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- Scenes and Characters - 6/54 -


'Why, I suppose I may look at Ada's slate, though you must not,' said Claude, laughing to himself at poor little honest simplicity, as he applied himself to cut a new point to her very stumpy slate-pencil, and she scampered away, and returned in a moment with her clean slate.

'Oh, how nice and fresh it all looks!' said she as he set down the clear large figures. 'I cannot think how you can do it so evenly.'

'Now, Phyl, do not let the pencil scream if you can help it.'

Claude found that Phyllis's great difficulty was with the farthings. She could not understand the fractional figures, and only knew thus far, that 'Emily said it never meant four.'

Claude began explaining, but his first attempt was far too scientific. Phyllis gave a desponding sigh, looking so mystified, that he began to believe that she was hopelessly dull, and to repent of having offered to help her; but at last, by means of dividing a card into four pieces, he succeeded in making her comprehend him, and her eyes grew bright with the pleasure of understanding.

Even then the difficulties were not conquered, her addition was very slow, and dividing by twelve and twenty seemed endless work; at length the last figure of the pounds was set down, the slate was compared with Adeline's, and the sum pronounced to be right. Phyllis capered up to the kitten and tossed it up in the air in her joy, then coming slowly back to her brother, she said with a strange, awkward air, hanging down her head, 'Claude, I'll tell you what--'

'Well, what?' said Claude.

'I should like to kiss you.'

Then away she bounded, clattered down stairs, and flew across the lawn to tell every one she met that Claude had helped her to do her sum, and that it was quite right.

'Did you expect that it would be too hard for him, Phyl?' said Jane, laughing.

'No,' said Phyllis, 'but he said he could not do it as it was set.'

'And whose fault was that?' said Jane.

'Oh! but he showed me how to set it better,' said Phyllis, 'and he said that when he learnt the beginning of fractions, he thought them as hard as I do.'

'Fractions!' said Jane, 'you do not fancy you have come to fractions yet! Fine work you will make of them when you do!'

In the evening, as soon as the children were gone to bed, Jane took a paper out of her work-basket, saying, 'There, Emily, is my account of Phyl's scrapes through this whole week; I told you I should write them all down.'

'How kind!' muttered Claude.

Regardless of her brother, who had not looked up from his book, Jane began reading her list of poor Phyllis's misadventures. 'On Monday she tore her frock by climbing a laurel-tree, to look at a blackbird's nest.'

'I gave her leave,' said Emily. 'Rachel had ordered her not to climb; and she was crying because she could not see the nest that Wat Greenwood had found.'

'On Tuesday she cried over her French grammar, and tore a leaf out of the old spelling-book.'

'That was nearly out before,' said Emily, 'Maurice and Redgie spoilt that long ago.'

'I do not know of anything on Wednesday, but on Thursday she threw Ada down the steps out of the nursery.'

'Oh! that accounts for the dreadful screaming that I heard,' said Claude; 'I forgot to ask the meaning of it.'

'I am sure it was Phyl that was the most dismayed, and cried the loudest,' said Lily.

'That she always does,' said Jane. 'On Friday we had an uproar in the schoolroom about her hemming, and on Saturday she tumbled into a wet ditch, and tore her bonnet in the brambles; on Sunday, she twisted her ancles together at church.'

'Well, there I did chance to observe her,' said Lily, 'there seemed to be a constant struggle between her ancles and herself, they were continually coming lovingly together, but were separated the next moment.'

'And to-day this sum,' said Jane; 'seven scrapes in one week! I really am of opinion, as Rachel says when she is angry, that school is the best place for her.'

'I think so too,' said Claude.

'I do not know,' said Emily, 'she is very troublesome, but--'

'Oh, Claude!' cried Lily, 'you do not mean that you would have that poor dear merry Master Phyl sent to school, she would pine away like a wild bird in a cage; but papa will never think of such a thing.'

'If I thought of her being sent to school,' said Claude, 'it would be to shield her from--the rule of love.'

'Oh! you think we are too indulgent,' said Emily; 'perhaps we are, but you know we cannot torment a poor child all day long.'

'If you call the way you treat her indulgent, I should like to know what you call severe.'

'What do you mean, Claude?' said Emily.

'I call your indulgence something like the tender mercies of the wicked,' said Claude. 'On a fine day, when every one is taking their pleasure in the garden, to shut an unhappy child up in the schoolroom, with a hard sum that you have not taken the trouble to teach her how to do, and late in the day, when no one's head is clear for difficult arithmetic--'

'Hard sum do you call it?' said Jane.

'Indeed I explained it to her,' said Emily.

'And well she understood you,' said Claude.

'She might have learnt if she had attended,' said Emily; 'Ada understood clearly, with the same explanation.'

'And do not you be too proud of the effect of your instructions, Claude,' said Jane, 'for when honest Phyl came into the garden, she did not know farthings from fractions.'

'And pray, Mrs. Senior Wrangler,' said Claude, 'will you tell me where is the difference between a half-penny and half a penny?'

After a good laugh at Jane's expense, Emily went on, 'Now, Claude, I will tell you how it happened; Phyllis is so slow, and dawdles over her lessons so long, that it is quite a labour to hear her; Ada is quick enough, but if you were to hear Phyllis say one column of spelling, you would know what misery is. Then before she has half finished, the clock strikes one, it is time to read, and the lessons are put off till the afternoon. I certainly did not know that she was about her sum all that time, or I would have sent her out as I did on Saturday.'

'And the reading at one is as fixed as fate,' said Claude.

'Oh, no!' said Jane, 'when we were about old "Russell," we did not begin till nearly two, but since we have been reading this book, Lily will never let us rest till we begin; she walks up and down, and hurries and worries and--'

'Yes,' said Emily, in a murmuring voice, 'we should do better if Lily would not make such a point of that one thing; but she never minds what else is cut short, and she never thinks of helping me. It never seems to enter her head how much I have on my hands, and no one does anything to help me.'

'Oh, Emily! you never asked me,' said Lily.

'I knew you would not like it,' said Emily. 'No, it is not my way to complain, people may see how to help me if they choose to do it.'

'Lily, Lily, take care,' said Claude, in a low voice; 'is not the rule you admire, the rule of love of yourself?'

'Oh, Claude!' returned Lily, 'do not say so, you know it was Emily that I called an example of it, not myself, and see how forbearing she has been. Now I see that I am really wanted, I will help. It must be love, not duty, that calls me to the schoolroom, for no one ever said that was my province.'

'Poor duty! you give it a very narrow boundary.'

Lilias, who, to say the truth, had been made more careful of her own conduct, by the wish to establish her principle, really betook herself to the schoolroom for an hour every morning, with a desire to be useful. She thought she did great things in undertaking those tasks of Phyllis's which Emily most disliked. But Lilias was neither patient nor humble enough to be a good teacher, though she could explain difficult rules in a sensible way. She could not, or would not, understand the difference between dulness and inattention; her sharp hasty manner would frighten away all her pupil's powers of comprehension; she sometimes fell into the great error of scolding, when Phyllis was doing her best, and the poor child's tears flowed more frequently than ever.

Emily's gentle manner made her instructions far more agreeable, though she was often neither clear nor correct in her explanations; she was contented if the lessons were droned through in any manner, so long as she could say they were done; she disliked a disturbance, and overlooked or half corrected mistakes rather than cause a cry. Phyllis naturally preferred being taught by her, and Lily was vexed and unwilling to persevere. She went to the schoolroom expecting to be annoyed, created vexation for herself, and taught in anything but a loving spirit. Still, however, the thought of Claude, and the wish


Scenes and Characters - 6/54

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