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.’