The Daisy Chain or Aspirations HTML version

Chapter I.17
Gently supported by the ready aid
Of loving hands, whose little work of toil
Her grateful prodigality repaid
With all the benediction of her smile,
She turned her failing feet
To the softly cushioned seat,
Dispensing kindly greetings all the time.
Three great events signalised the month of January. The first was, the
opening of the school at Cocksmoor, whither a cart transported half a dozen
forms, various books, and three dozen plum-buns, Margaret's contribution, in
order that the school might begin with eclat. There walked Mr. Wilmot,
Richard, and Flora, with Mary, in a jumping, capering state of delight, and
Ethel, not knowing whether she rejoiced. She kept apart from the rest, and
hardly spoke, for this long probation had impressed her with a sense of
responsibility, and she knew that it was a great work to which she had set her
hand-- a work in which she must persevere, and in which she could not
succeed in her own strength.
She took hold of Flora's hand, and squeezed it hard, in a fit of shyness, when
they came upon the hamlet, and saw the children watching for them; and
when they reached the house, she would fain have shrank into nothing; there
was a swelling of heart that seemed to overwhelm and stifle her, and the
effect of which was to keep her standing unhelpful, when the others were
busy bringing in the benches and settling the room.
It was a tidy room, but it seemed very small when they ranged the benches,
and opened the door to the seven-and-twenty children, and the four or five
women who stood waiting. Ethel felt some dismay when they all came
pushing in, without order or civility, and would have been utterly at a loss
what to do with her scholars now she had got them, if Richard and Flora had
not marshalled them to the benches.
Rough heads, torn garments, staring vacant eyes, and mouths gaping in shy
rudeness--it was a sight to disenchant her of visions of pleasure in the work
she had set herself. It was well that she had not to take the initiative.
Mr. Wilmot said a few simple words to the mothers about the wish to teach
their children what was right, and to do the best at present practicable; and
then told the children that he hoped they would take pains to be good, and
mind what they were taught. Then he desired all to kneel down; he said the
Collect, "Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings," and then the Lord's Prayer.