‘But she would have nothing to do with you or the G.F.S.’
’If I had known that her father had been an officer, I might have approached her differently. However, I will ask Lily about their antecedents, and in six weeks we shall know what is to be done about them.’
Six weeks seem a great deal longer to sixteen than to six-and-forty, and Gillian groaned and sighed to herself as she wrote her letters, and assured herself that so far from her having done enough in the way of attention to the old soldier’s family, she had simply done enough to mark her neglect and disdain.
‘Grizzling’ (to use an effective family phrase) under opposition is a grand magnifier; and it was not difficult to erect poor Captain White into a hero, his wife into a patient sufferer, and Alethea’s kindness to his daughter into a bosom friendship; while the aunts seemed to be absurdly fastidious and prejudiced. ‘I don’t wonder at Aunt Ada,’ she said to herself; ’I know she has always been kept under a glass case; but I thought better things of Aunt Jane. It is all because Kalliope goes to St. Kenelm’s, and won’t be in the G.F.S.’
And all the time Gillian was perfectly unaware of her own family likeness to Dolores. Other matters conduced to a certain spirit of opposition to Aunt Jane. That the children should have to use the back instead of the front stair when coming in with dusty or muddy shoes, and that their possessions should be confiscated for the rest of the day when left about in the sitting-rooms and hall, were contingencies she could accept as natural, though they irritated her; but she agreed with Valetta that it was hard to insist on half an hour’s regular work at the cushion, which was not a lesson, but play. She was angered when Aunt Jane put a stop to some sportive passes and chatter on the stairs between Valetta and Alice Mount, and still more so when her aunt took away Adam Bede from the former, as not desirable reading at eleven years old.
It was only the remembrance of her mother’s positive orders that withheld Gillian from the declaration that mamma always let them read George Eliot; and in a cooler moment of reflection she was glad she had abstained, for she recollected that always was limited to mamma’s having read most of Romola aloud to her and Mysie, and to her having had Silas Marner to read when she was unwell in lodgings, and there was a scarcity of books.
Such miffs about her little sister were in the natural order of things, and really it was the ‘all pervadingness,’ as she called it in her own mind, of Aunt Jane that chiefly worried her, the way that the little lady knew everything that was done, and everything that was touched in the house; but as long as Valetta took refuge with herself, and grumbled to her, it was bearable.