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against my taking her to a dentist about her teeth six months ago. Unhappily, you see, Mr. Scott has peculiar theories.”

At this point of the conversation, I covered my ears with my hands, and honestly tried not to listen further; even at nine years old, I did not like the tone in which my dear mother would sometimes speak of my dear father's "theories ;" and, besides, I had more than enough to think about. I was not, at first, either hurt or humbled by the information I had so suddenly received about myself; the prominent feeling was wonder, that I, Janet Scott, should have been made a subject of conversation between two grown-up people; that I should be recognised at all, except as "one of the children." I was surprised that Mrs. Wilton should have noticed whether my teeth were growing straight or crooked, that my mother should be distressed about it, and, above all, that my father should have troubled himself to "set his face" against a purpose that only concerned me. I think, now, that it speaks well for my education that I had reached the age of nine in such desirable unconsciousness of my importance to my elders; that one overheard conversation destroyed all the advantage I might have derived from the

extra care with which, as I now know, my father's wisdom surrounded us.

I sat and thought, at first a little elate and consequential; but by degrees a painful feeling of loneliness stole over me. It was true that people talked about me, and thought of me, but then it was to find fault. I had been singled out from the family group, but then it was to be judged for deficiencies which the others did not share. The thought brought with it a painful sullen sense of separation. I felt glad that the curtain hid me from general observation; I hoped that my brothers and sister would not come to look for me; I wished that they might all forget me, and that I might have to sit in the cold, supperless, till bed-time.

From this evil mood I was delivered at last by my eldest brother Hilary. I had heard him enter the house, and run up into the nursery, and then down to the library, to look for me, with a sullen resolve not to stir; but when at last he tracked me to my hidingplace, and I caught sight of his good-humoured face cautiously insinuated between the curtains, I could resist no longer.

"Did not you know that I had come home?" he said, when he had lured me from the drawing-room.

Such waste

"What could make you hide from me? of time. Come and feed the fish in the garret before

the bell rings for tea."

The proposition softened my ill-humour for a time; I was proud of being the only person whom Hilary ever invited to accompany him to a certain lumberroom at the top of the house, where my mother allowed him to keep some pet fish and various other nondescript treasures. How well I can picture the oddly-shaped room as it looked that evening, while the rays of Hilary's dim candle were struggling to drive back the darkness from the middle of the room to the awful corners where day and night it lingered. Those corners were the veritable home of darkness to me. On long winter afternoons, when Hilary and I were alone in the garret, I used to watch the thing, rising from its lurking-place, creeping closer to me, till I felt it on my face, and then stealing downstairs, creeping lower and lower, till it filled the house. I could not have borne this if I had been quite alone, but there was something in Hilary's presence that sent nervous fears to sleep; whenever my fancies, Frankenstein-like, rose up against me, to terrify me with the fearfulness I had given them, I had only to move a little nearer Hilary, or to look across the

room at his sensible, strong face, to feel perfectly safe. We often spent long afternoons in the garret together, Hilary and I. I had always at hand a secret store of books, taken at random from my father's library, which I read greedily, with or without understanding, as the case might be. Hilary had pursuits of his own quite as absorbing. The favourite one was tending a colony of sticklebacks and tadpoles, which he kept in an old water-butt. Looking up from my book, I was sometimes surprised to see how long he would stand upright, with his hands behind him, staring down into the stagnant darkcoloured water, and how eager and intent his eyes grew every now and then.

"What are you seeing?" I used to ask impatiently, sometimes.

"Come and look yourself," he would answer; for Hilary, unlike the rest of the family, was sparing of words. When I looked, however, I could never see anything but green slimy stones, and long, thin leaves of water-weeds, stirred languidly by the transit of a small fish or the evolutions of some shapeless monster, all head or all tail, that I could hardly look at without disgust.

But I am wandering far from the events of that

evening. I remained tolerably happy while I fed Hilary's fish. I knew there was no possibility of making him understand the nature of my discontent, therefore I put it aside while I was in his company, and took it up again when I returned to the nursery, and found myself left alone with my younger sister Ernestine. She had suffered from some childish illness, and was slowly recovering from it. She was always a delicate child, and was often, for weeks together, unable to share the rather hardy way of life my father prescribed for us elder ones. I sometimes came in for a share of her privileges. The one I valued most was being allowed to spend the evening with her in the comfortable nursery, instead of having to go down to the dining-room, and learn my lessons in company with my brothers, under my father's strict eye. Ernestine had begged this indulgence for me on that evening, and was waiting tea for me when I returned from the garret. Two white cups and plates stood on the nursery table, and on each of them Nesta had placed an equal portion of the good things my mother had provided to tempt her delicate appetite. I was in a very perverse mood, for the sight of this preparation for my comfort vexed, instead of pleased me. I wanted an excuse for feeling

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