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• Perbaps it was unreasonable, but Alexis has always been to good schools. He was getting on beautifully at Leeds, and we thought he would have gained a scholarship and gone on to be a clergyman. That was what his mind has always been fixed upon. You cannot think how good and devoted he is,' said Kalliope, with a low trembling voice;
and my father wished it very much too. But when the break up came, Mr. White made our not being too fine, as he said, to work, a sort of condition of doing anything for us. Mr. Moore did tell him what Alexis is, but I believe he thought it all nonsense, and there was nothing to be done. Alexis—dear fellow—took it so nicely, said he was thankful to be able to help mother, and if it was his duty and God's will, it was sure to come right; and he has been plodding away at the marble works ever since, quite patiently and resolutely, but trying to keep up his studies in the evening, only now he has worked through all his old school books.'
* And does not Mr. Flight know I will help him ?'
• Well, Mr. Flight means to be kind, and sometimes seems to think much of him; but it is all for his music, I am afraid. He is always wanting new things to be learnt and practised, and those take up so much time, and though he does lend us books, they are of no use for study, though they only make the dear boy long and long the more to get on.'
Does not Mr. Flight know?'. 'I am not sure. I think he does; but in his ardour for music, he seems to forget all about it. It does seem such a pity that all Alexis's time should be wasted in this drudgery. If I could only be sure of more extra work for my designs I could set him free ; and if Sir Jasper were only at home, I am sure he would put the boy in the way of earning his education. If it were only as a pupil teacher he would be glad; but then he says he ought not to throw all on me.'
"Oh, he must be very good !' exclaimed Gillian. “I am sure papa will help him! I wish I could. Oh!'—with a sudden recollection'I wonder what books he wants most. I am going to Silverfold tomorrow, and there are lots of old school books there of the boys', doing nothing, that I know he might have.'
Oh! Miss Gillian, how good of you. How delighted he would be.' • Do you know what he wants most?'
• A Greek grammar and lexicon most of all,' was the ready answer. • He has been trying to find them at the second-hand shop ever so long; but I am afraid there is no hope of a lexicon. They are so large and expensive.'
* I think there is an old one of Jasper's, if he would not mind its back being off, and lots of blots.'
• He would mind nothing. Oh! Miss Gillian, you can't think how happy he will be.'
• If there is anything else he wants very much, how could he let me know?' mused Gillian. Oh, I see! What time are you at the works?'
• Alex is there at seven ; I don't go till nine.'
I am to be at the station at 8.40. Could you or Maura meet me there and tell me?'
To this Kalliope agreed, for she said she could be sure of getting to her post in time afterwards, and she seemed quite over-joyed. No one could look at her without perceiving that Alexis was the prime thought of her heart, and Gillian delighted her by repeating Aunt Adeline's admiration of his profile, and the general opinion of his singing. “I am so sorry you have bad to give it up,' she added.
It can't be helped, Kalliope said ; "and I really have no time.' • But that's not all,' said Gillian, beginning to blush herself.
Oh! I hope there's no gossip or nonsense about that,' cried Kalliope, her cheeks flaming.
Only• Not Maura ? Naughty little girl, I did not think she knew anything. Not that there is anything to tell,' said Kalliope, much distressed; but it is dreadful that there should be such talk.'
'I thought it was that you meant when you said you wanted advice.'
• No one could advise me, I am afraid,' said the girl. If we could only go away from this place! But that's impossible, and I dare say the fancy will soon go off!
Then you don't care for him?'
My dear Miss Gillian, when I have seen gentlemen !'said Kalliope, in a tone that might have cured her admirer.
They had, however, talked longer than usual, and the notes of the warning bell came up, just when Gillian had many more questions to ask, and she had to run down the garden all in a glow with eagerness and excitement, so that Aunt Ada asked if she had been standing in the sea wind. Her affirmative was true enough, and yet she was almost ashamed of it, as not the whole truth, and there was a consciousness about her all the afternoon, which made her soon regret that conversation was chiefly absorbed by the younger ones' lamentations that they were not to accompany her to Silverfold, and by their commissions. Fergus wanted a formidable amount of precious tools, and inchoate machines, which Mrs. Halfpenny had regarded as 'mess,' and utterly refused to let his aunts be · fashed' with, while Valetta's orders were chiefly for the visiting all the creatures, so as to bring an exact account of the health and spirits of Rigdum Funnidos, etc., also for some favourite story-books which she wished to lend to Kitty Varley and Maura White.
• For do you know, Gill, Maura has never had a new story-book since mamma gave her “Little Alice and her Sister," when she was seven years old! Do bring her “Stories they tell me,” and “On Angel's Wings.” *But is not that Mysie's?'
Oh yes; but I know Mysie would let her have it. Mysie always let Maura have everything of hers, because the boys teased her.'
'I will bring it; but I think Mysie ought to be written to before it is lenti'
“That is right, Gillian,' said Miss Mohun; 'it is always wiser to be above-board when dealing with other people's things, even in trifles.'
Why did this sound like a reproach, and as if it implied suspicion that Gillian was not acting on that principle? She resented the feeling. She knew she might do as she liked with the boys' old books, for which they certainly had no affection, and which indeed her mother had talked of offering to some of those charities which have a miscellaneous appetite, and wonderful power of adaptation of the disused. Besides, though no one could have the least objection to their being bestowed on the Whites, the very fact of this being her third 'secret meeting with Kalliope was beginning to occasion an awkwardness in accounting for her knowledge of their needs. It was obvious to ask why she had not mentioned the first meeting, and this her pride would not endure. She had told her parents by letter. What more could be desired ?
Again when she would not promise to see either Miss Vincent or the Miss Hackets, because she did not want to have a fuss,' Aunt Jane said she thought it a pity, with regard at least to the governess, who might feel herself lurt at the neglect, and needless secrets are always unadvisable.
Gillian could hardly repress a wriggle, but her Aunt Ada laughed, saying, ' Especially with you about, Jenny, for you always find them out.'
At present, however, Miss Mohun certainly had no suspicion. Gillian was very much afraid she would think proper to come to the station in the morning; but she was far too busy, and Gillian started off in the omnibus alone with Mrs. Mount in handsome black silk trim, to be presented to Mr. Macrae, and much enjoying the trip, having been well instructed by Fergus and Valetta in all that she was to see.
Kalliope was descried as the omnibus stopped, and in a few seconds Gillian had shaken hands with her, received the note, and heard the ardent thanks sent from Alexis, and which the tattered books—even if they proved to be right-would scarcely deserve. He would come with his sister to receive the parcel at the station on Gillian's return -at 5.29, an offer which obviated any further difficulties as to conveyance.
Mrs. Mount was intent upon the right moment to run the gauntlet for the tickets; and, had it been otherwise, would have seen nothing remarkable in her charge being accosted by a nice-looking ladylike girl. So on they rushed upon their way, Gillian's spirits rising in a curious sense of liberty and holiday making.
In due time they arrived, and were received by Macrae with the pony carriage, while the trees of Silverfold looked exquisite in their autumn red, gold and brown.
But the dreariness of the deserted house, with no one on the steps
but Quiz, and all the furniture muffled in sheets, struck Gillian more than she had expected, though the schoolroom had been wakened up for her, a bright fire on the hearth, and the cockatoo highly conversational, the cats so affectionate, that it was difficult to take a step without stumbling over one of them.
When the business had all been dispatched, the wedding veil disinterred, and the best Brussels and Honiton safely disposed in a box; when an extremely dilapidated and much-inked collection of school books had been routed out of the back-stairs cupboard (commonly called Erebus) and duly packed; when a selection of lighter literature had been made with a view both to Valetta and Lilian; when Gillian had shown all she could to Mrs. Mount, visited all the animals, gone round the garden, and made two beautiful posies of autumn flowers, one for her little sister and the other for Kalliope, discovered that Fergus's precious machine had been ruthlessly made away with, but secured his tools; she found eating partridge in solitary grandeur rather dreary work, though she had all the bread-sauce to herself, and cream to her apple tart, to say nothing of Macrae, waiting upon her as if she had been a duchess, and conversing in high exultation upon the marriages, only regretting that one gentleman should be a civilian; he had always augured that all his young ladies would be in the Service, and begging that he might be made aware of the wedding-day, so as to have the bells rung.
To express her own feelings to the butler was not possible, and his glee almost infected her. She was quite sorry when, having placed a choice of pears and October peaches before her, he went off to entertain Mrs. Mount; and after packing a substratum of the fruit in the basket for the Whites, she began almost to repent of having insisted on not returning to Rockstone till the four o'clock train, feeling her solitary liberty oppressive, and finally she found herself walking down the drive in search of Miss Vincent.
She had to confess to herself that her aunt was quite right, and that the omission would have been a real unkindness when she saw how worn and tired the governess looked, and the brightness that flashed over the pale face at sight of her. Mrs. Vincent had been much worse, and though slightly better for the present, was evidently in a critical state, very exhausting to her daughter.
Good Miss Hacket at that moment came in to sit with her, and send the daughter out for some air; and it was well that Gillian had had some practice in telling her story not too disconsolately, for it was received with all the delight that the mere notion of a marriage seems to inspire, though Phyllis and Alethea had scarcely been seen at Silverfold before they had gone to India with their father.
Miss Hacket had to be content with the names before she hastened up to the patient; but Miss Vincent walked back through the paddock with Gillian, talking over what was more personally interesting to the governess, the success of her own pupils, scattered as they were, and comparing notes upon Mysie's letters. One of these Miss Vincent had just received by the second post, having been written to announce the great news, and it continued in true Mysie fashion.
Cousin Rotherwood knows all about them, and says they will have a famous set of belongings. He will take me to see some of them if we go to London before mamma comes home. Bernard Underwood's sister is married to Mr. Grimstead, the sculptor who did the statue of Mercy at the Gate that Harry gave a photograph of to mamma, and she paints pictures herself. I want to see them; but I do not know whether we shall stay in London, for they do not think it agrees with Fly. I do more lessons than she does now, and I have read through all Autour de mon Jardin. I have a letter from Dolores too, and she thinks that Aunt Phyllis and all are coming home to make a visit in England for Uncle Harry to see his father, and she wishes very much that they would bring her; but it is not to be talked about for fear they should be hindered, and old Dr. May hear of it and be disappointed, but you won't see any one to tell.'
• There, what have I done ?' exclaimed Miss Vincent, in dismay. *But I had only just got the letter, and had barely glanced through it.
* Besides, who would have thought of Mysie having any secrets ?' said Gillian.
* After all, I suppose no harm is done ; for you can't have any other connection with these Mays.'
Oh yes, there will be ; for I believe a brother of this man of Phyllis's married one of the Miss Mays, and I suppose we shall have to get mixed up with the whole lot. How I do hate strangers ! But I'll take care, Miss Vincent, indeed I will. One is not bound to tell one's aunts everything like one's mother.'
"No,' said Miss Vincent, decidedly ; especially when it is another person's secret betrayed through inadvertence.' Perhaps she thought Gillian looked dangerously gratified, for she added : “However, you know poor Dolores did not find secrecy answer.
"Oh, there are secrets and secrets, and aunts and aunts !' said Gillian. •Dolores had no mother.'
It makes a difference,' said Miss Vincent. 'I should never ask you to conceal anything from Lady Merrifield. Besides, this is not a matter of conduct, only a report.'
Gillian would not pursue the subject. Perhaps she was a little disingenuous with her conscience, for she wanted to carry off the impression that Miss Vincent had pronounced concealment from her aunts to be justifiable; and she knew at the bottom of her heart that her governess would condemn a habit of secret intimacy with any one being carried on without the knowledge of her hostess and guardian for the time being, above all when it was only a matter of waiting