‘And now I see,’ said Gillian, ’that it all came of a nasty sort of antagonism to Aunt Jane. I never guessed how like I was to Dolores, and I thought her so bad. But if I had only trusted Aunt Jane, and had no secrets, she would have helped me in it all, I know now, and never have brought the Whites into trouble.’
‘Yes,’ said Lady Merrifield; ’perhaps I should have warned you a little more, but I went off in such a hurry that I had no time to think. You children are all very loyal to us ourselves; but I suppose you are all rather infected by the modern spirit, that criticises when it ought to submit to authorities.’
’But how can one help seeing what is amiss? As some review says, how respect what does not make itself respectable? You know I don’t mean that for my aunts. I have learnt now what Aunt Jane really is—–how very kind and wise and clever and forgiving—–but I was naughty enough to think her at first—–’
‘Well, what? Don’t be afraid.’
’Then I did think she was fidgety and worrying—–always at one, and wanting to poke her nose into everything.’
’Poor Aunt Jane! Those are the faults of her girlhood, which she has been struggling against all her life!’
’But in your time, mamma, would such difficulties really not have been seen—–I mean, if she had been actually what I thought her?’
’I think the difference was that no faults of the elders were dwelt upon by a loyal temper. To find fault was thought so wrong that the defects were scarcely seen, and were concealed from ourselves as well as others. It would scarcely, I suppose, be possible to go back to that unquestioning state, now the temper of the times is changed; but I belong enough to the older days to believe that the true safety is in submission in the spirit as well as the letter.’
‘I am sure I should have found it so,’ said Gillian. ’And oh! I hope, now that papa is come, the Whites may be spared any more of the troubles I have brought on them.’
‘We will pray that it may be so.’ said her mother.
A telegram had been received in the morning, which kept Valetta and Fergus on the qui vive all day. Valetta was an unspeakable worry to the patient Miss Vincent, and Fergus arranged his fossils and minerals.
Both children flew out to meet their father at the gate, but words failed them as he came into the house, greeted the aunts, and sat down with Fergus on his knee, and Valetta encircled by his arm.
’Yes, Lilias is quite well, very busy and happy—–with her first instalment of children.’
‘I am so thankful that you are come,’ said Adeline. ’Jane ventured to augur that you would, but I thought it too much to hope for.’
‘There was no alternative,’ said Sir Jasper.
‘I infer that you halted at Avoncester.’