Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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prevarication! Well might Eleanor feel it more than ever painful to
leave her own little Henry to the care of others; and well it was for
her that she had learned to find comfort in the consciousness that
her duty was clear.

The next morning Emily learned what was Henry's destination.

'Oh! Eleanor,' said she, 'why do you not leave him here? We should
be so rejoiced to have him.'

'Thank you, I am afraid it is out of the question,' answered Eleanor,
quietly.

'Why, dear Eleanor? You know how glad we should be. I should have
thought,' proceeded Emily, a little hurt, 'that you would have wished
him to live in your own home.'

Eleanor did not speak, and Emily, who had the little boy in her arms,
went on talking to him: 'Come, baby, let us persuade mamma to let
you stay with Aunt Emily. Ask papa, Henry, won't you? Seriously,
Eleanor, has Frank considered how much better it would be to have him
in the country?'

'He has, Emily; he once wished much to leave him here.'

'I am sure grandpapa would like it,' said Emily. 'Do you observe,
Eleanor, how fond he is of baby, always calling him Harry too, as if
he liked the sound of the name?'

'It has all been talked over, Emily, and it cannot be.'

'With papa?' asked Emily in surprise.

'No, with Lily.'

'With Lily!' exclaimed Emily. 'Did not Aunt Lily wish to keep you,
Harry? I thought she was very fond of you.'

'You had better inquire no further,' said Eleanor, 'except of your
own conscience.'

'Did Lily think us unfit to take care of him?' asked Emily, in
surprise.

As she spoke Lily herself came in, the key of the storeroom in her
hand, and looks of consternation on her face. She came to announce a
terrible deficiency in the preserved quinces, which she herself had
carefully put aside on a shelf in the storeroom, and which Emily said
she had not touched in her absence.

'Let me see,' said Eleanor, rising, and setting off to the storeroom;
Emily and Lily followed, with a sad suspicion of the truth. On the
way they looked into the nursery, to give little Henry to his nurse,
and to ask Jane, who was sitting with Ada, what she remembered about
it. Jane knew nothing, and they went on to the storeroom, where
Eleanor, quite in her element, began rummaging, arranging, and
sighing over the confusion, while Lily lent a helping hand, and Emily
stood by, wishing that her sister would not trouble herself.
Presently Jane came running up with a saucer in her hand, containing
a quarter of a quince and some syrup, which she said she had found in
the nursery cupboard, in searching for a puzzle which Ada wanted.

'And,' said Jane, 'I should guess that Miss Ada herself knew
something about it, for when I could not find the puzzle in the
right-hand cupboard, she was so very unwilling that I should look
into that one; she said there was nothing there but the boys' old
playthings and Esther's clothes. And I do not know whether you saw
how she fidgeted when you were talking about the quinces, before you
went up.'

'It is much too plain,' sighed Lily. 'Oh! Rachel, why did we not
listen to you?'

'Do you suppose,' said Eleanor, 'that Ada has been in the habit of
taking the key and helping herself?'

'No,' said Emily, 'but that Esther has helped her.'

'Ah!' said Eleanor, 'I never thought it wise to take her, but how
could she get the key? You do not mean that you trusted it out of
your own keeping.'

'It began while we were ill,' faltered Emily, 'and afterwards it was
difficult to bring matters into their former order.'

'But oh, Eleanor, what is to be done?' sighed Lily.

'Speak to papa, of course,' said Eleanor. 'He is gone to the castle,
and in the meantime we had better take an exact account of everything
here.'

'And Esther? And Ada?' inquired the sisters.

'I think it will be better to speak to him before making so grave an
accusation,' said Eleanor.

They now commenced that wearisome occupation - a complete setting-to-
rights; Eleanor counted, weighed, and measured, and extended her
cares from the stores to every other household matter. Emily made
her escape, and went to sit with Ada; but Lily and Jane toiled for
several hours with Eleanor, till Lily was so heated and wearied that
she was obliged to give up a walk to Broomhill, and spend another day
without a talk with Alethea. However, she was so patient, ready, and
good-humoured, that Eleanor was well pleased with her. She could
hardly think of the slight vexation, when her mind was full of sorrow
and shame on Esther's account. It was she who, contrary to the
advice of her elders, had insisted on bringing her into the house;
she had allowed temptation to be set in her way, and had not taken
sufficient pains to strengthen her principles; and how could she do
otherwise than feel guilty of all Esther's faults, and of those into
which she had led Adeline?

On Mr. Mohun's return Ada was interrogated. She pitied herself - said
she did not think papa would be angry - prevaricated - and tried to
coax away his inquiries, but all in vain; and at length, by slow
degrees, the confession was drawn from her that she had been used to
asking Esther for morsels of sweet things when she was sent to the
storeroom; that afterwards she had seen her packing up some tea and
sugar to take to her mother, and that Esther on that occasion, and
several others, purchased her silence by giving her a share of
pilfered sweetmeats. Telling her that he only spared her a very
severe punishment for the present, on account of her illness, Mr.
Mohun left her, and on his way downstairs met Phyllis.

'Phyl,' said he, 'did Esther ever give you sweet things out of the
storeroom?'

'Once, papa, when she had been putting out some currant jam, she
offered me what had been left in the spoon.'

'Did you take it?'

'No, papa, for Eleanor used to say it was a bad trick to lick out
spoons.'

'Did you ever know that she took tea and sugar from the storeroom,
for her mother?'

'Took home tea and sugar to her mother! She could not have done it,
papa. It would be stealing!'

Esther, who was next called for, cried a great deal, and begged for
pardon, pleading again and again that -

'It was mother,' an answer which made her young mistresses again sigh
over the remembrance of Rachel's disregarded advice. Her fate was
left for consideration and consultation with Mr. Devereux, for Mr.
Mohun, seeing himself to blame for having allowed her to be placed in
a situation of so much trial, and thinking that there was much that
was good about her, did not like to send her to her home, where she
was likely to learn nothing but what was bad.



CHAPTER XXIV: LOVE'S LABOUR LOST



'And well, with ready hand and heart,
Each task of toilsome duty taking,
Did one dear inmate take her part,
The last asleep, the earliest waking.'

In the course of the afternoon Lord Rotherwood and Florence called,
to see Eleanor, inquire after Ada, and make the final arrangements
for going to a morning concert at Raynham the next day. Lady
Rotherwood was afraid of the fatigue, and Florence therefore wished
to accompany her cousins, who, as Eleanor meant to stay at home, were
to be under Mrs. Weston's protection. Lady Florence and her brother,
therefore, agreed to ride home by Broomhill, and mention the plan to
Mrs. Weston, and took their leave, appointing Adam's shop as the
place of rendezvous.

Next morning Emily, Lilias, and Jane happened to be together in the
drawing-room, when Mr. Mohun and Claude came in, the former saying to
Lily, 'Here is the mason's account for the gravestone which you
wished to have put up to Agnes Eden; it comes to two pounds. You
undertook half the expense, and as Claude is going to Raynham, he
will pay for it if you will give him your sovereign.'

'I will,' said Lily, 'but first I must ask Emily to pay me for the
London commissions.'

Emily repented not having had a private conference with Lily.

'So you have not settled your accounts,' said Mr. Mohun. 'I hope
Lily has not ruined you, Emily.'

'I thought her a mirror of prudence,' said Claude.

'Well, Emily, is the sovereign forthcoming? I am going directly, for
Frank has something to do at Raynham, and William is going to try his
gray in the phaeton.'

'I am afraid you will think me very silly,' said Emily, after some
deliberation, 'but I hope Lily will not be very angry when I confess
that seven shillings is the sum total of my property.'

'Oh, Emily,' cried Lily, in dismay, 'what has become of your five
pounds?'

'I gave them as a subscription for a clergyman's widow in distress,'
said Emily; 'it was the impulse of a moment, I could not help it,
and, dear Lily, I hope it will not inconvenience you.'

'If papa will be kind enough to wait for this pound till Michaelmas,'
said Lily.

'I would wait willingly,' said Mr. Mohun, 'but I will not see you
cheated. How much does she owe you?'

'The commissions came to six pounds three,' said Lily, looking down.

'But, Lily,' said Jane, 'you forget the old debt.'

'Never mind,' whispered Lily; but Mr. Mohun asked what Jane had said,
and Claude repeated her speech, upon which he inquired, 'What old
debt?'

'Papa,' said Emily, in her most candid tone, 'I do not know what I
should have done but for Lily's kindness. Really, I cannot get on
with my present allowance; being the eldest, so many expenses come
upon me.'

'Then am I to understand,' replied Mr. Mohun, 'that your foolish
vanity has led you to encroach on your sister's kindness, and to
borrow of her what you had no reasonable hope of repaying? Again,
Lily, what does she owe you?'

Emily felt the difference between the sharp, curious eyes with which
Jane regarded her, and the sorrowful downcast looks of Lily, who
replied, 'The old debt is four pounds, but that does not signify.'

'Well,' resumed her father, 'I cannot blame you for your good-nature,
though an older person might have acted otherwise. You must have
managed wonderfully well, to look always so well dressed with only
half your proper income. Here is the amount of the debt. Is it
right? And, Lily, one thing more; I wish to thank you for what you
have done towards keeping this house in order. You have worked hard,
and endured much, and from all I can gather, you have prevented much
mischief. Much has unfairly been thrown upon you, and you have well
and steadily done your duty. For you, Emily, I have more to say to
you, but I shall not enter on it at present, for it is late. You had
better get ready, or you will keep the others waiting.'

'I do not think I can go,' sighed Emily.

'You are wanted,' said Mr. Mohun. 'I do not think your aunt would
like Florence to go without you.'

Lily had trembled as much under her father's praise as Emily under
his blame. She did not feel as if his commendation was merited, and
longed to tell him of her faults and follies, but this was no fit
time, and she hastened to prepare for her expedition, her spirits
scarcely in time for a party of pleasure. Jane talked about the
30th, and asked questions about London, all the way to Raynham, and
both Emily and Lily were glad to join in her chatter, in hopes of
relieving their own embarrassment.

On arriving at the place of meeting they found Lady Florence watching
for them.

'I am glad you are come,' said she, 'Rotherwood will always set out
either too soon or too late, and this time it was too soon, so here
we have been full a quarter of an hour, but he does not care. There
he is, quite engrossed with his book.'

Lord Rotherwood was standing by the counter, reading so intently that
he did not see his cousins' arrival. When they entered he just
looked up, shook hands, asked after Ada, and went on reading. Lily
began looking for some books for the school, which she had long
wished for, and was now able to purchase; Emily sat down in a
melancholy, abstracted mood, and Florence and Jane stood together
talking.

'You know you are all to come early,' said the former, 'I do not know
how we should manage without you. Rotherwood insists on having
everything the same day - poor people first, and gentry and farmers
altogether. Mamma does not like it, and I expect we shall be
dreadfully tired; but he says he will not have the honest poor men
put out for the fashionables; and you know we are all to dance with
everybody. But Jenny, who is this crossing the street? Look, you
have an eye for oddities.'

'Miss Fitchett, the subscription-hunter,' said Jane.

'She is actually coming to hunt us. I believe I have my purse. Oh!
Emily is to be the first victim.'

Miss Fitchett advanced to Emily, and saying that she believed she had
the honour to address Miss Mohun, began to tell her that her friend
having been prematurely informed of her small efforts, had with a
noble spirit of independence begged that the subscription might not
be continued, and that what had already been given might be returned,
and she rejoiced in this opportunity of making the explanation. But
Miss Fitchett could not bear to relinquish the five-pound note, and
added, that perhaps Miss Mohun might not object to apply her
subscription to some other object, the Dorcas Society for instance.

'Thank you, I have no interest in the Dorcas Society,' said Emily; a
reply which brought upon her a full account of all its aims and
objects; and as still her polite looks spoke nothing of assent, Miss
Fitchett went on with a string of other societies, speaking the
louder and the more eagerly in the hope of attracting the attention
of the young marquis and his sister. Emily was easily overwhelmed
with words, and not thinking it lady-like to claim her money, yet
feeling that none of these societies were fit objects for it, she
stood confused and irresolute, unwilling either to consent or refuse.
Jane, perceiving her difficulty, turned to Lord Rotherwood, and
rousing him from his book, explained Emily's distress in a few words,
and sent him to her rescue. He stepped forward just as Miss
Fitchett, taking silence for consent, was proceeding to thank Emily;
'I think you misunderstand Miss Mohun,' said he. 'Since her
subscription is not needed by the person for whom it was intended,
she would be glad to have it restored. She does not wish to
encourage any unauthorised societies.'

Boy as he was, in appearance still more than in age, there was a
dignity in his manner which, together with the principle on which he
spoke, overawed Miss Fitchett even more than his rank. She only
said, 'Oh! my lord, I beg your pardon. Certainly, only - '

The note was placed in Emily's hands, and with a bow from Lord
Rotherwood, she retreated, murmuring to herself the remonstrance
which she had not courage to bestow upon the Marquis.

'Thank you, thank you, Rotherwood,' said Emily; 'you have done me a
great service.'

'Well done, Rotherwood,' said Florence; 'you have given the old lady
something to reflect upon.'

'Made a public announcement of principle,' said Lily.

'I was determined to give her a reason,' said the Marquis, laughing,
'but I assure you I felt like the stork with its head in the wolf's
mouth, I thought she would give me a screed of doctrine. How came
you to let your property get unto her clutches, Emily?'

'It was a subscription for Mrs. Aylmer,' said Emily.

'Our curate's wife!' cried he with a start; 'how was it? Florence,
did you know anything? I thought she was in London. Why were we in
the dark? Tell me all.'

'All I know is that she is living somewhere in Raynham, and last week
there was a paper here to say that she was in want of the means of
fitting out her son for India.'

'Yes, yes, Johnny, I know my father did get a promise for him - well!'

'That is all I know, except that she does not choose to be a beggar.'

'Poor Mrs. Aylmer! shameful neglect! she shall not be ill-used any
longer, I will find her out this instant. Don't wait for me.'

And after a few words to Mr. Adams, off he went, walking as fast as
he could, and leaving the young ladies not without fear of another
invasion. Soon, however, the brothers came in, and presently after
Mrs. Weston appeared. It was agreed that Lord Rotherwood should be
left to his own devices, and they set out for the concert-room. Poor
Florence lost much pleasure in disappointment at his non-appearance,
but when the concert was over they found him sitting in the carriage,
reading. As soon as they appeared he sprang out, and came to meet
them, pouring rapidly out a history of his adventures.

'Then you have found them, and what can be done for them?'

'Everything ought to be done, but Mrs. Aylmer has a spirit of
independence. That foolish woman's advertisement was unknown to her
till Emily's five pounds came in, so fine a nest-egg that she could
not help cackling, whereupon Mrs. Aylmer insisted on having every
farthing returned.'

'Can she provide the boy's outfit?'

'She says so, or rather that her daughter can, but I shall see about
that. It is worth while to be of age. Imagine! That bank which
failed was the end of my father's legacy. They must have lived on a
fraction of nothing! Edward went to sea. Miss Aylmer went out as a
governess. Now she is at home.'

'Miss Aylmer!' exclaimed Miss Weston, 'I know she was a clergyman's
daughter. Do you know the name of the family she lived with?'

'Was it Grant?' said William. 'I remember hearing of her going to
some Grants.'

'It was,' said Alethea; 'she must be the same. Is she at home?'

'Yes,' said Lord Rotherwood, 'and you may soon see her, for I mean to
have them all to stay at the castle as soon as our present visitors
are gone. My mother and Florence shall call upon them on Friday.'

'Now,' said Claude, 'I have not found out what brought them back to
Raynham.'

'Have you lived at Beechcroft all your life, and never discovered
that there is a grammar-school at Raynham, with special privileges
for the sons of clergymen of the diocese?'

A few more words, and the cousins parted; Emily by no means sorry
that she had been obliged to go to Raynham. She tendered the five-
pound note to her father, but he desired her to wait till Friday, and
then to bring him a full account of her expenditure of the year. Her
irregular ways made this almost impossible, especially as in the
present state of affairs she wished to avoid a private conference
with either Lily or Jane. She was glad that an invitation to dine
and sleep at the castle on Wednesday would save her from the peril of
having to talk to Lily in the evening. Reginald came home on
Tuesday, to the great joy of all the party, and especially to that of
Phyllis. This little maiden was more puzzled by the events that had
taken place than conscious of the feeling which she had once thought
must be so delightful. She could scarcely help perceiving that every
one was much more kind to her than usual, especially Claude and Lily,
and Lord Rotherwood said things which she could not at all
understand. Her observation to Reginald was, 'Was it not lucky I had
a cough on Twelfth Day, or Claude would not have told me what to do
about gunpowder?'

Reginald troubled Phyllis much by declaring that nothing should
induce him to kiss his nephew, and she was terribly shocked by the
indifference with which Eleanor treated his neglect, even when it
branched out into abuse of babies in general, and in particular of
Henry's bald head and turned-up nose.

In the evening of Wednesday Phyllis was sitting with Ada in the
nursery, when Reginald came up with the news that the party
downstairs were going to practise country dances. Eleanor was to
play, Claude was to dance with Lily, and Frank with Jane, and he
himself wanted Phyllis for a partner.

'Oh!' sighed Ada, 'I wish I was there to dance with you, Redgie!
What are the others doing?'

'Maurice is reading, and William went out as soon as dinner was over;
make haste, Phyl.'

'Don't go,' said Ada, 'I shall be alone all to-morrow, and I want
you.'

'Nonsense,' said Reginald, 'do you think she is to sit poking here
all day, playing with those foolish London things of yours?'

'But I am ill, Redgie. I wish you would not be cross. Everybody is
cross to me now, I think.'

'I will stay, Ada,' said Phyllis. 'You know, Redgie, I dance like a
cow.'

'You dance better than nothing,' said Reginald, 'I must have you.'

'But you are not ill, Redgie,' said Phyllis.

He went down in displeasure, and was forced to consider Sir Maurice's
picture as his partner, until presently the door opened, and Phyllis
appeared. 'So you have thought better of it,' cried he.

'No,' said Phyllis, 'I cannot come to dance, but Ada wants you to
leave off playing. She says the music makes her unhappy, for it
makes her think about to-morrow.'

'Rather selfish, Miss Ada,' said Claude.

'Stay here, Phyllis, now you are come,' said Mr. Mohun, 'I will go
and speak to Ada.'

Phyllis was now captured, and made to take her place opposite to
Reginald; but more than once she sighed under the apprehension that
Ada was receiving a lecture. This was the case; and very little did
poor Ada comprehend the change that had taken place in the conduct of
almost every one towards her; she did not perceive that she was
particularly naughty, and yet she had suddenly become an object of
blame, instead of a spoiled pet. Formerly her little slynesses had
been unnoticed, and her overbearing ways towards Phyllis scarcely
remarked, but now they were continually mentioned as grievous faults.
Esther, her especial friend and comforter, was scarcely allowed to
come into the same room with her; Hannah treated her with a kind of
grave, silent respect, far from the familiarity which she liked;
little Henry's nurse never would talk to her, and if it had not been
for Phyllis, she would have been very miserable. On Phyllis,
however, she repaid herself for all the mortifications that she
received, while the sweet-tempered little girl took all her
fretfulness and exactions as results of her illness, and went on
pitying her, and striving to please her.

When Phyllis came up to wish her good-night, she was received with an
exclamation at her lateness in a peevish tone: 'Yes, I am late,'
said Phyllis, merrily, 'but we had not done dancing till tea-time,
and then Eleanor was so kind as to say I might sit up to have some
tea with them.'

'Ah! and you quite forgot how tiresome it is up here, with nobody to
speak to,' said Ada. 'How cross they were not to stop the music when
I said it made me miserable!'

'Claude said it was selfish to want to stop five people's pleasure
for one,' said Phyllis.

'But I am so ill,' said Ada. 'If Claude was as uncomfortable as I
am, he would know how to be sorry for me. And only think - Phyl, what
are you doing? Do not you know I do not like the moonlight to come
on me. It is like a great face laughing at me.'

'Well, I like the moon so much!' said Phyllis, creeping behind the
curtain to look out, 'there is something so white and bright in it;
when it comes on the bed-clothes, it makes me go to sleep, thinking
about white robes, oh! and all sorts of nice things.'

'I can't bear the moon,' said Ada; 'do not you know, Maurice says
that the moon makes the people go mad, and that is the reason it is
called lunacy, after la lune?'

'I asked Miss Weston about that,' said Phyllis, 'because of the
Psalm, and she said it was because it was dangerous to go to sleep in
the open air in hot countries. Ada, I wish you could see now. There
is the great round moon in the middle of the sky, and the sky such a
beautiful colour, and a few such great bright stars, and the trees so
dark, and the white lilies standing up on the black pond, and the
lawn all white with dew! what a fine day it will be to-morrow!'

'A fine day for you!' said Ada, 'but only think of poor me all alone
by myself.'

'You will have baby,' said Phyllis.

'Baby - if he could talk it would be all very well. It is just like
the cross people in books. Here I shall lie and cry all the time,
while you are dancing about as merry as can be.'

'No, no, Ada, you will not do that,' said Phyllis, with tears in her
eyes. 'There is baby with all his pretty ways, and you may teach him
to say Aunt Ada, and I will bring you in numbers of flowers, and
there is your new doll, and all the pretty things that came from
London, and the new book of Fairy Tales, and all sorts - oh! no, do
not cry, Ada.'

'But I shall, for I shall think of you dancing, and not caring for
me.'

'I do care, Ada - why do you say that I do not? I cannot bear it,


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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeScenes and Characters → online text (page 17 of 20)