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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,014 pages of information about The Last Chronicle of Barset.

CHAPTER XVI

DOWN AT ALLINGTON

It was Christmas-time down at Allington, and at three o’clock on Christmas Eve, just as the darkness of the early winter evening was coming on, Lily Dale and Grace Crawley were seated together, one above the other, on the steps leading up to the pulpit at Allington Church.  They had been working all day at the decorations of the church, and they were now looking round them at the result of their handiwork.  To an eye unused to the gloom the place would have been nearly dark; but they could see every corner turned by the ivy sprigs, and every line on which the holly-leaves were shining.  And the greeneries of the winter had not been stuck up in the old-fashioned, idle way, a bough just fastened up here and a twig inserted there; but everything had been done with some meaning, with some thought towards the original architecture of the building.  The Gothic lines had been followed, and all the lower arches which it had been possible to reach with an ordinary ladder had been turned as truly with the laurel cuttings as they had been turned originally with the stone.

‘I wouldn’t tie another twig,’ said the elder girl, ’for all the Christmas puddings that was ever boiled.’

‘It’s lucky then that there isn’t another twig to tie.’

’I don’t know about that.  I see a score of places where the work has been scamped.  This is the sixth time I have done the church, and I don’t think I’ll ever do it again.  When we first began it, Bell and I, you know—­before Bell was married—­Mrs Boyce, and the Boycian establishment generally, used to come and help.  Or rather we used to help her.  Now she hardly ever looks after it at all.’

‘She is older, I suppose.’

’She’s a little older, and a deal idler.  How idle people do get!  Look at him.  Since he has had a curate he hardly ever stirs round the parish.  And he is getting so fat that—­H—­sh!  Here she is herself—­come to give her judgment upon us.’  Then a stout lady, the wife of the vicar, walked slowly up the aisle.  ‘Well, girls,’ she said, ’you have worked hard, and I am sure Mr Boyce will be very much obliged to you.’

‘Mr Boyce, indeed!’ said Lily Dale.  ’We shall expect the whole parish to rise from their seats and thank us.  Why didn’t Jane and Betsy come and help us?’

’They were so tired when they came in from the coal club.  Besides, they don’t care for this kind of thing—­not as you do.’

‘Jane is utilitarian to the backbone, I know,’ said Lily, ’and Betsy doesn’t like getting up ladders.’

‘As for ladders,’ said Mrs Boyce, defending her daughter, ’I am not quite sure that Betsy isn’t right.  You don’t mean to say that you did all those capitals yourself?’

’Every twig, with Hopkins to hold the ladder and cut the sticks; and as Hopkins is just a hundred and one years old, we could have done it pretty nearly as well alone.’

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