Lily laughed, and looked down, feeling quite unable to offer to give up Peveril before she had finished it, but her father relieved her, by saying in his kind voice, ’No, no, Lily, take my advice, read those books, for most of them are very good reading, and very pretty reading, and very useful reading, and you can hardly be called a well-educated person if you do not know them; but read them only after the duties of the day are done—make them your pleasure, but do not make yourself their slave.’
‘Lily,’ said Claude the next morning, as he saw her prepare her drawing-desk, ‘why are you not reading Peveril?’
‘You know what papa said yesterday,’ was the answer.
‘Oh! but I thought your feelings were with poor Julian in the Tower,’ said Claude.
’My feelings prompt me to sacrifice my pleasure in reading about him to please papa, after he spoke so kindly.’
’If that is always the effect of your principle, I shall think better of it,’ said Claude.
Lily, whether from her new principle, or her old habits of obedience, never ventured to touch one of her tempters till after five o’clock, but, as she was a very rapid reader, she generally contrived to devour more than a sufficient quantity every evening, so that she did not enjoy them as much as she would, had she been less voracious in her appetite, and they made her complain grievously of the dulness of the latter part of Russell’s Modern Europe, which was being read in the schoolroom, and yawn nearly as much as Phyllis over the ‘Pragmatic Sanction.’ However, when that book was concluded, and they began Palgrave’s Anglo Saxons, Lily was seized within a sudden historical fever. She could hardly wait till one o’clock, before she settled herself at the schoolroom table with her work, and summoned every one, however occupied, to listen to the reading.
Is a vexation.’
It was a bright and beautiful afternoon in March, the song of the blackbird and thrush, and the loud chirp of the titmouse, came merrily through the schoolroom window, mixed with the sounds of happy voices in the garden; the western sun shone brightly in, and tinged the white wainscoted wall with yellow light; the cat sat in the window-seat, winking at the sun, and sleepily whisking her tail for the amusement of her kitten, which was darting to and fro, and patting her on the head, in the hope of rousing her to some more active sport.
But in the midst of all these joyous sights and sounds, was heard a dolorous voice repeating, ’three and four are—three and four are—oh dear! they are—seven, no, but I do not think it is a four after all, is it not a one? Oh dear!’ And on the floor lay Phyllis, her back to the window, kicking her feet slowly up and down, and yawning and groaning over her slate.
Presently the door opened, and Claude looked in, and very nearly departed again instantly, for Phyllis at that moment made a horrible squeaking with her slate-pencil, the sound above all others that he disliked. He, however, stopped, and asked where Emily was.