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- Beechcroft at Rockstone - 20/74 -
connection with these Mays.'
'Oh yes, there will be; for I believe a brother of this man of Phyllis's married one of the Miss Mays, and I suppose we shall have to get mixed up with the whole lot. How I do hate strangers! But I'll take care, Miss Vincent, indeed I will. One is not bound to tell one's aunts everything like one's mother.'
'No,' said Miss Vincent decidedly, 'especially when it is another person's secret betrayed through inadvertence.' Perhaps she thought Gillian looked dangerously gratified, for she added: 'However, you know poor Dolores did not find secrecy answer.'
'Oh, there are secrets and secrets, and aunts and aunts!' said Gillian. 'Dolores had no mother.'
'It makes a difference,' said Miss Vincent. 'I should never ask you to conceal anything from Lady Merrifield. Besides, this is not a matter of conduct, only a report.'
Gillian would not pursue the subject. Perhaps she was a little disingenuous with her conscience, for she wanted to carry off the impression that Miss Vincent had pronounced concealment from her aunts to be justifiable; and she knew at the bottom of her heart that her governess would condemn a habit of secret intimacy with any one being carried on without the knowledge of her hostess and guardian for the time being,---above all when it was only a matter, of waiting.
It is a fine thing for self-satisfaction to get an opinion without telling the whole of the facts of the case, and Gillian went home in high spirits, considerably encumbered with parcels, and surprising Mrs. Mount by insisting that two separate packages should be made of the books.
Kalliope and Alexis were both awaiting her at the station, their gratitude unbounded, and finding useful vent by the latter fetching a cab and handing in the goods.
It was worth something to see how happy the brother and sister looked, as they went off in the gaslight, the one with the big brown paper parcel, the other with the basket of fruit and flowers; and Gillian's explanation to Mrs. Mount that they were old friends of her soldiering days was quite satisfactory.
There was a grand unpacking. Aunt Ada was pleased with the late roses, and Aunt Jane that there had been a recollection of Lilian Giles, to whom she had thought her niece far too indifferent. Valetta fondled the flowers, and was gratified to hear of the ardent affection of the Begum and the health of Rigdum, though Gillian was forced to confess that she had not transferred to him the kiss that she had been commissioned to convey. Nobody was disappointed except Fergus, who could not but vituperate the housemaids for the destruction of his new patent guillotine for mice, which was to have been introduced to Clement Varley. To be sure it would hardly ever act, and had never cut off the head of anything save a dandelion, but that was a trifling consideration.
A letter from Mysie was awaiting Gillian, not lengthy, for there was a long interval between Mysie's brains and her pen, and saying nothing about the New Zealand report. The selection of lace was much approved, and the next day there was to be an expedition to endeavour to get the veil matched as nearly as possible. The only dangerous moment was at breakfast the next day, when Miss Mohun said---
'Fanny was delighted with Silverfold. Macrae seems to have been the pink of politeness to her.'
'She must come when the house is alive again,' said Gillian. 'What would she think of it then!'
'Oh, that would be perfectly delicious,' cried Valetta. 'She would see Begum and Rigdum---'
'And I could show her how to work the lawn cutter,' added Fergus.
'By the bye,' said Aunt Jane, 'whom have you been lending books to?'
'Oh, to the Whites,' said Gillian, colouring, as she felt more than she could wish. 'There were some old school-books that I thought would be useful to them, and I was sure mamma would like them to have some flowers and fruit.'
She felt herself very candid, but why would Aunt Jane look at those tell-tale cheeks.
Sunday was wet, or rather 'misty moisty,' with a raw sea-fog overhanging everything---not bad enough, however, to keep any one except Aunt Ada from church or school, though she decidedly remonstrated against Gillian's going out for her wandering in the garden in such weather; and, if she had been like the other aunt, might almost have been convinced that such determination must be for an object. However, Gillian encountered the fog in vain, though she walked up and down the path till her clothes were quite limp and flabby with damp. All the view that rewarded her was the outline of the shrubs looming through the mist like distant forests as mountains. Moreover, she got a scolding from Aunt Ada, who met her coming in, and was horrified at the misty atmosphere which she was said to have brought in, and insisted on her going at once to change her dress, and staying by the fireside all the rest of the afternoon.
'I cannot think what makes her so eager about going out in the afternoon,' said the younger aunt to the elder. 'It is impossible that she can have any reason for it.'
'Only Sunday restlessness,' said Miss Mohun, 'added to the reckless folly of the "Bachfisch" about health.'
'That's true,' said Adeline, 'girls must be either so delicate that they are quite helpless, or so strong as to be absolutely weather- proof.'
Fortune, however, favoured Gillian when next she went to Lily Giles. She had never succeeded in taking real interest in the girl, who seemed to her to be so silly and sentimental that an impulse to answer drily instantly closed up all inclination to effusions of confidence. Gillian had not yet learnt breadth of charity enough to understand that everybody does not feel, or express feeling, after the same pattern; that gush is not always either folly or insincerity; and that girls of Lily's class are about at the same stage of culture as the young ladies of whom her namesake in the Inheritance is the type. When Lily showed her in some little magazine the weakest of poetry, and called it so sweet, just like 'dear Mr. Grant's lovely sermon, the last she had heard. Did he not look so like a saint in his surplice and white stole, with his holy face and beautiful blue eyes; it was enough to make any one feel good to look at him,' Gillian simply replied, 'Oh, _I_ never think of the clergyman's looks,' and hurried to her book, feeling infinitely disgusted and contemptuous, never guessing that these poor verses, and the curate's sermons and devotional appearance were, to the young girl's heart, the symbols of all that was sacred, and all that was refined, and that the thought of them was the solace of her lonely and suffering hours. Tolerant sympathy is one of the latest lessons of life, and perhaps it is well that only
'The calm temper of our age should be Like the high leaves upon the holly-tree,'
for the character in course of formation needs to be guarded by prickles.
However, on this day Undine was to be finished, for Gillian was in haste to begin Katharine Ashton, which would, she thought, be much more wholesome reality, so she went on later than usual, and came away at last, leaving her auditor dissolved in tears over poor Undine's act of justice.
As Mrs. Giles, full of thanks, opened the little garden-gate just as twilight was falling, Gillian beheld Kalliope and Alexis White coming up together from the works, and eagerly met and shook hands with them. The dark days were making them close earlier, they explained, and as Kalliope happened to have nothing to finish or purchase, she was able to come home with her brother.
Therewith Alexis began to express, with the diffidence of extreme gratitude, his warm thanks for the benefaction of books, which were exactly what he had wanted and longed for. His foreign birth enabled him to do this much more prettily and less clumsily than an English boy, and Gillian was pleased, though she told him that her brother's old ill-used books were far from worthy of such thanks.
'Ah, you cannot guess how precious they are to me!' said Alexis. 'They are the restoration of hope.'
'And can you get on by yourself?' asked Gillian. 'Is it not very difficult without any teacher?'
'People have taught themselves before,' returned the youth, 'so I hope to do so myself; but of course there are many questions I long to ask.'
'Perhaps I could answer some,' said Gillian; 'I have done some classics with a tutor.'
'Oh, thank you, Miss Merrifield,' he said eagerly. 'If you could make me understand the force of the aorist.
It so happened that Gillian had the explanation at her tongue's end, and it was followed by another, and another, till one occurred which could hardly be comprehended without reference to the passage, upon which Alexis pulled a Greek Testament out of his pocket, and his sister could not help exclaiming---
'Oh, Alexis, you can't ask Miss Merrifield to do Greek with you out in the street.'
Certainly it was awkward, the more so as Mrs. Stebbing just then drove by in her carriage.
'What a pity!' exclaimed Gillian. 'But if you would set down any difficulties, you could send them to me by Kalliope on Sunday.'
'Oh, Miss Merrifield, how very good of you!' exclaimed Alexis, his face lighting up with joy.
But Kalliope looked doubtful, and began a hesitating 'But---'
'I'll tell you of a better way!' exclaimed Gillian. 'I always go once a week to read to this Lilian Giles, and if I come down
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