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Lilias took up the knitting which she had laid down, and began to study the stitches. 'I should like this feathery pattern,' said she, '(if it did not remind me so much of the fever); but, by the bye, Frank, have you completed Master Henry's outfit? I looked forward to helping to choose his pretty little things, but I see no preparation but of stockings.'
'Why, Lily, did not you know that he was to stay in England?'
'To stay in England? No, I never thought of that--how sorry you must be.'
At this moment Eleanor returned, and Mr. Hawkesworth told her he had been surprised to find Lily did not know their intentions with regard to the baby.
'If we had any certain intentions we should have told her,' said Eleanor; 'I did not wish to speak to her about it till we had made up our minds.'
'Well, I know no use in mysteries,' said Mr. Hawkesworth, 'especially when Lily may help us to decide.'
'On his going or staying?' exclaimed Lily, eagerly looking to Mr. Hawkesworth, who was evidently more disposed to speak than his wife.
'Not on his going or staying--I am sorry to say that point was settled long ago--but where we shall leave him.'
Lily's heart beat high, but she did not speak.
'The truth is,' proceeded Mr. Hawkesworth, 'that this young gentleman has, as perhaps you know, a grandpapa, a grandmamma, and also six or seven aunts. With his grandmamma he cannot be left, for sundry reasons, unnecessary to mention. Now, one of his aunts is a staid matronly lady, and his godmother besides, and in all respects the person to take charge of him,--only she lives in a small house in a town, and has plenty of babies of her own, without being troubled with other people's. Master Henry's other five aunts live in one great house, in a delightful country, with nothing to do but make much of him all day long, yet it is averred that these said aunts are a parcel of giddy young colts, amongst whom, if Henry escapes being demolished as a baby he will infallibly be spoilt as he grows up. Now, how are we to decide?'
'You have heard the true state of the case, Lily,' said Mrs. Hawkesworth. 'I did not wish to harass papa by speaking to him till something was settled; you are certainly old enough to have an opinion.'
'Yes, Lily,' said Frank; 'do you think that the hospitable New Court will open to receive our poor deserted child, and that these said aunts are not wild colts but discreet damsels?'
Playful as Mr. Hawkesworth's manner was, Lily saw the earnestness that was veiled under it: she felt the solemnity of Eleanor's appeal, and knew that this was no time to let herself be swayed by her wishes. There was a silence. At last, after a great struggle, Lily's better judgment gained the mastery, and raising her head, she said, 'Oh! Frank, do not ask me--I wish--but, Eleanor, when you see how much harm we have done, how utterly we have failed--'
Lily's newly-acquired habits of self-command enabled her to subdue a violent fit of sobbing, which she felt impending, but her tears flowed quietly down her cheeks.
'Remember,' said Frank, 'those who mistrust themselves are the most trustworthy.'
'No, Frank, it is not only the feeling of the greatness of the charge, it is the knowledge that we are not fit for it--that our own faults have forfeited such happiness.'
Again Lily was choked with tears.
'Well,' said Frank, 'we shall judge at Beechcroft. At all events, one of those aunts is to be respected.'
Eleanor added her 'Very right.'
This kindness on the part of her brother-in-law, which Lily felt to be undeserved, caused her tears to flow faster, and Eleanor, seeing her quite overcome, led her out of the room, helped her to undress, and put her to bed, with tenderness such as Lily had never experienced from her, excepting in illness.
In spite of bitter regrets, when she thought of the happiness it would have been to keep her little nephew, and of importunate and disappointing hopes that Mrs. Ridley would find it impossible to receive him, Lily felt that she had done right, and had made a real sacrifice for duty's sake. No more was said on the subject, and Lily was very grateful to Eleanor for making no inquiries, which she could not have answered without blaming Emily.
Sight-seeing prospered very well under Claude's guidance, and Lily's wonder and delight was a constant source of amusement to her friends. Her shopping was more of a care than a pleasure, for, in spite of the handsome equipments which Mr. Mohun presented to all his daughters, it was impossible to contract Emily's requirements within the limits of what ought to be her expenditure, and the different views of her brother and sister were rather troublesome in this matter. Claude hated the search for ladies' finery, and if drawn into it, insisted on always taking her to the grandest and most expensive shops; while, on the other hand, though Eleanor liked to hunt up cheap things and good bargains, she had such rigid ideas about plainness of dress, that there was little chance that what she approved would satisfy Emily.
CHAPTER XXI: CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME
'Suddenly, a mighty jerk A mighty mischief did.'
In the meantime Emily and Jane went on very prosperously at home, looking forward to the return of the rest of the party on Saturday, the 17th of July. In this, however, they were doomed to disappointment, for neither Mr. Mohun nor Mr. Hawkesworth could wind up their affairs so as to return before the 24th. Maurice's holidays commenced on Monday the 19th, and Claude offered to go home on the same day, and meet him, but in a general council it was determined to the contrary. Claude was wanted to stay for a concert on Thursday, and both Mr. Mohun and Eleanor thought Maurice, without Reginald, would not be formidable for a few days.
At first he seemed to justify this opinion. He did not appear to have any peculiar pursuit, unless such might be called a very earnest attempt to make Phyllis desist from her favourite preface of 'I'll tell you what,' and to reform her habit of saying, 'Please for,' instead of 'If you please.' He walked with the sisters, carried messages for Mr. Devereux, performed some neat little bits of carpentry, and was very useful and agreeable.
On Wednesday afternoon Lord Rotherwood and Florence called, their heads the more full of the 30th because the Marquis had not once thought of it while Mr. Devereux was ill. Among the intended diversions fireworks were mentioned, and from that moment rockets, wheels, and serpents, commenced a wild career through Maurice's brain. Through the whole evening he searched for books on what he was pleased to call the art of pyrotechnics, studied them all Wednesday, and the next morning announced his intention of making some fireworks on a new plan.
'No, you must not,' said Emily, 'you will be sure to do mischief.'
'I am going to ask Wat for some powder,' was Maurice's reply, and he walked off.
'Stop him, Jane, stop him,' cried Emily. 'Nothing can be so dangerous. Tell him how angry papa would be.'
Though Jane highly esteemed her brother's discretion, she did not much like the idea of his touching powder, and she ran after him to suggest that he had better wait till papa's return.
'Then Redgie will be at home,' said Maurice, 'and I could not be answerable for the consequence of such a careless fellow touching powder.'
This great proof of caution quite satisfied Jane, but not so Wat Greenwood, who proved himself a faithful servant by refusing to let Master Maurice have one grain of gunpowder without express leave from the squire. Maurice then had recourse to Jane, and his power over her was such as to triumph over strong sense and weak notions of obedience, so that she was prevailed upon to supply him with the means of making the dangerous and forbidden purchase.
Emily was both annoyed and alarmed when she found that the gunpowder was actually in the house, and she even thought of sending a note to the parsonage to beg Mr. Devereux to speak to Maurice; but Jane had gone over to the enemy, and Emily never could do anything unsupported. Besides, she neither liked to affront Maurice nor to confess herself unable to keep him in order; and she, therefore, tried to put the whole matter out of her head, in the thoughts of an expedition to Raynham, which she was about to make in the manner she best liked, with Jane in the close carriage, and the horses reluctantly spared from their farm work.
As they were turning the corner of the lane they overtook Phyllis and Adeline on their way to the school with some work, and Emily stopped the carriage, to desire them to send off a letter which she had left on the chimney-piece in the schoolroom. Then proceeding to Raynham, they made their visits, paid Emily's debts, performed their commissions, and met the carriage again at the bookseller's shop, at the end of about two hours.
'Look here, Emily!' exclaimed Jane. 'Read this! can it be Mrs. Aylmer?'
'The truly charitable,' said Emily, contemptuously. 'Mrs. Aylmer is above--'
'But read. It says "unbeneficed clergyman and deceased nobleman," and who can that be but Uncle Rotherwood and Mr. Aylmer.'
'Well, let us see,' said Emily, 'those things are always amusing.'
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