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- Scenes and Characters - 4/54 -


'Wait till you understand yourself,' said the provoking brother, 'and let me finish what I am reading.'

For about a quarter of an hour he was left in peace, while Lily was busily employed with a pencil and paper, under the shadow of a book, and at length laid before him the following verses:-

'What is the source of gentleness, The spring of human blessedness, Bringing the wounded spirit healing, The comforts high of heaven revealing, The lightener of each daily care, The wing of hope, the life of prayer, The zest of joy, the balm of sorrow, Bliss of to-day, hope of to-morrow, The glory of the sun's bright beam, The softness of the pale moon stream, The flow'ret's grace, the river's voice, The tune to which the birds rejoice; Without it, vain each learned page, Cold and unfelt each council sage, Heavy and dull each human feature, Lifeless and wretched every creature; In which alone the glory lies, Which value gives to sacrifice? 'Tis that which formed the whole creation, Which rests on every generation. Of Paradise the only token Just left us, 'mid our treasures broken, Which never can from us be riven, Sure earnest of the joys of Heaven. And which, when earth shall pass away, Shall be our rest on the last day, When tongues shall fail and knowledge cease, And throbbing hearts be all at peace: When faith is sight, and hope is sure, That which alone shall still endure Of earthly joys in heaven above, 'Tis that best gift, eternal Love!'

'What have you there?' said Mr. Mohun, who had come towards them while Claude was reading the lines. Taking the paper from Claude's hand, he read it to himself, and then saying, 'Tolerable, Lily; there are some things to alter, but you may easily make it passable,' he went on to his own place, leaving Lilias triumphant.

'Well, Claude, you see I have the great Baron on my side.'

'I am of the Baron's opinion,' said Claude, 'the only wonder is that you doubted it.'

'You seemed to say that love was good for nothing.'

'I said nothing but that Lily has a rhyme.'

'And saying that I was silly, was equivalent to saying that love was nothing,' said Lily.

'O Lily, I hope not,' said Claude, with a comical air.

'Well, I know I often am foolish, but not in this,' said Lily; 'I do say that mere duty is not lovable.'

'Say it if you will then,' said Claude, yawning, 'only let me finish this sermon.'

Lily set herself to reconsider some of her lines: but presently Emily left the room, Claude looked up, and Lily exclaimed, 'Now, Claude, let us make a trial of it.'

'Well,' said Claude, yawning again, and looking resigned.

'Think how Eleanor went on telling us of duty, duty, duty--never making allowances--never relaxing her stiff rules about trifles-- never unbending from her duenna-like dignity--never showing one spark of enthusiasm--making great sacrifices, but only because she thought them her duty--because it was right--good for herself--only a higher kind of selfishness--not because her feeling prompted her.'

'Certainly, feeling does not usually prompt people to give up their lovers for the sake of their brothers and sisters.'

'She did it because it was her duty,' said Lily, 'quite as if she did not care.'

'I wonder whether Frank thought so,' said Claude.

'At any rate you will confess that Emily is a much more engaging person,' said Lily.

'Certainly, I had rather talk nonsense to her,' said Claude.

'You feel it, though you will not allow it,' said Lily. 'Now think of Emily's sympathy, and gentleness, and sweet smile, and tell me if she is not a complete personification of love. And then Eleanor, unpoetical--never thrown off her balance by grief or joy, with no ups and downs--no enthusiasm--no appreciation of the beautiful--her highest praise "very right," and tell me if there can be a better image of duty.'

Claude might have had some chance of bringing Lily to her senses, if he had allowed that there was some truth in what she had said; but he thought the accusation so unjust in general, that he would not agree to any part of it, and only answered, 'You have very strange views of duty and of Eleanor.'

'Well!' replied Lily, 'I only ask you to watch; Emily and I are determined to act on the principle of love, and you will see if her government is not more successful than that of duty.'

Such was the principle upon which Lily intended her sister to govern the household, and to which Emily listened without knowing what she meant much better than she did herself. Emily's own views, as far as she possessed any, were to get on as smoothly as she could, and make everybody pleased and happy, without much trouble to herself, and also to make the establishment look a little more as if a Lady Emily had lately been its mistress, than had been the case in Eleanor's time. Mr. Mohun's property was good, but he wished to avoid unnecessary display and expense, and he expected his daughters to follow out these views, keeping a wise check upon Emily, by looking over her accounts every Saturday, and turning a deaf ear when she talked of the age of the drawing-room carpet, and the ugliness of the old chariot. Emily had a good deal on her hands, requiring sense and activity, but Lilias and Jane were now quite old enough to assist her. Lily however, thought fit to despise all household affairs, and bestowed the chief of her attention on her own department--the village school and poor people; and she was also much engrossed by her music and drawing, her German and Italian, and her verse writing.

Claude had more power over her than any one else. He was a gentle, amiable boy, of high talent, but disposed to indolence by ill health. In most matters he was, however, victorious over this propensity, which was chiefly visible in his love of easy chairs, and his dislike of active sports, which made him the especial companion of his sisters. A dangerous illness had occasioned his removal from Eton, and he had since been at home, reading with his cousin Mr. Devereux, and sharing his sisters' amusements.

Jane was in her own estimation an important member of the administration, and in fact, was Emily's chief assistant and deputy. She was very small and trimly made, everything fitted her precisely, and she had tiny dexterous fingers, and active little feet, on which she darted about noiselessly and swiftly as an arrow; an oval brown face, bright colour, straight features, and smooth dark hair, bright sparkling black eyes, a little mouth, wearing an arch subdued smile, very white teeth, and altogether the air of a woman in miniature. Brisk, bold, and blithe--ever busy and ever restless, she was generally known by the names of Brownie and Changeling, which were not inappropriate to her active and prying disposition.

Excepting Claude and Emily, the young party were early risers, and Lily especially had generally despatched a good deal of business before the eight o'clock breakfast.

At nine they went to church, Mr. Devereux having restored the custom of daily service, and after this, Mr. Mohun attended to his multitudinous affairs; Claude went to the parsonage,--Emily to the storeroom, Lily to the village, the younger girls to the schoolroom, where they were presently joined by Emily. Lily remained in her own room till one o'clock, when she joined the others in the schoolroom, and they read aloud some book of history till two, the hour of dinner for the younger, and of luncheon for the elder. They then went out, and on their return from evening service, which began at half-past four, the little ones had their lessons to learn, and the others were variously employed till dinner, the time of which was rather uncertain but always late. The evening passed pleasantly and quickly away in reading, work, music, and chatter.

As Emily had expected, her first troubles were with Phyllis; called, not the neat handed, by her sisters; Master Phyl, by her brothers; and Miss Tomboy, by the maids. She seemed born to be a trial of patience to all concerned with her; yet without many actual faults, except giddiness, restlessness, and unrestrained spirits. In the drawing-room, schoolroom, and nursery she was continually in scrapes, and so often reproved and repentant, that her loud roaring fits of crying were amongst the ordinary noises of the New Court. She was terribly awkward when under constraint, or in learning any female accomplishment, but swift and ready when at her ease, and glorying in the boyish achievements of leaping ditches and climbing trees. Her voice was rather highly pitched, and she had an inveterate habit of saying, 'I'll tell you what,' at the beginning of all her speeches. She was not tall, but strong, square, firm, and active; she had a round merry face, a broad forehead, and large bright laughing eyes, of a doubtful shade between gray and brown. Her mouth was wide, her nose turned up, her complexion healthy, but not rosy, and her stiff straight brown hair was more apt to hang over her eyes, than to remain in its proper place behind her ears.

Adeline was very different; her fair and brilliant complexion, her deep blue eyes and golden ringlets, made her a very lovely little creature; her quietness was a relief after her sister's boisterous merriment, and her dislike of dirt and brambles, continually contrasted with poor Phyllis's recklessness of such impediments. Ada readily learnt lessons, which cost Phyllis and her teacher hours of toil; Ada worked deftly when Phyllis's stiff fingers never willingly touched a needle; Ada played with a doll, drew on scraps of paper, or put up dissected maps, while Phyllis was in mischief or in the way.


Scenes and Characters - 4/54

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