- CHAPTER XXX. RECONCILIATION.
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TWO days more elapsed and Basil seemed still lingering on the confines of another world. There were no signs of real amendment; if one hour something life a renewal of strength took place, the next found him in a state of increased suffering and pitiable exhaustion. Dr. Williams came and went several times during those sad solemn days, and he, too, believed that Basil's span of mortal life was fast hastening to its close. He looked at Lilian, faded and worn with sorrow and fatigue; at her little children, all unconscious of the irreparable loss that awaited them; and again at the husband and father who knew that the time was come when those whom he lead held so lightly in past days of heedlessness and sin were to be his no longer; and the good clergyman's heart was | | 326 sorely stirred. Hour after hour the summer sun lighted up the bright sea waves; the proud vessels, with their snowy sails, rode on the bosom of the ever restless waters, and the fisher's little bark went sailing merrily across the glittering bay. The birds sang all day long in the apple-trees under the sick man's window; the gulls, with their silvery wings, went flitting from rock to rock, flashing, as it were, against the deep blue sky; and ever and anon some mountain-bee came in laden with his store, and humming his monotonous song in the stillness of the invalid's room. All Nature seemed instinct with happy life! He only was fading away from things seen and temporal. No more!—seemed written on the bright shining sea, on the summer sky, on the waving trees, on the pale, still lovely face of his faithful wife, and on the awestricken countenances of the twins, when, at their father's desire, they came hand in hand into his room, stood by his bedside, half-curious, half-frightened, and altogether sorrowful and serious. No more!—sounded ever in the low thunder of the waves on the rocky shore, in the warbling of the happy birds, and, above all, in Lilian's gentle whispered words of love. A little while longer, and he might hear that music of waves and birds and sweet voices—no more! The past had melted away like the gorgeous sunset castles of cloud-land; and never more might he tread the pleasant | | 327 paths of that free mountain-land; never more see Hopelands—beautiful Hopelands!—his own fair inheritance, and the heritage of his little son. Never more see his father's face, or his mother's look of love—for with all her sternness, she did love Basil, her own and only son!
But, as more and more the past receded, hope brightened on the distant horizon. Basil could say now—" Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!" Sin-defiled, sin-laden and sin-weary, he listened to the words of life, and came a contrite, trembling sinner to the foot of the cross. And there like Banyan's Pilgrim, his burden fell from him; and Lilian's worst tears were dispelled; her sharpest agony was past; she could bear to lose him now if it were the will of his Heavenly Father; she even thought of their little child, gone so early to the bosom of his Saviour, welcoming his parent to the glorious mansions of the redeemed. She saw herself bereft of the husband of her youth, with prayers and trembling hope training her children to serve and fear the Lord in the spring-tide of their days, and she felt not utterly dismayed. The Father of the fatherless, and the God of the widow would never leave her or forsake her; He would lead her all the way through the wilderness, and then, life's journey done, bring her into everlasting rest, and give back him who had been taken away in his early man- | | 328 hood, and restore to her the babe who had been with the angels so long.
Late in the afternoon, when the children were assembled in a large arbor in the garden, they were startled by the appearance of a strange gentleman and two ladies, who came up the rocky lane on foot; and instead of entering by the principal gate, made ingress by opening a side wicket, to which they were attracted by its presenting itself first on their way, and by the voices of the children close at hand. The little ones were alone; Clara sat on the floor, holding the baby in her lap; and Harriet was trying to keep the rampant little Maude from snatching at the roses which grew above her head, reaping of course a plentiful harvest of thorns and leaves, as well as torn flowers.
The group subsided into silence as the strange gentleman stepped forward and stood on the threshold of the arbor. Maude hid her beautiful saucy face in her elder sister's tiny apron; and Clara ceased rocking herself, and looked with serious surprise on the intruders.
"Can these be Basil's children?" said the younger lady. "Surely, these are the twins, and that is little Maude!"
"Eess, me Maude!" said the little one, peeping out from the folds of the apron, and glancing between | | 329 the clusters of raven black curls that shaded her rosy cheeks. But when the gentleman tried to take her in his arms she sturdily resisted, and Clara and Harriet simultaneously interposed, and said they were left to take care of Maude and the baby, and no one must touch them.
"Where is your mamma?" said the elder lady, gently, to Clara.
"Mamma is with papa," said the child, sadly; "she never comes to us now, till we are in bed at night. Poor papa is going away."
"Going away, my child!—is he better, then?"
"No! Papa is going to see little brother in heaven. He told us to be good, and to love mamma always; he said we might go to him some day."
"We are come to see your papa," said the gentleman. "I am your grandpapa, little maid, and this is your grandmamma, and that lady is your aunt Olivia."
"Bridget said you wouldn't come," said Harriet, quite calmly.
The children did not seem in the least surprised at this apparition of their relatives. As soberly as middle-aged women, the twins led the way into the house; and, leaving Clara to do the honors, Harriet went up to her mamma, who was sitting by Basil's | | 330 bed-side, and whispered in her ear, "Grandpapa and grandmamma, and aunt Olivia, are come."
Lilian gave a sigh of relief; her husband had just been telling her how intensely he longed to see his parents once more; how deeply he felt his errors towards them; how he yearned for the pardon of an earthly father and mother, ere he passed away and was no more seen.
The quick ear of the invalid caught the little girl's whisper; though he only heard "Grandpapa," and "aunt Olivia," he comprehended that they were come—come to forgive him, to bless him, and look lovingly upon him before he died. "Thank God!" he feebly uttered. "My Lily, go down to them; little Harry will stay and be papa's nurse."
Lilian and Olivia had never met since that miserable meeting in the Chapel Royal at Windsor.
Olivia started when her sister entered the room.Could that pale, grave woman—so calm, so self-possessed, and yet bearing the aspect of sorrow immeasurable—be Lilian?—the gay, impetuous, beautiful Lilian? Mr. Hope had always rather inclined to his son's wife. Her conduct at the time of the breaking-up of their London household had increased his prepossessions in her favor; and, since her exile to Bryndyffryn, he had heard much of her patience and gentleness, much of her quiet, consistent piety from | | 331 Dr. Williams. He would have come to see her, but pride withheld him, lest his rebellious son should deem such a step an advance on his side towards the reconciliation, which in his wrath he had sworn should never be effected, till Basil, penitent and humbled, implored pardon for the past, and pledged himself to act worthily for the future.
He met Lilian now, as a long-estranged and absent lather should meet a beloved child. Olivia, whose heart years and the dawnings of gospel light had greatly softened, took her in her arms, and embraced her with sisterly affection. Neither did Mrs. Hope comport herself coldly and sternly as was her wont; for her heart was with her dying son, and she could not now look unlovingly on the wife who had dutifully clung to him through years of sorrow, and neglect, and poverty.
"Have you told him?" asked Mrs. Hope. "Does Basil know we are here?"
"Yes! he knows; he heard little Harriet whisper the news to me. "Will you see him now, while I prepare you some tea?"
They were upstairs—the father and mother. Olivia deferred her appearance, lest too many in the sick-chamber—too many familiar and long unseen faces—should be too much for her brother.
Besides she thought both parents and son would | | 332 willingly have their first meeting alone. So Lilian thought, for she left them at the door of Basil's room, only begging Mrs. Hope to ring for her if her attendance were in any way required.
They stayed there nearly an hour, and then they came down to the tea which Lilian had prepared for them. They had never been so much at ease together, and they both kissed her affectionately when, leaving Olivia to preside at the table, she hastened to resume her post in her husband's room. She found him none the worse for the excitement of the evening; on the contrary, his restlessness seemed calmed, and he was disposed to sleep. That night Mr. Hope insisted on keeping watch by his son, while Lilian shared the bed which Bridget had prepared for Olivia, and enjoyed a night of undisturbed repose.
A week passed away. Basil was not worse; and they began to hope that his youth and his naturally sound constitution might yet prevail. Meanwhile, Olivia's prejudices were fast melting away, and very soon her admiration of her sister-in-law was as extreme as her former deprecations had been. In the well-ordered household, in the carefully-trained children, in the skilfully managed sick-room, and above all in Lilian's unassuming piety, and in the refined and intellectual tone of her mind and manners, she could not fail to recognize the effects of a training | | 333 more perfect and more efficient than any she had herself received. Slowly she began to perceive that all the beautiful traits of character she now esteemed and reverenced so highly, had really existed in embryo long before; she felt that Lilian had, at her first entrance into the family, been most unfairly treated; and she owned that, though in some instances her sister-in-law's conduct had been reprehensible, there were others, herself included, who were greatly to blame for the evil influence they had exerted over a nature in itself fair and noble, but, till trained by a severe and painful discipline, too plastic and too much swayed by impulse.
They talked over those old times together. Olivia told Lilian how she now perceived the wrong she had done her; how she and her sisters, in their haughtiness and pride, had cared little to foster the seeds of truth and beauty which might by them have been quickly developed; how they had aggravated her quick temper, and goaded her on to many a word and deed of passion, that by one look or tone of love might have been prevented; and, more than all, Olivia perceived that much of the alienation between her brother and his wife had been caused by this malignant influence; and how, cast off by themselves, she had been left to form her own circle, and to find | | 334 her own pleasures, and to subject herself to Eleanor's injurious sway.
"It was all wrong together," said Olivia, one day—"shamefully, cruelly wrong! but we were in the dark. "We had no real religion among us; and education, birth, and refinement failed to keep us right-hearted."
"And poetry and my love for my husband failed to keep me from error and misery," returned Lilian. "Olivia, we can do all things, through the love of Christ constraining us, and without it I believe we cannot do anything, but what in some way or other leads sooner or later to evil."
"I see that now; but, Lilian, I had only just begun to receive truth when I came here. It is the history of your trials, of your severe discipline, the revelations of poor penitent Basil on points which your humility would keep concealed, and the whole aspect of your household and your every-day life that confirmed me in the truth, and showed me clearly and fully what Divine grace, and grace alone can affect."
A few more days and Basil was greatly better. The arrival of his parents, his reconciliation with them, and their loving care seemed to bring him back from the shadowy confines of the grave. And he said, "I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord hath chastened me sore; but he | | 335 hath not given me over unto death. Open to me the gates of righteousness, I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord."
As soon as Basil's strength permitted, the whole family were to return to Hopelands for the winter. It was doubtful whether Bryndyffryn would ever again be their permanent home.
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