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All the girls who had been under Miss Lydiard, the dignified elderly lady who superintended the National Sunday-school, jumped up, and did as they were told at once, and the others followed in surprise. Miss Walters found her place, reflecting perhaps on former strictures on Miss Lydiard's system, and on her intentions of gaining her children's affections first, and then of finding it so easy to keep them in order afterwards. The boys were in their own school, but a movable partition had been pushed back, between the two rooms, so that the whole party were at tea together. Order was fairly maintained, and Mr. Anson waited on his own party, Miss Lydiard was safely away at the top of the room, and Miss Walters was too thankful not to be the object of public attention, to notice the little roughness and vulgarities in which some of her charge were indulging, or to hear their remarks.
• I paid and went to the Congregational,' said one; their cake was better than this.'
• Yes; and St. Augustine's had cups and saucers. We're too big for
* But there is table-cloths. Kate Spratt, who goes to the Wesleyans, said we shouldn't have none.' Did you
have cups and saucers at Roseberry,' asked a little Mason of Alice.
No; we had a summer treat, and sat on the grass.' •Like a set of babies! Tables is more genteel.'
The genteel and grown-up young ladies proceeded, as the attraction of cakes and buns diminished, to drink out of each other's mugs
and try to spill each other's tea, making a great noise over the process; while the St. Michael's boys shouted out loudly for more cake.
At last grace was sung, and the Rector, Mr. Randall, stood up to make a speech.
He was a tall vigorous man, with a fine face and dark eyes, and though without the winning kindly smile, which had reflected itself on every face when Dr. Goodall stood up to speak on a festive occasion, he looked likely to command a hearing.
Finding that his first words were interrupted by a hum of voices, he paused, looked in a leisurely way round the room, and then said
*I am waiting till the St. Michael's tables, both girls and boys, are ready to pay attention.'
There was instant silence; but Miss Walters felt as if she never could forgive the Rector for calling public attention to her difficulties.
The Rector's speech was short and to the point, with more about good behaviour and less about pleasure than is perhaps agreeable at a festive season, and by the time it was over, the tree was ready, and every one was to repair to the infant school to receive their presents.
Alas, on the way there, the St. Michael's girls and boys contrived to get themselves mixed up together, big and little, in an unruly mass. Alice, never good at fighting her way, and dragging little Sue by the
hand, found herself, with the two or three girls whom she most disliked, pushed up among some big rough boys. The crowd was very great, much too great for the size of the room, and only the strictest discipline could have maintained order among the number of excited children, all ready to snatch at the presents, and to grumble if they did not like their own share. Even the experienced teachers were sore put to it, and Miss Walters had given up in despair, and stood by the tree, letting matters take their chance.
The boy next Alice received, by mistake probably, for he was at least fourteen, a toy whip, and called out in a loud disgusted voice, • Call this a present, 'taint worth carrying home. While a loud noisy shout rose around him.
· Who are those children on the left ?' asked the Rector.
•Where are their teachers ? Mr. Anson, will you be kind enough to call your scholars to order? They must dispense with their presents till they can learn to receive them properly. And as for these girls, who have pushed themselves into this disorderly corner. Their names, if
you please, Miss Walters?' • Alice Woodford, Mary Jackson, Sylvia Gore,' said Miss Walters. “Girls, I am ashamed of you, come out directly, and move over to the girls' side.'
* Humph! Confirmation candidates,' said the Rector. • Their names had better be reconsidered. I have been observing them for some time.'
• Miss Walters never called us away,' said Sylvia Gore, a tall saucylooking girl, with a thick red fringe over her eyes.
Miss Walters pushed · Alice rather roughly towards the girls' side of the room.
'I didn't expect it of you, Alice,' she said, all her own hurt feeling showing in her voice.
The Rector was considered stern, the St. Michael's managers felt in disgrace.
"A nice mess they seem to have made of it,' Miss Walters heard one of the teachers of the old school saying, and she could bave cried with vexation.
I don't care,' said Sylvia, 'I only agreed to be confirmed because the district lady asked mother so often; she said it worrited her to say no.'
I'll and attend St. Mark's school for a bit, and Mr. Clinton, he'll prepare me and glad,' said Mary Jackson.
But Alice Woodford felt as if she could never lift up her head again, shame, anger, and miserable longing for the thorough comprehension of her old friends completely overpowered her, and she stood in the corner and cried through all the shouting and cheering till she was pushed out into the street among the crowd of children, and, unheeding brothers and sisters, made her way homewards.
PUZZLED AND PUT TO THE TEST.
On that same evening Lily Woodford was sitting in the parlour making up the blue bows which she was to wear as a soprano singer in the approaching concert. Young Mr. Bailey, who was to be a steward on the occasion, had brought in a bundle of tickets, and had persuaded Mrs. Woodford into the extravagance of a family ticket for 28. 6d. to admit herself, Woodford, and two children.
• You wouldn't be able to see me, aunt, if you sat in the threepenny places; and no doubt the boys would be rough.'
· Bob can take his little brothers there if he likes,' said Mrs. Woodford. •But dear me, the children go out oftener here than ever our young ladies did at Roseberry. There's the school-treat tonight, and Etty's Band of Hope tea on Wednesday, and Bob's next Monday. And this Concert, and a Penny Reading down at St. Michael's, and if I liked to let them go with other schools, and could pay the sixpences for them, they might be gadding every night.'
Well, aunt, what harın would it do them?' said Lily. *Pleasure's good for us all when it don't interfere with work. Oh, how I do like a bit of a dance; but there! there's always something against it.'
Why, you girls had a dance at the last school-treat we ever went to at home,' said Woodford.
Yes, us girls,' said Lily, with a slight emphasis. 'I don't think there'll be many dances come in your way here, Lily,' said her uncle. •I don't hear of none that's fitting for my niece.'
More's the pity,' said Lily, with a pout.
• More's the pity, indeed,' said Mr. Bailey. Why don't the clergy, and those who really wish to elevate and civilise, throw open
their big schoolrooms and be real rivals to the public-houses ?'
• Because schoolrooms weren't built to dance in,' said Woodford decidedly.
But it's been done,' said Bailey-done in London; and it isn't at all unusual at country harvest homes and the like.'
"No,' said Mrs. Woodford ; but it's different when the gentry know who will be there. And I've heard say that it's made impossible for places near a railway by strangers coming and buying tickets.'
"Oh, they should have a committee,' said Bailey, “and lady patronesses, such as yourself, Mrs. Woodford, to sell the tickets to proper persons only, and stewards that understood their business, and had some education; and then, if drink was excluded, and the refreshments conducted on temperance principles, and it didn't last too long, we'd soon accustom people to the idea. There's plenty of such entertainments very well managed and kept respectable, but
they're a bit too expensive for quiet working people. And besides, we should conduct it with a view to results and not to gain.'
Oh, aunt,' said Lily, giggling, "fancy you a “ lady patroness."
*I don't fancy it, my dear,' said Mrs. Woodford. I couldn't think of such a responsibility, leading girls to dress and gaiety, and amusements out of their station.'
* But why should anything that's cheap be out of anybody's station ?' argued Mr. Bailey. We might hire a room, but it would be better if the clergyman would lend his school, for we should wish for the highest sanction. A volunteer band-music no one objects to --decorations executed by any one who could be found with artistic talent, the leading ladies to set an example of a simple style of dress, no alcoholic liquors, at any rate for the present; the question of tobacco to be decided by a majority of votes, tickets only sold by the stewards and patronesses—we might even let the parson have a veto if he made a great point of it-shut up at eleven-thirty-half an hour after the publics—and there you have fortnightly entertainments of the most innocent and elevating character, and no expense at all to speak of.'
• Oh!'cried Lily, clasping her bands, ‘that would be downright delightful.'
• Where'll you catch your parson ?' said Mr. Woodford.
Well, I'm not at liberty to say much,' said Bailey; but I'm not one of those that despair of finding enlightenment in the Church. And a day may come !!
• When it do,' said Woodford, “I'll open the ball with Lily.'
* That's a promise, Mr. Woodford. But here come the little ones. Amusements aren't considered out of their station; and depend upon it, they'll be all the better for their treat.'
The Woodford family, as they came into the parlour, did not at that moment present a convincing argument of the elevating and brightening influence of social amusements.
Esther's best frock bore traces down the front of streams of tea, Susan was crying with fatigue, and Alfred crept up to Lily and blew a loud and horrible tin trumpet into her ear. Alice fled into the kitchen at sight of Mr. Bailey, while Robert remarked sententiously, that he never wished to go to another treat in Dulworth.
• What's the matter? Haven't you enjoyed yourselves? Haven't you behaved well ? ' said his father.
• They don't know how to behave well enough to be fit for treats, and that's a fact,' said Robert.
• We lost Alice, and have only just caught up with her,' said Etty, "and she's crying ever so.'
Here Mr. Bailey thought it best to take his departure, and as soon as the door closed behind him, Alice rushed in and poured out her troubles.
Nobody spoke for me-nobody knew. I never spoke to those horrid girls—and oh! to be evened to them, and thought not fit for Confirmation. Miss Walters spites me, I know she does.'
When the confused story was made plain, the parents were naturally very indignant, Woodford saying that he had never thought to see his girl treated so, and Mrs. Woodford more wisely insisting that there had been a mistake, and Mr. Adson would explain it.
'I want some supper,' said Sue, in a whining voice; “the girl next me snatched
cake.' *Well, I never knew you come back hungry before,' said Mrs. Woodford.
Oh,' sobbed Alice, 'twas all different. They didn't give us this treat because they loved us, and liked us to be happy; but because they were obliged on account of the other schools, I heard Mr. Anson say so to Miss Walters. Nobody knew us one from the other, or cared what we got. Why, I had a doll ! Not that I mind, but but-Miss Alice would have known I was too old for dolls. She picked out a story book because I liked to read about girls living in London ; she knew.'
* Well, Ally, go to bed and to sleep, and we'll talk it over to-morrow, and maybe Mr. Anson will call,' said her mother.
• Leave out your frock, Etty, for me to sponge; that's a disgrace to a big girl like you, anyhow.'
Meanwhile, after the treat was over, a hurried discussion had been held about the culprits between Mr. Anson, Miss Walters, and the Rector. The latter had spoken strongly on the insubordination of the St. Michael's children, and Mr. Anson had excused them on the ground of a strange place, and numbers of others.
· And as for the Confirmation, said Mr. Randall, 'we have had a great deal too much of hastily presented candidates in this place. Those three giddy girls had better be kept back another year. I will not have children swept in to swell the numbers without due regard to fitness.'
'I don't know much of the other two, but Alice Woodford is generally a quiet girl, and belongs to a most respectable family,' said Mr. Anson.
* Well, Alice Woodford seems quiet,' said Miss Walters; but she gives a great deal of trouble.'
. Better be on the safe side and keep them back,' said Mr. Randall ; it will be a wholesome warning.'
The Rector, with eight or nine thousand souls to look after, could not possibly judge himself of the characters of his Sunday-school girls, and he had a great dislike to all success that would not stand
Mr. Anson was young and zealous, very anxious to present a long Confirmation list, and afraid of discouraging anybody. He was conscious that he had swept in as many as he could, and even he could not be expected to know much about the school girls; while