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“Ah, yes, indeed, and to spare," the children said in sorrowful sympathy.
“And you will promise to try and gather such lessons therefrom as I do most sincerely wish you to?"
“Yes, yes, dear Great-heart, we promise.”
So he put them down, and presently, it being late, carried them up to bed; two sober, thoughtful little maidens.
As later they twined their arms together, Trixie said, “ Shall I tell you something, sister ?”
“ His heart is broken, I feel sure of it !” answered Trixie. “Good night.” She turned over and slept.
Not so the other child. For with moistened eyes long did she lie there and ponder. She felt sure there was much that Great-heart had not told them, yet she should not like to ask, much they had not heard about him. When at length her waking senses left her and she glided into the land of oblivion, there were wet tears upon her cheeks. “ Can this sad thing be true?” were the last words which, in waking tenderness, had framed themselves upon her lips. It might be only one of those wise inspirations of Miss Trixie's so frequently delivered at random; yet-was it?
TO EXPLAIN THE REMORSE OF GREAT-HEART.
HE next morning the children were rather late
in putting in an appearance, and Great-heart went upstairs to see what delayed them. He found a melancholy state of things existing in the nursery, for Dot was crying bitterly, whilst her elder and more strong-minded sister was endeavouring to comfort her. Although most kindly meant, it must be admitted that Miss Trixie's consolations were not exactly suited to the susceptible nature of little Dot. The elder child had recourse to many practical methods, such as calling the weeping one “a ridiculous goose," "a silly little noodle" (this was a very favourite expression of Miss Trixie's), and such like endearing terms. Nor did she mend matters by frequent allusions, intended no doubt to act as a complete restorative, as to " what Great-heart would think of it!"
As the man of the world entered the front room, he quickly grasped the state of affairs. With his
ready tact he however pretended to ignore the existence of tears altogether, knowing full well that a better opportunity would soon present itself for an explanation of them. A noble pride came to Dot's rescue as she caught sight of Great-heart, and turning her head away, she rapidly, though silently, completed her toilette. She actually fancied her friend had noticed nothing! Trixie was anxious to enter at once into an animated discussion on the subject, but Great-heart stopped her imperatively.
Breakfast passed off much more quietly than usual that morning, Dot's face wearing a very rueful look throughout it. Presently Trixie was induced to settle herself down to her work, which was at that time a water-colour sketch of No. 7 opposite. It must be admitted that the child showed a decided taste for this sort of thing, and had, nobody could deny, at any rate, a good deal of perseverance, She would sit for hours, when once fairly settled at it, and duly interested, producing such extraordinary combinations of colour, as could hardly be more than dreamt of by modern disciples of "a certain school.” Then Great-heart, instructing his old retainer, the butler, to give an occasional look in upon the artist, for safety's sake, took Dat off with him into his own sanctum at the back of the house. It was only on particular occasions that the children were allowed in here, and the little maiden felt instinctively that something important was about to happen. But such was her trust in and love for Great-heart that she felt not the smallest symptom of fear, as many tender-aged mites like that one might have done under the circumstances. While letters were being written she was at liberty to play about as she liked. She fell across a treasure in the shape of an illustrated edition of Shakespeare, which quickly found favour after that terribly realistic "Foxe's Book of Martyrs” the child's fingers had first lighted on. Soon Ambrose the page-boy was summoned, to take off the correspondence to the post-office, and Great-heart referred to a white slate which formed an inner parcel to his writing-case, to see if there were anything else to do of importance. Nothing seemed to suggest itself, so he called out,
“Come here, missy, and let me look at you.”
The words made Dot start, for she was deep in her book. But she shut it up at once, and ran swiftly over. “Let me look at my little quondamtadpole," and he took the child's face between his hands and peered lovingly into it.
“Oh, dearie! I could never have been one of those horrid ugly things !” deprecated the maiden.
But indeed you were, my dear, at some time
or another. Without, however, going too deeply into the study of natural history, I fear I could not prove it to you, if even then," replied Great-heart in banter. “However, that has nothing to do with the subject in hand. Can you guess what Greatheart wants you to tell him ?”
“No, really no," cried Dot, with wide-opened eyes, “indeed I cannot; unless, let me see, unless it be something to do with Trixie and her too great devotion to art at the window yonder!”
Great-heart laughed outright.
“ Extraordinary combination of childish ignorance and erudite learning, that is not it, although no doubt the subject would prove a grand one for educational purposes, and aptly lend itself to point a moral or adorn a tale. No, that is not it. It is something much simpler than that."
“Yes ?” inquired the golden-haired Dot; and her face, as she pondered, was a study. “I really cannot fancy. Do tell me quickly what it was, there's a dear.”
Supposing Great-heart were to ask someone whether she thought the proper way of 'welcoming the smiling morn' that is amongst bright, happy little people, should be with tears of sorrow, what would that someone say ?”
“ Oh, dear!” exclaimed the child in woful