Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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against me. When shall you be able to hear from
Lady Merrifield V

' 1 wrote three weeks ago. I suppose I shall hear
about half-way through December, and you know they
could telegraph if they wanted to stop it, so I think
you might be satisfied.'

Still Kalliope could not be persuaded, and finally,
as a sort of compromise, Gillian decided on saying that
she would think about it and give her answer at
Christmas ; to which she gave a reluctant assent, with
one more protest that if there were no objection to the
lessons, she could not see why Miss Mohun should not
know of them.

Peace was barely restored before voices were heard,
and in came Fergus, bringing Alexis with him. They
had met on the beach road in front of the works, and
Fergus, being as usual full of questions about a crane
that was swinging blocks of stone into a vessel close to
the little pier, his aunt had allowed him to stay to see
the work finished, after which Alexis would take him
to join his sister.

So it came about that they all walked home together


very cheerfully, though Gillian was still much vexed
under the surface at Kalliope's old-maidish particularity.
However, the aunts were not as annoyed at the
delay as she expected. Miss Mohun said she would
look out some papers that would be convincing and
persuasive, and that it might be as well not to enrol
Miss White too immediately before the Christmas
festivities, but to wait till the books were begun next
year. Plans began to prevail for the Christmas diver-
sions and entertainments ; but the young Merrifields
expected to have nothing to do with these, as they were
to meet the rest of the family at their eldest uncle's
house at Beechcroft-; all except Harry, who was to be
ordained in the Advent Ember week, and at once begin
work with his cousin David Merrifield in the Black
Country. Their aunts would not go with them, as
Beechcroft breezes, though her native air, were too
cold for Adeline in the winter, and Jane could leave
neither her, nor her various occupations, and the fest-
ivities of all Bockstone.

It is not easy to say which Gillian most looked
forward to : Mysie's presence, or the absence of the
supervision which she imagined herself to suffer from,
because she had set herself to shirk it. She knew she
should feel more free. But behold ! a sudden change,
produced by one morning's letters.

1 It is a beastly shame !'

' Oh, Fergus ! That's not a thing to say,' cried


1 1 don't care ! It is a beastly shame not to go to
Beechcroft, and be poked up here all the holidays.'

I But you can't when Primrose has got the whoop-

' Bother the whooping-cough.'

c And welcome ; but you would find it bother you,
I believe.'

I I shouldn't catch it. I want Wilfred, and to
ride the pony, and see the sluice that Uncle Maurice

' You couldn't if you had the cough.'

' Then I should stay there instead of coming back
to school ! I say it is horrid, and beastly, and
abominable, and '

' Come, come, Fergus,' here put in Gillian, ' that is
very wrong.'

' You don't hear Gill and me fly out in that way/
added Yaletta, ' though we are so sorry about Mysie
and Fly.'

' Oh, you are girls, and don't know what is worth
doing. I will say it is beast '

' Now don't, Fergus ; it is very rude and ungrateful
to the aunts. None of us like having to stay here and
lose our holiday ; but it is very improper to say so in
their own house, and I thought you were so fond of
Aunt Jane.'

'Aunt Jane knows a thing or two, but she isn't

' And Wilfred is always teasing you.'


1 Fergus is quite right,' said Miss Mohun, who had
been taking off her galoshes in the vestibule while this
colloquy was euding in the dining-room ; 'it is much
better to be bullied by a brother than made much of
by an aunt, and you know I am very sorry for you all
under the infliction.'

' Oh, Aunt Jane, we know you are very kind,
and -' began Gillian.

' Never mind, my dear ; I know you are making the
best of us, and I am very much obliged to you for
standing up for us. It is a great disappointment, but

1 was going to give Fergus a note that I think will
console him.'

And out of an envelope which she had just taken
from the letter-box she handed him a note, which he
pulled open and then burst out, ' Cousin David !
Hurrah ! Scrumptious ! ' commencing a war-dance at
the same moment.

' What is it ? Has David asked you ? ' demanded
both his sisters at the same moment.

' Hurrah ! Yes, it is from him. " My dear Fergus, I
hope " — hurrah — " Harry, mm — mm — mm — brothers,

2 Oth mm — mm. Your affectionate cousin, David Merri-
field." '

1 Let me read it to you,' volunteered Gillian.
' Wouldn't you like it ? '

1 How can you be so silly, Ferg ? You can't read it

yourself. You don't know whether he really asks you.'

Fergus made a face, and bolted upstairs to gloat,


and perhaps peruse the letter, while Valetta rushed
after him, whether to be teased or permitted to assist
might be doubtful.

' He really does ask him,' said Aunt Jane. ' Your
cousin David, I mean. He says that he and Harry
can put up all the three boys between them, and that
they will be very useful in the Christmas festivities of

I It is very kind of him,' said Gillian in a depressed
tone. ' Fergus will be very happy.'

I I only hope he will not be bent on finding a coal
mine in the garden when he comes back,' said Aunt
Jane, smiling ; ' but it is rather dreary for you, my dear.
I had been hoping to have Jasper here for at least a
few days. Could he not come and fetch Fergus ? '

Gillian's eyes sparkled at the notion ; but they fell
at once, for Jasper would be detained by examinations
until so late that he would only just be able to reach
Coalham before Christmas Day. Harry was to be
ordained in a fortnight's time to work under his cousin,
Mr. David Merrifield, and his young brothers were to
meet him immediately after.

' I wish I could go too,' sighed Gillian, as a hungry
yearning for Jasper or for Mysie took possession of her.

' I wish you could,' said Miss Mohun sympathetic-
ally; { but I am afraid you must resign yourself to
helping us instead.'

' Oh, Aunt Jane, I did not mean to grumble. It
can't be helped, and you are very kind.'



' Oh, dear ! ' said poor Miss Jane afterwards in
private to her sister, 'how I hate being told I am
very kind! It just means, "You are a not quite
intolerable jailor and despot," with fairly good in-

' I am sure you are kindness itself, dear Jenny,'
responded Miss Adeline. ' I am glad they own it !
But it is very inconvenient and unlucky that that
unjustifiable mother should have sent her child to
the party to carry the whooping-cough to poor little
Primrose, and Mysie, and Phyllis.'

' All at one fell sw T oop ! As for Primrose, the
worthy Halfpenny is quite enough for her, and Lily is
well out of it ; but Fly is a little shrimp, overdone all
round, and I don't like the notion of it for her.'

1 And Eotherwood is so wrapped up in her. Poor
dear fellow, I hope all will go well with her.'

' There is no reason it should not. Delicate children
often have it the most lightly. But I am sorry for
Gillian, though, if she would let us, I think we could
make her happy.'

Gillian meantime, after her first fit of sick longing
for her brother and sister, and sense of disappointment,
was finding some consolation in the reflection that had
Jasper discovered her instructions to Alexis White, he
would certainly have ' made no end of a row about it,'
and have laughed to scorn the bare notion of her
teaching Greek to a counting-house clerk ! But then
Jasper was wont to grumble and chafe at all employ-


ments — especially beneficent ones — that interfered
with devotion to his lordly self, and on the whole,
perhaps he was safer out of the way, as he might have
set on the aunts to put a stop to her proceedings. Of
Mysie's sympathy she was sure, yet she would have
her scruples about the aunts, and she was a sturdy
person, hard to answer — poor Mysie, whooping away
helplessly in the schoolroom at Eotherwood ! Gillian
felt herself heroically good-humoured and resigned.
Moreover, here was the Indian letter so long looked
for, likely by its date to be an answer to the information
as to Alexis White's studies. Behold, it did not appear
to touch on the subject at all ! It was all about
preparations for the double wedding, written in scraps
by different hands, at different times, evidently snatched
from many avocations and much interruption. Of
mamma there was really least of all ; but squeezed
into a corner, scarcely legible, Gillian read, 'As to
lessons, if At. J. approves.' It was evidently an after-
thought; and Gillian could, and chose to, refer it to a
certain inquiry about learning the violin, which had
never been answered — for the confusion that reigned
at Columbo was plainly unfavourable to attending to
minute details in home letters.

The longest portions of the despatch were papa's,
since he was still unable to move about. He wrote : —
' Our two " young men " think it probable you will
have invitations from their kith and kin. If this
comes to pass, you had better accept them, though you


will not like to break up the Christmas party at
Beech croft Court.'

There being no Christmas party at Beechcroft Court,
Gillian, in spite of her distaste to new people, was not
altogether sorry to receive a couple of notes by the
same post, the first enclosed in the second, both for-
warded from thence.

' Vale Leston Priory,
' 9th December.

' My dear Miss Merrifield — We are very anxious
to make acquaintance with my brother Bernard's new
belongings, since we cannot greet our new sister Phyllis
ourselves. We always have a family gathering at
Christmas between this house and the Vicarage, and
we much hope that you and your brother will join it.
Could you not meet my sister, Mrs. Grinstead, in London,
and travel down with her on the 23d ? I am sending
this note to her, as I think she has some such proposal
to make. — Yours very sincerely,


The other letter was thus —

'Brompton, 10th December.

' My dear Gillian — It is more natural to call you
thus, as you are becoming a sort of relation — very
unwillingly, I dare say — for "in this storm I too have
lost a brother." However, we will make the best of it,
and please don't hate us more than you can help.
Since your own home is dispersed for the present, it
seems less outrageous to ask you to spend a Christmas


Da) 7 among new people, and I hope we may make you
feel at home with us, and that you will enjoy our
beautiful church at Vale Leston. We are so many
that we may be less alarming if you take us by driblets,
so perhaps it will be the best way if you will come up
to us on the 18th or 19th, and go down with us on
the 23 d. You will find no one with us but my
nephew — almost son — Gerald Underwood, and my
niece, Anna Vanderkist, who will be delighted to make
friends with your brother Jasper, who might perhaps
meet you here. You must tell me all about Phyllis,
and what she would like best for her Cingalese home. —
Yours affectionately, Geraldine Grinstead.'

Thus then affairs shaped themselves. Gillian was
to take Fergus to London, where Jasper would meet
them at the station, and put the little boy into the
train for Coalham, whither his brother Wilfred had
preceded him by a day or two.

Jasper and Gillian would then repair to Brompton
for two or three days before going down with Mr. and
Mrs. Grinstead to Vale Leston ; and they were to take
care to pay their respects to old Mrs. Merrifield, who
had become too infirm to spend Christmas at Stokesley.

What was to happen later was uncertain, whether
they were to go to Stokesley, or whether Jasper would
join his brothers at Coalham, or come down to Eockstone
with his sister for the rest of the holidays. Valetta
must remain there, and it did not seem greatly to


distress her ; and whereas nothing had been said about
children, she was better satisfied to stay within reach
of Kitty and mamma, and the Christmas-trees that
began to dawn on the horizon, than to be carried into
an unknown region of ' grown-ups.'

While Gillian was not only delighted at the prospect
of meeting Jasper, her own especial brother, but was
heartily glad to make a change, and defer the entire
question of lessons, confessions, and G.F.S. for six
whole weeks. She might get a more definite answer
from her parents, or something might happen to make
explanation to her aunt either unnecessary or much
more easy — and she was safe from discovery. But
examinations had yet to be passed.



Examinations were the great autumn excitement.
Gillian was going up for the higher Cambridge, and
Valetta's form was under preparation for competition
for a prize in languages. The great Mr. White, on
being asked to patronise the High School at its first
start, four years ago, had endowed it with prizes for
each of the four forms for the most proficient in two

As the preparation became more absorbing, brows
were puckered and looks were anxious, and the aunts
were doubtful as to the effect upon the girls' minds or
bodies. It was too late, however, to withdraw them,
and Miss Mohun could only insist on air and exercise,
and permit no work after the seven-o'clock tea.

She was endeavouring to chase cobwebs from the
brains of the students by the humours of Mrs. Nickleby,
when a message was brought that Miss Leverett, the
head-mistress of the High School, wished to speak to
her in the dining-room. This was no unusual occur-
rence, as Miss Mohun was secretary to the managing


committee of the High School. But on the announce-
ment Valetta began to fidget, and presently said that
she was tired and would go to bed. The most ordinary
effect of fatigue upon this young lady was to make her
resemble the hero of the nursery poem —

' I do not want to go to bed,
Sleepy little Harry said.'

Nevertheless, this willingness excited no suspicion, till
Miss Mohun came to the door to summon Valetta.

1 Is there anything wrong V exclaimed sister and
niece together.

' Gone to bed ! Oh ! I'll tell you presently.
Don't you come, Gillian.'

She vanished again, leaving Gillian in no small
alarm and vexation.

' I wonder what it can be,' mused Aunt Ada.

' I shall go and find out !' said Gillian, jumping up,
as she heard a door shut upstairs.

' No, don't,' said Aunt Ada ; ' you had much better
not interfere.'

e It is my business to see after my own sister,'
returned Gillian haughtily.

' I see what you mean, my dear,' said her aunt,
stretching out her hand kindly ; ' but I do not think
you can do any good. If she is in a scrape, you have
nothing to do with the High School management, and
for you to burst in would only annoy Miss Leverett
and confuse the affair. Oh, I know your impulse of
defence, dear Gillian ; but the time has not come yet,


and you can't have any reasonable doubt that Jane will
be just, nor that your mother would wish that you
should be quiet about it.'

' But suppose there is some horrid accusation against
her!' said Gillian hotly.

' But, dear child, if you don't know anything about
it, how can you defend her ? '

1 1 ought to know ! '

' So you will in time ; but the more people there
are present, the more confusion there is, and the greater
difficulty in getting at the rights of anything.'

More by her caressing tone of sympathy than by
actual arguments, Adeline did succeed in keeping Gillian
in the drawing-room, though not in pacifying her, till
doors were heard again, and something so like Yaletta
crying as she went upstairs, that Gillian was neither
to have nor to hold, and made a dash out of the
room, only to find her aunt and the head-mistress ex-
changing last words in the hall, and as she was going
to brush past them, Aunt Jane caught her hand, and
said —

1 Wait a moment, Gillian ; I want to speak to you.'

There was no getting away, but she was very
indignant. She tugged at her aunt's hand more than
perhaps she knew, and there was something of a
flouncing as she flung into the drawing-room and
demanded —

1 "Well, what have you been doing to poor little Val ? '

' We have done nothing,' said Miss Mohun quietly.


1 Miss Leverett wanted to ask her some questions. Sit
down, Gillian. You had better hear what I have to
say before going to her. Well, it appears that there
has been some amount of cribbing in the third form.'

' I'm sure Val never would,' broke out Gillian. And
her aunt answered —

' So was I ; but '

' Oh '

' My dear, do hush,' pleaded Adeline. ' You must
let yourself listen.'

Gillian gave a desperate twist, but let her aunt
smooth her hand.

1 All the class — almost — seem to have done it in
some telegraphic way, hard to understand,' proceeded
Aunt Jane. 'There must have been some stupidity
on the part of the class-mistress, Miss Mellon, or it
could not have gone on ; but there has of late been a
strong suspicion of cribbing in Caesar in Yaletta's class.
They had got rather behindhand, and have been work-
ing up somewhat too hard and fast to get through the
portion for examination. Some of them translated too
well — used terms for the idioms that were neither
literal, nor could have been forged by their small
brains ; so there was an examination, and Georgie Purvis
was detected reading off from the marks on the margin
of her notebook.'

' But what has that to do with Yal V

' Georgie, being had up to Miss Leverett, made the
sort of confession that implicates everybody.'


'Then why believe her?' muttered Gillian. But
her aunt went on —

' She said that four or five of them did it, from the
notes that Valetta Merrifield brought to school.'

' Never !' interjected Gillian.

' She said/ continued Miss Mohun, ' it was first
that they saw her helping Maura White, and they
thought that was not fair, and insisted on her doing
the same for them.'

' It can't be true ! Oh, don't believe it !' cried the

' I grieve to remind you that I showed you in the
drawer in the dining-room chiffonier a translation of
that very book of Caesar that your mother and I made
years ago, when she was crazy upon Vercingetorix.'

'But was that reason enough for laying it upon
poor Val ?'

' She owned it.'

There was a silence, and then Gillian said —

' She must have been frightened, and not known
what she was saying.'

' She was frightened, but she was very straightfor-
ward, and told without any shuffling. She saw the
old copy-books when I was showing you those other
remnants of our old times, and one day it seems she
was in a great puzzle over her lessons, and could get
no help or advice, because none of us had come in. I
suppose you were with Lilian, and she thought she
might just look at the passage. She found Maura in


the same difficulty, and helped her ; and then Georgie
Purvis and Nelly Black found them out, and threatened
to tell unless she showed them her notes; but the
copying whole phrases was only done quite of late in
the general over-hurry.'

' She must have been bullied into it,' cried Gillian.
1 1 shall go and see about her.'

Aunt Ada made a gesture as of deprecation ; but
Aunt Jane let her go without remonstrance, merely
saying as the door closed —

' Poor child ! Esprit defamille V

' Will it not be very bad for Yaletta to be petted
and pitied ?'

' I don't know. At any rate, we cannot separate
them at night, so it is only beginning it a little sooner ;
and whatever I say only exasperates Gillian the more.
Poor little Yal, she had not a formed character enough
to be turned loose into a High School without Mysie
to keep her in order.'

' Or Gillian.'

' I am not so sure of Gillian. There's some-
thing amiss, though I can't make out whether it is
merely that I rub her down the wrong way. I
wonder whether this holiday time will do us good
or harm ! At any rate, I know how Lily felt about

' It must have been that class-mistress's fault.'

( To a great degree ; but Miss Leverett has just
discovered that her cleverness does not compensate for


a general lack of sense and discipline. Poor little Yal
— perhaps it is her turning-point !'

Gillian, rushing up in a boiling state of indignation
against everybody, felt the family shame most acutely
of all ; and though, as a Merrifield, she defended her
sister below stairs, on the other hand she was much
more personally shocked and angered at the disgrace
than were her aunts, and far less willing to perceive
any excuse for the culprit.

There was certainly no petting or pitying in her
tone as she stood over the little iron bed, where the
victim was hiding her head on her pillow.

' Oh, Yaletta, how could you do such a thing ? The
Merrifields have never been so disgraced before!'

1 Oh, don't, Gill ! Aunt Jane and Miss Leverett
were — not so angry — when I said — I was sorry.'

'But what will papa and mamma say V

' Must they — must they hear ? '

' You would not think of deceiving them, I hope.'

' Xot deceiving, only not telling.'

'That comes to much the same.'

1 You can't say anything, Gill, for you are always
down at Kal's office, and nobody knows.'

This gave Gillian a great shock, but she rallied,
and said with dignity, ' Do you think I do not write
to mamma everything I do ? '

It sufficed for the immediate purpose of annihilating
Yaletta, who had just been begging off from letting
mamma hear of her proceedings; but it left Gillian


very uneasy as to how much the child might know or
tell, and this made her proceed less violently, and more
persuasively, ' Whatever I do, I write to mamma ; and
besides, it is different with a little thing like you, and
your school work. Come, tell me how you got into
this scrape.'

' Oh, Gill, it was so hard ! All about those tire-
some Gauls, and there were bits when the nominative
case would go and hide itself, and those nasty tenses
one doesn't know how to look out, and I knew I was
making nonsense, and you were out of the way, and
there was nobody to help ; and I knew mamma's own
book was there — the very part too — because Aunt
Jane had shown it to us, so I did not think there was
any harm in letting her help me out of the muddle.'
' Ah ! that was the beginning.'
' If you had been in, I would not have done it.
You know Aunt Jane said there was no harm in giving
a clue, and this tvas mamma.'
' But that was not all.'

' Well, then, there was Maura first, as much puzzled,
and her brother is so busy he hasn't as much time for
her as he used to have, and it does signify to her, for
perhaps if she does not pass, Mr. White may not let
her go on at the High School, and that would be too
dreadful, for you know you said I was to do all I
could for Maura. So I marked down things for her
and she copied them off, and then Georgie and Nelly
found it out, and, oh ! they were dreadful ! I never


knew it was wrong till they went at me. And they
were horrid to Maura, and said she was a Greek and
I a Maltese, and so we were both false, and cheaty,
and sly, and they should tell Miss Leverett unless I
would help them.'

' Oh ! Yaletta, why didn't you tell me ? '

' I never get to speak to you,' said Val. ' I did
think I would that first time, and ask you what to do ;
but then you came in late, and when I began some-
thing, you said you had your Greek to do, and told
me to hold my tongue.'

' I am very sorry,' said Gillian, feeling convicted of
having neglected her little sister in the stress of her
own work and of the preparation for that of her pupil,
who was treading on her heels ; ' but indeed, Val, if
you had told me it was important, I should have

' Ah ! but when one is half-frightened, and you are
always in a hurry,' sighed the child. ' And, indeed, I
did do my best over my own work before ever I looked ;
only those two are so lazy and stupid, they would have
ever so much more help than Maura or I ever wanted ;

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