Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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and at last I was so worried and hurried with my
French and all the rest, that I did scramble a whole
lot down, and that was the way it was found out.
And I am glad now it is over, whatever happens.'

' Yes, that is right,' said Gillian ; ' and I am glad
you told no stories ; but I wonder Emma Norton did
not see what was going on.'


' Oh, she is frightfully busy about her own.'

' And Kitty Yarley ? '

1 Kitty is only going up for French and German.
Miss Leverett is so angry. What do you think she
will do to me, Gill ? Expel me ? '

' I don't know — I can't guess. I don't know High
School ways.'

' It would be so dreadful for papa and mamma and
the boys to know,' sobbed Valetta. ' And Mysie ! oh,
if Mysie was but here ! '

' Mysie would have been a better sister to her,' said
Gillian's conscience, and her voice said, 'You would
never have done it if Mysie had been here.'

' And Mysie would be nice,' said the poor child, who
longed after her companion sister as much for comfort
as for conscience. ' Is Aunt Jane very very angry V
she went on ; ' do you think I shall be punished ? '

' I can't tell. If it were I, I should think you
were punished enough by having disgraced the name
of Merrifield by such a dishonourable action.'

' I — I didn't know it was dishonourable.'

' Well,' said Gillian, perhaps a little tired of the
scene, or mayhap dreading another push into her own
quarters, ' I have been saying what I could for you,
and I should think they would feel that no one but our
father and mother had a real right to punish you, but
I can't tell what the School may do. Now, hush, it is
of no use to talk any more. Good-night ; I hope I
shall find you asleep when I come to bed.'


Valetta would have detained her, but off she went,
with a consciousness that she had been poor comfort
to her little sister, and had not helped her to the right
kind of repentance. But then that highest ground —
the strict rule of perfect conscientious uprightness —
was just what she shrank from bringing home to her-
self, in spite of those privileges of seniority by which
she had impressed poor Valetta.

The worst thing further that was said that night,
when she had reported as much of Valetta's confidence
as she thought might soften displeasure, was Aunt
Ada's observation : ' Maura ! That's the White child,
is it not ? No doubt it was the Greek blood.'

' The English girls were much worse,' hastily said
Gillian, with a flush of alarm, as she thought of her
own friends being suspected.

' Yes ; but it began with the little Greek,' said Aunt
Ada. ' What a pity, for she is such an engaging child !
I would take the child away from the High School,
except that it would have the appearance of her being-

1 We must consider of that/ said Aunt Jane. ' There
will hardly be time to hear from Lilias before the next
term begins. Indeed, it will not be so very long to
wait before the happy return, I hope.'

' Only two months,' said Gillian ; ' but it would be
happier but for this.'

( No,' said Aunt Jane. ' If we made poor little Val
write her confession, and I do the same for not having

vol. 1


looked after her better, it will be off our minds, and
need not cloud the meeting.'

' The disgrace !' sighed Gillian; ' the public disgrace !'

' My dear, I don't want to make you think lightly
of such a thing. It was very wrong in a child brought
up as you have all been, with a sense of honour and
uprightness ; but where there has been no such
training, the attempt to copy is common enough,
for it is not to be looked on as an extraordinary and
indelible disgrace. Do you remember Primrose saying
she had broken mamma's heart when she had knocked
down a china vase ? You need not be in that state of
mind over what was a childish fault, made worse by
those bullying girls. It is of no use to exaggerate.
The sin is the thing — not the outward shame.'

' And Yaletta told at once when asked,' added Aunt
Ada. ' That makes a great difference.'

' In fact, she was relieved to have it out,' said Miss
Mohun. ' It is not at all as if she were in the habit
of doing things underhand.'

Everything struck on Gillian like a covert reproach.
It was pain and shame to her that a Merrifield should
have lowered herself to the common herd so as to need
these excuses of her aunts, and then in the midst of
that indignation came that throb of self- conviction
which she was always confuting with the recollection
of her letter to her mother. She was glad to bid
good-night and rest her head.

The aunts ended by agreeing that it was needful to


withdraw Valetta from the competition. It would
seem like punishment to her, but it would remove her
from the strain that certainly was not good for her.
Indeed, they had serious thoughts of taking her from
the school altogether, but the holidays would not long-
be ended before her parents' return.

1 1 am sorry we ever let her try for the prize,' said

' Yes,' said Aunt Jane, ' I suppose it was weakness ;
but having opposed the acceptance of the system of
prizes by competition at first, I thought it would look
sullen if I refused to let Valetta try. Stimulus is all
very well, but competition leads to emulation, wrath,
strife, and a good deal besides.'

' Valetta wished it too, and she knew so much
Latin to begin with that I thought she would easily
get it, and certainly she ought not to get into diffi-

' After the silken rein and easy amble of Silverfold,
the spur and the race have come severely.'

'It is, I suppose, the same with Gillian, though
there it is not competition. Do you expect her to
succeed ? '

'No. She has plenty of intelligence, and a 'certain
sort of diligence, but does not work to a point. She
wants a real hand over her ! She will fail, and it will
be very good for her.'

'I should say the work was overmuch for her, and
had led her to neglect Valetta.'


1 Work becomes overmuch when people don't know

how to set about it, and resent being told No,

not in words, but by looks and shoulders. Besides, I
am not sure that it is her proper work that oppresses
her. I think she has some other undertaking in hand,
probably for Christmas, or for her mother's return ; but
as secrecy is the very soul of such things, I shut my

' Somehow, Jane, I think you have become so much
afraid of giving way to curiosity that you sometimes
shut your eyes rather too much.'

'Well, perhaps in one's old age one suffers from
the reaction of one's bad qualities. I will think about
it, Ada. I certainly never before realised how very
different school supervision of young folks is from
looking after them all round. Moreover, Gillian has
been much more attentive to poor Lily Giles of late, in
spite of her avocations.'

Valetta was not at first heartbroken on hearing
that she was not to go in for the language examination.
It was such a relief from the oppression of the task,
and she had so long given up hopes of having the prize
to show to her mother, that she was scarcely grieved,
though Aunt Jane was very grave while walking down
to school with her in the morning to see Miss Leverett,
and explain the withdrawal.

That lady came to her private room as soon as she
had opened the school. From one point of view, she
said she agreed with Miss Mohun that it would be


better that her niece should not go up for the

1 But/ she said, ' it may be considered as a stigma
upon her, since none of the others are to give up.'

' Indeed ! I had almost thought it a matter of

1 On the contrary, two of the mothers seem to think
nothing at all of the matter. Mrs. Black '

1 The Surveyor's wife, isn't she ? '

'Yes; she writes a note saying that all children
copy, if they can, and she wonders that I should be so
severe upon such a frequent occurrence, which reflects
more discredit on the governesses than the scholars.'

' Polite that ! And Mrs. Purvis ? At least, she is
a lady!'

' She is more polite, but evidently has no desire to
be troubled. She hopes that if her daughter has
committed a breach of school discipline, I will act as I
think best.'

1 No feeling of the real evil in either ! How about
Maura White ?'

' That is very different. It is her sister who writes,
and so nicely that I must show it to you.'

1 My dear Madam — I am exceedingly grieved that
Maura should have acted in a dishonourable manner,
though she was not fully aware how wrongly she was
behaving. We have been talking to her, and we think
she is so truly sorry as not to be likely to fall into the


same temptation again. As far as we can make out,
she has generally taken pains with her tasks, and only
obtained assistance in unusually difficult passages, so
that we think that she is really not ill-prepared. If it
is thought right that all the pupils concerned should
abstain from the competition, we would of course
readily acquiesce in the justice of the sentence ; but to
miss it this year might make so serious a difference to
her prospects, that I hope it will not be thought a
necessary act of discipline, though we know that we
have no right to plead for any exemption for her.
With many thanks for the consideration you have
shown for her, I remain, faithfully yours,

( K. "White.'

1 A very different tone indeed, and it quite agrees
with Valetta's account,' said Miss Mohun.

'Yes, the other two girls were by far the most

' And morally, perhaps, Maura the least ; but I
retain my view that, irrespective of the others, Valetta's
parents had rather she missed this examination, con-
sidering all things.'

Valetta came home much more grieved when she
had found she was the only one left out, and declared
it was unjust.

1 No,' said Gillian, ' for you began it all. None of
the others would have got into the scrape but for you.'

' It was all your fault for not minding me ! '


' As if I made you do sly things.'

' You made me. You were so cross if I only asked
a question/ and Yal prepared to cry.

' I thought people had to do their own work and
not other folks' ! Don't be so foolish.'

f Oh dear ! oh dear ! how unkind you are ! I wish
— I wish Mysie was here ; every one is grown cross !
Oh, if mamma would but come home !'

' Now, Yal, don't be such a baby ! Stop that !'

And Yaletta went into one of her old agonies of
crying and sobbing, which brought Aunt Jane in to
see what was the matter. She instantly stopped the
scolding with which Gillian was trying to check the
outburst, and which only added to its violence.

1 It is the only thing to stop those fits,' said Gillian
' She can if she will ! It is all temper.'

'Leave her to me !' commanded Aunt Jane. 'Go!'

Gillian went away, muttering that it was not the
way mamma or Nurse Halfpenny treated Yal, and
quite amazed that Aunt Jane, of all people, should
have the naughty child on her lap and in her arms,
soothing her tenderly.

The cries died away, and the long heaving sobs
began to subside, and at last a broken voice said,
on Aunt Jane's shoulder, ' It's — a — little bit — like

For Aunt Jane's voice had a ring in it like mamma's,
and this little bit of tenderness was inexpressibly


' My poor dear child/ she said, ' mamma will soon
come home, and then you will be all right.'

1 1 shouldn't have done it if mamma had been
there !'

' No ; and now you are sorry.'

* Will mamma be very angry ? '

c She will be grieved that you could not hold out
when you were tempted ; but I am sure she will
forgive you if you write it all to her. And, Val, you
know you can have God's forgiveness at once if you
tell Him.'

' Yes/ said Valetta gravely ; then, ' I did not before,
because I thought every one made so much of it, and
were so cross. And Georgie and Nellie don't care at all.'

' Nor Maura ? '

' Oh, Maura does, because of Kalliope.'

' How do you mean V

Valetta sat up on her aunt's lap, and told.

' Maura told me ! She said Kally and Alec both
were at her, but her mamma was vexed with them, and
said she would not have her scolded at home as well
as at school about nothing ; and she told Theodore to
go and buy her a tart to make up to her, but Theodore
wouldn't, for he said he was ashamed of her. So she
sent the maid. But when Maura had gone to bed and
to sleep, she woke up, and there was Kally crying over
her prayers, and whispering half aloud, " Is she going
too ? My poor child ! Oh, save her ! Give her the
Spirit of truth


' Poor Kalliope ! She is a good sister.'

' Yes ; Maura says Kally is awfully afraid of their
telling stories because of Eichard — the eldest, you
know. He does it dreadfully. I remember nurse
used to tell us not to fib like Dick White. Maura said
he used to tell his father stories about being late and
getting money, and their mother never let him be
punished. He was her pet. And Maura remembers
being carried in to see poor Captain White just before
he died, when she was getting better, but could not
stand, and he said, "Truth before all, children. Be
true to God and man." Captain White did care so
much, but Mrs. White doesn't. Isn't that very odd,
for she isn't a Eoman Catholic?' ended Valetta,
obviously believing that falsehood was inherent in
Eomanists, and pouring out 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.'

1 Epaminondas did,' said Valetta, who had picked up
a good deal from the home atmosphere, ' but Ulysses

'~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 Yaletta.

' 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, think-
ing 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 her-
self. She had a universal distaste to her surroundings,
and something very like dread of the Whites, and she
rejoiced in the prospect of quitting Eockstone for the

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 per-
plexed 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 ear-
nestness that crave her a sense of uneasiness.


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.'



' 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
Eockquay, 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 pheas-
ants 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 Eoman 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 whoop-

' 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 disgust-
ing one, about the Wars of the Eoses. 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 Christ-
mas ship, and a magic -lantern, and Eollo 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.'


' Kotherwood, Christmas Day.
1 My own dearest Mamma — A very happy Christ-
mas 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
mean that she advised me, for no one touched them
but myself. You will like your text, I hope ; I chose
it because it is so nice to think we are all one, though


we are in so many different places. I did one with
the same for poor Dolores in New Zealand. Uncle
William was here yesterday, and he said dear little
Primrose is almost quite well. Fly is much better to-
day ; her eyes look quite bright, and she is to sit up a
little while in the afternoon, but I may not talk to her
for fear of making her cough ; but she slept all night
without one whoop, and will soon be well now. Cousin
Eotherwood was so glad that he was quite funny this
morning, and he gave me the loveliest writing-case you
ever saw, with a good lock and gold key, and gold tops
to everything, and my three M's engraved on them all.
I have so many presents and cards that I will write
out a list when I have finished my letter. I shall
have plenty of time, for everybody is gone to church
except Cousin Florence, who went early.

1 1 am to dine at the late dinner, which will be
early, because of the church singers, and Cousin
Eotherwood says he and I will do snapdragon, if I
will promise not to whoop.

'4.30. — I had to stop again because of the doctor.
He says he does not want to have any more to do with
me, and that I may go out the first fine day, and that
Fly is much better. And only think ! He says
Rockquay is the very place for Fly, and as soon as

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeBeechcroft at Rockstone (Volume 1) → online text (page 11 of 14)