Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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having ever crossed her lips, her thoughts and deeds full of
guileless simplicity? She met with the same temptations, the same
neglect, the same bad example, as her sister; why had they no effect
upon her? In the first place, flattery could not touch her, it was
like water on a duck's back, she did not know that it was flattery,
but so thoroughly humble was her mind that no words of Esther's would
make her believe herself beautiful, agreeable, or clever. Yet she
never found out that Esther over-praised her sister; she admired Ada
so much that she never suspected that any commendation of her was
more than she deserved. Again, Phyllis never thought of making
herself appear to advantage, and her humility saved her from the
habit of concealing small faults, for which she expected no
punishment; and, when seriously to blame, punishment seemed so
natural a consequence, that she never thought of avoiding it,
otherwise than by expressing sorrow for her fault. She was
uninfected by Esther's deceit, though she never suspected any want of
truth; her singleness of mind was a shield from all evil; she knew
she was no favourite in the nursery, but she never expected to be
liked as much as Ada, her pride and glory. In the meantime Emily
went on contriving opportunities and excuses for spending her time at
Devereux Castle, letting everything fall into Lily's hands,
everything that she had so eagerly undertaken little more than a year
ago. And now all was confusion; the excellent order in which Eleanor
had left the household affairs was quite destroyed. Attention to the
storeroom was one of the ways in which Lilias thought that she could
best follow the advice of Mr. Devereux, since Eleanor had always
taught that great exactness in this point was most necessary. Great
disorder now, however, prevailed there, and she found that her only
chance of rectifying it was to measure everything she found there,
and to beg Emily to allow her to keep the key; for, when several
persons went to the storeroom, no one ever knew what was given out,
and she was sure that the sweet things diminished much faster than
they ought to do; but her sister treated the proposal as an attempt
to deprive her of her dignity, and she was silenced.

She was up almost with the light, to despatch whatever household
affairs could be settled without Emily, before the time came for the
children's lessons; many hours were spent on these, while she was
continually harassed by Phyllis's dulness, Ada's inattention, and the
interruption of work to do for Emily, and often was she baffled by
interference from Jane or Emily. She was conscious of her unfitness
to teach the children, and often saw that her impatience, ignorance,
and inefficiency, were doing mischief; but much as this pained her,
she could not speak to her father without compromising her sister,
and to argue with Emily herself was quite in vain. Emily had taken
up the principle of love, and defended herself with it on every
occasion, so that poor Lily was continually punished by having her
past follies quoted against herself.

Each day Emily grew more selfish and indolent; now that Lily was
willing to supply all that she neglected, and to do all that she
asked, she proved how tyrannical the weak can be.

The whole of her quarter's allowance was spent in dress, and Lily
soon found that the only chance of keeping her out of debt was to
spend her own time and labour in her behalf; and what an exertion of
patience and kindness this required can hardly be imagined. Emily
did indeed reward her skill with affectionate thanks and kind
praises, but she interfered with her sleep and exercise, by her want
of consideration, and hardened herself more and more in her apathetic
selfishness.

Some weeks after Easter Lilias was arranging some books on a shelf in
the schoolroom, when she met with a crumpled piece of music-paper,
squeezed in behind the books. It proved to be Miss Weston's lost
song, creased, torn, dust-stained, and spoiled; she carried it to
Emily, who decided that nothing could be done but to copy it for
Alethea, and apologise for the disaster. Framing apologies was more
in Emily's way than copying music; and the former task, therefore,
devolved upon Lily, and occupied her all one afternoon, when she
ought to have been seeking a cure for the headache in the fresh air.
It was no cure to find the name of Emma Weston in the corner, and to
perceive how great and irreparable the loss of the paper was to her
friend. The thought of all her wrongs towards Alethea, caused more
than one large tear to fall, to blot the heads of her crotchets and
quavers, and thus give her all her work to do over again.

The letter that she wrote was so melancholy and repentant, that it
gave great pain to her kind friend, who thought illness alone could
account for the dejection apparent in the general tone of all her
expressions. In answer, she sent a very affectionate consoling
letter, begging Lily to think no more of the matter; and though she
had too much regard for truth to say that she had not been grieved by
the loss of Emma's writing, she added that Lily's distress gave her
far more pain, and that her copy would have great value in her eyes.

The beginning of June now arrived, and brought with it the time for
the return of Claude and Lord Rotherwood.

The Marquis's carriage met him at Raynham, and he set down Claude at
New Court, on his way to Hetherington, just coming in to exchange a
hurried greeting with the young ladies.

Their attention was principally taken up by their brother.

'Claude, how well you look! How fat you are!' was their exclamation.

'Is not he?' said Lord Rotherwood. 'I am quite proud of him. Not
one headache since he went. He will have no excuse for not dancing
the polka.'

'I do not return the compliment to you, Lily,' said Claude, looking
anxiously at his sister. 'What is the matter with you? Have you
been ill?'

'Oh, no! not at all!' said Lily, smiling.

'I am sure there is enough to make any one ill,' said Emily, in her
deplorable tone; 'I thought this poor parish had had its share of
illness, with the scarlet fever, and now it has turned to a horrible
typhus fever.'

'Indeed!' said Claude. 'Where? Who?'

'Oh! the Naylors, and the Rays, and the Walls. John Ray died this
morning, and they do not think that Tom Naylor will live.'

'Well,' interrupted Lord Rotherwood, 'I shall not stop to hear any
more of this chapter of accidents. I am off, but mind, remember the
30th, and do not any of you frighten yourselves into the fever.'

He went, and Lily now spoke. 'There is one thing in all this,
Claude, that is matter of joy, Tom Naylor has sent for Robert.'

'Then, Lily, I do most heartily congratulate you.'

'I hope things may go better,' said Lily, with tears in her eyes.
'The poor baby is with its grandmother. Mrs. Naylor is ill too, and
every one is so afraid of the fever that nobody goes near them but
Robert, and Mrs. Eden, and old Dame Martin. Robert says Naylor is in
a satisfactory frame - determined on having the baby christened - but,
oh! I am afraid the christening is to be bought by something
terrible.'

'I do not think those fevers are often very infectious,' said Claude.

'So papa says,' replied Emily; 'but Robert looks very ill. He is
wearing himself out with sitting up. Making himself nurse as well as
everything else.'

This was very distressing, but still Claude scarcely thought it
accounted for the change that had taken place in Lilias. Her cheek
was pale, her eye heavy, her voice had lost its merry tone; Claude
knew that she had had much to grieve her, but he was as yet far from
suspecting how she was overworked and harassed. He spoke of
Eleanor's return, and she did not brighten; she smiled sadly at his
attempts to cheer her, and he became more and more anxious about her.
He was not long in discovering what was the matter.

The second day after his return Robert told them at the churchyard
gate that Tom Naylor was beginning to mend, and this seemed to be a
great comfort to Lily, who walked home with a blither step than
usual. Claude betook himself to the study, and saw no more of his
sisters till two o'clock, when Lily appeared, with the languid,
dejected look which she had lately worn, and seemed to find it quite
an effort to keep the tears out of her eyes. Ada and Phyllis were in
very high spirits, because they were going to Raynham with Emily and
Jane, and at every speech of Ada's Lily looked more grieved. After
the Raynham party were gone Claude began to look for Lily. He found
her in her room, an evening dress spread on the bed, a roll of ribbon
in one hand, and with the other supporting her forehead, while tears
were slowly rolling down her cheeks.

'Lily, my dear, what is the matter?'

'Oh! nothing, nothing, Claude,' said she, quickly.

'Nothing! no, that is not true. Tell me, Lily. You have been
disconsolate ever since I came home, and I will not let it go on so.
No answer? Then am I to suppose that these new pearlins are the
cause of her sorrow? Come, Lily, be like yourself, and speak. More
tears! Here, drink this water, be yourself again, or I shall be
angry and vexed. Now then, that is right: make an effort, and tell
me.'

'There is nothing to tell,' said Lily; 'only you are very kind - I do
not know what is the matter with me - only I have been very foolish of
late - and everything makes me cry.'

'My poor child, I knew you had not been well. They do not know how
to take care of you, Lily, and I shall take you in hand. I am going
to order the horses, and we will have a gallop over the Downs, and
put a little colour into your cheeks.'

'No, no, thank you, Claude, I cannot come, indeed I cannot, I have
this work, which must be done to-day.'

'At work at your finery instead of coming out! You must be altered,
indeed, Lily.'

'It is not for myself,' said Lily, 'but I promised Emily she should
have it ready to wear to-morrow.'

'Emily, oh? So she is making a slave of you?'

'No, no, it was a voluntary promise. She does not care about it,
only she would be disappointed, and I have promised.'

'I hate promises!' said Claude. 'Well, what must be, must be, so I
will resign myself to this promise of yours, only do not make such
another. Well, but that was not all; you were not crying about that
fine green thing, were you?'

'Oh, no!' said Lily, smiling, as now she could smile again.

'What then? I will know, Lily.'

'I was only vexed at something about the children.'

'Then what was it?'

'It was only that Ada was idle at her lessons; I told her to learn a
verb as a punishment, she went to Emily, and, somehow or other, Emily
did not find out the exact facts, excused her, and took her to
Raynham. I was vexed, because I am sure it does Ada harm, and Emily
did not understand what I said afterwards; I am sure she thought me
unjust.'

'How came she not to be present?'

'Emily does not often sit in the schoolroom in the morning, since she
has been about that large drawing.'

'So you are governess as well as ladies'-maid, are you, Lily? What
else? Housekeeper, I suppose, as I see you have all the weekly bills
on your desk. Why, Lily, this is perfectly philanthropic of you.
You are exemplifying the rule of love in a majestic manner. Crying
again! Water lily once more?'

Lily looked up, and smiled; 'Claude, how can you talk of that old,
silly, nay, wicked nonsense of my principle. I was wise above what
was written, and I have my punishment in the wreck which my "frenzy
of spirit and folly of tongue" have wrought. The unchristened child,
Agnes's death, the confusion of this house, all are owing to my
hateful principle. I see the folly of it now, but Emily has taken it
up, and acts upon it in everything. I do struggle against it a
little; but I cannot blame any one, I can do no good, it is all owing
to me. We have betrayed papa's confidence; if he does not see it now
it will all come upon him when Eleanor comes home, and what is to
become of us? How it will grieve him to see that we cannot be
trusted!'

'Poor Lily!' said Claude. 'It is a bad prospect, but I think you see
the worst side of it. You are not well, and, therefore, doleful.
This, Lily, I can tell you, that the Baron always considered Emily's
government as a kind of experiment, and so perhaps he will not be so
grievously disappointed as you expect. Besides, I have a strong
suspicion that Emily's own nature has quite as much to do with her
present conduct as your principle, which, after all, did not live
very long.'

'Just long enough to unsettle me, and make it more difficult for me
to get any way right,' said Lily. 'Oh! dear, what would I give to
force backward the wheels of time!'

'But as you cannot, you had better try to brighten up your energies.
Come, you know I cannot tell you not to look back, but I can tell you
not to look forward. Nay, I do tell you literally, to look forward,
out of the window, instead of back into this hot room. Do not you
think the plane-tree there looks very inviting? Suppose we transport
Emily's drapery there, and I want to refresh my memory with Spenser;
I do not think I have touched him since plane-tree time last year.'

'I believe Spenser and the plane-tree are inseparably woven together
in your mind,' said Lily.

'Yes, ever since the time when I first met with the book. I remember
well roving over the bookcase, and meeting with it, and taking it out
there, for fear Eleanor should see me and tell mama. Phyl, with As
You Like It, put me much in mind of myself with that.'

Claude talked in this manner, while Lily, listening with a smile,
prepared her work. He read, and she listened. It was such a treat
as she had not enjoyed for a long time, for she had begun to think
that all her pleasant reading days were past. Her work prospered,
and her face was bright when her sisters came home.

But, alas! Emily was not pleased with her performance; she said that
she intended something quite different, and by manner, rather than by
words, indicated that she should not be satisfied unless Lily
completely altered it. It was to be worn at the castle the next
evening, and Lily knew she should have no time for it in the course
of the day. Accordingly, at half-past twelve, as Claude was going up
to bed, he saw a light under his sister's door, and knocked to ask
the cause. Lily was still at work upon the trimming, and very angry
he was, particularly when she begged him to take care not to disturb
Emily. At last, by threatening to awake her, for the express purpose
of giving her a scolding, he made Lily promise to go to bed
immediately, a promise which she, poor weary creature, was very glad
to make.

Claude now resolved to tell his father the state of things, for he
well knew that though it was easy to obtain a general promise from
Emily, it was likely to be of little effect in preventing her from
spurring her willing horse to death.

The next morning he rose in time to join his father in the survey
which he usually took of his fields before breakfast, and immediately
beginning on the subject on which he was anxious, he gave a full
account of his sister's proceedings. 'In short,' said he, 'Emily and
Ada torment poor Lily every hour of her life; she bears it all as a
sort of penance, and how it is to end I cannot tell.'

'Unless,' said Mr. Mohun, smiling, 'as Rotherwood would say, Jupiter
will interfere. Well, Jupiter has begun to take measures, and has
asked Mrs. Weston to look out for a governess. Eh! Claude?' he
continued, after a pause, 'you set up your eyebrows, do you? You
think it will be a bore. Very likely, but there is nothing else to
be done. Jane is under no control, Phyllis running wild, Ada worse
managed than any child of my acquaintance - '

'And poor Lily wearing herself to a shadow, in vain attempts to mend
matters,' said Claude.

'If Lily was the eldest, things would be very different,' said Mr.
Mohun.

'Or even if she had been as wise last year as she is now,' said
Claude, 'she would have kept Emily in order then, but now it is too
late.'

'This year is, on many accounts, much to be regretted,' said Mr.
Mohun, 'but I think it has brought out Lily's character.'

'And a very fine character it is,' said Claude.

'Very. She has been, and is, more childish than Eleanor ever was,
but she is her superior in most points. She has been your pupil,
Claude, and she does you credit.'

'Thereby hangs a tale which does me no credit,' muttered Claude, as
he remembered how foolishly he had roused her spirit of
contradiction, besides the original mischief of naming Eleanor the
duenna; 'but we will not enter into that now. I see this governess
is their best chance. Have you heard of one?'

'Of several; but the only one who seems likely to suit us is out of
reach for the present, and I do not regret it, for I shall not decide
till Eleanor comes.'

'Emily will not be much pleased,' said Claude. 'It has long been her
great dread that Aunt Rotherwood should recommend one.'

'Ay, Emily's objections and your aunt's recommendations are what I
would gladly avoid,' said Mr. Mohun.

'But Lily!' said Claude, returning to the subject on which he was
most anxious. 'She is already what Ada calls a monotony, and there
will be nothing left of her by the time Eleanor comes, if matters go
on in their present fashion.'

'I have a plan for her. A little change will set her to rights, and
we will take her to London when we go next week to meet Eleanor. She
deserves a little extra pleasure; you must take her under your
protection, and lionise her well.'

'Trust me for that,' said Claude. 'It is the best news I have heard
for a long time.'

'Well, I am glad that one of my remedies meets with your
approbation,' said his father, smiling. 'For the other, you are much
inclined to pronounce the cure as bad as the disease.'

'Not for Lily,' said Claude, laughing.

'And,' said Mr. Mohun, 'I think I can promise you that a remedy will
be found for all the other grievances by Michaelmas.'

Claude looked surprised, but as Mr. Mohun explained no further, only
observing upon the potatoes, through which they were walking, he only
said, 'Then it is next week that you go to London.'

'There is much to do, both for Rotherwood and for Eleanor; I shall go
as soon as I can, but I do not think it will be while this fever is
so prevalent. I had rather not be from home - I do not like Robert's
looks.'



CHAPTER XIX: THE RECTOR'S ILLNESS



'Thou drooping sick man, bless the guide
That checked, or turned thy headstrong youth.'

The thought of her brother's kindness, and the effect of his
consolation, made Lilias awake that morning in more cheerful spirits;
but it was not long before grief and anxiety again took possession of
her.

The first sound that she heard on opening the schoolroom window was
the tolling of the church bell, giving notice of the death of another
of those to whom she felt bound by the ties of neighbourhood.

At church she saw that Mr. Devereux was looking more ill than he yet
had done, and it was plainly with very great exertion that he
succeeded in finishing the service. The Mohun party waited, as
usual, to speak to him afterwards, for since his attendance upon
Naylor had begun he had not thought it safe to come to the New Court
as usual, lest he should bring the infection to them. He was very
pale, and walked wearily, but he spoke cheerfully, as he told them
that Naylor was now quite out of danger.

'Then I hope you did not stay there all last night,' said Mr. Mohun.

'No, I did not, I was so tired when I came back from poor John Ray's
funeral, that I thought I would take a holiday, and sleep at home.'

'I am afraid you have not profited by your night's rest,' said Emily,
'you look as if you had a horrible headache.'

'Now,' said Mr. Mohun, 'I prescribe for you that you go home and lie
down. I am going to Raynham, and I will tell your friend there that
you want help for the evening service. Do not think of moving again
to-day. I shall send Claude home with you to see that you obey my
prescription.'

Claude went home with his cousin, and his sisters saw him no more
till late in the day, when he came to tell them that Mr. Mohun had
brought back Dr. Leslie from Raynham with him, that Dr. Leslie had
seen Mr. Devereux, and had pronounced that he had certainly caught
the fever.

Lily had made up her mind to this for some time, but still it seemed
almost as great a blow as if it had come without any preparation.
The next day was the first Sunday that Mr. Devereux had not read the
service since he had been Rector of Beechcroft. The villagers looked
sadly at the stranger who appeared in his place, and many tears were
shed when the prayers of the congregation were desired for Robert
Devereux, and Thomas and Martha Naylor. It was announced that the
daily service would be discontinued for the present, and Lily felt as
if all the blessings which she had misused were to be taken from her.

For some time Mr. Devereux continued very ill, and Dr. Leslie gave
little hope of his improvement. Mr. Mohun and Claude were his
constant attendants - an additional cause of anxiety to the Miss
Mohuns. Emily was listless and melancholy, talking in a maundering,
dismal way, not calculated to brace her spirits or those of her
sisters. Jane was not without serious thoughts, but whether they
would benefit her depended on herself; for, as we have seen by the
events of the autumn, sorrow and suffering do not necessarily produce
good effects, though some effects they always produce.

Thus it was with Lilias. Grief and anxiety aided her in subduing her
will and learning resignation. She did not neglect her daily duties,
but was more exact in their fulfilment; and low as her spirits had
been before, she now had an inward spring which enabled her to be the
support of the rest. She was useful to her father, always ready to
talk to Claude, or walk with him in the intervals when he was sent
out of the sickroom to rest and breathe the fresh air. She was
cheerful and patient with Emily, and devoid of petulance when annoyed
by the spirits of the younger ones rising higher than accorded with
the sad and anxious hearts of their elders. Her most painful feeling
was, that it was possible that she might be punished through her
cousin, as she had already been through Agnes; that her follies might
have brought this distress upon every one, and that this was the
price at which the child's baptism was to be bought. Yet Lily would
not have changed her present thoughts for any of her varying frames
of mind since that fatal Whitsuntide. Better feelings were springing
up within her than she had then known; the church service and Sunday
were infinitely more to her, and she was beginning to obtain peace of
mind independent of external things.

She could not help rejoicing to see how many evidences of affection
to the Rector were called forth by this illness; presents of fruit
poured in from all quarters, from Lord Rotherwood's choice hothouse
grapes, to poor little Kezia Grey's wood-strawberries; inquiries were
continual, and the stillness of the village was wonderful. There was
no cricket on the hill, no talking in the street, no hallooing in the
hay-field, and no burst of noise when the children were let out of
school. Many of the people were themselves in grief for the loss of
their own relations; and when on Sunday the Miss Mohuns saw how many
were dressed in black, they thought with a pang how soon they
themselves might be mourning for one whose influence they had
crippled, and whose plans they had thwarted during the three short
years of his ministry.

During this time it was hard to say whether Lord Rotherwood was more
of a comfort or a torment. He was attached to his cousin with all
the ardour of his affectionate disposition, and not one day passed
without his appearing at Beechcroft. At first it was always in the
parlour at the parsonage that he took up his station, and waited till
he could find some means of getting at Claude or his uncle, to hear
the last report from them, and if possible to make Claude come out
for a walk or ride with him. And once Mr. Mohun caught him standing
just outside Mr. Devereux's door, waiting for an opportunity to make
an entrance. He could not, or would not see why Mr. Mohun should
allow Claude to run the risk of infection rather than himself, and
thus he kept his mother in continual anxiety, and even his uncle


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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeScenes and Characters → online text (page 14 of 20)