Whatever influenced Lilias, had, through her, nearly the same effect upon Emily, a gentle girl, easily led, especially by Lilias, whom she regarded with the fondest affection and admiration. The perils of fancy and romance were not, however, to be dreaded for Jane, the fourth sister, a strong resemblance of Eleanor in her clear common sense, love of neatness, and active usefulness; but there were other dangers for her, in her tendency to faults, which, under wise training, had not yet developed themselves.
Such were the three girls who were now left to assist each other in the management of the household, and who looked forward to their new offices with the various sensations of pleasure, anxiety, self-importance, and self-mistrust, suited to their differing characters, and to the ages of eighteen, sixteen, and fourteen.
CHAPTER II—THE NEW COURT
’Just at the age ’twixt boy and youth,
When thought is speech, and speech is truth.’
The long-delayed wedding took place on the 13th of January, 1845, and the bride and bridegroom immediately departed for a year’s visit among Mr. Hawkesworth’s relations in Northumberland, whence they were to return to Beechcroft, merely for a farewell, before sailing for India.
It was half-past nine in the evening, and the wedding over—Mr. and Mrs. Hawkesworth gone, and the guests departed, the drawing-room had returned to its usual state. It was a very large room, so spacious that it would have been waste and desolate, had it not been well filled with handsome, but heavy old-fashioned furniture, covered with crimson damask, and one side of the room fitted up with a bookcase, so high that there was a spiral flight of library steps to give access to the upper shelves. Opposite were four large windows, now hidden by their ample curtains; and near them was at one end of the room a piano, at the other a drawing-desk. The walls were wainscoted with polished black oak, the panels reflecting the red fire-light like mirrors. Over the chimney-piece hung a portrait, by Vandyke, of a pale, dark cavalier, of noble mien, and with arched eyebrows, called by Lilias, in defiance of dates, by the name of Sir Maurice de Mohun, the hero of the family, and allowed by every one to be a striking likeness of Claude, the youth who at that moment lay, extending a somewhat superfluous length of limb upon the sofa, which was placed commodiously at right angles to the fire.
The other side of the fire was Mr. Mohun’s special domain, and there he sat at his writing-table, abstracted by deafness and letter writing, from the various sounds of mirth and nonsense, which proceeded from the party round the long narrow sofa table, which they had drawn across the front of the fire, leaving the large round centre table in darkness and oblivion.