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Not that her sorrow for him, even at its freshest, was very deep; it was of the subdued and horrified rather than the passionate, despairing kind. And though in truth she mourned and wept for him until her pretty eyes could hold no longer tears, still there was a mildness about her grief more suggestive of tender melancholy than any very poignant anguish.
From her the dead father could scarcely be more separated than had been the living. Naturally of a rather sedentary disposition, Archibald Chesney, on the death of the wife whom he adored, had become that most uninteresting and selfish of all things, a confirmed bookworm. He went in for study, of the abstruse and heavy order, with an ardour worthy of a better cause. His library was virtually his home; he had neither affections nor desires beyond. Devoting himself exclusively to his books, he suffered them to take entire possession of what he chose to call his heart.
At times he absolutely forgot the existence of his little three-year-old daughter; and if ever the remembrance of her did cross his mind it was but to think of her as an incubus—as another misfortune heaped upon his luckless shoulders--and to wonder, with a sigh, what he was to do with her in the future.
The child, deprived of a tender mother at so early an age, was flung, therefore, upon the tender mercies of her nurses, who alternately petted and injudiciously reproved her, until at length she bid fair to be as utterly spoiled as a child can be.
She had one companion, a boy-cousin about a year older than herself. He too was lonely and orphaned, , so that the two children, making common cause, clung closely to each other, and shared, both in infancy and in early youth, their joys and sorrows. The Park had been the boy's home ever since his parents' death, Mr. Chesney accepting him as his ward, but never afterwards troubling himself about his welfare. Indeed, he had no objection whatever to fill the Park with relations, so long as they left him undisturbed to follow his own devices.
Not that the education of these children wa.3 neglected. They had all tuition that was necessary; and Lilian, having a talent for music, learned to sing and play the piano very charmingly. She could ride, too, and sit her horse à merveille, and had a passion for reading-perhaps inherited. But, as novels were her principal literature, and as she had no one to regulate her choice of them, it is a matter of opinion whether she derived much benefit from them. At least she received little harm, as at seventeen she was as fresh-minded and pure-hearted a child as one might care to know.
The County, knowing her to be an heiress—though not a large one-called systematically on her every three months. Twice she had been taken to a ball by an enterprising mother with a large family of unpromising sons. But as she reached her eighteenth year her father died, and her old home, the Park, being strictly entailed on heirs male, passed from her into the hands of a distant cousin utterly unknown. This young man, another Archibald Chesney, was abroad at the time of his kinsman's death-in Egypt, or Hongkong, or Jamaica—no one exactly knew which -until after much search he was finally discovered to be in Halifax.
From thence he had written to the effect that, as be probably should not return to his native land for another six months, he hoped his cousin (if it pleased her) would continue to reside at the Park—where all the old servants were to be kept on-until his return.
It did please his cousin ; and in her old home she still reigned as queen, until after eight months she received a letter from her father's lawyer warning her of Archibald Chesney's actual arrival in London.
This letter failed in its object. Lilian either would
not or could not bring herself to name the day that should part her for ever from all the old haunts and pleasant nooks she loved so well. She was not brave enough to take her Bradshaw' and look up the earliest train that ought to convey her away from the Park. Indeed, so utterly wanting in decency and decorum did she appear at this particular epoch of her existence that the heart of her only aunt—her father's sister—was stirred to its depths. So much so that, after mature deliberation (for old people as well as great ones move slowly), she finally packed up the venerable hair-trunk, that had seen the rise and fall of several monarchs, and marched all the way from Edinbro' to this Midland English shire, to try what firm expostulation could do in the matter of bringing her niece to see the error of her
than She had considerable spirit and 5001. a year in her own right. Not only did she object to leave the Park, but she regarded with horror the prospect of going to reside with the guardians appointed to receive her by her father. Not that this idea need have filled her with dismay. Sir Guy Chetwoode, the actual guardian, was a young man not likely to trouble himself overmuch about any ward; while his mother, Lady Chetwoode, was that most gracious of all things, a beautiful and lovable old lady.
Why Mr. Chesney had chosen so young a man to look after his daughter's interests must for ever remain a mystery-perhaps because he had happened to be the oldest son of his oldest friend, long since dead. Sir Guy accepted the charge because he thought it uncivil to refuse, and chiefly because he believed it likely Miss Chesney would marry before her father's death. But events proved the fallacy of human thought. When Archibald Chesney's demise appeared in the 'Times, Sir Guy made a little face and took meekly a good deal of Schaffing' at his brother's hands; while Lady Chesney sat down and, with a faint sinking at her heart, wrote a kindly letter to the orphan, offering her a home at Chetwoode. To this letter Lilian had sent a polite reply, thanking dear Lady Chetwoode' for her kindness, and telling her she had no intention of quitting the Park just at present. Later on she would be only too happy to accept, etc., etc.
Now, however, standing in her own drawing-room, Lilian feels, with a pang, the game is almost played out-she must leave. Aunt Priscilla's arguments, detestable though they be, are unbappily quite unanswerable. To her own heart she confesses this much, and the little gay French song dies on her lips, and the smile fades from her eyes, and a very dejected and forlorn expression comes and grows upon her pretty face.
It is more than pretty, it is lovely—the fair, sweet childish face, framed in by its yellow hair; her great velvety eyes, now misty through vain longing, are blue as the skies above her; her nose is pure Greek; her forehead, low but broad, is partly shrouded by little wandering threads of gold that every now and then break loose from bondage, while her lashes, long and dark, curl upward from her eyes, as though hating to conceal the beauty of the exquisite azure within.
She is not tall, and she is very slender, but not lean. She is wilful, quick-tempered, and impetuous, but large-hearted and lovable. There is a certain haughtiness about her that contrasts curiously but pleasantly with her youthful expression, and laughing kissable mouth. She is straight and lissome as a young ash-tree: her hands and feet are small and wellshaped ; in a word, she is Chic from the crown of her fair head down to her little arched instep.
Just now, perhaps, as she hears the honest sound of her qunț's footstep in the hall a slight pout takes
possession of her lips and a flickering frown adorns her brow. Aunt Priscilla is coming, and Aunt Priscilla brings victory in her train, and it is not everyone can accept defeat with grace.
She hastily pulls up one of the blinds; and as old Miss Chesney opens the door and advances up the room, young Miss Chesney rather turns her shoulder to her and stares moodily out of the window. But Aunt Priscilla is not to be daunted.
Well, Lilian,' she says in a hopeful tone, and with an amount of faith admirable under the circumstances,
I trust you have been thinking it over favourably, and that
Thinking what over?' asks Lilian; which interruption is a mean subterfuge.
-And that the night has induced you to see your situation in its proper light.'
* You speak as though I were the under-housemaid,' says Lilian, with a faint sense of humour. "And yet the word suits me. Surely there never yet was such a situation as mine. I wish my horrid cousin had been drowned in
No, Aunt Priscilla, the night has not reformed me. On the contrary, it has demoralised me, through a dream. I dreamt I went to Chetwoode, and, lo! the very first night I slept beneath its roof the ceiling in my room gave way, and falling, crushed me to fine powder. After such a ghastly warning do you still advise me to pack up and be off? If you do,' says Lilian solemnly, 'my blood be on your head.'
Dreams go by contraries,' quotes Miss Priscilla sententiously. “I don't believe in them. Besides, from all I have heard of the Chetwoodes they are far too well-regulated a family to have anything amiss with their ceilings.'
• Oh, how you do add fuel to the fire that is consuming me!' exclaims Lilian, with a groan. "A wellregulated family-what can be more awful ? Ever