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.
’Keek into the draw-well,
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.’