Princess Sarah by John Strange Winter
"Take this lesson to thy heart;
That is best which lieth nearest."
In a poor little street in a crowded city there
stood a small house, not alone, but in the middle
of a row of other houses exactly like it. There
was a tiny bow window on the left of the door,
and two very small sash windows in the storey
above; the frames were warped, and the paint, like
that of the door, was blistered and cracked in
many places. And the doorstep looked as if it
had been cleaned a week or so before with whiting
instead of pipe-clay, and evidently the person who
had done it had, doubtless with the very best
intentions in the world, given the lower part of the
door a few daubs with the same cloth, which had
not at all improved its shabby surface.
Between the house and the pavement there was
a small garden, a very humble attempt at a
garden, with a rockery in one corner and a raised
bed in the middle.
It was a noisy street, though it was not a
thoroughfare, for on that hot, sultry day the doors
and windows were all open and the children were
all playing about pavements and road, caring little
for the heat and dust, screaming, laughing,
shouting, crying, as children will, except when they
found themselves within reach of the house which
I have described; then their voices were hushed,
their tones sobered; then they stood to gaze up
at the closed blinds which beat now and then
against the open windows, as if a door had been
opened and allowed a draught of air to sweep
through the house; then one little maid of ten
years old or so lifted a warning finger to check
a lesser child, upon whom the fear and knowledge
of death had not yet fallen. "Hush--sh! Don't
make a noise, Annie," she said. "Mr. Gray is dead."
The younger child, Annie, ceased her laughter,
turning from the closed house to stare at two
ladies who came slowly down the street, looking
from side to side as if they sought one of the
houses in particular.
"This must be it," said one, as her eyes fell
upon the closed blinds.
"Yes," returned the other; "that must be it."
So they passed in at the little gate and knocked
softly at the shabby door.
"Poor fellow!" said one, with a glance at the
bit of garden before the bow window, "his doing,
evidently; there's not another garden in the street
"No. And what pains he must have taken
with it. Poor fellow!" echoed the other.
There was a moment's scuffle within the house,
the sound of loudly-whispering voices; then a heavy
footstep, and the door was opened by a stout,
elderly person in a shabby black gown and white
apron--a person who was unmistakably a nurse.
She curtsied as she saw the ladies, and the one
who had spoken last addressed her.
"We heard early this morning. I see the sad
news is too true," she began.
"Yes'm," shaking her head. "He went off quite
quiet about ten o'clock last night. Ah, I've seen
a-many, but I never saw a more peaceful end--never!"
The two ladies each made a murmur of sympathy.
"And the little girl?" said one of them.
"Well, mum, she do fret a good bit," replied
the nurse pityingly.
"Poor little thing! We have brought some fruit
and some other little things," said the lady, handing
a basket to the nurse.
"It's real kind of you, mum!" the old woman
cried. "She'll be rare and pleased, she will, poor
little missy! You see, mum, it's been a queer,
strange life for a child, for she's been everything
to him, and she never could go out and play in
the street with the other children. That couldn't
be, and it was hard for the little thing to see 'em
and be shut off from 'em all day as she was; and
the master on that account used to make hisself
more to her, which will make it all the harder for her
now, poor fatherless, motherless lamb that she is!"
"Of course, of course. Poor little maid! And
what will become of her, do you think?"
"I can't say for certain, mum; but the mistress,
she had relations, and the master wrote to one of
them on Thursday. He was sore troubled about
little missy, was the master--aye, sore troubled.
The letter was sent, and an answer came this
morning to say that one of missy's aunts was
coming to-day. The vicar opened it."
"Oh, well, I'm glad somebody is coming to the
poor child," said the lady who had brought the
basket of fruit. "I hope it will be all right. And
you will give her the things, nurse?" with a look
at the basket.
"Oh, yes, mum," with a curtsey.
There was not only some fruit in the basket,
but a pot of jam and a jar of potted meat, a glass
of jelly, some sponge cakes, and a packet of
sweeties, such as little folk love.
The old nurse carried them into the sitting-room
and set them down on the table before a little girl
who was sitting beside it.
"See, missy, what a nice basket of good things
Mrs. Tracy has brought for you!" the old woman
cried. "Wasn't it kind of her?"
"Very kind," said the little girl, brightening up
somewhat at the unexpected kindness from one
almost a stranger to her.
"Grapes, Miss Sarah, and peaches, and Orleans
plums; and see--potted meat! Now how could
she know you're so fond of potted meat?"
"I don't know, nurse; he liked potted meat too,
"Yes, dear, yes; but he's gone where he has all
he's most fond of, you know."
"Except me," murmured Sarah, under her breath.
"Ah, that's true, my lamb; but you mustn't
repine. Him as took the master away so calm and
peaceful last night knew just what was best to do,
and He'll do it, never fear! It's hard to bear, my
honey, and sure," with a sigh, "no one knows better
what bearing such is than old nurse. And--hark! to
think of any one coming with a knock like that! enough
to waken the----" But then she broke off
short, and went to open the door.
HER NEW-FOUND AUNT
A short, stout, well-dressed woman stood upon
the door-step, and the cabman was just
hauling a box off the roof of his cab.
"Mr. Gray's 'ouse?" demanded the stout lady.
"Ah, pore thing! I see it's all over. Pore thing!
Well, I'm sorry, of course, though I don't suppose
'e'll be much loss to any one; pore, dreaming,
"Miss Sarah is here, mum," said the old nurse,
pointing severely towards the door of the sitting-room.
"Miss Sarah--oh, the child! Eh, well, my dear,"
going into the room, and taking Sarah's limp and
shaking hand, "I'm sorry to come on such an errand
the first time ever I see you; but that was your pore
pa's fault, not mine. I never was one to turn my
back on my own flesh and blood--never, though
perhaps I say it that shouldn't; but your pore pa,
he was that awkward when he got a crotchet into
his 'ead, that there was no doing aught with him.
I think you favour your ma, my dear," she continued,
with a complete change of tone. "Your pore
pa-- Eh? What? oh, the cab! Yes, I'll come," and then
she bustled out, fumbling at the fastening of a small
leather bag which hung over her wrist, and leaving
poor Sarah struck dumb with astonishment.
The child crept to the door and watched her
new-found aunt settle with the cabman; and it is certain
that never had Sarah seen a cabman settled with in
that fashion before. They had not indulged in many
cabs during the course of her short life; but, on the
few occasions that they had enjoyed such luxuries,
her father had paid for them with the air of a prince,
and with a liberality such as made dispute out of the
question. Alas, poor child! if the loving father now
lying white and silent in the room above had had
less of that princely air, and still less of that princely
instinct of hospitality and generosity, life would at
that moment probably have been very different for
her. But all this was beyond Sarah, who was very
young, and therefore not likely to see the advantages
of the lengthened haggling process going on just
then at the gate. A moment later Mrs. Stubbs
entered the house again in triumph.
"Lot of thieving vagabonds them cabmen are,
to be sure!" she remarked, with an air of indignation
mingled with satisfaction. "But he don't get
the better of me, not if I know it; and so I told
him. But, dear! dear! 'Ow like your pore ma you
are, child! Stubbs 'll be glad of it--he never could
abide him as is gone, pore thing! Well, well, we
needn't say aught again him now, for he won't
trouble us no more; only, as I say, Stubbs 'll be
glad of it."
"Please, who is Mr. Stubbs?" Sarah asked plaintively,
feeling instinctively that she had better not
try to argue with this strange relative.
Mrs. Stubbs, however, was so taken aback at so
unexpected a question, that she was obliged to sit
down, the better to show the extent of her astonishment.
"Well, I don't 'old with it!" she exclaimed to the
nurse, who had come in to spread the cloth for a cup
of tea which the visitor had expressed herself able
and willing to take. "It's bringing up the child like
a 'eathen in ignorance of what her own flesh and
blood's very names is--'pon my word it is; it's
"Miss Sarah doesn't understand," put in the old
For a moment Mrs. Stubbs gasped, much as she
might have done if the older woman had dashed a
pail of water in her face; but she took the hint
with a very good grace, and turned to Sarah again.
"Your pore ma, my dear, was Stubbs' own sister,"
"Then Mr. Stubbs is my uncle--my own uncle?"
"Your own uncle, and I'm your aunt; not your
own aunt, of course, Sarah, but that's no matter.
I've a good and a feeling 'eart, whatever other faults
I may have to carry; and what's Stubbs' flesh and
blood is my flesh and blood, and so you'll find.
Besides, I've seven children of my own, and my
'eart feels for them that has no father nor mother
to stand by 'em. And I believe in sticking to your
own--everybody's not like that, Sarah, though
maybe I say it that shouldn't. There is folks that
believes in wearing yourself to the bone for other
people's advantage, and letting your own flesh and
blood starve in the gutter, so to speak. Ah, well,
I ain't one of that sort, and I'm thankful for it, Sarah."
Poor little desolate Sarah, with her suddenly
empty life and great aching void in her heart, crept
a shade closer to her new-found aunt, and rested
her tired head against her substantial arm.
"And I have seven cousins of my own?" she
said, the shadows in her eyes clearing away for a
"Seven cousins of your own!" cried Mrs. Stubbs,
in an ecstasy of enjoyment. "Seven, Sarah, my
dear! Why, I have seven children!"
"And have I some more aunts and uncles?"
Sarah asked, feeling not a little bewildered.
"Why, dear, yes, three aunts and two uncles on
your pore ma's side, to say naught of all there may
be on your pa's side, with which I'm not familiar,"
said Mrs. Stubbs, with a certain air such as
conveyed to Sarah that her ignorance was a decided
loss to her father's family in general.
"There's your Uncle Joe--he 'as five boys, and
lives at 'Ampstead; and there's your Uncle George--he
'as only three girls, and lives in great style
at Brighton. He's in the corn trade, is your Uncle
Instinctively Sarah realized why once, when they
had been going to the seaside for a fortnight, her
father had said, "No, no, not Brighton," when that
town was suggested; and as instinctively she kept
the recollection to herself.
"And then there's Polly--your Aunt Mary, Sarah!
She's the fine lady of the family--very 'aughty, she
is, though her and me 'as always been very good
friends, always. Still, she's uncommon 'aughty, and
maybe she 'as a right, for she married a gentleman
in the City, and keeps her carriage and pair and a
footman, too. Ah, well! she 'asn't a family, 'asn't
Mrs. Lennard; perhaps if she 'ad 'ad seven children,
like me, she'd have 'ad to be content with a broom,
as I am."
"We have a broom, too," said Sarah, watching
the visitor stir her tea round and round; "indeed,
we have two, and a very old one that Jane uses
to sweep out the yard with."
For a minute Mrs. Stubbs was too thoroughly
astounded to speak; then she subsided into weak
fits of laughter, such as told Sarah she had made
a terrible mistake somehow.
"A very old one to sweep out the yard with!"
Mrs. Stubbs cried in gasps. "Oh, dear, dear! Why,
child, you're just like a little 'eathen. A broom is
a carriage, a close carriage, something like a
four-wheel cab, only better. Oh, dear, dear! and we
keep three, do we? Oh, what a joke to tell Stubbs!"
"Miss Sarah knows," struck in the old nurse,
with some indignation; "the doctor's carriage is
what Mrs. Stubbs calls a broom, dearie."
Sarah turned her crimson face from one to the
other. "But Father always called that kind of
carriage a bro-am," she emphasized, "and I didn't
know you meant the same, Aunt."
"Well, never mind, my dear; I shouldn't 'ave
laughed at you," returned Mrs. Stubbs, stirring her
tea again with fat complaisance. "Little folks can't
be expected to know everything, though there are
some as does expect it, and most unreasonable it is
of 'em. Only, Sarah, it's more stylish to say broom,
so try to think of it, there's a good girl."
"I'll try," said Sarah, hoping that she had
somewhat retrieved her character by knowing what kind
of carriage her aunt meant by a "broom."
Then Mrs. Stubbs had another cup of tea, which
she seemed to enjoy particularly.
"And you would like to go upstairs, mum?" said
the nurse, as she set the cup down.
"Why, yes, nurse, it's my duty to go, and I'm not
one as is ever backward in doing 'er duty," Mrs. Stubbs
replied, upheaving herself from the somewhat
uncertain depths of the big chair, the only easy chair
in the house.
So the two women went up above together to
visit that something which Sarah had not seen since
the moment of death.
She sat just where they left her--a way she had,
for Sarah was a very quiet child--wondering how
life would be with this new-found aunt of hers. She
was very kind, Sarah decided, and would be very
good to her, she knew; and yet--yet--there was
something about her from which she shrank
instinctively--something she knew would have offended
her father beyond everything.
Poor Sarah! At that moment Mrs. Stubbs was
standing beside all that was left of him that had
loved her so dearly during all the years of her
"Pore thing!" she was saying. "Pore thing!
We weren't good friends, nurse, but we must not
think of that now; and I'll be a mother to his little
girl just as if there'd never been a cloud between
us. Pore thing, only thirty-six! Ah, well, pore
thing; but he makes a pretty corpse!"
SARAH'S FUTURE IS ARRANGED
Two days later Sarah's father was buried, laid
quietly away in a pretty little churchyard two
miles outside the town, beside the young wife who
had died nine years before.
The funeral was a very unostentatious affair;
only one cab followed the coffin, and contained Sarah
and Mrs. Stubbs, the old nurse, and Jane, the untidy
little maid, who, after the manner of her sort, wept
and sobbed and choked, until Mrs. Stubbs would
right willingly have given her a good shaking.
Sarah was very subdued and quiet, and Mrs. Stubbs
cried a little, and would have cried more
had she not been so taken up with keeping an eye
on "that stupid ninny Jane."
And then they went back to the little hot, stuffy
house, and had a cup of tea, after which the vicar of
the parish called and had a long talk with
Mrs. Stubbs about Sarah's future.
"I can't say we was good friends with him, pore
thing," Mrs. Stubbs explained; "but when death
comes between, little differences should be forgotten.
And Stubbs and me will forget all our differences
now; it's Stubbs' wish as well as mine. I believe in
sticking to your own flesh and blood, for if your own
won't, whose can you expect to do it? So Sarah
and me is the best of friends, and she is going back
with me to share and share alike with my own children."
"Oh, you are going to take Sarah," said the vicar,
who had felt a great interest in the dreamy artist
whom they had just left to his last long rest in the
quiet country churchyard; "that is very good of
you, very good of you. I have been wondering
what would become of the poor little woman."
"Why, what should become of her?" Mrs. Stubbs
said indignantly. "Her mother was Stubbs' own sister."
"Yes," said the vicar, smiling; "but it is not
every lady who would at all encourage the idea of
bringing up a child because her mother happened to
be her husband's sister."
"You're right there, Mr. Moore; you are right,"
Mrs. Stubbs cried; "but some women 'ave 'earts of
stone instead of flesh and blood. I'm not one of
"And about the furniture, and so on," the vicar
broke in, having heard Mrs. Stubbs's remarks about
her own good qualities several times already.
Mrs. Stubbs looked round the room in good-natured
contempt. "There's nothing to speak of,"
she answered--and she was right enough--"but
what there is 'll have to go to paying for the doctor
and the undertaker. If there's a few pounds left over,
Stubbs says put it into the savings bank and let the
child 'ave it when she grows up. She'll want to buy
a ring or something to remember her father by."
"And you are going to take the sole charge and
expense of her?" the vicar exclaimed.
"Oh, yes. We've seven of our own, and when
you've so many, one more or less makes very little
difference. But I wanted to ask you something else,
Mr. Moore, and I'll ask it before it slips my memory.
You know Mr. Gray--'e's gone now, pore thing, and
I don't wish to say aught against him--brought
Sarah up in a very strange way; indeed, as I said at
the time to the nurse, it's quite 'eathenish; and, it
you'll believe me, sir, she didn't even know how
many aunts and uncles she 'ad, nor what our very
names were. But he 'as taught her some things,
and playing the fiddle is one."
"Yes, Sarah plays the violin remarkably well for
her age," said the vicar promptly.
"Yes, so the old nurse says," returned Mrs. Stubbs,
with an air of melancholy. "But I don't altogether
'old with it myself; it seems to me such an
outlandish thing for a little girl to play on. I wish it
had been the piano or the 'arp! There's so much
more style about them."
"The violin is the most fashionable instrument a
lady can learn just now, Mrs. Stubbs," put in the
clergyman hastily, wishing to secure Sarah the free
use of her beloved violin, if it were possible.
"Dear me. You don't say so. What, are young
ladies about 'ere learning it?" Mrs. Stubbs asked,
"Yes. I was dining at Lord Allington's last
week, and in the evening one of his daughters played
a violin solo; but she doesn't play nearly as well as
Sarah," he replied.
"Then Sarah shall keep her violin and play to her
'eart's content," Mrs. Stubbs cried enthusiastically.
"That was what I wanted to ask you--if you
thought I should encourage or discourage the child
in keeping it up. But, as you say so plainly
encourage, I will; and Sarah shall 'ave good lessons
as soon as she's fairly settled down at 'ome."
"That will be the greatest delight to Sarah, for
the child loves her violin," said the vicar heartily;
"and that is not all, Mrs. Stubbs--but, if she goes
on as she has begun, there will always be a useful,
or at least a remunerative, accomplishment at her
"Oh, as to that," returned Mrs. Stubbs, with a
lordly indifference to money such as told her
visitor that she was well blessed with worldly goods,
"Stubbs 'll provide for the child along with his own,
and maybe her other uncles and aunts 'll do
something for her, too. I will say that for his family, as
a family they're not mean. I will say that for 'em."
So Sarah's future was arranged. She was to go
home with Mrs. Stubbs, who lived at South
Kensington, and be one with her children. She was to
have the best violin lessons to be had for love or
money; and Mrs. Stubbs, in the warmth of her
kindly but vulgar heart, even went so far as to
suggest that if Sarah was a very good, industrious
girl, and got on well with her practising, her uncle
might very likely be induced to buy her a new
violin for her next birthday, instead of the dingy
old thing she was playing on now.
Poor, well-meaning Mrs. Stubbs! She little knew
that the whole of Sarah's grateful soul rose in
loathing at the suggestion. She dropped her bow upon
the nearest chair, and hugged her precious violin as
closely to her breast as if it had been a thing of life,
and that life was threatened.
"Oh, Auntie!" she burst out; "a new violin!"
"Yes, child; I think it's very likely," returned
Mrs. Stubbs, delighted to see the effect of her suggestion
upon her pale little niece, and quite mistaking the
meaning of her emotion. "Your uncle is very fond
of making nice presents. He gave May a new
piano last Christmas."
"But," gasped Sarah, "my violin is a real Amati!
It belonged to my grandfather."
"And if it did, what then?" ejaculated Mrs. Stubbs,
in no way impressed by the information.
"All the more reason why you should 'ave a new
one. The wonder to me is you play half as well as
you do on an old thing like that."
"It's--it's worth five hundred pounds!" Sarah
cried, her face in a flame.
Mrs. Stubbs fairly gasped in her surprise. "Sarah,"
she said, "what are you saying? Little girls ought
not to tell stories; it's wicked. Do you know where
you'll go to? Sarah, I'm shocked and surprised at you!"
"Auntie, dear," said Sarah, "it's true--all true.
It is, indeed! Ask the doctor, ask the vicar--ask
any one who knows about violins, and they'll tell
you! It's a real Amati; it's worth five hundred
pounds--perhaps more. I'm not telling stories,
Auntie, but Father was offered that much for it, only
he wouldn't take it because he said it was all he had
to give me, and that it would be worth more to
me some day."
Never had Mrs. Stubbs heard Sarah say so much
at one time before; but her earnest face and manner
carried conviction with them, and she saw that the
child knew what she was talking about, and was
speaking only what she believed to be the truth.
"You really mean it, Sarah?" she asked, putting
out a hand to touch the wonderful instrument.
"Oh, yes, Auntie, it's absolutely true," returned
Sarah, using the longest adjective she could think
of the better to impress her aunt.
"Then," exclaimed the good lady, with radiant
triumph, "you'd better 'old your tongue about it,
Sarah, and not say a word about it--or you'll be
'aving the Probate people down on you, robbing the
fatherless and the orphan."
HER NEW HOME
At last Mr. Gray's affairs were all cleared up,
and Sarah was about to leave dingy old Bridgehampton
behind for ever to take up her new life in
London, the great city of the world.
There were some very sad farewells to be made
still; and Mrs. Stubbs was a woman of very good
feeling, and encouraged the child to go and say
good-bye to everybody who had been kind to her
in the past.
"There is Mrs. Tracy," said Sarah on the last
day. "She brought me all that fruit and jam and
the other things, Auntie."
"Oh, you must go and say good-bye to 'er, of
course," returned Mrs. Stubbs; "and we must go
and see your pore pa's grave, for 'eaven knows when
you'll see it again."
"I should like to do that, please," said Sarah in a
very low voice.
"Well, I can't drag out all that way," remarked
Mrs. Stubbs, who, being stout, was not good at
walking exercise. "We'll have an open carriage if
nurse can get one; and nurse shall go too."
So Sarah went and said "good-bye" to her father's
grave; and the wise old nurse, after a minute spent
beside it, drew Mrs. Stubbs away to the other side
of the pretty churchyard to show her a curious
tombstone about which she had been telling her as
they drove along. So Sarah, for a few minutes, was
left alone--free to kneel down and bid her farewell
It was a relief to the child to be alone, for
Mrs. Stubbs, though meaning to be kindness itself, was
not a woman in whose presence it was possible to
grieve in comfort. Her remarks about "your pore
pa" invariably had the effect of stifling any feeling
of emotion which was aroused in her childish heart.
She was very good. Sarah knew that she meant
to be so.
"I'll try not to mind the difference, dear Father,"
she whispered to the brown sods above his dear
head. "It's all so different to you, so different to
when there was just you and I together. Nobody
will ever understand me like you, dear Daddy; but
Auntie means to be very kind, and I'll try my
hardest to grow up so that you'll love me better when
we meet again."
As she rose up, Mrs. Stubbs and the nurse were
coming across the grass between the graves to
fetch her. Mrs. Stubbs noticed the tears on her
cheeks and still flooding her eyes.
"Nay, now, you mustn't fret, Sarah," she said
kindly; "'e's better off, pore thing, than when he
was 'ere, so you mustn't fret for 'im, there's a good girl."
Sarah wiped her eyes, and turned to go away.
She said nothing, for she knew it was no use trying
to make her aunt understand that her tears had
not been so much for him as for herself. And
Mrs. Stubbs stood for a moment looking down upon the
mould, with its covering of brown, disjointed sods
and its faded wreaths.
"Pore thing!" she murmured; "it's a sad end
to 'ave. And he must 'ave felt leaving the little
one badly 'fore he brought himself to write that
letter! Pore thing! Well, I'm not one to bear
ill-will for what's past and gone, and so beyond
'elp now; and I'll be as much a mother to Sarah
as if 'im and me had always been the best of
friends. 'E once said I was vulgar--and perhaps
I am--it's vulgar to 'ave 'earts and such like, and
he knows better now, pore thing! For I have a
'eart. Yes, and the Queen upon 'er throne, she
has a 'eart, too, bless her."
There were tears on the good soul's cheeks as
she turned to follow Sarah, whom she found at
the gate waiting for her. By the time she had
reached the child she had wiped them, but Sarah
saw that they had been there.
"Dear Auntie," she said. "He wasn't friends
with you, but he knows how good you are now,"--and
then she flung her arms round her, and her
victory over her uncle's wife was complete.
"Sarah," she said, when they were nearly at the
end of their journey, "you have never 'ad any
playfellows, have you, dear?"
"Never, Auntie--not real playfellows," Sarah
answered, and flushing up with joy at the
anticipation of those who were in store for her.
"Well, I'd better warn you, Sarah--it may not
be all sugar and honey till you get used to them,"
said Mrs. Stubbs solemnly. "There's a good deal
of give and take about children's ways; that is,
if you want to get on peaceable. If you get a
knock, you must just bear it without telling, or
else you get called a 'tell-pie,' and treated
according. It's what I've never encouraged, and I must
do my children the justice to say if they gets a
knock they gives it back again, and there's no
more about it."
Thus Sarah was somewhat prepared for the
darker side of her new life, though she gathered
no true idea of the nest of young ruffians to
whom she was made known an hour later.
They came out with a rush to the door when
the carriage stopped, and welcomed their mother
home again with a fluent and boisterous torrent of
joy truly appalling to the little quiet and retiring
Sarah, who was not accustomed to the domestic
manners of children of the Stubbs class.
"Ma, what have you brought me?"
"Is that Sarah, Ma? My, ain't she a littl'un!"
"Ma, Mary was late this morning. Yes, and
our kao-kao was burnt--I told her I should tell you."
"Pa slapped Johnnie last night, because he
wouldn't be washed to come down to dessert."
"And Flossie has torn her best frock."
"Hush! Be quiet, children!" exclaimed
Mrs. Stubbs, holding her hands to her ears. "'Pon my
word, you're like a lot of young savages. Miss
Clark can't have taken much care of you whilst
I've bin away. Really, you're enough to frighten
Sarah out of her senses. This is your cousin
Sarah. She's going to live 'ere in future, so come
and say ''Ow d'ye do?' to her nicely."
Thus bidden, the young Stubbses all turned
their attention on their new cousin, and said their
greeting and shook hands with various kinds of
There was May, aged fourteen, a very consequential
young person, with an inclination to be
short and stout, like her mother, and had her nice
fair hair plaited into a tail behind and tied with a
bunch of mauve ribbon, worn with a white frock
in memory of the uncle by marriage whom she
had never seen.
"How d'you do, Cousin Sarah?" she said, with
a fine-lady air which petrified poor Sarah, who
thought that and her cousin's earrings and
watch-chain the finest things she had ever beheld about
any human being before. Then there came the
redoubtable Flossie, who had torn her best frock,
and was twelve and a half. Flossie, who was
nearly as big as May, came forward with a giggle,
and said "How----" and went off into fits of
laughter at some private joke of her own.
"I'm ashamed of you, Flossie," cried Mrs. Stubbs
sharply; "shake 'ands with your cousin
Sarah at once. Ah! this is Lily--Lily's five and
a 'alf, Sarah--she's the baby."
Then there was Tom, the eldest boy, who
gripped hold of Sarah's hand and wrung it until
she could have shrieked with the pain, but, taking
it as an expression of kindness and welcome, she
bore it bravely and looked at him with a smiling
face; she knew better afterwards.
After Tom came the twins, Minnie and the
Johnnie who had been slapped the day before;
and last of all, Janey, the prettiest, and Sarah
fancied the sweetest, of them all. Janey was
seven, or, as she said herself, nearly eight.
"I suppose," said Mrs. Stubbs, addressing herself
to Flossie, "that your pa 'asn't got 'ome yet?"
"No, Ma, not yet," returned Flossie.
But, presently, when Mrs. Stubbs had changed
her dress for a garment such as Sarah had never
beheld before, and which May told her was a
tea-gown, and was enjoying a cup of sweet-smelling
tea in the large and shady drawing-room--to
Sarah a perfect dream of beauty--he came! Came
with a bustle and noise like a tempest, and caught
his stout wife round the waist, with a "Hulloa, old
woman, it's a sight for sore eyes to see you 'ome
Sarah had determined to be surprised at nothing,
but her Uncle Stubbs was altogether too much for
her resolution. In apologising to herself afterwards,
she said she was obliged to stare.
"And where's the little lass?" Mr. Stubbs asked
when he had kissed his wife. "Oh, there! Well,
aren't you going to speak to your uncle, eh?"
"Yes, Uncle," said Sarah shyly.
He drew her nearer to him, and turned her face
to the light.
"Like her dear ma," put in Mrs. Stubbs.
"Yes," said Mr. Stubbs shortly.
"Not like her pa at all," Mrs. Stubbs persisted.
"No!" more shortly still; then, after a pause,
"I 'ope you'll be a good gal, Sarah, and remember,
though your father and me wasn't friends, yet, as
long as I've a 'ome to call my own, you're welcome
to a shelter in it. Your mother was my favourite
sister, and though she turned 'er back on me, I'll
never do that on you, never."
"Father knows better now, Uncle," said the child,
with an effort; "he knows how good you and Auntie
are to me. You'd be friends now, wouldn't you?"
"I don't know--I don't know at all," replied
Mr. Stubbs shortly; then, struck by the pleading look
on the child's wistful face, added gruffly, "I suppose
we should; any way, I hope so."
At this point Mrs. Stubbs broke in,--
"Any way, it's no fault of Sarah's that we wasn't
all the very best of friends, Stubbs; and Sarah and
me's real fond of one another already, aren't we,
Sarah? So say no more about it; what's past and
gone is beyond 'elp. Flossie, you can take Sarah
upstairs now. It's just six--time for your tea. Be
sure she gets a good tea."
A TASTE OF THE FUTURE
Thus bidden, Flossie took Sarah's hand and
led her upstairs. "You won't like Miss
Clark," she remarked, as they went. "We don't
like her, not any of us. She's so mean; always
telling tales about somebody. She got Johnnie
slapped and sent off to bed last night; it was all
spite--nasty old thing!"
"Who is Miss Clark?" Sarah asked, feeling
"Miss Clark! What! didn't Ma tell you about
her?" ejaculated Miss Flossie, in surprise.
"No; Auntie never told me about her at all."
"Lor! There, that shows Ma herself don't think
much of her! I'll tell Miss Clark, any way."
"Don't, don't!" Sarah cried, in an agony.
"Yes, I shall," the amiable Flossie returned,
suddenly opening a door and dragging her cousin
into the midst of a noisy crew, all squabbling
round a tea-table. "Miss Clark, what d'you think?
Ma actually never told Sarah a single word about you!"
"Well, my dear, never mind; perhaps Mrs. Stubbs
didn't say very much about any of us."
"She didn't," put in Sarah hastily.
"I suppose this is Sarah?" Miss Clark went on.
"Yes," answered Flossie, adding, under her
breath to Johnnie, "Stupid little thing!"
"How do you do, Sarah?" asked the governess,
with the air of primness which had made her
unruly young pupils dislike her. "I hope we shall
be very good friends, and that you will do your
best to be a very tidy and industrious little girl."
This rather took Sarah's breath away, but she
replied, politely, that she would try her best.
"Come and sit by me, Sarah," said May, with
a very condescending air of protection.
"Yes, sit by May," added Miss Clark. "May is
my right hand; without May I could not endure
all the worry and trial of the others. Copy May,
and you will be quite right."
So Sarah watched May mincing with her knife
and fork, and conscientiously tried to do likewise,
to the infinite amusement of the younger ones, of
whom May took no notice whatever, and to whose
jibing remarks she showed a superb indifference.
"Sarah," shouted Tom, stuffing his mouth so
full of pressed tongue and bread-and-butter that
Sarah's heart stood still for fear of his choking,
"how many pieces of bread-and-butter can you put
into your mouth at once?"
"Disgusting boy!" remarked May disdainfully,
without giving Sarah time to reply. "You grow
more atrociously vulgar every day you live!"
"Hi, hi!" shouted Tom, seizing a tablespoon and
ramming it down his throat until even boy's nature
revolted and expressed disapproval.
"Put that spoon down," cried Miss Clark
authoritatively. "If I see you do that again, Tom, you
shall not go down to dessert."
Now this was almost the only threat by which
poor Miss Clark, whose life was one long-continued
struggle and fight, was able to hold her own over
Tom when he was at home for his holidays. Not
going down to dessert meant, not only the
punishment of losing a share of the good things below,
but also it meant inquiry as to the cause of
absence, and other effects according to evidence.
Tom's exuberance of spirits settled down promptly
into discreet behaviour, and Miss Clark had time
to look round the table.
"Johnnie, you are forbidden to eat jam for a
week," she burst out. "Minnie, take his plate away."
"It's a shame poor Johnnie isn't to have any
jam," Minnie began whining--"all for nothing, too.
It's a real downright shame, it is," and forthwith
she took the opportunity of daubing a thick slice
of bread-and-butter with jam off her own plate, and
smuggling it into the luckless Johnnie's hand in
such a way that he might eat it upside down,
to the intense delight of Tom opposite, who had
seen the little manoeuvre, and was bursting to
For once nodding and winking had no effect,
for nobody happened to be looking at him. So
Tom, in despair lest such an amusing incident
should be altogether lost, began vigorously nudging
Flossie, who sat next to him, with his elbow.
Flossie, unfortunately, was in the act of raising a
large cup of very hot tea to her lips, and Tom's
nudge causing the hot cup to touch her knuckle,
made her jerk violently, and over the tea went in
a deluge on to her lap.
It is almost impossible to give an adequate
description of the scene which followed. Flossie
shrieked and screamed as if she was being
murdered by a slow process; Tom vowed and
protested that it was not his fault; Janey had pushed
him over against Flossie; Janey appealed to Miss
Clark to remember that at the very moment she was
handing her cup in the opposite direction; and Miss
Clark began to wring her hands and exclaim that she
would ask to have Tom sent back to school again,
for stand his cruel and unbrotherly behaviour she
neither could nor would. And in the midst of it
all, young Johnnie seized the opportunity of helping
Minnie freely to jam and eating off her plate, as if
he were eating for a wager.
Sarah sat looking, as she was, scared; and May
calmly surveyed the scene of uproar with disdainful
"Disgusting boy!" she said to the still protesting
Tom. "You get more vulgar every day. Don't
take any notice, Sarah; you will get used to it by-and-by."
Eventually Miss Clark began to cry weakly.
"It's too much for me; how am I to bear four
weeks more of this dreadful boy?" she sobbed.
"Do like me, take no notice," suggested May.
"But I must take notice," Miss Clark cried
desperately. "My only comfort is that you do sit
still, May dear. As for Sarah, she is a good girl,
a pattern to you," with a withering glance at Tom.
"I feel sure Sarah has never seen such a disgraceful
scene before; have you, Sarah?"
"No," whispered Sarah, wishing fervently that
Miss Clark had been pleased to leave her out of
"I thought so. I knew Sarah's manners were far
too good for her to have been brought up among
this sort of thing. Sarah is like a young princess."
By this time the tumult had subsided a little.
Flossie had recovered from her fright, and was
consoling herself with buttered scones and honey,
looking darkly at Tom the while, just by way of
reminding him that she had not by any means
forgotten. But Tom was unconscious of her wrath--a
fresh idea had presented itself to his volatile mind,
and for the moment he had utterly forgotten not
only Flossie's wrath, but also that other probable
wrath to come.
"Princess Sarah!" he shouted, pointing at his
cousin. "Her Royal Highness Princess Sarah--of
Nowhere. Princess Sarah!"
"Princess Sarah!" cried Johnnie, taking up the
taunt, and waving his bread-and-butter like a flag.
"Three cheers for Princess Sarah!"
THE AMIABLE FLOSSIE
Miss Clark did not tell that time. It was
not Flossie, but May, who poured oil on
the troubled waters.
"It's no use making a fuss, Flossie," she said
wisely. "Tom didn't mean to spill your tea; he
only wanted you to look at Johnnie cribbing jam
when he'd been told not to have any. And it's
the first night Ma's at home, and Tom's her
favourite; and if you get him into trouble with Pa,
she'll give what she's brought for you to somebody
else. So you just hold your tongue, Flossie, and
be a bit nice to Miss Clark, and get her to say
nothing about it. It isn't as if you were hurt--and
besides, you can't pretend you're hurt and then go
down to dessert. It's your turn to go down
to-night." Thus advised, Flossie went to Miss Clark
and begged her to say nothing more about Tom's
"Tom says he didn't mean to, Miss Clark, and
Ma's tired, I dare say; so you won't say anything
about it, will you?"
"I think I ought to say something about it,
Flossie," said Miss Clark severely, though in her
heart she was as glad to get off telling as even
Tom himself could be.
"No, Miss Clark, I don't think you ought. Ma
always gets a headache after a long journey, and
if Pa's put out with Tom, and perhaps whips him,
Ma 'll go to bed and cry all night. And it wasn't
as if Tom meant to spill the tea over me--it was
quite an accident. He was only jogging me to
look at Johnnie."
With much apparent reluctance, Miss Clark at
last consented to say no more about it; and so
occupied was she in making Flossie feel how great
a concession it was for her to do so, that she forgot
to ask what Johnnie had happened to be doing to
attract Tom's attention.
So Johnnie escaped scot free also, and Flossie
and Tom went off to prepare for going down to
dessert, which the young Stubbses did in strict turn,
two at a time.
As soon as the table was cleared, Miss Clark got
out a little work-box and began a delicate piece of
embroidery. Sarah kept close to May, whom at
present she liked best of any of the young people
and May sat down with a piece of fancy work
also, of which she did very little.
"Miss Clark," she began, after she had done a
few stitches, "isn't it jolly without Tom?"
"Very," said Miss Clark, with a great sigh of relief.
"I don't think Tom meant to be disagreeable,"
said May, turning Miss Clark's silks over with
careless fingers; "but he's a boy, and boys are
very tiresome animals, Miss Clark."
"Yes," Miss Clark replied.
"How many times have you been engaged?"
and May leant her elbows upon the table and
regarded the governess with interested eyes.
"Twice," answered Miss Clark, in a low voice.
"And he was nice?" May inquired, with vivid interest.
"I thought them both nice at the time," Miss
Clark returned, with a sigh and a smile. "But--oh,
here is Flossie ready to go down. Flossie, my
dear, how quick you have been!"
"But I'm quite tidy, Miss Clark," Flossie replied.
"I wish Tom would be quick. I say, Sarah, don't
you wish you were going down, too?"
"Sarah's quite happy with Miss Clark and me,"
put in May; "ain't you, Sarah?"
"Yes, quite," Sarah replied.
"Oh, are you? Then I shall tell Ma you said
you didn't want to go down to see her, then,"
Poor Sarah's eyes filled with tears, and she
turned to May in the hope of getting protection
"Take no notice," said May superbly. "You'll
get used to Flossie after a bit. She's a regular
tell-tale; but she won't tell Ma, for Ma won't
listen. She never does. Ma never will listen to
tales, not even from Tom."
Flossie began to laugh uproariously, as if it was
the greatest joke in the world to tease Sarah, who
had yet to learn the peculiar workings of a Stubbs
character. Then Miss Clark interrupted with a
remark that Flossie's sash was not very well tied.
"Come here and let me tie it properly," she
said sharply; and, as Flossie knew that any
shortcoming would be sharply noticed and commented
upon when she got downstairs, she turned
obediently round and allowed Miss Clark to
arrange her garments to her satisfaction. By that
time Tom was ready, and the two went down together.
"Thank goodness," remarked May piously.
"Now, Miss Clark, we shall have a little peace."
May was destined to have even a greater peace
for her little chat with the governess than she had
anticipated, for a few minutes after Flossie and
Tom had gone downstairs one of the maids came
up and said that the mistress wished Miss Sarah
to come down at once. Miss Sarah, she added,
was not to stay to dress more than she was then.
"Mayn't I just wash my hands?" Sarah asked
imploringly of May.
"Of course," May answered, good-naturedly.
"I'll go with you and make you straight."
May was very good-natured, though it is true
that she was somewhat condescending; and she
went with Sarah and showed her the room she was
to share with Janey and Lily, showed her where
to wash her face and hands, and herself combed
her hair and made her look quite presentable.
"There! you look all right; let Miss Clark see
you," she said. And, after Sarah had been for
inspection and approval, she followed the maid, and
went down, for the first time in her life, to dessert.
"'Ere she is!" Mrs. Stubbs exclaimed, as the
little figure in black appeared in the doorway.
"Flossie ought to have known you would come
down to dessert the first evening; and, after that,
you must take it in turn with the others."
"Yes, Auntie," said Sarah shyly, taking the chair
next to Mrs. Stubbs, for which she was thankful.
"Will you 'ave some grapes, my dear?" Mrs. Stubbs
"Sarah 'd like a nectarine," said Mr. Stubbs, who
made a god of his stomach, and loved good things.
"I doubt if she will," his wife said; "they're
bitter to a child's taste; but 'ave which you like
"Grapes, please, Auntie," said Sarah promptly.
As a matter of fact, Sarah did not exactly know
what nectarines were; and, not liking to confess
her ignorance, lest by doing so she should bring on
herself sarcastic glances, to be followed later by
sarcastic remarks from Flossie and Tom, she chose
what she was sure of; besides, she did not want
to run the risk of getting something upon her
plate which she did not like, and perhaps could
not eat. Poor Sarah still had a lively recollection
of once helping herself to a piece of crystallised
ginger when out to tea with her father. She could
not bear hot things, and it seemed to her that
that piece of ginger was the hottest morsel she had
ever put in her mouth. She sucked and sucked in
the hope of reducing it, and so getting rid of it,
and the harder she sucked the hotter it grew. She
tried crushing it between her sharp young teeth,
but that process only seemed to bring out the heat
more and more.
And at last, in sheer desperation, Sarah
bethought herself of her pocket-handkerchief, and,
putting it up as if to wipe her lips, ejected the
pungent morsel, and at the same time seized the
opportunity of putting her poor little burning
tongue out to cool.
"Have another piece of ginger, dear," the lady
of the house had said, seeing that her plate was empty.
The following morning Mrs. Stubbs began
preparing vigorously for the move to Brighton,
which the family invariably made at this time of
the year. Usually, indeed, they went a week or so
earlier, but Mrs. Stubbs being at Bridgehampton,
Miss Clark had done no more towards going than
to see that the children's summer and seaside frocks
and other clothes were all ready.
"I think May and Flossie must 'ave new white
best frocks," Mrs. Stubbs remarked; "and Sarah's
things must be attended to. I knew it was no use
getting the child anything but a black frock in that
old-fashioned Bridge'ampton. I'd better go and
see about them this morning; and if they're not
done by Thursday they can come after us."
So Sarah was dressed, and with May went out
in the neat "broom" with Mrs. Stubbs; and when
she had arranged about the white frocks for her
own children, Mrs. Stubbs began to lay in a stock
of clothes for Sarah. Poor Sarah was bewildered,
and felt more ready to cry than anything else.
"Am I to wear all these?" she asked, with what
was almost horror, as she surveyed the pile of stockings,
petticoats, gloves, sash-ribbons, pocket-handkerchiefs,
and such things, which quickly accumulated
upon the counter.
Mrs. Stubbs laughed good-naturedly. "You won't
say 'all' when you've been a month at Brighton
grubbing about on the shingle and going donkey-rides,
and such like. You must be tidy, you know,
Sarah. And I told you" (in an undertone) "that
you would be the same as my own. I never do
things by 'alves; I'm not one of that sort, thank
So, to Sarah's dismay, she bought lavishly of many
things--frocks, boots, smart pinafores, a pretty, light
summer jacket, and two hats, one a white sailor hat,
the other a black trimmed one for best.
"Do you take cold easy, Sarah?" Mrs. Stubbs
inquired, pausing as they went out of the showroom
before a huge pile of furs.
"I think I do rather, Auntie; and I had bronchitis
"That settles it!" her aunt exclaimed. "I don't
believe in bronchitis and doctors' bills; waste of
money, I call it. You shall 'ave a fur cape."
Now for two years past the dream of Sarah's
life had been to possess a fur cape--"a beautiful,
warm, soft, and lovely fur cape," as she expressed
it; but until now, poor child, she had never dared
to think it might ever be more than a dream--that
it might come to be a possibility or a reality.
The sudden realization was almost too much for
her. She gave a little gasp of delight, and squeezed
her aunt's arm hard.
"Oh, Auntie!" she whispered, with a sob of
delight, "what shall I ever do for you?"
"Nay, nay! don't, Sarah!" Mrs. Stubbs expostulated,
fearing the child was going to break down.
"Be a good girl and love your aunt, that's all, dear."
"Oh, Auntie, I do, I do!" Sarah whispered back;
"but if only Father knew--if only he knew!"
"Why, maybe he does," said Mrs. Stubbs kindly.
"But come, Sarah, my dear, let us try your cape
on. We are wasting this gentleman's time."
The gentleman in question protested that it was
of no consequence, and begged Mrs. Stubbs not
to hurry herself. But time was passing, and
Mrs. Stubbs wanted to get home again, so she urged
Sarah to be quick.
Ten minutes later Sarah was the proud possessor
of a beautiful brown fur cape, just a little large for
her, "that she might have room to grow," but so
warm and cosy, and so entirely to her liking, that,
in spite of the sultry day, the child would willingly
have kept it on and gone home in it. She did not,
however, dare to propose it to her aunt, and if she
had done so Mrs. Stubbs had far too much good
sense to have allowed it.
So they went home gaily enough to lunch, which
was the young folk's dinner, but not without a
petition from May that they should stop at some
nice shop and have ices.
"It will spoil your dinner!" exclaimed Mrs. Stubbs.
"Oh, no, Mother," said May, who sometimes called
her mother so. "And Sarah ought to have an ice
the very first time she has ever had a drive with you."
Thus pressed, Mrs. Stubbs gave in, and stopped
the carriage at a confectioner's in Regent Street.
"I'll have Vanilla," said May. "Which are you
going to have, Sarah?"
"Whichever you like," said Sarah, who had never
tasted an ice in her life, and was thus gaining another
"Try strawberry, then," said May, "and then we
can help one another to a spoonful."
Sarah did try strawberry, and very good she found
it. And then, when they had each eaten about half
of their ices, May proposed that they should change
about. Sarah did not find the Vanilla ice nearly
so much to her liking as the strawberry one had
been; but not liking to say so, as her cousin seemed
to appreciate the change, she finished her portion,
and said she had enjoyed herself very much.
"You'll buy us some sweets, Ma?" said May.
Sarah stared aghast; it seemed to her a terrible
extravagance to have had the ices, particularly after
having spent so much money as her aunt must have
done for the clothes that morning. And then to
ask for sweets! It seemed to her that May had
And perhaps she was not very far wrong. But
May, if she had no conscience, had a wonderful
knack of smoothing the path of daily life for herself.
Mrs. Stubbs demurred decidedly to buying sweets;
but May gave a good reason for her demand.
"Oh, Ma, dear, do! Flossie 'll be as cross as two
sticks at Sarah being out with you instead of her.
And she's sure to ask if we had ices, and, you know
we can't either of us tell a story about it--at least,
I can't, and I don't think Sarah's at all the
story-telling sort--are you, Sarah?"
"Oh no, indeed, Auntie, I'll never tell you a story,"
"And Flossie will go on anyhow, and taunt her;
I know she will. She and Tom were at it last
night--calling her Princess Sarah--her Royal Highness
Princess Sarah," May went on--"didn't they, Sarah?"
"Never mind," said Sarah, trying to make light of it.
"But what did they call her that for?" Mrs. Stubbs
asked, listening in a way that was rare with
her to a bit of tittle-tattle from the schoolroom.
"Well, Ma, dear, you know what Tom is. He
doesn't mean to be rough or rude, but he's just a
boy home for the holidays; and after she's had
the little ones all day, and perhaps not me to talk
to at all, Tom does get a bit too much for Miss
Clark's nerves. And last night Tom was just a bit
more boisterous than usual, and poor Miss Clark
didn't feel very well, and it tried her, you know.
And Sarah was sitting by me, and very quiet, and
Miss Clark happened to say she behaved like a
princess--and so she did. And Tom took it
up--Princess Sarah, of Nowhere; her Royal Highness
Princess Sarah, of Nowhere, and such-like. I don't
think Tom meant to be unkind, but it wasn't very
nice for Sarah, being strange to us all; and then
Flossie took it up, and Johnnie, but Miss Clark told
Johnnie he should go to bed if he said it again, so
he soon shut up."
"Well, it's no use taking any notice of it," said
Mrs. Stubbs, stroking Sarah's hand kindly, "but you'd
better put a stop to it whenever you hear 'em at it,
May. I only 'ope Tom won't let his pa 'ear him.
He'd be very angry, for Sarah's pore ma, that's
dead and gone, was 'is favourite sister, and Pa'd
never forgive a slight that was put on her little
girl. It isn't," said Mrs. Stubbs, warming to her
subject, "any fault of Sarah's that she's left, at nine
years old, without a father, or a mother, or a 'ome;
and it's no credit of any of yours that you've got a
kind pa and ma, and a lux'r'ous 'ome, and a broom
to ride about in. So, Sarah, my dear, don't take no
notice if they begin teasing you about anything.
Remember, your ma was your uncle's favourite
sister, and that you was as welcome as flowers in
May to him when I brought you 'ome."
Sarah looked up. "I don't mind anything, Auntie,
dear," she said bravely, though her lips were
trembling and her eyes were moist. "I'll remember
what you told me when we were coming--give and take."
"That's a brave little woman!" Mrs. Stubbs
exclaimed. "Yes, you'd better go and choose some
sweets, May. Perhaps it was a little 'ard on Flossie
she should have to stop at 'ome, but I can't do with
more than three in the broom--it gets so 'ot and so
stuffy. Perhaps, some day, your pa 'll buy us an
open carriage, and then I don't mind 'ow many
May went out into the shop--for they had been
sitting alone in an inner room--to choose the sweets,
and Mrs. Stubbs continued her talk to Sarah.
"I don't 'old with telling, as a rule; I want my
children to be better than tell-pies," she said; "but
I am glad May told me of this. If anything goes
wrong with you, you tell May about it, Sarah; she's
my right 'and; I don't know what I should do
It was just as well that May had had sufficient
forethought to provide herself with a bundle of
sweets in the shape of a peace-offering for Flossie,
for when they got in they found Flossie in anything
but an amiable mood.
And when Flossie was not in an amiable mood,
she was anything but an agreeable young person.
She was sitting in the schoolroom, staring
sullenly out of the window and kicking impatiently
against the window-board in a way which upset
Miss Clark's nerves until they could only be fairly
described as "shattered."
For everything from first to last had gone wrong
with poor Flossie that morning. In the first place,
she had been intensely disappointed at being left at
home that Sarah might go in the carriage with
Mrs. Stubbs. Flossie was particularly fond of going out
with her mother in the carriage, and was also very
fond of shopping. It was, therefore, quite in vain
that Miss Clark tried to make her understand that
Sarah had not been taken for favouritism, but simply
in order that her aunt might buy her the clothes
necessary for their trip to Brighton. Flossie thought
and said it was a horrid shame, and vowed
vengeance on the unfortunate and inoffensive, though
offending, Sarah in consequence.
"Nasty little mean white-faced thing!" she
exclaimed. "I suppose I shall always be shoved into
the background now, just that she may be coddled
up and made to think herself better than anybody
else. Princess Sarah! Yes, that's to be the new
idea. We're all to be put on one side for Princess
"Flossie," said Miss Clark, very severely, "you
ought to be thoroughly ashamed of yourself. To be
jealous of a poor little girl who has no father or
mother, who has come among strangers at nine years
old, and is fretting her poor little heart out for the
sake of the father who loved her better than any one
in all the world; to be jealous of her being taken
out once when you know it is only on business they
have gone--oh! for shame, Flossie! for shame!"
"Oh, well, she needn't fret after her pa so much,"
Flossie retorted, not taking Miss Clark's remarks to
heart at all. "He didn't do so much for her. He
wasn't a gentleman like Pa. If he had been, he'd
have left her some money of her own."
Miss Clark's whole soul rose up in absolute
loathing within her.
"You vulgar, vulgar child!" she thought. Aloud
she said, "Flossie, my dear, a lady would not say
such a thing as that. Your mother would be very,
very angry if she heard it. Come, it is useless to
stay grumbling and sulking here; you will have to
accept the situation. Mrs. Stubbs is your mother,
and the mistress of this house and family. She
does not ask your leave whether she shall take
you out with her or not. She would be a very bad
mother to you if she did, instead of being, as she
is now, a very good one. Let me hear not another
word, but put your things on to go out with me."
"Is Tom going?" Flossie inquired, not daring to
refuse, though she would dearly have liked to do so.
"No. Tom and Johnnie are going out with Charles."
"And I have to just go out with you and three
"With your three sisters, certainly."
"It's a beastly shame," Flossie burst out.
"Not another word," said the governess sharply.
"Go and get ready at once."
And poor Flossie had to go. Of course it
happened that as she began wrong at the beginning
nothing went very well with her during the rest of
the morning. Miss Clark went the one way she
hated above all others; but Miss Clark had to do a
small but important commission for Mrs. Stubbs, and
was obliged to take it.
Then her sisters, whom she heartily despised--Tom
being her favourite--annoyed her excessively.
Janey would persist in lagging behind, and Minnie
got a stone in her shoe and had to stop and take
it off and shake out the pebble; and then, of course,
she had to stop also to have her shoe tied again,
and one or two people stopped to see what was
amiss, as people do stop when they see any
impediment to the general traffic in the London streets.
"Making a perfect show of them all," Flossie said angrily.
And when they got home, Flossie not feeling
quite so bad as when they set off, Mrs. Stubbs and
May and "that Sarah" actually had not come back.
It really was too bad, and Flossie sat down in the
schoolroom window to watch for them with a face
like a thunder cloud and a heart in which every
outraged and injured feeling capable of being felt
by weak human nature seemed to be seething and
struggling at once.
If only Tom had come back, it would not have
been so bad. But Charles, the indoor servant, had
taken him and Johnnie down to Seven Dials to buy
some guinea-pigs, and Seven Dials being a long
way from South Kensington, they could not possibly
have got back by that time if they had tried ever
so. Poor Flossie!
So she sat and brooded--brooded over what she
was pleased to call her wrongs. She would not so
much have minded not going out with the "broom"
if only she might have gone with Charles and Tom
and Johnnie to enjoy the somewhat doubtful
delights of Seven Dials. That, however, Mrs. Stubbs
had resolutely and peremptorily refused to allow.
So it happened that Flossie sat in the window
waiting for their return.
At last they came. She saw them get out of the
carriage and disappear within the house; she saw
the carriage drive round to the stables.
And then there was a long pause. But they
none of them seemed to think of coming upstairs,
even then. Poor Flossie kicked at the window-board
more noisily than ever, and in vain Miss Clark,
driven almost to desperation, cried, "Flossie, will
you be quiet?"
And then the door opened quietly, and May came
in, looking radiant. Flossie felt more ill-used even
"Oh, you are here, Flossie. I've been looking for
you everywhere," she remarked.
"Well, you can't have looked very hard, or you'd
have found me," Flossie snapped. Then with a
fierce glance at the parcel in her sister's hand, she
blurted out, "You've been having ices!"
"Yes, we have," answered May; "but you needn't
look like that, Flossie; I've brought you back a
great deal more than both our ices cost."
"What have you brought?" half mollified.
"Caramels in chocolate."
"I hate caramels!" Flossie declared, fearing, with
the old clinging to ungraciousness that sulky people
have, that her last reply had sounded too much like
coming round, a concession which Flossie never
made too soon or made too cheap.
"Nougāt?" said May, putting the caramels on one side.
"You know I can't eat nougāt; it always makes
my teeth ache!" Flossie cried.
"Fondants?" May knew that her sister was
passionately fond of that form of sweetmeats. But
Flossie would have none of it.
"I detest fondants!" she said, with an impressiveness
which would have been worthy of the occasion
had she said that she detested--well, prussic acid, or
some pleasant and deadly preparation of that kind.
"Well, it's a pity I worried Ma for them at all,"
May remarked with her usual placid air of disgust.
"Perhaps, though, you'll think differently after lunch.
Come down, and pray don't look like that! Pa's
AN ASTUTE TELL-PIE
But not even the presence of Mr. Stubbs, who
was held in great awe by his sons and daughters,
and was most emphatically what is known as
"master in his own house," was sufficient to restore
the redoubtable Flossie to her usual careless,
happy-go-lucky, giggling sauciness.
She went down and took her seat at table, speaking
only when spoken to, but nevertheless contriving
to eat an uncommonly good meal. And Tom entertained
her with an account of his excursion to the
Dials; and although Flossie had spent the last three
hours in a passion of jealousy, envy, and unhappiness
too great for alleviation, even when it came in the
shape of caramels, nougāt, and fondants, yet she
could not resist the temptation of hearing all that
Tom had to say, and of arranging to go round to the
stables with him to see his new pets when lunch
should be over.
And presently she was graciously pleased to accept
the caramels and nougāt and the fondants. But for
some hours she did not forgive Sarah--"Princess
Sarah" she unceasingly called her, although solemnly
warned by May that "Ma" had already heard of the
name, and that if "Pa" heard it the consequences
would indeed be dreadful.
"Ah, I suppose Miss Tell-pie has been making
up to Ma this morning!" suggested Flossie, with a
"Nothing of the kind!" returned May quickly,
but in her most condescending tone; "it was quite
another person. Sarah has never said a word, not
even when she was asked. But, any way, Ma did
hear it, and she's very angry about it. And Ma says
if Pa gets to know about it he'll be fearfully angry,
for Sarah's ma was his favourite sister. And so
you'd better just mind what you're doing, Miss Flossie!"
"I do hate that Miss Clark!" Flossie remarked.
"Miss Clark!" exclaimed May. "Why, whatever for?"
"Nasty, mean, spiteful tell-pie!" Flossie explained.
"It wasn't Miss Clark. I tell you Ma got to
hear about it."
"Who was it then?"
"Ah, that I can't tell you; but, any way, Ma got
to hear of it, and she told me to put a stop to it, and
so you'd better be careful, that's all."
And never for a moment did Flossie suspect that
some blades are so sharp that they can cut two ways,
and that her informant was quite as clever at
carrying tales to one side as to the other. Ah! but
blundering, boisterous Flossie was not nearly so
astute as Mrs. Stubbs's right hand--May.
When they had come from Bridgehampton
Mrs. Stubbs had only brought her own box and one
which contained Sarah's modest wardrobe with them.
Her father's pictures and the precious Amati, with
one or two bits of old carved oak, a chair, a table, a
little chest, and a stool, with one or two bits of
armour and a few pieces of very good china, were all
packed and sent off by goods train.
They arrived that afternoon, and Mrs. Stubbs had
them all unpacked, and declared her intention of
putting them into the little bedroom which, after
they came back from Brighton, should be Sarah's own.
"They're lovely things, and belong to the child
herself, and it's right she should have them kept for
'er, you know, Stubbs."
"Quite right, quite right," returned Mr. Stubbs
promptly, and turning to see the effect of his wife's
consideration on Sarah, whose character he was
studying earnestly and diligently for the purpose of
finding out whether any taint of what he called her
"fine gentleman father" was about her.
But Sarah was quite oblivious. She had got hold
of her beloved violin, from which she had never been
parted before in all her life, and was dusting it
jealously with her little pocket-handkerchief.
Mrs. Stubbs saw the look and understood it
"The child didn't 'ear," she explained; and having
attracted Sarah's attention, told her what her plans
were for her future comfort. "You'll like that, won't
you?" she ended.
Sarah's reply was as astounding as it was prompt.
"Oh, no, dear Auntie, not at all," she said earnestly.
"And why not?" Mrs. Stubbs inquired, while her
husband stared as if he thought the world might be
coming to an end.
"Why, Auntie, didn't you say your own self how
beautiful they were, and how well they would set off
a hall? I'd much rather you'd put them downstairs
than in a bedroom, for you would see them every
time you went in and out, and that would please me."
"There's unselfishness for you!" Mrs. Stubbs cried.
"No, Auntie. I don't think it is," said Sarah in
her sweet, humble voice. "It's nothing so grand as
unselfishness; it's just because I love you."
"Kiss me, my woman," cried Mrs. Stubbs with rapture.
"And come and kiss me," said Mr. Stubbs.
"You're a good girl, Sarah, your mother's own
daughter. She was right, my lass, to stick to the
husband she loved and married, though I never
thought so till this moment."
"Oh, Uncle!" Sarah gasped, for to hear him speak
so of the mother she had never seen, but whom she
had been taught to love from her babyhood, was joy
almost greater than her child's heart could bear.
"There, there! If aught goes wrong, come to me,"
Mr. Stubbs murmured. "And if you always speak
to your aunt as you've done to-day, I shall think
your pore father must have been a fine fellow, or
you'd never be what you are."
Oh, Sarah was so happy! After all, what could,
what did it matter if Flossie and Tom did call her
Princess Sarah of Nowhere? Why, just nothing at
all--nothing at all.
"Uncle," she said, after a moment or two, "may I
play you something on my violin?"
"Yes," he answered.
"That," remarked Mrs. Stubbs, as Sarah opened
the piano and began to tune up in a way which made
her uncle open his eyes with astonishment, "is the
fiddle Sarah says is worth five hundred pounds."
"Like enough. Some of 'em are," he answered.
And then Sarah played a German lied and a
Hungarian dance; then "Home, Sweet Home."
"Well," said Mrs. Stubbs, looking at him, when
she ceased, "what do you think of it?"
"I think she's--a genius," answered Mr. Stubbs.
A PLEASANT RAILWAY JOURNEY
On the Thursday following the whole Stubbs
family went to Brighton. Sarah enjoyed the
journey intensely, journeys being still almost a
novelty with her. She would have enjoyed it more
if May had not grumbled at going second-class, and
if Flossie and Tom had not vied with one another
in trying how far they could lean out of either
window of the carriage. Poor Miss Clark was almost
beside herself with fright.
"Tom, put your head in immediately," she cried
in desperation, and expecting every moment to see
the door fly open and Tom shoot out headlong, to
be picked up a mangled corpse or in actual fragments.
"Tom, do you hear me? Tom, I insist upon it."
But if Miss Clark had shouted till she had killed
herself with shouting, Tom, leaning half his body
out of the window, with the wind whistling in his
ears and the roar and rattle of the engine and
wheels all helping to deaden any such small sounds
as that of a human voice, and that the voice of a
weak and rather helpless woman, could not have
heard her, and Miss Clark had no choice but, with
May's help, to tug Tom in by the nether part of
his garments. This done, she pulled up the window
with a jerk.
"I forbid you to open that window again," she
said with such severity that even Tom was cowed,
and sat meekly down with a somewhat sulky air.
Miss Clark had thus time to turn her attention
to the other children, when, to her horror, she found
that Flossie was not only emulating but far surpassing
her brother, not contenting herself with leaning
well out of the window, but was actually standing
on the seat that she might push herself out the
farther. To pull her in and put her down on her
seat with a bump was the work of but a moment.
"If I have to speak to you again, Flossie," she
said in accents of solemn warning, "I shall get
out at the next station and take you to your father's
carriage. I fancy you will sit quiet there."
Flossie thought so too, and sat quietly enough
till the next station was passed; but after that May
complained so bitterly of the closed windows and
the horrid stuffiness of the carriage that Miss Clark's
sternness relented a little, and she allowed the
window beside which May was sitting to be let down.
And the very fact of the window being open
seemed to set all Tom's nerves, and muscles, and
longings tingling. He moved about uneasily in his
seat, kept dodging round to look sideways through
the glass at the side, and finally jumped up in a
hurry and pushed his head and shoulders through
the window. In vain did Miss Clark tug and pull at
him and his garments alike. Tom had his elbows
out of the window this time, and, as he chose not to
give way, not all the combined strength of Miss
Clark and May, with such help as Sarah and Minnie
could give, had the smallest effect upon him. At
last Miss Clark, who, as I have said, was not very
strong, sat down and began to sniff in a way which
sounded very hysterical, for she really was horribly
afraid some dreadful accident would happen long
before they got to their destination. However, as the
suspicious little sob was heard and understood by
May, that young lady took the law into her own
hands and administered a sharp corrective immediately.
"Tom," she shouted, "come in."
Tom did not hear more than that he was being
shouted at, and, as a natural consequence, did not
move. Whereupon May quietly reached up to the
rack and fished out Tom's own, his very own, riding-whip,
and with that she began to belabour him soundly.
It had effect! After half a dozen cuts, Tom began
to struggle in, but May was a stout and heavily-set
young lady, and as resolute in will as ever was her
father, when she was once fairly roused. So she
calmly held him by his neck and went on administering
her corrective until she was utterly tired.
Then she let him go, and when he, blind with rage
and fury, and vowing vengeance upon her, made for
her, and would have fought her, she sprang up at the
knob by which you can signal to the driver and stop
a train, and threatened to pull it if he touched her.
And oh, Tom was angry! Angry--he was furious;
but he was mastered. For it happened that on the
very day that he and Johnnie had gone with Charles
to Seven Dials, he had asked Charles all about the
alarm bell, by means of which trains may be stopped
if necessary, and Charles had explained the matter
in a clear and lucid way peculiar to himself--a talent
which made him especially valuable in a home where
there were boys.
"Why, Master Tom," he exclaimed, "you see
that's a indicator. If you wants to storp the trayin
you just pulls that knob, and it rings a bell on the
engine somewhere, and the driver storps the trayin
"Let's stop it," suggested Tom, in high glee at the
prospect of a walk through a dark and dangerous
It must be admitted that Charles's heart fairly
stood still at the thought of what his explanation
"Master Tom," said he, with a face of horror which
was so expressive that Tom was greatly impressed by
it, "don't you go for to do nothing of the kind! It's
almost a 'anging matter is storping of trayins--useless
like. If you was took ill, or 'ad a fit, or somebody
was a-murdering of you, why, it would be all right;
but to storp a trayin when there's naught wrong, is--well,
I believe, as a matter of fact, it's seven years."
"Seven years--seven years what?" Tom asked,
thinking the whole thing a grand joke.
"Prison," returned Charles laconically; "that is, if
it was me. If it was you, Master Tom, it would
mean reformatory school, with plenty of stick and
no meat, nor no 'olidays. No, I wouldn't go for to
storp no trayins if I was you, Master Tom."
"But we needn't say it was us that rang," pleaded
Tom, whose fingers were just itching to ring that bell.
Charles laughed. "Lor! Master Tom, they're up
to that game!" he answered. "Bless you! they 'ave
a lot of numbers, and they'd know in a minute which
carriage it was that rang. No, Master Tom, don't
you go for to ring no bells and storp no trayins. I
lived servant with a young fellow once as had had
five years of a reformatory school, and the tales he
used to tell of what went on there was enough to
make your blood curdle and your very 'air stand on
end--mine did many a time!"
"Which--your blood or your hair, Charles?" Tom
inquired, with keen interest.
"Both!" returned Charles, in a tone which carried
conviction with it.
Thus Tom had no further resource, when May
vowed to ring the bell and stop the train if he
touched her, but to sit down and bear his aches and
his defeat in silence. But, oh, he was angry! To
be beaten and beaten again by a girl! It was too
humiliating, too lowering to bear. Yet poor Tom
had to bear it--that was the worst of it. So they
eventually got to Brighton in safety.
It would be hard for me to tell of all the joys
and pleasures which Brighton gave to the
Stubbs family and to Sarah in particular. To the
younger of the Stubbs children all was joy and
delight, though they had been there several times
before; to Miss Clark it was rest and peace,
because she was not much troubled with Tom; and
Flossie, too, was allowed to go about with him and
Johnnie a great deal more freely than she ever was
at home. May--always Miss Clark's favourite--spent
much of her time beside her, though she
went shopping sometimes with her mother, and
also driving. But, on the whole, Mrs. Stubbs did
not give up very much of her time just then to
For Mr. Stubbs was taking his holiday, and
Mr. Stubbs was troubled with a threatened fit of the
gout, and do with the sound of the children's
racket and bustle he simply could not. He was
often threatened with the gout, though the
threatenings seldom came to anything more than temper.
So, whilst they were at Brighton, Mrs. Stubbs--who
was as good a wife as she was a mother--devoted
herself to him, and left the children to
take care of themselves a good deal.
Their life was naturally quite a different one to
what it was in town. They had a furnished house
in which they slept and took their meals, but
which at other times they did not much affect--they
had early dinner there, and a high tea at
seven o'clock, at which they all ate like ravenous
wolves, Sarah amongst the number. This was a
very happy, free-and-easy meal; for, though
Mr. and Mrs. Stubbs joined in the early dinner, and
called it lunch, they did not go in for the high tea
but invariably went to the Grand Hotel and had
Oh, what happy, happy days they were! There
was the early run out on the Parade or the Sea
Wall before breakfast; then the delicious seaside
breakfast, with fresh whitings every morning.
There was the daily dip in the sea, and the daily
donkey ride or goat-chaise drive. There was the
ever new and delightful shingle, on which they
played and skipped, and dug and delved to their
hearts' content. There were the niggers, and the
blind man who sang to his own accompaniment
on a sort of hand-organ, and wore a smart blue
necktie, and a flower in his button-hole. There
was a sweet little child, too, wearing a big
sun-bonnet, whom they used to watch for every
morning, who came with toddling three-year-old gravity
with a penny for the niggers, to the infinite
amusement of the bystanders.
"Here, black man."
"Thank you, my little Snowdrop," was the
invariable reply of the nigger minstrel; and then
the little wee "Snowdrop" would make a stately
bow. The nigger would take off his hat with a
bow to match it, and the little scene was over till
Then there was the Aquarium, and the delightful
shop, which they called "The Creameries," a
little way past Mutton's; and once or twice they
all, except Mr. Stubbs, went for a trip in the
steamer, when Mrs. Stubbs took chief charge, and
Miss Clark was so horribly ill that she thought
she would have died.
And once Mr. and Mrs. Stubbs went to
Newhaven, and thence to Dieppe, taking Tom with
them--not at all because Tom wanted to go, but
because May represented to her mother that
neither she nor Miss Clark were feeling very well,
and that without "Pa's" restraining influence she
was sure Tom would not only worry them all to
death, but would also incite Flossie into all
manner of dreadful pranks, the consequences of
which might be dire and terrible.
So Tom went with them over the water on to
French soil, and May remarked, triumphantly, to the
governess, "I've got rid of him, Miss Clark, so now
we shall have a little peace, and enjoy ourselves."
And so they did. To be without Tom was like
the enjoyment of the calm which comes after a
storm; and they, one and all, with the exception
of Flossie, enjoyed it to the full. Flossie was very
much aggrieved at being thus deprived of her
"It is too bad that Tom should have to go
with Pa and Ma," she complained. "He won't
have a soul to speak to or a boy to play with, or
anything, except some stupid little French boy,
perhaps, who can't speak a word of anything but
gibberish. I call it a beastly shame. I suppose
it's old Clark's doing, and that she was just afraid
Tom would get an extra good time while they
were away. Nasty old cat!"
"Miss Clark had no more to do with it than
you had," May replied. "Ma chose to take him,
and that's enough."
As Tom was actually gone, there was not the
smallest use in grumbling. So Flossie, thus left
idle, turned her attention upon Sarah. It is
needless to say that very, very soon Flossie also began
to tease her, and, in consequence, Sarah's life
became more or less of a burden to her. In this
way Sarah, who was a singularly uncomplaining
child, crept nearer and nearer to Miss Clark and
May, as there she was safe from Flossie's taunts
and jeers; and it was in this way that some notice
was taken of her by one of the great lights of the
Stubbs family, Mrs. George Stubbs, the corn-factor's
wife, who lived in great style at Brighton.
It happened that one morning Sarah and May
were waiting for Miss Clark to come out with the
younger children, when Mrs. George came slowly
along in a bath-chair. As she passed by them she
called to the man to stop. "Dear me, is that you,
May?" she remarked; "how you've grown. Your
papa and mamma came to see us the other day, but
I was not at home. I was out."
"They have gone over to Dieppe," said May,
"and Tom with them. This is our cousin, Sarah,
"Oh! is it? Yes, your mamma told me when she
wrote last that she was coming to live with you.
How do you do, Sarah?"
All this was uttered in a languid tone, as if, on
the whole, life was too much trouble to be lived
at all. Sarah had met with nothing of this kind
in all her life before, and looked only impressed;
in truth, she looked a good deal more impressed
than she was, or rather she looked differently
impressed to what she was, and Mrs. George Stubbs
was pleased to be a little flattered thereby.
"You must come and have tea with me," she
observed graciously to May. "I have not been
able to get out except the day your mamma
called--my unfortunate neuralgia has been so very
trying. You may bring Sarah. Would you like
to come to-night?
"Very much indeed, thank you, Aunt George,"
"Very much indeed," echoed Sarah.
"Your cousins are, of course, all at school in
Paris, and your uncle is in London, so we will
have high tea at seven o'clock. Bring your music
"Sarah plays the violin," said May, who hated
playing in company herself. "She plays it
beautifully. She's going to have lessons."
"Then bring your violin and let me hear you,"
said Mrs. George to Sarah; "it is a most stylish
"I will," said Sarah.
"Oh, is Flossie to come, Aunt George?" asked
May, as they shook hands.
"Flossie? No. I can-not do with Flossie,"
replied Mrs. George, in a tone which was enough
to remind May that the very last time they had
visited their aunt, Flossie had been clever enough
to break a beautiful Venetian glass, which was, as
Mrs. George had remarked pathetically over the
fragments, simply of priceless value.
SARAH MAKES AN IMPRESSION
"What a shame!" said Flossie, when she
heard of the invitation. "Just like the
nasty old thing, to remember an accident that I
couldn't help. Not that I care! I shall enjoy
myself far better at home"; and Flossie caught hold
of Minnie's arm, and stalked along the Parade as if
she cared so little that she did not want to hear
any more about that great lady, her Aunt George.
"What did you think of her?" May asked of Sarah.
"Is she very ill?" Sarah asked, thinking of the
bath-chair and her aunt's languid wrists and tones.
"Ill?--no! Ma says she's a hy-po-chon-driac,"
returned May, pronouncing the long word in syllables.
"That's fancying yourself ill when you ain't.
See? But all the same, Aunt George is very stylish."
"She's not half so nice as Auntie," Sarah flashed out.
"No, she isn't! But she's a great deal stylisher
than Ma is," May returned. "Didn't you hear the
way she told the man to go on? 'Go-on-Chawles!'"
and May leant back on the seat, slightly waved a
languid hand, flickered her drooping eyelids, and
gave a half-languid, half-supercilious smile.
It was a fine imitation of Mrs. George's stylish
airs, and Sarah was lost in admiration of it.
"I wonder," she remarked presently, after thinking
the question over, "I wonder if she eats her dinner
like that; because, if she does, it must generally get
cold before she has half finished it."
"Oh, Aunt's much too stylish to eat much," May
explained. "She nibbles at this and picks at that.
You'll see to-night."
And Sarah did see--saw that, in spite of her airs
and her nibbling and her picking, Mrs. George
contrived to put a good meal out of sight--quite as
much as ever her sister-in-law could manage to do.
That evening was also a new experience to Sarah;
it was so much more stately than anything she had
Mr. and Mrs. George Stubbs lived in a very large
house in a large square in the best part of Brighton.
A resplendent footman received them when they got
out of the cab--yes, they had a cab, though it was
only a short way from their own house--and a solemn
butler ushered them into Mrs. George's presence.
She wore a tea-gown of soft yellow silk, with a very
voluminous trailing skirt, and showers of white lace
and broad yellow ribbons about it. It was a
garment that suited the languid air, the quivering
eye-lids, the weak wrists, and the soft, drawling voice to
The resplendent footman had relieved Sarah of
her violin-case and carried it upstairs for her.
Mrs. George motioned to it as he announced her visitors.
"With great care, Chawles," and "Chawles" put it
down on a chair beside the inlaid grand piano as if
it were a baby and might squeal.
"How are you, dears?" Mrs. George said, giving
each a limp and languid hand. "How oppressive
the evening is!" Then to "Chawles," "Let tea be
Very soon tea was announced, and they went
downstairs. It was all new to Sarah--the large,
spacious dining-room, with its rich, costly art-furniture;
the pretty round table, with flowers and pretty-coloured
glasses, with quaint little figures holding
trays of sweets or preserves, or wheeling barrows of
tiny ferns or miniature palms.
And the board was well-spread, too. There was
salmon, salad, and a boiled chicken covered with
white, frothy sauce. There was an aspic jelly, with
eggs and green peas, and certain dark things which
May told her afterwards were truffles; and there
were several kinds of sweet dishes, and more than
one kind of wine.
To Sarah it was a resplendent feast--as resplendent
as the gorgeous footman who stood midway
between her chair and May's, only a little in the
rear; the solemn butler keeping guard over his
mistress, whom he served first, as if she had been
a royal queen.
"Now you shall play to me," Mrs. George said
to Sarah, when they had got back to the drawing-room again.
Sarah rose obediently
"What shall I play?" she asked.
"What can you play?" Mrs. George asked, in reply.
"Oh, a great many things," Sarah said modestly.
"Let Sarah play what she fancies," put in May,
who had established herself in a low, lounging chair,
and was fanning herself with a fan she had found
on a table at hand with the closest imitation of
Mrs. George she could manage; "she always plays
the best then."
"Very well," Mrs. George said graciously. So
She felt that in all her life before she had never
played as she played then. The influence of the
luxurious meal of which they had just partaken was
upon her. The exquisite coloured glass, the sweet-scented
flowers, the smell of the fragrant coffee, the
stately servants moving softly about with quiet
footsteps and smooth gestures, each and all had made
her feel calm and peaceful; and now the soft-toned
drawing-room, with its plush and lace hangings, its
delicate china, its Indian embroideries, and those
two quiet figures lying back in the half light, making
no movement except the slow waving to and fro of
their fans, completed the influence. It was all food
to Sarah's artistic soul, and she made the Amati
speak for her all that was passing through her mind.
Mrs. George was spell-bound. She actually
forgot to fan herself in the desire not to miss a single
note. Nay, she did more, she forgot to be languid,
and sat bolt upright in her chair, her head moving
to and fro in time with Sarah's music.
"Why, child, you are a genius!" she exclaimed,
as Sarah came to a close and turned her speaking
eyes upon her for comment.
"That's just what Papa said," put in May, adjusting
her language to her company.
"If you go on--if you work," Mrs. George continued,
"your violin will be your fortune. You will
be a great woman some day."
Sarah's great eyes blazed at the thought of it;
her heart began to beat hard and fast.
"Do you really think so, Aunt George?" she asked.
"I really do. I am sure of it. But, child, your
violin seems to me a very good one. Where did
you get it?"
"Father gave it to me; it was his grandfather's,"
said Sarah, holding it out for inspection. "It is an
"It is worth five hundred pounds," said May, who
was eminently practical, and measured most things
by a pounds, shillings, and pence standard.
"Of course--if it is an Amati," murmured Mrs. George,
becoming languid again. "But go on, my
child. I should like a little more."
So Sarah played and played until the room grew
darker and darker, and gradually the shadows
deepened, until it was only by the lamps from the
square that she could distinguish the outlines of the
figure in the yellow sweeping robes.
It was like a shock when the door was gently
opened and the footman came in, bearing a huge
lamp with a crimson shade. Then the coffee
followed, and before very long one of the servants
came back, and said that the cab for the young
ladies had come.
"You have given me great pleasure," said
Mrs. George to Sarah; "and when Mrs. Stubbs comes
back I must make an afternoon party, and Sarah
shall play at it. I have not been so pleased for a
long time." And then she kissed them both, and
with "good-night" they left her.
"Won't Ma be pleased!" remarked May, with
great satisfaction, as they drove along the Parade.
"I shan't mind a bit her being vexed that Flossie
wasn't asked. Really, Sarah, I never saw Aunt
George so excited before. She's generally so
die-away and all that."
But Sarah was hardly listening, and not heeding
at all. With her precious Amati on her knee, she
was looking away over the moonlit sea, thinking of
what her aunt had said to her. "If you go on--if
you work--your violin will be your fortune. You
will be a great woman."
"I will go on; I will work," she said to herself.
"If I can be a great woman, I will."
THE TURNING POINT OF HER LIFE
Mrs. George's opinion of Sarah's violin-playing
proved to be the turning point of
her life as a violin-player. A few days later,
when Mr. and Mrs. Stubbs had returned from
Dieppe, she gave a large afternoon reception, to
which Sarah took her violin, and played--her best.
And the visitors--elegant ladies and gentlemen--crowded
round the child, and would have turned
her head with praises, had it not been such a
sensible little head that they had no sort of effect
"They talked such a lot," she said to her aunt
afterwards, "that I felt frightened at first; but I
found that they didn't really know much about it,
for one of my strings got flat, and they praised
that more than anything."
But her aunt, Mrs. Stubbs, was proud enough
and elated enough for a dozen violin-players, and
she stood beside Sarah, explaining who she was
and how she was going to have lessons from the
best master they could get, until Mrs. George felt
sick to think that her grand friends should know
"that dreadful woman" was a relation of hers.
"Sarah, my dear, Lady Golladay wishes you to
play again. Something pathetic."
So Sarah tuned up again, and Mrs. Stubbs was silent.
"She can't talk when the child is playing,"
murmured Mrs. George to her husband. "Do take
her down to have some tea or something, and
keep her as long as you can--anything to keep
her out of sight."
"All right," he answered, and immediately that
Sarah's melody came to an end, followed by a burst
of applause, he offered his arm to his sister-in-law,
and begged her to go with him and have some
This reception completely opened Mrs. Stubbs's
eyes, and she went back to London strangely
impressed with a belief that Sarah was not only a
genius, but a new fashion. She gave a party,
too--not an afternoon party, for she wanted her
husband to be there, and he was never at home
before six o'clock. No, it was not an afternoon,
but an evening party, at which the elder children
were all present, and at which Sarah played.
And then Sarah began with her violin lessons,
and worked hard, very hard. Mrs. George wrote
from Brighton that she would provide all the new
music she required, and that her Uncle George
enclosed a sovereign for herself.
So time went on. Sarah had two lessons a
week, and improved daily in her playing. Tom
went back to school, and Johnnie with him, and
Flossie's turbulent spirit became a good deal
subdued, though she never forgot to keep Sarah
reminded that she was "Princess Sarah of Nowhere."
The weeks rolled into months, and months into
years. Miss Clark went away and got married--to
May's mingled sorrow and delight, and to
Flossie's unfeigned and unutterable disgust--for
Mrs. Stubbs chose a lady to fill her place, who
was what she called "a strict disciplinarian," and
Flossie had considerably less freedom and fun
than she had aforetime. For Miss Best had not
only a strong mind and a strong will, but also a
remarkably strong body, and seemed able to be on
the alert at all times and seasons. She had, too,
not the smallest objection to telling tales in school
or out of it. The slightest infringement of her
rules was visited with heavy punishment in the
form of extra lessons, and the least attempt to
shirk them was reported to headquarters
immediately. In fact, Miss Best was a power, a power
to be felt and feared, and Flossie did both
Of all her pupils, Sarah was Miss Best's favourite.
In her she recognised the only worker. May
was good-tempered, and possessed the blessing of
a placid and dignified disposition; but May's
capacity for learning was not great, and Miss
Best soon found that it was no use trying to
drive her a shade faster along the royal road to
knowledge. She went at a willing jog-trot; she
could not gallop because she had not the power.
With Flossie it was different. Flossie had brilliant
capacities which she would not use. Miss Best
was determined that she should use them and
exert them. Flossie was equally determined that
she would not; and so for the first few months
life in the Stubbs's schoolroom was a hand-to-hand
fight between Flossie and Miss Best; and
Miss Best came off winner.
Yet, though she got the better of Flossie and
made her work, she never gave her the same
place in her heart that she gave to Sarah, who
worked with all her heart and soul, because she
was impressed with the idea that if she only
worked hard enough she might be a great woman
And as she was a favourite with Miss Best,
so was she a favourite with Signor Capri, the
master who taught her the violin. He was quick
to recognise the true artist soul that dwelt within
her, and gave her all the help that lay in his
power; in fact, Sarah was his favourite pupil, his
pet, and he put many chances of advancement toward
her great ambition in her way.
For instance, many times he took her out with
him to play at concerts and private houses, so
that she might grow accustomed to playing before
an audience of strangers and also that she might
And known very soon Sarah was, and welcomed
to many a noble house for the sake of the
exquisite sounds she was able to draw from the
strings of the Amati. Besides that, Sarah was a
very pretty child, and, as she grew older, was an
equally pretty girl. She never had that gawky
legginess which distinguishes so many girls in
their teens--there was nothing awkward about her,
nothing rough or boisterous. All her movements
were soft and gentle; her voice was sweet, and
her laugh very musical, but not loud; and with
her tall, slim figure, and the great, grey, earnest
eyes looking out from under the shining masses
of sunny hair, she was, indeed, an uncommon-looking
girl, and a great contrast to the young
Stubbses, who were all short, and inclined to be
stout, and had twine-coloured hair, and pale, pasty
complexions; though, in spite of that, they all
had, like their mother, a certain bonniness which
made them pleasant looking enough.
Sarah had been nearly four years living at
Jesamond Road, where Mrs. Stubbs's home was,
when May "came out." May was then nearly
eighteen, and just what she had been when Sarah
first saw her--placid, good-tempered, and obliging,
not very quick in mind, nor yet in body; willing
to take advantage of every pleasure that came
in her road, but not willing to give herself the
smallest trouble that other people might have
pleasure too. She was very different to Flossie,
who was a regular little spitfire, and had neither
consideration for, nor fear of, anything on earth,
except Miss Best, whom she detested, but whom
she dared not openly defy; if she had dared,
Flossie would have done it.
As for Tom, he was beyond the control of
anybody in that house, excepting his father. He
was wilder, rougher, more unmerciful, and more
impudent than ever; and whenever Tom's holidays
drew near, Sarah used to quake for fear lest
her precious Amati should not survive the visit;
and invariably she carried it to the cupboard in
Miss Best's room for safety. Happily, into that
room Master Tom did not presume to put even
so much as the tip of his nose.
A BRILLIANT MARRIAGE
When May left the schoolroom behind her,
Sarah found a great difference in her life.
In her placid, good-natured way, May had always
been fond of her, and had in a great measure stood
between her and Flossie; but Flossie, when she
became the senior of the schoolroom, took every
opportunity she had of making the younger ones,
particularly Sarah, aware of that fact.
Sarah was then nearly fourteen, and rather taller
than Flossie, who was turned sixteen; so, had she
chosen to do so, she could easily have got the best
of her; but Sarah never forgot--never, indeed, was
allowed to forget--that she was not a daughter of
the house, and was not, therefore, free to fight and
wrangle as much and as disagreeably as the others
allowed themselves to do.
Very, very often, in those days, did she have the
old taunt of Princess Sarah thrown at her. "Oh!
Princess Sarah is quite too high and mighty to
quarrel over it. Princess Sarah is going to do the
mute martyr style of thing."
So Flossie would--though she did not know
it--encourage her cousin to work harder than ever,
just by way of showing that she had something
more in her than to spend her life in bickering and
snarling. Stay! I do Sarah an injustice there--she
was moved by another and a better motive,
both in trying to keep peace and in trying to get
on with her work, for she had always the grateful
feeling, "It will please Auntie so," and always a
feeling that it was a slight return to her uncle's wife if
she bore Flossie's attentions without complaining.
They did not see much of May; all day she was
in the drawing-room with her mother, if she was
not out on some errand of pleasure. And at night,
when the schoolroom tea was over, she used to
come down for a minute and show herself, a vision
of comeliness--for May was considered a great
beauty in the Stubbs' set--in white or roseate airy
garments, with hair crimpled and fluffy, feathers and
flowers, fans and bangles, pearls and diamonds, and
all the other necessaries for a young lady of fashion
in her first season.
Some time previously Mr. Stubbs had made his
wife a present of an elegant landau and a pair of
high-stepping horses. But Flossie, to her disgust,
found that her drives were no more frequent than
they had been in the days of the one-horse
"broom." Then her mother had not unreasonably declared
herself unable to bear the stuffiness of a carriage
full of people. Now May objected to any one going
with them on the score of her dress being crushed and
the unpleasantness of "looking like a family ark."
They had become very gay. Scarcely a night
passed but they went out to some gay entertainment
or other, and many parties were given at home,
when the elder of the younger members of the family
had the pleasure of participating in them.
Flossie was terribly indignant at being kept at
home that May might have more room in the
luxurious and roomy carriage.
"Just you wait till I come out, Miss May." She
said one day, "and then see if your airs and graces
will keep me in the background! The fact is,
you're afraid to show off against me; you know as
well as I do that, with all your fine dress and your
finer airs, you are not half so much noticed as I
am! And as for that Sarah----"
"Leave Sarah out of it!" laughed May; "she
doesn't want to go."
"I'd soon stop it if she did!" growled Flossie.
It was really very hard, and Flossie thought and
said so. But May was inflexible, and long before
Flossie was ready to come out May became engaged
to be married.
It was a very brilliant marriage indeed, and the
entire family were wonderfully elated about it.
True, the bridegroom was a good deal older than
May, and was pompous to a degree. But then he
was enormously rich, and had a great cheap clothes
manufactory down the East End somewhere, and
could give May bigger diamonds than anybody they
knew. He had, too, a house in Palace Gardens
and a retinue of silk-stockinged servants, in
comparison with whom Mrs. George's footman at
Brighton was a mere country clod.
So in time May was married--married with such
pomp and ceremony that feelings seemed left out
altogether, and if tender-hearted Mrs. Stubbs shed
a few tears at parting with the first of all her brood,
they were smothered among the billows of lace
which bedecked her, and nobody but herself was
any the wiser.
After this it became an established custom that
Flossie should take May's place in the carriage;
and it was not long before she managed to persuade
her mother that it was time for her to throw off
Miss Best's yoke altogether, and go out as a young
lady of fashion.
Before very long Mrs. Stubbs began dearly to
repent herself of her weakness; for Flossie, with
her emancipation, seemed to have left her old self
in the schoolroom, and to have taken up a new
character altogether. She became very refined,
very fashionable, very elegant in all her ideas and
"My mother really is a great trial to me," she
said one day to Sarah. "She's very good, and all
that, you know; but she's so--well, there's no sort
of style about poor mother. And it is trying to
have to take men up and introduce them to her.
And they look at her, don't you know, as if she
were something new, something strange--as if they
hadn't seen anything like her before. It's annoying,
to say the least of it."
"Well, if I were you," retorted Sarah hotly, "I
should say to such people, and pretty sharply, 'If
my mother is not good enough for you, why, neither
"But then, you see, I am," remarked Flossie,
with ineffable conceit.
"You don't understand what I mean," said Sarah,
with a patient sigh.
"That's because you're so bad at expressing yourself,
my dear," said Flossie, with a fine air of
condescension. "It all comes out of shutting yourself
up so much with that squeaking old violin of yours.
I can't think why you didn't go in for the guitar--it's
such a pretty instrument to play, and it backs
up a voice so well."
"But I haven't got a voice," cried Sarah, laughing.
"Oh, that doesn't matter. Lady Lomys hasn't a
voice either, but she sings everywhere--everywhere."
"Where did you hear her?" Sarah asked.
"Oh, well, I haven't heard her myself," Flossie
admitted; "but then, that's what everybody says
about Lady Lomys."
"Oh! I see," murmured Sarah, not at all impressed
by the mention of her ladyship's accomplishments.
It happened not very long after this that the
Stubbses gave a ball--not just a dance, but a
regular ball, with every available room in the house
cleared and specially decorated, with the balconies
covered in with awnings, and with every window
and chimney-shelf, every fireplace and corner, filled
with banks of flowers or stacks of exquisite palms
or ferns. The entire house looked like fairyland,
and Mrs. Stubbs went to and fro like a substantial
fairy godmother, who was not quite sure how her
charms were going to work.
May came, with her elderly husband, from her
great mansion in Palace Gardens, wearing a white
velvet gown and such a blaze of diamonds that the
mind refused to estimate their real value, and ran
instinctively to paste. And Mrs. George, who was
in town for "the season," came with her daughters,
and languidly patronised everything but those
diamonds, which she cheapened at once as being a
little "off colour" and a "trifle overdone." Mrs. George
herself had put on every single stone she
was possessed of--even to making use of her
husband's breast-pin to fasten a stray end of lace on
the bosom of her gown; but that, of course, had
nothing really to do with her remarks on her niece's
Flossie had a new dress for the occasion, of
course; and she had coaxed a beautiful diamond
arrow out of her father on some pretext or other.
Sarah thought she had never seen her look so
charming before, and she told her so; it was with
a smile and a conscious toss of her head that Flossie
received the information, and looked at herself once
more in the glass of her wardrobe.
As she stood there, with Sarah, in a simple white
muslin gown, watching her, a maid entered with a
large white cardboard box.
"For Miss Flossie," she said.
The box contained a beautiful bouquet of rare
and fragrant hothouse flowers, and attached to the
stem was a small parcel. The parcel proved to
contain a superb diamond bangle, and Flossie went
proudly downstairs, wearing it upon her arm.
And that night it crept out among the young
ones in the Stubbs' schoolroom that Flossie was
going to be married.
A FAMILY CATASTROPHE
I am bound to say that Flossie's brothers and
sisters (and Sarah) received the news of her
approaching departure from her father's roof with
unmixed feelings. Not a drop of sorrow was there
to mar the cup of joy which the occasion
presented to every one. Not a regret at the blank her
going would cause leavened the general satisfaction
at her happiness. And Flossie herself was the
least sorrowful, the least regretful, and the most
satisfied of all.
Like May, she was marrying well--that is to
say, she was marrying money. But, unlike May's
husband, who was old, her future lord and master
was young--only five years older than herself. It
is true he was not much to look at; but then, as
Mrs. Stubbs remarked to her husband, that was
Flossie's business. It was equally true that he
was reputed to be a young scamp, with an
atrocious temper; but then, as Tom said, that was
Flossie's look-out, and decidedly Flossie was not
without little failings of that kind--though why, if
one bad-tempered person decides upon marrying
another bad-tempered person, it is generally
considered by the world to be all right, because the
one is as bad to get on with as the other, it
would be hard to say; perhaps it is on the principle
of two negatives making an affirmative, or in
the belief that two wrongs will make eventually a
right; I cannot say. But, odd as it is, that is the
very general opinion.
The engagement was an unusually short one.
Indeed, the bride had barely time to get her
things ready by the day, and a great part of her
trousseau was not able to be ready before her
return from her honeymoon. But still they never
seemed to think of putting off the wedding for a
single day, although it was fixed to take place
just six weeks from the day of the ball, when the
engagement had begun.
It seemed to Sarah, well used as she had
become to seeing liberal expenditure, that at this
time the entire family seemed to be spending
money like water! May's wedding had been a
very grand one, but Flossie's outshone it in every
way--in the number of the bridesmaids, in the
number of the guests, in the number of the
carriages, and the servants, and the flowers, in the
splendour of the presents and the dresses of the
trousseau, nay, in the very length of the bride's
The presents were gorgeous! Mr. Stubbs gave
his daughter a gold-mounted dressing-case and a
cheque for a thousand pounds; Mrs. Stubbs gave
a diamond star, and May a necklace of such
magnificence that even Flossie was astounded when
she saw it.
So Flossie became Mrs. Jones, and passed away
from her old home; and when it was all over, and
the tokens of the great feast and merry-making
had been cleared away, the household for a few
days settled down into comparative quietude.
Only for a few days, however. With the
exception of Sarah, who was too deeply engrossed in
her work to care much for passing pleasures, the
entire family seemed to have caught a fever of
restlessness and love of excitement. After ten
days the bride and bridegroom returned, and there
were great parties to welcome them. Every day
there seemed some reason why they should launch
out a little further, and yet a little further, and
instead of the family being less expensive now that
two daughters were married, the general expenditure
was far more lavish than it had ever been
before. They had a second man-servant and
another maid, and then they found that it was
impossible to get on any longer without a second
"broom" horse for night-work.
They did, indeed, begin to talk about leaving
Jesamond Road, and going into a larger house.
The boys--Tom was just seventeen, and Johnnie
only fifteen--wanted a billiard-room, and Minnie
wanted a boudoir, and Mr. Stubbs wanted a larger
study, and Mrs. Stubbs wanted a double hall.
That change, however, was never made, although
Mrs. Stubbs and Minnie had seen and set their
hearts upon a mansion in Earl's Court at a
modest rental of five hundred a year, which they
thought quite a reasonable rent--for one awful
night the senior clerk came tearing up to the door
in a cab, with the horse all in a lather and his
own face like chalk, and asked for the master.
The master and mistress were just going out to
a great dinner-party at the house of Mrs. Giath,
their eldest daughter, in Palace Gardens, but
Mr. Stubbs came down and saw him in the study.
They were shut up there together for some time,
until Mrs. Stubbs grew impatient, and knocked
several times at the door, with a reminder that
they would be very late, and that May would
not like to be kept waiting. And at last
Mr. Stubbs opened the door and came out.
"Get my coat, James," he said to the servant;
then, as he buttoned it, added, "Mr. Senior will
have a glass of wine and a biscuit before he
goes. Good-night, Senior. See you in the morning."
"Lor, Pa!" exclaimed Mrs. Stubbs, as they
rolled away from the door, "I thought something
was the matter."
"No, my dear, only some important business
Senior thought I ought to know about," he
answered; and Mr. Stubbs that evening was the
very light and life of his daughter's party.
But in the morning the crash came! Not that
he was there to see it, though; for just as they
reached home again, and he passed into his own
house, Mr. Stubbs reeled and fell to the ground
in all the hideousness of a severe paralytic seizure.
Nor did he ever, even partially, recover his
senses; before the day was done he had gone
out of the sea of trouble which overwhelmed
him, to answer for his doings before a high and
just tribunal, which, let us hope, would give him
a more merciful judgment than he would have
found in this world.
Mrs. Stubbs was broken-hearted and inconsolable.
"If he had only been spared for a bit,"
she sobbed to her married daughters, who came
to her in her trouble; "but to be taken sudden
like that! oh, it is 'ard--it is 'ard."
"Poor Pa," murmured May; "he was so active,
he couldn't have borne to be ill and helpless, as
he would have been if he'd lived. I wouldn't fret
so, if I were you, Ma, dear, I really wouldn't."
"There's nothing dishonourable," Mrs. Stubbs
sobbed; "all's gone, but your poor Pa's good
name's 'ere still. I do thank 'eaven for that--yes, I do."
"H'm! If Pa'd been half sharp," Flossie
remarked, "he'd have taken care there was something left."
"He's left his good name and his good deeds
behind him--that's better than mere money," said
Sarah softly, holding her aunt's hand very tightly
in both of hers.
"Oh, well, as to that, Sarah," said Flossie, "of
course it isn't likely you'll blame Pa for being so
lavish as he was; dressed just the same as us,
and expensive violin lessons twice a week, and
Mrs. Stubbs and May both cried out upon
Flossie for her words.
"Cruel, cruel!" Mrs. Stubbs exclaimed; "when
you've had every lux'ry you could wish, to blame
your poor Pa for his charity before he's laid in
his grave. I'm ashamed of you, Flossie, I am!" And
then she hid her face on Sarah's slim young
shoulder, and broke into bitter sobs and tears.
A CHANGE OF CIRCUMSTANCES
When her husband's affairs were all investigated
and arranged, it was found, to Mrs. Stubbs's
great joy, that matters were scarcely quite
so bad as had at first been anticipated. True
everything--or what she called everything--was
gone; but no stain was there to sully a name which
had always been held among City men as a
blameless and honourable one.
The actual cause of the crash had been the failure
of a large bank, which had ruined two important
houses with which the firm of Stubbs & Co. had
very large dealings; these houses were unable to
pay their debts to Stubbs & Co.; and Stubbs &
Co., having been living in great extravagance up to
the last penny which could be squeezed out of the
business, were not able to stand the strain of the
But when everything was arranged, it was found
that, with careful nursing and management, the
business could be carried on for the benefit of the
children until such time as the boys should be of
an age to take the management of it themselves.
Meanwhile, the trustees took Tom away from the
expensive public school at which he was at the time
of his father's death, and, instead of sending him to
Oxford, as his father intended to have done a few
months later, put him into the clerks' department
of a large mercantile house, where they made him
work--as Tom himself said indignantly--as if he
were a mere under-clerk at a few shillings a week.
It happened that the trustees were both bachelors,
who understood the management of a large and
expensive household just about as well as they
sympathised with the desire for social prominence.
Therefore, they believed themselves to be doing a
really generous and almost unheard-of action when
they agreed to allow Mrs. Stubbs three hundred a
year out of the proceeds of the business. "And
the lad will have his pound a week," they said to
one another, as a further proof of their consideration
for their old friend's widow.
But to Mrs. Stubbs it seemed as if the future
was all so black that she could not even see where
she was to get food for herself and her children.
Poor soul! she had forgotten what the old friends
of her dead husband remembered only too well--the
days when she had run up and down stairs after
her mother's lodgers, of whom poor John Stubbs was
one. On the whole, it is pretty certain that we rise
much more easily than we fall. We find climbing
up much easier than we find slipping down. And
Mrs. Stubbs had got so used to spending twice
three thousand a year, that to her a descent to three
hundred seemed but very little better than the workhouse.
"A nice little 'ouse at Fulham!" she exclaimed,
when Flossie tried to paint such a home in glowing
colours. "You know I never could a-bear little
'ouses. Besides, 'ow am I to get them all into a nice
little 'ouse? There's Sarah and me----"
"Oh, Sarah first, of course!" snapped Flossie.
"For shame, Flossie; you seem as if you don't
know how to be mean enough to Sarah. I said 'er
name first because she's my right 'and just now,
and I lean on her for everything. There's Sarah
and me, and Tom and Johnnie, and there's Minnie,
and Janey, and Lily--that's seven. 'Ow am I to
put seven of us away in what you call a nice little 'ouse?"
"Why, you'll have five bedrooms," Flossie cried.
"And where are the servants to go?" Mrs. Stubbs
demanded. "Oh, I suppose I'm to do without a
servant at all!"
"Well, I shouldn't think you'll want more than
one," returned Flossie, who had six.
Mrs. Stubbs rocked herself to and fro in the depth
of her misery and despair.
"And what's to become of me when Lily comes
of age?" she cried.
For, by Mr. Stubbs's will, the business was to be
carried on for the benefit of his children until the
youngest should come of age, when the two boys
were to have it as partners.
He had believed his wife and children were safely
provided for out of his property, which had nothing
to do with the business, of which Mrs. Stubbs was
to take half absolutely, and the other half was to
go equally among the children. Every penny of
this had, however, been swallowed up by the losses
which had in reality killed him; so that, though
there was a provision for the children, Mrs. Stubbs
was, except through the favour of the trustees,
absolutely unprovided for.
"Oh, well, it's a good long time till then," Flossie
returned coldly. "And really, Ma, I do think it's
ungrateful of you to make such a fuss, when things
might be so different. Just supposing, now, May
and I weren't married; you might grumble then."
"I 'aven't as much," Mrs. Stubbs cried, "to bring
up five children on as you and May each 'ave to
"Perhaps not; but then, we have to go into a
great deal of society; and look what that costs,"
Flossie retorted. "Any way, Mr. Jones is too much
disgusted at all this happening just now to let me
help you. And as for my allowance, I have to pay
my maid out of it, so I really don't see that you
can expect me to do anything for you."
"I don't think Auntie wants you to do anything
for her; I'm sure she doesn't expect it," put in
Sarah, who was so utterly disgusted that she could
keep silence no longer, though she had determined
not to speak at all.
"Well, Sarah, I really can't see what occasion
there is for you to put your word in," said
Mrs. Jones, with an air of dignity. "We have heard a
great deal about what you were going to do;
perhaps now you will do it, and let us see whether the
princess is going to turn out a real princess after
all or not."
For a moment Sarah looked at her with such
utter disdain in her grey eyes that the redoubtable
Flossie fairly quailed beneath her gaze.
"I am going always to treat my dear aunt with
the respect and love she deserves, Flossie," she said
gravely; "and, even if I prove an utter failure in
every other way, you might still take a lesson from
me with great improvement to yourself."
"Oh, you think so, do you?" sneered Flossie.
"Yes, I do," said Sarah promptly.
"Then let me tell you, Miss Sarah Gray, that I
think your tone and manner exceedingly impertinent
and familiar. In future, call me Mrs. Jones, if you
please, and try if you can remember to keep your place."
"Mrs. Jones, I will; and do you remember to
keep yours," Sarah replied; "and do you remember,
too, that you need not insult my aunt any further."
"I shall speak as I like to my own mother," Flossie
Sarah opened her eyes wide.
"If I do put you out of the house, Mrs. Jones,"
she said, speaking with ominous calmness, "I may
be a little rough with you." And then the door
opened, and May came languidly in.
"What is the matter?" she cried. "Flossie, is
that you--at it again? Do go away, please. I am
not well. I came to have a little talk to Ma, and
I can't bear quarrelling. Do go away, Flossie, I beg."
"That Sarah has insulted me," Flossie gasped--but
May was remarkably unsympathetic.
"Oh, I've no doubt--a very good thing, too, for
you've insulted her ever since you first saw her. Do
go away. I'm sure I shall faint. I never could bear
wrangling and fighting; and poor Pa's going off
like that has upset me so--I just feel as if I could
burst out crying if any one speaks to me."
On this, Flossie, finding that May was unmistakably
preparing herself for a nice comfortable faint,
went stormily away, and rolled off in her grand
carriage, looking like a thunder-cloud. May
"I really don't envy Flossie's husband the rest
of his life," she remarked. "What a comfort she
has gone away! Well, Ma, dear, I came in to have
a quiet talk with you, and that tiresome girl has
upset you. I would not take any notice if I were
you, dear. I don't suppose Flossie means it. But
she is so impetuous, and she's so jealous of Sarah.
I'm sure I don't know what you ever did to upset
her, Sarah; but you and I were always the best of friends."
"The best of friends, May," said Sarah; then bent
down and kissed her cousin's soft ungloved hand.
"I didn't mean to speak, not to say a word--but
she was so unkind to poor Auntie--and, May, it is
hard on Auntie after all this"--looking round the
room--"and her beautiful carriages and horses, and
her kind husband who was so fond of her, to have
just three hundred a year to keep five children on.
It is hard."
Poor Mrs. Stubbs broke down and began to sob
instantly. "Sarah puts it all so beautifully," she
said. "That's just as it was--your poor Pa--and----"
but then she stopped, unable to go on, choked by
"Now, Ma, dear, don't," May entreated; "we don't
know why everything is. It might have been worse,
you know, dear; just think, if you'd had Flossie
"Ah! it is a comfort to me to think Flossie is
married," said Mrs. Stubbs, drying her eyes; "she's
never been like a child to me."
"And there might have been nothing, you know;
after all there is something, and you'll be able to
keep them all together. I shall help you all I can,
Ma, dear; you know I shall do that! And if I
can't do much else, I can take you for drives, and
see if I can't help Minnie to get married. You'll
think it queer, Ma, dear, that I'm not just able to
say 'I'll give you a cheque for a hundred now and
then.' But I can't. Life isn't all roses for me either.
Of course I have a grand house in Palace Gardens,
and diamonds, and carriages, and all that; but
Mr. Giath doesn't give me much money; he isn't like
poor dear Pa. Of course he made a very big
settlement--Pa insisted on that--but only at his
death. I don't get it now, and he pays my dress
bills himself; and," with a sob, "I don't find it all
roses to be an old man's darling. But I don't
want to trouble you with all that, Ma, dear; you've
got enough troubles and worries of your own. But
you'll understand just how it is, won't you, dear?
And, of course, there'll be many little ways that I
shall be able to help you."
"Well, I have got my troubles," said Mrs. Stubbs,
drying her eyes, and looking at her daughter's pretty
flushed face; "but others has them as well. You
were always my right 'and, May, from the time
you was a little girl in short petticoats; and you're
more comfort to me now than all my other children
put together, all of them. Flossie's been 'ere turning
up her nose at her mother and insulting Sarah
shameful; and Tom's grumbling all day long at
what he calls his 'beggarly screw'; and saying it
won't pay for 'is cigars and cabs and such-like;
and Minnie's been crying all this morning because
it's her birthday and nobody's remembered it; and,
really, altogether I feel as if it wouldn't take much
more to send me off my head altogether."
"But I did remember it," cried May; "I've
brought her a birthday present, poor child."
"I'm sure it is good of you, May," poor
Mrs. Stubbs cried. "Minnie 'll be a bit comforted now.
You know it is 'ard on her, for we used to make
so much of birthdays. But neither she nor the little
ones ever seem to think of what they've 'ad--and
no more I do myself for that matter--only of what
they 'aven't got. 'Pon my word, there is but one
in the 'ouse to-day who hasn' 'ad their grumble over
something or other, and that's Sarah."
Sarah laughed as she patted her aunt's fat hand.
"I've got something else to do just now, Auntie,"
she said bravely. "I've got to put my shoulder
to the wheel now. I've been riding on the top of
the wagon all along."
A few days later they made the move to the
little house at Fulham, which, in poor lavish
Mrs. Stubbs's eyes, was but a degree better than
a removal to the workhouse.
But Sarah--who somehow seemed to have naturally
the management of everything--worked like a
slave to get everything into good order before her
aunt should set foot in the place at all. She turned
the house in Jesamond Road out that she might
take the prettiest and most suitable things for the
little Queen Anne box to which they were going,
and, with the help of Johnnie and the new servant,
succeeded in having everything in perfect order by
the time of Mrs. Stubbs's arrival.
But it was very, very small. Mrs. Stubbs looked
hopelessly at the narrow passage and the narrower
doorways when she entered, sobbed as she recognised
one article of furniture after another, or missed
such as Sarah had not thought it wise or in good
taste to bring.
"Oh, dear, dear! I ought to think it all very
pretty and nice," she wailed; "I left it all to you,
Sarah, and I know you've done your best--I know
it; but I did think I should have been able to
keep my own inlaid market writing-table that Stubbs
gave me on my last wedding-day--I did."
"Dear Auntie, you shall have it," Sarah explained,
soothingly. "I couldn't get you to choose just what
you would have, and I had to be guided by size a
good deal. But we can fetch the table easily
enough; it will stand here in the window
beautifully, and just finish off the room nicely."
"Flossie says she'll not be able to come and see
us very often." Mrs. Stubbs wandered off again.
"She says it knocks the carriage about so, coming
down these new neighbourhoods. Ah, I never used
to think of my carriages before my relations, never!"
"Flossie will have more sense by-and-by," said
Sarah, who had but small patience with Mrs. Jones's
airs and graces.
Poor Sarah was so tired of Flossie and her airs!
To her mind, she was hardly worth a moment's
consideration or regret; to her she was just an
ungenerous, self-sufficient, very vulgar and heartless
young person, who would have been more in her
place had she been scrubbing floors or washing
dishes than she was, or ever would be, riding in her
own carriage behind a pair of high-stepping horses
that had cost four hundred guineas.
"Don't think about Flossie at all, dear," she said
to her aunt. "Some day she'll be sorry for all that
has happened lately; perhaps some day she may
have trouble herself, and then she will understand
how unkind she has been to you. But May is
always sweet and good, though she is tied up by
that horrid old man, and can't help you as she
would like; and the little ones are different--they
would never hurt your feelings willingly."
Poor Mrs. Stubbs shook her head sadly. She
had said nothing to Sarah, for a wonder--for as a
rule she carried all her troubles to her--but only
that morning Tom had flung off to "his beastly
office" in a rage, because she had not been able to
give him a sovereign and had suggested that the
pound a week he was receiving ought to be more
than enough for his personal expenses; and Minnie
had pouted and cried because she could not have
a pair of new gloves; and the little ones had looked
at her in utter dismay because there was not a fresh
pot of jam for their breakfast. Perhaps
Mrs. Stubbs felt that Sarah was young, and must not
be disheartened when she was doing her best; I
know not. Any way, she kept these things to
herself, and after shaking her head as a sort of tribute
to her troubles, promised that she would try to
make herself happy in her new home.
And then Sarah felt herself at liberty to go and
pay a visit to Signor Capri, her violin master, one
she had been wishing to pay ever since her uncle's
death. She went at a time when she knew he
would be alone, and indeed she found him so.
"Ah, my little Sara!" he cried; "I was hoping
to see you again soon. And tell me, you have
lost the good uncle, eh?"
"Yes, Signor," she answered, and briefly told him
all the story of her uncle's misfortune and death.
"And now," she ended, "I want to make money.
They have done everything for me; now I want to
do something for them. Can you help me?"
"You are a brave child!" the violin-master cried;
"and God has given you the rarest of all good
gifts--a grateful heart. I think I can help you; I
think so. Only this morning I had a letter from a
friend who is arranging a concert tour; he has
first-rate artistes, and he wants a lady violinist."
"Me!" cried Sarah excitedly.
"But," said the maestro, raising his hand, "he
does not give much money."
"But it would be a beginning," she broke in.
"He gives six pounds a week."
"I'll go!" Sarah cried.
"Then we will go and see him at once; I have
an hour to spare," said the Italian kindly.
Well, before that hour was ended, Sarah had
engaged herself to go on a twelve weeks' tour, at
a salary of six pounds a week and her travelling
expenses; and before ten days more had gone over
her head, she had set off on her travels in search of
fame and fortune.
Flossie's remarks were very pious. "I'm sure,
Sarah," she said, setting her rich folds of crape
and silk straight, "I am heartily glad to find that
you have so much good feeling as to wish to
relieve poor Ma of the expense of keeping you.
How much happier you will be to feel you are
no longer a burden on anybody! There's nothing
like independence. I'm sure every time I think of
poor Ma, I say to myself, 'Thank Heaven, I'm no
burden upon her!"
"That must be a great comfort to you, I'm sure,
Flossie," said Sarah gravely.
"Yes; I often tell Mr. Jones so. And what
salary are you going to have, Sarah?"
"Enough to help my aunt a little," replied Sarah
"Well, really, I can't see why you need be so
close about it," Flossie observed, "nor why you
should want to help Ma. I'm sure she'll have
enough to live very comfortably, only, of course,
she must be content to live a little less
extravagantly than she did before. I do believe," she
added, with a superb air, "in people being content
and happy with what they have; it's so much more
sensible than always pining after what they haven't
got. By the bye, Sarah, we are going to have a
dinner-party to-morrow night; I couldn't ask Ma
because of her mourning, but if you like to come
in in the evening, and bring your violin, we shall
be very pleased, I'm sure."
"If you like to ask me as a professional, and pay
my fee," began Sarah mischievously.
"Pay your fee! Well, I never! To your own
cousin, and when you owe us so much!" Flossie
"I don't think I owe you anything, Flossie, not
even civility or kindness," said Sarah coldly; but
Mrs. Jones had flounced away in a huff.
"Such impudence!" as she said to her husband
Well, Sarah went off on her tour, and won a fair
amount of success--enough to make her manager
anxious to secure her for the following winter on
the same terms. But Sarah had promised Signor
Capri to do nothing without his knowledge, and he
wrote back, "Wait! Before next winter you may
But the months passed over, and still fame had
not come, except in a moderate degree. The
manager was very glad to take Sarah on tour again at
a salary advanced to seven pounds a week instead
of six, and Sarah was equally glad to go.
In the meantime, she had made a good deal of
money by playing at private houses and at
concerts. She had taken a well-earned holiday to the
Channel Islands, and had given her aunt and the
little ones a very good time there, all out of her
own pocket, and had added a very liberal sum to
the housekeeping purse of the little Queen Anne
house at Fulham.
Twice she had dined with the Giaths in Palace
Gardens, and had taken her violin because May
had not asked her to do so. And more than once
she had been asked to go in the evening to grace
the rooms of Mrs. Jones--an honour which she
So time went on, and Sarah worked late and
early, hoping, longing, praying to be one day a
Thus several years went by, and at last there
came a glad and joyous day when she received
a command to play at a State concert--a day when
she woke to find herself looked upon as one of the
first violinists of the age. It was wonderful, then,
how engagements crowded in upon her; how she
was sought out, flattered, and made much of; how
even the redoubtable Flossie was proud to go
about saying that she was Miss Gray's cousin.
Not that she ever owned it to Sarah; but Sarah
heard from time to time that Mrs. Jones had spread
the fact of the relationship abroad. The object of
Flossie's life now seemed to be to get Sarah to
play at her house; for, as she explained to her
mother and May--now a rich young widow--"Of
course it looks odd to other people that they never
see Sarah at my house, and I don't wish to do
Sarah harm by saying that I don't care to have
her there. But sometimes when she's staying with
you, May, you might bring her."
"I don't think she would come," laughed May.
"You see, you sat upon Sarah so frightfully when
she wasn't anybody in particular, that now, when
she is somebody of more consequence than all the
lot of us put together, she naturally doesn't feel
inclined to have anything to do with you. I know
"And Lady Bright asked particularly if she was
going to play on the 9th," said Flossie, with a rueful
face, and not attempting to deny the past in any way.
"And what did you say?"
"I said I hoped so."
"Oh, well, that will be all the same. Lady Bright
will understand after a time that 'Hope deferred
maketh the heart sick.'" May laughed. "And
perhaps it will be as well to remember in future
that ugly ducklings may turn out swans some day,
and that if they do, they are sometimes painfully
aware of the fact that some people would have kept
them ducklings for ever. You see, you and Tom,
who is more horrid now even than he was as a
boy--yes, I see you agree with me--gave her the
name of Princess Sarah! She has grown up to the
name, that is all."