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The Legacy of Cain

24. Eunice's Diary
On entering the schoolroom we lost our gayety, all in a moment. Something unpleasant
had evidently happened.
Two of the eldest girls were sitting together in a corner, separated from the rest, and
looking most wickedly sulky. The teachers were at the other end of the room, appearing
to be ill at ease. And there, standing in the midst of them, with his face flushed and his
eyes angry--there was papa, sadly unlike his gentle self in the days of his health and
happiness. On former occasions, when the exercise of his authority was required in the
school, his forbearing temper always set things right. When I saw him now, I thought of
what the doctor had said of his health, on my way home from the station.
Papa advanced to us the moment we showed ourselves at the door.
He shook hands--cordially shook hands--with Philip. It was delightful to see him,
delightful to hear him say: "Pray don't suppose, Mr. Dunboyne, that you are intruding;
remain with us by all means if you like." Then he spoke to Helena and to me, still
excited, still not like himself: "You couldn't have come here, my dears, at a time when
your presence was more urgently needed." He turned to the teachers. "Tell my daughters
what has happened; tell them why they see me here--shocked and distressed, I don't deny
it."
We now heard that the two girls in disgrace had broken the rules, and in such a manner as
to deserve severe punishment.
One of them had been discovered hiding a novel in her desk. The other had misbehaved
herself more seriously still--she had gone to the theater. Instead of expressing any regret,
they had actually dared to complain of having to learn papa's improved catechism. They
had even accused him of treating them with severity, because they were poor girls
brought up on charity. "If we had been young ladies," they were audacious enough to say,
"more indulgence would have been shown to us; we should have been allowed to read
stories and to see plays."
All this time I had been asking myself what papa meant, when he told us we could not
have come to the schoolroom at a better time. His meaning now appeared. When he
spoke to the offending girls, he pointed to Helena and to me.
"Here are my daughters," he said. "You will not deny that they are young ladies. Now
listen. They shall tell you themselves whether my rules make any difference between
them and you. Helena! Eunice! do I allow you to read novels? do I allow you to go to the
play?"
We said, "No"--and hoped it was over. But he had not done yet. He turned to Helena.
 
 
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