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Airy Fairy Lilian   By: (1855?-1897)

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"Home, sweet Home." Old English Song.

Down the broad oak staircase through the silent hall into the drawing room runs Lilian, singing as she goes.

The room is deserted; through the half closed blinds the glad sunshine is rushing, turning to gold all on which its soft touch lingers, and rendering the large, dull, handsome apartment almost comfortable.

Outside everything is bright, and warm, and genial, as should be in the heart of summer; within there is only gloom, and Lilian clad in her mourning robes. The contrast is dispiriting: there life, here death, or at least the knowledge of it. There joy, here the signs and trappings of woe.

The black gown and funereal trimmings hardly harmonize with the girl's flower like face and the gay song that trembles on her lips. But, alas! for how short a time does our first keen sorrow last! how swiftly are our dead forgotten! how seldom does grief kill! When eight long months have flown by across her father's grave Lilian finds, sometimes to her dismay, that the hours she grieves for him form but a short part of her day.

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 ardor 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 bade fair to be as utterly spoilt 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 afterward 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 was 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 a 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... Continue reading book >>

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