‘Well, now for the second stage of our guardianship!’ said Aunt Ada, as the two sisters sat over the fire after Valetta had gone to bed. ‘Fergus comes back to-morrow, and Gillian—–when?’
’She does not seem quite certain, for there is to be a day or two at Brompton with this delightful Geraldine, so that she may see her grandmother—–also Mr. Clement Underwood’s church, and the Merchant of Venice—–an odd mixture of ecclesiastics and dissipations.’
‘I wonder whether she will be set up by it.’
’So do I! They are all remarkably good people; but then good people do sometimes spoil the most of all, for they are too unselfish to snub. And on the other hand, seeing the world sometimes has the wholesome effect of making one feel small—–’
‘My dear Jenny!’
’Oh! I did not mean you, who are never easily effaced; but I was thinking of youthful bumptiousness, fostered by country life and elder sistership.’
’Certainly, though Valetta is really much improved, Gillian has not been as pleasant as I expected, especially during the latter part of the time.’
’Query, was it her fault or mine, or the worry of the examination, or all three?’
’Perhaps you did superintend a little too much at first. More than modern independence was prepared for, though I should not have expected recalcitration in a young Lily; but I think there was more ruffling of temper and more reserve than I can quite understand.’
’It has not been a success. As dear old Lily would have said, “My dream has vanished,” of a friend in the younger generation, and now it remains to do the best I can for her in the few weeks that are left, before we have her dear mother again.’
’At any rate, you have no cause to be troubled about the other two. Valetta is really the better for her experience, and you have always got on well with the boy.’
Fergus was the first of the travellers to appear at Rockstone. Miss Mohun, who went to meet him at the station, beheld a small figure lustily pulling at a great canvas bag, which came bumping down the step, assisted by a shove from the other passengers, and threatening for a moment to drag him down between platform and carriages.
’Fergus, Fergus, what have you got there? Give it to me. How heavy!’
‘It’s a few of my mineralogical specimens,’ replied Fergus. ’Harry wouldn’t let me put any more into my portmanteau—–but the peacock and the dendrum are there.’
Already, without special regard to peacock or dendrum, whatever that article might be, Miss Mohun was claiming the little old military portmanteau, with a great M and 110th painted on it, that held Fergus’s garments.
He would scarcely endure to deposit the precious bag in the omnibus, and as he walked home his talk was all of tertiary formations, and coal measures, and limestones, as he extracted a hammer from his pocket, and looked perilously disposed to use it on the vein of crystals in a great pink stone in a garden wall. His aunt was obliged to begin by insisting that the walls should be safe from geological investigations.