, and the fritters were so dried that they might have passed for anything either vegetable or animal.
Basil thought he was served with frizzled brown sealing-wax.
At last—on bread and cheese and celery being produced as the finale of the repast—the unlucky master of the house found something which he really | | 286 could eat without nausea or fear of poison. Then, "when the rage of hunger was appeased," he sought out Bridget, and demanded an explanation of the unceremonious treatment he had received. Bridget grimly answered, "that she was too busy to think about dinners; it was as much as she could do to attend to missis and the young ladies, and Jenny was old enough to cook a makeshift dinner once or twice in a way; and, even if she had left her duty to go down to the kitchen, it was not to be expected she could come up to Mrs. Hope, any more than Jenny could come up to her. It was missis who cooked, or saw to all the best dinners."
"Your mistress!" exclaimed Basil: "you really do not mean to say that your mistress knows anything about cooking."
"Ah! but she does," replied Bridget, triumphantly. "I used to think I could send up as pretty a dinner as any lord could want, but missis can do better, and she is as quick again as I am. However she will cook no more dinners, for when she comes downstairs there will be the young ladies upon her hands."
And charitably hoping that Mr. Hope would duly appreciate his wife's talents and industry, now that they could no longer be exercised for his benefit, Bridget went upstairs to attend to the requirements of the Misses Hope, who were testifying their disap- | | 287 proval of this world and its ways by continuous wailings and cryings.
It was high summer when Lilian recovered: the babies, she said, grew very fast, and began to take notice; but they were delicate little things; very fair and fragile, and required incessant care. Bridget was quite right when she foretold the full occupation her mistress would find in tending and nursing these frail little ones, for it was a treat now to Lilian to find a spare half-hour for reading, and quite an agreeable variety to spend a little time in the kitchen, while the twins vouchsafed to sleep. One day, about midsummer, Basil came down in high glee. His MS. was ready for the press, and it remained only to find a publisher.
"I will send it to one of the most influential firms in London," he said to his wife, who looked admiringly at the pile of written sheets. "It is but fair to one's-self and to society to intrust a good thing to a first-rate house."
After due deliberation the choice was made; the MS. was carefully packed up, legibly directed, and sent off to town. In about a fortnight a communication came from the gentleman to whose fostering care it was committed. "With many expressions of regret Mr. L. declined undertaking Mr. Hope's novel:—"The style was original, and the incidents striking, | | 288 but he could not answer for its success; and, his hands being full, he must beg to be excused entering into negociations on the subject."
"The foolish fellow !" said Basil, contemptuously, as he threw down the publisher's polite letter. "Never mind, Lily; there are better publishers than L. I will write to another firm—I wonder I did not think of it at first. The stupid L. will be ready to bite his fingers when he sees the book making a sensation in the literary world! Give me that inkstand; I will write this moment, and save the post."
Another month passed away; the twins were short-coated, and christened by the names of Harriet and Clara; they began to grow fat, and cried rather less: but the fate of their father's literary offspring was still undecided. At last, despairing of the expected letter, and the handsome offer sure to be contained therein, Basil wrote somewhat curtly to Messrs. H. and B., requesting an immediate decision. By return of post arrived not only the decision, but the MS. itself, rather the worse for thumbing and lying about in dusty offices.
Messrs. H. and B. presented their compliments to Mr. Hope, and begged to assure him that the MS. was not at all in their line. It certainly displayed considerable talent, but extreme opinions were expressed with too much unreserve; there was much, both in | | 289 incident and in sentiment, that was calculated to offend the public mind; and Messrs. H. and B. would advise Mr. Hope seriously to consider the advisability of retaining the MS. in its unpublished state, or of giving it entirely a new complexion.
Basil was furious and disgusted. He abjured authorship for ever; from that moment he washed his hands of it; he bade Lilian stow away the waste paper in one of her lumber chests, and desired that the subject might never be renewed between them. And so faded away Basil Hope's airy castle; but his disappointment was not keener than Lilian's.
From that time Basil seemed wearied of the society of books; and the babies he vowed were always crying, while Lilian was so absorbed in nursing them, talking to them, and singing them to sleep, that she had no leisure to bestow upon him, Bridget still remained at Bryndyffryn; the term for which she had engaged herself had passed away, but she could not, and would not, leave her mistress to keep house, cook the dinners, iron the muslins, and nurse the young ladies; and though money was very scarce, and Basil's El Dorado visions of the gain of authorship were all dissipated, making pecuniary straits appear doubly irksome, Lilian felt that retaining the energetic, honest, faithful Bridget, was her most economical plan.
Meanwhile Basil began to absent himself from | | 290 home; he returned to his piscatorial habits, and finding no difficulty in obtaining leave for all the streams and lyns in the neighborhood, he was pretty soon busy again with reels, and lines, and hooks. He spoilt Bridget's best saucepans in the manufacture of varnish for his lines and traces; he strewed the parlor with little bits of silk, feathers, dubbing, and bristles, to be converted into artificial flies, and ho drove Lilian to desperation by his contradictory directions respecting a landing-net which she had incautiously engaged to make for him.
On the 12th of August, Basil came home almost at midnight. lie was in high spirits. He had met "Captain Leavers and several of his old friends at the Albion, at Bangor; and Leavers had taken a cottage on the Llanberris Road, where he meant to stay all the winter, and do some extra shooting and pike fishing. "Now, I shall have some society at last," he exclaimed in great glee; "the governor may banish me, but he cannot exile my friends. I am getting quite reconciled to the country now; we shall have a capital winter, and I shall be out of the way of the brats. How they do scream, Lily! Can't you give them some Daffy's Elixir, or something of that sort? Don't look so shocked; it's quite a regular thing."
"Poor Lilian! her heart sunk within her; and she wept bitterly when he went away to clean his rifle. | | 291 Captain Leavers and his friend Mr. Daubeny were, she knew, Basil's arch-tempters. Basil's evil genius had found him out, even at lonely Bryndyffryn. He had no principle, no religion, no human affections. Oh! where would it all end? Lilian felt that all her trials were thickening, while the two other objects she had hoped to attain, long ere this, seemed more distant than ever.
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