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23. CHAPTER XXIII (continued)
When Theobald had finished reading we all knelt down and the Carlo Dolci and the Sassoferrato looked down upon a sea of upturned backs, as we buried our faces in our chairs. I noted that Theobald prayed that we might be made "truly honest and conscientious" in all our dealings, and smiled at the introduction of the "truly." Then my thoughts ran back to the bees and I reflected that after all it was perhaps as well at any rate for Theobald that our prayers were seldom marked by any very encouraging degree of response, for if I had thought there was the slightest chance of my being heard I should have prayed that some one might ere long treat him as he had treated Ernest.
Then my thoughts wandered on to those calculations which people make about waste of time and how much one can get done if one gives ten minutes a day to it, and I was thinking what improper suggestion I could make in connection with this and the time spent on family prayers which should at the same time be just tolerable, when I heard Theobald beginning "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" and in a few seconds the ceremony was over, and the servants filed out again as they had filed in.
As soon as they had left the drawing-room, Christina, who was a little ashamed of the transaction to which I had been a witness, imprudently returned to it, and began to justify it, saying that it cut her to the heart, and that it cut Theobald to the heart and a good deal more, but that "it was the only thing to be done."
I received this as coldly as I decently could, and by my silence during the rest of the evening showed that I disapproved of what I had seen.
Next day I was to go back to London, but before I went I said I should like to take some new-laid eggs back with me, so Theobald took me to the house of a labourer in the village who lived a stone's throw from the Rectory as being likely to supply me with them. Ernest, for some reason or other, was allowed to come too. I think the hens had begun to sit, but at any rate eggs were scarce, and the cottager's wife could not find me more than seven or eight, which we proceeded to wrap up in separate pieces of paper so that I might take them to town safely.
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