Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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to anybody, or I do not know what will become of me.'

'Well, we will not,' said Reginald; 'boys can always keep secrets,
and I'll engage for Phyl. Now for it.'

'She is in a terrible fright lest it should be Mr. Mohun. She got it
into her head last autumn, and all I could say would not persuade her
out of it. Why, she always calls me Aunt Marianne when we are alone.
Now, Reginald, here comes Maurice. Do not say anything, I beg and
entreat. It is my secret, you know. I daresay you will all be told
to-morrow, - indeed, mamma said so, - but pray say nothing about me or
Jane. It was only settled yesterday evening.'

At this moment Maurice came up, with a message that Miss Weston and
Eleanor were going away, and wanted the little girls. They followed
him to the tent, which had been cleared of the tables, and lighted
up, in order that the dancing might continue there. Most of their
own party were collected at the entrance, watching for them. Lilias
came up just as they did, and exclaimed in a tone of disappointment,
on finding them preparing to depart. She had enjoyed herself
exceedingly, found plenty of partners, and was not in the least
tired.

'Why should she not stay?' said William. 'Claude has engaged to stay
to the end of everything, and he may as well drive her as ride the
gray.'

'And you, Jenny,' said Mr. Mohun, 'do you like to stay or go?
Alethea will make room for you in the pony-carriage, or you may go
with Eleanor.

'With Eleanor, if you please,' said Jane.

'Already, Jane?' said Lily. 'Are you tired?'

Jane drew her aside. 'Tired of hearing that I was right about what
you would not believe. Did you not hear what he called her? And
Rotherwood has found it out.'

'It is all gossip and mistake,' said Lily.

Here Jane was called away by Eleanor, and departed with her; Lilias
went to look for her aunt or Florence, but on the way was asked to
dance by Mr. Carrington.

'I suppose I may congratulate you,' said he in one of the pauses in
the quadrille.

Lily thought it best to misunderstand, and answered, 'Everything has
gone off very well.'

'Very. Lord Rotherwood will be a popular man; but my congratulations
refer to something nearer home. I think you owe us some thanks for
having brought them into the neighbourhood.'

'Report is very kind in making arrangements,' said Lily, with
something of Emily's haughty courtesy.

'I hope this is something more than report,' said her partner.

'Indeed, I believe not. I think I may safely say that it is at
present quite unfounded,' said Lily,

Mr. Carrington, much surprised, said no more.

Lily did not believe the report sufficiently to be annoyed by it
during the excitement and pleasure of the evening, and at present her
principal vexation was caused by the rapid diminution of the company.
She and her brother were the very last to depart, even Florence had
gone to bed, and Lady Rotherwood, looking exceedingly tired, kissed
Lily at the foot of the stairs, pitied her for going home in an open
carriage, and wished her good-night in a very weary tone.

'I should think you were the fiftieth lady I have handed across the
hall,' said Lord Rotherwood, as he gave Lily his arm.

'But where were the fireworks, Rotherwood?'

'Countermanded long ago. We have had enough of them. Well, I am
sorry it is over.'

'I am very glad it is so well over,' said Claude.

'Thanks to your exertions, Claude,' said the Marquis. 'You acted
like a hero.'

'Like a dancing dervish you mean,' said Claude. 'It will suffice for
my whole life.'

'I hope you are not quite exhausted.'

'No, thank you. I have turned over a new leaf.'

'Talking of new leaves,' said the Marquis, 'I always had a
presentiment that Emily's government would come to a crisis to-day.'

'Do you think it has?' said Claude.

'Trust my word, you will hear great news to-morrow. And that reminds
me - can you come here to-morrow morning? Travers is going - I drive
him to meet the coach at the town, and you were talking of wanting to
see the new windows in the cathedral: it will be a good opportunity.
And dine here afterwards to talk over the adventures.'

'Thank you - that last I cannot do. The Baron was saying it would be
the first time of having us all together.'

'Very well, besides the great news. I wish I was going back with
you; it is a tame conclusion, only to go to bed. If I was but to be
on the scene of action to-morrow. Tell the Baron that - no, use your
influence to get me invited to dinner on Saturday - I really want to
speak to him.'

'Very well,' said Claude, 'I'll do my best. Good-night.'

'Good-night,' said the Marquis. 'You have both done wonders. Still,
I wish it was to come over again.'

'Few people would say so,' said Lily, as they drove off.

'Few would say so if they thought so,' said Claude. 'I have been
quite admiring the way Rotherwood has gone on - enjoying the fun as if
he was nobody - just as Reginald might, making other people happy, and
making no secret of his satisfaction in it all.'

'Very free from affectation and nonsense,' said Lily, 'as William
said of him last Christmas. You were in a fine fright about his
speech, Claude.'

'More than I ought to have been. I should have known that he is too
simple-minded and straightforward to say anything but just what he
ought. What a nice person that Miss Aylmer is.'

'Is not she, Claude? I was very glad you had her for a neighbour.
Happy the children who have her for a governess. How sensible and
gentle she seems. The Westons - But oh! Claude, tell me one thing,
did you hear - '

'Well, what?'

'I am ashamed to say. That preposterous report about papa. Why,
Rotherwood himself seems to believe it, and Mr. Carrington began to
congratulate - '

'The public has bestowed so many ladies on the Baron, that I wonder
it is not tired,' said Claude. 'It is time it should patronise
William instead.'

'Rotherwood is not the public,' said Lily, 'and he is the last person
to say anything impertinent of papa. And I myself heard papa call
her Alethea, which he never used to do. Claude, what do you think?'

After a long pause Claude slowly replied, 'Think? Why, I think Miss
Weston must be a person of great courage. She begins the world as a
grandmother, to say nothing of her eldest daughter and son being
considerably her seniors.'

'I do not believe it,' said Lily. 'Do you, Claude?'

'I cannot make up my mind - it is too amazing. My hair is still
standing on end. When it comes down I may be able to tell you
something.'

Such were the only answers that Lily could extract from him. He did
not sufficiently disbelieve the report to treat it with scorn, yet he
did not sufficiently credit it to resign himself to such a state of
things.

On coming home Lily found Emily and Jane in her room, eagerly
discussing the circumstances which, to their prejudiced eyes, seemed
strong confirmation. While their tongues were in full career the
door opened and Eleanor appeared. She told them it was twelve
o'clock, turned Jane out of the room, and made Emily and Lily promise
not to utter another syllable that night.



CHAPTER XXVI: THE CRISIS



'"Is this your care of the nest?" cried he,
"It comes of your gadding abroad," said she.'

To the consternation of the disconsolate damsels, the first news they
heard the next morning was that Mr. Mohun was gone to breakfast at
Broomhill, and the intelligence was received by Frank Hawkesworth
with a smile which they thought perfectly malicious. Frank, William,
and Reginald talked a little at breakfast about the fete, but no one
joined them, and Claude looked so grave that Eleanor was convinced
that he had a headache, and vainly tried to persuade him to stay at
home, instead of setting off to Devereux Castle immediately after
breakfast.

The past day had not been spent in vain by Ada. Mrs. Weston had led
her by degrees to open her heart to her, had made her perceive the
real cause of her father's displeasure, see her faults, and promise
to confess them, a promise which she performed with many tears, as
soon as she saw Eleanor in the morning.

On telling this to Emily Eleanor was surprised to find that she was
not listened to with much satisfaction. Emily seemed to think it a
piece of interference on the part of Mrs. Weston, and would not allow
that it was likely to be the beginning of improvement in Ada.

'The words were put into her mouth,' said she; 'and they were an easy
way of escaping from her present state of disgrace.'

'On the contrary,' said Eleanor, 'she seemed to think that she justly
deserved to be in disgrace.'

'Did you think so?' said Emily, in a careless tone.

'You are in a strange mood to-day, Emily,' said Eleanor.

'Am I? I did not know it. I wonder where Lily is.'

Lily was in her own room, teaching Phyllis. Phyllis was rather wild
and flighty that morning, scarcely able to command her attention, and
every now and then bursting into an irrepressible fit of laughter.
Reginald and Phyllis found it most difficult to avoid betraying
Marianne, and as soon as luncheon was over, they agreed to set out on
a long expedition into the woods, where they might enjoy their
wonderful secret together. Just at this time Mr. Mohun returned. He
came into the drawing-room, and Lilias, perceiving that the
threatened conversation with Emily was about to take place, made her
escape to her own room, whither she was presently followed by Jane,
who could not help running after her to report the great news that
Emily was to be deposed.

'I am sure of it,' said she. 'They sent me out of the room, but not
before I had seen certain symptoms.'

'It is very hard that poor Emily should bear all the blame,' said
Lily.

'You have managed to escape it very well,' said Jane, laughing. 'You
have all the thanks and praise. I suppose it is because the intimacy
with Miss Weston was your work.'

'I will not believe that nonsense,' said Lily.

'Seeing is believing, they say,' said Jane. 'Remember, it is not
only me. Think of Rotherwood. And Maurice guesses it too, and
Redgie told him great things were going on.'

While Jane was speaking they heard the drawing-room door open, and in
another moment Emily came in.

It was true that, as Jane said, she had been deposed. Mr. Mohun had
begun by saying, 'Emily, can you bring me such an account of your
expenditure as I desired?'

'I scarcely think I can, papa,' said Emily. 'I am sorry to say that
my accounts are rather in confusion.'

'That is to say, that you have been as irregular in the management of
your own affairs as you have in mine. Well, I have paid your debt to
Lilias, and from this time forward I require of you to reduce your
expenses to the sum which I consider suitable, and which both Eleanor
and Lilias have found perfectly sufficient. And now, Emily, what
have you to say for the management of my affairs? Can you offer any
excuse for your utter failure?'

'Indeed, papa, I am very sorry I vexed you,' said Emily. 'Our
illness last autumn - different things - I know all has not been quite
as it should be; but I hope that in future I shall profit by past
experience.'

'I hope so,' said Mr. Mohun, 'but I am afraid to trust the management
of the family to you any longer. Your trial is over, and you have
failed, merely because you would not exert yourself from wilful
indolence and negligence. You have not attended to any one thing
committed to your charge - you have placed temptation in Esther's way-
-and allowed Ada to take up habits which will not be easily
corrected. I should not think myself justified in leaving you in
charge any longer, lest worse mischief should ensue. I wish you to
give up the keys to Eleanor for the present.'

Mr. Mohun would perhaps have added something if Emily had shown signs
of repentance, or even of sorrow. The moment was at least as painful
to him as to her, and he had prepared himself to expect either
hysterical tears, with vows of amendment, or else an argument on her
side that she was right and everybody else wrong. But there was
nothing of the kind; Emily neither spoke nor looked; she only carried
the tokens of her authority to Eleanor, and left the room. She
thought she knew well enough the cause of her deposition, considered
it quite as a matter of course, and departed on purpose to avoid
hearing the announcement which she expected to follow.

She was annoyed by finding her sisters in her room, and especially
irritated by Jane's tone, as she eagerly asked, 'Well, what did he
say?'

'Never mind,' replied Emily, pettishly.

'Was it about Miss Weston?' persisted Jane.

'Not actually, but I saw it was coming,' said Emily.

'Ah!' said Jane, 'I was just telling Lily that she owes all her
present favour to her having been Alethea's bosom friend.'

'I confess I thought Miss Weston was assuming authority long ago,'
said Emily.

'Emily, how can you say so?' cried Lily. 'How can you be so unjust
and ungrateful? I do not believe this report; but if it should be
true, are not these foolish expressions of dislike so many attempts
to make yourself undutiful?'

'I have rather more sincerity, more dignity, more attachment to my
own mother, than to try to gain favour by affecting what I do not
feel,' said Emily.

'Rather cutting, Emily,' said Jane.

'Do not give that speech an application which Emily did not intend,'
said Lily, sadly.

'What makes you think I did not intend it?' said Emily, coldly.

'Emily!' exclaimed Lily, starting up, and colouring violently, 'are
you thinking what you are saying?'

'I do not know what you mean,' replied Emily quietly, in her soft,
unchanging voice; 'I only mean that if you can feel satisfied with
the new arrangement you are more easily pleased than I am.'

'Only tell me, Emily, do you accuse me of attempting to gain favour
in an unworthy manner?'

'I only congratulate you on standing so well with every one.'

Lily hid her face in her hands. At this moment Eleanor opened the
door, saying, 'Can you come down? Mrs. Burnet is here.' Eleanor
went without observing Lily, and Emily was obliged to follow. Jane
lingered in order to comfort Lily.

'You know she did not quite mean it,' said she; 'she is only very
much provoked.'

'I know, I know,' said Lily; 'she is very sorry herself by this time.
Of course she did not mean it, but it is the first unkind thing she
ever said to me. It is very silly, and very unjust to take it
seriously, but I cannot help it.'

'It is a very abominable shame,' said Jane, 'and so I shall tell
Emily.'

'No, do not, Jenny, I beg. I know she thinks so herself, and grieves
too much over it. No wonder she is vexed. All my faults have come
upon her. You had better go down, Jane; Mrs. Burnet is always vexed
if she does not see a good many of us, and I am sure I cannot go.
Besides, Emily dislikes having that girl to entertain.'

'Lily, you are so very gentle and forgiving, that I wonder how any
one can say what grieves you,' said Jane, for once struck with
admiration.

She went, and Lily remained, weeping over the injustice which she had
forgiven, and feeling as if, all the time, it was fair that the rule
of 'love' should, as it were, recoil upon her. Her tears flowed
fast, as she went over the long line of faults and follies which lay
heavy on her conscience. And Emily against her! That sister who,
from her infancy, had soothed her in every trouble, of whose sympathy
she had always felt sure, whose gentleness had been her admiration in
her days of sharp answers and violent temper, who had seemed her own
beyond all the others; this wound from her gave Lily a bitter feeling
of desertion and loneliness. It was like a completion of her
punishment - the broken reed on which she leant had pierced her
deeply.

She was still sitting on the side of her bed, weeping, when a slight
tap at the door made her start - a gentle tap, the sound of which she
had learned to love in her illness. The next moment Alethea stood
before her, with outstretched arms. This was a time to feel the
value of such a friend, and every suspicion passing from her mind,
she flew to Alethea, kissed her again and again, and laid her head on
her shoulder. Her caress was returned with equal warmth.

'But how is this?' said Alethea, now perceiving that her face was
pale, and marked by tears. 'How is this, my dear Lily?'

'Oh, Alethea! I cannot tell you, but it is all misery. The full
effect of my baneful principle has appeared!'

'Has anything happened?' exclaimed Alethea.

'No,' said Lily. 'There is nothing new, except the - Oh! I cannot
tell you.'

'I wish I could do anything for you, my poor Lily,' said Alethea.

'You can look kind,' said Lily, 'and that is a great comfort. Oh!
Alethea, it was very kind of you to come and speak to me. I shall do
now - I can bear it all better. You have a comforting face and voice
like nobody else. When did you come? Have you been in the drawing-
room?'

'No,' said Alethea. 'I walked here with Marianne, and finding there
were visitors in the drawing-room we went to Ada, and she told me
where to find you. I had something to tell you - but perhaps you know
already.'

The colour on her cheek recalled all Lily's fears, and to hear the
news from herself was an unexpected trial. She felt as if what she
had said justified Emily's reproach, and turning away her head,
replied, 'Yes, I know.'

Alethea was a little hurt by her coldness, but she ascribed it to
dejection and embarrassment, and blamed herself for hurrying on what
she had to tell without sufficient regard for Lily's distress. There
was an awkward pause, which Alethea broke, by saying, 'Your brother
thought you would like to hear it from me.'

'My brother!' cried Lily, with a most sudden change of tone.
'William? Oh, Alethea! dearest Alethea; I beg your pardon. They
almost made me believe it was papa. Oh! I am so very glad!'

Alethea could not help laughing, and Lily joined her heartily. It
was one of the brightest hours of her life, as she sat with her hand
in her friend's, pouring out her eager expressions of delight and
affection. All her troubles were forgotten - how should they not,
when Alethea was to be her sister! It seemed as if but a few minutes
had passed, when the sound of the great clock warned Alethea that it
was time to return to Broomhill, and she asked Lilias to walk back
with her. After summoning Marianne, they set out through the garden,
where, on being joined by William, Lily thought it expedient to
betake herself to Marianne, who was but too glad to be able freely to
communicate many interesting particulars. At Broomhill she had a
very enjoyable talk with Mrs. Weston, but her chief delight was in
her walk home with her brother. She was high in his favour, as
Alethea's chief friend. Though usually reserved, he was now open,
and Lily wondered to find herself honoured with confidence. His
attachment had begun in very early days, when first he knew the
Westons in Brighton. Harry's death had suddenly called him away, and
a few guarded expressions of his wishes in the course of the next
winter had been cut short by his father. He then went to Canada, and
had had no opportunity of renewing his acquaintance till the last
winter, when, on coming home, to his great joy and surprise he found
the Westons on the most intimate terms with his family.

He then spoke to his father, who wished him to take a little more
time for consideration, and he had accordingly waited till the
summer. Lily longed to know his plans for the future, and presently
he went on to say that his father wished him to leave the army, live
at home, and let Alethea be the head of the household.

'Oh, William! it is perfect. There is an end of all our troubles.
It is as if a great black curtain was drawn up.'

'They say such plans never succeed,' said William; 'but we mean to
prove the contrary.'

'How good it will be for the children!' said Lily.

'Oh! why had we not such a guide at first?'

'She has all that Eleanor wants,' said William.

'My follies were not Eleanor's fault,' said Lily; 'but I do think I
should not have been quite so silly if I had known Alethea from the
first.'

It was not in the power of William himself to say more in her praise
than Lily. In the eagerness of their conversation they walked
slowly, and as they were crossing the last field the dinner-bell
rang. As they quickened their steps they saw Mr. Mohun looking at
his wheat. Lily told him how late it was.

'There,' said he, 'I am always looking after other people's affairs.
Between Rotherwood and William I have not a moment for my own crops.
However, my turn is coming. William will have it all on his hands,
and the old deaf useless Baron will sit in his great chair and take
his ease.'

'Not a bit, papa,' said Lily, 'the Baron will grow young, and take to
dancing. He is talking nonsense already.'

'Eh! Miss Lily turned saucy? Mrs. William Mohun must take her in
hand. Well, Lily, has he your consent and approbation?'

'I only wish this was eighteen months ago, papa.'

'We shall soon come into order, Lily. With Miss Aylmer for the
little ones, and Mrs. Mohun for the great ones, I have little fear.'

'Miss Aylmer, papa!'

'Yes, if all turns out well. We propose to find a house for her
mother in the village, and let her come every day to teach the little
ones.'

'Oh! I am very glad. We liked her so much.'

'I hope,' said Mr. Mohun, 'that this plan will please Claude better
than my proposal of a governess last month. He looked as if he
expected Minerva with helmet, and AEgis and all. Now make haste and
dress. Do not let us shock Eleanor by keeping dinner waiting longer
than we can help.'

Lilias found that her sisters had long been dressed and gone down.
She dressed alone, every now and then smiling at her own happy looks
reflected in the glass. Just as she had finished, Claude knocked at
the door, and putting in his head, said, 'Well, Lily, has the
wonderful news come forth? I see it has, by your face.'

'And do you know what it is, Claude?' said Lily.

'I know what Rotherwood meant, and I cannot think where all our
senses were.'

'And, Claude, only say that you like her.'

'I think it is a very good thing indeed.'

'Only say that you cordially like her.'

'I do. I admire her sense and her gentleness very much, and I think
you owe a great deal to her.'

'Then you allow that you were unjust last summer?'

'I do; but it was owing to you. You were somewhat foolish, and I
thought it was her fault. Besides, I was quite tired of hearing that
extraordinary name of hers for ever repeated.'

Here they were summoned to dinner, and hurried down. The dinner
passed very strangely; some were in very high spirits, others in a
very melancholy mood; Eleanor and Maurice alone preserved the golden
mean; and the behaviour of the merry ones was perfectly
unintelligible to the rest. Reginald, still bound by his promise to
Marianne, was wild to make his discovery known, and behaved in such a
strange and comical manner as to call forth various reproofs from
Eleanor, which provoked double mirth from the others. The cause of
their amusement was ostensibly the talking over of yesterday's fete,
but the laughing was more than adequate, even to the wonderful
collection of odd speeches and adventures which were detailed. Emily
and Jane could not guess what had come to Lily, and thought her
merriment very ill-placed. Yet, in justice to Lily, it must be said
that her joy no longer made her wild and thoughtless. There was
something guarded and subdued about her, which made Claude reflect
how different she was from the untamed girl of last summer, who could
not be happy without a sort of intoxication.

The ladies returned to the drawing-room, where Ada now appeared for
the first time, and while they were congratulating her Mr. Mohun
summoned Eleanor away. Jane followed at a safe distance to see where
they went. They shut themselves into the study, and Jane, now
meeting Maurice, went into the garden with him. 'It must be coming
now,' said she; 'oh! there are William and Claude talking under the
plane-tree.'

'Claude has his cunning smile on,' said Maurice.

'No wonder,' said Jane, 'it is very absurd. I daresay William will
hardly ever come home now. One comfort is, they will see I was right
from the first.'

Jane and Maurice remained in the garden till teatime, and thus missed
hearing the whole affair discussed in the drawing-room between Emily,


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