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- Beechcroft at Rockstone - 30/74 -
all this as soon as her tears were assuaged, as if, having heard it, she must tell.
'Mrs. White is half a Greek, you know,' said Aunt Jane, 'and the Greeks are said not to think enough about truth.'
'Epaminondas did,' said Valetta, who had picked up a good deal from the home atmosphere, 'but Ulysses didn't.'
'No; and the Greeks have been enslaved and oppressed for a great many years, and that is apt to make people get cowardly and false. But that is not our concern, Val, and I think with such a recollection of her good father, and such a sister to help her, Maura will not fall into the fault again. And, my dear, I quite see that neither you nor she entirely realised that what you did was deception, though you never spoke a word of untruth.'
'No, we did not,' said Valetta.
'And so, my dear child, I do forgive you, quite and entirely, as we used to say, though I have settled with Miss Leverett that you had better not go up for the examination, since you cannot be properly up to it. And you must write the whole history to your mother. Yes; I know it will be very sad work, but it will be much better to have it out and done with, instead of having it on your mind when she comes home.'
'Shall you tell her!'
'Yes, certainly,' said the aunt, well knowing that this would clench the matter. 'But I shall tell her how sorry you are, and that I really think you did not quite understand what you were about at first. And I shall write to Miss White, and try to comfort her about her sister.'
'You won't say I told!'
'Oh no; but I shall have quite reason enough for writing in telling her that I am sorry my little niece led her sister into crooked paths.'
Gillian knew that this letter was written and sent, and it did not make her more eager for a meeting with Kalliope. So that she was not sorry that the weather was a valid hindrance, though a few weeks ago she would have disregarded such considerations. Besides, there was her own examination, which for two days was like a fever, and kept her at her little table, thinking of nothing but those questions, and dreaming and waking over them at night.
It was over; and she was counselled on all sides to think no more about it till she should hear of success or failure. But this was easier said than done, and she was left in her tired state with a general sense of being on a wrong tack, and of going on amiss, whether due to her aunt's want of assimilation to herself, or to her mother's absence, she did not know, and with the further sense that she had not been the motherly sister she had figured to herself, but that both the children should show a greater trust and reliance on Aunt Jane than on herself grieved her, not exactly with jealousy, but with sense of failure and dissatisfaction with herself. She had a universal distaste to her surroundings, and something very like dread of the Whites, and she rejoiced in the prospect of quitting Rockstone for the present.
She felt bound to run down to the office to wish Kalliope good-bye. There she found an accumulation of exercises and translations waiting for her.
'Oh, what a quantity! It shows how long it is since I have been here.'
'And indeed,' began Kalliope, 'since your aunt has been so very kind about poor little Maura---'
'Oh, please don't talk to me! There's such a lot to do, and I have no time. Wait till I have done.'
And she nervously began reading out the Greek exercise, so as effectually to stop Kalliope's mouth. Moreover, either her own uneasy mind, or the difficulty of the Greek, brought her into a dilemma. She saw that Alexis's phrase was wrong, but she did not clearly perceive what the sentence ought to be, and she perplexed herself over it till he came in, whether to her satisfaction or not she could not have told, for she had not wanted to see him on the one hand, though, on the other, it silenced Kalliope.
She tried to clear her perceptions by explanations to him, but he did not seem to give his mind to the grammar half as much as to the cessation of the lessons and her absence.
'You must do the best you can,' she said, 'and I shall find you gone quite beyond me.'
'I shall never do that, Miss Merrifield.'
'Nonsense!' she said, laughing uncomfortably 'a pretty clergyman you would be if you could not pass a girl. There! good-bye. Make a list of your puzzles and I will do my best with them when I come back.'
'Thank you,' and he wrung her hand with an earnestness that gave her a sense of uneasiness.
CHAPTER XI. LADY MERRIFIELD'S CHRISTMAS LETTER-BAG
'MY DEAR MAMMA---I wish you a merry Christmas, and papa and sisters and Claude too. I only hooped once to-day, and Nurse says I may go out when it gets fine. Fly is better. She sent me her dolls' house in a big box in a cart, and Mysie sent a new frock of her own making for Liliana, and Uncle William gave me a lovely doll, with waxen arms and legs, that shuts her eyes and squeals, and says Mamma; but I do not want anything but my own dear mamma, and all the rest. I am mamma's own little PRIMROSE.'
'COALHAM. 'MY DEAR MAMMA---I wish you and papa, and all, a happy Crismas, and I send a plan of the great coal mine for a card. It is much jollier here than at Rockquay, for it is all black with cinders, and there are little fires all night, and there are lots of oars and oxhide and fossils and ferns and real curiozitys, and nobody minds noises nor muddy boots, and they aren't at one to wash your hands, for they can't be clean ever; and there was a real row in the street last night just outside. We are to go down a mine some day when Cousin David has time. I mean to be a great jeologist and get lots of specimens, and please bring me home all the minerals in Ceylon. Harry gave me a hammer.---I am, your affectionate son, FERGUS MERRIFIELD.'
'MY DEAREST MAMMA---I hope you will like my card. Aunt Ada did none of it, only showed me how, and Aunt Jane says I may tell you I am really trying to be good. I am helping her gild fir-cones for a Christmas-tree for the quire, and they will sing carols. Macrae brought some for us the day before yesterday, and a famous lot of holly and ivy and mistletoe and flowers, and three turkeys and some hams and pheasants and partridges. Aunt Jane sent the biggest turkey and ham in a basket covered up with holly to Mrs. White, and another to Mrs. Hablot, and they are doing the church with the holly and ivy. We are to eat the other the day after to-morrow, and Mr. Grant and Miss Burne, who teaches the youngest form, are coming. It was only cold beef to-day, to let Mrs. Mount go to church; but we had mince pies, and I am going to Kitty's Christmas party to-morrow, and we shall dance---so Aunt Ada has given me a new white frock and a lovely Roman sash of her own. Poor old Mrs. Vincent is dead, and Fergus's great black rabbit, and poor little Mary Brown with dip---(blot). I can't spell it, and nobody is here to tell me how, but the thing in people's throats, and poor Anne has got it, and Dr. Ellis says it was a mercy we were all away from home, for we should have had it too, and that would have been ever so much worse than the whooping-cough.
'I have lots of cards, but my presents are waiting for my birthday, when Maura is to come to tea. It is much nicer than I thought the holidays would be. Maura White has got the prize for French and Latin. It is a lovely Shakespeare. I wish I had been good, for I think I should have got it. Only she does want more help than I do--- so perhaps it is lucky I did not. No, I don't mean lucky either.--- Your affectionate little daughter, VAL.'
'DEAR MOTHER---Fergus is such a little ape that he will send you that disgusting coal mine on his card, as if you would care for it. I know you will like mine much better---that old buffer skating into a hole in the ice. I don't mind being here, for though Harry and Davy get up frightfully early to go to church, they don't want us down till they come back, and we can have fun all day, except when Harry screws me down to my holiday task, which is a disgusting one, about the Wars of the Roses. Harry does look so rum now that he is got up for a parson that we did not know him when he met us at the station. There was an awful row outside here last night between two sets of Waits. David went out and parted them, and I thought he would have got a black eye. All the choir had supper here, for there was a service in the middle of the night; but they did not want us at it, and on Tuesday we are to have a Christmas ship, and a magic-lantern, and Rollo and Mr. Bowater are coming to help---he is the clergyman at the next place---and no end of fun, and the biggest dog you ever saw. Fergus has got one of his crazes worse than ever about old stones, and is always in the coal hole, poking after ferns and things. Wishing you a merry Christmas.---Your affectionate son, 'WILFRED MERRIFIELD.'
'ROTHERWOOD, Christmas Day.
'MY OWN DEAREST MAMMA---A very happy Christmas to you, and papa and Claude and my sisters, and here are the cards, which Miss Elbury helped me about so kindly that I think they are better than usual: I
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