Her sisters and brothers were not less forlorn. Emily sighed and lamented; Adeline was feverish and petulant; and Jane toiled in vain to please and soothe both, and to comfort Maurice; but with all her good-temper and good-nature she had not the spirit which alone could enable her to be a comfort to any one. Ada whined, fretted, and was disobedient, and from Maurice she met with nothing but rebuffs; he was silent and sullen, and spent most of the day in the workshop, slowly planing scraps of deal board, and watching with a careless eye the curled shavings float to the ground.
In the course of the afternoon Alethea and Marianne came to inquire after the patient. Jane came down to them and talked very fast, but when they asked for a further explanation of the cause of the accident, Jane declared that Maurice said it was impossible that any one who did not understand chemistry should know how it happened, and Alethea went away strongly reminded that it was no affair of hers.
Notes passed between the New Court and the vicarage, but Mr. Devereux was feeling the effect of his yesterday’s exertion too much to repeat it, and no persuasion of the sisters could induce Maurice to visit him.
’Still in his eyes his soul revealing,
He dreams not, knows not of concealing,
Does all he does with single mind,
And thinks of others that are kind.’
The travellers were expected to arrive at about seven o’clock in the evening, and in accordance with a well-known taste of Eleanor’s, Emily had ordered no dinner, but a substantial meal under the name of tea. When the sound of carriage wheels was heard, Jane was with Adeline, Maurice was in his retreat at the Old Court, and it was with no cheerful alacrity that Emily went alone into the hall. Phyllis was already at the front door, and the instant Mr. Mohun set foot on the threshold, her hand grasped his coat, and her shrill voice cried in his ear, ’Papa, I am very sorry I blew up the gunpowder and burnt Ada.’
‘What, my dear? where is Ada?’
‘In bed. I blew up the gunpowder and burnt her face,’ repeated Phyllis.
‘We have had an accident,’ said Emily, ’but I hope it is nothing very serious, only poor Ada is a sad figure.’
In another moment Mr. Mohun and Eleanor were on the way to the nursery; Lilias was following, but she recollected that a general rush into a sickroom was not desirable, and therefore paused and came back to the hall. The worst was over with Phyllis when the confession had been made. She was in raptures at the sight of the baby, and was presently showing the nurse the way upstairs, but her brother William called her back: ’Phyllis, you have not spoken to any one.’
Phyllis turned, and came down slowly in her most ungainly manner, believing herself in too great disgrace to be noticed by anybody, and she was quite surprised and comforted to be greeted by her brothers and Lily just as usual.