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In due time Tom found himself at King's Lorton, under the care of the Rev. Walter Stelling, a big, broad-chested man, not yet thirty, with fair hair standing erect, large light-gray eyes, and a deep bass voice.
The schoolmaster had made up his mind to bring Tom on very quickly during the first half-year; but Tom did not greatly enjoy the process, though he made good progress in a very short time.
The boy was, however, very lonely, and longed for playfellows. In his secret heart he yearned to have Maggie with him; though, when he was at home, he always made it out to be a great favour on his part to let Maggie trot by his side on his pleasure excursions.
And before this dreary half-year was ended Maggie actually came. Mrs. Stelling had given a general invitation for the little girl to come and stay with her brother; so when Mr. Tulliver drove over to King's Lorton late in October, Maggie came too. It was Mr. Tulliver's first visit to see Tom, for the lad must learn, he had said, not to think too much about home.
"Well, my lad," the miller said to Tom, when Mr. Stelling had left the room, and Maggie had begun to kiss Tom freely, "you look rarely. School agrees with you."
Tom wished he had looked rather ill.
"I don't think I am well, father," said Tom; "I wish you'd ask Mr. Stelling not to let me do Euclid; it brings on the tooth-ache, I think."
"Euclid, my lad. Why, what's that?" said Mr. Tulliver.
"Oh, I don't know. It's definitions, and axioms, and triangles, and things. It's a book I've got to learn in; there's no sense in it."
"Go, go!" said Mr. Tulliver; "you mustn't say so. You must learn what your master tells you. He knows what it's right for you to learn."
"I'll help you now, Tom," said Maggie. "I'm come to stay ever so long, if Mrs. Stelling asks me. I've brought my box and my pinafores—haven't I, father?"
"You help me, you silly little thing!" said Tom. "I should like to see you doing one of my lessons! Why, I learn Latin too! Girls never learn such things; they're too silly."
"I know what Latin is very well," said Maggie confidently. "Latin's a language. There are Latin words in the dictionary. There's bonus, a gift."
"Now you're just wrong there, Miss Maggie!" said Tom. "You think you're very wise. But bonus means 'good,' as it happens—bonus, bona, bonum."
"Well, that's no reason why it shouldn't mean 'gift,'" said Maggie stoutly. "It may mean several things—almost every word does. There's 'lawn'—it means the grass-plot, as well as the stuff handkerchiefs are made of."
"Well done, little un," said Mr. Tulliver, laughing, while Tom felt rather disgusted.
Mrs. Stelling did not mention a longer time than a week for Maggie's stay, but Mr. Stelling said that she must stay a fortnight.
"Now, then, come with me into the study, Maggie," said Tom, as their father drove away. "What do you shake and toss your head now for, you silly? It makes you look as if you were crazy."
"Oh, I can't help it," said Maggie. "Don't tease me, Tom. Oh, what books!" she exclaimed, as she saw the bookcases in the study. "How I should like to have as many books as that!"
"Why, you couldn't read one of 'em," said Tom triumphantly. "They're all Latin."
"No, they aren't," said Maggie. "I can read the back of this—History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."
"Well, what does that mean? You don't know," said Tom, wagging his head.
"But I could soon find out," said Maggie.
"I should look inside, and see what it was about."
"You'd better not, Miss Maggie," said Tom, seeing her hand on the volume. "Mr. Stelling lets nobody touch his books without leave, and I shall catch it if you take it out."
"Oh, very well! Let me see all your books, then," said Maggie, turning to throw her arms round Tom's neck, and rub his cheek with her small round nose.
Tom, in the gladness of his heart at having dear old Maggie to dispute with and crow over again, seized her round the waist, and began to jump with her round the large library table. Away they jumped with more and more vigour, till at last, reaching Mr. Stelling's reading-stand, they sent it thundering down with its heavy books to the floor. Tom stood dizzy and aghast for a few minutes, dreading the appearance of Mr. or Mrs. Stelling.
"Oh, I say, Maggie," said Tom at last, lifting up the stand, "we must keep quiet here, you know. If we break anything, Mrs. Stelling'll make us cry peccavi."
"What's that?" said Maggie.
"Oh, it's the Latin for a good scolding," said Tom.
"Is she a cross woman?" said Maggie.
"I believe you!" said Tom, with a nod.
"I think all women are crosser than men," said Maggie. "Aunt Glegg's a great deal crosser than Uncle Glegg, and mother scolds me more than father does."
"Well, you'll be a woman some day," said Tom, "so you needn't talk."
"But I shall be a clever woman," said Maggie, with a toss.
"Oh, I dare say, and a nasty, conceited thing. Everybody'll hate you."
"But you oughtn't to hate me, Tom. It'll be very wicked of you, for I shall be your sister."
"Yes; but if you're a nasty, disagreeable thing, I shall hate you."
"Oh but, Tom, you won't! I shan't be disagreeable. I shall be very good to you, and I shall be good to everybody. You won't hate me really, will you, Tom?"
"Oh, bother, never mind! Come, it's time for me to learn my lessons. See here what I've got to do," Tom went on, drawing Maggie towards him, and showing her his theorem, while she pushed her hair behind her ears, and prepared herself to help him in Euclid.
"It's nonsense!" she said, after a few moments reading, "and very ugly stuff; nobody need want to make it out."
"Ah, there now, Miss Maggie!" said Tom, drawing the book away and wagging his head at her; "you see you're not so clever as you thought you were."
"Oh," said Maggie, pouting, "I dare say I could make it out if I'd learned what goes before, as you have."
"But that's what you just couldn't, Miss Wisdom," said Tom. "For it's all the harder when you know what goes before. But get along with you now; I must go on with this. Here's the Latin Grammar. See what you can make of that."
Maggie found the Latin Grammar quite soothing, for she delighted in new words, and quickly found that there was an English Key at the end, which would make her very wise about Latin at slight expense.
After a short period of silence Tom called out,—
"Now, then, Magsie, give us the Grammar!"
"O Tom, it's such a pretty book!" she said, as she jumped out of the large armchair to give it him. "I could learn Latin very soon. I don't think it's at all hard."
"Oh, I know what you've been doing," said Tom; "you've been reading the English at the end. Any donkey can do that. Here, come and hear if I can say this. Stand at that end of the table."
Maggie obeyed, and took the open book.
"Where do you begin, Tom?"
"Oh, I begin at 'Appellativa arborum,' because I say all over again what I've been learning this week."
Tom sailed along pretty well for three lines, and then he stuck fast.
"There, you needn't laugh at me, Tom, for you didn't remember it at all, you see."
"Phee-e-e-h! I told you girls couldn't learn Latin."
"Very well, then," said Maggie, pouting. "I can say it as well as you can. And you don't mind your stops. For you ought to stop twice as long at a semicolon as you do at a comma, and you make the longest stops where there ought to be no stops at all."
"Oh, well, don't chatter. Let me go on."
It was a very happy fortnight to Maggie, this visit to Tom. She was allowed to be in the study while he had his lessons, and in time got very deep into the examples in the Latin Grammar.
Mr. Stelling liked her prattle immensely, and they were on the best of terms. She told Tom she should like to go to school to Mr. Stelling, as he did, and learn just the same things. She knew she could do Euclid, for she had looked into it again, and she saw what ABC meant—they were the names of the lines.
"I'm sure you couldn't do it, now," said Tom, "and I'll just ask Mr. Stelling if you could."
"I don't mind," said she. "I'll ask him myself."
"Mr. Stelling," she said, that same evening when they were in the drawing-room, "couldn't I do Euclid, and all Tom's lessons, if you were to teach me instead of him?"
"No, you couldn't," said Tom indignantly. "Girls can't do Euclid—can they, sir?"
"They can pick up a little of everything, I dare say," said Mr. Stelling; "but they couldn't go far into anything. They're quick and shallow."
Tom, delighted with this, wagged his head at Maggie behind Mr. Stelling's chair. As for Maggie, she had hardly ever been so angry. She had been so proud to be called "quick" all her little life, and now it appeared that this quickness showed what a poor creature she was. It would have been better to be slow, like Tom.
"Ha, ha, Miss Maggie!" said Tom, when they were alone; "you see it's not such a fine thing to be quick. You'll never go far into anything, you know."
And Maggie had no spirit for a retort.
But when she was fetched away in the gig by Luke, and the study was once more quite lonely for Tom, he missed her grievously.
Still, the dreary half-year did come to an end at last. How glad Tom was to see the last yellow leaves fluttering before the cold wind! The dark afternoons, and the first December snow, seemed to him far livelier than the August sunshine; and that he might make himself the surer about the flight of the days that were carrying him homeward, he stuck twenty-one sticks deep in a corner of the garden, when he was three weeks from the holidays, and pulled one up every day with a great wrench, throwing it to a distance.
But it was worth buying, even at the heavy price of the Latin Grammar—the happiness of seeing the bright light in the parlour at home as the gig passed over the snow-covered bridge—the happiness of passing from the cold air to the warmth, and the kisses, and the smiles of home.
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