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.’