Tou Tou giggles, and asserts that she will “kick them away, if he does.” Bobby mildly but firmly remonstrates, and points out to her the impropriety and ingratitude of such a line of conduct. But his arguments, though acute and well put, are not convincing, and the subject is continued, with ever-increasing warmth, all the way home.
It is Christmas-day—a clean white Christmas, pure and crisp. Wherever one looks, one’s eyes water cruelly. For my part, I am very thankful that it did not occur to God to make the world always white. I hate snow’s blinding livery. Each tiniest twig on the dry harsh trees is overladen with snow. It is a wonder that they do not break under it; nor is there any wind to shake down and disperse it. Tempest is white; the church is white: the whole world colorless and blinding. I have been in the habit of looking upon Vick as a white dog; to-day she appears disastrously dark—dirty brunette. Soap-and-water having entirely failed to restore her complexion. Bobby kindly proposes to pipeclay her.
We have all been to church, and admired our own decorations. And through all the prayer and the praise, and the glad Christmas singing, my soul has greatly hungered for Roger. Yes, even though all the boys are round me—Bobby on this side, the Brat on that—Algy directly in front; all behaving nicely, too; for are not they right under father’s eyes? Yes, and, for the matter of that, under the rector’s too, as he towers straight above us, under his ivy-bush—the ivy-bush into which Bobby was so anxious yesterday to insert some misletoe.
Church is over now, and the short afternoon has also slipped by. We are at dinner; we are dining early to-night—at half-past six o’clock, and we are to have a dance for the servants afterward. Any hospitality to my equals I have steadily and stoutly declined, but it seems a shame to visit my own loneliness on the heads of the servants, to whom it is nothing. They have always had a Christmas-dance in Roger’s reign, and so a dance they are to have now. We have religiously eaten our beef and plum-pudding, and have each made a separate little blue fire of burnt brandy in our spoon.
It is dessert now, and father has proposed Roger’s health. I did not expect it, and I never was so nearly betrayed into feeling fond of father in my life. They all drink it, each wishing him something good. As for me, I have been a fool always, and I am a fool now. I can wish him nothing, my voice is choked and my eyes drowned in inappropriate tears; only, from the depths of my heart, I ask God to give him every thing that He has of choicest and best. For a moment or two, the wax-lights, the purple grapes, the gleaming glass and shining silver, the kindly, genial faces swim blurred before my vision. Then I hastily wipe away my tears, and smile back at them all. As I raise my glistening eyes, I meet those of Mr. Musgrave fixed upon me—(he is the only stranger present). His look is not one that wishes to be returned; on the contrary, it is embarrassed at being met. It is a glance that puzzles me, full of inquiring curiosity, mixed with a sort of mirth. In a second—I could not tell you why—I look hastily away.