Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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'There is Robert talking to papa on the green,' said Jane; 'what a
deep conference; what can it be about?'

If Jane had heard that conversation she might have perceived that she
could not wilfully offend, even in what she thought a trifling
matter, without making it evident, even to others, that there was
something very wrong about her. At that moment the Rector was saying
to his uncle, 'I am in doubt about Jane, I cannot but fear she is not
in a satisfactory state for confirmation, and I wished to ask you
what you think?'

'Act just as you would with any of the village girls,' said Mr.
Mohun.

'I should be very sorry to do otherwise,' said Mr. Devereux; 'but I
thought you might like, since every one knows that she is a
candidate, that she should not be at home at the time of the
confirmation, if it is necessary to refuse her.'

'No,' said Mr. Mohun, 'I should not wish to shield her from the
disgrace. It may be useful to her, and besides, it will establish
your character for impartiality. I have not been satisfied with all
I saw of little Jane for some time past, and I am afraid that much
passes amongst my poor girls which never comes to my knowledge. Her
pertness especially is probably restrained in my presence.'

'It is not so much the pertness that I complain of,' said Mr.
Devereux, 'for that might be merely exuberance of spirits, but there
is a sort of habitual irreverence, which makes one dread to bring her
nearer to sacred tings.'

'I know what you mean,' said Mr. Mohun, 'and I think the pertness is
a branch of it, more noticed because more inconvenient to others.'

'Yes,' said Mr. Devereux, 'I think the fault I speak of is most
evident; when there is occasion to reprove her, I am always baffled
by a kind of levity which makes every warning glance aside.'

'Then I should decidedly say refuse her,' said Mr. Mohun. 'It would
be a warning that she could not disregard, and the best chance of
improving her.'

'Yet,' said Mr. Devereux, 'if she is eager for confirmation, and
regards it in its proper light, it is hard to say whether it is right
to deny it to her; it may give her the depth and earnestness which
she needs.'

'Poor child,' said Mr. Mohun, 'she has great disadvantages; I am
quite sure our present system is not fit for her. Things shall be
placed on a different footing, and in another year or two I hope she
may be fitter for confirmation. However, before you finally decide,
I should wish to have some conversation with her, and speak to you
again.

'That is just what I wish,' said Mr. Devereux.



CHAPTER XII - THE FEVER



'Jane borrowed maxims from a doubting school,
And took for truth the test of ridicule.'

The question of Jane's confirmation was decided in an unexpected
manner; for the day after Mr. Mohun's conversation with his nephew
she was attacked by a headache and sore throat, spent a feverish
night, and in the morning was so unwell that a medical man was sent
for from Raynham. On his arrival he pronounced that she was
suffering from scarlet fever, and Emily began to feel the approach of
the same complaint.

Phyllis and Adeline were shut up in the drawing-room, and a system of
quarantine established, which was happily brought to a conclusion by
a note from Mrs. Weston, who kindly begged that they might be sent to
her at Broomhill, and Mr. Mohun gladly availing himself of the offer,
the little girls set off, so well pleased to make a visit alone, as
almost to forget the occasion of it. Mrs. Weston had extended her
invitation to Lilias, but she begged to be allowed to remain with her
sisters, and Mr. Mohun thought that she had been already so much
exposed to the infection that it was useless for her to take any
precautions.

She was therefore declared head nurse; and it was well that she had
an energetic spirit, and so sweet a temper, that she was ready to
sympathise with all Emily's petulant complaints, and even to find
fault with herself for not being in two places at once. Two of the
maids were ill, and the whole care of Emily and Jane devolved upon
her, with only the assistance of Esther.

Emily was not very seriously ill, but Jane's fever was very high, and
Lily thought that her father was more anxious than he chose to
appear. Of Jane's own thoughts little could be guessed; she was
often delirious, and at all times speaking was so painful that she
said as little as possible.

Lily's troubles seemed at their height one Sunday afternoon, while
her father was at church. She had been reading the Psalms and
Lessons to Emily, and she then rose to return to Jane.

'Do not go,' entreated Emily.

'I will send Esther.'

'Esther is of no use.'

'And therefore I do not like to leave her so long alone with Jane.
Pray spare me a little smile.'

'Then come back soon.'

Lily was glad to escape with no more objections. She found Jane
complaining of thirst, but to swallow gave her great pain, and she
required so much attendance for some little time, that Emily's bell
was twice rung before Esther could be spared to go to her.

She soon came back, saying, 'Miss Mohun wants you directly, Miss
Lilias.'

'Tell her I will come presently,' said Lily, who had one hand pressed
on Jane's burning temples, while the other was sprinkling her with
ether.

'Stay,' said Jane, faintly, and Esther left the room.

Jane drew her breath with so much difficulty that a dreadful terror
seized upon Lily, lest she should be suffocated. She raised her
head, and supported her till Esther could bring more pillows. Esther
brought a message from Emily to hasten her return; but Jane could not
be left, and the grateful look she gave her as she arranged the
pillows repaid her for all her toils. After a little time Jane
became more comfortable, and said in a whisper, 'Dear Lily, I wish I
was not so troublesome.'

Back came Esther at this moment, saying, 'Miss Emily says she is
worse, and wants you directly, Miss Lilias.'

Lily hurried away to Emily's room, and found what might well have
tried her temper. Emily was flushed indeed, and feverish, but her
breathing was smooth and even, and her hand and pulse cool and slow,
compared with the parched burning hands, and throbbings, too quick to
count, which Lily had just been watching.

'Well, my dear Emily, I am sorry you do not feel better; what can I
do for you?'

'How can I be better while I am left so long, and Esther not coming
when I ring? What would happen if I were to faint away?'

'Indeed, I am very sorry,' said Lily; 'but when you rang, poor Jenny
could spare neither of us.'

'How is poor Jenny?' said Emily.

'Her throat is very bad, but she is quite sensible now, and wishes to
have me there. What did you want, Emily?'

'Oh! I wish you would draw the curtain, the light hurts me; that
will do - no - now it is worse, pray put it as it was before. Oh!
Lily, if you knew how ill I am you would not leave me.'

'Can I do anything for you - will you have some coffee?'

'Oh! no, it has a bad taste, I am sure it is carelessly made.'

'Shall I make you some fresh, with the spirit lamp?'

'No, I am tired of it. I wonder if I might have some tamarinds?'

'I will ask as soon as papa comes from church.'

'Is he gone to church? how could he go when we are all so ill?'

'Perhaps he was doing us more good at church than he could at home.
You will be glad to hear, Emily, that he has sent for Rachel to come
and help us.'

'Oh! has he? but she lives so far off, and gets her letters so
seldom, I don't reckon at all upon her coming. If she could come
directly it would be a comfort.'

'It would, indeed,' said Lily; 'she would know what to do for Jane.'

'Lily, where is the ether? You are always taking it away.'

'In Jane's room; I will fetch it.'

'No, no, if you once get into Jane's room I shall never see you back
again.'

Now Emily knew that Jane was very ill, and Lily's pale cheeks, heavy
eyes, and failing voice, might have reminded her that two sick
persons were a heavy charge upon a girl of seventeen, without the
addition of her caprices and fretfulness. And how was it that the
kind-hearted, affectionate Emily never thought of all this? It was
because she had been giving way to selfishness for nineteen years;
and now the contemplation of her own sufferings was quite enough to
hide from her that others had much to bear; and illness, instead of
teaching her patience and consideration, only made her more exacting
and querulous.

To Lily's unspeakable relief, Miss Weston accompanied Mr. Mohun from
church, and offered to share her attendance. No one knew what it
cost Alethea to come into the midst of a scene which constantly
reminded her of the sisters she had lost, but she did not shrink from
it, and was glad that her parents saw no objection to her offering to
share Lily's toils. Her experience was most valuable, and relieved
Lilias of the fear that was continually haunting her, lest her
ignorance might lead to some fatal mistake. The next day brought
Rachel, and both patients began to mend. Jane's recovery was quicker
than Emily's, for her constitution was not so languid, and having no
pleasure in the importance of being an invalid, she was willing to
exert herself, and make the best of everything, while Emily did not
much like to be told that she was better, and thought it cruel to
hint that exertion would benefit her. Both were convalescent before
the fever attacked Lily, who was severely ill, but not alarmingly so,
and her gentleness and patience made Alethea delight in having the
care of her. Lily was full of gratitude to her kind friend, and felt
quite happy when Alethea chanced one day to call her by the name of
Emma; she almost hoped she was taking the place of that sister, and
the thought cheered her through many languid hours, and gave double
value to all Alethea's kindness. She did not feel disposed to repine
at an illness which brought out such affection from her friend, and
still more from her father, who, when he came to see her, would say
things which gave her a thrill of pleasure whenever she thought of
them.

It happened one day that Jane, having finished her book, looked round
for some other occupation; she knew that Miss Weston had walked to
Broomhill; Rachael was with Lilias, and there was no amusement at
hand. At last she recollected that her papa had said in the morning,
that he hoped to see her and Emily in the schoolroom in the course of
the day, and hoping to meet her sister, she resolved to try and get
there. The room had been Mr. Mohun's sitting-room since the
beginning of their illness, and it looked so very comfortable that
she was glad she had come, though she was so tired she wondered how
she should get back again. Emily was not there, so she lay down on
the sofa and took up a little book from the table. The title was
Susan Harvey, or Confirmation, and she read it with more interest as
she remembered with a pang that this was the day of the confirmation,
to which she had been invited; she soon found herself shedding tears
over the book, she who had never yet been known to cry at any story,
however affecting. She had not finished when Mr. Devereux came in to
look for Mr. Mohun, and finding her there, was going away as soon as
he had congratulated her on having left her room, but she begged him
to stay, and began asking questions about the confirmation.

'Were there many people?'

'Three hundred.'

'Did the Stoney Bridge people make a disturbance?'

'No.'

'How many of our people?'

'Twenty-seven.'

'Did all the girls wear caps?'

'Most of them.'

Jane was rather surprised at the shortness of her cousin's answers,
but she went on, as he stood before the fire, apparently in deep
thought.

'Was Miss Burnet confirmed? She is the dullest girl I ever knew, and
she is older than I am. Was she confused?'

'She was.'

'Did you give Mary Wright a ticket?'

'No.'

'Then, of course, you did not give one to Ned Long. I thought you
would never succeed in making him remember which is the ninth
commandment.'

'I did not refuse him.'

'Indeed! did he improve in a portentous manner?'

'Not particularly.'

'Well, you must have been more merciful than I expected.'

'Indeed!'

'Robert, you must have lost the use of your tongue, for want of us to
talk to. I shall be affronted if you go into a brown study the first
day of seeing me.'

He smiled in a constrained manner, and after a few minutes said, 'I
have been considering whether this is a fit time to tell you what
will give you pain. You must tell me if you can bear it.'

'About Lily, or the little ones?'

'No, no! only about yourself. Your father wished me to speak to you,
but I would not have done so on this first meeting, but what you have
just been saying makes me think this is the best occasion.'

'Let me know; I do not like suspense,' said Jane, sharply.

'I think it right to tell you, Jane, that neither your father nor I
thought it would be desirable for you to be confirmed at this time.'

'Do you really mean it?' said Jane.

'Look back on the past year, and say if you sincerely think you are
fit for confirmation.'

'As to that,' said Jane, 'the best people are always saying that they
are not fit for these things.'

'None can call themselves worthy of them; but I think the conscience
of some would bear them witness that they had profited so far by
their present means of grace as to give grounds for hoping that they
would derive benefit from further assistance.'

'Well, I suppose I must be very bad, since you see it,' said Jane, in
a manner rather more subdued; 'but I did not think myself worse than
other people.'

'Is a Christian called, only to be no worse than others?'

'Oh no! I see, I mean - pray tell me my great fault. Pertness, I
suppose - love of gossip?'

'There must be a deeper root of evil, of which these are but the
visible effects, Jane.'

'What do you mean, Robert?' said Jane, now seeming really impressed.

'I think, Jane, that the greatest and most dangerous fault of your
character is want of reverence. I think it is want of reverence
which makes you press forward to that for which you confess yourself
unfit; it is want of reverence for holiness which makes you not care
to attain it; want of reverence for the Holy Word that makes you
treat it as a mere lesson; and in smaller matters your pertness is
want of reverence for your superiors; you would not be ready to
believe and to say the worst of others, if you reverenced what good
there may be in them. Take care that your want of reverence is not
in reality want of faith.'

Jane's spirits were weak and subdued. It was a great shock to her to
hear that she was not thought worthy of confirmation; her faults had
never been called by so hard a name; she was in part humbled, and in
part grieved, and what she thought harshness in her cousin; she
turned away her face, and did not speak. He continued, 'Jane, you
must not think me unkind, your father desired me to talk to you, and,
indeed, the time of recovery from sickness is too precious to be
trifled away.'

Jane wept bitterly. Presently he said, 'It grieves me to have been
obliged to speak harshly to you, you must forgive me if I have talked
too much to you, Jane.'

Jane tried to speak, but sobs prevented her, and she gave way to a
violent fit of crying. Her cousin feared he had been unwise in
saying so much, and had weakened the effect of his own words. He
would have been glad to see tears of repentance, but he was afraid
that she was weeping over fancied unkindness, and that he might have
done what might be hurtful to her in her weak state. He said a few
kind words, and tried to console her, but this change of tone rather
added to her distress, and she became hysterical. He was much vexed
and alarmed, and, ringing the bell, hastened to call assistance. He
found Esther, and sent her to Jane, and on returning to the
schoolroom with some water, he found her lying exhausted on the sofa;
he therefore went in search of his uncle, who was overlooking some
farming work, and many were the apologies made, and many the
assurances he received, that it would be better for her in the end,
as the impression would be more lasting.

Jane was scarcely conscious of her cousin's departure, or of Esther's
arrival, but after drinking some water, and lying still for a few
moments, she exclaimed, 'Oh, Robert! oh, Esther! the confirmation!'
and gasped and sobbed again. Esther thought she had guessed the
cause of her tears, and tried to comfort her.

'Ah! Miss Jane, there will be another confirmation some day; it was a
sad thing you were too ill, to be sure, but - '

'Oh! if I had - if he would not say - if he had thought me fit.'

Esther was amazed, and asked if she should call Miss Weston, who was
now with Lilias.

'No, no!' cried Jane, nearly relapsing into hysterics. 'She shall
not see me in this state.'

Esther hardly knew what to do, but she tried to soothe and comfort
her by following what was evidently the feeling predominating in
Jane's mind, as indicated by her broken sentences, and said, 'It was
a pity, to be sure, that Mr. Devereux came and talked so long, he
could not know of your being so very weak, Miss Jane.'

'Yes,' said Jane, faintly, 'I could have borne it better if he had
waited a few days.'

'Yes, Miss, when you had not been so very ill. Mr. Devereux is a
very good gentleman, but they do say he is very sharp.'

'He means to be kind,' said Jane, 'but I do not think he has much
consideration, always.'

'Yes, Miss Jane, that is just what Mrs. White said, when - '

Esther's speech was cut short by the entrance of Miss Weston. Jane
started up, dashed off her tears, and tried to look as usual, but the
paleness of her face, and the redness of her eyes, made this
impossible, and she was obliged to lie down again. Esther left the
room, and Miss Weston did not feel intimate enough with Jane to ask
any questions; she gave her some sal volatile, talked kindly to her
of her weakness, and offered to read to her; all the time leaving an
opening for confidence, if Jane wished to relieve her mind. The book
which lay near her accounted, as she thought, for her agitation, and
she blamed herself for having judged her harshly as deficient in
feeling, now that she found her so much distressed, because illness
had prevented her confirmation. Under this impression she honoured
her reserve, while she thought with more affection of Lily's open
heart. Jane, who never took, or expected others to take, the most
favourable view of people's motives, thought Alethea knew the cause
of her distress, and disliked her the more, as having witnessed her
humiliation.

Such was Jane's love of gossip that the next time she was alone with
Esther she asked for the history of Mrs. White, thus teaching her
maid disrespect to her pastor, indirectly complaining of his
unkindness, and going far to annul the effect of what she had learnt
at school. Perhaps during her hysterics Jane's conduct was not under
control, but subsequent silence was in her power, and could she be
free from blame if Esther's faults gained greater ascendency?

The next day Mr. Mohun attempted to speak to Jane, but being both
frightened and unhappy, she found it very easy and natural, as well
as very convenient, to fall into hysterics again, and her father was
obliged to desist, regretting that, at the only time she was subdued
enough to listen to reproof, she was too weak to bear it without
injury. Rachel, who was nearly as despotic among the young ladies as
she had been in former times in the nursery, now insisted on Emily's
going into the schoolroom, and when there, she made rapid progress.
Alethea was amused to see how Jane's decided will and lively spirit
would induce Emily to make exertions, which no persuasions of hers
could make her think other than impossible.

A few days more, and they were nearly well again; and Lilias so far
recovered as to be able to spare her kind friend, who returned home
with a double portion of Lily's love, and of deep gratitude from Mr.
Mohun; but these feelings were scarcely expressed in words. Emily
gave her some graceful thanks, and Jane disliked her more than ever.

It was rather a dreary time that now commenced with the young ladies;
they were tired of seeing the same faces continually, and dispirited
by hearing that the fever was spreading in the village. The autumn
was far advanced, the weather was damp and gloomy, and the sisters
sat round the fire shivering with cold, feeling the large room dreary
and deserted, missing the merry voices of the children, and much
tormented by want of occupation. They could not go out, their hands
were not steady enough to draw, they felt every letter which they had
to write a heavy burden; neither Emily nor Lily could like
needlework; they could have no music, for the piano at the other end
of the room seemed to be in an Arctic Region, and they did little but
read novels and childish stories, and play at chess or backgammon.
Jane was the best off. Mrs. Weston sent her a little sock, with a
request that she would make out the way in which it was knit, in a
complicated feathery pattern, and in puzzling over her cotton, taking
stitches up and letting them down, she made the time pass a little
less heavily with her than with her sisters.



CHAPTER XIII - A CURIOSITY MAP



'Keek into the draw-well,
Janet, Janet,
There ye'll see your bonny sell,
My jo Janet.'

It was at this time that Lady Rotherwood and her daughter arrived at
Devereux Castle, and Mr. Mohun was obliged to go to meet her there,
leaving his three daughters to spend a long winter evening by
themselves, in their doleful and dismal way, as Lily called it.

The evening had closed in, but they did not ring for candles, lest
they should make it seem longer; and Jane was just beginning to laugh
at Emily for the deplorable state of her frock and collar, tumbled
with lying on the sofa, when the three girls all started at the
unexpected sound of a ring at the front door.

With a rapid and joyful suspicion who it might be, Emily and Lilias
sprang to the door, Jane thrust the poker into the fire, in a
desperate attempt to produce a flame, drove an arm-chair off the
hearth-rug, whisked an old shawl out of sight, and flew after them
into the hall, just as the deep tones of a well-known voice were
heard greeting old Joseph.

'William!' cried the girls. 'Oh! is it you? Are you not afraid of
the scarlet fever?'

'No, who has it?'

'We have had it, but we are quite well now. How cold you are!'

'But where is my father?'

'Gone to Hetherington with Robert, to meet Aunt Rotherwood. Come
into the drawing-room.'

Here Emily glided off to perform a hurried toilette.

'And the little ones?'

'At Broomhill. Mrs. Weston was so kind as to take them out of the
way of the infection,' said Lily.

'Oh! William, those Westons!'

'Westons, what Westons? Not those I knew at Brighton?'

'The very same,' said Lily. 'They have taken the house at Broomhill.
Oh! they have been so very kind, I do not know what would have become
of us without Alethea.'

'Why did you not tell me they were living here? And you like them?'

'Like them! No one can tell the comfort Alethea has been. She came
to us and nursed us, and has been my great support.'

'And Phyllis and Ada are with them?'

'Yes, they have been at Broomhill these six weeks, and more.'

Here Emily came in and told William that his room was ready, and
Rachel on the stairs wishing to see the Captain.

'How well he looks!' cried Lily, as he closed the door; 'it is quite
refreshing to see any one looking so strong and bright.'

'And more like Sir Maurice than ever,' said Emily.

'Ah! but Claude is more like,' said Lily, 'because he is pale.'

'Well,' said Jane, 'do let us in the meantime make the room look more
fit to be seen before he comes down.'

The alacrity which had long been wanting to Lilias and Jane had
suddenly returned, and they succeeded in making the room look
surprisingly comfortable, compared with its former desolate aspect,
before William came down, and renewed his inquiries after all the
family.

'And how is my father's deafness?' was one of his questions.

'Worse,' said Emily. 'I am afraid all the younger ones will learn to
vociferate. He hears no one well but ourselves.'

'Oh! and Alethea Weston,' said Lily. 'Her voice is so clear and
distinct, that she hardly ever raises it to make him hear. And have
you ever heard her sing?'


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