Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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Lilias, and Frank. This was the first news that Emily heard of it,
and a very great relief it was, for she could imagine liking, and
even loving, Alethea as a sister-in-law. Her chief annoyance was at
present from the perception of the difference between her own
position and that of Lilias. Last year how was Lily regarded in the
family, and what was her opinion worth? Almost nothing; she was only
a clever, romantic, silly girl, while Emily had credit at least for
discretion. Now Lily was consulted and sought out by father,
brothers, Eleanor - no longer treated as a child. And what was Emily?
Blamed or pitied on every side, and left to hear this important news
from the chance mention of her brother-in-law, himself not fully
informed. She had become nobody, and had even lost the satisfaction,
such as it was, of fancying that her father only made her bad
management an excuse for his marriage. She heard many particulars
from Lily in the course of the evening, as they were going to bed;
and the sisters talked with all their wonted affection, although
Emily had not thought it worth while to revive an old grievance, by
asking Lily's pardon for her unkind speech, and rested satisfied with
the knowledge that her sister knew her heart too well to care for
what she said in a moment of irritation. On the other hand, Lily did
not think that she had a right to mention the plan of Alethea's
government, and the next day she was glad of her reserve, for her
father called her to share his early walk for the purpose of talking
over the scheme, telling her that he thought she understood the state
of things better than Eleanor could, and that he considered that she
had sufficient influence with Emily to prevent her from making
Alethea uncomfortable. The conclusion of the conversation was, that
they thought they might depend upon Emily's amiability, her courtesy,
and her dislike of trouble, to balance her love of importance and
dignity. And that Alethea would do nothing to hurt her feelings, and
would assume no authority that she could help, they felt convinced.

After breakfast Mr. Mohun called Emily into his study, informed her
of his resolution, to which she listened with her usual submissive
manner, and told her that he trusted to her good sense and right
feeling to obviate any collisions of authority which might be
unpleasant to Alethea and hurtful to the younger ones. She promised
all that was desired, and though at the moment she felt hurt and
grieved, she almost immediately recovered her usual spirits, never
high, but always serene, and only seeking for easy amusement and
comfort in whatever happened. There was no public disgrace in her
deposition; it would not seem unnatural to the neighbours that her
brother's wife should be at the head of the house. She would gain
credit for her amiability, and she would no longer be responsible or
obliged to exert herself; and as to Alethea herself, she could not
help respecting and almost loving her. It was very well it was no
worse.

In the meantime Lily, struck by a sudden thought, had hastened to her
mother's little deserted morning-room, to see if it could not be made
a delightful abode for Alethea; and she was considering of its
capabilities when she started at the sound of an approaching step.
It was the rapid and measured tread of the Captain, and in a few
moments he entered. 'Thank you,' said he, smiling, 'you are on the
same errand as myself.'

'Exactly so,' said Lily; 'it will do capitally; how pretty Long Acre
looks, and what a beautiful view of the church!'

'This room used once to be pretty,' said William, looking round,
disappointed; 'it is very forlorn.'

'Ah! but it will look very different when the chairs do not stand
with their backs to the wall. I do not think Alethea knows of this
room, for nobody has sat in it for years, and we will make it a
surprise. And here is your own picture, at ten years old, over the
fireplace! I have such a vision, you will not know the room when I
have set it to rights.'

They went on talking eagerly of the improvements that might be made,
and from thence came to other subjects - Alethea herself, and the
future plans. At last William asked if Lily knew what made Jane look
as deplorable as she had done for the last two days, and Lily was
obliged to tell him, with the addition that Eleanor had begun to
inform her of the real fact, but that she had stopped her by
declaring that she had known it all from the first. Just as they had
mentioned her, Jane, attracted by the unusual sound of voices in Lady
Emily's room, came in, asking what they could be doing there. Lily
would scarcely have dared to reply, but William said in a grave,
matter-of-fact way, 'We are thinking of having this room newly fitted
up.'

'For Alethea Weston?' said Jane; 'how can you, Lily? I should have
thought, at least, it was no laughing matter.'

'I advise you to follow Lily's example and make the best of it,' said
William.

'I do, but it is another thing to stand laughing here. I see one
thing that I shall do - I shall take away your picture and hang it in
my room.'

'We shall see,' said William, following Lilias, who had left the room
to hide her laughter.

To mystify Jane was the great amusement of the day; Reginald, finding
Maurice possessed with the same notion, did more to maintain it than
the others would have thought right, and Maurice reporting his
speeches to Jane, she had not the least doubt that her idea was
correct. Lord Rotherwood came to dinner, and no sooner had he
entered the drawing-room than Reginald, rejoicing in the absence of
the parties concerned, informed him of the joke, much to his
diversion, though rather to the discomfiture of the more prudent
spectators, who might have wished it confined to themselves.

'It has gone far enough,' said Claude; 'she will say something she
will repent if we do not take care.'

'I should like to reduce her to humble herself to ask an explanation
from Marianne,' said Lily.

'And pray don't spoil the joke before I have enjoyed it,' said Lord
Rotherwood. 'My years of discretion are not such centuries of wisdom
as those of that gentleman who looks as grim as his namesake the
Emperor on a coin.'

The entrance of Eleanor and Jane here put an end to the conversation,
which was not renewed till the evening, when the younger, or as
Claude called it, the middle-aged part of the company were sitting on
the lawn, leaving the drawing-room to the elder and more prudent, and
the terrace to the wilder and more active. Emily was talking of Mrs.
Burnet's visit of the day before, and her opinion of the Hetherington
festivities. 'And what an interminable visit it was,' said Jane; 'I
thought they would never go!'

'People always inflict themselves in a most merciless manner when
there is anything going on,' said Emily.

'I wonder if they guessed anything,' said Lily.

'To be sure they did, and stayed out of curiosity,' said Lord
Rotherwood. 'In spite of Emily's dignified contradictions of the
report, every one knew it the other evening. It was all in vain that
she behaved as if I was speaking treason - people have eyes.'

'Ah! I am very sorry for that contradiction,' said Lily; 'I hope
people will not fancy we do not like it.'

'No, it will only prove my greatness,' said Lord Rotherwood. 'Your
Marques, was China in the map, so absorbing all beholders that the
magnanimous Mohuns themselves - '

'What nonsense, Rotherwood,' said Jane, sharply; 'can't you suppose
that one may shut one's eyes to what one does not wish to see.'

The singular inappropriateness of this answer occasioned a general
roar of laughter, and she looked in perplexity. Every one whom she
asked why they laughed replied by saying, 'Ask Marianne Weston;' and
at length, after much puzzling and guessing, and being more laughed
at than had ever before happened to her in her life, she was obliged
to seek an explanation from Marianne, who might well have triumphed
had she been so disposed. Jane's character for penetration was
entirely destroyed, and the next morning she received, as a present
from Claude, an old book, which had long belonged to the nursery,
entitled, A Puzzle for a Curious Girl.



CHAPTER XXVII: CONCLUSION



'There let Hymen oft appear
In saffron robe, with taper clear,
And pomp, and feast, and revelry,
And mask, and antique pageantry;
Such sights as useful poets dream
On summer eves, by haunted stream.'

On the morning of a fine day, late in September, the Beechcroft bells
were ringing merrily, and a wedding procession was entering the gate
of the churchyard.

In the afternoon there was a great feast on the top of the hill,
attended by all the Mohuns, who were forced, to Lily's great
satisfaction, to give it there, as there was no space in the grounds
at the New Court. All was wonderfully suitable to old times,
inasmuch as the Baron was actually persuaded to sit for five minutes
under the yew-tree where 'Mohun's chair' ought to have been, and the
cricketers were of all ranks, from the Marquis of Rotherwood to
little Dick Grey.

The wedding had been hurried on, and the wedding tour was shortened,
in order that Mrs. William Mohun might be installed as mistress of
the New Court before Eleanor's departure, which took place early in
October; and shortly after Mrs. Ridley, who had come on a visit to
Beechcroft, to take leave of her brother, returned to the north,
taking with her the little Harry. He was nearly a year old, and it
gave great pain to his young aunts to part with him, now that he had
endeared himself to them by many engaging ways, but Lily felt herself
too unequal to the task of training him up to make any objection, and
there were many promises that he should not be a stranger to his
grandfather's home.

Mrs. and Miss Aylmer had been about a month settled at a superior
sort of cottage, near the New Court, with Mrs. Eden for their
servant. Lord Rotherwood had fitted out the second son, who sailed
for India with Mr. and Mrs. Hawkesworth, had sent Devereux to school,
and was lying in wait to see what could be done for the two others,
and Jane was congratulated far more than she wished, on having been
the means of discovering such an excellent governess. Jane was now a
regular inhabitant of the schoolroom, as much tied down to lessons
and schoolroom hours as her two little sisters, with the prospect of
so continuing for two years, if not for three. She made one attempt
to be pert to Miss Aylmer; but something in the manner of her
governess quite baffled her, and she was obliged to be more obedient
than she had ever been. The mischief which Emily and Lilias had done
to her, by throwing off their allegiance to Eleanor, and thus
unconsciously leading her to set her at nought, was, at her age, not
to be so easily repaired; yet with no opportunity for gossiping, and
with involuntary respect for her governess, there were hopes that she
would lose the habit of her two great faults. There certainly was an
improvement in her general tone and manner, which made Mr. Devereux
hope that he might soon resume with her the preparation for
confirmation which had been cut short the year before.

Phyllis and Adeline had been possessed by Reginald with a great dread
of governesses; and they were agreeably surprised in Miss Aylmer,
whom they found neither cross nor strict, and always willing to
forward their amusements, and let them go out with their papa and
sisters whenever they were asked. Phyllis, without much annoyance to
one so obedient, was trained into more civilisation, and Ada's more
serious faults were duly watched and guarded against. The removal of
Esther was a great advantage to Ada; an older and more steady person
was taken in her place; while to the great relief of Mr. Mohun and
Lilias, Rachel Harvey took Esther to her brother's farmhouse, where
she promised to watch and teach her, and hoped in time to make her a
good servant.

Of Emily there is little to say. She ate, drank, and slept, talked
agreeably, read idle books, and looked nice in the drawing-room,
wasting time, throwing away talents, weakening the powers of her
mind, and laying up a store of sad reflections for herself against
the time when she must awake from her selfish apathy.

As to Lilias Mohun, the heroine of this tale, the history of the
formation of her character has been told, and all that remains to be
said of her is, that the memory of her faults and her sorrows did not
fleet away like a morning cloud, though followed by many happy and
prosperous days, and though the effects of many were repaired.
Agnes's death, Esther's theft, Ada's accident, the schism in the
parish, and her own numerous mistakes, were constantly recalled, and
never without a thought of the danger of being wise above her elders,
and taking mere feeling for Christian charity.




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